Monday, September 22, 2014

Air Force removes "so help me God" requirement, and more thoughts on religion

No religious tests should ever be required for those willing to serve

The decision to make optional the phrase “so help me God” at the end of the oath for enlistment into the U.S. Air Force is the right move to make. What’s surprising isn’t the sudden policy change, but rather that it took this long to happen.

I’m not an atheist, but I’m often erroneously called one by those who know my views on Church and State. In spite of those short-sited accusations, I do believe in God, and celebrate my specific religious beliefs where it’s appropriate to do so.

My religious beliefs stop with me. Going beyond my own being, and demanding others to accept my beliefs as their own, goes against my moral thinking. Similarly, requiring those enlisting to serve their country to speak the words “so help me God” -- whether they are religious or not -- is a violation of the tenets our nation was founded upon.

The U.S. Constitution makes this quite clear. In Article VI of the document, it states unequivocally that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” That includes the officers and soldiers in our armed forces.

The First Amendment also guarantees that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” That guarantee is further extended to the states by the Fourteenth Amendment: “No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States.”

This does not mean that religion has to be absent from the public sphere; religious symbols can appear on state grounds, for example, so long as every belief is given equal recognition if it so asks. And individuals can be as religious as they wish, and even proselytize their beliefs, so long as they do so without aide of the state behind them.

A school can host a religious organization’s events after the school day has ended, so long as it doesn’t compel its students to attend. The Lord’s Prayer can be recited by cheerleaders during a moment of silence at a high school football game, so long as the school doesn’t make those cheerleaders recite it, nor they force anyone else in the stands to recite it against their will.

Whether someone is in violation of the separation between Church and State depends on who is doing the action and whether that action is in some way pressuring or compelling someone else to participate.

When I hear of people saying, “It’s a shame that God is taken out of schools!” I tend to shake my head. If God is in the hearts of the children or administrators in those walls, He remains there. But that is the choice of those individuals, not the official policy of those schools. They cannot use resources of taxpayers to promote their ideas, even if a majority approves of their actions. It is unlawful, immoral, and illogical to do so.

After all, those same people would probably have strong reservations about allowing an official belief that contrasted with their own being promoted.

It’s as Golden Rule says: do unto others as you’d have them do unto you. Would you want others to subjugate you to their beliefs, using state resources (and thus your tax dollars) to do so? Probably not.

I will conclude this rant of sorts with the following: part of my own beliefs on religion and politics are drawn from a part of Scripture, Matthew 6:5-6. I believe the words in that passage are largely ignored by politicians today... (Emphases in bold mine)
“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

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