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Commentary & Opinion
Tue September 11, 2012
Paul Elisha: The Tip of My Nose
Question: In a nation in which individual freedom is its most telling characteristic, how and why would church organized and ordained control of religious belief and practice become the most actively initiated and consistently sought-after power; second only to influence of the political system itself?
The proliferous pursuit of didactic deification in today’s America would both baffle and frighten our nation’s founders, most of whom were deists but also profoundly wary and opposed to the incorporation of theocratic influence in the affairs of governance in any form… and for good reason. They had seen – first hand – the oppression of collusive church/state power throughout Europe and the Middle-East for several pernicious centuries and were determined to deter its unmitigated effect from the very beginning of their experiment in self-governance by the people.
An interesting and revealing symptom of the extent and intensity of the American apotheosis is conveyed by the historic coincidence of the Pledge Of Allegiance to our flag. The text was created in 1892, by Francis Bellamy, a Baptist Minister. It contained no mention of the word: “God.” Fifty years later, in June, 1942, An act of Congress added the Pledge to Title 36 – The Flag Code, citing the original text by Reverend Bellamy, for recitation by school children. In 1943, The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that enforced recitation of The Pledge was unconstitutional. Pressured by certain veterans groups, President Dwight Eisenhower, in 1954, added the phrase: “under God,” by Presidential decree – an act that remains Constitutionally questionable.
During and even after the Revolution that created The United States, religion was officially endorsed in many states. Outsiders not only were denied rights but some were even punished. From 1784 to 1786, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison worked together, to oppose Patrick Henry’s effort to levy taxes in Virginia, to support churches. The bill they were finally able to pass, ensuring religious freedom, became a standard for the final separation of church and state, nationwide. Its uniqueness was the guarantee of freedom to believe and worship, with the stipulation that this also cannot deny or oppose any other differing view. Those who now seek to impose differing religious dogmas or policies, laws and actions based on them, threaten to overturn our premiere Constitutional guarantee. If they are allowed to succeed, the very basis of our hard-won and unique difference, as a truly democratic republic, with equal rights for all, regardless of status, race, gender, wealth or religious belief, will have been erased.
The great American jurist, Justice Learned Hand, once noted this simple truth: “Freedom,” he said, “gives you the right to clench your fist but that right ends at the tip of my nose.” In this impending, most vital of all American elections, it’s essential for every American nose not only to be counted but to remain un-bloodied.
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