Not long ago I received an email--one of the chain emails complaining about how we have lost the right to pray in our schools, recite the Pledge of Allegiance using "under God", and the right to display the Ten Commandments on public property. People are up in arms saying that as a "Christian country" we must fight this and demand our rights.
Well, first of all let me say that although the majority of people may be Christian in America, we are a country that was formed to protect the rights of all people to belong to any religion that they choose or, no religion, if that is their choice. In other words, we give people the right to be atheists. No one can force us in this country to worship in a particular church or to believe in a specific doctrine.
But to have that freedom means that we must refrain from imposing our beliefs on others and forcing them to pray. That has been the problem with prayer in public schools and even the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. In most cases, prayers that have been said by teachers in public schools have been Christian. To force a young Jewish or Muslim child to pray a Christian prayer is not freedom of religion. It is religious abuse and reverts back to the restrictions that many of our forefathers faced back in their home countries. They were expected to worship according to the beliefs of the king or queen of that country.
Taking public prayer out of public schools does not prevent children from praying. A child can, at any time, say a prayer quietly to herself without bothering anyone. I know I said a few prayers in school when my teachers were passing out a pop quiz.
As far as the Pledge of Allegiance, it was originally written by Baptist minister Francis Bellamy in 1892. It did not include "under God" at that time. It wasn't until 1954, when Eisenhower was President that the Pledge was changed to include "under God." Growing up as a child, I remember memorizing it and repeating it every morning as we began our classes. I didn't think twice about it. But now, even as a minister, I consider the rights of my fellow Americans who have the same rights as I do and who do not wish to pray to a God. And yes, the Pledge could be seen as a prayer.
The Ten Commandments...well, the truth is, there are three versions. Check your Bible--Exodus Chapter 20, Exodus 34:10-29, and Chapter 5 of Deuteronomy. Which one do we post? And is it really necessary to post something that says, "Thou shalt not kill?" Don't we know that already? But maybe we don't since we still go to war and kill and we still utilize the electric chair and sanction the death penalty....
Lately we have heard a great deal about legislation banning the burning of the American flag. This is a very sensitive issue for many people, especially veterans. My father was a veteran of WWII and felt that anyone who burned an American flag ought to be shot. I didn't fight in a war, I'll admit, but I see the flag as a symbol only. And it is a symbol of our freedoms, one of which is the freedom of expression and free speech. We have the right to protest, which some other countries do not allow. Some will express their feelings by burning the flag. What concerns me more is when governments start killing people or locking them up for expressing themselves in this way, which is what happened during the Civil Rights protests. Peaceful protesters were shot and killed. That concerns me more than burning a flag.
Today, consider the rights that you have living in the United States. When you look at all of the other countries in the world, where else would you want to live? As many challenges as we have, we have the greatest freedoms, and that is truly a blessing.