In a country founded upon the principals of Freedom to practice whichever religion one chooses to, by people attempting to escape persecution by foreign governments, the question begs to be asked. What qualifies as infringing upon your Religion? And further still, what happens when your religious beliefs then incur upon other individuals human and civil rights? Why have the lines become so skewed that federal and state officials must address such matters?
Religious persecution is a constant within the history of society and even within the Americas. It stems from the human desire to be correct and to convince others that “your” way of thought is the correct way in which to think. The Calvinists/Puritans came as “The Pilgrims”, settling in the North Eastern section of North America to escape persecution by England, going to Holland, before heading to America. Maryland was created as a “Catholic” state to escape persecution from Puritans in the North East and the English back in Britain. Quakers in Pennsylvania existed without much incident, only after escaping the British Isles and European persecution. Mormonism began in Missouri before being persecuted and ridiculed all the way into the bowels of Utah, which may be part of the genesis of “The Religious Obsession in America”. African slaves would have, logically speaking, been Muslim, as well as Christian, owing to the region they came from and that areas connection to those religions during the times leading up to the American Slave trade. All were enslaved, those who were not Christians were converted to believe in the god of their Masters, to which they have since indoctrinated their descendants. Atheism has been looked down upon since the initial “Red Scare”, in the first part of the 20th century, post World War 1, purely because Communisms official stance was anti-religion. That’s right, in America, and many other places around the world, you can be looked down upon for believing in something different than someone else, AS WELL AS not even believing in anything related to any religion at all. It’s a lose-lose situation for those at odds with family, friends or society. “Freedom of Religion” is a term thrown around loosely in todays society because the words are each taken singularly and without total context for the collectivity of all three words in unison. Because of this, we have indignation at perceived encroachments in our “Freedoms” which never really happened because those particular issues are not even covered by any legislation, nor were encroachments ever even occurring in many respects. In this hyper-sensitive society that we live in, any and every action is perceived as a slight against a lifestyle, religion, race, sex, thought or concept, while actual egregious actions like: bribed government officials, murder by police officers and undeclared proxy wars on behalf of the Corporatocracy of America that have continuously been waged for over 60 years gain no air play. The powers that be prefer it this way, distract the masses so that infringements upon civil rights can be taken slowly but surely while the masses sit and quarrel about each others belief systems which, in actuality, have little effect on their own times upon this Earth. Let us delve into all of these topics more closely.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” -The First Amendment of the United States Constitution
The First Amendment of the United States constitution states that religious freedom in the context of practicing whichever religion you choose to, as well as forbidding congress from passing laws which discriminate against any religion, are all covered as freedoms. This is a double edged sword, as if a law discriminates against a religion while allowing for the creation of further freedoms for another, we would be at an impasse of legality. This is to say, the amendment protects the right for the individual to believe in whatever they so desire to, not the application of an illegal or discriminatory part of that religion. This particular amendment says nothing of ensuring the rights of a persons religious actions if they are attempting to discriminate a humans basic and civil rights. It would stand that the government would have no say in peoples religious views until 1868, when an additional amendment would be created with good intentions, of which would ultimately serve to muddle the waters of Religion as it relates to relevance in American politics.
“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction there of, are citizens of the United States and of the State where in they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” -Article One of The Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution
The Fourteenth Amendment creates tension and wiggle room in every direction within America. Whereas the aforementioned first creates the ability to believe in whatever you wish and practice the belief in that thought, the fourteenth speaks more to the practical everyday application of beliefs from religious documents although, it was not necessarily created for that purpose. It prohibits discrimination against any person based on their color, creed and religious nature, among others. This was forced upon the South by the North to try and ensure safety for ex-slaves but has since created tension in unforeseen places. Native Americans can do drugs that would otherwise be considered illegal for the rest of the citizenry of America, based on their religious beliefs. No person, in my opinion should be told what drugs/substances they can or cannot do by the government so I believe this to be a positive loophole exposing the idiocy of such laws, which were not in place until long after the passing of this law to begin with. It does however, negatively allow for plausibility for people to demand the protection of their actions as religiously motivated.
