Islam – 3

In my recent post, “Islam – 2” (Sep. 14, 2016), I promised—with ample provisos, I trust—to share thoughts on how Americans can reduce one source of their fears about our growing Muslim population and to do so without sacrificing one of the significant ideals on which America was built.

First, let me note several fears I’ve noted that Americans have about Muslims in the United States, more or less in ascending order of severity: (1) A generalized discomfort or fear of “the other,” whether Islamic or not, perhaps taking the forms of xenophobia and social distancing. (2) Discomfort or anxiety when confronted with differences in clothing, social practices, or religion. (3) Loss or alienation of family or neighbors due to or because of an unfamiliar way of life, especially one which could be seen as “stealing souls” from an “approved” religion. (4) Loss or reduction of legal or other governmental preference for Christian practices and teaching, including by encroachment of Sharia law. (5) Injury, death, or coercion whether by terrorism or criminal force.

(The original meaning of terrorism is violence against one group—probably non-combatants—meant to cause a third party to change course. Rape or even mass murder is not terrorism unless it is intended to cause a change in the action of someone else. A common dictionary definition is “violent action to frighten a person or group with the aim of achieving a political goal.” For example, the human and physical destruction of 9/11, insofar as its object was to affect American foreign policy, was terrorism . . . not because of its magnitude, but because it fit the definition. Assaulting the child of one’s professor in order to be given a better grade would be terrorism even though of less consequence.)

As to the five fears, I’ll dismiss #1 and #2 out of hand. Fears such as these can be disturbing, but the best way to counteract them is for Americans to “just grow up.” I am prone to treat #3 similarly. Adults have the right to make their own decisions about personal beliefs, so doing so can’t be blamed on a third party. Besides, “souls” cannot be stolen (though they might defect!). Remember how the old “alienation of affection” laws treated women as if they had no minds of their own?

I’ll get back to #4, but let me confess that I’ve no satisfactory response to #5, except to observe that the fear is overblown, at least given history thus far. A 2016 Cato Institute report estimated the odds against a person’s death in a one-year period from terrorist action is 3,609,709 to 1. (The U.S. National Safety Council puts the odds of a fatal fall in the bathtub each year at 11,469 to 1.) Still, while 1 in 3.6 million seems remote, even that miniscule risk is greater than in the past.

Now, let me get back to #4, the fear of Sharia law or (in a less extreme version) the fear that local, state, or federal laws and ordinances become increasingly Islam-friendly or even exceed the preferences now given to Christianity and Judaism. If you are disposed to think such a fear among Americans is negligible, consider a few items below gleaned from billionbibles.org. I do not present these reports as accurate, just that they and other similar sources exist, for fears are fears whether they link to reality or not. Here are a few items from billionbibles and similar sources:

  • [Although] Sharia law in the United States of America (“America”) has reached penetration phase, many American states have introduced bills banning the courts from accommodating Sharia law. But many of those bills have been stalled by fierce challenges from well-financed Muslim groups that accuse the politicians who sponsor or support such bills as suffering from Islamophobia, campaign against their re-election, and sue in court. States that have or are trying to pass Sharia law-limiting legislation, albeit after watering them down to not even mention the word “Sharia,” include Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, North and South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia.
  • An increasing number of public American schools with Muslim students are holding Islamic prayers towards Mecca while public American universities continue to build Muslim-only washing facilities. In 2013, Skokie School District 68 in Illinois became the first US school district to celebrate Eid al-Adha, a Muslim high day, as a school holiday, in lieu of Veterans Day. In 2014, Rocky Mountain High School in Fort Collins, Colorado became the first high school to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in Arabic, replacing “One nation under God,” with “One nation under Allah.”
  • In 2009, Hudson County Superior Court Judge Joseph Charles Jr. ruled in S.D. v. M.J.R. that the Muslim ex-husband repeatedly had sexually assaulted his Muslim ex-wife, both before and after their divorce. Following testimony from the Muslim man’s imam, however, the judge denied the ex-wife’s request for a permanent restraining order against her ex-husband, citing the Muslim man’s “belief” and “practices.” “The court believes that [defendant] was operating under his belief that it is, as the husband, his desire to have sex when and whether [s]he wanted to, was something that was consistent with his practices.”
  • Muslim taxi drivers are challenging local authorities for the right to refuse to pick up blind passengers with seeing-eye dogs, while Muslim supermarket cashiers are challenging their employers for the right to refuse to sell products from pigs. Both dogs and pigs are considered unclean in Islam.

