In view of what has happened in Chattanooga and North Georgia I felt compelled to address the actions brought forth by F.F.R.F. (Freedom From Religion Foundation) against prayer at public meetings or a coach opening up his life and faith to his football team. America is still a democracy where the majority rules.
In just a few months many officials will be elected by winning the majority of the votes. F.F.R.F. has around 18,000 members whose main goal is to destroy the public worship of God. Hamilton County and North Georgia have well over 300,000 people living in this area and many of us go to a Christian Church. Christians do not drag others to court if they do not pray or attend church as we hope they would. We do not threaten those who disagree with us. We hope and pray that all will come to know (not only about Jesus) but him as Savior and the only hope for now and eternity.
I believe every individual should have their rights but the will of the majority should be upheld. As far as it is known this country has never let the people vote on this issue. Is America to be run by the majority that wants freedom for public prayer or does America want no prayer in public places. These issues should be decided by the citizens of each county not a small minority group that have a few ties to these communties.
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As a member of a large southern family with roots in Tennessee and North Georgia, this “yankee” has been observing the row over state sponsored prayer in your community. It seems to me many people are ill informed, most recently indicated by a letter in this paper submitted by Mr. Smedley.
While I understand people want to and should exercise their right to freedom of conscious as provided in the first amendment to our constitution, this issue is completely unrelated to that. The issue is state sponsored prayer (via a school or in many cases a government body such as a city council), something expressly forbidden by our constitution, for a good reason, which is to protect us from having to follow a religion we do not wish to, is not part of our own family tradition or we feel is harmful to society. Mr. Smedley is talking about “public prayer”—praying in public spaces, which is a right protected by the same amendment that protects us from having our government force religion on us. Official, mandatory prayer before a football game is state sponsored prayer. People gathering at a park or public place to pray together is public prayer.
He also brings up a number of concepts indicating a need to better understand how this country works:
-“America is still a democracy where majority rules.” We actually have a constitution to protect all citizens from the will of the majority. He wants the people to vote on this issue, does he also want us to vote on the right to bear arms, or the freedom of speech? These issues are not up for popular vote because they are guaranteed in our constitution and the public cannot take them away. Our system of government only allows us to vote on very, very limited topics. Through our representatives we get a voice in many other issues, but not on basic rights. “Majority Rules” is simply not a concept I learned in High School civics classes.
-“The people have never been allowed to vote on this.” Actually, when the colonies ratified the constitution and soon after the states ratified the Bill of Rights (which is the name for the first bunch of amendments to the constitution) the people did vote on this, through their state representatives.
-Indoctrination: The true aim of many people wanting the government to endorse their religion and subject all of us to its prayers is revealed when Mr. Smedley says, “We hope and pray that all will come to know (not only about Jesus) but him as Savior and the only hope for now and eternity.” For me, to observe adherents requesting the government support their religion, it makes me think it must not be a real religion….what true god needs a government to help it achieve its goals?
-“I believe every individual should have their rights but the will of the majority should be upheld.” I would simply ask the writer which is it? Majority rules, or individual rights? You cannot have both, and if you decide to have the former, interracial marriage, segregated water fountains and back of the bus seating would still be in force in the South, things certainly most (but not a majority?) would agree should be unthinkable in a fair society that protects individual rights.
Of course, we could just agree with the writer and let the government endorse a religion…or like in “old Europe” force a religion on us. Would he be happy if the government chose the Muslim faith?
We don’t vote on basic rights in this country and we certainly do not allow for our government to endorse religion. These are settled facts, not opinions.
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In his opinion piece today Jim Smedley wrote "I believe every individual should have their rights but the will of the majority should be upheld."
I have to disagree with Mr. Smedley. Our rights are not subject to vote. Ninety-nine people can't vote away the free speech rights of the hundredth. Two people can't vote a third into slavery. The Bill of Rights exists just to prevent such abuses by the majority.
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Jim Smedley misunderstands the United States Constitution, which omitted all deities because the founders realized that people disagree (often vehemently) even about the nature of the deity many claim to share. His attitude is offensive to nonbelievers, those who practice religions which have no deity, as well as any Christians who believe Jesus meant it when directing not to flaunt religion and to pray in private. (Matthew 6)
Public generic prayers satisfy nobody and prayers specific to a certain sect are not constitutional. I think that most religionists and atheists agree that silent prayers work as well as spoken ones.
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The Freedom from Religion Foundation's stated purpose is to protect the constitutional principle of the separation of state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism. Separation of church and state has allowed religion to flourish in the United States. Members of the Foundation respect the right of all individuals to practice, or not to practice, religion as each believes while maintaining the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of our secular U. S. Constitution.
Benjamin Franklin said it best: "When a religion is good, I conceive it will support itself; and when it does not support itself, and God does not take care to support it so that its professors are obliged to call for help of the civil power, 'tis a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one." Works, Vol. VII, p. 506.