Letter to the Editor

Religion and morality needed to govern

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Dear Editor:

I am responding to the letter by Lester Thornton in the March 7 paper. I disagree slightly with his statement that the Constitution grants us freedom from religion.

That is true in a narrow sense and he is correct in saying that the Constitution does not permit our government to coerce anyone to worship any specific religion and in fact does give us freedom from religion as in being an atheist if we choose.

It may be only a question of semantics, but I think there is an important distinction to be made.

While granting freedom of/from religion, the framers of the Constitution knew that morality was a necessary quality in the people for us to be a self-governing nation.

It is true that our nation is not a Christian theocracy, but it is historically accurate to say that our nation was founded by Christian believers on Christian principles.

In George Washington's farewell address to the nation at the end of his presidency, he wrote the following, "Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.

"In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens.

"The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity.

"Let it simply be asked: Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice?

"And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.

"It is substantially true that virtue and morality is a necessary spring of popular government. . . . . . Who that is a sincere friend to it can look with indifference upon attempts to shake the foundation of the fabric?"

Mid-letter Mr. Thornton writes the following, "Today, one party, in states where they govern both legislative bodies and hold the governor's position, is working hard to establish laws while they have power. These laws restrict certain behavior, based on a religious position, thus making some unable to 'practice' their faith."

While he doesn't say which party he is writing about, I will assume he is referring to the Republican Party, since the Democrat Party is not typically known to concern itself with pushing religious principles.

So I would ask for a specific example of any state passing legislation that would make some unable to "practice" their faith.

Until I am shown an example of such legislation, I will remain skeptical of that claim.

Mr. Thornton also tells of a school in a southern state where a student of another faith was being held up for ridicule.

I wholeheartedly agree that this is morally wrong and counter to the culture of this country and should never be permitted, but I would point out the fact that this is merely an example of a bigoted person or group of people in that particular school and was not a government policy, an important distinction.

A constitutional conservative,

Jerry Wadel