For those of you surfing in from Bakersfield, California due to the links posted in your local media - Good morning.
If you sent me hate mail and expect to see me discuss it here. Sorry, I'm not interested. If you plan on sending me hate mail, don't bother - it just goes into the spam catcher unread along with the Viagra adds.
If you've read The Camel's Nose and you've come to tell me what an asshole I am here on my blog, well fine, go ahead. But before you start, read the following:
1) I have nothing against any particular religion, belief in God or gods, Gaea, Witches, Warlocks, the Great Bird of the Universe, or other manifestations of faith. I also have nothing against atheists. I belong to neither camp; I cheerfully associate with people of both inclinations and have many good friends of both persuasions. REPEAT: I am not anti-religion. I am not anti-atheist. I subscribe to no agenda urging the eradication of either viewpoint. Clear?
2) I do NOT have a problem with the word "God" as it appears in the national motto, or in the oaths of allegiance sworn by public officials and members of the military. I do NOT have a problem with use of the bible or other holy books used to add solemn gravity to oaths of office or of the court. Again, I have no militant anti-Christian agenda, see paragraph (1) above.
3) I respect other's beliefs up to a certain extent (mostly the point where those beliefs become a house of cards rationalization based on denial, or to the point where they begin to hurt others or deny people their guaranteed rights), and I demand that you do the same. I have spent most of my life defending the Constitution of the United State specifically so that you and I may be free to believe as we choose. If you are a person of faith, and you wish to discuss your beliefs with me, I will listen - as long as you're polite and respectful about it. I have no problem with the young Mormon and Jehovah's Witnesses who come to my door and clearly identify themselves and state their purpose up front and who, when I explain that I am not interested, politely thank me for my time and leave.
4) Where I have a major problem is when those of faith, or no faith, attempt to force their views on me and mine. However, for those who truly and honestly believe what they are professing, I have some grudging respect as long as they are open about their agenda.
5) I cannot, and will not, abide those who attempt force their beliefs on me or mine or my fellow citizens through subterfuge and dishonesty. I despise those who attempt to pervert and subvert the rights I fought to defend in order to secretly impose their religion on others. I have no respect whatsoever for public officials who swore an oath to uphold and defend both the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of their own home state, who gave their word with their hand on the Bible that they claim to hold most dear, and then scheme and plot to violate that very oath. I consider those, and especially Christians, who attempt to impose their beliefs on others through subterfuge to be the ultimate hypocrites and I will NOT tolerate it. This hypocrisy is the ultimate form of disrespect. Respect is earned. Respect returns respect. You cannot demand respect for your beliefs when you yourself have so little respect for them.
6) The Camel's Nose was not a rail against Christianity or any other religion - I know, I wrote it. If you took it that way, that's your problem - and if you post a comment accusing me of some anti-Christian agenda, as some did last night, I'll delete your posts without comment as I did last night. My blog, my rules, if you don't like it - go somewhere else.
I think posting the Constitution and it's associated Bill of Rights and amendments in every classroom, library, court house, state and federal office in the country is a dandy idea. Personally I'd like to see that as part of a mandatory class for elementary, middle school, and high school students covering the Constitution in detail, including it's origins, framers, and it's impact on government, law, and the individual citizen. I think that there should be a separate section dealing with the Constitution and Government on the National Standardized Test Battery for public schools as part of the No Child Left Behind Act. Personally, I'd like to see even a tenth as much effort go into teaching the Constitution as goes into high school sports or cheer leading.
As to the Declaration of Independence, it's a great document. Magnificent even. It contains the germ of the ideals that became America. Though it has absolutely no weight as a legal basis or as guiding principles in our nation, it does command significant historical value. By all means post it in the classroom. Discuss it, and the events that led to its declaration - and more importantly, those that followed.
That National Motto. Again, post it. It is the national motto. Post it and discuss why it's the national motto, discuss why Congress in 1956 felt compelled to make it our motto, when the framers of the Constitution did not - and while you're at it, discuss why they also added a pledge of allegiance when the founding fathers were so adamantly opposed to such an oath. But post the motto because it is the national motto, and post it separately.
Post the Oaths of Office, and the Oath of Enlistment for both Officers and Enlisted of the US military (the oaths are similar, but vary by one very, very significant line - which has to do directly with the Constitution). Post the State Constitution. Post the Federalist Papers and the writings of Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson. Post the writings of Martin Luther King and Abraham Lincoln. Hell, as a citizen of the United States and as a retired US Navy Officer, I have no problem if you post the Articles of Confederation as a learning tool - those who forget history are doomed to repeat it, and that's a mistake we can ill afford to repeat.
I think all of these things are fine ideas. In fact I think that as educators, public officials, and especially as citizens of this nation we have a profound obligation to ensure that future generations are versed in the principles upon which the United States was founded. I think it is our duty, all of us.
But, public officials charged with the execution of a secular office took an oath to uphold the Constitution first. If you cannot place you duty above your personal beliefs, then you have no business holding public office in the United States. As a public official, you have a duty and an obligation to the Constitution first, period; your duties to office come before your duty to your God. That is the oath you swore. If as a matter of faith you cannot execute the duties of your office in this manner, then you should never have taken the oath to begin with - you're a hypocrite and a liar. And don't tell me that this is too high of expectation, public office is a voluntary obligation. This exact expectation of loyalty is demanded of every person in military service, and it is demanded by the Constitution of those in public office as well. Public Officials have no right, no right whatsoever, to filter public education through their own religion, they represent all Americans, those of their faith and those not, just as those of us in uniform are sworn to defend all Americans equally, those of faith and those of none.
The biggest lie of all is to tell half the truth.
The Bakersfield City Council stated that their goal is to educate and instill a sense of patriotism. As long as patriotism is defined simply "as a love of country" or as "a respect of country" or even as "appreciation for country" I have no problem with it. However, when patriotism becomes required nationalism, or especially when patriotism is used as a method of indoctrination by subterfuge, well, then I'm going to push back, hard.
And in this case that's exactly what's going on. Patriotism is being used as a gateway drug to religion. When a city council member states clearly and unequivocally that the reason for posting "In God We Trust" is because "Patriotism is a love of God and a love of country" and "people should love God first and then their country" that's precisely what she's doing. She's hiding her religion behind the guise of patriotism, with the full intention of foisting her definition of patriotism on the public school system.
Intention is the issue here, not the motto itself.
And that intention is a lie, and subterfuge, and hypocrisy, and a violation of the oath she swore to uphold.
Lying, subterfuge, and hypocrisy are also contrary to the principles of Christianity. Just saying.