By Sandhya Bathija
It’s always a pleasure to find fellow church-state separationists who are as passionate about the First Amendment as we at Americans United are.
This week, two college students have taken the time to speak out against what they see is unconstitutional government mingling with religion.
They’ve written op-eds on church-state separation in their college newspapers. One student expresses concern over the increased role of religion in politics generally. The other criticizes a recent legislative proposal in Florida that seeks to do away with state constitutional protections banning taxpayer subsidies of religion.
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The column by Ali Free, a writer for the University of Kansas’s daily paper The Kansan, conveys her worries that the First Amendment is being ignored. She reminds government officials that the United States is not a Christian nation and our laws should not be based on religion.
“I do not agree that anyone should make decisions for me based on their faith,” Free writes. “I do not have religious faith; my worldview is secular humanism. I am insulted and mildly terrified when a policymaker who has control over my life claims that he opposes climate change regulation based on Bible verses (John Shimkus, R-IL, head of the Environment and Economy Subcommittee), or tells me how I can or can’t deal with my own reproductive health based on something I do not believe.”
She continues, “It is insulting to any non-Christian, as well as to the Christians who have an alternative view of Christianity, because when politicians do things like this, they assume that everyone shares their worldview, and thus they don’t need any other evidence to back up their positions. The United States is composed of an exhausting number of different faiths and non-faiths. Our politicians are abusing their power by not respecting that.”
Cole Peterson, a columnist for the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, newspaper The Rebel Yell, writes that a Florida bill repealing the state constitutional no-aid provision is “the most egregious breach of the First Amendment in a very long time.” (Several other states have also introduced similar legislation.)
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Under our Constitution, he says, “[r]eligion is protected from government interference. This is good. No one wants bureaucrats telling people what they’re allowed to believe, when they’re allowed to believe it and (and this one is important because this is the danger the Florida bill represents) granting special favor to those who happen to believe the ‘right thing.’ The ‘right thing’ is, of course, whatever those in power believe.”
He continues, “I like to think that the Founding Fathers looked back at this long history of religious discrimination and decided that they were going to do things differently.
“I like to think,” he concludes, “that they wanted to make all faiths — or no faith — feel welcome and to create a government that would not be influenced by any god, instead standing for humanity itself. I like to think that people can see just how messy things can get if we allow our politicians even more latitude when it comes to mixing religion and government.”
Check out the full columns written by these wise collegians. It goes to show that it’s never too early to start fighting for a cause you believe in.