Sermon by the Rev. Virginia McNeely, All Saints Episcopal Church, 8/20/17, Proper 15
This last week was a rough one for me and for many others, perhaps many of you listening to me today. I love this country very much. I appreciate that we have a Declaration of Independence that says, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” We have a Constitution that defines the branches of the federal government, outlines their powers, describes the office, qualifications and duties of the President and Vice Presidents of the United States, outlines the relationships among the states and between each state and the federal government, outlines the process for amending the Constitution, and establishes the Constitution. The amendments to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, safeguards our freedoms of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly and the right to petition. Its Free Exercise clause guarantees a person’s right to hold whatever religious beliefs he or she wants, and to freely exercise that belief. The establishment Clause prevents the federal government from creating an official national church or favoring one set of religious beliefs over another.
I am an American. I respect and uphold these foundations of our nation and government. I am a member of the American Civil Liberties Union, which protects the constitutional rights of everyone. But should I remain a member of the ACLU?
It’s been hard for me to accept that certain Christian leaders have more influence over the leaders of this country than others, but as a believer in our constitution and Bill of Rights I can believe that all will be well. I respect and believe in the rights of free speech and free assembly. Yet with the happenings this last week, I have begun to question how loyal I am to my beliefs. Why should KKK and White supremacists, clothed with hoods and Nazi emblems and armed with semi-automatic weapons, be allowed to march through a college campus and surround an Episcopal Church, not allowing those inside the building to leave? We have free speech, but should nothing be done to stop them from yelling “Blood and soil” and “The Jews will not replace us”, both Nazi statements? I believe in freedom of the press, but can’t something be done to a newspaper, The Daily Stormer, to stop them from calling Heather Heyer, who was killed by a white supremacist, a “fat, childless, 32-year-old slut,” and the two policemen who died in a helicopter crush “idiots’? I believe in states’ rights, but can’t something be done to prevent people from buying semi-automatic weapons without a background check and carrying them openly as they do in Virginia and a number of other states? Can’t something be done to prevent states from passing legislation that allows drivers to hit protesters with their cars and not be punished for the attack? Read more