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Religious freedom & church/state separation issues

A petition to regain and
preserve personal religious freedom

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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 was still actively collecting signatures, as of 2011-SEP. 2 However, by 2014-APR, the site was off line and its URL was for sale.

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:

  1. "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:
    bulletAccess to contraceptives by sexually active persons,
    bulletAccess to emergency contraceptives, and
    bulletAccess to abortion.

    "End of life care" apparently involves access to:

    bulletPhysician assisted suicide, and
    bulletAdequate medical management of pain

    "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.
     

  2. "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 services."

    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 salvation.
     
  3. "Political candidates should not be endorsed or opposed by houses of worship."

    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 policy.
     
  4. "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.
     
  5. "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:
    bulletThe 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 sex.

    bullet 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.

References used:

  1. The First Freedom First website is  at: http://www.firstfreedomfirst.org/
  2. The First Freedom First petition is at: http://www.firstfreedomfirst.org/


Site navigation:

Home > Religious laws > here

Home > Religious conflict > Specific conflicts > here

Home > Religious Freedom > here

Home > Important essays > Religious Freedom > here

Home > Religious information > Religious Freedom > here

Copyright © 2006 to 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
First posted: 2006-OCT-19
Last updated: 2011-OCT-03
Author: B.A. Robinson

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