OPINION – Friday night, I sat down with my family to watch a performance that chronicles the historic Statue of Virginia for Religious Freedom called “First Freedom.” The production is showing at Brigham’s Playhouse through Nov. 8. Its set during the period of the American Revolution and revolves around three Virginia founders: James Madison, Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson.
Let’s get one thing straight, this play is not about how “church separated from state”, that phrase is found nowhere in our founding documents. It was utilized once in a letter from Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptists. The year was 1801 and the Baptists were fearful that government would not allow them to practice religion how they saw fit. They had doubts believing it was an inalienable right. It is in Jefferson’s reply where the often misused expression is found, reassuring them that “their legislature would “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church and State.” (Emphasis added.)
The meaning has been flipped on its head by progressives to equate that religion has no place in the public square. This is a perversion of what the founders intended and we are paying the price dearly for it today.
What this play is about is the manner in which Virgina passed the right to freedom of conscience for every man, which law served as the catalyst behind the First Amendment in our Nations Bill of Rights. I quickly realized mid show how important religion is as a vehicle to live my faith. The founders united on faith and principals, not religion and political party, and because the rights asserted where natural rights, religions and faith have flourished across the country. I must have nearly jumped out of my seat a dozen times throughout the performance. The show is littered with lines uttered by our founders. I applaud the writers for immersing themselves in research, the end result is sagacious dialogue that is historically accurate. Even more impressive then the dialogue, is the music.
During the song “No harm is done to me” a quote is lifted from Thomas Jefferson that is one of my favorites, “The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”
Texting and Driving law
A few months back, I was a casualty of the new texting law that went to effect. I was traveling South on Bluff approximately 10 miles per hour below the speed limit due to the cargo hanging out the back of my truck. I had just purchased $100 worth of trees for my back yard. My wife asked me to glance at something on her phone. I reached out to angle the phone and that is when an officer pulled me over and attempted to issue me a citation for distracted driving. I told him that I did not manipulate the smart phone so I cannot possibly be charged under that law. He headed to his car and promptly returned with a citation for careless driving. The fee was $100.
I wanted to ask the officer as he was handing me the ticket whose leg had I broken. My pocket was picked yet I couldn’t locate anyone who I had caused injury. I will still use my phone at appropriate times while driving. The reason why is explained in the play. When a priest brags how “All it took was prayer and a hole bored through his tongue” as the manner in which a sinner was reformed from cursing. The erudite reply from a lady dressed like a Puritan contains truth, “You have failed our brother here. You have changed him outside, but inside he’s the same. All your laws and penalties will never conquer sin; trust instead the holy light that leads you from within.” I ask that I be trusted similar to the way police officers are trusted to safely utilize electronic devices while in their patrol cars.
Principals of liberty
On the drive home from the theater house I thought of several examples from the show that would aid in reinforcing good principals with my children. I would gladly give up five straight seasons of Disney productions under the red rocks for just one performance akin to First Freedom. Don’t get me wrong, I love sitting underneath the moonlit canyon to take in a Broadway quality show as much as the next guy. It’s wonderful family entertainment.
However, as Senator Mike Lee explained recently why politics, and I would add principals, should matter to our youth today, “politics matters because it will in many ways define the world you inherit and set the parameters of the good you can do in it.”
Our kids are entertained to death and when they are not being entertained, starting at the age of 3 if enrolled in universal preschool, they are spending three to seven hours a day five days a week preparing for “college and career readiness.”
There is a great deficiency in learning and applying principals of liberty. Feel-good lessons that champion what is best for the collective are being embraced by our youth, oftentimes unknowingly. Trends and political correctness will always come and go, but truisms endure and deserve my support because they are what’s best for my family. Our children will have to live with the ramifications tomorrow of choices made by us today.
Which leads me to the RAP tax.
What is the proper role of government? For many tax payers it comes down to whether or not they believe municipalities or governments in general are the wisest stewards of our money. I do not. The city of Saint George recently allocated 3 million dollars to fix up the Electric theater. On November 4th taxpayers are asked to vote on the RAP tax expected to bring 2.2 million dollars annually in order for what? So that a new soccer field, among other things, may be built? How much will this tax cost Washington County residents over ten years? Tuacahn failed to disclose this figure in their mass email campaign asking patrons to support RAP: 25 million.
I’m not against building soccer fields, but I think we need to be clear when it comes to politics in Utah– we have very little semblance of conservative principals amongst public servants at the city and state level. Almost none. I cringe when I hear politicians referred to as our “leaders.” Which is why citizens must tread very carefully when asked to vote for any additional spending.
Benefits are constantly being combined together into packages because it sounds clever, similar to the way massive spending bills are lumped together in Congress. Its all or nothing folks. Yes, taxpayers are afforded the opportunity to cast a yes or no vote but upon it’s passage, will the RAP advisory board that determines where the money is allocated really listen to me, or am I just another Forgotten Man?
The equation is unvarying; the variables change.
As soon as A observes something which seems to him wrong, from which X is suffering, A talks it over with B, and A and B then propose to get a law passed to remedy the evil and help X. Their law always proposes to determine what C shall do for X, or, in better case, what A, B, and C shall do for X… What I want to do is to look up C. I want to show you what manner of man he is. I call him the Forgotten Man. perhaps the appellation is not strictly correct. he is the man who never is thought of…. I call him the forgotten man… He works, he votes, generally he prays—but he always pays…” – William Graham Sumner
A: Citizens who desire recreation, arts and parks and private businesses desiring monies.
B: County Commissioners, City Council and Municipalities
C: Myself, the taxpayer
Free exchange of ideas
Our founders often assembled together in taverns, homes and city centers to engage in robust debate on the “battlefield of ideas.” It was on this battlefield that ideas either flourished and lived to fight another day or met their fate, sometimes never to be heard from again. The free exchange of ideas has now been upgraded to countdowns. Citizens are afforded two strict minutes to voice their opinion in regards to proposed decisions made by politicians that greatly impact their lives. Concerned participants stand to address school boards and city councils and, as Thomas Henry recently learned the hard way, it can be a very daunting task. He is a good example of a Forgotten Man.
“Politics is basically theater” as Patrick’s Henry’s character succinctly puts it during one of the songs. Issues are often masterfully controlled by politicians and are framed into a non-winnable, binary choice where you, the voter, are left with no room to defend your viewpoint. I do not wish to broaden the state’s definition of discrimination. The newly proposed additions to current nondiscrimination laws will aid in killing off religious liberty faster. One simply needs to look no further than news headlines as there are several anti-discrimination suits against pastors and private businesses pleading their natural right to religious conscience.
The very tyranny our founders were trying to put off has manifested itself in greater force inside our city and state government.
“Our differences can be what they’ll be, as long as we are free, no harm is done to me.” – From the song “No harm is done to me,” First Freedom
Submitted by Ryan Schudde, St. George
- Brigham’s Playhouse | “First Freedom| Sept. 26-Nov. 8 | Tuesday – Saturday at 7:30 p.m. with a matinee on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. | Website
- Sen. Urquhart plans to reintroduce nondiscrimination bill
- Perspectives: The cost of educating my child
- You’re being watched; texting-while-driving complaints, defenses
- Blame the water bottle? Distracted driving reminder, police on lookout
- Tighter restrictions on distracted driving go into effect at midnight
- Washington County residents gather, discuss RAP tax particulars
- Commission hears pros/cons of RAP Tax; tourist contributions/infinite, expensive
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