Rabbi Lapin: Why should we be forced to publicly acknowledge irreligion as the moral equivalent of religion?
Religious liberty and the prohibition of the establishment of any national religion have been indispensable to the success of America, especially for Jews and other religious minorities. But the absurd ruling by a Federal Judge that a monument containing the Ten Commandments must be removed from outside an Alabama Courthouse has gone too far. It is an example of Justice Benjamin Cardozo's warning that "metaphors in law are to be narrowly watched, for starting as devices to liberate thought, they end often by enslaving it."1 The phrase "separation of church and state" is a 19th Century metaphor that appears in neither the Constitution nor other founding documents, and it's improper use in Alabama threatens to enslave, not liberate.
We at Toward Tradition object to the Federal judiciary overstepping its bounds in ignoring the actual wording of the Constitution and the underlying intentions of the Founders of our great country; a country founded on a religious/monotheistic faith that "all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights..."
Chief Justice William Rehnquist has written, "The Framers intended the Establishment Clause to prohibit the designation of any church as a "national" one. The Clause was also designed to stop the Federal Government from asserting a preference for one religious denomination or sect over others." "... nothing in the Establishment Clause requires government to be strictly neutral between religion and irreligion."2
In fact, the few dissenters to the wording of the 1st Amendment in the debate over the Bill of Rights were concerned that its wording might have a tendency "to abolish religion altogether"3 or "to patronize those who possessed no religion at all."4 Over 200 hundred years later, their worst nightmare is coming true. The unifying principle of this country's founding was neither atheism nor an anti-religion culture, but a religious/monotheistic belief in a Creator from whom we derive our natural rights. The Ten Commandments and Mosaic law are the foundations for our systems of law and government. As George Washington asked in his 1796 farewell address to the new nation, "Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice?" And now, the Federal courts tell us not to even point out this religious connection as we enter the same courts of justice!
Why should we no longer be allowed to acknowledge this history in public? Why should we be forced to publicly acknowledge irreligion as the moral equivalent of religion? The current efforts by the Federal judiciary to remove any mention of the religious basis for our great country and the Ten Commandments & Mosaic law as the foundation of our legal system must be opposed if the United States is to remain the greatest home in modern history for Jews and all religious or even non-religious people.
In the words of Thomas Jefferson, so frequently and erroneously presented as an atheist, "the God who gave us life, gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are a gift from God"?
Rabbi Daniel Lapin is president of Toward Tradition.