9 Jan

bill of rights

Mark Caserta: Amendment protects religious freedom

Jan. 09, 2014 @ 12:00 AM

It amazes me when otherwise intelligent people invoke the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and effectuate exactly what it was intended to prevent — the suppression of religious freedom.

Nevertheless, the words, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” are recurrently maligned in pursuit of a progressive agenda rather than to protect the religious rights of Americans.

While it’s true the word “God” is nowhere to be found in the text of the Constitution, it’s equally true the words “separation of church and state” do not appear.

In order to understand the framers’ intent in constructing this founding document, one must first understand their mindset and spiritual ideology.

The absence of the word “God” doesn’t mean the Framers were not spiritual people. It’s simply expositive of their belief that the “new” government should not involve itself in matters of religion and more precisely in the rights of the people to express their faith openly.

The phrase “separation of church and state” evolved from a Thomas Jefferson writing which described the First Amendment as a “wall of separation” between the church and the state. James Madison once said it “drew a line,” but it’s Jefferson’s term that is misused today.

Based on numerous writings, documents and speeches, nearly all of the framers of the Constitution were Christian, or at the very least, deists. Generally deists believe in a single God who set the universe on its course and allowed it to evolve. Some deists believe their “deity” is the same God of Judeo-Christian tradition, some do not.

Among the framers, more than a half-dozen sects of the Protestant side of Christianity were represented and no doubt there were disagreements about styles and methods of worship. It was the framers intent to ensure no one “sect” could ever seize control of a government or begin a theocracy.

So, let’s break it down. “Congress shall…”

“Make no law respecting an establishment of religion” is crystal clear. Government may never mandate a particular religion or favor one in legislation.

“Or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” denotes government is powerless in suppressing our religious expression — period. Sadly, this issue has been inflamed by Supreme Court justices appointed for their “predictable” interpretive ideologies.

But it is the height of hypocrisy for liberals to call for punitive action against Christian symbols and actions or refuse to honor their religious beliefs when these actions clearly violate the very amendment they inappropriately invoke!

Following Congress’ work on the First Amendment, President George Washington issued a Proclamation of “thanksgiving and prayer” to thank God for the freedoms we enjoy. The opening paragraph of his proclamation said:

“Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor…”

To this day, every session of Congress begins with prayer.

Conservatives support the Constitutional interpretation of the law.

The First Amendment does not prohibit our religious freedom; it protects it.

Mark Caserta is a Cabell County resident and a regular contributor to The Herald-Dispatch editorial page.
bill of rights

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