Atheist all around the world have been using the 1st Ammendment as justification for removal of all things religious from the public sector.  from prayers in school and gov't, to the 10 commandments, to navity scenes on public grounds, etc.  and we are right to do so. 


now we are hearing it from the Religious Right.  Obama is violating the 1st Ammendment by his mandate to Catholic organizations that they offer birth control options to their employees. 


it seems to me that both sides are coming at the 1st Ammendment from 2 very different angles.  to Atheists, it means no religion can be favored by the gov't.  to the Religious, it means that they should be able to do whatever they want to do in the name of religion and the gov't should not be able to interfere. 


on the face of it, both sides have a point.  but to what end?  what if Catholics wished to brand childred with the cross on their arm when they are born?  would that be acceptable in the name of religious freedom?  what if Jews wanted to mutilate female genitalia they way that they (and others) do to young boys?  would we tolerate that?  how far can the gov't go to allow religious freedoms if harm is being done. 


i look no further than the Amish for a clue.  this primitive, closed society is tolerated by our gov't, even though it is akin to child abuse.  the cheif difference, IMO, is that this is a such a small minority that tolerating them is almost like operating a petting zoo.  they exist, and they entertain.  so we let them do their thing as it is relatively harmless to society. 


but Catholics, Evangelicals, etal are an overwhelming majority in the US.  they have serious political clout and flex it when needed.  anything that they perceive as religious freedom is ok in their book.  would they extend the same to the Muslim community?  to the Atheist community?  i sincerely doubt it. 


so my big question is this:  should the government tell religion that they have religious freedom - up to a point.  they should not be able to do ANYTHING that they want in the name of religious freedom.  is the birth control issue the place to start? 

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and what about faith healing?  as far as i know this is acceptable in the US even if kids die.  should the gov't put a stop to this as well?  (my answer is a resounding YES!)

from the article:


"We just can’t let people do whatever they want in the name of religion.”


so i repeat my question, albeit differently:  where do we (the gov't of the US) draw the line?  who determines where the line is set?

When I was growing up in the 50's I had friends that got beaten by a parent on a regular basis and I knew girls who were being sexually abused by their fathers or other family members and it was largely ignored – the reasonable citizen didn't want to hear it. Rapes were rarely reported much less prosecuted.
Any of those things would, today, buy you some jail time and are widely condemned by the majority.
I recall riding in the car standing up in the front seat, today my dad would have paid a heavy fine and could lose his license.

matthew greenberg

but Catholics, Evangelicals, etal are an overwhelming majority in the US.  they have serious political clout and flex it when needed.

When you use the above words, you are indicating that the problem you mention is more political than anything else. If the Catholics and evangelists are in majority, as you say, then they can have the government they want and change the law the way that suits them. That's democracy that we have accepted and that we want. If the problem is political, there's scarcely anything we can do about it.

Catholics and evangelists are in majority and can ... change the law the way that suits them.

Not so, Madhukar. They cannot changes the rights named in the US Constitution's Bill of Rights, because by being named there those rights are taken out of the reach of majorities.

Catholics and evangelists are in majority and can have the government they want.

Also not so. They are not the majority in any legislative body. To persuade a legislative majority they have to do a lot of persuading: both legislative houses and the executive officer (president, governor, mayor. etc). They sometimes succeed, especially in school board elections. Any bad law can be challenged in court and perhaps discarded.

Do any Indian states have what we call the initiative and referendum? They allow citizens to enact and challenge laws.

thanks for clarifying, Tom. 


even if they are in the majority in a legislative body it is either as Dems or Reps, not Catholics or Evangelicals.  that may be a factor, but their constituents may be either or neither.  if they get all craaaaaazy with some law changes, we, the people, can do something about it.  that is why, most often, outrageous claims are made while running but rarely come to fruition once they are elected. 

Tom Sarbeck

Indian citizen can not enact laws but can challenge laws, but that is presently beside the point. I commented on Mathew Greenberg's comment that the catholics and evangelists are in majority. What you tell me are technicalities of American constitution about which I do not know. My comment simply meant that the majority opinion carries obvious importance in a democracy and  others like us have not much to complain about even if we do not like it. However, I could be wrong as my comment was just based on a generality.

Madhukar, majority opinion is sometimes important and sometimes not important.
Some rights are seen as fundamental and outside the reach of majorities. They are not outside the reach of courts, which make their rulings using two kinds of analysis:
1. rational analysis (does the government have a rational basis for limiting a right), and
2. strict construction (does the government have a compelling interest for limiting a right and is it doing so in a manner that does not limit other rights).

here is an example of what "too far" may be, and it's in the here and now:

"Atheist all around the world have been using the 1st Ammendment as justification for removal of all things religious from the public sector"

Quite an interesting statement considering the 1st Amendment is part of the United States Bill of Rights. I note that whilst this statement holds true, no other country (that I am aware of) uses their own Constitution, Bill of Rights and Amendments as much as Americans. I know more about the American versions than I do of my own country (Australia), it was never thrust in my face nor did I ever have to quote it to display my Australian rights. I am not sure what this tells, but it seems that the American versions are loudly shouted to the whole world.

Not being from this country will allow for any ignorance on my behalf here, but if the Amendments are just that, amendments to the original Bill of Rights because the original did not quite cover all aspects, then why shouldn't it be amended at any given time especially to reflect modern times.

"Opposition to the ratification of the Constitution was partly based on the Constitution's lack of adequate guarantees for civil liberties. To provide such guarantees, the First Amendment (along with the rest of the Bill of Rights) was submitted to the states for ratification on September 25, 1789, and adopted on December 15, 1791".

I see the 'rights of Americans' bought to the front on many subjects, obviously religion is one, the right to bear arms another and I can't help but wonder why or what made the constitution so important to Americans and not so in other countries (their own I mean).

I think that my main beef is that we hold onto ancient traditions too much and this is apparent in religion as well. I always say that I cannot understand the belief in such ancient codswallop that religion offers, it is outdated and doesn't fit into our modern society. I may ask why can't these things be updated, then I know that I would be bombarded with a slew of 'Yes but who is it up to to update it' and probably many more 'yes buts' and the Bill of Rights would be 10,000 pages long full of amendments.

So while my head spins around these unanswered questions, at the end of the day, The government governs over the land and no matter how we split the hairs, this is the society that we have created and yes, I think the government should have the right to 'pull people in line' and put the brakes on the hypocrisy that is religion.

Sandi, the Constitution as originally drafted was a framework for how the US was to be established.  one of it's primary features is that it could be ammended, and the Bill of Rights, which is the original group of ammendments, did just that.  yes, this makes the Constitution a "living and breathing" document - part of the genius of the original drafters.  however, the Bill of Rights established the backbone for liberties granted to American citizens.  if you look at it, nothing in the original 10 ammendments is antiquated or is an "ancient tradition".  it's a brilliant document that Americans rightly cling to.  Ammendments still are added to reflect modern times.  but these are carefully considered changes that require tremendous scrutiny. 


Your "...why or what made the constitution so important to Americans"

In three words, distrust of rulers.

After WW2 and the creation of the United Nations, and until about the 1980s, when other nations wrote similar documents, they modeled them after the Constitution. I understand that nations are now modeling such documents after Canada's.

Your "...the Bill of Rights would be 10,000 pages long...."

The notion that people are evil has ancient roots, and my considerable experience with writing such documents has shown me that conservatives write far more detailed rules than liberals.




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