E pluribus: not a single state religion | Opinion

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My blood freezes when I hear someone say that the United States is a “Christian nation”. I honor Christ with compassion, beatitudes, even wrath against hypocrites and changers. But from the beginning, America was home to many religions, not just one.

Settled by Northern Europeans shortly after the 30 Years’ War, the colonies included Anglicans, Baptists, Catholics, Congregationalists, German Pietists, Lutherans, Methodists and Quakers. Puritan dissenters Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson, expelled from Massachusetts, helped establish Rhode Island’s first synagogue in 1763. Centuries earlier, Spanish and Portuguese Catholics had settled in lands from Florida to California. Half a century before the Mayflower, French pilgrims had settled in America.

The first bloody fight between French Protestants and Spanish Catholics took place with the massacre of this Huguenot colony in 1564 at Fort Caroline, Florida. The revolutionary citizens were furious to see that King George recognized the Catholics of Quebec so that they would support the Anglican crown against American independence. In short, writes KC Davis of Smithsonian Magazine, American religious tolerance is a comforting myth: “Religion has often been a cudgel, used to discriminate, repress, and even kill the foreigner, the ‘heretic’ and the ‘unbeliever. — including the “heathen” natives already here.

So when I heard that Sen. Doug Mastriano, the GOP gubernatorial candidate from Pennsylvania, paid social media platform Gab and its founder Andrew Torba $5,000 for the consultation, my senses jumped. are pricked. Torba said there was no place for Jews, atheists or others in the conservative movement. Gab was used to publish the shooter’s anti-Semitic ramblings at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue. Torba’s own writings promote conspiracy theories among the likes of Marjorie Taylor Greene. Torba is clear: “We don’t want atheist people,” he said. “We don’t want Jewish people. So why is it hard to understand? »

At a rally, Mastriano said, “We are going to bring the state back to justice: this is our day, our time to take back our state and renew America’s blessings.” Mastriano means a sort of religious law over secular law. Rick Crump, a speaker at the Mastriano rally in Pennsburg said, “The Constitution prevents the government from imposing on the Church. This says nothing about the fact that religion imposes itself on the state. Mastriano’s campaign aims to hold the nation ultimately responsible for a fundamentalist interpretation of Christianity.

Mastriano’s ally Torba said: “We have seen the fruits – or lack thereof – of our nation run by atheist pagans, non-believers, Jews and false Christians in name only, […] If we want to build a Christian movement, it must be exclusively Christian and we cannot be afraid to say it out loud. [If] you do not repent and believe in Jesus Christ, then you do not share our biblical worldview and cannot participate in any position of significant authority in the movement.

An absolutist institution of belief enshrined in law should not be the sole guide to political life. Take the remission of prayer in public schools, which is on the agenda of Christian nationalists. At the age of 10, I was obliged to recite a daily obligatory prayer “In the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ”. It was not the Lord I prayed to in my synagogue. Forced to recite at school, I had to articulate the words in unison.

Washington wrote to the congregation of this first synagogue in 1790: “All equally possess liberty of conscience and immunity of citizenship. … The government of the United States, which gives no sanction to bigotry, no assistance to persecution, only demands that those who live under its protection debase themselves as good citizens. Washington wrote that he wanted Christians, Muslims, and Jews to “sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree, and there will be no one to scare him.”

We have seen the consequences of one-state religion in Iran, Saudi Arabia, the Taliban, Modhi’s India and Israel too. Article VI of our Constitution states that “No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification for public office or trust in the United States.” Washington, Jefferson, Madison and Adams were familiar with the history of religious conflict in the American colony.

HE Gilman, who lives in Monroe Township, has worked in social services, publishing, bookstores, kitchens and academia.

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