Opinion / Politics

New Jersey Town Refuses to Give in to the FFRF

flag religion we the peopleBy – D.J. Wilson – They’re at it again, folks. The group FFRF (The Freedom From Religion Foundation) is sticking its nose where it doesn’t belong and is not wanted by a vast majority of people. The Wisconsin-based group promotes “nontheism” and favors a strict separation of religion and government. They are a watchdog organization and a voice for “freethought” (atheism, agnostic, skepticism). They make it their business to destroy any and all visible forms of religion in public. In latest news, they are going after a small faith-tolerant town whose seal is deemed to be “too religious” by the group. The FFRF’s strict interpretation of “separation of church and state” leads them to a high level of intolerance. Their views go against basic American principles and beliefs.

Everyone gets up in arms about the words “separation of church and state.” Many people commonly and improperly believe that the phrase “separation of church and state” is in the United States Constitution. It is not.  The words “wall of separation between church and state” was written by Thomas Jefferson in a letter to Connecticut Baptists in 1802. He wanted to calm their fears and let them know that their religion would remain protected. In other words, the government would not interfere with their ability to practice religion.

Most people distinguish Thomas Jefferson as the principal author of the Declaration of Independence. He also served as Vice President of the United States under John Adams, and in 1800, was elected third President. The adoption of the Declaration of Independence expresses a fundamental belief in a Supreme creator as the basis of our government. It proclaims the unalienable rights, of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, all “endowed” by a creator. This further proves that the purpose of government is to protect the individual rights of people, not to meddle or take rights away.

On their website, The National Center for Constitutional Studies shares the writings of Professor John Eidsmoe. He explains, “The role of the Declaration of Independence in American law is often misconstrued. Some believe the Declaration is simply a statement of ideas that has no legal force whatsoever today. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Declaration has been repeatedly cited by the U.S. Supreme Court as part of the fundamental law of the United States of America.”

If we analyze the actions of the FFRF, they are anti-American and expressly are at odds with the beliefs of our Founding Fathers. Jefferson, along with countless others, believed in the protection of religion. When Federalists attacked him for being an “atheist,” President Jefferson cleared up matters by addressing freedom of religion and tolerance in his inaugural address. He said, “And let us reflect that, having banished from our land that religious intolerance under which mankind so long bled and suffered, we have yet gained little if we countenance a political intolerance as despotic, as wicked, and capable of as bitter and bloody persecutions.” He supported bipartisanship, religious and political tolerance, and harmony.

On government regulation of religion and thought, Jefferson said, “The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no god.  It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” This meant that he believed the Government should be indifferent on the subject of religion and not interfere as long as no one is being hurt.  In 1807, Jefferson replied to a Baptist Address, “Among the most inestimable of our blessings is that…of liberty to worship our Creator in the way we think most agreeable to His will; a liberty deemed in other countries incompatible with good government and yet proved by our experience to be its best support.”

The first amendment to the US Constitution states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The two parts are known as the “establishment clause” and the “free exercise clause” according to the Supreme Court’s interpretations. What it does is forbid an official establishment of religion. A strict separation has never been supported by the US Constitution.

Fast forward to what’s happening now. The FFRF is busy going after small towns who lack the funds to fight for their rights. The bully group threatens legal action and instills fear into decent, law-abiding, and hardworking communities who support religion. The town of Clayton, New Jersey, is the latest to be attacked. The FFRF claims to have been tipped-off by a borough resident who was dissatisfied with the town’s motto: “a good place to live and play and worship and pray.” The town seal features a church with a cross, along with other figures such as a person fishing from a boat and a factory.

According to the South Jersey Times, the town began using the seal in the late 1960s. The paper quotes former mayor, Gene Costill, who says, “Everybody can pray to whoever they want. It doesn’t tell you who to pray to, it just says it’s a good place to pray.” Clayton’s solicitors responded to the group by stating that the seal and motto reflect Clayton’s history. Meanwhile, FFRF claims that religious symbols on official city seals are unconstitutional.  On March 24, Clayton’s mayor and council approved the motion to keep the motto and seal. Unfortunately, if the town does not cave into the pressures of the atheist group, they will most likely face a lawsuit.

In a letter that Jefferson wrote to Virginia Baptists, he shared, “We have solved by fair experiment, the great and interesting questions whether freedom of religion is compatible with order in government and obedience to the laws. And we have experienced the quiet as well as the comfort which from leaving every one to profess freely and openly those principles of religion which are the inductions of his own reason and the serious convictions of his own inquiries.” Clayton isn’t telling people what to believe, but instead is freely and openly professing the principles for which the town stands, as “a good place to live and play, work and pray.” Big difference.

FFRF’s actions are ridiculous and contrary to the beliefs of Thomas Jefferson, one of America’s greatest champions of religious liberty. In his words, “I never will by any word or act, bow to the shrine of intolerance…”

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