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Friday, September 30, 2005

Box of Freedom





Excerpted from a running e-mail debate...

On 9/30/05, B. A. wrote:

Oh, I'd love to see this special personal version of the constitution where there is a "freedom from religion" clause. I suppose it comes right before I am guaranteed the freedom from free speech? There is no wall of separation in the way that I think you intend it.


Not Again!
OK, Let's review the 1st Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion...

-It doesn't say, "Shall make no law respecting an establishment of a religion." It's concerning ANY and ALL religion.

-It doesn't say, "shall make no law establishing religion." You can't make a law respecting establishment. The law can't even talk around the subject in law! That's a very high hurdle.
.

It doesn't say "shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion." Anything that could be considered an establishment is prohibited.

Some then argue that the anti-establishment clause is contradicted by the freedom clause, thus watering it down. This is not the case.

...
or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...

Why is that?
The Constitution prohibits the free exercise of religion! The Constitution itself is above the law, and it prohibits the free exercise of religion, specifically within the administration of the government. There is no contradiction.

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.


And finally, you will notice that there is no clause regarding speech and press analogous to the anti-establishment clause. --- So you ask, what exactly did the founding fathers intend? Let's consult the author of the 1st Amendment. From the University of Virginia website:

Because religious belief, or non-belief, is such an important part of every person's life, freedom of religion affects every individual. Religious institutions that use government power in support of themselves and force their views on persons of other faiths, or of no faith, undermine all our civil rights. Moreover, state support of an established religion tends to make the clergy unresponsive to their own people, and leads to corruption within religion itself. Erecting the "wall of separation between church and state," therefore, is absolutely essential in a free society. -Thomas Jefferson

I think that's pretty clear. That hyphenated word, non-belief does sort of settle the question of freedom from religion.

So has our government violated the anti-establishment clause? REPEATEDLY and over the course of centuries. This is one case where I'd really like to see a strict constructionist Justice.

I for one am sick of hearing Newt Gingrich and his political spawn lie about the lack of freedom from religion. It does bother me to see religious scenes in government buildings. They may seem harmless enough, but it's the camel's nose under the tent.