These are actual or feared Islamic intrusions into American law and governmental practices. But similar actions in commerce also exist. For example, taken from similar sources, are reports that to attract and manage (Middle Eastern) Muslim wealth, an increasing number of American financial institutions are becoming Sharia-compliant. This requires donating a percentage of their annual profits to Islamic organizations designated by their Sharia-compliance advisors. Let me repeat: I am not reporting these things as facts, but as fears whether factual or not.

And notice—as must be obvious—each of them involves a breakdown in America’s vaunted separation of church and state.

The ways in which that breakdown can show itself are countless. Take, for example, a few years ago the New York City Council passed a resolution that would add two additional days to public schools’ annual holidays in honor of Islamic Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha. Mayor Bloomberg objected, contending that school holidays should only be added if there were “a very large number of kids” of a particular religion, for the eminently practical reason that “if you close schools for every single holiday, there won’t be any school.”

Should public schools observe religious holidays, then, only for Christians? for Christians and Jews (Jews constitute less than 3% in America)? for Catholic special days, but only if there is a high Catholic/Protestant ratio? Does Buddhism count? How about Protestants who renounce Easter holidays (as my own religion did)—would that count toward removing Good Friday as a holiday? And, back to Muslims, a little more than 2%, but growing fast, do they wait until they reach the Hebrew level? But those are considerations are just the start. These percentages vary greatly from one jurisdiction to another and their effects on public schools have become a political issue wherein numbers are the game rather than principle.

Earliest European settlers in North America brought with them their tendency to mix religion and politics, as well as their determination to mix only their own religion with politics. But after throwing off English colonization, they set out on the difficult task of joining their confederation of new states to become the United States, a brand new country. With no pressures of war and with a unique opportunity to consider the work of political philosophers (e.g., John Locke, J. S. Mill), state building began by philosophy-minded founders(e.g., Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, James Madison). Some were Protestant Christians, some were deists, but they agreed that the new country and its various religions should be protected from each other. Church/state separation would protect individuals’ religions from the ascendency of others’ religions, while keeping the state out of the inevitable controversies.

It is in the nature, it seems, of many religions to seek hegemony, fully convinced it is in God’s interest to do so. So religious people began right away chipping away at America’s unique church/state separation, even as early as the first Congress. As I’ve said in other posts on this blog, the greatest threats to religious freedom are religions, much as the greatest threats to a free market (as opposed to crony capitalism) are businesses that seek special favors. Since various forms of Christianity have been dominant in America since its founding, it has invariably been forms of Christianity that threaten religious freedom, and it continues so today.

[In previous posts, I’ve listed actual, present-day Christian actions that tie themselves to and get special favors from government power: “Flirting with theocracy,” Feb. 7, 2016; “Democrats vs. theocrats,” Jan. 30, 2016; “Christian bullying (Part 1),” Sep. 4, 2015; “Christian bullying (Part 2),” Sep. 13, 2015; “Freedom of religion requires freedom from religion,” Oct . 8, 2015; “Our national day of prayer,” May 1, 2014; “Perverting the meaning of freedom of religion,” Apr. 16, 2014; “Public education: Using the bully(ing) pulpit,” July 9, 2013.]

