Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; 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.
The first sixteen words of the 1st Amendment to the Constitution of the United States were born of much struggle endured by our forefathers both before and after coming to this beautiful new world we call home. The atrocities committed in the name of religion by both governments, as well as religious groups themselves, weighed heavily on those tasked with the creation and design of the great American experiment. Even after the ratification of the Constitution, conflicts between Catholics and Protestants had become increasingly bitter to the point of violence. Our ancestors’ trials with regard to religious tolerance were limited, for the most part, to different sects of Christianity; two centuries later our nation finds itself in pursuit of harmony and religious freedom while being home to more than 3,000 religions. Yet in their wisdom, the founding fathers crafted the language of the First Amendment to guide and protect our religious liberties if we simply adhered to their vision as written.
So, what happened? With the advancements in technology and medicine, coupled with the changes in societal norms, not only do we have a myriad of new issues upon which to disagree, many of these issues are associated with deeply held beliefs and values. According to studies by First Liberty Institute and its team of researchers led by a Harvard-trained constitutional attorney, hostility towards religion in America is rising like floodwaters. During the past several years we have seen attacks on Christianity more than double under the Obama administration, and place many of our liberties at the mercy of a Supreme Court that seems to have forgotten its purpose under the Constitution. The Supreme Court has, in many instances, overstepped its authority by going beyond deciding the constitutionality of issues before it and becoming a body of political activism. This is a dangerous path we are on, one that undermines the purpose of the three equal branches of our government.
Misinterpretations of the law by those who espouse a liberal ideology, and tolerance towards everything and anything but Christianity have played a role in shaping current laws. One in particular is the decision in Roe v Wade. The Supreme Court held that while the Constitution does not explicitly mention any right of privacy, in a line of decisions, going back perhaps as far as 1891, the Court has recognized that a right of personal privacy, or a guarantee of certain areas or zones of privacy, does exist under the Constitution. The Court further stated that this right of privacy is broad enough to encompass a woman’s decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy. The pro-choice movement has successfully attempted to make this a religious issue, it is not, it is an issue of humanity, compassion and personal responsibility that simply goes hand in hand with most forms of religion. How can we on one hand prosecute someone who kills a pregnant woman, and in doing so her unborn child, for two counts of murder, yet the Supreme Court say it is perfectly legal for the pregnant woman to kill her unborn child. The fate of the unborn child is exactly the same in both cases, the only difference is in the first scenario it was not the woman’s choice. What a slippery slope, not to mention hypocritical. The very same people that are shouting “my body, my choice”, that see no problem with killing an unborn child, are the very same ones that are just waiting to throw good and responsible parents in jail for spanking their own child. I don’t know about you, but I would much prefer a smack on the butt to being murdered, but clearly a woman’s choice is more important than a child’s life.
Despite the ongoing wars and threats we face related to, yes, I am going to say it, radical Islamic terrorism, it is Christianity that appears to face the lion’s share of attempts at suppression of the free exercise thereof. The prevalence of lawsuits filed by what are usually atheists demanding the removal of crosses across the country is staggering. We are told we are intolerant and suffer from islamophobia if we so much as utter the words radical Islamic terrorists, yet they are so offended by the site of anything that can be remotely connected to Christianity it warrants a lawsuit. How can one deny that to put such effort into the removal of what most regard as a harmless object is not in and of itself a demand for preferential treatment for one small sect of society? The city of Pensacola, with a population of nearly 60,000, is being forced to remove a cross from a park on Pensacola Bay, the result of a lawsuit filed by four people. One of the Plaintiffs was quoted as saying “…to have citizens foot the bill for such a religious symbol is both unfair and unconstitutional.” The city spent an average of $233 annually for maintenance of the cross that has stood for nearly fifty years. To put this into perspective, if this particular plaintiff paid taxes in the city of Pensacola for sixty years, he would have contributed less than twenty-five cents to the upkeep of that cross during that sixty-year period. Wonder what his lawsuit cost the taxpayers of Pensacola?
The logical argument to the very limited cost would be that it is not the amount but the principle. Well, what about the principle that many Americans, probably most, believe in keeping structures around for historical or other non-religious purposes? Monuments, even crosses, serve as a reminder of our heritage, who we are and where we have been as a people. Whether it be Native American, black history, or yes, even religious history, it is all part of our American history and should be preserved for future generations. Just as removing the confederate flag will not erase the civil war, removing crosses will not erase Christianity in this country. I believe these types of complaints and lawsuits to be frivolous with absolutely no basis in principle, but rather an effort on the part of a very small minority to further their ideology of freedom from religion as opposed to freedom of religion. In America, one has the right to practice, or not to practice, their religion as they choose. I believe it is the goal of this very small but very loud minority to suppress the free exercise of Christianity to the point that there is no visible sign of its existence in this nation outside of the individual believer’s home.
We have all heard the saying “Separation of Church and State.” It is quite possibly the most overused and misinterpreted statement (not quote as it is not a direct quote) in the history of the United States. If you are reading from DCoutsider, odds are you already know what I am about to write, but on the off chance I have reached some that have been misinformed on this matter, please indulge me for a brief moment. Nowhere in the United States Constitution will you find the statement “Separation of Church and State.” What you will find is the Establishment Clause and Free Exercise Clause which reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” BIG difference. The intent of the Free Exercise Clause was to avoid the type of religious persecution that drove settlers to American. It was a safeguard against the belief they fled that touted uniformity of religion must exist in any given society, that there was one true religion and it was the duty of the government to impose it, forcibly if necessary, and nonconformists could potentially be executed as heretics.
The phrase “separation between church & state” is generally traced to a letter written by Thomas Jefferson in 1802 to the Danbury Baptist Association. In the letter Jefferson wrote,
“I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.”
This letter has often been taken out of context, twisted, and used to create much disagreement regarding the interpretation of the Free Exercise Clause. Although I cannot imagine why, it seems pretty clearly written to me. “…[T]hat their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion…”, the government does not have the authority to make any law establishing any form of religion. “…[O]r prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”, the government does not have the authority to make any law prohibiting the people from the free exercise of their religious beliefs. Freedom of religion does not mean freedom from religion wherein religious persons are prohibited from the free exercise thereof and must practice in hiding or behind closed doors so as not to offend those who are equally free not to have any religious beliefs or practices. It means that we live in a free society where we can believe or not believe, practice or not practice, but if we are to maintain such a freedom we must all respect the equal rights of others.
The existence of a cross, a menorah, a manger seen, Santa Claus, Star of David, Buddha or any other item that may have some meaning to one belief system or another does not represent the forcing of one’s beliefs onto another, and simply because it may stand on what may be public property does not constitute the establishment of any religion by the government. The liberal left has been preaching tolerance for so long, yet it seems that tolerance is only to be extended to those things that serve their agenda as I see very little tolerance on their part for Christians in this country.
The First Amendment is the foundation for all of the freedoms and liberties that follow, if we do not practice it, protect it and expect it, our nation will soon become unrecognizable to us.