In one of his June letters to the editor, Bill “B.J.” Paschal continued his argument with Andy Absher. I’m not trying to get into the middle of their differing historical perspectives, but I found one concept set out by B.J. to be dangerous to our continued liberties. He said, “On July 4, 1776, American conservatives (Tories) did not address equality…as a founding principle. But the liberal founders did. Eventually, they would write that principle into the religion clauses of the First Amendment; that is, freedom for and freedom from are equal ideological concepts.”

Ignoring his interesting historical spin that conservatives were Tories and the founders were liberals, there is no mention in the First Amendment of freedom “for” or freedom “from.” The First Amendment reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press….” Many modern-day proponents for the separation of church and state confuse the word “of” with the word “from.” Many argue that you cannot have freedom of religion without having freedom from religion and that the two concepts are interchangeable, mean the same thing, and are “equal ideological concepts.” I believe that to be an error in judgment. They are not the same and they are not equal.

Freedom “of” religion is the freedom to choose. I can choose to be Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist or atheist. It is my right to decide, my freedom “of.” Freedom from religion is the right to restrict, the right to exclude. Freedom “from” religion limits and reduces freedom of religion to something similar to the old adage that children should be seen but not heard.

Think it through and the difference in wording is readily apparent. Apply this same ideological concept to the entire First Amendment. You would lose freedom of religion, freedom of speech and freedom of the press and receive in their place the “equal” concepts of freedom from religion, freedom from speech and freedom from the press. Your freedom of religion would be forced into hiding because your neighbor has freedom from it. Your freedom of speech would be reduced to silence because the person next to you has freedom from it. Your freedom of the press (the public’s right to know) would be reduced to censorship because politicians, losing athletes, and accused criminals (just to name a few examples) have freedom from it.

There is a huge difference between freedom of and freedom from. Those pushing for more and more separation of church and state, those pushing for a new understanding of the First Amendment and the replacement of the word “of” with the word “from” are working for our liberties to be curtailed and controlled. Communist China has freedom from religion, freedom from speech and freedom from the press. I do not choose to live there. I choose to live in America where the First Amendment gives me freedom of religion, freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Freedom of religion and freedom from religion may be equal ideological concepts in Professor Paschal’s ivory tower, but I prefer keeping my liberty to choose my religion, speak my convictions, and read a free press as opposed to the restrictions freedom from those things would place on the American way of life.

Dan Taylor is an Anderson resident.

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