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Your Opinion: Tolerance and free will

Your Opinion: Tolerance and free will

February 13th, 2011 by Tony Smith, Jefferson City in News

Dear Editor:

No one should doubt Mr. Horstmann's sincerity in his letters. But, am I alone in seeing his vision as that of a Christian Taliban. Is he not calling for a version of Christian Sharia law? Should our schools be Christian madrassas?

I cannot presume to know where Mr. Horstmann gets his ideas. Those ideas are, I believe, minority beliefs of Christian fundamentalism. A real spiritual leader, R.J. Rushdoony, founded a movement called Dominionism, or Christian Reconstructionism. Implementing a Christian theocracy, a government subject to Biblical law, especially the Old Testament, was one of his goals.

Rushdoony was very instrumental in helping found the home schooling movement. Millions of children participate in that movement including some of my family members. My daughters have attended parochial schools. These schools are promoted by the faithful because they want their children to receive religious guidance along with a standard education. Home schooled or parochial, all school children must pass state educational standardized tests to qualify for their degrees.

Demonizing public schools and our government and promoting religious tests is a slippery slope.

American public schools are hardly the worst in the industrialized world. PISA (Program for International Assessment) is the international standard here. America ranks in the middle with math and reading scores. Google PISA.

In our American heritage many groups such as Puritans and Quakers came to our shores to escape state religions and persecutions. Even so, in colonial New England religious communities did not always exercise great tolerance. A great stain on religion and colonial governments occurred with the events surrounding the Salem Witch trials.

Those events began with accusations from two adolescent girls, nine and eleven. In the end many were accused in multiple communities and more than 150 were imprisoned to stand trial as witches. Fourteen women and five men were hanged. Another man was crushed to death with stones trying to extract a confession. Today these events are remembered as testimony to mass hysteria, religious extremism, and the lapse of due process and the intrusion of local government on individual liberties.

The first amendment to our Constitution prohibits government establishment respecting religion. In 1802 Jefferson wrote about a "wall of separation between church and state ..."

You cannot have democracy where religion is imposed upon its people removing the right to exercise religion or not. Otherwise, free will does not exist.