Ms. Buchanan’s rejection of church and state separation, by Penny Smith

Ms. Buchanan’s Rejection of Church and State Separation


The beginning of the first amendment to our Constitution declares that we will “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” It goes on to prohibit Congress from limiting our rights to free speech, press, assembly and petition. But it begins with some advice about religion and it does so deliberately.


Most of us recognize the “free exercise” clause. Our government should have no role in what we choose to believe. We are free to subscribe to any religion, sect, or denomination. We can even elect to believe in none at all. Yet it’s the other clause, which comes first, that we are prone to forget. We cannot “establish” a religion. In other words, it is forbidden to privilege one set of beliefs above another.


Our founders were familiar with established religion. The Church of England prevailed in the colonies and it was itsprivileged position the founders sought to banish. Popular stories of our founding then and now praised early dissenters like Roger Williams, when they founded settlements on the premise of welcoming diverse believers. Lord Baltimore, the Catholic founder of Maryland, likewise welcomed dissenters as did William Penn, a Quaker, in his colony of Pennsylvania.


The phrase “separation of church and state” is generally traced to an 1802 Thomas Jefferson letter in which he affirms to a Baptist congregation worried about the establishment of religion that the writers of our Constitution believed religion was “a matter … between Man & his God.” Government has no role in that relationship. Thus, he wrote, the new Constitution built “a wall of separation between Church and State.” It is a separation that I assume even Jesus would approve, given his advice to render unto Caesar what is his and unto God “the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22: 21, KJV). His statements built on the foundation laid in the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom (1786), which he authored.


So, Ms. Buchanan’s assertion in a Facebook post that the separation of church and state is a “false teaching” raises the question of in what way is it false? True, no man, woman or government can nor should wipe away our personal religious beliefs. They often form the ethical framework with which we view the world and they sometimes guide our personal behaviors. However, in a nation of diverse peoples, with diverse beliefs, it is contrary to the establishment clause to force those notions on others through public policy. We have never lived up to the aspirations of the establishment clause, but that doesn’tmean it is a false teaching.


In the same Facebook posting Ms. Buchanan notes that legalizing abortion was wrong and predicated on a lie. How she squares that assertion with the deeply felt religious beliefs of some people that life only begins at birth, not conception, is beyond me. For example, in Judaism, life starts with a first breath and that happens after, not before, a fetus enters the world. So, are those believers to turn their backs on their theology and adopt that of Ms. Buchanan? Isn’t that establishment of a set of beliefs? Doesn’t that compromise religious freedom? One wonders into what pretzels our conservative Supreme Court majority will twist itself when a case brought on behalf of religious freedom FOR abortion access appears, as it inevitably will.


That’s why that establishment clause was paired with a freedom clause when it came to religion. Religion is only free when it cannot be established. When we disagree, logic dictates that we use our faith to render personal decisions for ourselves and not policy, legislative or judicial decisions for everyone. Ideological absolutists have entangled us in tribal divisions on behalf of ideas worthy of authoritarians and Grand Inquisitors rather than falling back on two very sound pieces of advice: Caesar does Caesar’s work and God does God’s work with a wall of separation between them.


Not only do I worry about people who think that wall is a false belief, but I fear what they might do to our great country. In the name of their religion, they want to shut down conversations. They forbid books. They hope to dictate which ideas we can encounter and which we must avoid. In public schools, they support a regime of ideologically pure instruction and avoid education, which requires critical thinking and openness to new ideas. Instruction makes us alike; education allows for difference. A nation instructed is a nation dead in the water, unwilling and, ultimately, unable to deal with what tomorrow may bring. That is the world established religions make and it is not one in which I or any other freedom-loving American should wish to live.


When it comes to Caesar’s world, “true believers” must be true believers only for themselves and their families. Hate abortion? Don’t have one, but remember that many sincere believers of other religions do not believe that life begins with conception. Want to put limits around what young people should know or encounter? Do that with your own children, but do not inflict that requirement on the children of people who do not share your belief system. Want a restricted curriculum reflective of your sense of what the world is like? Opt for private schools; that is not the task of public ones.


Let me be very clear. I am not saying that in public schools children should be exposed to things that are age-inappropriate. Obviously, adults have a responsibility to monitor what children encounter, but they also have a responsibility, at least in a free country, to ensure they engage with facts, with history (both the good and the bad parts of it), and with diversity. Ultimately, children belong to themselves, not their parents nor their country nor one set of ideas. That’s what freedom, something Ms. Buchanan repeatedly touts in her campaign literature, is all about.



Let’s Strive to Become Great-Sylva Herald Letter to the Editor, Dave Waldrop

Let’s strive to become great

To the Editor:

Been thinkin’ lately ’bout MAGA. What an acronym! It sounds strong. Unfortunately, there is a built-in weakness.

