Religious bigotry has no place in America

Beginning last week, as the headlines included coverage of Mitt Romney’s speech regarding his Mormonism, I received the following e-mail from a man named Frank.

He said, “I will no longer be listening to your station between the hours of 8 and 11 AM. I was not aware that Glenn Beck was a Mormon.”

Here is how I answered Frank.

I waited 24 hours to answer your e-mail so that I would not overreact to it.

You are free to listen or not listen as it suits you. KTBB is not an instrument of Soviet Russia and you cannot and will not be force-fed in any way. That is just one of the many freedoms that we all enjoy that too many of us too often take for granted.

I am assuming from your e-mail that, prior to learning of Glenn Beck’s religious affiliation, you listened to his program. Judging from the fact that I do not have any e-mails or other communication from you objecting to things that have been said on Glenn Beck’s program, I am going to also assume that you were not offended by anything he said (at least not sufficiently to complain about it).

If all of that is true, it seems that you are rejecting Glenn Beck not for what he says or the way he can be observed to behave, but simply because of his religious belief.

How sad.

A lot of people have died so that you can believe what you believe and Glenn Beck can believe what he believes and I can believe what I believe (I’m a lifelong Methodist) and yet the three of us can live in the same country, share the same freedoms, watch the same fireworks on the Fourth of July and enjoy the same protections from the coercive forces of government that once plagued nearly every living human on earth.

Allowing (for just this brief moment for I am not a theologian) the argument that Mormon isn’t a Christian faith, it is important to recognize that we are a nation that was founded by Christians and in which Christians still comprise the majority — but we are not a Christian nation. Article VI of the Constitution specifically prohibits any religious test in order to hold any elected office.

Charles Krauthamer wrote an excellent piece in National Review that does a vastly superior job of expressing my thoughts on the relevancy of any single religious belief in the public square in this country. He said,

“The God of the Founders, the God on the coinage, the God for whom Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving Day is the ineffable, ecumenical, nonsectarian Providence of the American civil religion whose relation to this blessed land is without appeal to any particular testament or ritual. Every mention of God in every inaugural address in American history refers to the deity in this kind of all-embracing, universal, nondenominational way. I suspect that neither Jefferson’s Providence nor Washington’s Great Author nor Lincoln’s Almighty would look kindly on the exploitation of religious differences for political gain. It is un-American.”

I, personally, do not share the Mormonism of Glenn Beck and Mitt Romney, the Judaism of Joe Lieberman nor the Roman Catholicism of Rudy Giuliani. I am proud to share with all of them, however, the freedom to believe as I believe as they believe what they believe — while keeping the things we all believe — uppermost in my discourse.

And that ended my e-mail response. But I’ve thought about it some more. Frank, the fact that we’re even having this discussion should be uplifting to you. It is to me.

I’ve traveled through Europe and seen I don’t know how many empty churches. I’ve seen parish priests in Italy setting up souvenir stands in their ancient churches-now-museums in order to raise the money to continue to minister to the rapidly dwindling flock. Europe is now, for all intents and purposes, secular. Churches that were built to accommodate hundreds or even thousands now will see a couple of dozen worshipers at a Sunday mass. The tourists come and take pictures, even as the mass is celebrated. But the parishioners? They are very few.

Europe is not the better for its secularity. We wouldn’t be either.

Differing over how to worship God or how He is made manifest in the world is to acknowledge His existence. That’s a good thing. The recognition of God, while avoiding the inevitable strife of trying to nail down a single dogma concerning Him, is what set this nation apart from Europe when it was young. That ecumenicalism continues to set the United States in stark contrast to zealots that would impose a single view of God on everyone on earth under pain of death.

You can have it one of three ways, Frank. You can live in a society that broadly acknowledges God while embracing religious difference under an umbrella of ecumenical brotherhood. You can live in a society that tolerates one, and only one, acceptable means of worshiping God. Or you can live in a society that has no place for God at all.

You pick, Frank.