In the myopic way that immediate gratification operates, religious people seem to think that if their religion can get special favors—“after all, we are (mostly) all Christian here, right? besides, isn’t religion always a good thing”—it makes the country a better place…with no regard to the consequences for freedom of conscience other than their own. With that attitude, they can discount minority religions and persons of no religion at all, for God is on their side. Our commitment to freedom of religion has failed regularly in small ways and frequently in large ways. In 1844, disagreements between Protestants and Catholics in Pennsylvania over, in part, which version of the Bible, led to riots.

Consider a few recent theocratic incursions, instances in which Americans act as if governmental authority can legitimately be used to support Christianity or, more accurately, their version of Christianity. These are but few of many more examples I’ve collected wherein Christians, particularly Christians who hold government positions consider their positions bestow the right to give advantage to and even to evangelize their personal views as police officers, parks administrators, local city or county offices, school officials, state and federal lawmakers, judges, federal offices, and state governments. Feel free to skip through this illustrative list:

  • “The purpose of the First Amendment is to protect the free exercise of the Christian religion. Founding Fathers did not intend to preserve religious liberty for non-Christians.” Bryan Fischer, Director of Issue Analysis for Government and Public Policy, American Family Association, stated on Focal Point, Sept. 2011.
  • “The official state book will be the Holy Bible, published by Johannes Prevel.” Louisiana Rep. Thomas Carmody, in introducing HB503 to legislate this declaration, 2014.
  • “Christ.” Word emblazoned, along with a Christian cross, on the official seal of the Sheriff of Humphreys County (Waverly), Tennessee. 2014.
  • “57 percent.” Public Policy Polling, in a nationwide survey of whether the Republican “base” “supports establishing Christianity as the national religion” (vs. supporters of Rick Perry 94% and Mike Huckabee 83%). Feb. 2015.
  • “We should be debating a bill requiring every American to attend a church of their choice on Sunday to see if we can get back to having a moral rebirth. . . People prayed, people went to church. I remember on Sundays the stores were closed.” Arizona State Senator Sylvia Allen. March 2015.
  • “We’re all about wanting to see the cause of Christ go further…in more public arenas in the American culture…We want to see Christ in our schools.” Pastor Justin Coffman, explaining to Fox News host Ainsley Earhardt why Christian plaques mounted by the Midlothian Independent School District are justified. 2014.
  • “On God’s authority.” Kim Davis, County Clerk of Rowan County, Morehead, Kentucky, when asked on whose authority she was not issuing marriage licenses [for gays]. Sept. 1, 2015.
  • “When the Christian majority takes over this country, there will be no satanic churches, no more free distribution of pornography, no more talk of rights for homosexuals. After the Christian majority takes control, pluralism will be seen as immoral and evil and the state will not permit anybody the right to practice evil.” Gary Potter, president of Catholics for Christian Political Action.
  • “The teachers told students about the Biblical origins of [foot-washing] in preparation for the event.” Sonna Dumas, director of the public school associated with Shepherd Community Center, explaining preparation for a Christian foot-washing ceremony that included Lt. Governor Sue Ellspermann, her staff, and staff of Governor Mike Pence, with Gov. Pence making an appearance afterward. Indianapolis, Ind. 2016.
  • “At least one paragraph…describing how and when you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior and what your present relationship with Him means to you.” Instruction for “Playing with Purpose Award” for public school students. Antelope Valley Union High School District. Lancaster, Cal., 2016.
  • “I’m a religious man, too.” William Mallory, municipal judge, Hamilton County, when sentencing Jake Strotman, a Catholic, to attend twelve consecutive Sunday services at Morning Star Baptist Church, attested by the minister’s signature. Cincinnati, Oh. 2016.
  • “Follow Christ.” Sign posted in Genoa High School by Genoa Area Local Schools, Genoa, Oh. 2016.
  • “Gov. Terry Branstad signs 99 County Bible Reading Month proclamation.” April 26, 2016 Des Moines, IA
  • “[To prevent federal courts including the Supreme Court from hearing cases involving] “acknowledgment of God as the sovereign source of law, liberty, or government.” Gov. and presidential candidate Mike Pence (when a U. S. Congressman), in a bill introduced by Representative Tom Delay, also to apply retroactively so as to nullify decades of church/state law. Washington, DC. 2004 [The bill prohibits the federal government from taking discriminatory action against a person on the basis that such person believes or acts in accordance with a religious belief or moral conviction that: (1) marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, or (2) sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage].
