One of my favorite aspects of America comes from the very first sentence of the very first amendment of the US Constitution: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." The idea of separation of church and state (which Jesus himself advocated when he said to give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God) is a beautiful thing, allowing us to be a republic/democracy (not a theocracy) that protects your rights to be a Jew, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Wiccan, Atheist, or someone who's completely indifferent to the entire god thing.
And yet, though this simple and beautiful concept would work in practice if we'd let it, often we don't. Growing up (in Mississippi, if you're curious, not that that means anything), we had prayer in public schools all the time. I don't really know what they were thinking. Most probably, they weren't thinking anything. I student-taught once at a place where they did prayer over the intercom system. The principal said to me something like, "We could get in trouble for doing this, but I think it's worth the risk." My memory is fuzzy, but I think she even said, "Everyone here is a Christian anyway." Not only would that be beside the point, but it's quite an assumption. When my public school prayed when I attended, I considered myself a Christian, too, but I hated that they prayed in a public school. I knew it was wrong. Even if most of us could be filed under the broad label of "Christian," I knew that they weren't praying to my god. The god I believed in wouldn't have liked what they were doing. Especially since I knew for a fact that some of my friends were non-Christians and Atheists and may have cared for forced prayer even less than I did. During these prayers, with "every head bowed, every eye closed" (as they commanded you), I looked around the room in an angry mini-rebellion. I sometimes caught eyes with others who were probably doing the same.
Then of course I got to hear nonsense my whole life like "Everything gone downhill since they took prayer out of schools," which happened -- you know -- in 1964, so that shows how outdated a statement like that was (not to mention that the Bill of Rights was ratified in 1791). Sometimes they'd go this far: "There's been another school shooting. Well, what do you expect when you take God out of the schools?" Which means, one must assume, that these statements were made by those who choose to worship a god who will murder innocent teenagers in the guise of a disturbed child with a shotgun (who now gets to spend the rest of his life in jail), just because he's upset that no one is talking to him during federally-funded education hours.
As I say, I don't know what people are thinking when they willfully combine church and state and impose their religion on others, but the sentiment sounds, to me, something like this: "Our ancestors came to America to flee religious persecution. The founding fathers included freedom of religion in the first amendment. That means that today every American is free to worship Jesus, and if any fuckers who believe in anything else want to do otherwise, I will eat the American flag and shit it down their pagan necks."
Sound demonic? It is.
This mentality is alive and well right now with the "controversy" over the Muslim community center (which is being built in order to improve Islam-West relations) being built several blocks from so-called "ground zero," where the World Trade Center used to be. I don't like to write about current events on the God Blog, and in a way I'm not, since this is just a manifestation of something that's been going on and will continue to go on: a continual struggle to uphold our constitutional right to freedom of religion.