The Mind of WebbWoman

Hello! Look for future posts about my "observations" Lord knows I am always making observations, movie reviews, whenever I see a movie I want to talk about, or I may just vent my frustrations...who knows?

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Right to Peaceful Assembly?

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

When I studied this in junior high civics class I took it to mean that we had the right to gather together peacefully and worship God however we chose without fear of government interference. Not so much, as some main stream media folks would put it, the church should stay out of government, but rather government should stay out of church.

Well it seems the township of Freehold, New Jersey doesn't seem to read this the same way I do. Seems they've taken issue with the fact that Rabbi Avraham Bernstein has been having people in his home for Shabbat services. There's no traffic congestion as the people don't drive on Shabbat, he's not asking for a tax break on his property because people are praying, he's not playing loud, head banging music that makes the windows in his neighbors' houses rattle (sorry I had to throw in a personal grievance there) he and his friends are praying. The powers that be in the Freehold (ironic name if you ask me) even mounted a camera across the street so they can monitor how many people enter his house on a weekend.

Now this isn't taking place in Soviet Russia during the Cold War, or in China, North Korea, or even the Arab countries who have been Israel's sworn enemies since Biblical times, but the United States of America. The Land of the Free and Home of the Brave. The country that has the above section as the First Amendment to the Constitution so its citizens would be protected from a government that doesn't have their best interest at heart. Last I heard he's suing the township for his right to assemble peacefully as listed in the above mentioned First Amendment. Obviously I'm pulling for him.

It makes me wonder though. Can people gather together to have a Super Bowl party? A back yard Bar-B-Que? Play bridge? I can almost hear the township leaders. "Now ya'll can go ahead and have yer Bar-B-Ques and her Super Bowl parties...but don't ya go a-prayin' ya hear me?" Yeah, I doubt they talk like that in New Jersey but I'm in Mississippi and that's how we talk here.

The church I belong to on occasion has "prayer fellowships" in the home of one of our members. We gather together and pray, fellowship (hence the name) and, being good Baptists, we eat and sometimes break out into song. So, even though I don't live in New Jersey, if Rabbi Burnstein loses his case will that eventually mean Baptists won't be able to get together to pray and eat fried chicken and potato salad? Talk about a slippery slope!

All kidding aside we need to remember and to remind our government officials that the United States has a "government of the people, by the people and for the people" not the other way around.