Dear Mr. Alexander,
I believe that you have confused the purpose of the First Amendment with the use to which people wish to put that amendment. The founders of this nation knew full well the dangers inherent in a government based on religion: no one more so, of record, than Thomas Jefferson who expressed a particular dislike and distrust for “priests.” ( Note: Herein, items in “ “s are meant to be generic, not specific).
The First Amendment was intended to allow people to worship their chosen god(s). It was not intended as blanket permission to behave as one likes, regardless of the origin of that behavior. In recent history, there is the example of those who have bombed abortion clinics and killed doctors who perform abortions. The perpetrators are sought as criminals and prosecuted if captured alive, not withstanding the justification that “God” told them to do it, or that the acts originated from religious beliefs.
Nor are those that are ordained in a religion absolved from doing wrong notwithstanding that the wrong was committed while exercising one of the perpetrator’s religious duties on “church” property. I offer the rampant sexual abuse of parishioners by “priests”, youth leaders and other church workers as an example.
While “church” works extending beyond the confines of the “church” structure have been characterized as ‘charitable’, often, the motivation is as much to proselytize as to do good deeds. One need only look for the very obvious religious symbols all about the service area, including on the providers, and to hear the prayers uttered. But these are actions of people in the context of society, not in the context of a religious service. The participating in an act of worship within that religion notwithstanding the forced participation in pray if they are to eat, for example.
In regard to conscientious objection, be reminded that during the second world war, objectors were inducted into the Civilian public service. The religions from which their objection arose managed and essentially paid for that service. Today, there is the alternative service for conscientious objectors operated by the Selective Service System.
If you hold that “Government” should not inject itself into religious matters, then you must agree that Mormons can have more than one wife. This was a key belief in Mormonism prior to Utah statehood. The Federal Government forced Mormons to abandon this religious belief in order for Utah to attain statehood. As I recall, the Federal Government executed two or three of the key resisters. Several faiths allow plural marriage, including Judaism before the eighth century A.D. (look up levirate marriage). Mostly it is just self-described, “Christians,” who have imposed monogamy in this country- First Amendment notwithstanding.
“Churches” have been less than honest about many of the dilemmas of faith that they have created for themselves. Those dilemmas arise from the “churches” signing on for tax exemption. There are conditions set by “Government” for tax exempt status. But, now, some loud screaming “churches” are unhappy with those conditions that they freely entered into. Frankly, tax exemption is a deal done with a “Devil”, but I am not all certain which side represents the Devil. The argument is strong on either side. “Churches” can escape most of these requirements if they relinquish their tax exempt status.
Within that context, published in the U.S. Census Bureau, Statistical Abstracts of the United States: 2012, Table 75. Self-Described Religious Identification of Adult Population: 1990, 2001, and 2008 is a list of about 50 “Religious Groups” in the United States. My group is one of the 50.
I pay exorbitant real property taxes in Essex County, as does any non-tax exempt land owner. These taxes are used to support local infrastructure. Tax exempt organizations, whether religious or otherwise, do not pay real property tax to support the infrastructure but they use it. I pay a share of the taxes for those religions not withstanding that I do not belong to the other 49 and, by virtue of my choice of faith, I reject as wrong if not down right evil those other 49 religions. Similarly, I pay a share of the taxes for “Non-profits” which use the infrastructure but to which I would not give a penny, some because their avowed purposes are against my faith.
If the Roman Catholic Church and other “churches” should not be required to provide access to birth control insurance coverage for it’s employees working in their public operations because it is against the churchs’ faiths, why should I (the public) have to pay their taxes for them? I want to opt out. I want “Government” to give me that choice and not to take my land because my faith tells me not to pay taxes for the 49 or more other religions that are wrong and/or evil as viewed from my faith.
I propose a Faith-based Alternative option wherein those faiths which object to participating in the broader society (that are outside the “Cloistered walls”) may be exempt from certain regulations if they pay their full share of the taxes.
Gordon E. Howard
Keeseville & Seneca S