I need to correct some errors in the opinion letter published on Oct. 19 (“America must return to Judeo-Christian moral absolutes”). The writer states that “America has lost sight of its values,” and then goes on to state that the cause of this problem began with a late 1940s Supreme Court decision upholding the Constitution’s mandate for the separation of church and state.

The separation of church and state is far older than the 1940s, and in fact, America was never governed by Judeo-Christian moral absolutes. Remember that many of the original settlers of North America were fleeing religious dictatorships in their home countries, and so the last thing they wanted was another government based on religion.

To be legally accurate, the separation of church and state was enshrined in our Constitution from the beginning, as an essential means of guaranteeing individual liberty for all. Here’s a quote from Thomas Jefferson from a letter to letter to Danbury Baptist Association, Connecticut, dated Jan. 1, 1802:

“Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between church and State.”

Further, Dale Landrith, Sr., claims that allowing religious symbols to be erected on taxpayer funded property does not prevent anyone from practicing a different faith.

First, that has been proved incorrect time and again, as the dominant religion in an area often intimidates others by ostentatious displays of its symbols. Second, as an atheist, I should not have to contribute my tax dollars to pay for religious displays. If we allow a Christian cross or the Ten Commandments to be displayed on public property at taxpayers’ expense, we must also require the taxpayers to pay for displays by the Satanic Temple, the local mosque, the Buddhist organization in town, etc.

And why stop at religious displays? I would like to see a sex education display on the property I pay for with my taxes. Why would it be OK to post a cross but not my sex education display? At taxpayer expense, of course. (Note: I also believe that churches should not be tax exempt. The exemption is left over from a time when religious institutions were the main providers of charity, and that is no longer the case, so why should I pay extra taxes to support local churches?)

Finally, while it may be true that America has lost sight of its values, there is no evidence that lack of religion or religious values is the cause. It is not necessary for a person to be religious in order to have strong values and morality. This is demonstrated very simply – just look at all of the horrific, violent and immoral actions perpetrated by religious people throughout history, including those who claim to follow “Judeo-Christian moral absolutes.”

Most cruel is when these terrible things have been done in the very name of religion itself (for example, the Crusades, burning “witches” in Salem, the Taliban, etc.).

I do not claim that non-religious people are more moral than the religious, although some social science research in that area has hinted that this may be true. I only point out that centuries of religious practice, by Christians, as well as those of other faiths, has failed to produce anything close to just, nonviolent, and moral human societies or cultures.

Soxna Dice
Brunswick