Free Exercise, Not Theocracy

By: Nathan Tabor

Liberal support for the removal of prayer in schools, the Ten Commandments from public buildings, and other expressions of religious belief in the public square is premised upon the United States as a “secular nation.” When conservatives object to such removals, liberals remind them of the Establishment Clause of the Constitution: Congress may make no law respecting the establishment of a religion. All too often, that is where the discussion ends-by allowing the secular left to set the terms of the debate, conservatives cannot hope to win such an argument.

Rather, the premise upon which liberals base their argument must be examined and challenged, in order to make way for a debate which is both fair and educational.

Is America, in fact, a secular nation?

We may be heading in that direction (aided by the ACLU and other harpies of political correctness), but the simple fact is that America was not founded as a secular nation. Judeo-Christian precepts are embedded in this country's very DNA, for America was founded as a haven for open religiosity.

While the Church of England was imposing its will on citizens of the British Empire, Roger Williams was founding Rhode Island as an oasis of religious freedom, and Puritans, Anabaptists, Lutherans, and Catholics of all nationalities were streaming into the American colonies.

All these people of different cultures and divergent beliefs were bound together by virtue of what they were leaving behind-religious persecution-and what they sought: the freedom to worship God without interference from the government.

While liberals and secularists alike claim they are scrubbing the public square of religious content in order to "protect" Americans from "religious oppression," the American tradition is not one of theocracy, but of religious freedom.

In order to catch a glimpse of true theocracy in practice, one has only to look at Saudi Arabia, where a body of clerics sets the laws which the Royal Family endorses. For example, petty theft can be punishable by the loss of one's hand. Capital sentences are carried out by beheading. Or one might consider Iran, where the Revolutionary Council and the Supreme Ayatollah (religious leaders all) control the apparatus of government right down to the names which appear on the presidential ballot.

After considering the nature of genuine theocracy, it is laughable to think that America bears any resemblance to such a thing.

However, as the culture wars rage on, it is likely that the secular left will continue to employ the same tired meme of "American theocracy."

No doubt those who feel this way would be profoundly disturbed to read these words:

"The Bible is one of the greatest blessings bestowed by God on the children of men. It has God for its author; salvation for its end, and truth without any mixture for its matter. It is all pure."

The author of this passage was none other than John Locke, the English political philosopher who was Thomas Jefferson's primary inspiration for the ideas which are contained in the Declaration of Independence.

"Secular nation," indeed.

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