Freedom From Religion

Pleased to announce that I’ve placed in the 2014 Brian Bolton Graduate/Older Students Essay Contest, offered by the Freedom from Religion Foundation. The essay had to answer “why ‘Religious Liberty’ does not mean the right to impose your religion on others,” and though I played by the rules on this particular submission, I’m glad to see my literary conservatism pay off. I still owe $499 for my fall semester at NEIU, so the $500 award seems almost providential. Also, I’ve now received scholarships from a Muslim foundation, a Jewish foundation, and a secularist foundation. What does this make me? Mega PoMo? Broadcast-ready on NPR? Do I need to start wearing a cape?

I can’t post the full essay here, but I’ll post a snippet and then provide a link to the full version once FFRF posts it next month. And the snippet:

The First Amendment establishes freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and most importantly, freedom of religion. In emphasis of this importance, the amendment opens with the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses that state, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

Thomas Jefferson sums up the implication of these clauses in his 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptist Association, that with this rule in place, there is erected “a wall of separation between Church & State.”

On paper, the separation seems like it should work, but two centuries later the amendment is still contentious. Though we’re reading the same law they ratified in 1791, its words are weighed, conveyed, and parlayed according to an entirely different historical rule—and under our present paradigm, religious liberty is what’s at stake.

Stay tuned for more soon.

By Ben van Loon

Writer, Researcher, Chicagoan

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