Tuesday, May 23, 2017

#143 / We Don't Worship Government Either

President Donald J. Trump spoke recently at this year's commencement exercises at Liberty University. Among other things, he said, "In America, we don't worship government; we worship God." Click that link if you'd like to see a video that shows him making those remarks. At Liberty University, those remarks were quite well received.

I have to give the president credit for being half right. In America, it is true that we don't "worship government." Worshipful deference to governmental officials (including the president) is the very opposite of what Americans have historically believed is the right relationship between the people and those whom they select to work on their behalf within the government.

However, the president is definitely half wrong, too, in his statement to the graduates. In America, it is emphatically NOT the case that "we worship God." You might worship God. I might worship God, but "we" (that collective group of us) do not worship God. 

The First Amendment to the Constitution makes that point emphatically. It is the very first statement found in the Bill of Rights. Here is the text, for those who might need reminding:

Amendment I 
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.

If you want to worship God, great! If I want to worship God, great. If anyone in the United States wants to worship God, and in any way they seek to do so, great! But is there any obligation to worship God? Can the government make that a test of what it means to be an American? No!

Let me suggest our president do some remedial reading. He could start with the Constitution. Our current president often acts like he thinks he should be given some kind of special deference (you could call it "worship") just because he is the president. And now he is suggesting that "we," all of us, are part of some sort of national worship circle, just because we live in the United States. 

Wrong on the first count. The president gets no special deference.

Wrong on the second count, too: We don't worship God. And we don't worship government, either!

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