Friday, November 14, 2003

So then, why do it?

Knox County Commissioners are prepared to vote on a resolution recognizing God as the inspiration and founder of America's legal system. Or government. Or something like that -- it's a little unfocused.

Law chief: God measure shouldn't have 'rightfully'
(Knoxville News Sentinel: 11/14/03, by Michael Silence. Hat Tip, SayUncle)

"The resolution has drawn both praise and condemnation and has been passed by several counties in the state. [Commissioner and resolution co-sponser Ivan] Harmon has said it is symbolic and simply recognizes God's influence in the founding of the country."
So then, if it's non-binding and has no real value beyond the symbolic yet is controversial and divisive, plus constitutionally suspect - why do it?

However, it's getting mixed reaction in this area...

Resolution stirring mixed area response
(Knoxville News Sentinel: 11/14/03, by Jeannine F. Hunter.)

"Anybody that would not adopt this resolution, ain't no hope for them," said June Griffin of Dayton, Tenn., who spent five years visiting county commissioners statewide to encourage passage of resolutions recognizing the Ten Commandments as the nation's historical foundation.
Well, we all know what kind of enlightenment has historically flowed out of Dayton, TN. Apparently correct grammar does not. (All right, that's petty, but why is she your spokesperson?)

"I think the fear of God is beginning to creep across this state and across this nation in light of the tyranny that's being exercised in Alabama."
Scary stuff. Tyranny? The Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice refuses to obey a federal court order, and that's tyranny? Do people know what real tyranny is? Tyranny is taxation without representation. Tyranny is getting sent to gas chambers via train cars. Tyranny is being dragged into the street and decapitated in front of your children because your husband was an Iraqi dissident. But I digress. Oh, and that's not all...

"Our leaders better make a public statement that we will acknowledge God no matter what judges say. Better to lose your job than your life," she said. "This is eternity here. Denying God is atheism."
No, ma'am - not making a public statement is not denying God. Respecting the established authority is not denying God. A state or municipality cannot "deny God" any more than it can feel guilt, harbor jealousy or hate the city across the river. A person's choice to deny or accept God is their own, and neither you nor County Commissioners nor any other "resolution" will affect it. I think Ms. Griffin would be better off examining her own life and relationship to God before she starts examining others'.

Quite a few local religious leaders said they had not fully read news stories or the resolution for themselves and declined commenting on the record. Others suggested that private opposition could not be expressed strongly and publicly due to the region's conservative nature.
Nothing like being fully informed, but at least they didn't publicly express an opinion. I think every local religious leader should be fully aware of the scope and ramifications of this proposal - pro or con - because their parishioners deserve guidance from their spiritual leader. Of course, as the second part of the paragraph suggests, oppose the resolution at your own risk because a lot of local conservative church-goers have deep pockets that might take them elsewhere if they don't agree with your position.

'Dr. Bob Bevington, founding pastor of the Knoxville Baptist Tabernacle, said, "I am for separation of church from state, _but I am not for separation of state from God."'
Again, they don't quite get it - the state cannot have a relationship with God. Obviously. To mix the two is to invite a theocratic-based democracy, where specific religious rules have a chance of turning into laws - rules that not everyone who lives her may agree with.

For instance, it's basic that murder, theft, assault, etc are all crimes that hurt other people. What happens when a community's leadership is directly controlled and influenced by a certain religious practice? Adultery could become illegal. So could relationships between people of the same sex. Or certain sexual acts -- oh, wait, that's already illegal in Georgia -- or certain speech...or say, maybe, criticism of the government could be seen as criticism of the church and God and then seen as un-Godly. Maybe since some say the Bible teaches women are inferior to me, women could be forced not to work, or to walk behind their husbands in public, or not allowed to go to school, or to wear completely unrevealing clothing....well, you can see where I'm going with this.

"[Immaculate Conception Catholic Church member Phyllis] Lockwood said each individual should be allowed to use the word "God."

"God can symbolize the universe, or an almighty power or whatever it is that you want to attach to the name. ...You can't take the word away," Lockwood said. "It's in the dictionary. It exists and it's up to each individual, the meaning that they place behind that word that determines its significance."
But we all should realize that the resolution is not intended by its backers to refer to a universal "God". It's deliberately written to acknowledge the Christian God, and no other. To interpret it to refer to anyone's own interpretation of God is fine, but to not recognize the actual purpose of the resolution - to promote one religion over all others - is short-sighted and naive.

I belong to a Methodist Church here in town, and I suspect a number of my friends and fellow church-members probably support this proposal (as well as the Alabama judge), which makes me uncomfortable discussing it among them. But the bottom line that seems to be continuosly trampled is that America, which I acknowledge likely had its government and legal system established using Christianity as its basis) is no longer that same country it was 200+ years ago. Our Constitution was written specifically to protect us from the same religious persecution the Pilgrims fled in England - a theocracy that didn't allow them to worship as they pleased. America changed all of that, and welcomed people of all different faiths and beliefs. We want them to come, we want them all to worship and build churches/mosques/synagogues/whatever. We want their ideas and influences and diversity to become part of our communities.

But some people were never taught that.

It's their way or the highway. Their God or none. This proposal is another step in the direction that our fathers wanted to avoid. And it's one thing we're struggling against half a world away. Losing the freedom to choose how and who to worship would be to lose a fundamental stone in America's foundation. I hope they realize that.


SayUncle is all over this as well (link).

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