Ten Commandments Plaque Sullivan County Tennessee
Ten Commandments display
Sullivan County Courthouse
Blountville, Tennessee

Religion-Government doesn't mix in America

To the editor:

I would like to thank the Herald Courier for its complete validation of the separation of church and state July 18. The Ten Commandments version flap is exactly what the Founding Fathers knew about religion of and by the state.

In a region where there is one church for every 40 or so people, it follows that religion is a matter of belief and should not be a matter of law. Apparently Mr. Gonce has failed to notice this, but constitutionally, no religion passes muster when it comes to the American people. We have the right to choose whatever brand of religion we want, and the state cannot, and will not, prescribe that for anyone.

Which version of the Ten Commandments to post fully illustrates this point. Everyone is entitled to hold personal beliefs. That is what I call righteous. When people like Mr. Gonce push their particular brand on others because they "know" what is right, that's called being "self-righteous." People! Look at the difference, look at the number of "brands" of religion there are and see the message.

Government and religion, like oil and water, do not, nor will they ever, mix in this form of government. Only until America decides to take the path of Iran or Afghanistan will religion by government be law.

Can you say theocracy, Mr. Gonce? Until then, let's keep that sacred separation of church and state valid, and not something for a minority to foist their will on everyone else.

Joe McCray
Blountville, TN

Sullivan commission deserves our support

To the editor:

On June 21 I witnessed the Sullivan County Commission take religious persecution from some who call themselves citizens. I can remember some of those who sat on the court 30 years ago who would have been sufficiently challenged to reaction by these strong words. However, the commission calmly went on about its business, for which I have mixed reaction. I commend them for their patience, resolve and exhibition of Christian character.

Let us who elected them and support their position in defense of our Christian liberties against assault (mostly from outside Sullivan County) remember to support them with our words of encouragement and, most of all, our prayers. Let us all remember the words of the Lord Jesus Himself in Matthew 6:10, "Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

Sullivan County residents and the County Commission can expect more conflict over the Law of God (Ten Commandments) until the Lord Himself brings in the Kingdom of Heaven. Let us encourage the Sullivan County Commission to endure by God's grace.

Donald M. Whitaker
Blountville, TN

How can one person persecute a commission?

To the editor:

I really enjoyed Mr. Whitaker's letter "Sullivan commission deserves our support"; it shows what' kind of paranoid world Christian fundamentalists live in. How can I, one lone person, be persecuting 24 commissioners and a county attorney with unlimited funds all by myself?

The fact is, there is no persecution of any Christian church in this country. Not only is the countryside dotted with half-empty churches, but in no way is anyone telling them what to believe. Just because they are treated like everybody else is not persecution.

Even the county attorney is getting on the persecution theme: "I don't think ... when they volunteer ... should be expected to expose themselves to assaults on their character," Mr. Street said. (Herald Courier, July 9.) First of all, there has never been any "assault on the character" of any commissioner. They are being criticized for using their public office to run a religious crusade. As far as his reference about me going "beyond civilized debate," where was the "civilized debate" when the Show Palace tried to get a sign permit?

Finally, I wish to thank Mr. Whitaker for admitting "the County Commission can expect more conflict over the Law of God (Ten Commandments)." Looks like Mr. Whitaker isn't buying the "historical documents" argument, either. (Neither will a federal judge.)

Lewis Loflin

Bristol, VA

Strict church-state separation never meant

To the Editor:

America was settled primarily by people from all over Europe who suffered from religious persecution. Our Founding Fathers knew this and tried to protect us from the same persecution. They succeeded insofar as they made it unconstitutional for the government to make any laws respecting any one religion. They got this idea from the many European countries that were outlawing all religions except the one the government approved.

This was not meant to be a strict separation of church and state only that the states could not make any laws approving one over another. In this context it is unlawful for the state to say you cannot pray in schools or any other public place as long as the prayer is, for lack of a better term, nondenominational.

The government or the Supreme Court cannot make a law or require any religion to remove their symbols from public view. Why? Because in doing so they become discriminatory in their judgment. They in reality have ruled in favor of the atheist, the worshiper of no religion. They have allowed one group to discriminate against another and in doing so have violated the constitutional rights of those who wish to practice a religion.

The framers of the Constitution were all God-fearing men and did not intend for the government to remove the symbols of their respective religions from public view. Their intention was that all religions could proudly show their faith and their symbols of that faith in public without ridicule or persecution.

Congress and especially the Supreme Court have brought shame upon themselves and the American idea of freedom to worship.

Edward S. Moser
Bristol, VA

Separation ensures religious freedom for all'

To the editor:

Edward Moser's letter on religious freedom (July 20) says that when America was founded there "was not meant to be a strict separation of church and state..." He claims "It is unlawful for the state to say you cannot pray in schools or any public place as long as the prayer is...non-denominational."

He makes no distinction between "public," as in out in the open, and public as in something funded by taxes from all citizens. If all citizens pay for an institution, yet some happen to believe in a different religion than Mr. Moser's, why should they have to listen to his kind of prayer?

To protect Mr. Moser, this government has to protect everyone. His use of the word "denominational" betrays his Protestant bias - what about Catholics, Jews and Moslems? Do they not pray? If Protestant prayers are offered over the loudspeakers at a public school, then so should Islamic, Jewish, even "Satanic" prayer be allowed. Otherwise, there is "discrimination," as he puts it.

If not "strict" separation of church and state, what? Isn't it one or the other? You can't have it both ways. To say that the Supreme Court has "ruled in favor of the atheist" is ludicrous. This is the kind of thinking that threatens the religious freedom of us all. The Supreme Court protects it.

Lynn Raley
Glade Spring, VA

Back to Sullivan County Religious Wars

God protect me from your followers

Quoting the Kingsport Times-News (1-18-2004)
Sullivan County Tennessee attorney Dan Street on the Ten Commandments,

"It seems clearer and clearer and clearer that we are promoting a particular religion, and that's a violation of the Constitution. The Constitution is the one document that protects minorities, and just because most people feel the Christian faith or the Jewish faith is the right faith, that doesn't mean they have a right to impose it on everyone else.

Plenty of Christians and Jews who may follow the Ten Commandments, but don't believe they should be displayed in public buildings. Most of the time, however, those people don't come forward with their opinion because they are afraid of being chastised. People think if you want the Ten Commandments down you're an atheist, and that's just not true.