Freedom of religion doesn't mean freedom from religion

One of my favorite lines from legendary journalist H.L. Mencken is his definition of puritanism – “the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.”

That fear might be the driving force behind the Freedom from Religion Foundation.

The FFRF is a group out of Wisconsin that pesters government agencies to maintain a separation of church and state. Its weapon of choice appears to be frivolous litigation.

Many Augustans first got wind of the FFRF last month when The Chronicle reported how the group started poking around into how Mayor Deke Copenhaver’s monthly prayer breakfasts are put together and paid for. The breakfasts have been held since 2005, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a regular local event that so consistently ameliorates racial healing in our community.

But to hear the FFRF fret about it, you’d think the mayor was grabbing people in headlocks and forcing them to pray – all on the taxpayer’s dime. Turns out, though, that the breakfast’s food is donated, and the only city expenditure is the time spent sending emails to the folks invited to participate.

THE FFRF also sent a letter to Fort Gordon. Why? Well, the fort’s Regimental Noncommissioned Officers Academy lets participants in its Advanced Leader Course perform community service projects, which is a great idea.

But apparently someone – presumably one of the FFRF’s 369 Georgia members – recently spotted soldiers sprucing up the property outside Catholic Social Services, and jumped to the conclusion that Fort Gordon orders soldiers to work for religious charities.

I probably don’t have to tell you this, but I will anyway – Fort Gordon does not order soldiers to work for religious charities. According to fort Public Affairs Officer J.C. Mathews, CSS is on the academy’s list of local organizations that request help from Fort Gordon soldiers. Since CSS is a private organization, soldiers can and do offer assistance voluntarily.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ... .” The Founding Fathers thought that was so important that they made it the very first phrase of the Constitution’s First Amendment.

THE FFRF keeps hammering away about how the government should not establish a religion. I don’t think the government should, either.

But the FFRF seems to be real fuzzy on the “free exercise” part.

Are either the prayer breakfasts or the leader course’s volunteer program really establishing a religion? If so, they’re doing miserable jobs of it. You want some pointers on governmental establishment of a religion? Take notes from Iran or Saudi Arabia. (Just don’t let then catch you – you might get beaten or imprisoned.)

Meanwhile, in America, Congress isn’t ordering you or me how to worship, and everyone – even mayors and soldiers – has the freedom to publicly express aspects of their faith.

I’m sure the people over at the FFRF get a kick out of quoting Thomas Jefferson, since he’s probably America’s most famous deist. Here’s a quote I like, from 1782: “But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are 20 gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”

See? Even he didn’t care who you prayed to, or if you prayed at all. But the FFRF sure does – and it sure seems to get its members steamed.

Which brings us back to the Mencken quote.

For all the FFRF’s bluster over the separation of church and state, its members consistently forget – or choose to ignore – one key fact: Religion, whether the FFRF likes it or not, makes people very happy.

There’s a ton of research to back that up, but in the interest of space I’ll mention just two of my favorite examples:

• A 2010 study by the University of Toronto-Scarborough found that believers who thought about God suffer less from the stress and anxiety associated with making mistakes.

When nonbelievers think about God under the same circumstances – well, you get the idea. They get more stressed.

• Why do people of faith seem happier? Research in the American Sociological Review cites the social joys from participating in regular worship. Closer human ties boost your satisfaction.

What makes FFRF members happy? Patting one another on the back congratulating themselves on being nonreligious, I suppose.

And you know what, if that’s what makes you happy, that’s fine. It “neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg,” as a great man once said.

But the last time I checked, religion isn’t a yoke to escape but a choice to be made freely. The Constitution guarantees us a freedom of religion, not a freedom from it.

And a mayor’s monthly breakfast or a soldier doing yard work simply doesn’t establish a religion. The slightest action by a good person of faith doesn’t equate to full-throttle proselytizing.

Will the Freedom from Religion Foundation ever realize all that?

God only knows.

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grouse
1635
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grouse 08/05/12 - 01:16 am
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9
The Constitution DOES
Unpublished

The Constitution DOES guarantee freedom from religion in that religion and government are to be separate. This is something the founders believed it and which is why you don't find God mentioned in the body of Constitution. This is why there are no religious tests for government office. This is why "so help me God" is not in the oath of office as written in the Constitution (strict Constitutionalists take note). The prayer breakfast is unnecessary to the running of the government; it provides no service to the citizens of Augusta. It is simply the kind of posturing that Jesus preached against in Matthew 6:5-6...

