LET FREEDOM RING!
Executive Secretary, Oklahoma Chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State
Our national history has often been described as an “experiment”. For well over two hundred years, that experiment has progressed and developed. Many have said that the greatest political and cultural gift the United States has given to the world is our national understanding of the “separation of church and state.”
An essential condition for the separation principle, is the “freedom of individual conscience”. Yet, neither the specific words “separation of church and state” nor “freedom of conscience” are found in our constitution …neither are the specific words “freedom of religion.” Each of these critical principles has proceeded from the general notion of fair play, justice and equality under the law.
Consider the following historic thoughts that have contributed to the development of our social and Constitutional admiration and respect for the “freedom of conscience.”
●Benjamin Franklin, 1780 “When a religion is good, I conceive it will support itself; and when it does not support itself, and God does not take care to support it so that its professors are obliged to call for help of the civil power, ‘tis a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one.”
●James Madison, 1785 “The religion, then , of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man; and it is the right of every man to exercise it as these may dictate.”
●Thomas Jefferson, 1785 “…all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capabilities.”
●Thomas Jefferson, 1803 “It behooves every man who values liberty of conscience for himself, to resist invasions of it in the case of others.”
●Justice Hugo Black, 1962 “It is neither sacrilegious nor anti-religious to say that each separate government in this country should stay our of the business of writing or sanctioning official prayers…”Engel v. Vitale
●John F. Kennedy, 1959 “…the pluralism which has developed under our Constitution, providing as it does a framework within which diverse opinions can exist side by side and by their interaction enrich the whole, is the most ideal system yet devised by man.”
●Justice Tom Clark, 1963 “The place of religion in our society is an exalted one, achieved through a long tradition of reliance on the home, the church and the inviolable citadel of the individual heart and mind. …it is not within the power of government to invade that citadel…” Abington v. Schempp
Informing and educating the general public has not been enough. AU, other secular and civil rights organizations, faith communities, and individuals have been required to step up and defend the “separation principle” in our Federal and State Courts. To me it is clear, the “historic understanding” of the separation principle is seriously undermined today.
This is truly a historic day in Oklahoma. Never before has such a broad spectrum of conscience traditions and faith traditions gathered on these steps of the Oklahoma State Capital. This is a visual representation of “unity through diversity.” I applaud each of you for being here and helping to LET FREEDOM RING!. Your demonstrated concern and individual courage is needed now … AS MUCH AS AT ANY TIME IN OUR NATIONAL HISTORY.
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”
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