American school children are taught this nation was founded by pilgrims seeking religious freedom. Every competent historian knows they were seeking freedom for themselves and religious tyranny over others, but the second part doesn't make the textbook.
In early Massachusetts you could belong to but one church. If you didn't and you wouldn't join, you were escorted to the Rhode Island line.
Because people enjoyed tobacco it was thought to be the devil's weed. In 1630 outdoor pipe smoking was banned in Massachusetts.
Following the thread of religious tyranny through United States history to the present day is essential to understanding this country, because it's the most important thing in our land today.
We do hear that descendants of these settlers in Salem and other towns went silly over witchcraft and, after trial by jury with much the same pomp of trials today, hanged (not burned) at least 36 women they absolutely believed in their heart were witches.
Is that the last time our religious tyrants were heard from? Hardly. For most of our history they were in control.
Ever hear of Sunday blue laws? For close to 350 years no business in this land could open on Sunday. Baseball and other sports could not be played on Sunday. In some towns you could be jailed for mowing your lawn or gardening or cutting hair on Sunday. "The Lord's Day" totally intertwined church and state until the courts finally struck most of the laws down in the 2nd half of the 20th century.
When I grew up in Connecticut it was illegal to sell condoms. Pharmacists could be fined and jailed for it. Why? Catholics controlled the legislature. They demanded everyone be bound by the rules of their church. The law was almost universally ignored. Pharmacies sold condoms under the counter, and many Catholics bought them like everyone else.
The Connecticut legislature could never muster the patriotism to repeal the law, nor could the state supreme court. The US Supreme Court had to do it.
For generations, taking an oath in America required swearing on a Christian Bible. Today that's still the norm, although non-biblical affirmations are permitted.
The US Congress, possibly all 50 state legislatures, and many local governing bodies open their sessions with a prayer, commonly a prayer specific to one religion.
Legislatures have been forcing daily prayer and the symbols of one religion on public schools for ages. Most of these legal requirements are struck down by supreme courts when the court majority respects the separation.
Religious fundamentalists never let up pressure to control this nation. During the war between the states in the 1860s they mustered the votes in Congress to require that "In God We Trust" be placed on all United States currency. Since then, to use our currency you must spread a religious message.
"Under God" was not part of the pledge to the flag until 1954 when a Republican Congress dictated it had to be included. Many Americans exercise a right of silence and won't say it. Scientist Carl Sagan was outspoken on that. It's a matter of patriotism. Parroting Congress's religious concept undercuts the freedom to worship.
Only in the second half of the 20th Century did a branch of government, the Judiciary, begin to break the grip of religion on secular life. Shopping malls, NFL football, restaurants and bars are all part of Sunday now. That's so new that the backlash against the new secularism is the leading political movement of our day.
There are two Americas, the free and the fundamentalist, fighting to control. Children in public school are still routinely given Christian indoctrination on school time in the fundamentalist bible belt. It's happening in Waynesboro, VA, 25 miles from here. It's unconstitutional, but religious fundamentalists - Christian no less than Muslim - see the constitution and our open way of life as their enemy.
In the 21st century the Texas Republican Party, the one most closely associated with President Bush, officially declared the US "a Christian nation" and dismissed the separation of church and state as a "myth."
We are living through an American rebellion, but which side is rebelling?
Introduction - How these myths began
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