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SCORE ONE FOR THE “FREE EXERCISE THEREOF”

Posted by Andrew Roman on March 2, 2010

offensive banner one

Three years ago, San Diego school teacher, Brad Johnson, was informed that two banners he had displayed on his classroom wall – one that hung for twenty-five years and another for seventeen years – had to come down.  

Apparently, they were suddenly offending students.  

For all those years, they simply hung there, as they always had , without incident, without complaint. There wasn’t even a hint that their American patriotic references to God were an affront to anyone.  

Then, school administrators told him that he was violating the principles of Separation of Church and State. They told Mr. Johnson that his banners were “an impermissible attempt to make a Judeo-Christian statement to his students.”   

They had to come down, they demanded.  

His First Amendment rights had limitations, they argued.  

The school’s principal had final say on what went up on the classroom walls, they said.  

One banner, with its four phrases – In God We Trust, One Nation Under God, God Bless America and God Shed His Grace On Thee – had no business in a classroom. The other, quoting directly from the Declaration of Independence, might insult Muslims, Johnson was told.  

Johnson decided he would sue.  

A year later, in September, 2008, Judge Roger T. Benitez, said Johnson had the right to do so.  

He did.  

From Warner Todd Huston’s Pluribus Form blog, September, 2008:  

In a blistering 23-page decision, U.S. District Judge Roger T. Benitez rejected the district’s motion as legally faulty and blasted its “brash” attempt to take down the banners. The jurist noted that the district allowed other teachers to put up posters with Buddhist and Islamic messages, posters of rock bands including Nirvana and the Clash, and Tibetan prayer rugs… Johnson’s banners, Benitez wrote, were patriotic expressions deeply rooted in American history.  

Last Friday – seventeen months after Judge Benitez ruled that Johnson had the right to sue – he ruled that the Poway Unified School District of San Diego, CA, violated Johnson’s constitutional rights.  

Score one for the Constitution and the good guys.  

From the Thomas More Law Center, who represented Johnson:  

offensive banner 2

That school officials banned Johnson’s patriotic displays while permitting other teachers to display personal posters and banners promoting partisan political issues such as gay rights and environmental causes, including global warming, played a crucial role in the Judge’s decision.  

These displays included: a 35 to 40 foot string of Tibetan prayer flags with images of Buddha; a poster with the lyrics from John Lennon’s song “Imagine,” which starts off, Imagine there’s no Heaven; a poster with Hindu leader Mahatma Gandhi’s “7 Social Sins;” a poster of Muslim leader Malcolm X, and a poster of Buddhist leader Dali Lama.  

Judge Benitez’s 32-page opinion was strongly worded and critical of the Poway school districts aversion to mentioning God: “[The school district officials] apparently fear their students are incapable of dealing with diverse viewpoints that include God’s place in American history and culture. . . . That God places prominently in our Nation’s history does not create an Establishment Clause violation requiring curettage and disinfectant for Johnson’s public high school classroom walls. It is a matter of historical fact that our institutions and government actors have in past and present times given place to a supreme God.”   

If an educator is permitted to post an ex-Beatle’s vision of a Godless world, then certainly one should be permitted to allow historical slogans dating back two centuries that acknowledge this nation’s religious heritage. If Tibetan prayer flags are allowed to be put on display, then a quote referencing God taken from this nation’s founding document seems perfectly reasonable. 

The “Free Exercise Thereof” portion of the First Amendment isn’t an anti-Christianity clause.  

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HUGE H/T to Eric at the great Vocal Minority blog.

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BENDING OVER AGAIN – AFRAID OF ISLAM

Posted by Andrew Roman on August 19, 2009

america will bow downAs I sit here collecting my thoughts, sipping at my iced coffee, doing my best to frame my arguments coherently, I am angry.

Damn angry.

My approach on this blog has been to try and infuse humor, sarcasm, biting satire, occasional abrasiveness and well reasoned arguments into a collection of blog entries I hope are as entertaining as they are insightful.

Sometimes, I forego the humorous approach and write what could be accurately called straight “essays,” like the companion pieces I posted last week about the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment –  First Amendment Musings and More First Amendment Musings (A Follow Up).

And while it is tempting to do so here, I’d like to veer away from a straight-forward First Amendment colloquy and inoculate some values into the discussion.

Recall that during his lackluster inauguration speech, President Barack Obama said, “Our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus—and nonbelievers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth.”

