Alabama Rally for Secular Government

I was asked to speak at the Alabama Rally for Secular Government that was held on May 3rd at the state capitol in Montgomery, AL.  The following is what I said.

 

In 1801 the Danbury Baptists wrote to President Thomas Jefferson a letter in which they stated:
“ Our sentiments are uniformly on the side of religious liberty: that Religion is at all times and places a matter between God and individuals, that no man ought to suffer in name, person, or effects on account of his religious opinions, [and] that the legitimate power of civil government extends no further than to punish the man who works ill to his neighbor. But sir, our constitution of government is not specific. Our ancient charter, together with the laws made coincident therewith, were adapted as the basis of our government at the time of our revolution. And such has been our laws and usages, and such still are, [so] that Religion is considered as the first object of Legislation, and therefore what religious privileges we enjoy (as a minor part of the State) we enjoy as favors granted, and not as inalienable rights. And these favors we receive at the expense of such degrading acknowledgments, as are inconsistent with the rights of freemen. It is not to be wondered at therefore, if those who seek after power and gain, under the pretense of government and Religion, should reproach their fellow men, [or] should reproach their Chief Magistrate, as an enemy of religion, law, and good order, because he will not, dares not, assume the prerogative of Jehovah and make laws to govern the Kingdom of Christ.”

This letter could have been written today about the Alabama State government which has consistently assumed “the prerogative of Jehovah and make[s] laws to govern the Kingdom of Christ.” This state has passed theological resolutions as to when personhood begins and then passed laws against women who violate their doctrinal belief. This state has constitutionally defined marriage which prevents minority religions to have their marriages recognized by the state. This state continues to allow religious discrimination against gender and sexual identities that do not conform to their doctrinal belief of what constitutes as acceptable expressions of humanity. This state has passed legislation that favors the religious beliefs of a judge enabling that judge to parade his doctrinal beliefs on a statue to shame the rest of Alabamians who do not share his faith. This state house passed a bill that would mandate that religious prayer be taught in the classroom.

Alabama you are in violation of this most sacred right of America—the rights to individual religious freedom –when you codify one religion as being supreme over the rest as you have done with your passage of bills that reflect a specific form of Christianity. You have torn down the wall of separation between church and state and have violated what it fundamentally means to be American.

The separation of church and state is to ensure that all people regardless of their religious persuasion are able to live their lives free from coercion to adhere to one specific belief system. I do not want the children of my church to be taught doctrines that violate my faith’s values that all people are entitled to a free and responsible search for truth and meaning; doctrines that violate my faith’s value of a right of conscience; doctrines that violate my faith’s values of justice, equity, and compassion in human relations. Alabama with the passage of these laws, bills, and resolutions has determined that my faith, Unitarian Universalism, and its values are not respected here.

I call upon all of you listening today to write your legislators and tell them that you will not idly stand by and watch American values of religious freedom be destroyed by the passage of bills that reflect a state religion. I call upon all of you to call and insist that a wall of separation between church and state be preserved so that all people will be free to follow their conscience in matters of faith and not fear legal retribution should they decide to make decisions that violate another’s religious practice.

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