Grasshopper Soup: Freedom is absolute within reason
Special to the Sun
TAHOE/TRUCKEE and#8212; May the new year see a more complete understanding of, appreciation for, and more generous tolerance of our differences, and a return to the simple idea that freedom, including religious freedom, is essential to the pursuit of happiness, and that freedom is a good thing, not an obscure intellectual theory the common man canand#8217;t understand.
But someoneand#8217;s brain was not getting enough oxygen when the Military Religious Freedom Foundation said that religious displays at Travis Air Force Base over the holidays were a violation of religious freedom. Thatand#8217;s right, it was the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, not the Military Logistics Department. Go figure.
The argument is correct that religious displays at a military base give the impression that the government favors one religion over another. So what? A lawsuit against religious freedom on a military base also gives the impression of discrimination and the intent to deprive people in the military of their religious freedom. Whatand#8217;s the difference? In one instance the military gives freedom, and in the other the Military Religious Freedom people try to take that freedom away.
Impressions equal reasonable doubt, not probable cause. The government, including the military and the rest of the country, consists of free persons whose rights are inalienable regardless of their occupation, or who pays their salary.
Religious freedom and separation of church and state were not meant to be abused by the use of legal force, or impressions, to restrict the freedom of others. Freedom was meant to be regulated within reason, not to satisfy our prejudices or defend our personal impressions. I believe that was the intent of the authors of our Constitution.
Anyone with an ounce of common sense and reason knows religious freedom, especially on American soil, is perfectly OK, as long as the government or the military doesnand#8217;t force anyone to get down on their knees to worship the wooden image of a strange god or to convert to the latest religious fad. That would be unreasonable, to say the least. Then, and only then, would there be cause for concern. Coercion is the only scenario (besides absolute freedom) in which the separation of church and state should be understood and taught. Simply put, you NEVER mess with religious freedom in America.
Travis Air Base refused to remove the displays (cheers!), and the foundation said they would file a federal lawsuit, which signals to me that they donand#8217;t take religious freedom very seriously. The goal of tolerance, one would hope, is for everyone to win. The only way to ensure a win-win is to not file a lawsuit.
In the Travis case, as in cases like it all across the country, the complaint is always the same. Someone (an adult, mind you) says they feel left out, or offended. Cry me a river. Thatand#8217;s the nice thing about a democracy. You can sue anybody you want to prevent real democracy on the grounds that freedom for certain people hurts your feelings.
Trying to criminalize the customs, traditions and holidays of others based on personal feelings and impressions demonstrates an insensitivity to, and ignorance of, the historical roots of religious freedom. It may also prove discrimination against a particular religion.
We can give our neighbor freedom, or punish them for it. We can see the beauty and wonder of freedom, or be blind. We can appreciate freedom, or resent it. Sharing in, and appreciating, anotherand#8217;s freedom is more conducive to liberty and justice for all than the litigation of freedom based on personal impressions and fears.
True freedom is given, not taken away.
Bob Sweigert is a Sierra Sun columnist, published poet, former college instructor and ski instructor. He has a B.A. and an M.A.T. from Gonzaga University. He has lived at Lake Tahoe for 28 years.