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Appreciating freedom of religion clause

Published August 28. 2010 09:00AM

Dear Editor:

Mr. Wargo, perhaps being confrontational is a way to sell newspapers, but it isn't a very responsible way for a columnist to behave. Your article on treating atheism as a religion fails to appreciate both parts of the freedom of religion clause.

The "free exercise" portion is relatively easy to understand people have the right to practice the religion of their choice, although there are limits. For example, while animal sacrifice is allowed by the courts, human sacrifice would not be. While American Indians are generally allowed to use peyote, Rastafarians are generally not allowed to use marijuana. In most cases, however, the U.S. has been pretty good about the right to practice better even than France, which has banned head scarves.

The "establishment" clause, however, seems to give you trouble. If the government allows for religious displays in government institutions, it is giving sanction to religions. The fact that it does not offend you is irrelevant. The government should not favor a particular religion, or religion in general. Public tax revenues must not be used to back religious beliefs. If the government does that, it is, in effect, establishing religion. On the other hand, if you want to put up a manger scene on your front lawn or a menorah in your window, that is fine. Just don't do it in front of the borough hall on public property.

Certain exceptions are allowed the President swears his oath on a bible, the coins have "in God we trust," and and the Pledge uses the words "under God," although we are free not to say those words if we find them offensive.

Roy Christman


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