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By Carl Parker
For the Record 

Americanism and Religion

 

Last updated 10/4/2022 at 7:07pm

Of late there has been more discussion of America becoming what is called a religious nationalistic country. Unfortunately, it is my belief that people who advocate this such as the pastor of the Second Baptist Church of Houston, Texas either have not read our nation’s constitution, history or do not understand either.

The first of our Bill of Rights includes the phrase “Congress shall make no law respecting establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press or the right of the people to peaceably assemble and petition the government for redressing grievances.”

Too many advocates of religious nationalism are now claiming that the Constitution does not prohibit separation of church and state. Nothing could be further from the truth and is dangerous to flirt with the idea of making it such.

History from the dark ages demonstrates the dangers of allowing any religious faith to dominate how we are governed. People were put to death for not believing the pope was a messenger from God and could tell the kings and lords how to rule or vice versa. Currently, the religious police in Iran who recently jailed and caused the death of a woman for failing to properly wear a scarf on her head is a good example of where religious nationalism could lead us. On every occasion throughout history when the people have allowed religion to dominate the government it has led to a bad end. History shows us that the history of America, in fact, was largely founded on those who wanted to escape the domination of the governmental beliefs by prescribed religion. And if this were not so, the Puritans in all probability would not have made the dangerous voyage across the Atlantic.

I seriously doubt that in our lifetime anyone will seriously advocate that our Congress or any other governmental body in America adopt a specific national religion. That is not the way establishing a religion is likely to occur in this nation. I believe the danger is that it is possible for religion to take over the government incrementally. We need to be watchful and ask ourselves how is a religion established in a nation. Were a law to be passed requiring us to bow towards Mecca and women wear head scarfs that most certainly would be considered incrementally establishing a phase of religious belief by government.

The question is whether or not other practices now advocated by evangelicals and others would incrementally advance religious beliefs by way of government. For example, we need to ask ourselves if it is a belief based on religion that a fertilized human egg has a soul and prohibiting removing it from a woman’s body is an incremental advance of a religious belief. It is not something I have a ready answer for but it is a question we should pose to ourselves and make individual decisions and be on guard against every device for implementing or imposing a governmental religion on any of us. America was based on religious freedom and it is up to us to keep it that way.

 

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