The First Amendment to the Constitution reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of any religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or restricting freedom of speech or of the press; or the right of the people to assemble peacefully and seek redress from the government for their grievances.
Simple enough, right? Well not really. Throughout our history, we have made laws that appear to violate this amendment, and in other cases we have allowed questionable religious “liberties” that are not based on any major denominational religious belief.
For example, while many have opposed vaccines on religious grounds, I could not find any major religion group that officially banned vaccines on religious grounds. Christians, Catholics, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists and every other religion I could find all support vaccinating their followers. Obviously many people don’t want vaccination and cite religious reasons, but I couldn’t find any specific religious dogma behind it. Despite everything, 44 States currently allow “religious” vaccine exemptions.
Want to buy a car? You can’t on Sundays in Colorado thanks to a blue law from the 1950s. Many states have these laws on the books, prohibiting certain activities on Sundays. But wait: What if your rest period is from Friday night to Saturday night like in Judaism and Seventh-day Adventists? It seems to me that any law we put in place to accommodate a specific religious belief is likely to conflict with the beliefs of others. I would have thought this was clearly a First Amendment issue, but blue laws have remained in place for decades.
The current issue we face is the overturning of Roe v. Wade, effectively ruling that a woman has no right to an abortion under any circumstances, including rape and incest. As with blue laws, if the federal government defers to the states, the basic right ceases to exist. I was curious though and wondered: do all religions oppose all abortions under all circumstances?
Basically denominations and religions are all over the map. Aside from Catholicism, which seems to offer no exceptions, most religions allow exceptions, and some, such as Episcopal, Lutheran, Judaism, and Presbyterian, recognize women’s rights roughly as they existed when Roe v. Wade was the law of the land.
Here is something interesting. Every Supreme Court justice who voted to overturn Roe v. Wade was Catholic (Neil Gorsuch was raised Catholic but now attends the Episcopal Church). With most (75%) U.S. bishops arguing that they should deny Communion to anyone who is not actively working to end abortion, the question is, can a Catholic Supreme Court justice be impartial on this matter? Who is the higher authority? This could be great fodder for a conspiracy theory but I heard these people are always busy looking for these jewish space lasers.
Since there are no more federal laws governing abortion, each state can now do whatever it wants. The question I ask myself is, how can a state like South Dakota completely ban abortion while allowing a religious exemption for vaccinations? Why can’t a Presbyterian woman in South Dakota claim that her First Amendment religious freedoms are being violated if she is unable to obtain an abortion? I’m no constitutional scholar, but it seems to me that the idea of religious freedom is just as – if not more – applicable to abortion than to vaccines.
Colorado Representative Lauren Boebert articulated which many probably believe but are afraid to say when she denounced the separation of church and state as “trash.” For those few readers who might not have grasped her implied meaning when she said “church and state”; to her, the word “church” means the Christian church – not the Jewish “church” or the Muslim “church” or all churches. When I first heard this it sent a shiver down my spine. I couldn’t even believe it. To me, it was the constitutional equivalent of someone standing up and saying it was time to ban all guns. Surprisingly, there was almost no backlash.
After reading this you might think I am criticizing religion. Rather the opposite; I was raised a Presbyterian and I believe in God. Many of my closest friends are Catholic and I respect their beliefs as I hope they respect mine. My wife is Jewish.
The challenge we face as a nation is to respect religious views as much as possible, but not to legislate them or, in this case, allow individual states to legislate them. While most blue laws are relatively harmless, the concept behind them, that a particular religion can enact laws that compel our entire society to conform to its particular beliefs, is simply unconstitutional. Moreover, it threatens our most fundamental precept – that no religion should be given preferential status.
Mark Lewis, originally from Colorado, has had a long career in technology, including serving as CEO of several tech companies. He retired from tech last year and now writes thrillers. Mark and his wife, Lisa, and their two Australian Shepherds – Kismet and Cowboy, reside in Edwards.