“What is truth?”

As some of you may know, Tim and I write an FFRF Maine monthly column entitled “In Reason We Trust” for the Kennebec Journal / Morning Sentinel. I write the first draft and Tim makes it sound like we know what we are talking about. The September article below was just sent in with a request to print the column the 1st Friday of every month. Hope you enjoy it.

I intended this month’s column to be about what I heard in Franklin Graham’s speech at his recent rally in Augusta. MD Harmon’s column stating neither he nor Franklin heard division in anything Franklin said made me realize that the most important take-away from Franklin’s visit was: How do you know what is true, how do you hear what others say, and on what basis do you interpret the world around you?

The column also stated that I, as President of FFRF Maine, the Maine Chapter of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, was at the rally specifically to promote atheism and secularism. While that is true, a more comprehensive reason for several members of FFRF Maine to be at the rally was to promote the use of reason and historical fact when listening to what Franklin had to say. It is unreasonable to expect that Obamacare, Roe v. Wade or same-sex marriage will ever be overturned, even if Hillary, the “presumptive” next president, does not get elected. Claiming the United States was in any sense formed as a Christian nation is a complete historical fabrication. The US Constitution, the country’s founding document, is entirely secular.

Franklin encouraged those at the rally to vote for candidates who would eliminate Obamacare, overturn Roe v. Wade and deny same-sex couples the right to get married. It astounds me to realize that most people in the crowd would not hear hate or division in those words, but those who have experienced what Franklin is calling for most assuredly will. Eliminating Obamacare would leave hundreds of thousands of families without healthcare. Overturning Roe v. Wade would force women to have children they didn’t intend to have and will increase the number of women dying from abortions performed by unqualified people. Denying same-sex couples the right to get married will destabilize thousands of loving, caring families with children. Certainly allowing people to die from treatable illnesses, compelling women to get back alley abortions and forcing children to grow up as second class citizens are not Christian values.

Franklin went on to say that when he went to public school they read the bible, prayed in school and had the Ten Commandments prominently displayed. He then ended his talk by calling Christians to put god back in school, back in state government and back in federal government where he belongs. In Franklin’s opinion, this would “save” America from the devastation created when we kicked god out of our schools and our local, state and federal governments. Our secular government institutions, which include public schools, are specifically mandated by our secular constitution to neither “promote nor deny” any religion. How can anyone not hear the absurdity of Franklin’s call to put god “back” into secular institutions that the constitution categorically prohibits?

America’s constitution is entirely secular to protect everyone’s freedom of religion. The only mention of god in the constitution is exclusionary. The constitution makes it abundantly clear that a “wall of separation” between religion and government is one of the prime foundations of our republic. Freedom OF religion, the right to believe in the religion you choose, or to choose to believe in no religion at all, necessarily means freedom FROM religion, the right to have our secular laws that govern believers and non-believers alike, to be free of religious doctrine. If our laws are to be based on religious doctrine, which one? Should our laws be based on Sharia law? In short, freedom of religion means everyone has the right to be free from the very religious coercion Franklin is promoting.

Franklin claims he is not endorsing any particular candidate because he does not refer to any candidate by name. To quote Franklin, “I am not telling you who to vote for, that is up to you, but I do want you to educate yourselves about the different party platforms.” While Franklin is not naming any candidate, claiming he is not telling you who to vote for is true but only to the extent you believe Franklin was not referring to Jesus when he used the generic term “god” without naming a particular god. If you hear Franklin say you should vote for the candidate that will eliminate Obamacare, overturn Roe v. Wade and deny same-sex couples the right to get married and believe he was referring to Hillary, you heard the words he spoke but missed the implied meaning.