Friday, October 13, 2006

Marcus Owens responds to the "war on religion" canard

I think that we need to maintain a balance between church and state, in the United States and here in Ohio. In fact it was a president of the United States from Ohio, and a Republican at that, named Ulysses S. Grant, that in his State of the Union Address in 1875 warned of the dangers of wealthy churches. Wealthy churches with power, wealthy churches that would sap the resources from government, and pleaded with Congress to make sure that church and state were kept separate and distinct. Those are the words of the President of the United States in 1875.

The issues that we are hearing here today have been with this country since its beginning. You see on the program the words from Thomas Jefferson, as he struggled with what the right balance should be between religion and politics and state. I think it is important, as you think about the state of religion, the state of faith in this country, that you think about the reality of events, and not be carried away by those who would scare, who would intimidate, who would try to cause fear that somehow the government is trying to crush religion.

Indeed, today's New York Times has a front page story about the benefits that religions, that churches, that houses of faith have received in this country. They note that since 1989, there have been over 200 special exceptions, exclusions, and deductions created to support religious activity of all sorts, not just worship services but religious activity that gets into social services, that gets into land use planning. The churches, the houses of worship, have been given special dispensation under our laws--more than any other form of organized activity in this country. It's not accurate to say that there is a war on religion in this country. Quite the reverse.

But I think free speech, true free speech is threatened. It's under threat because of systems of belief that do not admire freedom of speech. That would tell you what you can read, and when you can read it. Who you would marry, who you would lie down at night with, behind the doors of your own house. That's not government's place to dictate that sort of thing.

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