Question of the Month

SATURDAY MAILBOX

July 27, 2002

Q: Recent court decisions on the Pledge of Allegiance and school vouchers have renewed the nation's long debate over the separation of church and state. Do you regard this principle as an important one? And what does it mean to you?

The principle of separation of church and state is important to me, as are all the freedoms guaranteed to us by our Constitution.

This principle means that, in questions of religious belief, the government must remain neutral, indeed silent, and may neither hold, express nor support any religious opinion.

The Founding Fathers, regardless of their own personal religious beliefs, saw the wisdom of guaranteeing the absolute freedom of religion to all Americans.

There is no generic American religion, and therefore no generic American God. In the United States, God is personal, not national.

Removing "under God" from the pledge would emphasize that point.

Each adherent to any religion must realize, and should celebrate, the fact that the clause in the Constitution that prevents the government from favoring or establishing his or her particular religion also prevents the government from suppressing or outlawing it.

Jeffrey D. Mueller

Eldersburg

What is all this furor over the separation of church and state? The principle is important, but in this country they are separate.

We don't have a controlling, all-powerful church, because we fought for and have freedom of religion. We can choose our religion or choose not to practice a religion. That is what the framers of the Constitution wanted, and they would be proud of their accomplishment.

But the framers of our Constitution didn't mean for us to be unable to say "God."

Yet a few atheists are seeking to silence the freedom of speech of others.

These atheists have pressed us to be silent about our God - to allow no prayers in public meetings and no prayers or Bible readings in schools and to take God out of our Pledge of Allegiance. Their legal maneuvers have forced those in government who respect the law to do things the majority objects to. This is not right.

Our government has been too passive on this matter. Let's put our foot down and say: "We don't care if you don't believe in God, you're free to disbelieve. But we do believe in God and we believe the word of God as written in the Holy Bible is one of the foundations of our existence as a nation.

"We will not let atheists destroy that."

Robert L. Shite

Perry Hall

Our Founding Fathers would be horrified if they knew that their efforts to create a new nation with the freedom to worship God would be distorted by the press they sought to protect under the First Amendment.

The phrase "separation of church and state" was intended to prevent government from establishing one religion as the only means of worshipping our creator, as occurred in many European countries. It was never intended to deny the existence of our creator.

It would behoove America to reaffirm the beliefs of our Founding Fathers and state for all to hear and see that we are "one nation under God" as a way of acknowledging the power and presence of God.

John G. Lacey Jr.

Ellicott City

No one else can know my relationship with God. That is a personal, sacred connection that must be kept between God and me.

In this country, we are guaranteed that privacy - without any interference or influence by the state.

Some people, however, must doubt the strength of their relationships with God. They display their fervor publicly, so at least others will think them religious.

They have that right. They do not have the right to inflict their beliefs on me. They do not have the right to bully me. They do not have the right to use my money as a tithe for their religion.

Public funds and public venues must be kept secular.

No public authority should be allowed jurisdiction over my connection with God.

Brenda R. Cutter

White Hall

I strongly believe that the principle of separation of church and state is one of the most important issues facing our society now.

Undermining that principle could destroy the structure of our democracy and divide our nation on the basis of religion, as, sadly, is happening in other nations around the world.

Henry H. Eidman

Timonium

Here in America we have a true separation of church and state. But that does not mean we have to forsake religion or a belief in God.

The idea of removing God from the Pledge of Allegiance and perhaps from "God Bless America" and taking "In God We Trust" off our money is nothing more than a tyranny of the minority.

As a democracy, we have a responsibility to ensure against acts of the majority that impinge against the freedoms and the general welfare of the minority, when such acts are truly detrimental to the minority. But that is not the situation in this instance.

What most of us are saying now is that we believe in God - in whatever manner we choose - although we do not force those who do not believe to change or create consequences for them if they refuse to say the pledge because the word "God" is in it.

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