Religious Freedom: It’s Not Just for Christians

I have noticed a lot of people getting all bothered that Good Friday was allegedly over shadowed by Earth Day, both of which were celebrated yesterday, by the mainstream media. The people expressing their dissatisfaction over what they perceive to be a blatant disregard for the day which marks the death of Jesus are, of course, Christian. While I understand and, as a former religious Christian myself, respect their belief in the holiness of this weekend, I still must say to them…Let it go.  Not everyone who believes in Jesus believes in his divinity; furthermore, not everyone in American is a Christian. While it may be a holy weekend for most Christians, for millions of other people it is not and we must respect that. This is why mass media does not jump on the religious aspects of holidays, they are trying to appeal to as many people as possible and Earth Day, honestly, has more mass appeal and is least likely to offend people.

Do Christians have the right to celebrate this weekend as holy? Of course, and I am not arguing that they do not. I have nothing against individuals saying that “this is what I believe (insert religious assertion here);” however, I do take issue with people who believe one thing assuming that others should or do as well. While I personally hope that there is a “God,” I don’t know for sure and am therefore more agnostic than anything. Nonetheless I believe Jesus was a real person who set a fantastic example of how we people should live and how we should treat each other. I also believe in the teachings of Buddha and I find a lot of merit in Taoism, Islam, Judaism, and the various indigenous traditions which are practiced around the world. However, I don’t expect everyone to see things from my perspective. With that said, what I do expect is for people to be respectful of the fact that not everyone has the same religious beliefs because that is the law of this land as stated by the 1st Amendment. The disestablishment clause not only protects all manners of Christian belief, and made it possible for all manners of Christian worship from Anglicanism to Mormonism to thrive; it also protects all other manners of belief and non-belief, from Agnosticism and Atheism to Islam to and Zoroastrianism.

My assertion is not based on personal opinion alone, but on my knowledge of our history. Many Americans do not seem to understand how close we came to not having the religious protection, which we now take for granted. In colonial America most colonies did not have religious freedom (save PA, RI, and MD), rather they had established churches. For example, if you lived in Virginia and you weren’t a member of the Anglican Church, you lived with the threat of potential imprisonment hanging over you. As the American Revolution was being fought, a battle for religious freedom was also being waged as other denominations, such as the Anabaptist and the Methodists, began demanding the right to worship freely. This eventually led to two bills being introduced into the Virginia legislature: the first was the Act for Religious Freedom by Jefferson (introduced in 1779, but not enacted until 1786), which would end religious establishment and protect all manners of worship.[1] The second was a bill by Patrick Henry (introduced in 1784, but rejected) which would have established Christianity as a whole not just Anglicanism as the official religion, and would have required all Virginians to support Christianity via their taxes.[2] Jefferson’s bill languished in the House for nearly a decade as the legislature debated it, proposing changes such as adding that religious freedom is protected by Jesus Christ because he would not have agreed with coercing people to be Christian; it was then weighed in comparison with Henry’s bill as many members of the House agreed with establishing the Christian faith. Luckily, multiple petitions were submitted to the House of Delegates by various groups in Virginia, many of them Christian, demanding that Henry’s bill fail to pass.[3]

In the end, Jefferson’s bill won out and influenced the 1st Amendment of our Constitution.[4] Had it gone the other way and Henry’s Bill had been passed then there is a very real possibility that the America we now take for granted may never have existed. We should all be very glad for the fact that there is no established religion as it has given everyone the right to chose for themselves what religion, if any, is right for them, this includes giving Christians the right to chose between the various denominations, rather than having the government tell us what to believe. Religious diversity is at the very foundation of this nation. So when the media promotes a secular holiday over a religious one, do not be offended but be glad that we live in a nation in which every religious and non-religious belief is protected under the law because without the disestablishment clause, which promises religious freedom for all, there would be religious freedom for none.


[4]http://topics.law.cornell.edu/wex/First_amendment

© Karen Lyn and Take Back America, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Karen Lyn and Take Back America with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Advertisements

Do You Ever Think About Me?

