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Election revives debate on freedom of religion

December 31, 2011
The Inter-Mountain


The 2012 election process has brought up the same old argument about religious freedom and the United States.

Although it is alluded to in the First Amendment, that idea about a "seperation between church and state" comes to us from the 1600's and a man named Roger Williams. He was the apprentice of Sir Edward Coke, who is famous for the idea of "the house of every one is to him as his castle" as well as the prohabition of double jeapordy, the right of a court to void a legislative act, and the use of a writ of habeus corpus to limit royal power.

His finest piece of work, The Petition of Right, is the foundation of freedom, or as Winston Churchill put it, "the charter of every self-respecting man at any time, in any land."

Williams was bannished from the Massachusettes Bay colony in 1644 for daring to question whether God had any place in government. That's really ironic because the reason the colony existed in the first place was because King Charles was crushing all political and religious dissent in England by dissolving Parliment, and transforming the Star Chamber or "poor man's court," into an epithet that now stands for abuse of judicial power.

That forced men like John Winthrop to leave England and establish "a city on a hill," dedicated to God, obeying God's law, and flourishing in God's image.

Roger Williams' thought was: "if you mix religion and politics, you will get politics," and that will lead to corruption, not of government, because it is already corrupt. But of the church, because government is as "the wilderness, and the church is as a garden, unsullied and pure," and "when they have opened a gap in the hedge, or wall of seperation, between the garden of the church, and the wilderness of the world, God hath ever broke down the wall and made his garden into a wilderness."

He founded his own colony on Narraganset Bay, on land he himself purchased and donated to the common good of his colony. This was after he was bannished from Massachusettes Bay and thought he was led there by divine providence, hence the name of his colony. Providence to this day is called the state of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.

So if anyone tries to tell you we were founded on God's law as a nation of God, you can tell them it just isn't so. Two of our first colonies were diametrically opposed to each other.

We have been having this fight about the "new world" and religion since way before the "founding fathers" came along.

The role of religion in our goverment has been in flux since the early 1600's and it still isn't fully settled.

My one wish for this new year is that we can have an adult disscussion about the future of America, without the brinksmanship and political wrangling, the name calling and the foot-dragging. Let's come together for the good of the children and the world. God bless America.

James F. Gilbert




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