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22 June 2005 @ 02:29 pm
Why our founders separated Church and State  
Lately I've been reading statements by right wing religious extremists about dismantling religious protections and establishing a Christian state, at http://www.reandev.com/taliban/ and a few other sites. In the meantime I've heard them state that some religions are evil and simply shouldn't be considered religions and protected under the law. As a non-Christian this was profoundly unsettling to me. So I read with interest the following report:

http://www.cnn.com/2005/US/06/22/airforce.academy.ap/index.html

as well as the related article on the Colorado Springs Gazette site:

http://www.gazette.com/display.php?id=1307110&secid=1

excerpt:

An Air Force Academy chaplain urged cadets during basic training last year to warn fellow cadets that those not “born again will burn in the fires of hell,” according to a Yale University Divinity School report.

The chaplain also told cadets Jesus had “called” them to the academy as part of God’s plan for their lives. (Gazette article)


and

AP article: The Air Force report cites some incidents but does not go into details: religious slurs and disparaging remarks between cadets and statements from faculty and staff with strong religious beliefs that some cadets found offensive.

"There is a lack of awareness on the part of some faculty and staff, and perhaps some senior cadets, as to what constitutes appropriate expressions of faith," said Brady.

Brady said he was unsure whether many of the incidents qualified as intolerance, but said "there's certainly insensitivity" at the institution.

"Yes, I think there were cases where people said some things perhaps from a lecturn that were overreaching, forgetting their position, that put cadets perhaps in an untenable position in terms of, 'Gee, am I going to pass Physics 101 if I don't agree with this guy?,"' he said.


It seems to me that conservative Christians have forgotten some key facts pertaining to the formation of our country and the choice the Founders made to maintain separation between Church and State. Perhaps they think the history is no longer relevant. If any are reading, please humor me for just a moment.

Once upon a time Protestants killed Catholics, Catholics killed Protestants, and some Protestants even killed other Protestants. One of the reasons these things seem unthinkable to us today in America is precisely because we have lived by the civilized notion that people should be free to practice their religion without anyone interfering in any way, much less murdering them over their beliefs.

The religious right seem determined to undo all of this and turn America into a Christian nation. Keeping in mind that brands of Christians have murdered each other in the past, what is to stop this Christian nation, having practiced religious intolerance and discrimination against all non-Christians, from once again turning that discrimination on each other? Once all of the Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Pagans, Jains, Sikhs, Shinto, Confuscianists, Zoroastrians, Satanists, Ba'hais and other riffraff have been done away with (and how, I wonder, converted forcefully or simply killed?) that leaves only Christians, and some of those Christians are simply small churches practicing their own unique interpretation. Will they be forced to standardize to one of the mainline denominations? And will only the conservative Christian denominations be left? Baptists but not Methodists or Episcopalians? Let's not forget the Universalist Unitarians, those hotbeds of heresy! Who counts as a real Christian in the new Christian Amerika? Will the evangelical Protestants tolerate the Catholics after the Christian Amerika is established? Or will they then turn on them too? What an uneasy alliance they must have!

It is difficult sometimes to decide where that line of separation should fall. I empathize with the enthusiasm of evangelicals, and not all of them want to do away with our freedom. I want them to be free to express their faith--yet not force it on cadets in a way that seems to threaten their ability to turn it down and still graduate. How well they achieve that balance will depend on the good will and solid American values of liberty held by all concerned.

I conclude with a grim reminder of our bloody past, excerpted from about.com, under the theory, oft stated, that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it:


But eventually the weight of the reformers grew strong enough to survive, but only at the cost of millions of lives as the Protestant Reformation battled the Catholic Counter Reformation in towns and fields throughout Europe. Martin Luther's 95 theses, nailed to a church door, set off a fire storm of violence and blood. German princes managed to fight Catholic armies to standstill by 1555, which resulted in the Peace of Augsburg. Protestant "heretics" were allowed to live in Germany, but that level of tolerance was not extended to other countries.

