Just as the Founding Fathers didn't apply freedom of religion just to Christians, neither did they limit freedom of speech, freedom of the press or freedom of assembly just to those who behave politely or avoid offense. How could it be otherwise? If freedom of religion means anything, it must apply equally to minority religions. And if freedoms of speech, press and assembly mean anything, they must apply to all — most particularly those whose views might not be in the current mainstream.
In a democracy, if freedom is not available to all, then no one is truly free.
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Honoring the Constitution
Yesterday was Constitution Day -- the 208th anniversary of the passage of this document that guides our nation's life. Like with the Bible, we continue to argue about the interpretation and application of this document.
I must confess that I've not read the Constitution as a whole recently -- though I probably should -- I know the contents of certain parts of it. I know that the first amendment guarantees freedom of speech, religion, and press, but I had forgotten that it also guaranteed freedom of assembly and the right to petition. These five freedoms are important to the life of our nation, and yet we tend to forget about them and many of us are willing to curtail these constitutionally protected rights -- when it suits our needs.
Our ignorance of the contents of this document can have unforeseen consequences. The fact that a recent poll suggests that 55% of Americans believe that the Constitution enshrines Christianity is worrisome. So is the fact that " "97% said the right to practice the religion of your choice is essential or important, but only 56% said freedom of religion applies to all religious groups."
The question is -- who decides? That was the point of the 1st Amendment -- I get to decide what or whether I will be religious.
This statement from a USA Today op-ed from yesterday says it well:
Whether or not you're a "strict constructionist," if you want to honor the Constitution then it must be applied equally and blindly. The opinion piece can be viewed here.