Religion, government not a new debate

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As the editorial board of the Cd’A Press noted on Dec. 28, 2018, there is plenty of bickering about what the “Founding Fathers” meant when they wrote the Constitution, the Bill of Rights (especially the First Amendment), and related letters.

So what is the point of all this armchair scholarly Constitutional review?

Just as “all politics is local,” we should also say “all politics is current.”

The ongoing debate is really about how much religion should be in government. There is no doubt that our county and our country has a very strong Christian community, and that is a great thing. Local churches perform good deeds for their followers and many aid the community as a whole.

So the debate is not about churches (of any sort) practicing their beliefs or aiding the community, it’s about the government participating in religious activities.

So why is this an issue?

Many people of strong faith believe that those who do not follow similar religious beliefs cannot be righteous.

As an example, Bob Shillingstad wrote to the Press (Dec. 25, 2018): “We have to fear that when Christian restraints have been removed from a society, the atrocities are magnified many times over.”

Thus, the implication is that without explicit Christian references or prayers in government and public schools, people will go on to commit crimes, etc.

The accuracy of that opinion is a whole debate in itself; but I am not doing so here, I will leave that to experts with data.

The point of this letter is the reasons not to have religious practices in government and public schools.

First, obviously are atheists who don’t want religious dogma and symbolism permeating our governments.

Second, are those who belong to a religious minority group and don’t want a dominant religious group taking over local (or national) government.

This second counter argument is typically dismissed by those in a dominant religion, but it is a very real issue.

Here in North Idaho, people clearly feel strongly enough about their own religious interpretations that we have a great diversity of small churches.

If we had a state supported religion, and it had political power, would all these small churches thrive?

So what happens when your city council or school expresses overtly religious views?

Some strong believers won’t go in other churches or attend religious-based events of conflicting churches.

So if a local city council clearly leans toward one set of religious beliefs, do others feel comfortable trying to participate?

People have failings, and when dominant religions get political power, others lose out. (Just look at the ongoing conflict in Northern Ireland.)

This is not a new debate, nor will the debate end anytime soon. It may seem less important to many because we have come so far.

We don’t live in religiously divided neighborhoods, and most of us don’t concern ourselves with which church our co-workers go to.

But without constant advocacy, some religiously inclined people will intentionally or unintentionally erode the boundaries.

•••

James Fulton is a Post Falls resident.

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