Over the weekend, a member of the Supreme Court of the United States drew fire for comments regarding religious freedom in the U.S. Justice Scalia, whose dissent over the court’s majority rule in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges which essentially legalized same-sex marriage in this country, spoke at a Catholic high school in Louisiana on the topic of religious neutrality. He indicated his belief that the governing of the U.S. was inseparable from the freedom to practice religion, as opposed to the “freedom from religion” that has so pervaded our society.
Many major news outlets reported his statements (find several examples here, here, here and here) in a relatively neutral, journalistic tone. The comments from individuals on social media were, of course, a different story. I read statements suggesting Scalia has no interest in protecting the rights of individuals, others saying that keeping God and religion out of our law is the only way to protect our freedoms, and others expressing their ignorance of the “constitutional” separation of church and state–clearly a misnomer, since the amendment was created to keep the STATE from creating a religion.
Justice Scalia is by no means suggesting a state religion. In fact, he often comments regarding Christianity, Judaism, Islam, etc. as worthy of respect and protection. In reading over his reported statements I found only this thought: religion is worth protecting and shouldn’t be removed from the conversation.
There is a symmetry to simultaneously protecting those of faith and no faith, the believers as well as the non-believers. I believe Justice Scalia makes an on-the-mark point: history has shown that faith has served us well, particularly as we turn to God for help and express thanks, both coming from individuals and from our leaders. The tide seems to be turning toward removing the ability to invoke God and His help and His mercy and taking a religiously neutral stance. I believe that to be a dangerous move. I feel no threat from other religions expressing their faith or thanks or desires to God, only strength in a nation united. I feel no personal threat from others who express a disbelief in God. The problem comes when people of faith are marginalized and told to express their faith ONLY in their homes, to keep it out of the public sphere.
Let me be as clear as I can: that is simply not possible.
In order to keep the freedom of my faith, it needs to be visible in my home, my actions in the community, my political leanings, what I devote my time and resources to build, even the commodities I purchase or sell. In a nation declaring itself to support individual freedoms there MUST be protections of religious thought, worship and action, in all areas of life. My fellow Americans are free to practice religious neutrality, atheism, agnosticism, or any -ism they wish. They are free to refrain from the Pledge of Allegiance. They are free to support or not support our troops. But they must treat me with the same respect regarding my practices and let me invoke my God in all my dealings. Otherwise our freedom is a farce and in dangerous proximity to repression bordering on destruction.