Of Founders and faith: Are their religious beliefs irrelevant?
Regarding the July 3 article, "This year, lots of fireworks over the Founders' faith": I would ask what the Founders' personal religious beliefs, which were quite diverse, have to do with anything? What matters is what they wrote in the Constitution. In Article 6, they forbade a religious test for holding any office in the United States. Given the established religions of Europe, this provision was virtually unprecedented. The Founders established a secular republic.
If that weren't enough, the First Amendment was added to make it clear that, in matters of religious belief, the state was neutral. There is just one reference to God in the Constitution: "[I]n the year of our Lord...." That hardly establishes a religious basis for American society.
Paul D. Lawrence
Regarding the July 3 article on the faith of the Founders: Those who would hijack the personal beliefs of the Founders in an attempt to justify their own faiths and render them in some way fundamentally American are utterly missing the point. If there is anything to be gleaned from a study of the beliefs of the Founders, it is this: Their individual approaches to faith were exactly that – individual approaches. The Founders recognized first and foremost that there can be no official religion in the United States. This would be anathema to the kind of society they sought to establish. Whether the Founders were Christians, deists, or products of the Age of Reason is irrelevant; they all recognized that each citizen must be free to pursue spirituality in his or her own way.
The fact that religion in the public sphere has become such a contentious subject in recent decades is precisely because there are too many people of faith who would seek to impose their belief structures on everyone else. Do the Ten Commandments constitute a reasonable code for moral behavior? Probably so, but they are by definition the product of a specific religious tradition – the Judeo-Christian tradition – and do not belong in publicly sponsored venues any more than the Five Pillars of Islam or the Eightfold Path of Buddhism.
Regarding the June 29 article, "Why the flag amendment hasn't cleared Senate hurdle": I acquired a newfound appreciation for America on its 230th birthday. In addition to the usual fireworks and backyard barbecues, I witnessed the most inspiring pyrotechnical display of all: the burning of an American flag.
As the last mortar rounds went off on the beach, a group of 20-somethings ignited the flag for all to see. A friend of mine commented that they had ruined the event. I responded that it could not have ended better.
The statement attributed to the French philosopher and author Voltaire that, "I may disagree with what you have to say, but I will defend, to the death, your right to say it," came to mind as I watched. Most of the spectators clearly disapproved of the spectacle; some were outright disgusted. And yet nobody attempted to forcibly stop or harm those responsible. To do so, unlike burning the flag, would have been illegal.
How fortunate we are to live in a country where individual liberty is valued so much that citizens are free to live and act as they choose (provided they respect the equal rights of others), even if others – even those in power – disapprove.
The right to burn the flag is just as American as the right to wave one.
Ashley W. Frohwein
Atlantic Beach, Fla.
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