Today, we talk about religion. Happy Easter.
Did you know that in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, a tradition of spanking or whipping is carried out on Easter Monday. In the morning, men spank women with a special handmade whip. This is supposed to ensure their continued beauty. The women thank the men with an egg, or sometimes money.
I'm not making this up. Let's call it a religious practice just for fun.
A couple of days ago I got one of those godawful jingoistic religious emails from a friend of the family. It talked at length in pictures and large type propaganda language about how the USA was founded by Christians and that the Ten Commandments and other biblical writings were inscribed all over government buildings. It went on to suggest that only Christians should govern, and that the non-Christian 14% people who don't like all the biblical stuff on government property and the words "In God We Trust" on the money and "under God" in the pledge of allegiance should "SHUT UP". The text of the message challenged me to forward the message if I was in agreement or to delete it.
Needless to say, I was not the target audience. I chose to reply instead.
I ended up spending a couple of hours writing than re-writing a response. In the process I learned a couple of things.
1. Abraham Lincoln was the first to use the phrase "under God" in reference to America, in political speech. It was in the Gettysburg Address, which I read for the first time last night. Also, the Gettysburg address was a two minute speech that followed a THREE HOUR oration by Edward Everett.
2. The pledge of allegiance dates from 1892 - not revolutionary times. Insertion of the the phrase "under God" was first spearheaded by the Knights Of Columbus in 1951. Ultimately it was the result of a sermon that Eisenhower was present at that sealed the deal. Read all about it.
3. The United States Constitution explicitly prohibits the use of a religious test as a requirement for holding public office. "... no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States." (Article 6) The text is very explicit; "no religious Test shall ever be required". I really like that.
So here is my point for the day. Religious freedom in the United States is precious because it allows us (if we choose to) to act as a nation undivided by religion. It makes America strong because our government does not value citizens based on their faith, only on their standing as citizens. Religion must remain strictly out of government to assure ALL citizens their religious freedom.
To those who say we are a Christian nation, you are foolishly confusing the majority of religious preference of the citizens with the actual form of government and society that exists. I suggest re-thinking the matter.