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If you Google the subject of this piece, you will find many different opinions on the responsibilities of US citizenship, but there are some that are generally accepted. Here is one set that I found:

Respect and obey federal, state, and local laws

Respect the rights, beliefs, and opinions of others

Participate in your local community

Staying informed

Support and defend the Constitution

How do these apply to the current chaotic mess in the US?

A few examples:

  1. Some states and local governments have responded to the pandemic by enacting ordnances mandating masks, distancing, and now vaccination. But about a third of our population refuses to obey these laws.
  2. Demonization of political opponents has become endemic in the US,. especially among far-right conspiracy theorists, who see an evil cabal behind every tree. Such people are susceptible to all kinds of wild and absurd theories of plots to plant microchips in our bodies to control us and modify our DNA, or to create an oppressive world government, run by scientists, liberals and atheists, who are all controlled by Satan. Most of the resistance to Covid vaccines and climate change actions are motivated by this kind of thinking.
  3. The people described above usually have friends or family members with similar ideas. They view everyone else as part of the conspiracy or just stupid.
  4. Such people distrust scientists, and are willfully ignorant and dismissive of climate change, evolution, vaccines and other scientific issues. To say that they are not informed, is an understatement.
  5. When it comes to the Constitution, they are fanatical believers in “states’ rights,” meaning that states should ignore any federal laws that they don’t like. They view “human rights” as inherent personal sovereignty that overrides any laws that they don’t like. A notable exception to this is a woman’s right to choice, which they dismiss, assigning an overriding “right” to the fetus starting at conception.

It is pretty clear that the tenets of citizen responsibility stated at the top are largely dismissed or ignored by these people. They view state laws and local ordinances, such as those mandating masks, distancing and vaccination as violations of their personal rights.

One of the main defenses of scofflaws is religious belief. Anti-discrimination laws have been weakened by allowing discrimination against the LGBTQ community based on religious tenets. The most outrageous misuse of religious belief is the exemption they demand to any constraints on their “right” to refuse vaccines and the wearing of masks, and to hold religious gatherings.

On that last point, the SCOTUS ruled in their favor in a recent case in California:

“Since the arrival of COVID–19, California has openly imposed more stringent regulations on religious institutions than on many businesses.” wrote Justice Neil M. Gorsuch in one of three concurring opinions. “California worries that worship brings people together for too much time. Yet, California does not limit its citizens to running in and out of other establishments; no one is barred from lingering in shopping malls, salons, or bus terminals.”

Gorsuch along with Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. voted to lift all the restrictions, including limits on attendance and singing, even though singing is recognized as an especially efficient means of spreading the virus.

There is a difference between religious gatherings and shopping in grocery stores, which is essential for people to eat. I buy our groceries once a week. I plan my trip carefully, and I wear a mask, of course. I know the store very well. I get there when it opens at 8 AM, and I quickly collect the items I need in about ten minutes, and I’m out of there. Compare that to the typical religious service of two hours or more with singing, hugging and chatting, all unmasked. Equating them is disingenuous, to say the least.

What it comes down to is religious privilege. Churches demand special treatment for people with religious beliefs. That violates a basic premise of government…to make laws that apply equally to all citizens. But organized religion views God as the ultimate authority, and claims that an individual’s primary responsibility is to God, not government. In that sense, it undermines its followers’ responsibilities as citizens.

Organized religions are enemies of secular government, seeking to influence it and oppose it whenever it encroaches on religious privileges. The ultimate goal is theocracy, where religious dogma dictates all government actions. In many parts of the world, this is the case. Our government was formed with the idea that it was free of that religious tyranny, but it takes constant vigilance to oppose those who would oppress us with their faith-based beliefs. The damage that was done to our Judicial system under the previous President has created a crisis that could lead to greater dominance of our political system by organized religion in the future. How we deal with that will determine whether our secular form of government survives.

It is a conflict that has plagued humanity for thousands of years, and is likely to continue until…we realize that the emperor is naked.

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Jonathan MS Pearce

A TIPPLING PHILOSOPHER Jonathan MS Pearce is a philosopher, author, columnist, and public speaker with an interest in writing about almost anything, from skepticism to science, politics, and morality,...