There seems to be a pervasive misunderstanding and ignorance of the principles of the First Amendment and the separation of church and state, most recently illustrated by a letter from Steven Lowe.
Lowe takes issue with the presence of the Bladensburg Cross, which was built after World War I to commemorate the 49 soldiers — not just Christians — of that community who lost their lives in defending our freedom. It was commissioned by the American Legion, not a government agency, and built on private property (which was later turned over to the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission).
Lowe and others find this memorial, because it is in the shape of a cross, offensive. I find the hostility to Christianity and Christians in America to be offensive. However, it’s a free country and people can love or hate whatever they choose. What people of faith have as a protection against those who would want to silence us is the First Amendment.
The First Amendment states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
This does not mean, as many have misconstrued it, that in America we must have freedom from religion. It means that our government should not establish a religion, but that it should allow the free exercise of religion.
The separation of church and state is nowhere in our Constitution or Bill of Rights. The genesis of this concept is traced to a letter in 1802 by Thomas Jefferson, who addressed it to the Danbury Baptist Association in Connecticut. I once had a debate with an attorney who worked for the U.S. Department of Justice who believed this principle was contained in our Bill of Rights.
What is happening across our country is a gradual purging of Christianity — symbols, prayers, traditions — from the public square. I see symbols for everything else emblazoned on billboards and buses.
This country was not founded because people were escaping religion; it was founded because they were escaping religious persecution.
The liberal left touts tolerance as the highest quality to be valued in our culture. Well, how about showing a little tolerance for ideas, beliefs and people who are different from you? Let’s not devolve into an American Taliban.