25, 2003 presented to Cobb Board of Commissioners by Jeffrey Selman.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
The United States is a nation established under a Constitution that guarantees us certain liberties and protections. As with all guarantees you have to ask for them to be lived up to.
One of the most cherished liberties our Constitution promises is that we have the right to believe or not believe in anything we want to without government sanction or impingement. This extends to all philosophies, all political practices, all family values and most certainly all religious beliefs or lack there of.
Our Country has a government that is by Constitutional Law religion neutral. It is not our governments place to support or deny any persons credo. It is not the place of any state or local governments to break the law established by our Federal Constitution.
While some feel that this separation of church and state is a fabrication, a little research on their part would show it to be a vital part of what makes our country great.
The Declaration of Independence, while it mentions a deity, did not found our Nation. The Articles of Confederation also references a deity and did found the nation, but the Articles failed and our Constitution was written and replaced them. The Constitution in its body and amendments has no mention of a deity and it founded the United States we live in today. In fairness to all citizens it allows for varying beliefs as shown first in Article TWO Section One, and again in Article SIX when it mandates elected officials to swear allegiance to the Constitution through either an affirmation, which is secular or through an oath, which would imply a non-specific higher power.
In Article SIX, in the last paragraph the Constitution states Separation most emphatically:
"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.
The First Amendment places a strong footing for Separation when it says:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of
religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging
the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people
peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress
There is no ambiguity in this Amendment.
The government must remain religion neutral. At any government function when a prayer is issued, especially a prayer to a specific deity, it is a sanction of religion which relegates and oppresses those citizens of alternate beliefs to a lesser and outsider status. This is not what our Constitution promises.
Having a myopic invocation at government functions cannot be construed as anything but the promotion of religion. While such prayers attempt to appear benign, their true purpose is the codifying of a specific religious belief by the government. This is absolutely unacceptable. In a free society there must be inclusion of all beliefs. While the United States has a majority of citizens that believe in some form of a deity, there are many who don't. It is not government's place to dictate what is acceptable belief and what is not. Any attempt at this evaporates liberty for all of us. To restate what has been said countless times before, "the majority may rule in America but it must rule with consideration of the minority." And so Separation must be maintained.
It is not important whether or not the Founders did or did not believe in religion. What is important is that they partook in an evolutionary process that offers us protections against theocratic suppression today.
In historical context, the Constitution, its amendments and court decisions have evolved to protect all of us, through Separation, from government intrusion into our private spiritual lives. Separation is today a declared if not yet realized objective of our free nation. It may be under attack but it is still part of what makes the United States the envy of the world and still causes vast numbers of immigrants to want to live here.
The Founder's realized, as we are proving today, that mixing religion with governing impedes democracy. The mixing does not enhance liberty as the religious extremists in the world purport. Every theocracy in the world today is in turmoil. Every attempt at establishing theocracy is causing upheaval and social unrest and destruction of freedom. All the false moralistic bantering of religious zealots is adding more to societal deterioration then is claimed by them for the thoughts of free pluralistic people.
When citizens attend government functions they cannot be oppressed and made to partake in government sanctioned religious practices. If someone wants to pray the government cannot stop them but they must do it within themselves so as not to step on anyone else's right not to. The government has no justification for having anyone lead a government gathering in religious prayer.
Just because it has been the custom to issue a specific prayer in Cobb County and the Georgia State governments does not make it any less illegal.
This can not be put under advisement or consideration. This illegal act by Georgia state and local governments must stop immediately. There are no if ands or buts.
As we attend this meeting The United States is engaged in a war it calls "Iraqi Freedom". We say that we have sent troops over to a foreign land to remove it from under the heel of a world threatening vicious tyrant. To this end we are risking our sons and daughters in the hope that we can eliminate the threat and extend the paradigm of our representative democracy to other people so that they may live with liberty and rise out of an economic mire that has caused their ancient culture to falter.
While we say we will try to extend our model to them we deny it to ourselves. The shock of September 11th should have made us more aware of our own vulnerability to theocracy.
Even Pat Robinson on March 17th, during a broadcast of the 700 Club, seems to have changed his anti-Separation rhetoric when he said, and I quote:
"If the United States tries nation building, it's got to [have] at the very top of its agenda a separation of church and state. There has to be a secular state in there.So it's going to be absolutely imperative to set up a constitution and safeguards that say we will maintain a secular state there and not an Islamic state much like what Indonesia has, but to respect the faith of all the people in there, including the Sunni and the Shi'ites and the Christians and the Assyrian Christians, whatever, and the Kurds. Very important.
While I have no illusion about Mr. Robinson's real motives, I find it interesting that of his main issues for the Iraqi people to be free he declares the Separation of Church as very important.
And so it is with America. We are not a Christian country. We are a representative democracy that just happens to have a very large Christian population.
The separation of church and state must be maintained to protect us from slipping into the iniquity of theocracy.
This can not be put under advisement or consideration. The illegal act sanctioning religion by Georgia state and local governments must stop immediately. There are no if ands or buts.