While partially correct in one area, he was flat out dead wrong in another.

He is correct in the sense that we are a nation of comprsied of Christians, Jews, Muslims and even nonbelievers. America’s people come from every corner of the globe. And indeed there are cultures that have had varying degrees of influence on different areas of American life. All of that is undeniable.

But as nifty as all of that may sound to multiculturaliststhis, this country was not shaped by every language and culture on Earth.

The Mongolian influence on American life, for example, is nonexistent; the Malaysian culture’s impact on America would remain negligible even if it were multiplied by a thousand billion; and although the Tunisians may very well be wonderful people, they had no influence on the shaping of America. Moreover, as difficult as it may be for some to believe, the United States was not – repeat not – built on an Islamic value system, nor did Islam have any influence on the nation’s development, its founding document, or its Constitution.

America was shaped by the English language, the Anglo-Protestant culture and the Judeo-Christian value system.

Liberty, equality of opportunity, individualism, and the freedom to go as far as one’s abilities, passions and desires take them is what America has always been about.

(E Pluribus Unum has a meaning).

Thus, understanding that the vast majority of those who subscribe to the modern misinterpretation of the “separation of church and state” tend to be on the left, I would like to pose these hypotheticals to separationists:

Let’s say the Bureau of International Information Programs (IIP) – part of the Department of State – implemented several outreach programs and publications for the upcoming Christmas season designed to bring people together and cultivate understanding between those who may not be Christian and those who are.

And let’s say the State Department issued a publication tracing the ancestry of American-Christians to more than eighty countries with an emphasis on discovering the diversity of those cultures as seen through the celebrations of Christ’s birth. The content of such a publication would include essays by young Christians talking about their faith. Such a thing would be used to create a bridge of tolerance and acceptance of Christianity among nonbelievers.

And let’s go on to say that the following articles were being published by the State Department just in time for Christmas 2009: “The Concept of a Christian in America ‘Brand'”; “Advocacy (Civic and Political) of the Christian-American Community”; and “Community Innovation/Community Building.” The writer or writers would contact Christian American experts in each of these fields.

And, finally, picture a publication put out by the State Department called “Being Christian In America” It is the IIP’s crown jewel, full of stories and insights on the “varied experiences” on America’s Christians, complete with illustrations.

Let that sink in for a moment.

Allow the words – and the spirit – of the First Amendment to bounce around in your mind as you contemplate such a hypothetical situation.

Would the ACLU be sending in the big guns?

Would conspiracy theorists be chirping about an all-powerful Christian-right steering America into the pits of a theocracy?

Now, just to make it interesting, go back to each of those aforementioned IIP scenarios and substitute every reference to Christianity with Islam. Make it so that the IIP’s outreach programs are geared toward the Muslim holy month of Ramadan instead of Christmas.

Does it change anything?

What if I told you that this was no longer a hypothetical situation, but an honest-to-goodness initiative of the Obama administration underway right now?

Would that change anything?

Pamela Geller at the great American Thinker website writes about a “cable” that has been sent from Hillary Clinton’s State Department to all American embassies and consulates around the world:

Here is but the latest act of submission to Islam by your State Department. A State Department cable has just been sent out with this announcement :

The Bureau of International Information Programs (IIP) has assembled a range of innovative and traditional tools to support Posts’ outreach activities during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

Can you imagine every Embassy and consulate putting up a Menorah and having some Rabbis as speakers via a webcast?

Can you imagine if we had the Stations of the Cross put on the walls of all of our embassies, consulates, and other posts, as well as the many Department of State buildings across the country, including C Street?

Why aren’t priests, pastors, etc. invited during Christmas to give blessings or talk about Christianity in the United States?

Can you imagine if the Buddha were revered and we had some monks coming to do a meditation session with all of the officers of each embassy, consulate, etc.?

Can we get printed and distributed Hare Krishna posters for all of our posts, so as to reach massive audiences?

I mean, put it in reverse and see how crazy it is. Absolutely nuts.

She’s right, of course.

Since we have successfully crossed over from the presumptive world to the real one, I wonder if we can we now expect to see the cape-wearers of the American Civil Liberties Union spring into action against the federal government. Can we anticipate the Bureau of International Information Programs (IIP) to start assembling “innovative and traditional tools” for every other faith? Where exactly are the outreach initiatives for Jews and Hindus? Or Satanists and Atheists?

