Before we moved to Georgia last year for my wife’s job, I spent the previous 10 years working in media relations for a free-market public policy think tank in Michigan. One thing I learned early on from our policy wonks was that economics is not so much the study of the economy as it is the study of human behavior. Journalism is a lot like that.
Nowhere has that been more evident than in the response to our coverage of a group’s request to remove a Christian flag from the Bryan County Courthouse on the grounds that it is unconstitutional.
Our Facebook postings on the matter have drawn tens of thousands of views, thousands of comments and hundreds of shares and reactions. It is nothing if not a visceral and emotional issue.
Many of the comments by self-professed Christians have been uncharitable toward those calling for the flag to be removed, while many comments by the latter went beyond the constitutional issue and have been downright derogatory toward religion. Some comments had to be deleted and some commenters were blocked.
I was asked by a few people what I felt about the issue. I’m in favor of removing the flag and anything connected to religion from any and all levels of government, but not for the reasons you might think.
Those clamoring for the removal of the flag have mistakenly been calling it a separation of church and state issue, but it is actually an establishment clause issue. Those who want the flag to remain mistakenly conflate our nation with our government.
While the legality of the matter rests in the establishment clause of the First Amendment — and thus was the basis for the county’s attorney recommending the flag be removed — the morality behind my objections does stem from the concept of separation of church and state.
That concept originated in a letter Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1802 to Baptist ministers in Danbury, Conn., suggesting that a “wall” of separation is necessary to protect church from state, not the other way around as some believe. This concept meshes well with the Bill of Rights, which in its entirety is 100 percent focused on protecting us from government.
And that is the reason Christians and everyone of faith should support the removal of such flags, along with all traces and/or mentions of religion in any and all government action.
Government at all levels has already seized far more power than the Founders ever imagined. And let’s be honest, they’re not exactly doing a stellar job with the easy stuff, which is all the more reason to object to government having even the slightest involvement in something as important as religion.
We have a crumbling infrastructure and injured vets who lack adequate medical care while starry-eyed lawmakers give hard-earned tax dollars away to millionaires and billionaires to make movies and build sports stadiums. Really?
That’s the kind of mindset you want to give even the slightest chance at broaching the topic of religion? Due to schisms, theological disagreements and stubbornness, there are actually more than 4,000 distinct Christian denominations alone. Whose version do you want government to embrace?
Let’s put it this way: If you support government encroaching on religion with the simple presence of a nondenominational flag, what defense can you possibly have when government starts telling your minister or priest or rabbi who they must marry? (Please note, that’s not a commentary about gay marriage, it’s an example of the slippery slope of wanting the state to have a role in religion.)
As George Washington said: “Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force! Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master; never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action.”
People of faith should always be vigilant in safeguarding the wall that protects us from government. It could be the first step in walking back a lot of other boundaries government has crossed.