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.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

The Government's Concerned Deity, is he Yours?

In my often vain attempts to understand Justice Scalia I can usually reach a provisional understanding of his point of view. I have to admit being a little baffled when I finally had an opportunity to read his dissent in the recent Ten Commandment case. Justice Scalia wrote the following:
"With respect to public acknowledgment of religious belief, it is entirely clear from our Nation's historical practices that the Establishment Clause permits this disregard of polytheists and believers in unconcerned deities, just as it permits the disregard of devout atheists."
Of course Scalia is correct that prejudiced, ethnocentric, and even hateful comments by citizens do not violate the Constitution. The point that he forgets, I think on purpose, is that we are discussing governmental actions and laws, not religious speech by citizens. Scalia and many fundamentalist conservatives constantly prey on this misconception that we separationists are going to try to stop people from saying something religious in public. We want the government to leave religion to us and stay out of it.

But just what is an "unconcerned deity" and more importantly how do we tell what religion posesses the concerned deity? Who should make that decision? The people or the State? If we chose the later we would be no better than soviet communists and the governments that the early American colonists went to great distances to escape from.


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