This letter is a comment on on Tom Waddells’ January column (“Tom Waddell: Religious privilege in 2019,” Jan. 4). There are a few cases this year where the government is being asked to decide what exactly constitutes religious freedom as defined by the Constitution in 2019. Many times the question is raised, what does it matter? Or even, why are you being so mean?

Let me attempt an explanation.

Our wonderful country contains people of many lands, races and beliefs. This diversity is one of its strengths and a cause of many of its divisions. The Supreme Court has been finetuning our founding documents with decisions affecting the exercise of our freedoms ever since. As an individual, we don’t get to do that. We have to follow the established law or face consequences.

In the case decided in 1971 (Lemon v. Kurtzman) the Supreme Court put forth a three-pronged test for the constitutionality of a statute. First, it must have a primarily secular purpose. Second, its principle effect neither aids nor inhibits religion. And third, government and religion are not excessively entangled. Laws being decided in 2019, for the most part, should follow this precedent.

So why should you as an individual be concerned? The freedom to practice your beliefs is dependent on everyone else’s freedom to do the same. Raising the importance, teaching, symbolism or practice of one set of beliefs in the public sphere infringes on the rights of others to practice their beliefs or non belief.

Separation of church and state should be as important to the religious as the growing non-religious.

Maureen ONeal


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