Monday, January 30, 2012

Religious freedom

I'm not a religious man - spiritual maybe, as I do believe there are forces that we do not understand at work in the Universe. Still, I understand a lot of people are religious and that's OK with me - Baptist, Buddhist, Rastafarian or Druid, whatever belief you subscribe to is none of my business. But lately there have been some news items about religion that concern me and I have some thoughts to share.

The first item started like this: "AUGUSTA – Gov. Paul LePage and other top Republicans called on Mainers to pray Tuesday as they announced the formation of the Maine Legislative Prayer Caucus." According to the report, "The prayer caucus meets once a week and does not discuss policy or bills. The goal is to be nonpartisan; the group prays for fellow legislators and other state and national leaders..."

Now this is all well and fine; anything that will bring our law-makers together to work cooperatively on solving our economic woes is fine with me, but praying and legislating are two very different activities. If one helps them do the other, that's a good thing; but as to the praying part, "not on my dime and not on my time" (which is a phrase I may or may not have just coined here). If the caucus meets once a week to pray "for fellow legislators and other state and national leaders", they had better do it on their own time and at their own expense - I want my legislators legislating, dammit! And I'm pretty sure that's covered under that "separation of church and state" thingy, anyway.

The second report that caught my attention was this: "YORK — A Maine man serving 30 years for murder is asking a federal judge to force the Maine State Prison to let him practice Satanism with other inmates.

In a complaint in U.S. District Court in Portland, Joshua Cookson says he's allowed to practice Satanism in his cell, but that he wants to do so in the activities building where group practices of other religions take place.

Prison officials have denied his requests, saying Satanism espouses violence."

OK, I admit I don't know much about Satanism and I suspect there is much about it with which I would disagree, but that's true of every organized religion (yes, even Christianity - sorry). So does "freedom of religion" apply to them all, or just to the "good" (i.e., non-Satanic) ones. To me, it's like freedom of speech - even the hateful stuff is protected, because that's what "freedom" means.

So should this guy be allowed to practice Satanism with others, or not - I don't know and I'll be interested to see how the court rules. But here's something to think about while you're deciding for yourself: Some people say that Islam espouses violence, too.

Hey, maybe the Governor could invite this guy to one of his prayer meetings!

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