Guest Commentary / January 26, 2022

Is It Unconstitutional to Favor One Religion Over Another?

The worldview that created our country is clear from our founding documents.

By Larry Craig

We are told that our government must be neutral with regard to religion, and this stems from things the Supreme Court has said.

The problem is that not favoring one religion over another is impossible.

It begins with your definition of religion. Webster sees it as an “institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices.” That’s true but hardly the whole picture.

In modern thinking today, a religion is basically and essentially a set of beliefs. Period. A set of beliefs that has no normative value, meaning they are all personal beliefs. For example: I like classical music, action movies, fast foods, and old cars. That doesn’t mean that you should too or that I think the government should favor classical music, action movies, fast foods, and old cars either.

But is that all a religion is?

Actually, no. Far from it.

A religion is a worldview, a systematic description of life, all of life, defining all important aspects of it. What is good, what is bad, what is important, what is not, what is right, what is wrong, what are the rules, are there any rules?

Is there a God, or is there not a God?

If a worldview believes that there is a God, it is called a religion. If a lot of people share that same worldview, they give it a name.

But everybody has a worldview. You have a worldview. Countries have a worldview. The worldview is that view of life out of which they write their laws and develop their policies.

So what is the worldview of the United States?

I admit that it is changing. Or at least the perception of it is changing.

The worldview that created our country is clear from our founding documents. If we don’t follow it or even know what it is, our country will gradually morph into something else, but it won’t be the country we were given. The name will be the same, but it won’t be the United States that our Founders created.

For example, the single most defining statement of the United States is that God gave unalienable rights to human beings, and governments exist to secure those rights. Today we talk about God as a belief; the Founders considered that a fact. The Founders didn’t just believe that God gave unalienable rights to human beings; they called it a fact.

These rights come from God. That means that they precede and supersede government. That means that government did not give them, and government cannot take them away.

So at bottom, our government has to support theism over atheism. We can’t even talk about the foundation of our country without talking about God.

There are a lot of people who insist that we can’t do that. The government must remain neutral on that point. But it can’t. That would destroy our nation right at its roots.

Disagree with it if you want, but that’s the United States. Remove that from our nation’s consciousness and its laws, and you no longer have the United States. Oh, it will still have the same name, but it won’t be the same country.

And, frankly, this is at the heart of our country’s political divide today, though it’s rarely talked about. For obvious reasons. If people knew what the real issues were, they would see them in an entirely different light.

But we need to take this a step further.

These unalienable rights include the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Without naming names here, there are religions that don’t believe in a right to life or a right to pursue happiness as the Founders understood them. Not every God or religion would say that human beings have unalienable rights given to them by God.

And how would the Founders even know that God had given these rights to human beings? What was their source of information?

In short, the answer is the Bible. It was the Bible that informed our Founders of these rights. That’s why the First Congress had Bibles printed to be used in all our public schools. If we don’t teach each succeeding generation the values and principles of our country, we will lose them in a generation or two as the older generations die off.

The First Amendment, rather than removing religion from all facets of our public life, policy, and education, only removed the government from choosing which Christian denomination is to be preferred in our country, as they already had done in Europe, where England had, and still has, the Church of England (the Anglican Church) and other countries had the Lutheran or Reformed or Roman Catholic Churches as their preferred choices.

The fact is that without the Bible and Christianity, you don’t have unalienable rights, and without unalienable rights, you don’t have the United States of America.

This doesn’t mean that other religions are denigrated or ignored; it just means that our country is based on Christian principles. That’s why we have the freedoms we do.

Some countries have the worldview that there is no God. Their system is repressive; they persecute people who do believe in God. And the people are under strong control of the government. A lot of countries have a worldview of Islam. They too persecute people who have other beliefs.

We are told that we are a secular country, and that is why we have all these freedoms. But that is not the reason. All those freedoms are from when we remembered our roots and still had God in our public life and consciousness.

The people today who are promoting secularism the most are the same people who want to limit the rights that we have known since our nation’s founding, most particularly the right to free speech, a free press (think social media too), the free exercise of religion, and the bearing of arms.

The more secular a society becomes, the more restrictive it becomes. The more fearful of the free exchange of ideas, the more need for a strong government to exercise control over everybody. It’s the secular societies that feel the need to remove the undesirables from their midst.

A free society has problems, yes, because it’s free. It’s not trying to control people. It relies on people controlling themselves, because they fear God and are taught to love people. You have the freedom to act and talk stupidly as long as you don’t cross the lines. Where are the lines drawn? The Ten Commandments. Don’t murder, steal, take somebody else’s wife, make false charges, and leave what belongs to other people alone.

Government cannot and should not tell people what to believe. But it does need to teach each generation the principles on which our country was formed. People are created equal and that same creator gave them certain basic rights.

That is who we are as a nation. That has made the United States the freest and most prosperous nation in the world. Not knowing and not acknowledging our heritage gradually diminishes our freedom such that we will no longer know what it meant to be free.

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