Unfortunately, that "peace" didn't last - from 1618 to 1648 Europe experienced The Thirty Years' War which left Germany a wasteland after millions and millions were slaughtered. Catholic armies under the leadership of Catholic Emperor Ferdinand II kept defeating Protestant armies, but then made the mistake of trying to eliminate Protestantism completely, engaging in terrible repression and persecution.

This caused new Protestant armies in foreign lands like Denmark and Sweden to be called up to oppose him. The result of all this was a victory for no one, and an estimated drop of Germany's population from 18 million to 4 million. With too few people left to work the field and trade for goods, starvation and disease ravaged the miserable survivors. Such are the fruits of European Christianity.


Catholics Killing Protestants

In France, the largest Protestant group was known as the Huguenots. They were mercilessly persecuted, and King Henry created a heresy court known infamously as The Burning Chamber because that was the standard punishment for heretics. On the night of August 24, 1572 - known as St. Bartholomew's Day - Catholic soldiers swept through Huguenot neighborhoods of Paris in a foreshadowing of what would happen to the Jews under Nazi rule.

Thousands were slaughtered in their homes and other massacres timed for the same night occurred in cities across France. In response to this, Pope Gregory XIII wrote to France's King Charles IX: "We rejoice with you that with the help of God you have relieved the world of these wretched heretics."

Pope Pius sent Catholic troops into France to aid in the repression efforts, ordering the army commander to kill all prisoners. Pius, unsurprisingly, was later canonized as a saint. In the Catholic Church, sainthood is an honor which goes not to the nicest person or to someone who has aided humanity, but to those Catholics who have done great deeds to advance the cause of Catholicism. As a result of such treatment, Huguenots fled France in large numbers. One group reached what would later become Florida - and when they were discovered by a Spanish expedition, all were killed.

In Flanders, all heretical Protestants were ordered executed and thousands were burned at the stake. But queen Mary was merciful to Protestants who recanted - instead of burning, the men would be killed by a sword and women buried alive. Philip II, Spanish king and also ruler of Holland and Belgium, was positively obsessed with eliminating Protestantism and ordered that all prisoners be killed so that there would be no chance that they might escape through neglect or mistakes. The Duke of Alva was sent in and began what became known as the "Spanish Fury" in which thousands of Antwerp Protestants were killed and almost all "heretics" in Haarlem were massacred.


Protestants Killing Catholics

Of course, Protestants should not be imagined as innocents in all of this. Attempting to abandon several centuries of developed church tradition, Protestant theology focused instead upon stricter adherence to scriptures. As an example, the harsher laws of the Old Testament developed greater prominence in Protestant lands than they did in Catholic lands. Protestant leaders also embraced some of the nastier doctrines of a few Catholic theologians, like Augustine's ideas about free will and predestination. Luther wrote in 1518: "Free will after the Fall is nothing but a word. Even doing what in him lies, man sins mortally."

In Switzerland, John Calvin created a vicious theocracy in which morality police were employed to control people's behavior. Citizens were harshly punished for a wide variety of moral infractions, including dancing, drinking, and generally being entertained. Theological dissidents were summarily executed, like Michael Servetus who was burned for doubting the Trinity. It isn't surprising that some of the nastiest Christians in America today, like Christian Reconstructionists, are unabashed Calvinists

During the many Huguenot wars ravaging France, Huguenot soldiers hunted priests like animals and one captain is reported to have worn a necklace of priests' ears. In England, after King Henry VIII created the Anglican Church, he went after both Catholics and Protestants. Catholic loyalists like Sir Thomas More were quickly executed, but Lutherans who doubted retained doctrines like transubstantiation were also not spared. When his daughter Mary reached the throne in 1553 she became known as "Bloody Mary" because she attempted to reinstitute Catholicism through violence - but she only managed to make the country even more Protestant.