Dear People,

I know it’s easy to forget about me when it seems as if we hardly see each other. You come and go from your houses, to your cars, to some other man made structure, and you hardly give me a second glance. You might notice me when it’s especially pleasant out, or when it’s particularly awful. You might pay special attention to me at certain times of the year, but other than that I feel as if you barely see me.  You forget that I provide you with life: oxygen, food, water, everything you need to survive. I take care of you and all I ask is that you notice me a little more often than you do, and be a little more grateful too.

Love,

The Earth

Taking Care of the Earth is not just for hippies or for Earth Day…it’s for everyone, everyday. This planet is our home, and it is the only home we are likely to ever have. Humanity will only survive if the Earth is healthy…that’s all there is to it.

© Karen Lyn and Take Back America, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Karen Lyn and Take Back America with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

What Sort of Society Do We Want To Be?

As we have seen from the debates over the budget between the two ruling parties in DC, which resulted in a very near shutdown on April 8, public programs appear to be at the center of the debate; such programs as health care, education, and environmental protection. The GOP and the Tea Party insist that for the budget to be balanced the people must sacrifice many of the programs on which we have come to rely, not only those which help many of us to survive (health care) but those which have allowed us to thrive (education). Yet many of the programs that are under attack take up relatively small portions of our national budget in comparison with programs not under attack, such as the defense budget and that for the Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS), as well as tax breaks and subsidies to big business and corporations. Let’s compare, shall we:

In 2010 the federal budget for Education was $127.8 billion ($46.7 in discretionary funding and $81.1 in recovery act funding); for the DHHS (Dept of Health and Human Service), which oversees funding for health care programs and assistance to needy families, was $99.2 billion ($76.8 in discretionary funding and $22.4 in recovery act funding); and for the EPA it was $17.7 billion ($10.5 in discretionary funding and $7.2 in recovery act funding). Combined, these programs do not compare to the combined total of two of the most wasteful departments, the Dept. of Defense, the budget for which was a whopping $671.1 billion ($663.7 in discretionary funding and $7.4 in recovery act funding),  and the DHS, the budget for which was $45.5 billion ($42.7 in discretionary funding and $2.8 in recovery act funding). [1]

The Office of the President’s proposed 2011 and  2012 budgets (for which a full report of actual expenditures will not be available until the end of each fiscal year) request the following amounts for each of the afore-mentioned programs: [2]
Education~ $72.9 billion (2011), $77.4 billion (2012)
DHHS~ $81.3 billion (2011), $79.9 billion (2012)
EPA~ $10 billion (2011), $9 billion (2012)
DOD~ $549.1 billion (2011), $553 billion (2012)
DHS~ $43.6 billion (2011), $43.2 billion (2012)

Again, we see that the combined total of the three departments under attack by the GOP and Tea Party Republicans do not equal the combined total of the two departments not under attack. Moreover, subsidies and tax cuts to corporations and big business, which the GOP and Tea Party Republicans refuse to eliminate/reduce, cost the taxpayers (the people) an additional multiple-billions every year. On average, corporate welfare (tax breaks, subsidies, and etc) cost the nation about $125 billion a year, according to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT); the CATO Institute reports similar figures, putting the amount at around $100-$120 billion annually.[3]

There is no denying that the deficit is high or that the budget needs to be reduced. However, as the numbers show, cutting the funding for education, health services, and environmental protect together will do nothing for reducing the budget, and will only decrease the overall quality of life for tens of millions of Americans. And this is where we, the people, must consider the trade-off between taxing and spending (the budget), in other words on what do we want to spend our money. The trade-off on spending our budget on education, health services, and environmental protection is that our society as a whole is prepared to enter an ever more competitive global society, that we will be healthier and stronger and more able to contribute to our society, and that we will ensure a safe, clean, healthy ecosystem for future generations.

America is a nation and what is a nation if not a society, which is a voluntary association of persons operating together toward the common end of mutual benefit? The programs on which we are willing to spend our money speak volumes for the sort of society we are. At the moment, we are presenting ourselves as a nation to be a society of warmongering, paranoid corporatists who value money and power over people and progress. Is this the sort of society we really want to be?

