Sparks fly over God Bless sign

OK, let's go over it again because apparently some people haven't gotten it yet.

The U.S. Constitution protects freedom of religion, not freedom from religion.

So when the city attorney in Sparks advises signs at City Hall there be edited from "God Bless America" to "Bless America," it creates a tempest where none need exist.

Fortunately, Sparks Mayor Tony Armstrong took a stand and bought some signs with his own money to put the "God" back in "Bless America." It wasn't a particularly risky stand, as we're sure most voters in Sparks would agree with the mayor and probably share his view of the relationship between religion and government.

We also understand there are some who disagree. They may not believe in God. They may believe in many gods. They may believe in witchcraft or druids or humanism or a thousand other things. That's fine. Nobody's stopping them.

The issue under the First Amendment is whether government may "establish" a religion, thus creating a kind of discrimination against anyone who doesn't follow it. So, the argument goes, any kind of religious reference associated with government has to be banned.

But one doesn't necessarily follow the other. Religion can be expressed in government and is -- in hundreds of examples, from the Declaration of Independence to currency to opening prayers at the Legislature.

Maybe it wasn't a wise thing to do to post "God Bless America" signs on taxpayers' property when there are so many other patriotic phrases that would work. "Live free or die" would be our favorite.

But it was a bigger mistake to try to eviscerate the message once it was posted. After all, taking it to its logical extreme, if you say "Bless America" aren't you implying there is somebody doing the blessing? Then you're down to a sign that says simply "America."

"God Bless America" isn't a religious message; it's a patriotic one. If you take offense, then you've simply misunderstood.


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