Unsurprisingly, not all Protestants were created equal - some wretched groups were uniformly hated by all parties. One example of this is the Anabaptists, who were martyred for their faith in huge numbers. Anabaptists briefly took the German city of Munster, but Catholic armies regained control, torturing to death Anabaptist leaders with red-hot pincers. Their bodies were hung in cages from a church steeple where they remained for many years as a visible reminder of what happens to those who dare to oppose church authority.

Once again, there is quite a lot more to cover on the topic of religious violence, but I think that we've seen even more now which should lead reasonable people to conclude that religion in general, and Christianity in particular, doesn't do a very good job at all in preventing human violence. At a minimum, it does a wonderful job at serving as a justification for violence. In many cases, however, religious beliefs and attitudes appear to form the basis for violent acts or movements. In these instances, the violence would not have occurred if it had not been for religion.


Sources

Helen Ellerbe, The Dark Side of Christian History.
James A. Haught, Holy Horrors.
J.N. Hillgarth, Christianity and Paganism, 350-750.
Malcolm Lambert, Medieval Heresy.
Edward Peters, Heresy and Authority in Medieval Europe.
R. Dean Peterson, A Concise History of Christianity.



Readers who are concerned about these issues may want to get involved:

http://www.au.org/site/PageServer
 
 
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(Anonymous) on December 7th, 2005 03:33 am (UTC)
I'm involved in my own little Unitarian Jihad. . .
Would that the Unitarians would responsibly confront the religious intolerance that exists within UUism. I am still waiting for an "age" of UU religious tolerance. . .


The following two-page letter was distributed to a number of Montreal Unitarians and others entering the Unitarian Church of Montreal today. It is a modified version of the letter that I distributed to UUs during the UUA GA in Quebec City in 2002.

Here is the "annotated version" -

http://emersonavenger.blogspot.com/2005/12/letter-of-discontent.html


From Robin Edgar

Sunday December 4, 2005

To whom it may concern,

Today marks the 5th anniversary of my false arrest in December 2000 on trumped up criminal charges brought against me by Montreal Unitarians. After a few of criminal court dates I was acquitted of these unwarranted criminal charges that were intended to completely censor and suppress my legitimate public protest. I am protesting against the failure and refusal of the Unitarian Universalist religious community to responsibly redress my own and other UUs' legitimate grievances about abusive clergy misconduct. I am also protesting against the antireligious prejudice and intolerance that deplorably pervades and degrades UUism. The abusive clergy misconduct that I was subjected to arose directly from the antireligious intolerance, indeed the outright bigotry and hostility, of a self-professed "Humanist" Unitarian Universalist minister. I have seen too much evidence of similar antireligious prejudice and hostility towards God believing people within contemporary UUism. Such antireligious prejudice and intolerance, even hostility and bigotry, betrays UUism's monotheistic heritage and makes some UU congregations far from "Welcoming" (and at times even less than "Safe") for God believing people in general and Christians in particular. These UU injustices and abuses make a complete mockery of the claimed principles and purposes of UUism, and other UU ideals and must be responsibly redressed by all UUs, including current UUA and CUC leadership.

My clergy misconduct complaints did not involve sexual misconduct however I am also concerned about the UUA's and MFC's past failure to responsibly redress complaints arising from sexual misconduct by UU ministers. The UUA's "official apology" to victims of clergy sexual misconduct admits that the UUA has "largely failed" the victims of clergy sexual misconduct. In May 2000 I protested the failure of both the UUA and its Ministerial Fellowship Committee to responsibly address clergy misconduct, sexual or otherwise, in front of the UUA's offices at 25 Beacon Street. I also protested at UUA and CUC AGMs. I am protesting on behalf of all the victims of abusive clergy misconduct committed by UU ministers and all other people who have suffered either insult or injury (or both) as a result of antireligious intolerance as well as other injustices and abuses committed by hypocritical UUs who willfully disregard and violate claimed UU principles and purposes. I have been protesting in front of the Unitarian Church of Montreal on most Sundays since May 1998 because these remarkably hypocritical UUs have rejected or willfully ignored all of my letters of grievance and my subsequent public protests. Montreal UUs have repeatedly unjustly punished me for refusing to “accept" their unjust, inequitable and uncompassionate rejection of my grievances arising from their well documented injustices and abuses. I have been repeatedly verbally attacked by Montreal UUs and I have been threatened and physically assaulted on occasion as well. Montreal Unitarians attempted to criminalize my public protest and have repeatedly called the police even though my protest is legal. In doing so Montreal UUs have made a total mockery of their purported principles and purposes, and other claimed ideals.
(Anonymous) on December 7th, 2005 03:33 am (UTC)
I'm involved in my own little Unitarian Jihad. . . 2

