What about the founding principles?


To the Editor (UDJ):

Wait a minute, hold on a second here. Last time I got out of bed in the morning I was living in the United States of America, a land that was settled by people seeking freedom from religious persecution. These settlers eventually established a new and independent nation with founding principles stated in a written Constitution, and this written Constitution established religious freedom as its very first principle.

In fact this principle of religious freedom was stated in two different but complementary ways: First, that no religion could ever be established as the government-approved, government-supported faith, and, second, that no one could be restricted in the exercise of and expression of his or her beliefs.

And now all of a sudden it seems that this great principle, this great step in the history of freedom that we Americans were the first to take, this bold stroke that for 200 years and more has earned the esteem of people all over the world has suddenly fallen into disrepute and no longer interests us.

Politicians running for office and preachers who should know better and fops who act the role of journalist on cable TV are telling us that we should learn to hate an entire religious community. They’re telling us to start by imposing special restrictions on this community’s right to choose where to build a place of worship. They’re denouncing a great scripture that they haven’t read and a great faith about which they know nothing but rumors. They’re tarring a whole people with the crimes of a cadre of murderers.

And what will come next? Just ask the men and women of my parents’ generation who fought a great war in defense of religious freedom, they can remember the kind of things that come next.

Every step we take down the road of religious bigotry is a step away from our own identity. We are in danger of forgetting who we are. If we become a nation of religious haters, the haters who flew the airplanes into the World Trade Center can stand up in their special place in hell, raise their blood-stained fists, and declare victory.