As the BATS (Blogging Against Theocracy) write about their distaste for any expression of Christian faith in the public eye, we have tried, as we celebrate the birth of a nation founded by Christians and built on Christian principles, to illustrate two things so far to illustrate the profound misunderstanding of the BATS:
(1) America was settled by Christians, founded by Christians, and has traditionally been enlightened both politically and societally by Christian principles
(2) This Christian influence does not constitute "theocracy," nor does the expression of religious faith by citizens or government officials constitute a "theocracy" or violate the First Amendment.
I believe we have illustrated what a theocracy is NOT. Now it's time to show what a theocracy IS, so that, if the BATS choose rationality over their personal distaste for Christianity, they can adopt a position closer to reality and stop attacking the Christian personality of American society--especially on some of our most sacred and cherished holidays.
Here are a few recent examples from around the world of theocracies and how real theocracies behave:
PAKISTAN - Christian Solidarity Worldwide says Masih, a Christian from Chungi Amar Sadu in Lahore, was charged Sept. 10, 2005, under Section 295C of the Pakistan Penal Code. Section 295C relates to blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammad and carries the death penalty. (WorldNetDaily)
EGYPT - An Egyptian court accepted an appeal Monday from 45 Copts who were denied the right to reclaim their religious identities after they decided to convert back to Christianity from Islam, a lawyer and court officials said. A lower administrative court ruled against the plaintiffs on April 29, prohibiting them from restoring their Christian identities on their national identification cards. (International Herald Tribune)
MALASIA - Lina Joy, born an ethnic Malay Muslim, appealed to the nation’s highest court to be recognized as a Christian, the faith of her Indian boyfriend. The forty-three-year-old Joy took up the Catholic faith in 1990, was baptized eight years later, and changed her name to Azlina Jailani in 1999. The next year, Joy sought to remove the word “Islam” from her identification card—that way, she could legally marry her boyfriend—but the lower civil courts ruled that only sharia courts could officially sanction her conversion. Under sharia law in Malaysia, Joy could face criminal prosecution for apostasy, punishable by imprisonment, a hefty fine, or time spent at a “rehabilitation” camp. (Council on Foreign Relations)
AFGHANISTAN - In February 2006 an Afghan court struck down a motion by Abdul Rahman to convert to Christianity. He was sentenced to death for apostasy. The court, dominated by religious conservatives, later reversed its decision under international pressure and released Rahman, who then fled and sought asylum in Italy. Opinion surveys at the time showed that most Afghans, given their tribal history and religious conservatism, supported the death sentence for Rahman. (Council on Foreign Relations)
IRAN - Experts monitoring such persecution say that Christians make up a tiny percentage of the people of Iran, where the government "officially" allows Christians to practice their faith but in reality intervenes and harasses Christians regularly. For example, Christians are not allowed to print literature, including Sunday bulletins, and converts from Islam to Christianity are labeled apostate and subject to the death penalty. Christian pastors are under constant surveillance, and many are forced to sign documents saying they will not allow Muslims to be in their worship services. (WorldNetDaily)
INDIA - In Orissa, more than 15 Hindus stopped a small number of Christian evangelists on a village road, verbally abused them, and then forced them into the local temple for the ritual, the report said. Sources within India told VOM that the evangelists were witnessing and handing out New Testaments and Gospel tracts. "When chaos broke out, the extremists took the evangelists to the police who put them in jail … and confiscated more than 30 New Testaments and Gospel tracts," the report said. (WorldNetDaily)
PAKISTAN - "Daniel, an 11-year-old Christian boy, refused to play with his Muslim friends, resulting in them beating him," the Pakistani source told Voice of the Martyrs. "Daniel's family confronted the Muslims who called the police and made a false report saying Daniel's family had blasphemed the name of the Holy Prophet," the source reported. (WorldNetDaily)
NIGERIA - Nearly 1,000 homes and churches have been burned down by Muslim radicals – with a wink and a nod from a government that doesn't recognize the rights of non-Muslims. "If you go around villages, you will see people missing one hand or one foot," explained Rev. Obiora Ike. "Do you think that’s the result of an illness? That is the result of Sharia Law." Sharia law permits violent attacks against non-Muslims and the killing of former Muslims who have converted to Christianity or other faiths. The destruction of churches and the prohibition of new church constructions are considered legitimate actions. (WorldNetDaily)
NEPAL - Villagers took every opportunity to make life difficult for him, including their response when some water from his field inadvertently spilled onto a neighbor's land, the sources reported. "He was recently fined 6,000 rupees (about $100, a large sum in Nepal), after water from his field spilled over into a neighbor's field," the VOM sources reported. "Normally, this would not be a problem, but the neighbors consider water from Rajan's field unclean because he is a Christian. "Normally, we wouldn't fine you, but because you changed your religion and became a Christian, you need to pay 6,000 rupees," the villagers told him, according to VOM. (WorldNetDaily)
SUDAN - Sudan's militant Muslim regime is slaughtering Christians who refuse to convert to Islam, according to the head of an aid group who recently returned from the African nation. The forced conversions are just one aspect of the Khartoum government's self-declared jihad on the mostly Christian and animist south, Dennis Bennett, executive director of Seattle-based Servant's Heart told WorldNetDaily. Villagers in several areas of the northeast Upper Nile region say that when women are captured by government forces they are asked: "Are you Christian or Muslim?" Women who answer "Muslim" are set free, but typically soldiers gang-rape those who answer "Christian" then cut off their breasts and leave them to die as an example for others. (WorldNetDaily)
SAUDI ARABIA - When Saudi authorities discovered a man working in Mecca was a Christian, they immediately arrested him, highlighting the desert kingdom's law barring non-Muslims from the Islamic holy city. "The Grand Mosque and the holy city are forbidden to non-Muslims," said Col. Suhail Matrafi, head of the department in charge of Expatriates Affairs in Mecca. (WorldNetDaily)
If the state court is deciding what religion someone is, or what religion they may legitimately claim as their own, then you have a theocracy. If the government harasses, oppresses, or punishes you because you belong to a certain religion, then you have a theocracy. If the government fails to guarantee the same rights for you as for others, based on your religious affiliation, then you have a theocracy.
The United States, since it's earliest days, has had an official and unofficial policy of religious tolerance. Many if not most of the early settlers had fled religious persecution in their old countries; they were not eager to see it started again in the New World. Even though the vast majority of Americans have been and still are Christians, people of all faiths have always been welcome in America and allowed to practice whatever religion they choose without penalty.
That is why the Founders made the first clause of the First Amendment one guaranteeing the freedom of all citizens to practice their faith as they see fit, with no official state church to establish a national orthodoxy:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;
Notice here that it is only the federal government that is prohibited from making a law respecting an establishment of religion. Some of the states continued to have their own official churches even after the U.S. Constitution was ratified, though this practice eventually fell by the wayside.
But no one was punished for practicing another religion.
And citizens were not prohibited from expressing their faith...even in public ("prohibiting the free exercise thereof"). Even public officials, members of our representative government, were not prohibited from allowing their faith to inform their decisions.
Such moves as separating faith from the public square are a recent development, only seen in the last 50 years or so as Marxists and secular humanists have grown more bold, and as Christians have acquiesced and abdicated their responsibility to be "salt and light" in society.
So when you ponder the question of whether we have a theocracy in America, or whether Christians are trying to institute a theocracy in America...stop and consider these examples of genuine theocracies from around the world; stop and consider the founding principles of the United States, and the original intent of the founders and the founding documents.
If you're honest, I think you'll find there is no "theocracy movement;" only a movement to sanitize any expression of Christian faith from the light of day.