I get seriously ticked off when I think about the dramatic difference between what our Founders intended with the Constitution and Bill of Rights vs what the Powers That Be consider them to mean.
It baffles me that people can take simple, straight forward language, and twist it into whatever they want it to mean. Actually, it doesn’t baffle me that they do it, it amazes me that We The People let them get away with it with our own inaction. Except, of course, when it comes to Prohibition.
My wife and I had an interesting conversation about the First Amendment and the so-called ‘Separation of Church and State’ doctrine the other day. And in a strange twist of time, a Tea Party Senatorial candidate in Delaware is in hot water because of what she said to her opponent about the same topic.
Now, I don’t want to go into what my wife and I talked about, or about what Christine O’Donnell said. But I do want to address the First Amendment and its proper interpretation.
The First Amendment of the United States Constitution
To refresh our memories, the text of the Amendment is as follows:
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 part I want to address is the bolded part of the quote.
Leviathan … err … Congress Shall Make No Law
On first glance, the phrase ‘Congress shall make no law’ is pretty straight forward and clear. But people have interpreted ‘Congress’ to mean ‘Nobody’ which is just plain wrong.
See, the Founders were pretty smart folks. They wrote what they meant, in relatively clear English. The intent to limit only the federal government via the First Amendment is quite clear. It becomes even more clear if you look at the other Amendments in the Bill of Rights. None of them bind what Congress can do with these words. Not a single one.
Do you really think they did that by accident? Nope. The view of the Founders was that individual States, as sovereign entities, could make their own laws, subject to their own Constitutions. It was entirely plausible for a State to create laws establishing religion.
Remember, the Federal Government was intended to be EXTREMELY LIMITED in power, not the all encompassing Leviathan it is today. The thought that individual States make their own laws and people could find a State to live in that fits their beliefs was the rule of the day back then.
The Ever Present Establishment Clause
The next part is ‘respecting an establishment of religion’. This is the bit that has been twisted to mean that nobody in this country can do anything at all related to religion with any sort of public dollars. This couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Looking back in history, religion was a part of life for most people, and was a preeminent part of politics and government as well. If you doubt this, simply read the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and other early documents. A history book or two as well.
Establishment in the context of religion means “a church recognized by law as the official church of a nation or state.”
This part of the First Amendment is there to prevent the Church of America from being formed. Remember, the Church of England, which the Pilgrims fled, was formed because Henry VIII wanted to marry Anne Boleyn and the Pope wouldn’t give him a divorce. So he left the Catholic Church and formed the Church of England. Our Founders didn’t want a repeat performance of any kind in the United States.
The intent is clear. The Federal Government can’t pass laws that recognize a religion as the official religion of the United States. It doesn’t say anything else, or limit anything else.
The Evil Intent Of Twisted Words
How do you get from that to what we have today, where you can’t even talk about God in a public setting, let alone begin a meeting with a customary prayer, or say the Pledge of Allegiance? Unless, of course, you’re Muslim, in which case you can do whatever you want.
By twisting words beyond all reasonable definition or meaning.
I find that to be plain evil.
What do you think?