I respect J. Karl Miller’s opinions as a fellow commentator at the Missourian though we seldom agree on an issue. He is the paper’s Right to my Left.
My disagreement with Karl’s assessment of Judge Barbara Crabb’s ruling in Freedom from Religion Foundation v. George W. Bush (amended to President Barack Obama) should not come as a surprise. Judge Crabb’s position is a lot more complicated.
Edward Kennedy said in a 1983 speech given to the Rev. Dr. Jerry Falwell’s Liberty Baptist College, now Liberty University, “the framers (of the Constitution) gave freedom for all religion, and from any established religion, the very first place in the Bill of Rights.”
The University of Missouri-Kansas City’s School of Law supports that by stating, “the Establishment Clause was intended to prohibit the federal government from declaring … a national religion, such as existed in many other countries at the time of the nation's founding.” Politics and religion is like mixing oil and water.
Karl is right. There is no penalty for not observing National Prayer Day for it is not a “law.” Unfortunately, as with any law, rule or suggestion of public prayer, not observing makes one different and being different is not acceptable in our polite society.
Because the overwhelming American religious belief is Protestant, and that any prayer given by a minister, reverend or priest (the norm) is a Christian prayer, and with a growing segment of non-Christian and nontheistic Americans, the legislative establishment of a National Prayer Day is contrary to the “Establishment Clause” in the Constitution.
I just may be that “zealot” that Karl speaks of in his column. If we are putting Christmas (Christ’s mass) trees up in the courthouse square, we must also put up a menorah for Hanukkah, Wiccan and Pagan depictions for the winter solstice, and so on. We need to recognize Ramadan and Buddha’s birthday as national holidays. Or we recognize nothing and that will not happen.
Back to Kennedy. He provided the historical proof that, “during the Revolution, Catholics, Jews, and Non-Conformists all rallied to the cause and fought valiantly for the American commonwealth,” and that then, as of now, “fear was of factional strife among dozens of denominations.” I am still not sure why some do not consider Catholics to be Christians.
National Prayer Day’s history began with the Rev. Billy Graham’s push to establish a prayer holiday with the gross misstatement that, “our Nation was founded upon God, religion and the Church.”
As Karl correctly states, God is not in our Constitution. However, our governing document does prohibit religion being used as a test to hold public office. The Constitution of the United States is clearly a secular document.
God has been used as American propaganda, something I hope most of you would indeed reject. Yet too many use God as part of their battle cry and the propaganda continues to promulgate.
Unlike Karl’s assessment, this is not a new argument. “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21 NASB). Even Jesus knew that there was a need for separation between the secular and sectarian rule.
To Karl’s question, “from what church or religious domination does your anxiety emanate?” I would answer, “the new Christian right, the Evangelical and Baptist neo-conservative, and the Christian 'non-denominational' churches as well as the radical Islamic mosques, all seeing their religion as the only religion."
It is unfortunate that Karl has not been discriminated against because of his faith. I have for being Jewish, for being a Humanist and for not believing in the God or gods of Christendom, even here in Columbia, and speak about these experiences in presentations given to civic groups and schools.
There is a plethora of legal opinions to support the Court’s position. The quote used from Engel v. Vitale, 370 U.S. 421, 430 (1962) exemplifies the decision, that the “first and most immediate purpose (of the First Amendment) rested on the belief that a union of government and religion tends to destroy government and to degrade religion.”
The decision was correct and based on law. This is not “Serial Silliness” but a serious move to save the Constitution and our pluralistic form of government.
David Rosman is an award-winning editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in Communications, Ethics, Business and Politics. You can read more of David’s commentaries at InkandVoice.com and New York Journal of Books.com.