Common sense about religious freedom


Once I argued in an editorial that applying principles of religious liberty requires only common sense. But it also requires a basic and accurate understanding of how this nation was formed with adequate protections to ensure full religious freedom for all citizens.
Revisionist histories abound that paint the founders as everything from complete heathens to evangelical Christians. According to Religion News Service, a new book by Gary Kowalski,titled “Revolutionary Spirits: The Enlightened Faith of America’s Founding Fathers,” reveals the more complex picture of the Founding Fathers’ faith.
“His spiritual portraits of Washington, Franklin, Thomas Paine, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison argue that the founding fathers were neither devout Christians nor secularists,” the article states.
I will look forward to reading this new work by the Unitarian Universalist minister. My hope is that — with honest history and fair minds — the issue of religious liberty will be less divisive among Americans.
While a few religious liberty cases require judicial discernment, the basic understanding of freedom is not that complicated.
Both those who insist that all religious expression should be done in private AND those who seek governmental preference for a particular religious expression are wrong.
In an election season when the religious faith of the candidates has gotten so much attention, it might be a good time to acknowledge just how valuable the constitutional protections of religious freedom are to this nation.
We can argue about the fine points of religious freedom, but we should never take this cherished gift for granted.

1 Comment

  1. David Holmes’ “Faiths of our Fathers” is another illuminating book.

    Separation of church and state has in no small part delivered us from the fate of Lebanon,Ireland and a host of other nations.

    I believe the historical record supports the contention that in the USA two divergent streams of thought came together. Some wanted government out of religion and others who wanted religion out of government. European history has many examples that must have been fresh in the minds of the founding fathers.

    Freedom to exercise religious faith and freedom of speech creates tension with the separation of church and state. All are enumerated in the same amendment. The founding fathers must have found a way to harmonize those conflicting tensions. God help us to have at least some small portion of their Common Sense.

    Thomas Paine wrote “I offer nothing more than simple facts, plain arguments, and common sense. . .”

    The fundamentalists have a profitable cottage industry peddling distortions of the truth.A counter insurgency telling the truth is our need.

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