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In 1987, a class action was brought against the Hawkins County Board of Education of Tennessee in the United States of America. This law suit gave a legal voice to the old debate in Political Philosophy, the debate of statehood and religion. In this particular legal action, a group of students and parents under Bob Mozert claimed that the teaching of alternative religion infringed their rights under the First Amendment of the United State Constitution which prohibits the enactment of any law respecting an establishment of religion, impeding the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing of the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceable assemble, or the prohibiting the petitioning for governmental redress of grievances. Although the court of first instance was of the opinion that the rights of the children and parents were breached, on appeal the decision was reversed. The circuit court was of the view that, the required reading was only to make known the views of others which is necessary for effective citizenry. This article has been inspired in part by the immediate past Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana, Rev. Professor Emmanuel Martey and also some views from readers of my last post, http://theagleswingfoundation.blogspot.com/2016/08/sacrilege-president-rapes-our-spirit_23.html.
Thomas Jefferson established the concept of ‘building a wall of separation between Church and State’ in his Danbury Baptist letter, https://www.loc.gov/loc/lcib/9806/danpost.html, and the concept has evolved to used literally in jurisprudence to delimit the relationship between statehood and religion. Let me be quick to quote some disagreement with such position by notable jurist such as Justice Potter Stewart and Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist as pointed by James Hutson in his Library of Congress article- “In 1962, Justice Potter Stewart complained that jurisprudence was not “aided by the uncritical invocation of metaphors like the ‘wall of separation,’ a phrase nowhere to be found in the Constitution.” Addressing the issue in 1985, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist lamented that “unfortunately the Establishment Clause has been expressly freighted with Jefferson’s misleading metaphor for nearly 40 years.”
I do not seek to argue for or against why religion and as such religious leaders must stay away from politics or nation-building, but I intend to share my own conflicts and lessons as an ardent believer in Jesus Christ and yet one who considers as his life’s purpose to be involved in matters of state.
- The actual conflict is the battle for minds and hearts. It is without doubt that both politicians and religious leaders aim to have influence sometimes to the point of domination. To effectively do that, the leader’s ability to capture the minds and heart of his followers are critical. It is in the light to ‘lead’ that any strong voice of opposition is seen as a threat. It seems to me that, men of religion and politics thrive as authoritarians if people have less courage to disagree. The presumption of sanctity of both officers as either ‘head of state’ or ‘man of god’ is what gives the false confidence of being infallible or beyond the tentacles of an individual’s exercise of reasonable conscience. My biggest challenge growing up is having a mind of my own, being bold to disagree with whoever and the ability to preserve the rigour of my own independent thinking. I hope and can only pray that as we draw closer to election, neither politicians or religious leaders shall usurp the will of people by manipulation, but that as individuals we will find our own minds to rationalize among the options and to effectively decide for the state and ourselves.
- The price of silence is more expensive than we can pay. It is truism that, evil thrives because good people are silent. It is unbelievable the culture of silence and the price ‘leaders’ will pay to buy such silence. Fortunately for most of us, no one will seek to buy our silence, we sell it ourselves daily. We pay the price buy selling our reasoned opinions to fear of rejection, fear of being wrong and even sometimes a false sense of loyalty to ‘party’ or ‘church’ members. I hear in the news an alleged offer for silence and a claim of it haven been sold already. Whatever it maybe, I hope we will all reflect on the value placed on it. I dare say, we all have such value in our opinions. And if we all will be vocal enough and pursue what we believe to be right in reasonable dialogue the cost will be too expensive for anyone to offer to buy. I hope this inspires somebody to find their tongue, to defend what they know to be good.
- Rationality and confidence does not rob tolerance. It is unfortunate how disagreeing with someone creates a hostile environment, even to the point of insult and fighting. I find it unbelievable that people will automatically attack you because you disagree with them. Maybe it is psychology at work, just maybe in our primary self we are defending our ego and ‘value’. May I suggest that, the contest of ideas needn’t be aggressive. I hope we can view such contest as scouts aiming to find truth rather than armed guard protecting our walls. John Locke’s, A Letter Concerning Toleration, is relevant. He asserts that it is futile to attempt to coerce belief. We can all at best reason our sound judgment but if anyone disagrees so be it, only hope that in democracy majority agrees with you than disagreeing. And for matter of religion let it be between you and your god. I am convinced without a doubt that by cohesion is an effective state. I pray that together we may agree to disagree and by such collectively harness our diversity to nation building.
Let me end here by being as emphatic as I can, I do not belong to any political party. I am only a young man who is curious enough to question everything till I find answers and I advocate for such as I find, hoping that in sharing my reasoning in the honesty of my conscience I may liberate myself and others who are tied to the cloak of others.