The above word was famous in my childhood as being the longest word in the dictionary. I have no clue if it still has that honor, but I thought it would be a good title for what I really want to talk about right now, which is one of the clauses of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
I would think that, given the positioning of this as the very first item in the Bill of Rights, the Founding Fathers were pretty interested in preserving the rights enumerated above. It is pretty amazing how few citizens of the USA actually know the exact language of this article, or even what the phrase means in a literal sense. I do hope that when our newest justice is confirmed, that he will continue to strictly interpret this clause.
Hopefully, we won't get to the point in the USA where governments think that they have the right and the responsibility to regulate religion. (wow, what a tongue-twister of a statement - sorry about the alliteration). I was recently sent information about some commentary on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation that supposedly suggested that government regulation of religion would be a good thing. While I recognize that the print version of the story has been written and promulgated by a special interest group, it still seems to be pretty damning to me that the CBC found it of value to publicize this kind of comment:
"I envisage a congress meeting to hammer out a code that would form the basis of legislation to regulate the practice of religion. Like the professional engineers' P.Eng designation, there would then be RRPs (or registered religious practitioners). To carry the analogy to its conclusion, no one could be a religious practitioner without this qualification."
"I won't try to propose what might be in the new code except for a few obvious things: A key item would have to be a ban on claims of exclusivity. It should be unethical for any RRP to claim that theirs was the one true religion and believers in anything else or nothing were doomed to fire and brimstone. One might also expect prohibition of ritual circumcisions, bans on preaching hate or violence, the regulation of faith healers, protocols for missionary work, etc."
Sounds like he is after not only Catholics, but also Jews and Evangelical Christians here, and maybe even the Christian Scientists, Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, and Scientologists! Sounds real close to a call for the establishment of a state religion. It also reminds me of the situation in the "People's Republic" of China, where the Catholic church is underground and only the Patriotic Catholic Church is recognized.
I haven't listened yet to the audio of the full commentary so I have no idea of the context in which this was stated. I don't know if there was any rebuttal provided, either. I am not at this time condemning the CBC for airing this, but I do find the fact that at least one person has this idea to be quite alarming.
Question for my Canadian readers - do any of the Provinces (or does the country as a whole) have an Established religion? If so, does this have any effect upon public discourse?