Believe me, dear Sir: there is not in the British empire a man who more cordially loves a union with Great Britain than I do. But, by the God that made me, I will cease to exist before I yield to a connection on such terms as the British Parliament propose; and in this, I think I speak the sentiments of America (Thomas Jefferson, November 29, 1775).
God bless America, land that I love…today the country celebrates The United States of America’s declaration of independence from the British Empire. While history holds many motives for this declaration, two are clear: (1.) the right to be free from taxation without representation, and (2.) to have a state that is separate from the church. This led to a country that allowed states the right to be a primary source of governance, and people to worship at a church not run by a monarch. States’ rights were important because it was the government closest to the people establishing laws. Hence, better representation. It also led to a flourish of immigration where people came to worship, follow their religious beliefs, and pursue life, liberty and happiness. In turn, this created a healthy, diverse country. A place where Southern Baptists could persuade local officials to create “dry counties;” Irish Catholics could invite entire communities to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day; and schools can celebrate a day off in the honor of a Christian Minister—Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!” (Martin Luther King, Jr., 1963).
More than 200 years later, it may be time to ask, “How are we doing?” Is the country closer to its roots? Or, is it moving away from a society where one can influence his/her community without millions to spend on congressional lobbyists? Is each person free to pursue his/her life liberty and happiness? Or, is one only able to do so as long as no person is offended?
Consider that there are federal guidelines that mandate how children are educated in places as diverse as the Bronx and small desert communities in New Mexico. And, consider there are laws where religious institutions must provide healthcare counter to their religious founding. America may have moved too far toward centrist governmental control. The central move toward creating a country where one size fits everyone may result in a country where no one fits. The educational needs of kids in the Bronx differ from that of children in a desert town in New Mexico. Moreover, a small Catholic college in North Dakota founded by nuns requires a different healthcare construct than a publicly traded company in Atlanta.
In this effort to centralize and create a one-size-fits-all country that offends no one, will a cry come someday to ban a federal holiday in the honor of a Christian Minister like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.? Will the day come when people will protest Chicago’s river turning green each March 17, in honor of a Bishop who lived 1,600 years ago? It begs the question, “Is the national momentum creating a country where people can pursue life liberty and happiness?” Or, is the country inching toward the centralized control it fought to leave over 200 years ago?
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 (Preamble of the Declaration of Independence, 1776).