Freethought Today · Vol. 21 No. 6 August 2004

Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

3rd Place High School Award

The Right to Choose

By Anne Lucille Polo

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Anne Lucille Polo

"God Bless America!" I always hear the President of the United States say this phrase when he is speaking to the American people. I realize that the President is attempting to unite all Americans and be patriotic when he says this, but is he really uniting his people when he mentions God several times in his speeches?

When I was young, I guess it could be said that I was surrounded by religion. I grew up most of my life in Spain, the country where I was born. It seemed as if in Spain everybody was Catholic. Everybody went to mass, everybody did his or her first communion, and everybody was married in the Catholic Church. I attended a private, Catholic school where we prayed every morning before school began. I grew up knowing the traditions and customs of the Catholic Church, but I also grew up knowing the customs of my mother's church.

My mother is American, unlike my Spanish father, and ever since I can remember, my mother took my three other siblings and me to a nondenominational church in the city, where the services were given in English. She wanted us to learn about the Catholic religion in our school, but she also wanted us to learn about her customs in a church that was very much like her own. She told us that she was Protestant, which was very different from being Catholic.

"Do you know why they are called Protestants?" my dad would ask me with a smile.

"Why, Papi?" I would ask.

"Because they protest a lot and that is very much like your mother."

When I asked my mother what religion I was, she would tell me that I could be both religions. I could be a Catholic, and I could be a Protestant; I could go to the Catholic mass, and I could go to the other Christian service. She wanted me to see the good side of both churches. She told me that I could choose the church that I liked the best when I got older. Then, I would ask her what would happen if I wanted to become part of another religion. She would tell me that I could be whatever I wanted to be. "The important thing is that you have the right to choose," she would tell me.

The nuns in my school knew that my mom was American, and there were several of them who frowned on the idea of me going to another church besides the Catholic one. They never said anything to me, though. I was Christian and that was all that really mattered to them. I did my first communion with the other children in my class and that was good enough.

My separateness from the rest of the children in my school is something that makes me think about the President's speeches. I know that I would not have liked it if a nun would have told me that the Catholic religion was the only correct religion. How do those Americans who do not believe in God feel when Bush gives his speeches? I do not think that they really feel one with the rest of the American people when the people are grouped by their belief in God. Furthermore, it does not make them any less American if they do not believe in God.

The founders of the United States got it right when they adopted a godless constitution. The main reason is that Americans are free. They do not have to believe in a god at all. They have the right to choose what they want to believe in. If a god were a part of the Constitution, could it be said that Americans were free? Having a godless Constitution enables the American people to believe whatever they want to believe in. It epitomizes what my mom once told me. The important thing is that the individual has the right to choose. That is why the United States is a country of freedom, and freedom is a beautiful thing.

Anne Lucille Polo, known to her family as Annie, was born in Madrid, Spain, and lived there for 11 years. In 1997 she moved to the United States with her family. She is a citizen of the United States as well as a citizen of Spain.

Annie plans to enter one of Houston's universities in the fall. She intends to double major in French and international studies. Traveling, languages, and other cultures have always been a special interest.

Annie received $250.00 for her essay.


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