Recent campaign rhetoric and social issues have brought about a resurgence of extreme religious groups advocating for harsh implementation of laws that blatantly violate the separation of church and state. For anyone who thinks that the First Amendment is exercised properly throughout the United States, it’s simply not true. Several cases have stirred controversy and called this separation into question, including discounting evolution from some school curriculums, advocating taxpayer funding for religious institutions and ignoring individual basic First Amendment rights.
For example, Amendment 8, a measure on the ballot in Florida in November, would allow churches and religious schools to receive taxpayer funding. Moreover, the amendment would allow any organization that any religious group puts together to be eligible for taxpayer funding.
Richard Yoakley, a Lenoir City High School teacher, was asked to resign from his position as the yearbook and newspaper supervisor after granting his students the ability to publish “controversial” articles that touched on atheism and being gay. Shortly after the articles ran, the high school’s principal asked Yoakley to resign.
Not only are these topics protected under the First Amendment with regard to freedom of the press, but furthermore, Lenoir City is a public high school. The administration refused to run student Krystal Myers’ article about atheism because, as Myers pointed out, the administration was biased. “Why does atheism have such a bad reputation? Why do we not have the same rights as Christians?” she wrote.
Another San Antonio man, Jordan Clipston, was forced to wage a custody battle with his daughter’s mother because of his lack of religious beliefs. Clipston created a Facebook page to help offset court costs. He was pitted against his ex-girlfriend’s family, her father a strict military man and evangelical Christian who was convinced his granddaughter would grow up in a house with “no morals” because of Clipston’s atheism. Many court cases have mimicked this result, such as agnostic Craig Scarberry, who initially lost custody of his children due to a court ruling that explicitly stated his religious doubts were a factor. This precedent is ludicrous. Someone’s lack of religion has absolutely no bearing on his or her ability to be a successful parent.
Freedom of religion includes freedom from religion. Anyone who truly thinks that the establishment clause and the free exercise clause of the First Amendment are truly being implemented is sadly mistaken. Furthermore, that idea is naive. Although still oppressed, there are four openly gay members of Congress in the United States, compared to just one openly atheist representative. Both are pathetic misrepresentations of these populations that the U.S. comprises. Furthermore, the argument that our nation is a Christian nation that was founded on these principles is simply incorrect. Very few of the founding fathers could explicitly be labeled as Christian, yet it plagues our currency, our court houses are littered with plaques boasting the Ten Commandments and children in our public schools are forced to pledge allegiance “under God.” One God: the Christian one. This is not what the framers had in mind when they drafted the First Amendment.