Monday, April 7, 2008

Why Secular Government is Essential to Freedom

A lot of people would like to see more of their religious values reflected in our government. They view resistance to the display of religious material on public property as an attack on their views and even their way of life.

The fact is that to ensure your continued religious freedom, the government must be oblivious to your religion. If we are truly going to be a society of free individuals we must develop codes of conduct, rules of engagement, that everyone can agree on and that don't inhibit the free association of individuals. This means sticking to a few fundamental principals such as honesty, non-initiation of force, privacy rights and other matters that directly affect our ability to interact peacefully.

You are free to practice your religion to the extent that it doesn't violate anyone else's freedom. The recent case in Texas of a sect of polygamists is a good example of the limitations on religious freedom in a secular society. We have come to consensus, and institutionalized it in law, that individuals under a certain age need to be protected. Their physical and mental development are incomplete and their body of experience is limited. We select these ages based on experience and on science. A religion that believes that it is acceptable to marry and father children by 14 and 15 year olds can believe that all day long, but they can't practice it here.

Politicians can be religious. Government employees can be religious. Law and the execution and adjudication thereof, must be secular. If you believe a tenet of your religion should be embodied in law, make the logical case for it. It takes a lot more effort, but you might even learn something.

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