“The majority, oppressing an individual, is guilty of a crime, abuses its strength, and by acting on the law of the strongest breaks up the foundations of society.” – Thomas Jefferson
We know full well the Founding Fathers put into the Constitution that the federal government could not establish any religion as the “official” religion of the United States. After the horrors of centuries of religious war in Europe, they wanted no state-sponsored religion in the New World (the First Amendment). Nor did they require any office-holder adhere to any particular religion, including Christianity, since the Constitution says so (Article 6, paragraph 3). Yet time and again we see American fundamentalist trying to not only legislate their religion, but legislate against other religions and against atheism.
In California, an atheist named Stuart Bechman, 51 stands at the center of this conflict. He wants atheist soldiers honored next to a poster in Simi Valley City Hall that say “God Bless America” and “God Bless You.” He had already tried to get those unconstitutional posters removed, unsuccessfully (such is the nefarious “war” on Christianity that such blatant abuse of the First Amendment needs to be brought to court in the first place).
In a letter to his mayor on August 4th, Bechman said, “every time I visit the city council, I will be reminded that you consistently and deliberately choose to exclude me and the 15 percent or so of the population that are secular from city celebrations and recognitions.”
Councilwoman Barbra Williamson published her retort in the paper, as well as in a private letter to Mr. Bechman. Here she expressed her “dismay” at his position and suggested that he was excluding himself (by declining to be a Christian, apparently!).
As Mr. Bechman explains the letter,
She…goes into a series of semi-arguments, first claiming that the other 85% of Simi citizens would feel excluded if the Council adopted my position (??), then claiming that there is no exclusion at all except that I am excluding myself. Then she ends her letter with an interesting projection onto me that I am the one being intolerant, not the council.
Obviously, the government established by the Founding Fathers is meant to exclude all religions from official endorsement so her claim that 85 percent would feel excluded is ridiculous, and it is difficult to see how giving equal time to non-religion would exclude the majority, who are also being recognized with the poster in question. Clearly, Councilwoman Williamson did not put a great deal of thought into her response. Perhaps she would be better employed in the fast food industry – just not in the drive-thru window.
Here we have the horrors of state-sponsored religion the Founding Fathers hoped – and failed – to avoid – a local government official telling a private citizen that by not participating in the religious beliefs of the majority he was excluding himself, not being excluded. These are the excesses of democracy – the tyranny of unbridled democracy – that James Madison warned the Constitutional Convention of and tried to protect us from.
Also lined up against Mr. Bechman – and celebrating his discomfiture at the hands of the local government – are Christian fundamentalists. There is a group called In God We Trust ~ America (of course there is) and IGWT-A’s mastermind, Jacquie Sullivan, wants city officials to keep the offending poster up. We can’t have atheist soldiers being honored, after all. Even President Bush Sr. said they’re not really citizens, after all (nor are Muslims, Pagans, or any other non-Christians).
“That should be put to a vote before the elected officials,” she suggests. “And certainly, in my strong opinion, any elected official who would vote on that type of action, they are not representing the majority of their voters and their constituents, and I feel they should be removed from office.”
So anyone opposed to government-sponsored Christian exclusionism should be removed from office. Yeah, that’s not what the Founding Fathers intended.
Sullivan, displaying the worst attributes of Abrahamic monotheism, goes on to say,
“There are people in this country who are trying to change the history of our country by wanting to remove God from everything. It’s just important that we continue to honor the majority of Americans who do have a strong faith in God.”
Actually, God wasn’t on everything to begin with, Jacquie – he isn’t in the Declaration of Independence; he isn’t in the U.S. Constitution. He wasn’t in the Pledge of Allegiance or in our National Motto. In fact, God was ADDED to the history of our country, mostly in the 1950s, nearly two centuries after the Founding Fathers established a very secular United States. Mr. Bechman’s experience is far from unique, and this monstrous attempt to co-opt our country and to turn it into some kind of theocracy is the greatest danger facing the United States today.
8/31/11 – Updated with Thomas Jefferson quote