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Randy Alcorn: One Nation Under the Constitution, Not a God

Anti-LGBT laws, such as those recently passed or pending in several Southern states, are defended by their supporters as reaffirming and reinforcing the constitutional right of freedom of religion.

Supporters contend that that right is threatened by federal legislation and court rulings protecting LGBT individuals against discrimination.

Meanwhile, using the same freedom of religion argument, various parties have mounted court challenges against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s mandated provision of birth control.

Additionally, much of the vehement opposition to abortion rights derives from the fervent followers of religion.

Essentially, these religious folks are contending that they should not be forced to adhere to secular law if by doing so they would disobey the will of their deity. With their efforts to interfere with and effectively prohibit abortion, they are actively imposing their beliefs on society.

What is claimed to be divine will is found in various scriptures that have always been subject to a variety of interpretations — giving rise to a wide variety of religious sects and denominations. Why the omnipotent creator of the universe did not make its will universally understood is yet another divine mystery.

The U.S. Constitution is also subject to interpretation. So, how is freedom of religion interpreted, particularly when it conflicts with other constitutional rights like equal protection under the law? That question will again, no doubt, soon be asked in federal courts.

Laws invoking freedom of religion that effectively permit discrimination against LGBTs and interfere with women’s rights should present a quick test of fairness and sanity in American courts and in public opinion.

The only fair and sane interpretation of freedom of religion is that people can believe in anything and worship anything they like as long as doing so does not abridge the constitutional rights of others. So, if your religious beliefs include practices like child marriage, discrimination or human sacrifice, you’re out of luck here.

Imagine if anyone in this country could use religious beliefs to secure exemptions from secular law. The application of law would be as incoherent as the diversity of religions and sects this nation harbors. For that reason alone, religion should not supersede secular law.

And, unlike secular law, religious law is practically impossible to amend or repeal. Although Pope Francis is making cautious efforts to nudge the Catholic Church out of medievalism, God hasn’t published any new directives in millennia, and apparently hasn’t changed its mind or moved with the times.

If those people claiming that America is a Christian nation mean that their god’s law should be the law of the land, then depending on the particular interpretation of what God meant in this verse or that chapter of scripture, God’s law can quickly conflict with secular law.

Some Muslim nations, like Iran and Saudi Arabia, don’t have that conflict. There the controlling law derives from the Quran.

Maybe some people here in America envy that situation. For instance, those Ted Cruz supporters who believe that he is ordained by God to lead the United States back to righteousness may want an ayatollah rather than a president sworn to uphold the Constitution.

In a rational world, facts are essential for truth, justice, science and intelligence. Yet, so much of what is plaguing the nation and the world is not based on fact. It is based on faith in belief systems that are unsubstantiated by any valid evidence.

Just because millions of people believe that something is true, doesn’t make it so.

Otherwise, the sun would actually revolve around a flat earth. Until the human race evolves beyond superstition and discards implausible, illogical and unproven belief systems, civilized, democratic societies must continue to tolerate any and all of them — but only to the extent that they do not interfere with or deny the rights of others.

One of the many great things about America is that citizens are free to openly believe in and worship anything — flying serpents, space alien deities, demons, virgin births, resurrected dead carpenters, holy cattle — anything!

People are even free to claim they have conversations with their god without fear of being committed to a psych ward. It is only when their god tells them to hurt others that we have an issue with the freedom of religion.

There are so many critically important, even existential, issues confronting the nation and the world that all the conflict over and attention given to religious beliefs is exasperating to anyone with a logical mind and a responsible concern for the future.

We are clearly not one nation under God; if for no other reason than we can’t all agree on what that god is or if there even is a god. Faith is not fact.

Any attempt to peacefully govern a democratic nation of more than 300 million diverse people with the Bible, the Quran or any holy book would be absurdly futile. When has any religion ever successfully converted everyone to it?

Can’t we please, once and for all, and unequivocally, confirm and insist that the United States is governed by the Constitution and the laws compliant with it, and then get on with addressing real issues? People can practice their chosen religions in churches, mosques and temples, but not in the halls of government.

Government belongs to all of us, and not to anybody’s god.

— Randy Alcorn is a Santa Barbara political observer. Contact him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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