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America, land of freedom to worship, but for whom?

Ginny Grimsley | 8/24/2011, 5 p.m.

According to a new survey from the First Amendment Center, roughly one-third of Americans believe that religious liberty should not apply to all religions.

The survey, which polled 1,006 Americans on a variety of questions about their take on the role of religion and government, also revealed that more than a quarter of Americans believe there should be no separation between church and state. When asked whether "the freedom to worship as one chooses applies to all religious groups, regardless of how extreme their views are, or whether it was never meant to apply to religious groups that most people would consider extreme or fringe?" 28 percent agreed with the second statement.

"When so many Americans believe that religion should play a role in government and that the government shouldn't allow some people to even practice their religion, I see it as a crisis of reason," said James Peterson, author of "God and the Philosophy of Explanation" (www.jwpeterson.com). "Moreover, the idea that more than a quarter of Americans think that there should be no separation between church and state means that there are a lot of people out there who need a history lesson as well."

Peterson, a mechanical engineer and father of three, lost his daughter to heart failure when she was only 10 years old. It was then that the longtime GM employee and member in good standing of his local Methodist church began to reexamine the role of religion, not only in his life, but in the lives of Americans.

"Those who identify as religious people do so because they have a faith in something that cannot be measured by scientific principles or conclusive physical evidence," Peterson said. "That's why they call it faith. While none of us can empirically prove we have seen or spoken to God, or that any of the figures in their religions have actually been messiahs, they still believe in their existence and their power. While that is perfectly valid for them and their lives, our government was set up to provide for the people of our country, based on the power and philosophy of reason. Congress would not likely dedicate a significant amount of tax dollars to build a new weapons system to defend our country unless there was sufficient research and evidence to prove that the system would be effective in defending our nation. Embedding an element of faith in that matrix would subvert our government and the services and protections it provides us."

Further, Peterson believes that America would get into more trouble when it delved into the question of which religion would have purview in our government.

"For the sake of argument, let's say that Congress decided to abolish any separation of church and state," Peterson added. "Which religion do we let in? There are dozens of religions practiced in America. The Christians will argue that since they represent the majority of the faithful in America, they should take the lead, because in a democracy, the majority rules. However, the majority of Americans in this survey, 67 percent of them, declared that there should be a separation of church and state. I'm sure the majority of those people were Christians, statistically, so we know that even the majority of the faithful believe government should be free from the influence of faith. At the end of the day, mixing faith and government is a bad formula for America and Americans."

James Peterson was a retired manufacturing engineer for GMC in Lansing, Mich., prior to his retirement. He is the author of "God and the Philosophy of Explanation."