  • “Mobilize the Christian community to intercede for America and its leadership.” High school event that included scriptural readings, hymn, and prayer as local participation in the National Day of Prayer. Gunter High School, Gunter Independent School District, Gunter, Tex. 2016.
  • “Joyful, Prayerful, and Thankful—Thessalonians 5:16-17.” Signature line used on official emails by employees of the Eau Claire District Attorney’s office. Eau Claire, Wis. 2016.
  • “[Ineligible because it] may carry connotations offensive to good taste and decency.” New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission’s rationale for refusing to issue a vanity license plate saying “8THEIST” to Shannon Morgan (it then approved a plate saying “BAPTIST”). Newark, NJ. 2016.
  • “Romans 13:4” Decal on city police cars. Harper, Kansas. 2016.
  • “The burning hell” and “All God’s Children.” Two of several religious booklets, along with proselytizing pamphlets from “The Little Book Ministry” displayed in the U. S. post office in Spanish Fort, Ala. 2016.
  • “Encourages readers to lead joyful Christian lives as they await the soon return of Jesus.” Description of Christian magazine “The Sign of the Times” displayed in the U.S. post office in Harrison, Tenn. 2016.
  • “School chaplain.” Turlock Unified School District’s title given to a group of Christian ministers in program permitted to work with students on school property during the school day. Turlock, Cal. 2016.
  • “God’s revealed will for mankind.” Assertion by Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad proposing to hold a state-wide county courthouse Bible-reading marathon. Des Moines, Io. 2016.
  • “He Is Risen.” Posting on Bradley County Sheriff’s Department Facebook page. Cleveland, Tenn., 2016.
  • “Romans 13:4” Decal on city police cars. Harper, Kansas. 2016.
  • “Unto us a savior is born, Merry Christmas.” One of numerous religious postings on the outdoor marquee of the Grays Harbor Fire District #1, Oakville, Wash. 2015/2016.
  • “The Bayview Cross is not a government endorsement of religion. It’s simply there.” Editorial by Pensacola News Journal, taking a stand against suit to declare a 25-foot Christian cross on public land unconstitutional. Pensacola, Fla., 2016.
  • “The Lord came to me, and He just said, ‘Get in the truck and leave.’ When I did leave, I was so proud.” Ken Shupe, conservative Christian owner of Shupe Max Towing in South Carolina, who refused service to a woman who had a Bernie Sanders bumper sticker. 2016.
  • “As Believers, You Are Saved Forever by Grace through Faith.” “Baptized into Christ Jesus.” “Soldiers of Christ.” Posters at a public middle school where several classrooms displayed crosses in the McKinney Independent School District in which high school faculty solicited students to read prayer, recite scripture, and sing hymns at a baccalaureate service held in the Prestonwood Baptist Church sanctuary. McKinney, Tex. 2016.
  • “Attack on our cross.” Mayor Glenn Johnson, characterizing legal action against The City of Port Neches, Texas, for its ten-foot Christian cross on city property. 2066.
  • “Jesus died for you.” Principal of Vogel Intermediate School in content of regular emails to school employees. Conroe, Tex., 2015.
  • “Jesus is the way, the truth and the life.” Words on a portrait of Jesus, along with multiple crosses, on a door at Pleasure Ridge Park High School. Louisville, Ky. 2016.
  • “The practice of religion or guided by faith which gives you purpose.” Teacher at Fern Creek High School, teaching what constitutes one aspect of “spiritual health.” Louisville, Ky. 2016.
  • “If I were president, I would work very hard on eliminating the ban on Christianity in our public schools.” Former presidential candidate Ben Carson, speaking with Pat Robertson at Regent University. Feb. 28, 2016.
  • “[ I urge] everyone who does not know Jesus Christ to go and find Him.” Board president James Na, Chino Valley Unified School District, in announcement prior to another board member’s reading of Psalms 143. 2016.
  • “[I] wanted God’s protection over [my] deputies.” Sheriff Ronny Dodson, Brewster County, explaining why he had prominent crosses placed on several police vehicles. Alpine, Tex. 2016.
  • “The purpose of the First Amendment is to protect the free exercise of the Christian religion. Founding Fathers did not intend to preserve religious liberty for non-Christians.” Bryan Fischer, Director of Issue Analysis for Government and Public Policy, American Family Association, stated on Focal Point, Sept. 2011.
  • “If the people who come before us are upset by [the Bible displayed at city council meetings], let them go to whatever country, ask for whatever type of Bible they want. This is a Christian nation.” Cecil Bradbury, former mayor, Pinellas Park, Florida. 2014.