Recommended Reading:
http://www.taxpayer.net/

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2011/03/23/corporate_welfare_109316.html

http://www.npr.org/blogs/itsallpolitics/2011/02/14/133748987/whats-in-the-2012-budget-plan-npr-breaks-it-down#defense

http://www.corporations.org/welfare/#globe

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,989508,00.html

http://www.commoncause.org/site/pp.asp?c=dkLNK1MQIwG&b=6378055 (this link shows campaign contributions, no wonder corporations get all the breaks)

http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/Nader/CutCorpWelfare_Nader.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jane-white/the-social-security-fix-e_b_841650.html


[3] http://www.progress.org/corpw30.htm; http://www.cato.org/corporate-welfare

© Karen Lyn and Take Back America, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Karen Lyn and Take Back America with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Being an Engaged, Active, and Responsible Citizen

Being an engaged, active, and responsible citizen requires more than casting a ballot on voting day. Our responsibility as citizens does not end when we exit the voting booth, rather that is the moment at which the true responsibility begins. Whether or not the person for whom you voted actually gets into office should not deter you from making them work for the people.

Remember, our tax dollars pay their salaries; therefore, regardless of whether or not the person sitting in office is the one for whom you voted he/she is still OUR employee. As such, it is up to each of us to ensure that they are working for the people. This requires some effort on our part. This requires us to keep up on legislation on the floor and to write, call, or email our elected representatives on a regular basis. We have far more disclosure in our government than many of us may realize; every bill currently on the floor of our state and federal houses are available for our review: state legislation is available for review on your state’s website, simply type in your state’s two letter abbreviation and state legislation (ex. pa state legislation) into your search engine and you can browse bills currently on the floor; federal legislation can be viewed at thomas.gov. Below you will find examples of links for finding state legislation, as well as the link to thomas.gov and to the House of Representatives and the Senate.

As much as I want to place all of the blame on the government for failing us and on the rich for bribing this country out from under us, we the people, must take some of the blame upon ourselves. For too long we have remained silent. We have been complacent. We have been lackadaisical bosses. If we want our country back, if we want the political system to work in our favor then we must work for it. We must make the ultimate sacrifice, that of our time and energy. We must take responsibility and we must take action. The rich get the attention because they make the most noise: they have lobbyist who make phone calls, write letters, and make meetings. Yet the rich make up only 1% of the population, this means that there are over 314 million of us and barely over 3 million of them. Imagine the force we the people could be if all of us performed our duty as citizens, if we each wrote letters, made phones, or sent emails to our state and federal representatives every month. The squeaky wheel gets the grease, so lets be the squeaky wheel.

A few examples of state sites for viewing legislation:

http://www.legis.state.pa.us/

http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/

http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/

http://legis.wisconsin.gov/

From each state site you can also find out who your reps are and how to contact them by entering your zip code.

Links to the House and Senate. From these sites you can find out who represents your district for each house and how to contact them:

http://www.house.gov/

http://www.senate.gov/

This is the link to thomas.gov. From this site you can view all current legislation for the House and Senate:

http://thomas.gov/

Another useful site:

http://www.thevotereffect.com/

The political process will only work for the people if we, the people, are willing to put in the effort to make it do so.

© Karen Lyn and Take Back America, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Karen Lyn and Take Back America with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

A Call to Reality (Hopefully)

There are some who would accuse those of us who advocate living wages for the working poor and higher taxes on the billionaires of “wanting to steal from the rich.” News flash, it’s the other way around. The disparity in wealth distribution which we are currently experiencing is rivaled in it’s breadth only by that experienced at the time of the Great Depression.

We don’t hate the rich just because they’re rich; we hate that they exploit people in order to be so. In order for one person to have billions of dollars, there are millions of people who have to live with next to nothing.

