An essential part of our democracy lies in the concept of separation of church and state. The First Amendment states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,” a concept that means that there will be no coercion in religious matters, no expectations to support a national religion.
This amendment is the cornerstone of American religious freedom, ensuring through the Establishment Clause and Free Exercise clause that the government does not favor one religion over another. Our Founding Fathers recognized the diverse ways people practice religion. Even after 12 years of Catholic education, that concept is crystal clear to me. Unfortunately, some of our elected and appointed officials are determined to change the very nature of our country.
The Supreme Court, dominated by Catholics, has overturned Roe citing Sir Matthew Hale, who lived in England from 1609 to 1676, as the basis for throwing out Roe. This was a judge who sentenced two women to death as witches. Hale believed we should distrust women who reported being raped. He has been quoted on this opinion even into the 1960s.
Justice Samuel Alito used Hale in his ruling because he appears to want to establish laws against abortion that were created when our country was founded In the 1770s. Further research shows that the common law of the time was that America did not regulate abortion until quickening, the moment a woman first detects fetal movement, which commonly happens around the fourth or fifth month of pregnancy, but can be as late as 25 weeks. Hale specifically stated that abortion of a “quick” child is a crime. This quickening law was common until after the Civil War, when the South was concerned that not enough white children were being born.
Lauren Boebart, a representative in Congress, has stated that “the church is supposed to direct the government; I’m sick of this separation of church and state junk.” Another representative, Marjorie Taylor Green, has labeled herself a “Christian nationalist.” America saw enough of this type of nationalism in the 1940s with the Nazis, the Fascist Party of Mussolini, as well as the nationalist party in Japan that lead to World War II.
A treaty by Congress in 1776 passed unanimously by the Senate and signed by President John Adams in Article 11 says, “the government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.” If this is the basis for our democracy, how can we allow a group of religious zealots from the Supreme Court and our legislature dictate to us our rights? Justice Clarence Thomas has stated the right to birth control and the right to same sex marriages should be reconsidered. The Supreme Court has become powerful partisan politicians. I wonder if the justices are no longer respected by a wide margin in America. In recent polls after the Roe ruling, only 25% of Americans have confidence in this institution.
Thomas Jefferson said erecting a wall between church and state is absolutely essential for a free society. Prayer in school has been debated many times. Organized prayer in schools is prohibited under the Constitution, such as praying at graduation or over the loud speakers. Most people pushing for prayer in schools are in favor of Christian prayer only; I believe they do not want to have other faiths to have similar access to the public podium.
We are at risk of losing democracy in this country. We need to eliminate politicians who do not follow the Constitution and their sworn oath of office. We don’t need a new Constitution — just leaders who understand the document we have had since the founding of the United States.
Mary Strevel is a member of Stronger Together Huddle, a group engaged in supporting and promoting the common good of all. She is a retired English teacher from Monroe and lives in Temperance. She can be reached at [email protected].