The founding fathers had very definite views about keeping a proper distance between government and religion. Thomas Jefferson worried that if our leaders could punish sin, the law could become a straightjacket to individual liberties. Conversely, John Adams worried about the corrupting influence government might have on religious practice.
Both were right. Religious practice is one of the most personal and profound decisions an individual can make. If our right to liberty means anything, it means a freedom to practice religion free of government interference. This ethic has been ingrained into our culture.
Ironically, in the struggle to preserve a private sphere for religious practice and to shield members of the public from being inculcated with others religious beliefs, we've relegated religious worship to the private sphere. Recent case law is replete with examples of how our courts have pared back protections for religious customs. Just this month, the California Supreme Court ruled that Catholic Charities in California had to provide their employees with medical coverage for birth control. The church is opposed to contraception you say? It doesn't matter. The dockets are littered with countless examples of how the courts retreat from weighing the relative virtues of church and state issues.
Such is the state of things, over two centuries after the founding fathers penned the first amendment. We've reached a point where those practices essential to our worship no longer merit legal protection, and in fact are largely marginalized. The results are plain to see: our decadent, humanistic, culture lacks any immutable moral foundation. We are carried by our whims, neither toward nor away from anything, finding enjoyment in transient moments of vanity and decadence.
But then something happened on the way to the fall. Mel Gibson actually had the audacity to produce a blood-soaked movie about the last day of Christ, as related by the Gospels of the New Testament, then stick it on a blaring billboard in your home town. And members of the public actually have the audacity to see it.
I spent the last two weeks in Israel and was surprised to learn that some locals are boycotting the Passion. Some worried that it might cause anti-Semites to feel justified in their beliefs. Such sensitivity is understandable in a country that is being pounded at home with an infatata, and alienated abroad with anti-Semitic vitriol.