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Letter: Offers rebuttal on letter discussing 'relationship between government and religion'

Published: August 10, 2014 12:00 AM


Kotheimer's letter which appeared in the Aug. 3 Express, discusses the relationship between government and religion. He puts an atheistic slant on the issue that deserves a rebuttal.

To begin with, the First Amendment merely states that Congress shall not establish a national "religion," that is, a particular denomination. Jefferson's famous "wall of separation" letter simply reinforced that policy. It offered no inducement to completely separate theistic principles from government.

Second, Mr. Kotheimer suggests we are permitted "freedom from religion." But what is religion? U.S. court decisions over the past several years have defined religion inclusively to encompass not only theistic beliefs, but also pantheistic and atheist belief systems. With this definition, it would be hard to imagine anyone being free from religion. Everyone has a belief system, a worldview, through which they view reality. This is their religion, whether theistic or non-theistic.

Third, the letter re-interprets the First Amendment as saying "Congress shall legislate as if there is no [theistic] religion." This goes against the First Amendment neutrality principle, established by the courts, which requires the state to be neutral in its relations with religious (theistic) believers and non-believers. If government were to favor non-theists over theists, it would be violating this principle.

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Fourth, the letter urges the country to guard against theistic religion having "excessive influence in the legislative or judicial process." This makes little sense. Laws and courts are based on certain beliefs about what is moral and ethical. According to the Declaration of Independence, in the U.S. our government is based on the "laws of nature and nature's God." Any other basis would result in turmoil and eventual anarchy. Surely that is not what Mr. Kotheimer has in mind.

Robert Lattimer, Stow

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