It is this: great is an opinion only. It cannot be measured or agreed upon. When was it great? How was it great? Was there widespread greatness or only pockets here and there? Is there a chance that America has never been great?

Yet, Donald Trump has exploited many Americans and deceived them into believing he could restore America to greatness when for many that simply hasn’t been so. His red cap became a symbol of something that may only be imaginary – a by-gone era that will never return because it never was here in the first place. Much like “Gone with the Wind” as written by Margaret Mitchell. Back when Blacks and women couldn’t vote. When only property owners could. When some people were enslaved. Who wants to go back to those times?

Now, don’t tell me I’m being less than patriotic. I served four years in the Navy. Members of my family have used copyright as well as patent laws to improve our lot in life. I have read/studied most of the Constitution. I have read the Bible extensively. I have voted for Republicans and Democrats. I am a native of Jackson County. And, I happen to believe Johnny Cash knew some people had been held back when he sang “Man in Black.” Listen for yourself.

In addition to that his musical friend, Waylon Jennings, sang: “I can’t say I’m proud of all of the things that I’ve done. But, I can say I’ve never intentionally hurt anyone.” How many can honestly say that? Can that be said about America?

I admire those two musical legends. I also admire Jesus Christ. We have to get better at caring for others. If we don’t we can never reach the level of greatness. We are told that by every major religion as well as most philosophies.

Let’s strive to become great, though. Jesus, Waylon and Johnny will guide us.

Dave Waldrop, Webster

Abigail Clayton for School Board- Sylva Herald Letter to the Editor by Pamela Krauss

The survival of public education that serves all of our children is the true concern of the July 26 school board election. Public education is not, nor was it intended to be, religious education.

We have a choice of an incumbent, Abigail Clayton, that has family in the school system. Or the other choice is someone that is a strategic widget of those that fear teaching bona fide history, and prefer to mix public education into teaching Christianity and prayer in a public school. More bluntly, the other choice, the other candidate, is part of the warped philosophy that wants to blend her own flavor of religion into public education.

And, it becomes more and more clear that we better pay attention, and hope that our children can overcome the hot mess “we” have created losing sight of the purpose of public education. We can only hope that today’s children can right the ship of a country that is not acting in their best interest by teaching facts and critical thinking rather than religion in public schools.

So who are “we”? “We” are voters, or maybe even the sometimes nonvoters that have placed or allowed to be placed “representatives” in Washington, D.C., and Raleigh that find that public law does not apply to them, and basically set an example of the very behavior we would not accept in our children. This behavior violates not religious standards, but violates common law abiding standards consistent with our state and federal constitutions. Religious teaching belongs in religious institutions. We are seeing a trend in the leadership of the United States and North Carolina, and now maybe our school board, leaning toward a government that does not consider the needs of the future generation, (climate change, for example) and attempting to substitute true public education with religion.

But, we have a choice. We can choose to avoid the misguided candidate that wants to change the purpose of public education. The only real choice is to vote for Abigail Clayton, who has the best interest of our children and their future, public education, and will continue to work for Jackson County students.

Pamela Krauss, Webster

Familiarize Yourself with Local and State Democratic Candidates!

Take a look at these candidates & you’ll see why we’re proud to be Democrats.

The Transylvania County Democratic Party looks forward to supporting these candidates, and, after winning in November, to helping each of them put their proven talents, experience, and dedication to work for all the citizens of Transylvania County.

“ candidate made race partisan“ letter to the editor, Sylva Herald

To the Editor:

Regarding last week’s article, “Nonpartisan school race…,” (District 2 candidate Lisa) Buchanan made this a partisan race when she first declared herself a ‘Conservative Christian’ in your previously published “Meet the Candidates” feature. The simple fact is that religion has no place in our public schools. If you disagree, feel free to enroll your child in any of the religiously-affiliated schools in the area (I would also encourage you to not accept taxpayer subsidies to pay for that, but I digress).

Imagine the outrage if a candidate had declared themselves a ‘‘Traditional Hindu,” ‘‘Progressive Buddhist,” ‘‘Orthodox Jew” or ‘‘Devout Muslim.” But ‘‘Conservative Christian” gets a pass because many people see them as non-offensive because they look similar or have the same beliefs. Those who do not look or believe the same have all too often seen the predictably toxic and venomous response from the evangelical right and decided that expressing their disagreement and concern is not worth it.

If a candidate cannot separate their religious beliefs from their public duties, they are not representative of all people and are unfit for office. There can be no doubt that the ‘‘parents rights” these candidates champion line up conveniently with their chosen religious principles.

