The purpose of Our Conscience weblog is to facilitate a greater discussion and understanding of church and state separation in our community and in others. Underlying this is the value that each individual should be allowed to follow the dictates of his or her own conscience without influence, coercion, or direction from the State when it comes to matters of religion.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Joplin Globe Watch: No Uniformity through Coercion

Our Conscience

John Cragin’s recent editorial (Globe, Dec. 24) made the case that the government should not prohibit “the use of words like God, Allah, Jesus, Budda…” I agree with him but I am somewhat confused as to why he is concerned about this. It could be that he thinks courts have actually limited the rights of citizens to pray and talk about religion in public. Or maybe he knows better and hopes that you do not, I am not sure.

Let’s take a look at what the courts have prohibited. In ENGEL v. VITALE (1962) one of the cases our conservative friends say has “banned prayer in school” the court ruled that “state officials may not compose an official state prayer and require that it be recited in the public schools...” Notice is doesn’t say citizens may not compose a prayer and than proceed to pray. The ruling limits the government’s actions so that the people can make their own decisions and pray their own prayers without influence from the State.

Unfortunately, some people are so insecure in their beliefs that they feel they need assistance from the State. Placing the Ten Commandments on their own property just isn’t good enough and prayers just don’t have the same ring unless you can cite their corresponding law. Some day these same people may realize that the tool of government coercion is actually contrary to advancing their dream of religious uniformity.


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