The following is the text of a letter to the editor sent to the Wall Street Journal by Jon

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The following is the text of a letter to the editor sent to the Wall Street Journal by Jon Murray, president of American Atheists, in response to an op-ed by Pat Robertson, founder of the Christian Coalition. _________________________________________________ April 12, 1995 Letters to the Editor The Wall Street Journal 200 Liberty St New York NY 10281 Pat Robertson claims ("A Reply to My Critics," Editorial Page, April 12) that Americans "should never allow freedom of religion to become freedom from religion." This declaration is almost a mantra among those in the religious right -- and the religious left, as evidenced by President Clinton. Sadly, our history shows that we as a nation rarely, if ever, have extended the First Amendment to include "freedom from religion." Since the colonization of this continent, religious freedom has usually been taken only to mean freedom to choose a religion, not to opt out of belief. Until recently, state constitutions in Texas, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Mississippi guaranteed citizens of any religion the right to serve in public office, as long as they were not Atheists. Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Arkansas still cling to this restriction. Atheists still face religious test hurdles as witnesses, public office holders, jurors (oath taking), even in some employment or adoption situations. My own sister was once jailed in Texas for refusing to take a jury oath "So Help Me God." At the same time, through taxation, we Atheists are forced to support religious institutions through tax exemptions and through direct government grants. We are shuffled into second-class status at civic events at which prayer is a required element. We are even denied the Pledge of Allegiance to the nation's flag, thanks to its adulteration with "under god" in 1954. And to add insult to injury, public officials, such as Governor Engler of Michigan and former President George Bush, can openly question Atheists' qualifications as good citizens without rebuke from press or public. What religionists such as Robertson must come to understand is that there is no freedom of religion without freedom from religion. As an evangelical Protestant, he desires to be free from government mandates that he support, through taxation or forced observance, Roman Catholicism, Judaism, or Islam. Just so, Atheists and other nonbelievers desire to be free from his and everyone else's religion -- something we cannot be if we are forced to mouth prayers and oaths or to support religious institutions. What American Atheists strives for is a nation in which the government is as "religion-blind" as we hope it is "color- blind," "gender-blind," or "disability-blind." It is long past the time when the First Amendment should also be construed to guarantee freedom from religion. Sincerely, AMERICAN ATHEISTS, INC. Jon G. Murray President *********************************************************************** * * * American Atheists website: http://www.atheists.org * * PO Box 140195 FTP: ftp://ftp.atheists.org * * Austin, TX 78714-0195 * * Voice: (512) 458-1244 Dial-THE-ATHEIST: * * FAX: (512) 467-9525 (512) 458-5731 * * * * Atheist Viewpoint TV: avtv@atheists.org * * Info on American Atheists: info@atheists.org, * * & American Atheist Press include your name and mailing address * * AANEWS -Free subscription: aanews-request@listserv.atheists.org * * and put "info aanews" in message body * * * * This text may be freely downloaded, reprinted, and/other * * otherwise redistributed, provided appropriate point of * * origin credit is given to American Atheists. * * * ***********************************************************************

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