The Separation of Church and State is a matter that has not even been addressed yet in this essay. The First Amendment acts merely to protect citizens from GOVERNMENT discrimination and creates that separation by stating that no government within America could pass laws against religion, thereby allowing it to live as a separate and non government entity. The fourteenth amendment untied the knot of separation enough for religion to seep into the heart of the sociopolitical world that America would come to revel in. All of the sudden, an ambiguous first section turns into an entity that American court rooms would come to spend the subsequent hundred plus years sorting through as it relates to discrimination on a Religious level. As we have established earlier, America is fraught with citizen on citizen religious discrimination from its very genesis, the fourteenth amendment was meant to protect former slaves and has since been used by disgruntled religious fanatics to have their often times bigoted and antiquated ways of thinking and behaving protected by state legislation which is equally as antiquated under the guise of protecting religious beliefs, while really, securing the superiority of those used to their stature and the degradation of those who have opposing lifestyles, viewpoints or skin tones. This manipulation of laws has since led to recent laws such as Indiana’s Religious Freedom Bill and similar legislation beginning to appear in the State legislatures of other similarly antiquated states. Stating that folks would not be held accountable for refusing service to any individual on the grounds that the individual(s) in question created a conflict with the persons religious beliefs. This could be construed by those with questionable moral character as homosexuals as well as people of other religions, depending on your religions stance on the validity of other religions. And let us not forget to mention, in times long gone by, Plessy V. Ferguson, on the grounds that separate but equal both was fair and equal and that certain religious beliefs are at odds with racial mixing. These all fall into the category of discriminatory, and at the same time, “protecting” the citizens of the country and/or states they exist(ed) in. The fourteenth amendments creation to assist former slaves was bypassed by state laws that would help to hold former slaves back for nearly one hundred years after its inception, and has simultaneously created language which has been construed as ensuring that every person has the privilege of having every part of their religion (Which is open to interpretation differently for EVERY INDIVIDUAL) aided, abetted and coddled by the US Constitution. The facade of Church and State separation is merely that, a facade, but how has this facade crept into our lives in every conceivable way? Even our money? Even at the start of a school day when we proclaim to be “One nation, Under God”? Our legal system, having to swear upon a book of religious value to assure our integrity? The answer, like many others, are the “Reds”.
Communisms staunchly anti-religious sentiment, sociopolitical continuity and Socioeconomic lay out created such a stir within American society that everything Anti-Communist instantly became purely American. Capitalism in the American concept of it became celebrated with fervor, the opportunity to pick a myriad of candidates became lauded even more so, and God, in juxtaposition to the “Godless Atheist Heathen Communists”, became as American as apple pie wrapped in hotdog skin with baseballs on top. Our money had God printed up upon it, our Pledge had God in it, our Courts, our lives, had religion inserted where previously only the love for State and Country existed. With that, the evolution would continue, children would be indoctrinated with God, Capitalism and Country, gone were the days where questioning your country made you more patriotic. Gone were the days where religion existed outside of the political environment, gone, forever. We were “One Nation, Under God”, how can you question a nation divinely looked over by God?! Gone forever was the growth that questioning fostered, or so it seemed.
There is an old statement, “It is always darkest before the dawn.”. WE as a people have lived in darkness for quite a long time, hundreds of years, this generation of human has thoroughly rejected religion at a rate previously unseen in recorded history. Civil Rights and the role that religion has played in its interpersonal and institutional opposition to said rights has fluctuated over the last hundred twenty five years, it now has the opportunity to be broken once and for all. As this younger generation becomes those who reside in the seats of political power, those who have families and live lives akin to our forebears, the opportunity will confront us, Accept the religion and discrimination of our parents, or disregard the hate and judgment that so often comes from believing so valiantly in something so otherworldly. Its creation was meant to bond together while simultaneously tearing apart from reality. A paradox I know, to bond like minded individuals into delusions of an enduring answer for all questions while tearing the whole of humanity away from the relationship we all share as the same species. Nothing is black and white, we are all every color, we are all one.