Our rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness
can only be secured by a state strictly separated from religion

25 August 2008

Striking a Nerve

By Diana Hsieh

My letter to the editor published in The Oklahoman on August 15th must have struck a nerve, as five (!!) letters were printed in response on August 22nd. To refresh your memory, here's my letter:

Thu August 14, 2008
Kern seeking to destroy protective wall

Regarding "Kern vows to fight for morals in government; The legislator's anti-gay remarks drew ire earlier this year" (news story, Aug. 6): State Rep. Sally Kern describes herself as a "cultural warrior for Judeo-Christian values." Such claims should raise alarm bells for patriotic Americans. A free society can't be founded on Judeo-Christian principles. The Bible doesn't uphold capitalism, nor support our individual rights to life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness. It demands only that we suffer and sacrifice in obedience to God's will.

Individual rights are based on the objective requirements of human life in society. A person must be free to act on his own rational, independent judgment -- without forcible interference from others -- to survive and flourish. The only proper purpose of government is the protection of individual rights. For a government to do anything else -- including promote religion -- is tyranny. That's why a free society must, in the words of Thomas Jefferson, build "a wall of separation" between church and state.

Kern and her fellow culture warriors seek to destroy that protective wall, thereby paving the way for a repressive theocracy. In the name of freedom, they must be opposed at every step.

Diana Hsieh, Sedalia, Colo.

Hsieh is founder of the Coalition for Secular Government, which supports homosexual rights and opposes restrictions on abortion, tax exemptions for churches and government-sanctioned faith-based initiatives.
Here are the five replies:
Foundation of our freedom

Diana Hseih (Your Views, Aug. 14) displays her ignorance of the Bible, U.S. history and current world events. What country not founded on biblical values has ever been free? The rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness don't come from government but from our Creator. The "wall of separation" between church and state that Thomas Jefferson referred to in an 1802 letter to a Baptist church is intended to protect the free exercise of religion from government interference.

Christians founded this nation and Christians established the principles of individual liberty, limited government, and societal tolerance (within limits) that permit Hsieh to live without interference from others today. If Hseih thinks she'd be better off in a non-Christian nation, she's free to travel to places like Saudi Arabia, Iran, China or North Korea to see how women, minorities and gays are treated where other worldviews dominate.

Will and Cindy Wright, Oklahoma City

Tyranny anyone?

Diana Hsieh (Your Views, Aug. 14) says that a free society can't be founded on Judeo-Christian principles. David Barton of Wallbuilders Inc. has done extensive research on America's founding and the men involved. He says that out of all Founding Fathers, only about a dozen weren't Christians. Hsieh says a free society "must, in the words of Thomas Jefferson, build 'a wall of separation' between church and state." The First Amendment says "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." Jefferson also said that the Bible is a good book and every student should study it. He founded the University of Virginia and felt that the Bible should be part of the mandatory curriculum in the state university.

Hsieh says for government to "promote" religion is tyranny. Daniel Webster said that whatever makes men good Christians makes them good citizens. Is this tyranny?

Kay Simpson, Oklahoma City

Name those principles

Diana Hseih (Your Views, Aug. 14) makes the absurd statement that a free society "can't be founded on Judeo-Christian principles." If this great country wasn't founded on Judeo-Christian principles, would Hseih please identify the principles on which it was founded? Would she kindly point to a country that has more freedom than our free and happy land?

I'm a firm believer in the adage that if ain't broke, don't fix it. That's how it was until the Supreme Court discovered that the Constitution says our kids may not pray in our schools. Taxes, speed limits, declaring war and all those sorts of things are the business of government. Morality and religion are the province of our churches, and the government should not but does mess with them.

Hseih is wrong when she says this great nation is in danger of becoming a theocracy like the Muslim countries. The real danger is that the government might make us into a godless nation like Communist Russia was. That would evidently suit Hseih just fine.

Joe Freeh, Oklahoma City

A firm belief

Diana Hsieh (Your Views, Aug. 14) is misguided. The "wall of separation" that Thomas Jefferson spoke about in the letter to the Danbury Baptist congregation was referring to the fact that Congress is not to institute a state religion, such as England, Germany and Italy, nor is Congress to interfere with our right to practice our religion, whether it's Christianity on my part or atheism on yours. One of the definitions of faith is a firm belief in something for which there's no proof. Can you prove to me that what you believe happened that caused the beginning of the world is any more correct than mine?

Our country was founded on Judeo-Christian principles. The Founding Fathers understood that rights (such as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness) come with responsibilities. The order in which they put these was important -- after all you can't have liberty without life and you can't have the pursuit of happiness without the freedom to pursue it.

Douglas Thompson, Oklahoma City

Thompson is serving his country in Iraq.

Historical ignorance

Diana Hsieh (Your Views, Aug. 14) shows her historical ignorance of Thomas Jefferson's famous "separation of church and state" phrase. In Jefferson's letter to the Danbury Baptists dated Jan. 1, 1802, he assured them that they didn't need to be afraid of the government interfering with their free exercise of religion. Jefferson believed that God, not the government, was the author and source of our rights and that the government was to be prohibited from intruding on those rights.

The "wall" of the Danbury Baptist letter was not to limit public religious activities; instead it was to limit the power of government involvement in religious expression. The Congressional Record documents the months of debates of the 90 Founding Fathers who structured the First Amendment during which not one (Jefferson included!) ever mentioned the phrase "separation of church and state." Wouldn't you think that if this had been their intent for the First Amendment, at least one of those 90 men would have mentioned that phrase? None did.

Jay McCurry, Edmond
(I'm surprised that the newspaper didn't correct the misspelling of my name in many of those letters, but perhaps they didn't notice that "Hseih" is not the same as "Hsieh".) I know that some supporters of the Coalition for Secular Government wrote good responses to those letters. I hope that the newspaper is willing print one or two of them.

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