It is NOT wrong to demand a living wage and benefits for your work. It is NOT wrong to fund social programs to assist those in need. In fact, it is profoundly immoral to not. It is profoundly immoral to allow billions of people around the world to suffer in poverty so that a handful can have more money than they could spend in a dozen lifetimes, let alone one.

How we treat the least among us speaks volumes for the sort of society we are. I for one would prefer to be the sort that puts human beings, and the planet which we call home, before profit.

At every turn the rich and their government cronies aim to set us back decades, even centuries. They want to take away Unions so we can’t bargain for higher wages and safe conditions. They want to pay us less than a living wage like they do to the people in China, Burma, India, and elsewhere, so that they can increase their own personal wealth. They want to repeal child labor laws (see Jane Cunningham-MO and Mike Lee-UT). They want to defund Planned Parenthood, thus removing the only access millions of women in this country have to low-cost/free reproductive health care, so they can funnel that money into their own accounts. They want to privatize roads and bridges and make us pay them just so we can get to work and the grocery store, where we will first make them their millions and then pay them back the meager earnings they’ve so graciously bestowed upon us to buy the goods our labor makes.

They wont’ be happy until it’s like it was in the 19th and early 20th centuries. A time when the workers (men, women, and children) worked 12-16 hours a day for pennies a day in dirty and unsafe conditions, and then went home to the factory owned tenements and shopped in the factory owned stores. A period in time when the workers were completely indebted the owners of industry, little more than indentured servants; capital to be exploited and discarded when no longer useful.

If there are any here who think this to be an exaggeration, just look at how the workers in China are treated. Look back at our own Labor History, to the Triangle Waist Co., for example. That is what happens when the rich have all the power. People died for their greed. People fought back and died so that none of us would have to live like they did. Are we really going to thank them by bending over to the rich again? Hell, no. I will honor the legacy of my forebearers by standing up to the rich and standing for the people all over the world who are being exploited for profit.

Never again.

© Karen Lyn and Take Back America, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Karen Lyn and Take Back America with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Be An Ethical Consumer

One of the best ways by which we can send a message to big business, industry, banks, and corporations is via our wallets. One of the best things (if not the only best thing) about capitalism, is that demand drives supply. If we begin to truly think about from where it is the items we buy come, and then base our purchases on how things were made and by whom they were made, we send a message to the owners of production that we will no longer allow them to be evil. We force them, by shifting demand toward things made via ethical means, to treat the people and the planet better. If we only purchase items made in the US or items not made with slave labor in unsafe, dirty conditions, and which are made with minimal pollution then we make it all the more difficult for companies to ship jobs to other countries by decreasing the demand for such products. It is the nature of the capitalist beast to go where the money is, so lets put the money where we want it and make them come to us.

I know it’s hard. But we must think about the true cost of the things we buy. The human cost, in the loss of jobs and the exploitation of our fellow humans around the globe. The environmental cost, in the the pollution and harm being done by the waste water run off and smoke stacks at the factories, and via the shipment of these goods.

I know it seems to be a daunting task. How much stuff is really made in America, or even ethically anymore?

Actually, more than you would think. You can even be ethical with your cell phone; for example, Sprint is going green and Credoaction.org has a cell company. You can even be local/ethical with your food purchases. Go to your local farmers market during the growing season where you can find local produce and meat. Buy a little extra veggies and fruits and meats each trip; then vacuum seal and freeze some to get you through the winter.

We’re all in this together. Americans, Chinese, Mexicans, Indians, French, Kenyans, people from all around the world. We are becoming an ever more globalized society, and as such we need to start thinking about how our actions impact humanity as a whole if we are to have any chance in defeating the interests of the rich.

Here are a few links to help us be ethical consumers:

http://www.americansworking.com/

http://ethicalstyle.com/2011/02/hm-spring-collection-pays-homage-to-eco-consumerism/

http://www.newdream.org/index.php

http://www.greenpeople.org/

http://www.oftheearth.com/

http://www.credomobile.com/

http://green.sprint.com/index.php

© Karen Lyn and Take Back America, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Karen Lyn and Take Back America with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.