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Church and State (a Legislative Issue)


Introduction

Today, most, if not all, countries have laws that are both secular and religious in origin. In some countries, the legal system is dominated by laws that are based on or have come from the dominant religion. This has led to a number of religious states where the religious leaders play a prominent role in the government, there is only one recognized religion, and there is little, if any, freedom of religion. In the United States, we have the concepts of both freedom of religion and the separation of Church and State, but we also still have many laws that are based on religion beliefs.

History

Until relatively recently, most groups were dominated at any given time by a single religion. It did not matter whether it was a group of hunter gatherers, a small city state, a feudal kingdom, a large empire, or a more modern nation. Rulers and religious leaders often shared power or were one and the same. They would dictate a state religion and everyone had to go along or risk persecution or death. When a state religion changed due to a ruler converting or new rulers coming to power, the people were also often forced to convert to the new religion.

Over time, many of our laws were derived from practical or secular matters, but many other laws were based on the current spiritual or religious beliefs of the time. Many of these religious based laws dealt with matters of worship and reverence of the religion’s deities, and how to act in order to be considered worthy. Over time, religious beliefs changed and so did many of the religious based laws. On the other hand, many religious based laws became embedded in the culture and survived long after the religious beliefs that they were based on had faded from memory.

After the new world was discovered, many people came here in search of religious freedom. They were tired of being persecuted in their own countries for having a different faith. Along with the freedom of religion sprung many new ideas that led to such things as freedom of speech and thought, and the right to live free and to vote. With the freedoms that came out of these new ideas, people were able to gain greater understanding of their world and to achieve many things that have forever changed our way of life.

Backlash

For some people, our world has changed too fast and too many new discoveries are threatening their religious believes. Some of them have begun to push back against secularism and other religions, and are trying to force their own religious beliefs on everyone. Many of these people are trying to compel changes in our laws in order to reassert the role of their church in the government and to make people conform to their religious beliefs. Too often, they are resorting to violence and terror in order to force other people to convert to their beliefs and to destroy those who do not convert.

This religious backlash is threatening our freedoms and our very lives. Our ancestors struggled hard for a long time in order to win their right to decide their own religious beliefs and to be free from persecution. So far, no one has ever been able to show that any one religion is in any way more correct than or superior to any other religion in being able to explain our creation, our life or our purpose. Therefore, it is vital that we allow people the freedom to make up their own minds as to what religious beliefs work best for them. In fact, I believe that any religion which does not respect and even encourage free thought and the right to question religious doctrines is fundamentally flawed.

State

In a democracy, it is the responsibility of the majority to protect the rights of anyone in the minority. Along with everything else, this protection must include religion. In order to provide that protection, we have established the fundamental principles of freedom of religion and the separation of church and state. Even with these fundamental principles, many of our laws still contain things that are clearly based on or rooted in religious beliefs.

If we are to maintain our rights and our freedom, and to protect people from being persecuted for their religious beliefs, we must ensure that our legal system is exclusively based on secular law. To do this, we must test every law to ensure that it is able to stand on its own merit without any need to call upon any religious beliefs or doctrines. If a law fails this test, then it must be rewritten or removed. For example, we would need to look at our laws that deal with such things as religious displays, money, the Pledge of Allegiance, prayers before government meeting, charitable donations and exemptions for religious organizations.

Placing a religious display on government property would give the impression that the state endorsed that religion, which violates our fundamental principles. Even if just one person in the given community were of a different religion, this display could very well be an insult to his or her religion and an infringement of that person’s rights. Religious displays belong in places such as churches, synagogues and mosques where they can be appropriately appreciated by the religion’s followers without being an affront to anyone else’s religious beliefs, and would not force people of a different religious belief to help pay for it.

On some of our money, we have the phrase “In God We Trust”, which violates our fundamental principles. In some ways, this is even worse than religious displays. Although, most people do not go around reading their money, it is still their whenever someone makes any cash transaction. I would prefer to see something that would be much more appropriate such as “In Freedom We Trust” or “In Democracy We Trust”.

