by Jonathan Boldt, Vanessa Fraga Perkins

As residents in the U.S., we have the right to practice whatever religion we choose or to not practice any at all. As a country that allows this freedom in its founding documents, why can’t we all let one another fulfill what our Founding Fathers envisioned?

There is this perceived notion that separation between church and state is a law and can be found in the Constitution. That phrase was actually not even used until Thomas Jefferson wrote to the Danbury Baptist Association in 1802, which included a line that stated: “building a wall of separation between Church and State” which was in reference to the first amendment.

The First Amendment states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

The U.S. government is not allowed to favor one religion over the other or mandate a national religion. The belief of God is inclusive of many religions and is not favoring one over the other. Along with that, making changes to the Pledge of Allegiance or eliminating it completely is showing preference to a group of people with an ideology.

Atheists don’t have a religion, but they still espouse an ideology. A church is simply a group of people who share a set of beliefs. While people who are not affiliated with a religion may not go to church, they are still individuals with a set moral code that they live by. So what makes us any different from one another?

People who don’t believe in God or just aren’t sure about His existence don’t have to say “God,” or take part in other things that involve religion. But not using “God” in certain circumstances is just as offensive to some as using it is to others.

Whether we agree with it or not, the Founding Fathers were a religious people and lived their lives accordingly, building this country based on their ideals. We cannot fully take their religious ideologies and religious history from this country.

The real problem is essentially forcing a person to do something that makes them feel uncomfortable and imposing religious beliefs upon other people. But no one is forcing anyone to do those things, and if they do, therein lies a problem with that person.

One will never be able to separate church and state completely because a lot of people are inherently religious, and make decisions and plans according to that set of beliefs.

Interestingly enough, back in 2003 and now again in 2012, two different Ten Commandments monuments was debated about after people protested that it went against separation of church and state and the First Amendment. However, an article found in USA Today stated that the courts found the monument unconstitutional because it was forcing people to come in contact with a religious message. Yet, our money saying “In God we trust” is not deemed “unconstitutional.”

Regardless of whether or not you believe in God, I think it’s safe to say that any ethical person would agree with the Ten Commandments. And the monument was there due to historical ties and not religious ones. Not only was the country founded on Judeo-Christian values, our entire legal system is based on its precepts.

There are currently people in the South waving Confederate flags, yet no one makes them takes those down, though most people find the act offensive.

Instead of taking down monuments and historic phrases from this nation’s history, let’s add to it and include monuments and celebrations from other religions.

In high school, I remember having school off for Yom Kippur, a Jewish holiday, and I’m grateful that my high school did that. I didn’t understand the significance then, but I now realize that doing things like that and observing and celebrating other religions and ideologies creates more understanding between people, rather than polarizing them and accusing one another of being disrespectful.

Religions should not only be tolerated, but celebrated, as well. Learning about one another’s culture is a valuable tool in creating bridges over the “wall of separation between church and state.”