Again, leaving the First Amendment issue aside, allow the magnitude of this reality to sink in.

Let it get you angry, as it does me.

This is not what the federal government is there to do.

freedom-of-expression-go-to-hellFrom all across the world, stories of Ramadan violence being perpetrated by practitioners of Islam are coming out daily. Any reasonable person would only have to take a rudimentary look around the world to notice that the overwhelming percentage of the world’s violence and brutality is being undertaken by Islamists – and that during the holy month of Ramadan, these occurrences increase.

The idea that the United States of America would actively bend over in this way for the “religion of peace” – the ideology that creates the murderous terrorists that want to destroy us – while Muslims across the globe continue to persecute non-Muslims in nations they control is both disgusting and unforgivable. By conservative estimates, one tenth of all Muslims on Earth support fellow adherants of Islam who target innocents, deprive others of basic human rights, and strive to subject the entire population of the world to Sharia law – that’s a mere one hundred million people.

Does the President forget what religion spawned those who brought down the Twin Towers on September 11th?

Is the President blind to the fact that at least one tenth of the Muslim world celebrate September 11th as a triumph?

Does it not register in the deep recesses of his messianic brain that we are still at war with Islamo-Facist terrorists?

Is it really the right thing to do to spend taxpayer dollars on “reach out” programs on the religion that produced (and continues to produce) such vermin?

Honestly, what the hell goes on in a liberal mind?

How on Earth does President Obama have the audacity to launch a taxpayer funded, State Department-sponsored, “Love a Muslim” campaign after the horrific slaughter of innocents by the Iranian government? Or the continued atrocities being undertaken in Sharia-run nations and terrorist strongholds, like tortuous clitorectomies performed on young women, the slow sadistic beheadings of dissenters and infidels, and the denial of even the most basic human rights?

And the irony?

As much as liberals wince and whine when religion is brought into the public sphere, note how easily they genuflect at the feet of those who adhere to a faith that promotes the blowing up innocents, the flying of planes into buildings, and the launching of rockets into civilian neighborhoods in the name of their religion.

Such strength.

What the hell is this President thinking?

Was his multi-city overseas American apology tour not enough to add to the weakness and vulnerability being put forth by this administration?

Why is he hell-bent on sparing the feelings of terrorist thugs and other human debris while the memory of three-thousand of his own murdered countrymen at the hands of those who would do it again without blinking an eye – those who subscribe to the “religion of peace” – still burns vividly?

It is mystifying.

This is not to say that the United States is at war with Islam. It simply isn’t true. Indeed, the majority of the world’s Muslims are not terrorists. Millions of Muslims live peacefully in this country.

But Muslim extremists are at war with us; and in a 21st Century World, the overwhelming vast majority of terrorism – and the greatest threat to national security – comes from practitioners of Islam. No other group, religion, cult or organization comes remotely close to posing the threat that radical Islamists pose.

And just think, my tax dollars are paying for “Muslims Are Okay” reach-out programs.

You’re damn right I’m angry.

Posted in First Amendment, Foreign Policy, Liberalism, Obama Bonehead, War on Terror | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

MORE FIRST AMENDMENT MUSINGS – A FOLLOW UP

Posted by Andrew Roman on August 9, 2009

Establishment Clause

Since posting my piece First Amendmant Musings” on Thursday, I’ve received some marvelously thoughtful e-mails and commentary. Thanks so much to everyone. (Please feel free to post your thoughts publicly on the blog.  E-mails are nice, but I do not post comments that come via e-mail). I especially wish to thank Doug Indeap who posted a most attentive, reasoned and well-written response. (Please read it).

My fear in posting the original article was that the discussion might evolve into yet another argument about the existence of God. While it is, indeed, a discussion I revel in engaging in (for what is more profound than contemplating the existence of God?), it was not the point of “First Amendment Musings,” nor did I wish it to be. Rather, I wanted to make the historical case for religiosity being an accepted (some would say necessary) influence and component to an effectively functioning – yes, secular –  government. The irony is, it is the secular nature of the Constitution enables the United States to continue to be the most religious nation  in the free world. I submit that The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, as written and understood by the Framers of the Constitution, simply does not require, nor call for, religion to be sequestered from government function.

In today’s era of ever-expanding federal government – and the slow correlative corrosion of personal liberties – the “separation of church and state” debate isn’t simply a matter of making a definitional distinction between that which is considered the “public square” and that which falls under the awning of “government.”

