Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black, writing for the majority in the 1962 case Engel v. Vitale, said “the history of man is inseparable with the history of religion.”
America is no exception in this regard. Since the time of the Puritans, who left England to escape religious persecution, the people of this nation have recognized a need for the protection of differing beliefs.
In his letter which appeared in the Oct. 19 edition of The News, Mr. William Zingrone tackles a wide variety of topics involving religion, from education to the debate over abortion. Many of his arguments do not merit even a token response, as they are both extremely belittling to people of faith and disjointed to the point of incomprehension.
However, drawing his heaviest criticism is Rep. Paul Broun of Georgia, who has denied scientific theories such as evolution and the Big Bang. Zingrone argues Rep. Broun’s views, which are influenced by his personal faith, have no place in Congressional debate; it is this argument which I take issue with.
Mr. Zingrone seems to suggest only those views which are scientifically verifiable, the only views which he believes are legitimate, should be allowed in the marketplace of ideas.
However, this position runs counter to the conception of religious freedom which the framers of the Constitution envisioned. In his letter to the Danbury Baptist Convention, Jefferson called for a “wall of separation between Church and State.”
This is not a call for a completely secular U.S. government or society, even though Mr. Zingrone might wish that to be the case; rather, it simply means the government cannot favor any one belief system over another.
This includes the beliefs of Christians, Muslims, Buddhists and athiests. To quash religious sentiment and allow only secular viewpoints is as much a violation of religious freedom as is the establishment of an official church.
While the framers made it clear that Congress should take no part in the determination of an official religion or favor one belief system over another, it is fallacious to believe individual legislators were forbidden to take their own views into account.
I would argue the representative mechanism designed by the framers in fact encourages this type of debate in Congress. They designed a system in which voters from each district were to elect the man or woman who would best represent their interests in Washington.
By electing Rep. Broun, the voters of Georgia’s tenth congressional district have effectively said they prefer his beliefs over those of his opponent.
They, and the framers, expect his decisions in Congress to reflect the wishes of his constituency.
If a majority of Rep. Broun’s constituents deny the validity of the Big Bang theory and evolution, then Rep. Broun is in fact doing his job. And if at a later date, the people of Georgia feel Rep. Broun is no longer representing their interests, the Constitution provides a remedy: elections.
The framers also realized for every legislator such as Rep. Broun, there is likely to be one similar to Rep. Pete Stark of California, an atheist.
In this way, opposing viewpoints counteract one another so no one position becomes dominant; as Madison said in the 51st Federalist, “Ambition must be made to counteract ambition.”
A final link in this chain of protections is the First Amendment, which ensures that even if one belief system gains a strong foothold, it cannot banish all others.
I understand Mr. Zingrone denies any system of faith is legitimate, and I further understand he believes the facts he puts forth are evidence of his position’s superiority.
However, to deny individuals have a right to take into account their own personal convictions in decision-making processes, in government or elsewhere, is to deny the more than two century tradition of religious freedom in this nation.
While I agree Rep. Broun’s comments are fairly ludicrous, in the eyes of the government they should be treated exactly the same as Mr. Zingrone’s own views.
Column by Colton Givens, senior from Welchs Creek, Ky.