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2.17.2005    |    ...free exercise thereof...
Those pesky Bible-thumpers in the Commonwealth are at it again. No, not John Kerry's Commonwealth, they're more likely to burn Bibles. No, it's one of the red state commonwealths -- my (soon to be again) home. Virginia, the true cradle of liberty for these United States. Retired state trooper Charles W. Carrico Sr., now a Delegate in Virginia's lower house, has introduced legislation to do something about the near banishment of the free exercise of religion in public. At least in Virginia.

The relevant context for this post's title is, of course, the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof
Liberals are quite fond of the first part of that clause; hate the second. Well, Bill Carrico has upped and done something about it, at least for Virginia. He's introduced legislation to amend the state's constitution to secure what the founders would not have considered even to be in question: the right to pray in public or in school. The full text of his proposed addition:
To secure further the people’s right to acknowledge God according to the dictates of conscience, neither the Commonwealth nor its political subdivisions shall establish any official religion, but the people’s right to pray and to recognize their religious beliefs, heritage, and traditions on public property, including public schools, shall not be infringed; however, the Commonwealth and its political subdivisions, including public school divisions, shall not compose school prayers, nor require any person to join in prayer or other religious activity.
This change is needed, given the harsh anti-faith pressures that are now all too common in the public square. Back in the day, when we would start the day with a prayer, I presume that some children's parents would have objected, and no one can deny that there is very unsubtle coercion if you are a child and everyone else is doing something and you are not.

This is the essence of the argument against public prayer -- that it can coerce non-believers into doing something that violates their conscience. As for children, whose conscience has not been fully formed, I say that prayer absolutely can not hurt them. It did me a world of good -- when I finally realized that there was something behind those words from Scripture. Was I coerced? No. Was there pressure? Yes, and who among us has the maturity in grade school to go against the flow on something that seemed to harmless.

Well, there you have it. Coercion. Pressure. Public prayer. Oh my. But here's the basic problem -- the majority's rights have been trampeled to protect against very hypothetical harm of subtle coercion on some children. Our rights should be guaranteed by that "free exercise thereof" phrase. But they are not. Hence, the need for a change.

A Christian must abide by the laws of the government, or, when those laws deny God, work to change them. That's what Delegate Bill Carrico is about. God speed, Bill.

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About this site and the author

Welcome. My name is John Luke Rich, (very) struggling Christian. The focus here is Christianity in its many varieties, its fussing and feuding, how it impacts our lives and our society, with detours to consider it with other faiths (or lack thereof).

Call this blog my way of evangelizing on the internet.

Putting it differently, we're only here on this earth a short time. It's the rest of eternity that we should be most concerned about. Call it the care and feeding of our souls.

I was born Jewish, and born again in Christ Jesus over thirty years ago. First as a Roman Catholic; now a Calvinist by persuasion and a Baptist by denomination. But I'm hardly a poster boy for doctrinal rigidity.

I believe that Scripture is the rock on which all Christian churches must stand -- or sink if they are not so grounded. I believe that we are saved by faith, but hardly in a vacuum. That faith is a gift from God, through no agency on our part -- although we sometimes turn a deaf ear and choose to ignore God's knocking on the door.

To be Christian is to evangelize. Those who think it not their part to evangelize perhaps haven't truly understood what our Lord told us in Matthew 28. We must preach the Gospel as best we are able. Using words if necessary.

Though my faith waxes and wanes, it never seems to go away. Sometimes I wish it would, to give me some peace of mind. But then, Jesus never said that walking with Him was going to be easy...

Final note: I also blog as Jack Rich on cultural, political and other things over at Wrong Side of the Tracks

Thanks for stopping by.