For one, government has become more and more intrusive in the lives of Americans over the course of time. Thus, those elements that have historically been outside the realm of government control have shifted – and continue to shift – into their ever-annexing clutches (health care, the automobile industry, the banking industry). The idea that religion – specifically the free exercise thereof – is somehow immune from the metastasizing influence of the federal government is naive. The Supreme Court already has twisted the Establishment Clause far from the Framers’ intent – from validating the so-called erection of the Jeffersonian wall separating government and religion, to the removal of prayer in public schools, to the ongoing battles to make the Pledge of Allegiance (with its reference to God) unconstitutional.

Second, the concept of separating “church and state” – a phrase I find particularly obnoxious – has evolved disjointedly into an unfounded belief that the banishing of all things religious from public settings, such as city parks, town squares, government buildings and city streets is (or can be found to be) constitutionally sound.

“Separationists” and sympathetic organizations (such as the ACLU and the Freedom From Religion Foundation) allege that the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment is being violated when, for instance, a nativity scene is put up on the grounds of a city hall; or when students participate in Easter plays at school; or when the tablets displaying the Ten Commandments are visible at a county court house; or when public prayers are conducted at high school football games. Indeed, each year, stories from across the country tell of “offended” people who demand that Christmas lights be taken down from the neighborhood playground, or that decorations along streets be removed because of some phantom violation of the Establishment Clause.

These are things that are happening regularly in this country – and they are entirely inconsistent with the Founders’ understanding of religion, its role in society, and their vision of keeping the federal government from meddling with religious liberties.

It isn’t clear exactly how such aforementioned activities translate into a Congressional establishment of religion or an infringement of the free exercise thereof, but clearly, a century and a half of pre-Hugo Black originalist interpretations of the First Amendment didn’t prevent ardent “separationists” from pursuing their “separation of church and state” agendas.

And that is really what sits at the heart of this entire discussion – the fallacious “separation of church and state” arguments, all based on one misinterpreted private letter written by one man who wasn’t even in the country when the content of the First Amendment was originally debated and created.

Justice Hugo Black

Justice Hugo Black

The idea of such a thing – a constitutionally judicious argument for the “separation of church and state” based on a phrase pilfered from a Thomas Jefferson letter – is a concocted notion that has been nurtured and normalized thanks in part to the Supreme Court’s “incorporation” of the Establishment Clause in the 1947 Everson vs Board of Education case – that is, the Supreme Court’s application of the Establishment Clause directly to the states through the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. As originally intended and applied by those who wrote the First Amendment, the modern view of the Establishment Clause – born with that case – is almost unrecognizable.

Whereas the Establishment Clause was originally designed to protect the states, Everson vs Board of Education effectively took power away from the sovereign states – and thus delivered a blow to federalism itself. In other words, all federal “church and state” cases were to be exercised against state laws.

Justice Hugo Black, writing for a 5-4 majority, adopted the position that government shall not be touched by or tainted by religion in any way, nor will the business of government be conducted under its influence. In using the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause to apply the Establishment Clause to the states, the Founders’ original intent was forever altered.

Black wrote:

“The First Amendment has erected a wall between church and state. That wall must be kept high and impregnable. We could not approve the slightest breach.”

Even if one subscribes to the idea of the First Amendment erecting a wall between church and state, the notion that the wall is to be “impregnable” is spun from whole cloth, without an iota of corroborating history or tradition.

The Framers wanted to make certain that the new federal government did not infringe on the growing religious freedom and tolerance taking root across much of the young nation. Despite popular modern day rhetoric to the contrary, they did not wish to ensure that religion was without influence on government at all costs. In truth, there is much from the era of the founding that indicates that the vast majority of Framers supported religion because it helped to foster a more virtuous population, something that was deemed crucial for a free society to function successfully.

Take, for instance, the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, reenacted by the First Congress:

Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall be forever encouraged.

Former Chief Justice William Rehnquist, in the 1985 case Wallace v Jaffree, argued:

The Establishment Clause did not require government neutrality between religion and irreleigion, nor did it prohibit the Federal Government from providing nondiscriminitory aid to religion. There is simply no historical foundation for the proposition that the Framers intended to build a “wall of separation’ that was constitutionalized in Everson.

