Freedom of Religion

The Constitution of the United States of America does not contain the words “separation of church and state,” nor does it contain the words “religious liberty.” Both phrases have been used to summarize some of what the first two clauses in the First Amendment mean. The actual language of the constitution is “Congress shall pass no law respecting an Establishment of Religion, nor prohibiting the Free Exercise thereof.”

Our country needs a plain reaffirmation of both clauses. Together, they put the content of any religious body’s faith and doctrine outside the jurisdiction of government. A church, mosque, synagogue, temple, may be right or wrong, in the eyes of a majority of citizens, or of God, or the gods. The First Amendment does not say all religions are equally good, or true, or beneficial, it merely affirms that it is beyond the competence of government to determine which, if any, religion, or religious dogma, is in fact True. People are responsible to God alone, assuming there is one, for their choices and expression of their faith.

It is also well established that a law of general application, not written to advance or prohibit any specific religious faith, is binding on all citizens. Nobody can claim an exemption because “its against my religion,” whether they belong to a cult that teaches the importance of human sacrifice, or a sect which believes that the Parable of the Vineyard entitles an employer to pay any wages he desires, free of minimum wage laws. Murder is murder, the legal minimum wage is the legal minimum wage.

Religious bodies do not have to conform their doctrines to long term or short term cultural trends and fads. Most religions and sects have some teaching that is anathema to some of other faiths or no faith. A church may regard dogs as unclean, shellfish as unclean, women wearing lipstick or failing to cover their head or wearing pants in church as unseemly, consumption of alcohol as sinful. A church may, on the other hand, require use of wine for communion, hold crab cook-outs as annual fundraisers, revive ancient homosexual rites of Canaanite or pagan Greek origin, or, uphold Pauline condemnation of homosexuality. It is none of the government’s business.