Willow Bailey
20579
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Willow Bailey 08/05/12 - 08:06 am
7
7
I like the letter. I disagree

I like the letter. I disagree with your usage of that scripture, grouse. And I ask, what motivates you to use it?

If I pray aloud in church, at my dinner table, beside one's death bed beside one's hospital bed, over the phone with someone, is it your belief that Jesus is admonishing me?

Techfan
6461
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Techfan 08/05/12 - 08:16 am
7
8
In other words, Joe believes

In other words, Joe believes in freedom of religion, as long as it's his religion. He does quote some good examples of the placebo effect.

Willow Bailey
20579
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Willow Bailey 08/05/12 - 08:42 am
6
3
Tech, is. It that you don't

Tech, is. It that you don't believe in God. or that you do, but believe it should be a secret or at least separate from other areas of your life? Just trying to understand you.

InChristLove
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InChristLove 08/05/12 - 08:42 am
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I think Mr. Hotchkiss's was

I think Mr. Hotchkiss's was polite, honest, and to the point. Thank you Joe.

Techfan, I fail to see where Joe mentioned what his religion is, maybe you know Joe personally and that is why YOU know?

grouse, "The prayer breakfast is unnecessary to the running of the government; it provides no service to the citizens of Augusta"

I beg to differ. Anytime prayer and fellowship is offered in a group of different religious and cultural individuals there is ALWAYS benefits. If it reminds or teaches our government and community to be patient, honest, compassionate, united, and leaders, are these things not a wonderful service? I suppose there are those who wish things to continute to be in chaos so that you will continue to have something to gripe about?

effete elitist liberal
3018
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effete elitist liberal 08/05/12 - 09:20 am
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neither my pocket nor my leg

Hotchkiss thinks he is being very clever in citing Jefferson, and if JH is willing to limit TJ to allowing each citizen the right to believe in any superstitious foolishness he or she wants, that's fine. In effect what Jefferson was saying was that if you want to believe that a "man" was born of a virgin and rose from the dead, go for it, so long as you do not attempt to impose your religious views on me. But there is the proverbial rub! When Christians want to impose their Biblical version of morality (abortion?, gay marriage?) on those with other moral values, then pockets are picked and legs broken, at least metaphorically.

nanowerx
1258
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nanowerx 08/05/12 - 10:20 am
7
3
Why is it so hard to keep

Why is it so hard to keep ones religion to themselves? There most certainly is to be a separation of church and state based off the Constitution. Nobody is trying to prevent anyone from celebrating their religion, we just don't want it influencing the will of the government. (but who am I kidding...it already does). One simple question, how many of the "there's a war on my religion" crowd would support a weekly government meeting at a Mosque while giving a prayer to Allah? People would be in an outrage , in uproar! Not because there was a loose-end in the rule of no religion in government, but that it wasn't there religion, wasn't their diety.

Remember, this country was not founded on the Christian religion, or any religion, our forefathers wanted to ensure that so this country was not run by a church like the UK was:
"The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason."  - Ben Franklin

"All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit." - Thomas Paine

"This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there  were no religion in it." - John Adams

"No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever." - Thomas Jefferson

Willow Bailey
20579
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Willow Bailey 08/05/12 - 11:19 am
8
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Why is it do hard to keep

Why is it do hard to keep one's atheism to themselves?

effete elitist liberal
3018
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effete elitist liberal 08/05/12 - 11:37 am
7
4
so hard?

WILLOW: There are many, many examples of Biblical morality which Christians want encoded into law where such laws would prevent those with other moral views from their "free exercise" of them. Take abortion, for example. A legal ban on abortion would encode the morality of some Christians. That ban would not affect you, I assume, even hypothetically, as you, following your Bible-based moral views, would never choose an abortion. But that same ban would also prevent another woman with a different moral sense from choosing one. Bottom line: your Christian moral views would be forced on others. So now let's get to your question. I will be happy to answer after you give at least one good example of how a law based on non-Christian moral values would not only allow people holding those views to the free exercise of them, but also WOULD PREVENT YOU FROM EXERCISING YOURS! CAN YOU GIVE US ONE???