Indeed, the nation’s founding document, the Declaration of Independence, proclaimed that there existed one law for all men, the Law of our Creator – the Natural Law on which the Founders built this nation. As talk show host and constitutional attorney Mark Levin writes in his book Liberty and Tyranny:

In 1776, when representatives of the colonies signed the Declaration, they did so for the first time as representatives of states and as part of a loose confederation. The designation of the colonies as states did not erase the long histories and traditions of the former colonies. Many continued to promote religion with taxes and land grants. Some states required officials to affirm their allegiance to a particular religion or religious sect by way of an oath, although this practice was dropped a few decades after the founding. And some states continued to discriminate against certain religions. But when they bound themselves to the Declaration’s principles, they bound themselves to, among other things, religious liberty. It is little understood that the Declaration was a declaration of political and religious liberty.

The Declaration’s most famous passage reads:

We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

While the Declaration of Independence is not the law of the land, it is quintessential in understanding and establishing the foundation of principles on which the United States of America was constructed. And because any and all discussions of the Constitution (adopted eleven years after the Declaration), and the amendments that comprise the Bill of Rights (added four years after that), can only be properly scrutinized if the intent of the Founders is taken into consideration, the Declaration of Independence, with its “firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence,” is critical to that task.

The Founders’ believed that rights could not be bestowed by men upon other men – and thus they could not be taken away by other men; these rights, they affirmed, can only come from God.

Thus, in crafting the Constitution, the Framers were very specific in the words they chose.

It is in their meaning of the words that the interpretation of the Constitution is best rooted.

James Madison said:

Father of the Constitution, James Madison

Father of the Constitution, James Madison

I entirely concur in the propriety of resorting to the sense in which the Constitution was accepted and ratified by the nation. In that sense alone it is the legitimate Constitution. And if that be not the guide in expounding it, there can be no security for a consistent and stable, more than for a faithful exercise of its powers.

If the meaning of the text be sought in the changeable meaning of the words composing it, it is evident that the shapes and attributes of the Government must partake of the changes to which the words and phrases of all living languages are constantly subject.

What a metamorphosis would be produced in the code of law if all its ancient phraseology were to be taken in its modern sense. And that the language of our Constitution is already undergoing interpretations unknown to its founders, will I believe appear to all unbiased Enquirers into the history of its origin and adoption.

 

Indeed, the majority of the Framers were opposed to the establishment a national church for fear that it would threaten the free exercise of religion and take away powers rightfully assigned to the sovereign states.

That is the key – and it is most relevant.

Interestingly enough, the Establishment Clause actually served to protect established state churches in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Georgia, South Carolina and Maryland at the time of the adoption of the Bill of Rights.

Antithetical to today’s conventional wisdom, the men of that generation thought it perfectly acceptable for religion to play an influential role on how government conducted itself.

As Michael Medved writes in his book The 10 Big Lies About America:

In his first inaugural address George Washington declared his ‘first official act” his “fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the universe” that He might bless the new government.

In his farewell address, President Washington said, “And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion.”

Former Attorney General Edwin Meese writes, “There is nothing in the drafting history of the First Amendment that contradicts Washington’s understanding of the appropriate relationship between government and religion.”

In his book The Heritage Guide to the Constitution, Meese details the evolution of the Establishment Clause:

In the First Congress, the committee proposal in the House read, “no religion shall be established by law, nor shall the equal rights of conscience be infringed.” But some evinced concern that the phrase might put in doubt the legitimacy of some of the states’ own religious establishments.

James Madison believed modifying the phrasing to prohibit a “national religion” would be sufficient to allay that concern and would make clear that the new government was not to impinge on the rights of conscience by establishing a governmental connection to a church.

Representative Samuel Livermore of New Hampshire suggested that “Congress shall make no laws touching religion or the rights of conscience.”

The House finally settled on this language: “Congress shall make no law establishing religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, nor shall the rights of Conscience be infringed.”

The Senate preferred the formula “Congress shall make no law establishing articles of faith, or a mode of worship, or prohibiting the free exercise of religion,” which likely would have permitted direct financial support to a sect.

In the end, the conference between the House and the Senate agreed on the current version: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

The addition of the word “respecting” is significant.

It prohibits Congress from legislating either to establish a national religion or to disestablish a state religion.

Meese goes on to quote Laurence Tribe, constitutional law professor at Harvard – considered one of the foremost constitutional scholars in the country – who wrote, “A growing body of evidence suggests that the Framers principally intended the Establishment of Religion Clause to perform two functions: to protect state religious establishments from national displacement, and to prevent the national government from aiding some, but not all, religions.”

