Citing the efforts to remove religious symbols from government institutions despite our predominantly Christian culture, and threats to attack Syria against overwhelming public opposition, Wootters claims America is moving away from its democratic roots.
My letter rebutting Mr. Wootters's uninformed assertion was published by the Hunterdon County Democrat on September 28, 2013;
To the editors:
In a recent letter called “Will of the People,” Ron Wootters, objecting to “Having God removed from government buildings,” wondered “why our government and judicial systems are ruling in favor of small minorities like atheists over the will of the people in an 80% Christian country.”
But such rulings don’t favor atheists. They protect liberty.
Contrary to Wootters’s belief that “majority rules” is a defining American principle, America is not a democracy ruled by the “will of the people.” America — at least in its original formulation — is a secular, constitutionally-limited republic based on the individual’s inalienable rights, including his right to freedom of conscience, the limits being to prevent the power of both the state and electoral majority from violating those rights. It is the minority that our constitutional system was designed to protect—the smallest and only morally relevant minority being the individual. In America, the individual cannot be forced to support, through his taxes, religious beliefs he disagrees with.
The relevant principle is separation of church and state. This bedrock American doctrine protects both freedom of religion and freedom from religion; so super-majority Christians may not use government force to legally establish their beliefs, no matter how large their numbers.
But neither may atheists impose their beliefs. A secular republic does not mean atheistic government. It means a government that refrains from establishing, promoting, or in any way favoring any belief system. A secular government is strictly neutral regarding individuals’ personal beliefs, whether religious or non-religious. Its only purpose is to protect every person’s right to freedom of conscience equally and at all times, so long as his actions don’t violate the same rights of others. This is the American system.
If you want to see real democracy — majority rule unconstrained by constitutional protections of individual rights — just look at the turmoil in Egypt. The democratically elected Morsi government attempted to impose Sharia law, and subjugate the Christian and secular minorities to second class status — and outright persecution — by simple virtue of having a Muslim majority. The constitutionally defenseless minority had to resort to a military coup to head off a totalitarian Islamic theocracy, precisely because Egypt had no government or judicial systems to remove God from government buildings.
One might forgive Wootters for his ignorance, considering the fact that prominent politicians of conservatism and "liberalism", from Presidents Bush and Obama on down, have told us that America is a "democracy." But if our great American republic is not to degenerate into tyranny, as majoritarianism dictates it must if a democracy is what we continue to morph into, Americans must learn that democracy is as evil a system as communism, Nazism, and theocracy.
Democracy is Democracy
Iraqi Democracy vs. Freedom
Democracy in Action in Egypt