Stephen Gaskin

Free Thought and the Constitution

by Stephen Gaskin

I believe in the Constitution. I think that it is one of the most important documents in history. I think it protects freedom of religion for all Americans and freedom from religion, too.

I am an American. Parts of my family have been here since 1783. There has been somebody from our family in most of the wars that this country has had. My uncle was decorated for valor at Pearl Harbor. I am a Marine Corps combat veteran of the Korean war myself.

I used to play four generation dominos down in Texas with my great- grandfather, my grandfather and my mother.

My great-grandfather was born in 1850 and was a drummer-boy in the Union home guard in the Civil war. He was a U.S. Marshal in the Oklahoma Indian territory and a surveyor in the deep south and a prospector in the far west. He was also a freethinker and a student of the world's religions.

My grandmother. who drove a covered wagon from Tennessee to Texas, was a freethinker and a suffragette and marched in the streets for the women's vote. Her brother, my great uncle Charles, was a freethinker, too, He helped organize the longshoremen's union on the waterfront in San Francisco in the 1930's and 40's.

My mother is a freethinker, and my father was, too, until he died at 94 two years ago. On his death bed, my father made my mother promise that she wouldn't let anyone pray over him after he died. Whenever the weather is cold, my mother says, "Brr, it's cold as Christian charity."

We have been freethinkers for generations. And, as is provided for in the Constitution, I have passed my philosophical and religious ways on to my children, who are very proud of their heritage and ancestors.

I am not a backslider who needs to be roped and tied and turned back in with the rest of the herd. I come from a long and proud American tradition that includes the likes of Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson and Helen Keller and Lena Horne and Henry David Thoreau and Samuel Clemens and Herman Melville.

I think the importance of the United States lies in the sincere attempt to live without royalty and with respect for other people's religions. When I hear someone say that the separation of church and state is a myth, or that the Constitution is only man's law, it makes my blood run cold. I consider any attempt to take this country over in the name of any religion to be as repugnant and unconstitutional as a takeover by international fascism.

Books by Stephen Gaskin.

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