The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America guarantees freedom to exercise religion, the freedom of speech and the freedom to peaceably assemble. The First Amendment does not protect anyone’s self-constructed right to not be offended by the prayers, religious symbols and well wishes we have expressed during the Christmas and Hanukkah seasons since the founding of this country.I am offended if you are offended by public expressions of faith and celebration of God’s gift to the world. According to a 2006 Baylor University survey, 82 percent of Americans identify themselves as Christian and 2.5 percent as Jewish. Moreover, 63 percent of Americans who claim no affiliation with a religious tradition still believe in God or some higher power. If you do not believe in God or celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah, that is fine with me. The First Amendment allows you to practice whatever religious beliefs and traditions you choose, if any. That does not offend me. Just stay out of our way.
The display of a nativity scene, a menorah, a Christmas tree, Santa Claus or lights does not impose a religious belief on anyone. If you interpret the display of symbols, the singing of a carol or the lighting of a candle as an imposition of religion, then you have a very weak belief system. Religion is not about symbols. Religion is about faith. Symbols are just expressions of that faith.
Too many Americans are guided and implicitly threatened by the misinterpretations of the Constitution’s establishment clause that found a non-existent “separation of church and state.” Correctly read, the First Amendment does not prohibit the public exercise of faith. Nor does the First Amendment protect an individual who feels offended by witnessing religious symbols or people in prayer. Religious exercise in the public square is a cornerstone of our national heritage
Herman Cain is the National Chairman of the Media Research Center’s Business & Media Institute. He is the former president and CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, Inc., and currently is CEO and president of T.H.E. New Voice, Inc., a business and leadership consulting company.
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