This week President Obama is hosting an Africa Summit in Washington. Fifty heads of state are coming together to focus on security and development. But the president's dreams of leaving a legacy of democracy building and economic development have been consistently frustrated.
It's becoming painfully evident that not every country has the values and culture supportive of democratic principles. Contrary to the early hopes expressed in Washington and in the media, the "Arab Spring" has brought more chaos and upheaval than freedom and opportunity to many countries in Africa and the Middle East.
Unfortunately, the driving mission of radical Islamists is not freedom, but an Islamic caliphate under Sharia Law. Sharia Law means "way" or "path". It's a cultural and legal framework which impacts the public and some private aspects of every citizen's life. That Islamic framework is based on the Quran, the Hadith, and centuries of interpretation and precedent.
Many in America have the illusion that all want freedom the way we want freedom. Our country was formed by Judeo-Christian values that provided fertile ground for our treasured principles--limited government, religious freedom, free enterprise, and freedom of speech.
The separation of church and state is not written in our Constitution. It was first penned in a letter by Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptist Association of Connecticut. The association was upset about the infringement of religious liberty by their state legislature. They hoped that Jefferson's views on religious liberty would "shine and prevail through all these states and all the world."
In his brief letter, President Jefferson sympathized with the Connecticut Baptists in their opposition to the state’s established religion. He further explained that he had reverence for the First Amendment’s “wall of separation between Church and State” at the federal level. Jefferson had no intention of excluding religious faith from the public square; he even ended his letter with a brief prayer.
But it was clear that Jefferson wanted America to have no government-established religion. America has embraced that commitment. We are a religious people, but we affirm the right for citizens to choose their own faith.