Freedom Of Religion, Not Freedom From Religion

The other day I was at Costco as we often do some of our weekly shopping there.  Of course they already have many of their Christmas items out as well as items for Hanukah.  It seems like each year the holiday items go on sale earlier and earlier.  With such a big emphasis on holiday sales boosting the bottom line of many retail establishments, I guess that should not be surprising.  However, that is not my point.

As I walking down one of the main aisles to the back of the store, I passed a nativity scene display.  Actually, there were two displays with a stack of boxes between them.  The figures were not quite life size, but nearly so.  The figure of Joseph held a cane but the cane was separate from the figure.  Anyway, as I was passing, I overheard two guys talking by the display.  The one said to the other, “I could use a cane like that.”  The other replied, “Don’t you think that you would go straight to Hell if you took it.”  The first answered, “So, I don’t believe in that.”

I continued to walk to the back of the store for the groceries I came for.  However, when I returned back up the aisle a few minutes later, I noticed as I passed the nativity scene displays, that both canes were missing with Joseph’s hand trying to circle around air.

Now I’m not sure those two were the two that took the canes.  I certainly did not see them anywhere in the store.  However, I have to wonder whether the person(s) who took the canes were so poor that they could not afford to buy a cane.  If so, I’m sure Jesus would not condemn them.  Or maybe the crime was just a crime of opportunity with no other significance than to just see if they could get away with it. (Note that does not make it right.)  However, if the person(s) who took the canes did it because they wanted to make a statement against the celebration of one religion’s holiday then they may have more to answer for at some point.  At the very least, just because someone does not respect someone else’s religion does not make it right to damage symbols of that religion, or as in this case to steal canes from a religious display.

The Founding Fathers were not all of one faith as some might have you believe.  In fact, there were several different faiths represented.  Remembering that many of the original colonists came to America from Europe to find religious freedom. (Check out the pilgrim’s reason for coming to America.  It was not just to have a big turkey dinner with the local natives once a year.)  In fact, the importance of freedom of religion was held in such high regard by the founding fathers that they emphasized its importance by making it the beginning of the first amendment as you can read for yourself here:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

It is amazing that they were able to express so clearly in a mere 45 words a set of beliefs while the new health care bill consists of several thousand pages that practically no one has read in its entirety much less understands. That is another issue.  Imposing one’s beliefs on another person no matter what the belief is the very definition of intolerance.  One cannot claim that others are intolerant while they themselves are intolerant.  When the government takes sides in such an argument, they are violating the Constitution by respecting the establishment of a religion.  If the government tries to eliminate all displays of religion, it is equally violating the Constitution by prohibiting the free exercise thereof.  Rather people should decide by their vote, political or economic, whether to support businesses or organizations that display one belief over another.  So going back to my story of the canes, if the people who took the canes really despise Christianity and its symbols, they should support stores that support their own beliefs, not steal or damage merchandise from stores that sell merchandise that offends them.

C’ya next time.