Andy Barber, Cullowhee

“The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” Letter to the Editor, Sylva Herald by Mark Ballinger

The good, the bad and the ugly

To the Editor:

The good: Since I’m retired at this particular point in history. I have been able to watch all the televised hearings from the January 6 committee. If you can’t watch TV during the day, you should still do everything possible to watch all or part of the broadcasts in some format after work. This is a tipping point in our nation, with our fragile democracy hanging in the balance, and that is not hyperbole. History is being made in real time for the remainder of our generations, and those to follow. History will show whether we survived, or whether the longest existing democracy died like the many other democracies that came before or after ours.

The bad: The hearings have shown, without a doubt, what one selfish life form has done to our government, and many people’s lives, all for his personal gain and pursuit of his fantasies. Millions of dollars, time and treasure of federal and state employees have been spent (our tax dollars) forcing them to “prove” that there was something wrong with the 2020 election based on “theories.” Innocent people have been threatened, murdered and injured and continue to be threatened today as a result of the pursuit of a fantasy by one being! Anyone else in a similar position of power who told everyone who worked for them that they needed to prove that the sky was orange, when everyone already knew it was blue, would be laughed out of town. There is no difference in what was done, except that the life form tried to use his power, and powers he thought he had, to overthrow the will of the people. The people, all the people, should be thoroughly pissed off! No justice, no peace!

The ugly: Approximately 20 percent of the country actually believes that the sky is orange, for no other reason than that the life form said it was so. So much for critical thinking and reasoning. Even uglier, there is a larger percentage (20 to 30 percent) who believe it’s no big deal, it’s politics as usual, don’t care, don’t want to get involved, don’t think the threat is real, don’t have time to watch or listen, or any number of lame excuses to not help save our way of life. It’s incomprehensible that anyone would live in, and enjoy the privileges of living in the United States, and not be willing to protect that privilege with all their being.

Americans have become way too complacent and indifferent. It can happen here! We all need to care and be sure everyone does what they can to hold accountable (prosecute) all those responsible. If not, we are lost and will have no one to blame but ourselves. Vote as if your life depends on it, because it does. Unfortunately, as it appears right now, the words of Han Solo come to mind – “I got a bad feeling about this.” I sure hope I’m wrong.

Mark Ballinger, 


“Take Action to Save a Child’s Life” Jane Koenig Sylva Herald Letter to the Editor June 15, 2022

Take action to save a child’s life

To the Editor:

What would you do to save the life of a child?

Would you make a donation to a children’s medical organization? Would you get the proper child restraints for your vehicle? Would you jump, fully clothed, into a swimming pool to save a drowning child? Would you jump in frigid water to save a child who fell through broken ice? Would you jump in a fast-moving creek or water to save a floundering child? Would you fight off a dangerous animal who thought it had a juicy, young meal? Would you take on a child predator? 

Of course, you would! What wouldn’t you do to save a child?

Would you sell back your semi-automatic rifles, all of them, and give them up forever?

No? Coward.

Jane Koenig, Tuckasegee

“Fulfill the Second Amendment” Dave Waldrop Sylva Herald Letter to the Editor June 15, 2022

Fulfill the Second Amendment

To the Editor:

In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and yet another mass shooting in America I am trying to make sense of the Second Amendment. It states: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.” It is difficult to disagree with those words if we study them and determine what they mean.

Still, three words beg for clarity: Militia, regulated and infringed.

By definition a militia is a military force that is raised from the civilian population to supplement a regular army in an emergency. Please don’t tell me that gun owners in America today are a form of militia. I own five firearms. Still, I have no connection to any organization that makes up a legal militia as referred to in the Second Amendment. I do not belong to the U.S. Navy Reserve or the National Guard. Who would call me to duty in an emergency?

How are firearms regulated at all today in the spirit of the Second Amendment? I contend they aren’t “well regulated”. I also contend that the United States Congress must act soon to develop a formal Militia rather than continuing to allow individuals to believe they belong to a militia that doesn’t even exist.

How could a militia be well regulated?

Register all firearms with the newly established militia.

Ban new sales of assault weapons.

Disable privately owned assault weapons or store them in a legal armory.

Levy taxes on firearms (much like vehicles are now).

Require gun owners to insure each firearm.

Require all firearms sales to be recorded with the appropriate agency.

Develop/enforce stringent background checks.

As we begin to fulfill the letter and spirit of the Second Amendment there may be other steps we decide to take. Clearly, this will address the term “infringed.” That definition is: to break off, break, impair, violate.

The Second Amendment is established law. It provides the right to bear arms. It also paves the way to establish a militia. And, it requires the militia to be “well regulated.”

Congress, do your job!

Dave Waldrop, Webster

Congressional candidate morning forum canceled

Unfortunately, the 10:30 Congressional Candidate Forum scheduled at the Jackson County Library in Sylva tomorrow (March 12) has been canceled due to the chance of perilous weather. Please look for notifications on the afternoon event in Cashiers. Thank you!