Religious freedom & church/state separation issues
A petition to regain and
The first freedom:
Religious freedom is often called
the "first freedom" in the U.S. Religious freedom is theoretically guaranteed by
the very first sentence in the Bill of Rights -- the First
Amendment to the U.S. Constitution:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an
establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."
However, like all rights, they have to be
rigorously enforced against groups that would prefer to reduce individual
freedom and at least start on the path of converting the U.S. into a theocracy
on the style of Saudi Arabia or Iran.
"First Freedom First" petition:
On 2006-OCT-18, Americans United for the Separation of
Church and State and The Interfaith Alliance Foundation partnered to launch
the First Freedom First petition campaign.
1 Their petition is still
actively collecting signatures, as of 2011-SEP.
Their goal is to collect support for the separation
of church and state, and a group of five specific principles. Unfortunately,
they do not explain in depth what topics are covered by each of the five
principles. We have attempted to do so below.
Americans United state that:
"The petition backs several freedoms that
polls show most Americans enthusiastically support. It's a way to remind
our elected leaders that Americans are committed to defending the separation of church and state
and ..." a group of five principles:
- "Every American should have the right
to make personal decisions about family life, reproductive health,
end-of-life care and other matters of personal conscience."
"Family life" would apparently
guarantee loving committed couples the right to marry, whether they be of opposite gender or same gender.
"Reproductive health" appears to involve:
"End of life care" apparently involves access to:
"Matters of personal conscience" could
involve a wide range of topics, including the use of
violence and pain to discipline children,
nudism in the home and on vacation, entering an
inter-faith marriage, entering a
polygamous marriage, or the freedom to
commit suicide, and the freedom to adopt any
religion, or to adopt none.
- "Tax dollars should not go to charities
that discriminate in hiring based on religious belief or that
promote a particular religious faith as a requirement for receiving
This appears to criticize the faith-based Initiative program that was introduced during the Bush
administration and continued under President Obama. Under this program, tax money is funneled to religious
organizations to help them provide services to the public. There has been gross abuse of this
program in practice. Some faith groups have received federal money and then
discriminated on the basis of sex, religion, sexual orientation, etc. when
hiring individuals to staff their programs. Some church programs have included attempts to proselytize clients and leading them to
- "Political candidates should not be endorsed or opposed by houses of
Essentially all congregations are considered non-profit organizations. IRS
rules allow almost complete freedom of speech in sermons, printed handouts, etc.
But they do not allow non-profits of any type to directly endorse or oppose political
candidates by name or party if the group is to retain its non-profit status.
Some voter guides have been created by conservative Christian groups, and distributed by congregations in violation of this
- "Public schools should teach with academic integrity and without the
promotion of religious belief or preference."
This would appear to disallow the teaching of creation science or intelligent design in
science classes as true beliefs about the origins of animal species, the
Earth, and the rest of the universe. It would presumably allow teaching about
all beliefs on origins in a comparative religion course. It would also appear
to allow teaching about a broad range of religions and secular belief
systems in a comparative religion class, as long as indoctrination is avoided.
- "Decisions about scientific and health policies should be based on
the best available scientific data, not on religious doctrine."
This appears to refer to such topics as:
|The promotion of the vaccine against HPV in order to prevent cervical cancer in women.
Some religious conservatives oppose this vaccine because they are concerned that
lack of protection against HPV will frighten youths sufficiently so that they
will abstain from pre-marital
||Government programs to counter climate change and
degeneration of the environment. Some conservatives Christians deny the
existence of climate change and are not concerned about damage to the
environment. These beliefs appear to be caused by a mistrust of scientists'
findings, and an anticipation of the Rapture and
Jesus' second coming in the near future.|
- The First Freedom First website is at:
- The First Freedom First petition is at:
Copyright © 2006 to 2011 by Ontario Consultants
on Religious Tolerance
First posted: 2006-OCT-19
Last updated: 2011-OCT-03
Author: B.A. Robinson