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FranIam says we should all support First Freedom First

January 23, 2008

Dear Friend,

I just signed the First Freedom First petition — about the importance of safeguarding separation of church and state and protecting religious liberty. The founders of our nation believed that all Americans should have the right to worship according to their own beliefs, or not to worship at all. It was so important to them that they placed it in the first sentence of the Bill of Rights.

I believe that religion is a deeply personal matter and that Americans must be free to practice their religion without coercion. Simply put, there must be a separation of church and state.

I know that we agree about the importance of these issues, so I hope that you will ACT NOW, like I just did. Be a part of First Freedom First.

Sign the petition and encourage others to join you. Together, we will send a powerful and resounding message — safeguard the first freedom! Please visit the website below and join me in standing up for this fundamental American freedom.

Consider yourself invited!

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. January 23, 2008 5:30 pm

    Done!

  2. episcopalifem permalink*
    January 23, 2008 5:35 pm

    Huzzah!

  3. rick allen permalink
    January 23, 2008 7:34 pm

    As something of a first amendment absolutist, I was interested in the petitition. But I would respectfully suggest that it has little to do with religious freedom or the prohibition against an establishment of religion.

    “Every American should have the right to make personal decisions — about family life, reproductive health, end of life care and other matters of personal conscience.”

    Is the suggestion here that the first amendment prohibits laws governing and regulating “family life, reproductive health, end of life care and other matters of personal conscience”? If so, that covers an awful lot of ground. Is this about abortion? Euthanasia? Infanticide? Contraception? Polygamy? Divorce and custody laws? How does the rather universal social interest in protecting innocent life, overseeing the care and nurture of children, and regulating marriage violate the first amendment?

    “American tax dollars should not go to charities that discriminate in hiring based on religious belief or that promote a particular religious faith as a requirement for receiving services.”

    I assume that this has to do with the recent “faith-based” charity initiatives? I don’t know if they’re a good idea, but I don’t know why they violate the first amendment.

    “Political candidates should not be endorsed or opposed by houses of worship.”

    I don’t think churches should do it, but it seems to me that, under the first amendment, they have a perfect right to do so. They’ll lose their tax-exempt status, of course, but that’s a “penalty” the courts have said is OK. In any case, this statement shows a fundamental error about the first amendment; it is a limitation on government, and on government only. It is not a limitation on churches or religious societies. To prohibit this activity absolutely would obviously itself violate the first amendment.

    “Public schools should teach with academic integrity and without the promotion of religious preference or belief.”

    No argument here, as far as I can tell. I assume this has something to do with the thorny issues associated with how far teachers and students can express (or must suppress) their own religious convictions when in school. On that I think there’s room for genuine difference. But surely the first amendment, by its very language, must privilege, to some extent, freedom of individual religious expression, against suppression, no?

    “Decisions about scientific and health policies should be based on the best available scientific data, not on religious doctrine.”

    I assume this is about stem cells. Of course science should be good science. No argument there. But “policies”—how does science determine policy? Aren’t those value judgments, which science is incompetent to establish? Shall we experiment on human embryos? Maybe religion has little to contribute on whether they are persons endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But science, if it has any integrity, must admit that it has nothing to say on such a question. And if science does not tell us what is right and wrong, and if we are forbidden to consider religious doctrine, what do we do? Enact an official morality of utilitarianism? Surely the first amendment doesn’t ban a religious perspective on public issues, does it?

    (Apologize for the verbosity. But it seems to me that the petition has much more to do with certain contested polical and moral issues than with the first amendment.)

  4. January 23, 2008 8:30 pm

    Rick…you’re a lawyer…I’ll leave that up to you.

    I agree with the basic premise of the petition, or I wouldn’t post it.

  5. episcopalifem permalink*
    January 23, 2008 9:36 pm

    Nah, I went and re-looked at the first Amendment, and I have to agree, it’s a bit of a stretch to say this is a first amendment issue…but..that is the amendment that deals with separation of church and state, which, is addressed.

    The government can’t ban a religion and religion can’t dictate to the goverment – individuals, by their own choice and practice..yes. As a state government…no.

  6. January 23, 2008 10:13 pm

    Done (see, my response is shorter than Rick’s… 😉

  7. rick allen permalink
    January 24, 2008 8:49 am

    We lawyers do have trouble knowing when to stop. Thanks for your indulgence.

    This had actually come up with me in an interesting way. My thirteen-year-old came home from school last week and asked me what I thought of embryonic stem cell research. They had been discussing it in her English class, and she was at first a little horrified to learn that I was opposed to it.

    Now believe it or not, despite my verbosity here, we really don’t sit around the house discussing a lot of philosophical or religious issues. American Idol normally doesn’t leave the time for it. But I explained the reasons for concern about this kind of experimentation, a little about medical ethics, and Christian and Catholic notions of the soul, human worth and dignity, and the prohibitions on killing and using others as instruments to one’s own ends.

    I don’t know if I convinced her, but this was a side of the question she noted hadn’t been discussed at all at school. And of course it wasn’t. I very much like her teachers, and there is a sort of sainthood about anyone who would undertake the task of public education for the money they get. The last thing I’m going to do is complain to them or about them.

    So I understand why the last thing they would want would be to risk having angry parents complaining that they had breached the sacred wall between church and state. And I do understand why, in the current polarized climate, these kind of discussions, which are so important for middle school kids to be engaged in, are seriously restricted.. But I think it’s a shame, nevertheless.

  8. January 24, 2008 10:53 am

    I think it’s more appropriate to have those discussions at home – particularly as a parent if you feel very strongly one way or the other. Morality and religious ethics are a way of life and should be something that kids bring to school with them from home, not vice versa.

    At least she was able to discuss it with you.

    I on the other hand, am on the opposing side of the issue, so my message as a parent would obviously differ from yours.

    I don’t want the school to be responsible for my child’s morality, personally. I’d rather see to that.

  9. rick allen permalink
    January 25, 2008 9:33 am

    I don’t know if it’s a matter of the school being responsible for morality. But in this time when so many teachers are keeping their heads low by teaching kids just what they need to pass the stupid tests I’m very pleased that my daughter’s teacher teaches literature as something more than applied grammar and style.

    I grew up in the bible belt, where we used to say we had more Baptists than people. I still remember my English classes, where we read the Inferno, and Faust, and The Razor’s Edge, and other fiercely and unapologetically religious books, and I suppose we can still teach them as “pure literature” and ignore their social and moral and religious content, but I think that’s missing more than half the point.

    The bible is literature, but “The Bible As Literature” makes a dichotomy foreign to the bible, foreign to almost all literature. But it remains, unhappily, the only way we can even approach it, in the strange secularist box we’ve drawn over ourselves.

  10. March 17, 2008 12:25 pm

    Yes months later I happen upon this post- thanks for the linkage even if I did not realize it at the time!

    peace to you!

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