Religious Freedom and Social Contracts Old and New

At the founding of the USA the concept of Religious Freedom as used in the US Constitution was clear and focussed. In contrast to European countries with Established Churches and stipulations such as ‘No Catholic may ascend to the British throne’ the new country would have no state-favoured religion and no religious test for office holders.

Many of the European immigrants that came over here did so specifically to escape such state-sanctioned religiousity while maintaining some church affiliation. With most people living in rural areas or villages there was plenty of self-imposed segregation; ‘like finding like’ as it were. The most obvious perhaps being Amish and Mennonite communities but a number of US States were founded for one particular demographic. So long as there was plenty of ‘new land’ to confiscate each religious/ethnic group could easily live in harmony with minimal interaction with ‘the other’. The Constitution did not directly address such discrimination; only the afore-mentioned religious tests.

This is appealing to those ‘strict constructionists’ who don’t want to admit that only change is permanent. The US Constitution permitted wide-spread slavery, limited voting to free (typically white) males and did not have popular voting for Senators; they were appointed by each State. While it is has never been easy to change it (nor should it) the document does presume that changes will need to be made over time.

And the US has dramatically changed; there are more self-professed atheists, agnostics and followers of other faith traditions (traditional and modern) and attendance at houses of worship has dropped dramatically. From ‘sexual liberation’ to ‘women’s lib’ to broader recognition that prejudice and discrimination are wrong, and the disappearance of ‘one employer for life’ and real pension plans, this is not your Founding Father’s world. No doubt some ‘progress’ has been detrimental long-term, but there is no way we could ‘put the genie back in the bottle’ and recreate the 1700s even if we wanted.

So instead of passing Righteous Freak Reforestation Acts that will lead only to further division and distract we, the people from the corporate takeover of our the government it is time for those who want to live in the 1700s to go buy 50 acres and a mule, disconnect from the grid and the Internet, and self-medicate.

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