Secular Democracy Begins at Home

Charles C. Haynes of the First Amendment Center poses a good question in the following essay:

What part of ‘secular nation’ do we not understand?

While American soldiers fight to establish a secular democracy abroad, many Americans want to create a Christian nation at home.

Consider the findings of ‘State of the First Amendment 2007’ a national survey released this week by the First Amendment Center. Significant numbers of Americans express support for government sponsorship of the majority religion, especially in public schools:

58% want teacher-led prayers in schools.
43% endorse school holiday programs that are entirely Christian and devotional.
50% would allow public school teachers to teach the Bible as a ‘factual text’ in history classes.

Despite the fact that all of the above are unconstitutional under current law, many people see nothing wrong and much right with school officials privileging or even endorsing the Christian faith.

Transpose the location (or substitute another religion) and the result would surely be very different. Would Americans support the creation of an Iraqi state where the majority Shiites imposed their prayers, religious celebrations, and scriptures on all Iraqi schoolchildren? Not likely.

On the contrary, we send young Americans to fight for an Iraq where people of all faiths will be protected from state-imposed religion. Why? Because we understand that (however quixotic the quest) only a secular democracy in Iraq with no established faith will guarantee religious freedom and end sectarian strife. [full text]

3 thoughts on “Secular Democracy Begins at Home

  1. It’s often been said that students pray in school all the time, especially during exams. I don’t know why people want the government to tell us how to pray. Look what happened to Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson when they were the wrong kind of Christians in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. For that matter, the Puritans who exiled them were the wrong kind of Christian in England. I would like to poll the people who say we are a Christian nation as to exactly what kind of Christian we have to be so I can be sure to get it right.

  2. I’ve only recently found your blog. Thanks for the daily dose of sanity.

    In a Gallup poll in, I think, February of this year, a sample of a couple thousand Americans were read a list of 12 or so ethnic, religious, and cultural markers and asked whether or not they were deal-breakers should they be attached to a presidential candidate. Of the field, I figured homosexuals were a lock for the lowest approval ratings, but we were outdone by atheists, for whom a whopping 70% of the electorate would vote against even if they agreed with the candidate’s platform. As a secular humanist lesbian, does that put my approval rating at less than zero?

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