…The laws of the land aren’t a buffet….you don’t get to pick and choose…

We think ourselves possessed, or, at least, we boast that we are so, of liberty of conscience on all subjects, and of the right of free inquiry and private judgment in all cases, and yet how far are we from these exalted privileges in fact!  There exists, I believe, throughout the whole Christian world, a law which makes it blasphemy to deny or doubt the divine inspiration of all the books of the Old and New Testaments, from Genesis to Revelations…I think such laws a great embarrassment, great obstructions to the improvement of the human mind.  Books that cannot bear examination, certainly ought not to be established as divine inspiration by penal laws…The substance and essence of Christianity, as I understand it, is eternal and unchangeable, and will bear examination forever, but it has been mixed with extraneous ingredients, which I think will not bear examination, and they ought to be separated.”

~ John Adams, Letter to Thomas Jefferson, 23 January 1825


Faith is not an excuse.  Faith is not meant to be merely another tactic so that one can “win” an argument.  And in a democracy, faith is not public policy.  Faith is protected because Faith is PRIVATE.  What you practice in your own home, what I practice in mine, what my neighbors practice in theirs, is their business and theirs alone.  What I believe does not give me the right to infringe upon what you believe or what my neighbors believe.  Especially in a nation grounded in values of democracy and freedom FOR ALL, my beliefs can be whatever I like but they do not grant me in any way the right to trample on the beliefs of others.  Really, the essence of democracy boils down almost entirely to simple courtesy…we can disagree until the cows come home, but neither of us gets to impose on the other in the space of our person, and our homes, and our minds, and our beliefs and our fundamental rights.

The founding fathers got this.  Deeply.  Sure, many were Christian.  But Thomas Jefferson would certainly be pilloried by the evangelical community these days.  The man REWROTE the entire bible, taking out what he thought was ridiculous or not applicable.  Adams, a devout Christian, was an ARDENT supporter of rights for atheists and Jews, and Christian minorities, even ones whom he personally disagreed with strongly.  Washington was also a dutiful and devout man, who went out of his way to guarantee a community of Jews in early America that they would always have a place AND their religious freedom in the new nation.  Because freedom of religion is not the freedom to edit the national laws according to your whims.  Freedom of religion is allowing everyone to believe what they like and go about their day.

Which brings us to current events, if you cannot do your job or do your elected duty because of your faith, then not only are you in the wrong line of work, you are literally setting yourself up again EVERYTHING the founding fathers and this nation stood and stand for.  Religious liberty was never meant to be the liberty to push your beliefs on others because you are “bound” by your faith.  Religious liberty means the liberty to practice any faith for any person.  There is no boundary on your religious practice unless it infringes on someone else’s liberties or rights.  And that is the line.  If you choose to cross it because you believe only your rights count, then you have missed the ENTIRE point of democracy.  And you deserve to be in jail.

Res Publica

Documentation without Representation:

John Adams, Letter to Thomas Jefferson, 23 January 1825

published in Letters: The Complete Correspondence Between Thomas Jefferson and Abigail and John Adams (UNC Press, 1988), p. 607

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