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Del. Ken Plum: Both Sides of the Wall

by Del. Ken Plum August 27, 2015 at 1:00 pm 16 Comments

Del. Ken Plum/File photoThis is an opinion piece by Ken Plum, who represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.

Recently, a place of worship in the community asked me to be a speaker in their summer worship series. After getting past the frightening idea that I was to preach a sermon, I started to focus on the fact that I live my life on both sides of the wall that separates church and state.

As an historian, I know that the Virginia General Assembly in 1786 passed one of the most revolutionary laws ever enacted by it or any other legislative body: the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. Not only did it end an established state church supported by taxpayers, but it put into law the idea of freedom of conscience. As Jefferson expressed it in the Statute, “no man…shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief, but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge or affect their civil capacities.”

Earlier, of course, Jefferson had penned the Declaration of Independence with the pronouncement that “all men are created equal and are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Note that Jefferson never claimed that those rights that could not be taken away came from his god, but rather they came from “their (humankind’s) creator” suggesting that different persons could believe in different creators or gods.

These ideas that defined the wall between church and state made their way into the Virginia Declaration of Rights and the U.S. Constitution’s Bill of Rights. For the first time in history there were to be no state established churches; individuals were left to choose and believe as their conscience dictated.

There continues to be a debate as to whether we are a Christian nation. Patrick Henry wanted the Virginia Statute to guarantee Christian religion, but his arguments failed. We are one nation “under God” only because a law in 1954 added those words to the Pledge of Allegiance. There are Christians of many denominations in our country as there are many Jews, Muslims, people of other religions and of no religion. None have legal sanction or supremacy over the others.

I live my life on both sides of the wall. Privately, I am a person of faith. My religious beliefs support my moral beliefs. I believe I should love my neighbor as myself regardless of their race, creed, color, national origin, gender, or sexual orientation. And I believe that loving others requires me to do all I can to ensure their life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.

On the public side of the wall as an elected official I continue to hold my religious beliefs; they motivate me to vote for legislation to protect all citizens’ rights to vote, to get an education and to live a life free of discrimination. My moral compass is under-girded by my faith, but that does not mean I think my particular beliefs should be the law of the land.

The wall between church and state is intended to protect each person’s right to their own beliefs–to protect my freedom of conscience. .. not my freedom from conscience. I feel I must use my moral compass on both sides of the wall.

  • Henry Rearden

    So how do you feel when on the church side of the wall, knowing that planned parenthood is selling fetuses for cash? As a Christian, I’d hope you’re against the murder of an innocent baby. And as a Democrat I’d think you’d be against the murder of a potential voter you could get on the government dole

    • Ming the Merciless

      Once again our gracious moderator deletes hatefacts because feelbad.

      • HP

        The moderator is a protector of Plum….always has, always will.

        • Karen Goff

          No. The moderator is trying to maintain some civility. Make your points without violating the rules.

        • Henry Rearden

          You know it!

      • Karen Goff

        Nope. Because going way off topic about fetal parts is violating lots of rules and will get banned every time. Stick to the topic. Don’t make personal attacks.

      • Henry Rearden

        Ming that’s doublegood information to post. There was no vitrol or hate or anything out of line in the post. Logic and facts always will anger a lib

  • Arielle in NoVA

    How do you feel about chorus classes in public schools singing religious songs during chorus performances?

  • Prius

    Oh go drive your Prius.

  • Headless Ned Stark

    Do you know who enjoyed living his life on the wall? Jon Snow, that’s who. However that is quite impossible now that his comrades stabbed him in the back. Now he is DEAD.

    Jon Snow is dead, but Jon Targaryen is still quite alive.


  • Ming the Merciless

    When Leftists like Ken talk about a “wall between church and state”, what they actually mean is a wall around the church — and that the area enclosed by that wall will be squeezed relentlessly smaller and smaller by the power of the state until it is finally eliminated.

    • ducatination

      exactly your kind should be walled up…

      • Ming the Merciless

        Oh it’s not me you have to worry about.

        Leftist efforts to eliminate the Christian church only provide room for other, more violent faiths to flourish.

        • ducatination

          Don’t even comprehend your point. All I hear about in the news is how Christians are being pushed out by the left. But then again that’s a fox news talking point, based in fantasy. No reality whatsoever. Hopefully one day all religions will be extinct or taxed.

  • susie

    Question about whether we are a Christian nation? Since when, Ken?

  • Karen Goff

    Shutting this down (a typical scenario) because some people don’t listen and when you attack me, it’s over. Bye.


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