July 9, 2001
by Maren L. Hickton
I am a Christian, and am glad that I am because it comes
with many gifts, the most important: conscience. In the early
years of my faith, I quickly learned that I probably wasn't
going to be the next Mother Theresa and that I had feet of
clay all the way up to my armpits. As much as I tried to reach
what I perceived to be the equation of a Christian ideal,
seeking God's guidance in turning my life over to His will,
the sin of pride was and continues to remain the greatest
obstacle. Thus, I continue to sin and my firm conscience of
30 some odd years will let me know when I do until the day
that I die.
This is my faith, but it might not be yours. You may be Jewish,
Muslim, Buddhist, Mormon, Hindu, Atheist, Agnostic or any
other faith - and that is your right. We must be vigilant
in protecting our individual rights.
When I heard that Attorney General John Ashcroft was conducting
Bible Studies with his staff I was shocked, to say the least.
While Ashcroft maintains that these meetings are voluntary,
he certainly must recognize the weight they carry on his staff,
especially those staff members who chose, for any reason,
to refrain from participating. It is both unconscionable Christian
and business conduct to place such a burden on employees,
employees who may be participating for all the wrong reasons
without saying so. This is not a situation where we are talking
about the ACLU filing a ridiculous lawsuit about taking a
Nativity scene down. Attorney General Ashcroft should not
be conducting such meetings in his office space, where people
can't simply look the other way, under any circumstance.
Then the Supreme Court ruled that is was okay for a Christian
group to use public school facilities to conduct after school
religious meetings. Did they bother to investigate this group
or craft (unconstitutional) rules establishing acceptable
religions? Does the Supreme Court recognize that they now
have opened the door for Satanic Sam's after school club to
use the same facilities on the basis of religious freedom?
Are these Justices familiar with pseudo-religious cults in
America reaching out to grab vulnerable, confused teenagers?
Today, there is another emerging group of leaders in America.
They call themselves Christians, too. But they are utilitarian
theocrats who mouth a variety of selected Christian scriptures
and other moralistic rhetoric, confusing some people into
believing that in order to receive favor, in order to receive
otherwise legal entitlements (that the government would otherwise
have to pay for), they may have to sacrifice - even their
own faith, to be hired by their organization and/or receive
a range of assistance programs, under the name of President
Bush's "Faith Based Initiative Program."
Is the Pastor going to give aid to a member of his flock
or a complete stranger who does not subscribe to his teachings?
Who will get the aid first? Bush's program is rife with accountability
problems and potential for participant religious coercion.
Granted, our Constitution is based on countless Christian
principles by good Christian men with great intentions. The
framers were wise before their time when they wrote the Bill
of Rights including, "Congress shall make no law respecting
an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise
thereof..." especially with the unimaginable plurality of
religions there are today. What we must decide is while there
has been generally no dispute concerning the respecting an
establishment of religion, we must ensure that while we do
not prohibit the free exercise thereof, we also do not infringe,
impose, obstruct, or in any way harm the rights of others.
As the world struggles to assist other countries in solving
holy wars all over the globe, the last thing the United States
needs is its own holy war or an inner struggle with sanctimonious
leaders perverting God's word in attempting to social work
this nation to his or her own will: When good is being done
for the sake of power and those in power are seeking credit
for what they've done, or when winning an agenda is more important
than the sensibility of the agenda itself, prospective participants
- like churches, synagogues, mosques, chapels, and recipients
need to trust their instincts. Just close the door or run
far, run fast.