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January 14, 2005

Church/State Issues

There are two church/state separation issues in the news right now, and I haven't really been talking as much about this as I should, so I want to cover them both here.

First, the prayer at the Inauguration. Michael Newdow is back in court, challenging the President and his desire to have a prayer at the inauguration. And Newdow does have a good point, if this is true:

"The government is coming out and saying, 'OK everybody, while you watch, we are a Christian nation,' " Mr. Newdow said. "It is a declaration to the nation and the world that we are a Christian nation."
We're not a Christian nation. We are a nation founded on Judeo-Christian principles, in which the clear majority of citizens are Christians (or at least claim to be Christians). Our country was founded to be a refuge for people who were persecuted for their beliefs -- no matter what those beliefs are. We take pride in our stand that people should be able to practice their religious beliefs, no matter what they are.

President Bush is a Christian. What I do not understand is how being President makes George W. Bush unable to practice his faith. He's not allowed to make public references to God. He's not allowed to pray, or have a prayer said, at his inauguration. It seems that what Newdow is saying is that Christians, and other people of faith, are only allowed to practice their faith in private. No public displays, no public acknowledgement, especially if you are a government employee or politician.

If the President were trying to make this a Christian nation, I would be on the front line trying to stop him. The Christian faith is not something to be forced on anyone. I believe strongly that only God can convict someone to become a Christian, and that if God is convicting, there is no resistance to His call. When we look back in history, we see what happens when Christianity becomes an established religion -- just look at the Inquisitions in Europe, Constantine's forced baptism of his troops, the persecution of non-Puritans in New England in the 17th and 18th centuries. I believe that Christianity is true. I believe that Christ is the answer to the problems we have today. But we cannot force people to become Christians -- all that makes are pretenders.

I don't think that is the President's goal. I think that he simply wants to recognize publically his dependance on God, as have past Presidents, and I am angered that people who are supposed to be in favor of tolerance are being so intolerant on this issue.

The other issue is over the "evolution stickers" that have now been removed from Georgia biology textbooks.

This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered.
I see no reference to creation in that. What is wrong with encouraging students to approach things in science with a critical mind? It seems to me that science is all about looking at things critically. If evolution is a clear scientific fact, as most opponents of the stickers believe, then it will stand up to critical scrutiny. If it can't, then it needs to be discarded and a new theory developed.

I will be the first to admit that I am not the person to debate creation/evolution. I actually never studied it in high school -- the biology teacher (an evolutionist) didn't have time to cover it because there were things she thought were more important. The two best students in the class were both creationists, so I wish we had been able to get into the subject -- it might have sparked some interesting debate. Back then, I was a serious science student -- and creationist. Now, I'm just a creationist -- a four-year degree in business doesn't leave much opportunity to keep current on the debate. (There are plenty of blogs out there that do discuss it well -- a couple of them are on my blogroll.) I think that we are being arrogant to think that we know conclusively how the earth was created, and how life began and has developed -- I don't see how science is threatened by telling students to examine it's claims critically.

I am in favor of keeping the government out of the church's business, and keeping religion out of the political arena. There should be no "religion test" to see if a candidate is suitable for office. But we should never expect people to ignore their religious beliefs when they are in office, or to stop practicing their faith.

Posted by Warren Kelly at January 14, 2005 01:15 PM
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