Your Published Letter-To-The-Editor
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Read some recently published letters from AHA members below.
Not a 'Christian nation'
September 23, 2012
Ms. Susan L.S. Smith writes that America is a Christian country -- and implies, with xenophobic flair, that everyone else can get out. I couldn't disagree more. She states the Pledge of Allegiance has the phrase "under God," but neglects to provide the well-known history of that phrase: namely, that it was added in 1954, during the McCarthy era, after the Knights of Columbus lobbied Congress. She notes that our Constitution does not mention God, which is accurate -- but it does mention religion. Article 6 prohibits religious tests as a qualification for public office and, of course, the First Amendment states: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."
I find it difficult to understand how Ms. Smith can then conclude that America is a Christian country. The Pledge of Allegiance is not a pledge of loyalty required by every citizen -- Maryland law even explicitly prohibits students being forced to say the pledge in school. The "under God" phrase was sponsored by the Knights of Columbus -- does that make America a Catholic country? Does the "liberty and justice for all" of the pledge apply only to Christians?
The Constitution does not proclaim America as a Christian nation -- "Thou shalt have no other gods before me" directly contradicts the religious freedom of the First Amendment. In fact, when the Constitution was first written it sparked considerable venom from contemporary Christians for being too secular! And even if America were a Christian country -- which flavor of Christianity? Mormons? Baptists? Brethren? Methodists? Quakers? Are we just sticking with Christianity, or do we throw the other Abrahamic religions -- Judaism and Islam -- in there? What specific Christian norms are we obeying? Will the ASPCA and PETA monitor the animal sacrifices? Are we going with Leviticus or Galatians on circumcision? What do we do when Walmart is open on Sunday? How exactly do we kill children who curse at their parents? And if we're a Christian country, shouldn't our national language be Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek?
I'm not a Christian, but I am an American, and have as much right to speak as Ms. Smith does. So I say: "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free" -- your Christians, pagans, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, agnostics, humanists and atheists, too.
And if you're interested in getting a different perspective on matters relating to the separation of church and state, come join us at 3 p.m. today at the Residence Inn to hear Edwina Rogers of the Secular Coalition of America. Press 1 for freedom.
Coordinator, Frederick Secular Humanists
Why I reject Bladensburg’s Peace Cross
September 25, 2012
In his Sept. 23 Local Opinions commentary, “The Peace Cross helps us remember,” Joe Myers attempted to minimize my concerns about a Christian symbol on government land in Bladensburg as merely a case of “delicate sensibilities.”
My concern is for those Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice yet who are treated as second class because they happened to be non-Christian. In all of our wars, there were Jews, followers of Native American traditional religions, followers of Eastern religions and the non-religious. Should their values be overshadowed by a monument that expresses only the dominant view?
The writer is national director of the United Coalition of Reason.
The Barre Montpelier Times Argus (Vermont)
September 26, 2012
In “Let’s bypass politics as usual” (Sept. 4), Laurel E. LaFramboise claims that our Founding Fathers were the authors of the phrase “one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” It is actually part of the current version of the Pledge of Allegiance, originally called the Pledge to the Flag, which was written by Ralph Bellamy in 1892, more than 100 years after the Founding Fathers signed the Constitution. The words “under God” were added in 1954 at the behest of various religious organizations as well as several congressmen.
The Supreme Court has ruled that “under God” in the pledge does not constitute a violation of the First Amendment. When people state that God exists, they are simply espousing religious beliefs. Therefore, when the United States government incorporated “under God” in its pledge, it accepted these beliefs and, consequently, endorsed monotheistic religions.
The Constitution, the basis of all of the laws in the United States, contains no reference to any god or other deity because the Founding Fathers understood that religion can be a polarizing and divisive force. They concluded that the best way to provide for the common good was to form a secular government.
Ms. LaFramboise continues by maintaining that “today God is not allowed in public schools” and that “prayer is frowned upon at public events.” The religious right and various conservative organizations persist in perpetuating the lie that the Supreme Court outlawed all prayers in public schools. Individuals do have the right to pray there on a voluntary basis in a nondisruptive way.
In the 1962 Engel v. Vitale decision, the court ruled that public school- and government-sponsored prayers do violate the First Amendment. By requiring a captive audience to listen to prayers, even nondenominational ones, including those delivered by students at graduations, for example, that school, which is government-funded, would indeed bring about a government-established religion. Public schools have to be inclusive and have to protect the rights of all people, including religious minorities and nonbelievers, equally.
A paid (Christian) preacher has opened each session of Congress with a prayer since 1789. This has to be the epitome of hypocrisy. James Madison, the father of the Constitution, strongly opposed this practice. The United States may be a nation of mostly Christians, but that does not mean that it is a “Christian nation.”
Atheists' agenda includes no hate
September 25, 2012
Regarding Homer Snavely's recent letter, it needs to be made clear that the upcoming gathering of atheists, freethinkers and secular humanists in Harrisburg next weekend will not discuss book burning, which Snavely advocated in a previous letter, or burning anything for that matter.
Separation of church and state, as upheld in U.S. Constitutional law, will be on the agenda.
As for his mention of Hitler, Martin Luther's book, "The Jews and their Lies" was an earlier impetus and basis for the persecution and hatred of those people that led to the slaughter of 6 million in Hitler's gas chambers.
Luther, as Snavely surely knows, is the founder of his (non-Catholic) form of the Christian religion. Here is a little-known quote from the Nazi Party newspaper: "Since Martin Luther closed his eyes, no such son of our people has appeared again. It has been decided that we shall be the first to witness his reappearance. ... I think the time is past when one may not say the names of Hitler and Luther in the same breath. They belong together; they are of the same old stamp." From Volkischer Beobachter, 25 Aug. 1933.
At the Nuremberg Trials, one of Hitler's henchmen, Julius Streicher, said, "Dr. Martin Luther would very probably sit in my place in the defendants' dock today, if this book had been taken into consideration by the prosecution."
Luther's anti-Semitism was used by Nazis as justification for the mass murder of Jews.
Comparing Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot with the intelligent, inquisitive people who will be meeting in Harrisburg is intellectually dishonest and purposely misleading. When someone tries to use the Bible as a basis for morality, my first thought is that they haven't read it, or they've ignored passages like, "But as for these enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them - bring them here and slaughter them in my presence," spoken by Jesus in a parable in Luke 19:27.
If this is someone's notion of morality, I'll decline it as a basis for mine.
Sadly, this intolerance for people who don't share the same beliefs continues today in almost all religions, and as a result, a holy war between Islam and Christianity has begun. It threatens all of humankind.
Unlike religious zealots who have burned books, and people, and continue to persecute people with different beliefs, nonbelievers generally are tolerant and value literature. Atheists offer rational and measured arguments for the practice of morality without benefit of a supernatural being. Join us!