The Death of Separation of Church & State
Let’s focus on facts. After retirement I moved to Florida for the weather, not for the politics and viewpoints of many of my neighbors. I like living eight miles from the Gulf of Mexico, but normal conversations in this state can be frustratingly divided and unproductive. Here’s where I’ll bring in Thomas Jefferson.
I have always believed that Jefferson was a closet atheist, careful never to reveal his hand. If you follow his discussions, writings and letters, you will see that he was at best a skeptic, but also a highly intelligent farmer, inventor and writer. He was not good with money, so it’s safe to assume he was never a slave to math. Sir Thomas also had a strong memory of what happened in Europe when religious zealots got ahold of power and governments.
Germans, who were forced to decide between baptizing their babies or living free within their creeds and beliefs, left for America. What remains are the Amish and Mennonites of our communities. In Great Britain, all-powerful kings and queens were given command over the Church of England, and Catholics were harassed and persecuted. Millions of Brits moved to North America, drawn by the promise of our First Amendment.
“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 down and dirty interpretation is the government cannot prohibit the “establishment” of any religion. This was severely tested when the Internal Revenue Service fought the Church of Scientology’s tax-free status. After decades of legal battles, the US government gave up and granted them a charter. So, if a bunch of people get together and say they are a church, there is nothing Congress can do to stop them. The state cannot prohibit people practicing their beliefs, but nowhere is it decreed that the government has to fund or tolerate illegal activities within the confines of a religion.
In its early days, the Church of the Latter Day Saints codified the practice of polygamy, which is now outlawed in the Church. None of its faithful can practice plural marriage and remain a member. It was indeed a miracle when Gabriel appeared and ordered the head of the church to end the policy of men having multiple wives.
The reason Jefferson promoted the separation of church and state was simple and brilliant. To manage a population of vastly divergent views, beliefs and cultures, it was important for the government to operate above the mandates and myths of many groups. A nudist colony was certainly allowed to exist, so long as it didn’t hurt anyone who had no desire to be part of the cult.
If I don’t like something in America, I can protest with other likeminded souls. We are protected by the First Amendment as well: “to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” Although peaceful protest can escalate into property damage, disruptive melees and sometimes bodily harm, we still have the right to protest and petition for what we believe is right. For example, I don’t want my tax dollars to be handed over to dogmatic and religious institutions that suspend the Bible over my head.
Here in Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis cares only about the power he derives from his “base,” whatever that is. He takes no advice from liberals, libertarians or librarians. If banning a book will get him a vote, he’ll do it. If he can bend a law or voting district to get reelected, he’ll do it. He never thinks about the millions of people who don’t agree with him, so there was no surprise when he took over the board of the New College of Florida, the state’s public liberal arts college. He’s now moving it toward becoming an academically rigorous but religious institution. This was part of his quest to prove to the far-RIGHT he is one of them. You can see the story here.
I believe that a constitutional scholar could argue that the actions of DeSantis are in violation of the US Constitution. By turning over the management of this state-funded higher education institution to religious zealots from Hillsdale College in Michigan, state taxpayer dollars will be used to convert the liberal arts school to a religious institution. In the end, the New College of Florida will be destroyed and get absorbed into the state’s educational myopic vision of one man. If they disagree with you, eliminate them.
Everyone and anyone should be free to believe what they want and worship any God or bowl of pasta they want, but please don’t justify taking my money to build what you envision as a Judeo-Christian notion and nation. We are best when we allow people to be free, productive and focused on important things.
What makes me most angry is those people who say their mission is a more moral and focused educational system, but they are taking it by force and misinformation. Below you’ll see a letter I wrote to Hillsdale College after receiving a letter asking for contributions. In my estimation, they are nothing less than outside agitators and 21st Century carpetbaggers wanting to get rich on large lies and heresy. They want you to believe what they believe and they will do anything they can to rope you in you. Be careful.
LETTER TO HILLSDALE COLLEGE
First, thank you for the copy of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution of the United States of America. I give them out to friends and neighbors who don’t quite understand what was declared and enshrined there.
Next, I would be remiss if I didn’t speak up and express my feelings and thoughts about your school and solicitation at this time.
Your opening pitch is false. You have no idea what the majority of democratically inspired citizens believe about America and the educational system.
Fact #1: Critical Race Theory, as developed and described by Derrick Bell and then studied by many experts over the years, has never been taught in public schools in America. Institutions, organizations and politicians, like yourself, are responsible for perpetuating this myth. If only you would take the time to read, study and understand what Mr. Bell was saying, you might see that passing laws and policies against “critical race studies” proves Bell was right. White lawmakers have consciously, or subconsciously, moved forward to construct laws that thwart the rights of minorities. What would Jesus say?
Fact #2: The US Constitution, as originally written, codified slavery and kept women out of the political process by prohibiting them from voting. We should teach this in our schools and, as your pitch indicates, you want to bring the document and its power into the classroom. Remember, only white men who were landowners could vote in this country and slavery was lawful for more than a century. As someone whose kin came to the Americas in the late 1600s, I am not proud of them owning slaves and fully recognize that FREE LABOR made this country great.
Fact #3: Religion and religious institutions like yours have been hijacked by FAR-RIGHT zealots and political operatives who want you to help them raise money and corral voters. You are corrupting the mission of Jesus and John the Baptist by pitting humans against other humans. You are the dividing force making it harder to discuss fundamental issues in America. You have cast a net over education, religion, poverty, gay rights, marriage rights, and even science itself. The separation between church and state was one of the reasons millions of people came to this land in the first place. It’s time for you to release the non-religious parts of your quest for power back into the pond of diversity that is the United States.
Your request for money is based on the fact that Hillsdale receives no federal educational funds. This is true because your institution has been accused of discrimination. Your marketing blatantly claims a desire to end diversity. Really? Again, what would Jesus say?
Please remove my name from your database and please stop bothering Floridians. A majority of the people here in Sarasota who really care about education are frustrated and infuriated by the hostile takeover of the New College of Florida. Your goal to convert the school to a dogmatic front for your political aspirations is a sin.
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