Do religious people in majority religions really think a growing Muslim population will neglect to see that in enough numbers they can use the same freedom-destroying tactic? Or, prior to having enough in numbers, they can shame Americans into providing Islam some of the advantages now given to Christianity. And Islam doesn’t even have proscriptions against doing so that would command “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and unto God that which is God’s.”

With the enticing door left open that allows churches to piggy-back on state power, Christian actions that thus threaten religious freedom will be accessible to Muslims as well. (Try reading the list above, substitution a Muslim message for the Christian ones.) Or will churches, blind to the damage they already do, insert themselves even further into the political process seeking to curtail the degree to which Muslims can use the same tactics? Are we so shortsighted as to think civic religious warfare is easier than just going back to the founders’ prescription before we are too theocratic to do so? Can we not simply give all religions no access to state power except to protect their freedom from those who would curtail it, especially from each other?

Christianity in most of the world has been denied a fully theocratic haven for decades. Islam knows, with few exceptions, nothing else. It is well-practiced at theocracy, and taught that Islamic theocracy is exactly what Allah wants. Muslims can be expected to join with Christians in expanding theocratic government. For a time, it may even seem they have the same theology in mind. But if Christians fight to retain and expand governmental support for Christianity more than for religious liberty for everyone, how can we expect the otherwise available bulwark of Constitutional church/state separation, further weakened, to thwart Muslims’ understandable aspiration to get in on the action?

I ended the most recent post (Islam – 2) with these words: I want to share one further thought concerning the central question that spawned this Islam series: (1) what can current Americans do to lessen at least one source of [our] fears, (2) with minimal or no sacrifice of ideals foundational to America?

That was a limited, albeit sincere intent that with this final post on Islam I’ve discharged to the best of my ability. Will a country solidly committed to the Constitutional protection of government from religion and protection of religion be able to prevent unavoidable shifts in our religious mixture from threatening that precious gift from our founders? I really don’t know, for religion can have a powerful and often deleterious effect over other considerations. But commitment to the principle along with strong and Constitutionally pure governmental institutions is surely our best bet to reduce widespread American fears of Sharia or similar religion-based perils, while simultaneously safeguarding one of our most precious freedoms.

 

About John Bruce Carver

I am a U. S. citizen living in Atlanta, Georgia, having grown up in Chattanooga, Tennessee, graduating from Chattanooga High School. I served in the Electronic Security Command of the U. S. Air Force before receiving a B.S. degree in business/economics and an M.Ed. in educational psychology, both at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. I then completed a Ph.D. in clinical (and research) psychology at Emory University. I have two daughters and three granddaughters. An ardent international traveller, I have been in over 70 countries for business and pleasure. My reading, other than novels, tends to be in history, philosophy, government, and light science. I identify philosophically as a secular humanist, in complete awe of the universe including my fellows and myself. I am married to my best friend, Miriam, formerly of the United Kingdom and Canada.
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One Response to Islam – 3

  1. Ron Nickle says:

    A lot of thinking and research shown here JC. It still comes around to the separation of church (synagogue, mosque) and state, does it not?

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