This essay was awarded first place in the annual essay competition sponsored by the Freedom From Religion Foundation for high school seniors who are college-bound in the fall. Sam Dubal received the $1,000.00 Blanche Fearn Memorial Award.
By Sam Dubal
As a freethinking youth in modern times, I was shocked to hear that several counties within my home state of Kentucky passed legislation allowing the Ten Commandments to be displayed on public school grounds. Outraged, ashamed, and disgusted at the actions of my fellow citizens, I examined the nature of these blatant violations of the separation of church and state. More disappointingly, I discovered two young children, both under the age of ten, campaigning eagerly, if blindly, for the display of the Christian religious doctrine. Supported by their mother and pastor, these two misguided youths epitomized the modern conservative Christian movement for the restoration of "traditional" America.
As a whole, the mixing of public government with private religion represents a roadblock to progress and an attempt to reinstate outdated European convention. The Hundred Years' War, the Thirty Years' War, and the Great Schism all resulted from public religious conflict stemming from religious states. The principle of divine right maintained a system of Christian government for several hundred years.
Today, unfortunately, some Americans long for these European antiquities, preferring religion over freedom, prejudice over equality. America, fundamentally formed for asylum, is slowly transforming into a nation of persecution, where Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, atheism, and other schools of thought find no place in society. As a result of the godless composition of the Constitution, the framers separated two distinct sections of America: society and the law. The framers perhaps anticipated cataclysmic events and predicted reactionary conservatism and its tendency when threatened to overthrow laws protecting human rights.
In the modern age, forces of conservatism most recently have pushed for bans on abortion and gay marriage, officially in the name of "morals," but unofficially in the name of the bible. These modern social conservatives, once themselves immigrants and outsiders in this country, now reject immigrants as wage-stealers, denying their own heritage and history. In the name of a god, reactionaries have pursued conservative agendas, violating the rights guaranteed in the Constitution.
Philosophical theory regarding the free will of humankind also supports arguments for a godless state. Blossoming during the Enlightenment, ideas regarding the individual were propagated by Rousseau and Voltaire. According to this system of thought, each individual in his or her contract with society must be guaranteed freedom of thought and action within the bounds of not infringing upon the rights of others. Christianity within the Constitution would have inherently violated this contract, thereby voiding the contract and rendering a serious flaw within the formation of society. The use of a god within a public and governmental setting clearly hinders the free will of atheists and nonChristians, precluding the values and virtues of equality for the sake of doctrinal, narrow thoughts.
Yet another intriguing perspective on the separation of church and state comes from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in the form of Michael Newdow's lawsuit. This revolutionary case in which atheist Michael Newdow sought to protect his daughter's freedom of religious thought, helped demonstrate the fundamental unconstitutionality of the Pledge of Allegiance as a largely Christian set of beliefs. Though Newdow's school district, the United States Congress, and President Bush eagerly sought to dismiss the case in light of their religious affirmations, the appeals court, as a protector of law and liberty, correctly ruled in favor of Newdow. In its decision, the court noted that one nation "under Vishnu," "under Zeus," or "under no god" all entail unconstitutional attempts to create a restricted religious state. Clearly, if philosophical, historical, and personal experiences with the separation of church and state cannot justify a godless constitution, then perhaps the law itself can.
In essence, the founders of the United States took a giant leap toward the ideals of free will when adopting a godless constitution. In protecting the rights and freedoms of Americans, these founders ensured that today's minorities, including Newdow, find asylum of thought in this country. In basing many of their ideas on the philosophical theories of Locke, Rousseau, and others, the framers provided a system of equality unequaled in many parts of the world. This godless constitution has provided a strong, unyielding liberty of thought that, though threatened, has held its ground in the wake of conservative revivals.
Sam, age 18, graduated in 2004 from Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in Lexington, Ky., and will attend Stanford University in Fall 2004. His interests include political and social issues, biological research, and soccer. He intends to major in molecular biology.