During a private meeting with him, the purpose of which was to try to explain a profound revelatory experience that I had undergone in early 1992, former UCM minister Rev. Ray Drennan sarcastically mocked and ridiculed my religious beliefs by labeling them as "silliness and fantasy" amongst other derisive and insulting comments. Rev. Ray Drennan contemptuous dismissed my revelatory experience as "your psychotic experience" and angrily insisted that I was in immediate need of "professional help." As if these words were not insulting and damaging enough Rev. Drennan went on to label 'Creation Day' (an inter-religious celebration of Creation that was inspired by my revelatory experience) as "your cult." When I immediately challenged him to qualify what he meant by this damaging slur (which is the 21st century equivalent of labeling someone as a "witch" or "heretic") he replied, "I mean a manipulative and secretive religious group." Ironically, less than a month earlier, Rev. Ray Drennan and the Board of the Unitarian Church of Montreal had banned ‘Creation Day' from being celebrated in the "sanctuary" of the UCM during an "in camera" segment of the October Board meeting that was totally secretive cynical manipulation of the democratic process; even though ‘Creation Day' had been unanimously approved as an adult RE activity by the UCM's Religious Education committee. Rev. Drennan never retracted these demeaning and damaging allegations about me, nor did he ever issue an acceptable apology that clearly and unequivocally acknowledged the wrongfulness of his words and actions. Rev. Ray Drennan was never held accountable by the Unitarian Church of Montreal or the UUA's Ministerial Fellowship Committee. I on the other hand have been repeatedly punished and attacked by UUs for refusing to “accept” these UU injustices and abuses. The Ministerial Fellowship Committee complicitly "whitewashed" Rev. Ray Drennan by asserting that his demeaning and abusive misconduct, as I described it in more detailed letters of grievance, "seemed to us to be within the appropriate guidelines of ministerial leadership." When I wrote a letter protesting this ludicrous decision, Rev. Diane Miller responded by vaunting the "wisdom" of the MFC's decision to "close the file."

My grievances arising from the abusive clergy misconduct of Rev. Ray Drennan, and the subsequent negligent and unjustly punitive responses of the Unitarian Church of Montreal must finally be responded to by Unitarian Universalists in a manner that clearly lives up to both the letter and the spirit of UUism's Seven Principles, other UU ideals, and policies such as the Safe Congregations program. I also expect the UUA, the CUC, and the Unitarian Church of Montreal to hold all those who are most directly responsible for the negligent, incompetent, and complicit response to my serious grievances fully accountable for their reprehensible actions and indeed their clearly negligent inaction. Rev. Diane Miller and other members of the MFC's Executive who unjustly, inequitably, and uncompassionately rejected my serious grievances, who complicitly "whitewashed" Rev. Ray Drennan’s clergy misconduct, and who have "largely failed" the various victims of sexual misconduct and abuse by UU ministers must face accountability for their own deplorable failures. Justice must finally be done for me and for others and I expect it to be seen to be done by the Unitarian Universalist community as a whole.

Sincerely,

Robin Edgar email – robinedgar59@yahoo.ca

Google and Google Groups searches on pertinent names and key words such as - "abusive clergy misconduct" will find pertinent posts in various inter-net forums that provide considerable additional information about these UU injustices. See also the UU Debate section of http://www.beliefnet.com. My new blog that is dedicated to exposing UU injustices, abuses, and hypocrisy is found at - http://emersonavenger.blogspot.com