TheBigBonk
116
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TheBigBonk 08/05/12 - 11:39 am
1
0
Willow
Unpublished

I think the answer is because atheism is not a religion. It is a response to religion.

soapy_725
43553
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soapy_725 08/05/12 - 12:03 pm
0
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The Patriotic Christian Party
Unpublished

is only fueling the fire. Led by "supposed conservative talk show host" who are neither conservative or Christian but rather led by MONEY. If they cannot sell you a "political scam", they will sell you a Christian Scam.

effete elitist liberal
3018
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effete elitist liberal 08/05/12 - 12:15 pm
3
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free exercise

Willow??? Somebody??? Anybody??? Come on, Christians!

grouse
1635
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grouse 08/05/12 - 12:29 pm
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@Willow: I didn't write the
Unpublished

@Willow: I didn't write the rules. Read the verses for yourself. The instructions are quite clear, especially about making a display in public.This silliness about prayer offering benefits is belied by the fact that it's been going on for a long time and we still have the same old politics as usual. It hasn't helped on iota. It has nothing to do with the running of a government.

effete elitist liberal
3018
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effete elitist liberal 08/05/12 - 12:40 pm
5
4
praying, etc.

Grouse, From her list, it is obvious that Willow does not understand-or fails to acknowledge-the difference between public and private, or what is even more to the point, between a government setting and a non-government one. So now we both are waiting for Willow to respond to our posts....

jrbfromga
429
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jrbfromga 08/05/12 - 12:42 pm
0
0
Establishment vs. recognition
Unpublished

Establishment of religion was the standard of the day in 18th century, when governments denied rights to those who were not member of the Roman Catholic church, the Church of England, etc. We now consider these as denominations of Christianity, not as religions (eg. Muslims, Hindus, etc.). Our founders rejected this concept. The federal, and state governments, are not violative of the Constitution when they merely recognize that religions exist, but do not mandate that a particulate religion is "established". There is no Constitutional right to deny the existence of religion, only the establishment of it.

TheBigBonk
116
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TheBigBonk 08/05/12 - 01:28 pm
1
0
Prayer
Unpublished

Remember a while back when Georgia was in a drought and Sonny Perdue got up on a podium in front of the Capitol and prayed for rain? One thing I noticed is he didn't bring an umbrella along. He had no faith in God and it was just political posturing.

InChristLove
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InChristLove 08/05/12 - 01:39 pm
4
4
"law based on non-Christian

"law based on non-Christian moral values "

Can't think of anything moral that isn't based on Christian values so coming up with a law that is moral based on NON-Christian values is impossible.

InChristLove
22417
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InChristLove 08/05/12 - 01:40 pm
4
4
I can think of a few laws

I can think of a few laws based on non-Christian values that are immoral.

InChristLove
22417
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InChristLove 08/05/12 - 01:44 pm
2
4
"That ban would not affect

"That ban would not affect you, I assume, even hypothetically, as you, following your Bible-based moral views, would never choose an abortion. But that same ban would also prevent another woman with a different moral sense from choosing one."

The ban against abortion isn't about a religious woman or a non-religious woman right to have one, the ban is about protecting the life of an unborn male or female who has the same right to exist and you and I....no matter how they were conceived.

TheBigBonk
116
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TheBigBonk 08/05/12 - 01:45 pm
1
0
Holocaust, inquisition, Salem
Unpublished

Holocaust, inquisition, Salem witch trials, the 2 Ireland's. Great Christian values!

TheBigBonk
116
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TheBigBonk 08/05/12 - 01:49 pm
1
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Hey ICL
Unpublished

If abortion is murder, is using a condom kidnapping?

InChristLove
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InChristLove 08/05/12 - 02:03 pm
2
5
It is odd that those who do

It is odd that those who do not believe in God want to use His word and profess to know what God means in scripture but when it comes to believing in Him and following His Word, they totally disreguard those Words.

