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Who shall draw the line?

Discussion in 'Issues Around the World' started by Steve, Dec 30, 2002.

  1. Steve

    Steve Is that it, then?

    Over in the UiF forum, there is a raging debate regarding the separation of church and state, along with a bunch of personal flaming.

    The question, though, deserves better consideration than that. Let's give it a shot, here.

    Established: The U.S. Constitution prohibits an "official" religion of the country.

    Established: This is a good thing.

    Established: This prohibition has been extended to prohibit religious expressions in any kind of official setting.

    There are approximately 280 million people living in the United States. As of 1989 (ibid.), the religious breakdown of the country is roughly as follows:

    Protestant 56%
    Roman Catholic 28%
    Jewish 2%
    other 4%
    none 10%

    Now, treating each category equally, let's look at how or, more specifically, where, decisions regarding displays of religious observances are made: the courtroom.

    There are 862 statutorily-established federal judgeships, with 60 current vacancies. There are 9 Supreme Court Justices. I don't count state judges because, quite frankly, any decision they make regarding the issue of separation of church and state will be bumped to the federal or Supreme courts.

    In essence, this means that approximately 811 individuals are responsible for ruling on an issue that affects 280 million people. This is absurd.

    Granted, the courts are necessary to clarify and rule on the finer points of law. I submit to you, however, that the issue of separation of church and state is not, in fact, a legal issue, but rather a social one.

    In many small communities that are religiously homogeneous, the communities themselves are perfectly capable of deciding whether or not to say a prayer before a high school ball game, or display a crche or menorah or Star of David or whatever on the town square.

    In large communities and metropolitan areas, there should be public dialog, discussion of the issues, compromise and understanding. Let each voice be heard, equally. Let each faith be represented, each in its turn, including the "faith" of no faith. Let the citizens face the issue head-on and come to some sort of compromise, if not understanding.

    And, in those gray areas in between, where the voice of the minority may feel squelched, let there be courts to enforce the rights of everyone to be heard.

    But let those courts be the last resort, not the first. Let every voice, every tenet, every faith, every belief, every moral code make itself known, make itself open to all.

    I think we would all be somewhat surprised at the commonalities, enough so that the differences will become moot except perhaps to some academic theologians.

    But let the line be drawn by 280 million individuals, not by several hundred judges. Let's not surrender our right to exercise control over our lives by giving that right to the courts.
  2. ShinyTop

    ShinyTop I know what is right or wrong!

    Stevent, the judges are there to uphold the rights of the minority to not be subjected to the tyranny of the majority. The record of the religious majority in this country only underlines the compelling reasons to leave it so. Religion is better left to individuals to practice.
  3. Steve

    Steve Is that it, then?

    "Religion is better left to individuals to practice." Which is exactly my point. The courts should not be involved, except where the rights of the minority are being violated.

    "Tyranny of the majority" would not exist if the citizens of this country engaged in public dialog on such issues. Rather than doing so, we freely cede our responsibility to the courts, who can only rule in the narrowest of fashions. It is much like the neighbor who calls the police about a barking dog, rather than calling the neighbor who owns the dog.
  4. mikepd

    mikepd Veteran Member

    Unless the neighbor does not respond to repeated calls to restrain the dog.

    Then you need a higher authority to step in and make him take notice with the power to punish if he does not comply.

    Government should adopt a 'hands-off' approach as much as possible when it comes to individual determination.
  5. spg

    spg Registered User

    Lets use this circumstance as an example.

    A small Texas town is homogeneous in it's religeous belief. They're Southern Baptists.

    Friday night, late in October, they're playing for the state championship against a school from another small Texas town which happens to be homogenous in it's religeous beliefs.

    But lo and behold, they're Jewish and they have a hard time with reciting the Lord's Prayer before the game.

    Since the Baptists have the better record, they're the home team. And when asked by their opponents, they decline to skip the prayer.

    What to do? If "West Jeruselem" chooses not to play because they don't don't want to participate in the prayer, they'll forfeit the championship. If they choose not to take the field until after the prayer, Might they not be perceived as "heathens" or worse.

    People who feel strongly enough to exercise their religeon in public are in my opinion, pretty sure they're right. What are the chances they'll feel snubbed when these "outsiders" choose not to participate?


    Little John's dad works for a company that has transferred him to either of the two aforementioned towns. Problem is Little John is a Wisconsin Synod Lutheran, (Very conservative) and they don't believe in public prayer. (Although they believe everyone has the right to exercise their religeon, they don't believe they need to help validate the other religeons by praying with them.)

    What do we do with Little John during the prayer? Send him outside during the prayer, clearly pointing out to the class tha he is different and thus setting him up for public ridicule?

    I don't agree with Shiney Top often. But on this one I do.

    Perhaps there is hope for him yet! :thumbsup:
  6. Steve

    Steve Is that it, then?

    Good examples, but they miss the central point I'm trying to make. Responsible people are sensitive to the religious beliefs of others. Responsible people would not attempt to force a group or individual with different religious practices to choose such as you describe. Two seconds worth of thought produces three or four compromises that would satisfy all parties involved, <u>without involving the courts</u>.
  7. ethics

    ethics Pomp-Dumpster Staff Member

    Good post, and examples, spg.

    Stevent, did you dare mention the word "responsible" when discussing humans on a macro level like that? ;)
  8. Steve

    Steve Is that it, then?

    I did. Call me a starry-eyed dreamer, but I believe responsibility is still alive in this country, if on life support in the ICU.
  9. ethics

    ethics Pomp-Dumpster Staff Member

    I am not saying it doesn't exist, I am saying it's not as rampant as we would all want it to be. Especially on an emotional topic like religion and courtesy towards that have a different one that we do.
  10. Biker

    Biker Administrator Staff Member

    Then again, one could be tolerant and allow others to practice long time traditions. Before you know it, we won't be allowed to say Merry Christmas any more because it offends some religious zealot.
  11. ethics

    ethics Pomp-Dumpster Staff Member

    True, Biker, there is a complete and opposite side to this as well. Where's the happy median?
  12. Domh

    Domh Full Member

    The entire issue is, in my opinion, one of the best examples of why America, as a sociopolitical experiment, is a failure.

    The average person, a great deal of the time, needs to be told what to do, because they cannot figure it out for themselves, and when they try to, mayhem ensues.

    We are left to fight things out amongst ourselves, and that usually results in people getting hurt, and the improper conclusion reached.

    'Might Makes Right' would be an appropriate replacement for 'In God We Trust'.

    And yes, I know Im a fascist.


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