Although the original version of the Pledge of Allegiance was perfectly secular, the phrase “under God” was added in 1954 in violation of our fundamental principles. Not only does this violate our principle of separation of church and state, but it actually puts our nation under or subservient to a god that is not worshiped by all our citizens. In addition, this phrase goes against the very spirit of some of the pledge’s other phrases such as “indivisible” and “with liberty and justice for all”. We need to go back to the origin pledge or come up with a new one that can bring us closer together.

Many government meetings and legislative sessions start with a religious prayer, which violates our fundamental principles. Even if the people involved do not have to participate, they are still forced to listen to these prayers. In addition, although prayer was rightfully removed from our schools, some people continue to try to get it put back in. In both of these cases, people should of course be allowed to pray in private and maybe even be given time to do so, but it should never be forced on people, even if they would only have to listen.

Donating to a charity or a religious group is a very individualized thing. We each have our own ideas about why, when, where and how much to give. It would be wrong to force people to give to a charity that they did not feel was worth or they did not believe in, but giving tax deductions for charitable giving does just that. In the case of religion, we are being forced to support religions that we do not believe in. This is especially true for those people who give less than others as when they are not religious or their religion is not recognized by the government. Not only should our tax dollars not be used to help support religions, but our government should not be deciding what constitutes a valid religion.

There are currently many cases where people can claim an exemption from many of our laws based on religious reasons. While most of us need to abide by some legal requirement, others have gotten out of it by claiming a religious exemption. There are exemptions for education, vaccinations, child abuse, taxes, and many more. If a law is in place for a valid reason such as for protecting our fellow citizens, our businesses or our government then we should not be giving out exemptions. If we can legitimately allow exemptions they should be based on valid applicable reasons such as for some medical condition that would make getting a vaccination dangerous for an individual.

Church

Even though our government must stick with secular law, it does not mean that individuals could not take it upon themselves to obey some set of religious laws in addition to our secular laws. Of course, our secular laws should never force anyone to adhere to any religious laws. In addition, when people do adhere to religious laws, they cannot be allowed to break any secular laws.

Unlike the secular laws laid down by our government, religious laws cannot be enforced against any individual or group without their consent. If people want to follow the laws that are laid down by their religion, then that is up to those individuals to do so. Religious adherence should be considered an at-will contract between the individual and their church unless an actual contract is signed. If a contract is signed, then the same rules should apply as they would with any other contractual obligations.

Tax Exempt Status

Our current tax laws grant a tax exempt status to churches. There are two fundamental flaws with this idea. First, it allows anyone to create a church for the purpose of avoiding taxes. Second, by giving a church a tax exempt status, the government is violating our principle of separation of church and state by recognizing some, but not all religions.

The fact of the matter is that we all have religious beliefs. Even an atheist has the religious belief that there is no god. In addition, we all practice our religion in our own way, whether that means going to church or just contemplating our beliefs at home or in some other place. By giving a church a tax exempt status, the government is supporting the religious beliefs of the people who attend that church. Anyone who does not belong to a supported church is being forced to support religious beliefs that may not be theirs.

Based on our principle of separation of church and state, the government has no right to decide what should be and what should not be considered a religious belief. Therefore, we should not be giving one religion preferential treatment over another just because it has an established church and the other does not, or because one religion is considered mainstream and the other is not.

There should not be any tax exemptions for churches or any other religious institutions. They should be treated the same as any other business and be required to file tax forms. If a religious institution is truly non-profit and can show that, then it may end up not paying taxes, but that would strictly be based on their charitable giving and not based on it be a recognized religious institution.

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Gun Control - Our rights to keep and to bear arms as spelled out in the Second Amendment to the Constitution.

Last Updated:
Sunday, November 26, 2017
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