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Austin Cline

Blogsnark: Free Exercise of Religion Requires Government Religious Discrimination?

By February 21, 2006

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More and more we are seeing legal cases where Christians in government abuse their positions by promoting and endorsing their religious beliefs. They are defended by the claim that they are simply exercising their constitutional right to practice their religion, but this claim ignores the fact that they are acting as officers of the government, not as private citizens.

Kerwin Brown, for example, complains about a case where a Wiccan was able to get a a local town council to stop praying in the name of Jesus Christ:

In Great Falls, South Carolina Darla Kaye Wynne a Wicca won a federal court case against this small and poor town. Her lawsuit demanded that they remove the name of Jesus Christ from their prayers. ... Praying is not evangelism and therefore is not a violation of the non-establishment clause. Even if the government was forcing others to pray according to a particular formula, as the federal judges are doing. it is still a free exercise of religion issue.

This is ironic because earlier in the same post, Kerwin Brown insisted that prayers limited to a monotheistic god were not an establishment of religion: “Judeo Christian beliefs and other religions based on a single God are not one religious denomination and should not be considered such.” Here, however, we have prayers to Jesus Christ which are certainly favoring one “religious denomination” over others and Kerwin Brown had to come up with a new rationalization to defend it.

You are free as an individual to evangelize and share your faith as are all Americans no matter their beliefs. On the other hand the government because it is supported by is all is restricted from doing so.

What is “the government,” however? There is no entity called “the government” which is independent of human beings and the actions of human beings. Every action of government is an action of representatives of the government. If any individual action can be defended on the basis of “free exercise of religion,” then how can any government action be prohibited as an unconstitutional establishment of religion?

Individuals’ right to freely exercise their religion does not and cannot include the power of the state to engage in religious discrimination or establishment by favoring or endorsing some religious beliefs over others.


Separation of Church & State:


Secularism & Secularization:


Christian & Religious Privilege:

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