The unrelenting separationists of today, with the help of mass media, the entertainment industry, and the post-Hugo Black thinkocracy, have harvested such influence and power in the culture – beyond the basic intention of keeping government religion-free – that religion is increasingly perceived as best removed altogether from public influence. Such thinking would have been implausible to the founding generation – even Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. The idea that Christian services actually took place in the Capitol Building at one time – and attended regularly by such “deists” as Thomas Jefferson – would probably surprise a great deal of people. That many of the men who participated in drafting the First Amendment also attended these religious services in the federal Capitol Building is, too, deliciously ironic.

Michael Medved writes:

In Ten Tortured Words, an invaluable book on the Establishment Clause, Stephen Mansfield writes: “For all of that generation, the understanding was certain that the states were permitted to establish religion or support religion as aggressively as the people allowed.” President Jefferson explicitly shared that viewpoint, expressed in a public address of March 1805: “In matters of religion, I have considered that its free exercise is placed by the constitution independent of the powers of the general [federal] government. I have therefore undertaken, on no occasion, to prescribe the religious exercises suited to it, but have left them, as the constitution found them, under the direction and discipline of State or Church authorities acknowledged by the several religious societies.”

Sadly, it has become increasingly acceptable over the course of the last half-century to view religion as a largely private matter meant to yield minimal impact on the culture at large. For many, that’s what the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment has come to mean. Even the City of Los Angeles, under pressure from fervent separationists, acquiesced to their demands and removed a cross from its city seal, despite the fact that religion played a major role in the city’s founding. (“City of Angels”).

If, for instance, public schools allot a minute each morning for students to pray if they so choose, how exactly is that inconsistent with the First Amendment? Has the federal government mandated that the student is required to believe in God? Has a theocracy been established? Has the student been required to change his religious affiliation (if he has any), or even pray at all?

Of course not.

The fact that such actions offend some or make others feel unsettled may be unfortunate, but it is irrelevant to the constitutionality of those actions in regard to the Establishment Clause. If being offended was a sound criterion for prohibiting an action, the entire constitution could be found unconstitutional. The fact is, people are offended all the time by government actions. That does not make the action unconstitutional.

The Framers made sure that the Constitution created a secular federal government with limited powers and very specific restrictions –  including prohibiting the creation of a national religion. Time has seen the Framers’ intent turned into what is now a seemingly natural and obvious antagonism between religion and government.

It is a sad reality with no historical basis.

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Posted in Constitution, First Amendment, History | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

FIRST AMENDMENT MUSINGS

Posted by Andrew Roman on August 6, 2009

first amendment

<Isn't it amazing what a work-out our First Amendment gets? Three commas, two semi-colons and a single period help to separate and punctuate the forty-five words that comprise it. Of those forty-five, none seem to foster such cultural disconnect from the Founder’s intent nearly as much as the first sixteen do. Plain, unambiguous and rock-solid as they appear to be to a two-dimensional originalist like myself, the “big sixteen” are apparently far more malleable than I’d ever realized, laden with nuance and intricacies that even the Founding Fathers were too short-sighted to recognize.

Having been through the first sixteen words of the first amendment hundreds of times, I’ve often wondered if I might ever see what others see in them. I’ve speculated that if I perhaps read carefully enough and concentrate intently, I might unearth something buried within, perhaps discovering something masterfully woven into the text I hadn’t seen before. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to crack that elusive third dimension and continue to come up with nothing other than what the Founders wrote:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

Simpleton that I am, I find nothing indistinct. To me, the phrase “establishment of religion” means designating one specific faith as the official religion of the land and calling it something like the “Church of the United States.”

Fortunately, this will never come to pass, nor could it.

All of this seems fairly straightforward, yet “the big sixteen” have inexplicably been twisted by those charged with interpreting and caring for them into somehow meaning that no religious designation of any kind shall be acknowledged, referenced, mentioned or disseminated in any place considered a public setting or forum within the United States, lest it be considered to have been “established” by the federal government. I look across this great country – from Los Angeles, California to rural Kentucky – and see a sad and frightening trend. I see a religious heritage being stripped and banished from the public square by those who have managed to discover things in those sixteen words that simply aren’t there, reinterpreting them to the point where they are actually abolishing the “free exercise thereof.”