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Paul Gleiser

Paul L. Gleiser is president of ATW Media, LLC, licensee of radio stations KTBB 97.5 FM/AM600, 92.1 The TEAM FM in Tyler-Longview, Texas.

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5 Responses

  1. Brian Eggerman says:

    Admitting that the U.S. is not a christian nation is a refreshing 180 from the usual rhetoric we get from the right. It’s a different kettle of fish when one of your own is on the defensive, eh?
    Actually I almost entirely agree with Mr. Romney’s assertion that one’s religious affiliation should have no bearing on their qualifications for public office (although his “No freedom without god” declaration is absurd pandering to the very people he is trying to win over), however I can’t help but notice the heming and hawing you people do when asked to extend this same consideration to an atheist or agnostic. Just as belief in one particular interpretation of god should not bar one from elected office, neither should the belief in no god.
    If the last seven years have proved anything, it is that there is nothing as immoral as moral certainty. If, as he and his supporters suggest, Bush’s policies are dictated to him by god, then what this country desperately needs is a president who will tell god “No.”

  2. tony says:

    If I understand your logic on this, a person who worships satin should be just as eligible to hold office, that is their god in a manner of speaking. To me, to have no religion in our law would mean no morals hence no law.

    To vote for someone of a denomination other than your own faith would be hypocritical, to me the person should believe in what I believe in order to make decisions based on the same belief system.

  3. Ken Allison says:

    As with many disagreements over opinion, there is an element of truth in everything that has been said so far under this topic. What has been omitted, however, is any reference to the issue of the individual States. History reveals that while there is no religous test for federal office, it has been required at the State level. Several States, in fact, have had “official” denominations of the Christian religion. These freedoms have been squashed by federal extortion through control over redistribution of monies to the States.
    We may not be officially a Christian nation but we originally were a nation of Christians who recognized individual rights and freedoms were bestowed by God (the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to be precise). The Love and Compassion of this God compels us to welcome non-Christians into our nation and extend to them the benefits we enjoy because we confess that we have received much more than we have earned through God’s forgiveness.
    At the same time, it was inconceivable to the Founders that anyone would be raised to a level of leadership who did not subscribe to the Judeo-Christian tradition of morality and responsibility. It is this tradition- primarily the Ten Commandments- that is the basis of our legal system. I defy any atheist or agnostic to explain to me any standard of right and wrong other than what is a current majority vote (ref “acceptable” public behavior in San Francisco). And therein lies the crux of the matter.
    People are uncomfortable with leadership which opposes the teachings of the God of Christianity. Some, perhaps mistakenly, include Mormons in this group. Less controversial would be a Muslim who could be in favor of establishing sharia law here. Don’t scoff too loudly, it’s already happening in a few places in Yankee land.
    The point is simply that Americans are not all Christians but to the extent we turn away from leaders who base their decisions on Christian principles, our nation will decline.

  4. Tony C. says:

    I sometimes post a comment in this You-Tell-Me section, and have signed as Tony. I notice there is a post shown above where the poster has signed his name as Tony. The above post was not written by me, and does not represent my opinion. So hereafter, I shall sign my own comments as Tony C. Hopefully there will be no further confusion.

  5. A H says:

    I know that this post is two years old, but in case someone comes across it, as I did, I would like to at least clarify two things to the people like, “Frank,” out there.

    First, the church is not called The Mormon Church. It is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Second, the first principle that one must espouse to be a member of this church, is faith and belief in, “God, the Eternal Father, and in His son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.”

    I have always been perplexed as to how my own belief and faith in Jesus Christ, as a member of said church, makes me less of a Christian than, say, a Baptist’s belief in Jesus Christ. I accept him as Savior, I read the Bible, I celebrate Christmas and Easter…

    If you don’t like my religion, no problem; you are not required to. But don’t try to say that I am not a Christian because I don’t practice your particular brand of Christianity. Be honest about what you don’t like, because I can tell you from sad experience that your objection, although valid to you, probably has a lot more to do with years of ignorant fear-mongering and less to with a difference of opinion on Jesus Christ and his teachings.

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