Rebuttal is not the same as harassment

Letter to the editor

Posted: Thursday, February 08, 2007

This letter is in response to Alfredo Velazquez' letter in Friday's Juneau Empire. Velazquez should re-read Erik Lie-Nielsen's letter (Jan. 28), which was respectful and complimentary to Kelsey Stark (Jan. 24). Lie-Nielsen merely suggested that Stark keep an open mind and review the First Amendment. All who write letters to the editor do so with the knowledge that it is an open forum. A rebuttal is not "harassment."

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The founding fathers were men of many faiths, with quotable opinions on both sides of the religion question. How fortunate for all of us that these eloquent men shaped the United States Constitution (signed by Benjamin Franklin) and the Bill of Rights (signed by John Adams) as they did, purposefully excluding religion.

Article VI of the Constitution states in part: "This Constitution and the laws of the United States ... under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land. ... The senators and representatives before mentioned, and the members of the several state legislatures and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several states, shall be bound by oath or affirmation to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States." As President, John Adams swore to uphold the Constitution, not the Bible.

Article VI and the First Amendment contain the only references to religion in these founding documents. Some, but not all of the founding fathers were Christians, who hoped as we all do that our citizens live good and moral lives. But claiming that their personal values automatically make the decidedly secular documents they created "Christian" is a distortion, and misses the value of their purposeful exclusion of religion. These men recognized that institutionalizing religion was dangerous, as evidenced by hundreds of years of religious violence in Europe. Religiously based nations in today's world are, not surprisingly, also places you wouldn't want to live, such as Sudan, Afghanistan and Iran.

If Velazquez values freedom of religion, which is granted by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, then he must also value that same right for others in this great nation. This means keeping religion separate from the state. Thankfully, the founding fathers understood this. And it is precisely the type of intolerance displayed toward Lie-Nielsen in Velazquez' letter that makes the documents they created so important.

Sheila Box

Douglas



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