TheBigBonk
116
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TheBigBonk 08/05/12 - 02:08 pm
1
0
Maybe they studied the word
Unpublished

Maybe they studied the word and believed for years. The ones who seem to be the most heartless are the ones who once cared too much.

effete elitist liberal
3018
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effete elitist liberal 08/05/12 - 02:26 pm
3
6
ICL

Oh, please, you can't be serious! Conservative Christians have, for a long time, tried to do the same thing to abortion than they have attempted for Darwinian evolution: pretend what is fundamentally a faith-based opinion actually is a secular one. Your claim that the abortion issue is a rights issue, not a religious one, is either disingenuous or unexamined. Yes, in one respect the abortion issue does involve "rights," but the question is when in the course of fetal develoment does the right to life you assert become vested? The entire effort to back up that vesting time--many conservative Christians want to go all the way back to conception--is a religious one. Science provides no answers to when a "right-to-life" becomes vested. You want the law to reflect your RELIGIOUS preference....

Nomaninthesky
347
Points
Nomaninthesky 08/05/12 - 02:25 pm
4
5
Wrong

I probably don’t have to tell you this, but I will anyway – Fort Gordon does not order soldiers to work for religious charities. According to fort Public Affairs Officer J.C. Mathews, CSS is on the academy’s list of local organizations that request help from Fort Gordon soldiers. Since CSS is a private organization, soldiers can and do offer assistance voluntarily.

I work very closely with this organization on the base. It is not voluntary. It is called voluntary but was pushed hard by the leaders. if you did not "volunteer" you were frowned upon (so everyone volunteers). A soldier per se may not get the orders he may have wanted if he did not support this religious group. Sorry but you are wrong about this.

DMPerryJr
1698
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DMPerryJr 08/05/12 - 02:28 pm
4
1
Funny

A bunch of statists, who want the gov to be their nanny and protect everything from their gayness to their religious/family values, cloak everything in this kind of warped quasi libertarianism when debating.

It really is confusing, and I believe, a disservice to illiterate inbreds like myself.

I think it's time for me to join a protected class of people. How about a march on Washington by those with sub 100 IQs?

We'd need a leader to be our voice though: how about one of these middle class folks who have deluded themselves into believing that they are the patrician class. That'd be awesome.

CobaltGeorge
149789
Points
CobaltGeorge 08/05/12 - 02:57 pm
3
1
Wrong

Can you prove or document that statement?

"It is called voluntary but was pushed hard by the leaders. if you did not "volunteer" you were frowned upon (so everyone volunteers). A soldier per se may not get the orders he may have wanted if he did not support this religious group. Sorry but you are wrong about this."

Willow Bailey
20579
Points
Willow Bailey 08/05/12 - 03:16 pm
4
5
EEL, where our values are

EEL, where our values are derived is not the issue. As a Christian, I am still allowed to vote and to express my opinions to those who pass the laws, just as you are as an atheist. One does not override the other.

You interestingly bring up abortion, claiming as a Christian, I would not be affected by the laws since I would elect not to have one performed. That is not true. What about the future lives of my grandchildren? An excellent example, I would say of having no input on the decision, but suffering greatly from the possible choices of others .

Let me ask you this question. If parents can elect to end their babies lives, should we allow those who survive, the option of ending their elderly parent's lives; you know considering all the inconveniences and expense they cause?

Finally, what I dislike so much about the abortion discussion, is those who argue for it, are living. Doesn't seem fair to me to support ending one's right to life while enjoying your own.

The thing I dislike about all of this is that those who argue pro

Willow Bailey
20579
Points
Willow Bailey 08/05/12 - 03:47 pm
4
5
Grouse, I am not trying to be

Grouse, I am not trying to be unkind to you. I have noticed how you love to use that particular scripture. Do you really believe in prayer, but find it better to do so privately or are you using this in an effort to silence and discredit others? Is God Lord or liar in your life?

Just so you know and others are not confused, take a look at who Jesus was talking to. They were NOT his followers, but those who sought to fool others.

Another sidebar for you is Satan used scripture with a twist to lead Eve into sin and to try to kill Jesus' mission on earth. So, I am careful to look at the purpose of it's usage from non believers.

Gage Creed
15627
Points
Gage Creed 08/05/12 - 03:50 pm
3
1
That boat with FFRF, WBC and

That boat with FFRF, WBC and their supporters is surely overloaded....

And Noman....I call BS....if you had proof of that, you would be camped out on the Sergeant Major's front porch.

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