Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The First Amendment’s Establishment Clause

In earlier posts I mentioned that powerful forces are at work to diminish and ultimately eliminate God, religion, and Christianity from the United States. I mentioned advocacy groups as one of those well-funded, aggressive, and powerful forces (such as the ACLU). While you might be thinking that all they are trying to do is uphold the Constitution, in fact they are totally misusing it in an effort to eliminate God, religion and especially Christianity from this country.

The “Establishment Clause” of the First Amendment reads as follows: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

Up until the mid-twentieth century the “Establishment Clause” was understood to mean that Congress was prohibited from establishing an official state religion such as you had with the Church of England in Great Britain. American citizens would not have to pay taxes to support a state religion/church and would not be forced to join one. People would be free to practice the religion of their choice or no religion at all without any governmental interference. It was understood that free expression of religious beliefs in public was permissible, and Supreme Court cases upheld this understanding for over 150 years. We see God mentioned in the Declaration of Independence, in various state constitutions, and in speeches by various presidents and public officials throughout our history. As late as 1944, as D-Day was unfolding, President Roosevelt went on national radio and prayed a beautiful prayer to Almighty God for the success of that critical invasion of Europe.

One must also understand the meaning of the word “religion” at the time the Constitution was written. “Religion” meant a church (such as the Roman Catholic Church, the Baptist Church, etc.) or what we might call a “denomination” today (such as the United Methodist Church, the Lutheran Church, etc.) At that time the country was made up almost exclusively of people that were either Christians or had some sort of Christian background. Again, the purpose of the Constitution was to prohibit Congress from making the Anglican Church, the Roman Catholic Church, or any church the official state religion as you had in Europe. Therefore, there was no constitutional reason why you couldn’t have what I’ll call generic Judeo-Christian objects on public land, for example.

Notice the Constitution does not use the words “separation of church and state” or “wall of separation.” The term “wall of separation” comes from a letter written by President Thomas Jefferson to a Baptist church in Danbury, Connecticut. They were concerned about the First Amendment and what it might mean to the practice of their faith, so they wrote the President. Jefferson, who had something to do with the writing of the Constitution, reassured them that the purpose of the amendment was to create a “wall of separation” between church and state to keep government from interfering with the free practice of religion. Of course we are not told that today and the “wall of separation” has become, in revisionist thinking, a wall keeping religion out of the public eye. Find the letter on line and read it for yourself.

Today the United States is a different country. There are untold numbers of non-Christian faiths in the United States: Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, B’hai, etc. However, the principle still applies: it is constitutional to have religious objects in public view and even on public land as long as the citizens don’t have to pay taxes to support an officially established state religion, are forced to worship in a particular religion, or a person is discriminated against because they don’t belong to a particular religion. The fact that some may be “offended” by seeing a particular religious object has nothing to do with the Constitution. It is ridiculous that court cases are decided on the basis of someone being “offended” rather on than what the Constitution says.

Until 1947, court cases were decided based on the understanding of the Establishment Clause described above. Since that time, the Supreme Court has reinterpreted the Establishment Clause, completely distorting its original intent. According to current thinking, if any governmental body (such as a public school or a city government) does anything to allow religious activity on its property, display some sort of Judeo-Christian item, or otherwise “promote” Christianity, it is “establishing” a religion. Interestingly, non-Christian observances, activities, and artwork are often allowed – only Christian ones are “unconstitutional.” For example, some schools will allow Hanukkah activities but even ban the word “Christmas” from use. We have strayed far from what the framers of our wonderful Constitution intended. God help us.

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