Providing Some Clarification: Intelligent Design and Freedom of Religion

"The Creation of Adam" -- Michelangelo, Sistine Chapel (Photo: public domain)

Note: Text in brackets, “[ ],” was added after the original version was published to further clarify my thoughts.

I assumed in my last post that more people would understand what I meant when I said that Bible classes and Creationism do not belong in public schools. But, as the comments I’ve received on that post are demonstrating, people seem to misunderstanding what I meant. So, the purpose of this post is to provide some clarification and more clearly define some essential terminology.

To refresh your memory, my last post, “Bible Classes, Creationism Do Not Belong in Public Schools. Period.” concerned my belief that 1) the Bible should not be taught in public schools and 2) discussions about intelligent design/Creationism do not belong in the public school science classroom. It should be pointed out that the American judicial system has for the past several decades also held these positions to be true, most recently in the ruling for Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District. Incidentally, the presiding judge in that case was appointed to the federal court circuit by former President George W. Bush, one of the darlings of the social conservative movement. Continue reading

The Problem with Christian Political Opposition to Gay Marriage

Rick Santorum speaking at an event in Des Moines, Iowa. (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

In an appearance before a crowd of college students in New Hampshire yesterday, Rick Santorum was jeered and booed in response to his opposition to same-sex marriage. The exchange, which at one point degenerated into a back and forth over whether or not allowing same-sex marriage would open the the door to polygamy, highlighted a recurring problem with the conservative opposition to same-sex marriage: their approach is wrong. Continue reading

Religion of the Insecure

Herman Cain.

Republican candidate for the U.S. presidency Herman Cain voiced his opposition to the construction of a new mosque in Murfreesburo, Tenn., recently. If it were a mere voiced opposition to the construction of this particular mosque, that would, in itself, be only a relatively minor cause for concern. But he didn’t stop there.

Speaking to Fox News this morning, Cain went so far as to say that Americans “have the right” to ban Muslims from building mosques in their communities. Basing his views on the appraisal of Islam as both a religion and a code of laws (Sharia), Cain said on Fox News Sunday, “[American communities] have the right to [ban mosques from being built.] That’s not discriminating … against that particular religion. [Attempting to implement Sharia] is an aspect of them building that mosque that doesn’t get talked about.”

Mr. Cain is, in a word, wrong. And, really, if he were only a fringe candidate with a minor chance of winning the nomination, it wouldn’t really matter. That, unfortunately, isn’t the case. While the chances of him actually becoming the Republican nominee and defeating Barack Obama in an open election are, in my opinion, microscopic, it can’t be entirely ruled out this early in the election cycle.

So, let’s pick apart Mr. Cain’s idiotic statements, shall we?

In spite of the terminology he used, Americans do not have a “right” to ban members of a particular faith from building a place of worship in their communities. That’s cold, hard fact. No American has any right to restrict the religious freedom of any other American, regardless of the person’s faith. I haven’t taken the time to peruse the blogosphere in preparation for this post, but I can only imagine that there are many Christians who are willing to jump on board with Mr. Cain. They do so at their own peril.

Christians should be at the forefront of opposition to any attempt to limit religious freedom or restrict religious worship. Laws which are already being enacted in Europe–such as the ban on burqas in France and the ban on the construction of minarets in Switzerland–should be source of concern for anyone who wishes to see the protection of the freedom of religion continue.

Whether or not Islam and Sharia law do constitute a threat to American values is a discussion for another day; nevertheless, even if it is shown that they do pose a threat, this–the support or enacting of laws that ban Muslims from building houses of worship–is not the way to combat it. Any law that opens the door to restricting worship and religious practice (such as one that would allow a community to prevent a mosque from being constructed) is one which could just as easily be applied to members of another faith (such as, for example, if a Christian congregation wished to build a church in Dearborn, Mich.)

Two final items in closing:

1. To the Christians who would support Cain, you need to realize that the government of this nation is not and was never intended to be an extension of the Church or of one particular faith. Your support of these kinds of positions indicates to me you believe, consciously or otherwise, the opposite to be true. America is not a Christian nation, so please stop making the absurd assertion that it is. America is a country where people were intended to be able to worship the God of their choosing, an ideal for which we should be the most vocal proponents.

2. To Herman Cain (and anyone else running for president), the president of the United States is not required to leave his faith on the doorstep of the White House. That said, he is tasked with being the president of the whole country and all the people within it. A continuing source of irritation for me is the speed with which religious conservatives have flocked to Texas governor Rick Perry, apparently, it seems, because he called for a statewide day of prayer and fasting for rain. While that is to be commended, the president is not pastor-in-chief and if that is the only (or biggest) reason he enjoys the support of so many Christians, then God help us all.