A palpable question is: Since when is displaying a religious symbol or acknowledging a religion publicly the same as establishing a religion?

First, the obvious point … that one sentence in a private letter from Thomas Jefferson to a Connecticut religious group should, nearly a century-and-a-half after the fact, be the unembellished foundation for the trite, belabored, utilitarian argument for a “wall of separation between church and state” is laughable.

Of course, Jefferson was a slave-holder, so his credibility takes an immediate hit on any issues inconsistent with modern liberalism.

Jefferson’s one-time use of the term in a personal letter was actually written as an attempt at finding common ground with the Baptist community, of which he was not a member. In hoping to ease their concerns, and responding to spreading rumors that a national religion was close to being established (the Congregationalists), Jefferson chose to employ the language and style spoken by Roger Williams, a well-known Baptist preacher, to make his point. Williams had said:

“When they have opened a gap in the hedge or wall of separation between the garden of the Church and the wilderness of the world, God hath ever broke down the wall itself.”

Jefferson thus wrote:

“I contemplate with solemn 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 and State.”

Second, and most important, even if people like Jefferson, James Madison and George Washington were not openly religious people and did not wear their faith on their sleeves (whatever that faith may have been), it only lends more strength and credence to the countless writings put forth by almost all of the Founding Fathers that without religion and God in everyday life, virtue and morality cannot exist. For instance if, for the sake of argument, Jefferson was an openly acknowledged agnostic (and he certainly wasn’t), the First Amendment is even that much more relevant and the vision and wisdom of the Founding Fathers that much more obvious.

It isn’t. That’s the dirty little secret. I know these sorts of things tend to frighten clacking yackers of modern liberalism – more so than, say, the threat of Islamo-fascist terrorism – but they needn’t worry.
Melting glaciers, second-hand smoke and fatty cooking oil will devastate the planet before Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh and the Illuminati are afforded the opportunity to successfully institute a federally mandated religion.

It’ll be close, though.

JeffersonThe oft-alluded to “separation of church and state” clause exists nowhere in the federal Constitution. (This should be a booming “well, duh” factoid by now). Thomas Jefferson’s use of the term in a personal letter to the Danbury Baptist Association of Connecticut in 1802 – eleven years after the Bill of Rights was ratified – and regularly cited by modern secularists and anti-constitutionalists (a phrase coined by talk-show host Mark Levin, I believe) as the smoking gun to the Founding Fathers’ endorsement of removing God from the public square, was actually written by Jefferson as an attempt at finding common ground with the Baptist community, of which he was not a member.

Jefferson’s well-selected – and appropriate – words were meant as an assurance to the Danbury Baptists that there would never be an officially state-sanctioned religion for the United States of America.

So then, what exactly do the first sixteen words of the first amendment – the “big sixteen” – really mean?

James Madison, the “Father of the Constitution,” said that the first amendment was worded as it was because “the people feared one sect might obtain a preeminence, or two combine together, and establish a religion to which they would compel others to conform.” 

Note the word “sect.” It helps to illustrate a dirty little secret that may come as a surprise to the enlightened. The vast majority of the American population at the time of the founding was not only religious but also Christian. (There, I said it!) And comprising that overwhelming majority were many different Christian denominations – or “sects.” Thus, as Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story, one of the founders of Harvard Law School and considered “the foremost of American legal writers,” wrote:

“The real object of the First Amendment was not to countenance, much less to advance Mohammedanism, or Judaism, or infidelity, by prostrating Christianity, but to exclude all rivalry among Christian sects [denominations] and to prevent any national ecclesiastical patronage of the national government.”

The Founders, in writing the establishment clause, were actually prohibiting the exclusivity of one Christian sect from becoming the national sect – not keeping religion altogether out of the public square. Read the words of North Carolina Governor Johnston during his state’s convention to discuss ratification of the Constitution. It lends wonderful insight into the national mindset regarding the ratification debate. He said:

“The people of Massachusetts and Connecticut are mostly Presbyterians. In every other state, the people are divided into a great number of sects. In Rhode Island, the tenets of the Baptists, I believe, prevail. In New York, they are divided very much: the most numerous are the Episcopalians and the Baptists. In New Jersey, they are as much divided as we are. In Pennsylvania, if any sect prevails more than others, it is that of the Quakers. In Maryland, the Episcopalians are most numerous, though there are other sects. In Virginia, there are many sects; you all know what their religious sentiments are. So in all the Southern States they differ; as also in New Hampshire. I hope, therefore, that gentlemen will see there is no cause of fear that any one religion shall be exclusively established.”

