Ron Reagan has fanned the flames of anger by recording a radio ad in which he proclaims himself to be an “unabashed atheist.”
He’s signed on to the Freedom From Religion Foundation and has declared his disgust with those who keep interjecting religion into public policy discussion.
OK, here’s where I’ll make a couple of disclaimers.
One is that I am not an atheist. I was baptized a Christian as a baby and am now more of a believer in Jesus Christ than I’ve ever been.
The other is that I believe Reagan — the younger son of the 40th president of the United States, Ronald Reagan — happens to be correct in asserting that the United States is a secular nation.
I’m not going to get into bashing others today; it’s a vow I made the other day about commenting on Thanksgiving. I intend to keep it positive — at least for the remainder of this day.
I merely want to refer to the U.S. Constitution, the document that establishes the framework for this nation’s greatness.
I believe the founders mentioned religion precisely twice in that document.
The first time is in Article VI. There, they said officeholders shall swear to uphold the Constitution, then they added: “but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”
The second time is when they got around to establishing the Bill of Rights. The very First Amendment in part says this: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof … ” The amendment goes on to give Americans the right to speak freely about the government, it allows for a free press, gives citizens the right to assemble “peaceably” and to “petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
You’ll notice that in the First Amendment, the founders laid out the religion part first. Why is that? I only can surmise that they did so because their forebears had come here to escape religious persecution. They did not want to told they had to worship a certain way. They wanted freedom from all of that, so they set sail for the New World, where they could be free to worship — or not worship — as they pleased.
I also believe the founders were guided by religious principles. They did refer to “the Creator” when they wrote the Declaration of Independence. I hasten to add, though, that the reference is to a universal deity — and not necessarily a Christian deity.
Ron Reagan’s declaration speaks to the trend in recent decades to keep insisting that the United States is a “Christian nation.” It isn’t. It’s a secular nation with no national religion. Our founders sought to separate the church from the state.
Moreover, to those who keep insisting that the words “church and state separation” do not appear in the Constitution, I only can refer them to the First Amendment. I know what it means. So do they.
And I give thanks for the founders’ wisdom in ensuring our government should be free from religious doctrine.