Yesterday, while driving, I caught a few minutes of an interview conducted by substitute host Mike Scioti on the Mike Gallagher show, a conservative talk show on Salem radio. Through the course of the discussion it became clear that some on the right are concerned with the diminution of first amendment rights.
The right to free exercise of religion is important. There can be no ambivalence regarding its centrality in American life. Moreover, according to many surveys that have been conducted year after year, America continues to have a reputation as one of the most religious/spiritual countries. I believe the intereviewer's concern to be misplaced
There exists a thrust to universalism and atheism in the public policies of much of the former Soviet Union. France takes drastic steps to limit religious practices of Sikhs, Moslems and Christians. Nothing similar has occurred in the United States. The overt practice of religion is part of normal life. President Obama goes out of his way to be seen attending church. His White House has hosted a Pesach Seder each year of presidency. The National Day of Prayer and the Prayer Breakfast have been staples on the American fabric long before Obama entered the Oval Office. Any day now will be the annual Easter egg hunt on the East Lawn. Every session of Congress opens with a prayer offered by a clergy person gathered to represent the full breadth of American, religious life. Muslims, Catholics, Protestants and Jews have all been members of both houses of Congress. If ever there was a country where the free exercise of religion is a given, it is the United States.
There are those who would prefer that there be no public religiosity in our land. Many would prefer that people not lean on their religious beliefs when making decisions that impact all. Our national slogan, “In God We Trust” rubs some the wrong way. For those who are bothered perhaps we must remember that some can please some of the people some of the time, but one can never please all the people all the time.
We are blessed to be in a country where citizens can freely practice their religious beliefs while they actively participate in the governance of our land. Being a member of a religion in no way precludes the ability of anyone to join any political party. The obverse applies equally.
Scioti may be concerned. As was noted by Scioti, there is a link between liberty and freedom of religion. As I see it, the link remains alive and well.
When I signed on to become Columbus' Jewish examiner, my intent was crystal clear. I would write about issues of the day through the lens of Jewish thought and tradition. My editors may have preferred for me to be writing about Jewish events in town; about the JCC, synagogues, Federation or the Foundation. I leave them to their own pr departments.
I appreciate my readers for supporting my approach and for disagreeing too. No one claim that Judaism lacks ambiguity on many important issues. As long as I am permitted to keep writing as I have, I am convinced by my observation and by personal experience that religious freedom is alive and well.
Postcript For those interested in local matters. Pesach shopping season has begun. If still buying matzoh or yet to buy, the best price for hand made shmurah is at Costco for under $15 a pound. Five pounds of machine made, Osem brand regular matzoh may be had for $6.99 at nearly any Kroger.