Religious freedom

The U.S. Air Force recently drew controversy for its decision to relocate a Nativity display from the entrance of its Sumter base to the chapel following a complaint from the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF). Some people suggested that this was somehow a threat to religious freedom. We in the Secular Humanists of the Lowcountry (SHL) see it differently.
First, nobody is trying to discourage or eliminate Christmas displays from private homes, businesses, or churches. We are happy to see those displays, not only because they are pretty, but because we believe in the right of individuals to have public displays reflecting their religious beliefs.

The thing that makes this situation different is that the USAF is a governmental agency. The U.S. Constitution’s non-establishment clause is interpreted by the courts as requiring the government to remain religiously neutral. The writings of Madison and Jefferson make it clear that this is exactly what they intended. However, it is not because it is written or because it was the intent of the Founding Fathers that we support the separation of church and state; it is because it remains important in ensuring religious freedom.

If a family places a Nativity scene in front of their house, it is reasonable to assume that they are Christian. The problem with the display at Shaw AFB was that it implied that the Air Force itself is Christian. The MRFF deals regularly with real and serious problems that follow from this assumption: high ranking officers claiming that ours is a “Christian army” fighting against Islam, officers who order soldiers to participate in Christian prayer regardless of their beliefs, and institutionalized harassment of non-Christians. In fact, the U.S. military belongs equally to all Americans (including non-Christians) and fights with our allies against our enemies (neither side being identified by their religion).

Our view is that for each individual in the military to have religious freedom, the military itself must not endorse or reject any religious view. Even if they do not entirely agree with us, I hope that those upset by this news story may be comforted to realize that this is not at all a threat to the religious freedom of individuals or private businesses, and arguably helps to protect those freedoms.

Alex Kasman

SHL Board Member

Sowell Street

Mount Pleasant

Click here to read at Post and Courier

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1 Comment

  1. Joan Hoyte

    Upset with SC Government. Not the best & brightest. For instance allowing the Public Service Commission (11 members I think) they chose, to oversee the utility (electric, water etc.) companies. They (PSC) was to ensure, that we the customers are not crooked.

    Well we were crooked and really, really done in by our utilities companies, Scana and SCE&G. Dummies, watching over dummies. The head of these companies continued to (stupidly) pay billions of dollars for a now, and was then a failed building of nuclear plants). I wrote and complained years ago. Nuclear plants are antiques in todays world of solar, and wind power. These CEO dummies continued to ignorantly oversee the spending of these billions.

    The SC legislature continued to allow the Public Svc. Commission to bilk the pockets of poor South Carolianians trying to pay their utilitiy bills. Some couldn’t. They froze in the winter, and couldn’t afford AC in the 100 degree summers. They knew we have thousands of poor people in SC.

    What a crying shame. So if you vote, and hopefully you will DO NOT, DO NOT put the same dummies in charge. Can you imagine the CEOs of Santee and SCE&G were paid outrageously high salaries, and they didn’t know what they were doing, and I don’t think they still know what they’re doing.

    As far as the Public Service Commision they’re the biggest joke of all I think. It’s like A (the legislature) doesn’t know what it’s doing, B (The CEOs of Santee know even less what they’re doing) an C (The Public Service Comission) knows even less then they do. What a joke. Biggest, saddest thing of all is we the customers who depend on these people (so sad) pay for all that ignorance and can afford it the least.

    Another insult is that the PSC only held meetings to dispute the ever increasing requests in Columbia, hoping and knowing that would dilute the number of protestors about these increases. They’re cowards too.

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