Quite obviously, there was never an intention to remove God from public view – only the desire to keep God in plain view without having to fear any sort of reprisal from the government.

Justice Joseph Story also wrote:

“We are not to attribute this prohibition of a national religious establishment [in the First Amendment] to an indifference to religion in general, and especially to Christianity (which none could hold in more reverence than the framers of the Constitution).”

Despite this, in 1947’s landmark case Everson v. Board of Education, the First Amendment was treated to a new, restrictive interpretation, reviving and subjecting the “separation of church and state” syntax to a twentieth century makeover. Thanks to Justice Hugo Black, the following words essentially paved the way for all subsequent restrictions placed on public religiosity.

Wrote Black:

“The First Amendment has erected a wall between church and state. That wall must be kept high and impregnable. We could not approve the slightest breach.”

I don’t even own a black robe, and I am saying categorically that he could not have been more wrong.

bill of rightsThe First Amendment “erects” nothing. Rather, it limits what Congress can do – namely, prohibiting the establishment of a state religion. It also prohibits Congress from restricting the free exercising of one’s religion, whatever it may be.

It’s certainly true that neither Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists or the writings of Joseph Story constitute law. Nor do the elucidations of John Jay, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison in the Federalist Papers. The Constitution itself – in its succinct brilliance – is indeed the law of the land, and anything else is ultimately fodder for think tanks, opinion columns and debating societies. But to whom else should we turn to help explicate the meaning of the Constitution? To whom should the judiciary turn to in helping to determine the Constitutionality of disputes? Isn’t it invaluable to understand exactly what the founders intended when they composed the Constitution as well as the interpretations of their contemporaries? Aren’t their expositions and thoughts regarding the very document they created (of which there is an enormous wealth available) absolutely crucial to any interpretation of the Constitution? Isn’t it essential to put it all in proper context?

And isn’t it clear that the creators of the Constitution did not ever mean to vanquish religion from public life?
There.

Some research for you.

Can we agree that the old cliché “freedom OF religion is not freedom FROM religion” is entirely consistent with the Founder’s concept of America?
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Posted in Constitution, First Amendment, History | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

SOME TOES CANNOT BE STEPPED ON – ASK CHIP AND HELEN

Posted by Andrew Roman on July 3, 2009

Chip Reid and Helen Thomas

Chip Reid and Helen Thomas

No, I don’t think the love affair is over.

But perhaps the seemingly never-ending honeymoon is finally winding down.

While life itself is not (and cannot be) a pre-packaged, perfectly choreographed, script-dependant entity all done up in a pretty little bow, the current President – forever concerned with his own image, legacy and popularity – continues to take his cues from the Automaton Songbook. He conducts his business like a man who not only cannot think out of the box, but one who needs to have someone feeding him lines from it.

The Cue Card Chief Executive – the brilliant orator and thinker (as we’ve been told) whose only non-scripted efforts in recent times have been the killing of a fly on television (for which he was berated by PETA), laughing at tasteless jokes about Rush Limbaugh dying, and his procession of “uhs” and “ums” in those rare and unscripted moments when the cue card man was away – simply hasn’t the capacity to participate in a any formal public event without having every word scripted, every move blocked, every question pre-selected, every space around him filled with teleprompters, every “evil eye” glare strategically timed and every townhall meeting participant pre-screened.

From embarrassingly reading the wrong script off a dissenting teleprompter at a White House function – and not having the presence of mind to realize he was doing so – to needing his army of electronic idiot sheets all around him at even the briefest public venue (where only a quick word or two is necessary), the man who has been touted to be as quick as Kennedy, as great a communicator as Reagan, and as visionary as King is, in reality, as smooth as a sanding pad and as clueless as his own Vice President. (Unduly harsh?) His ability to think on his feet, collect his thoughts and summon the right words, as has been shown time and time again, is decidedly limited – perhaps nonexistent. “On the spot” thinking is not the President’s strong suit.

However, for all of his shortcomings, I will be fair.

There are things he knows – and quite well.

Big government is his forte. Driving a stake through the heart of liberty in the name of equality and justice is an Obama specialty. Drawing from his Marxist sensibilities, propaganda and manipulation is what he knows. It’s what he’s been taught. A protégé of the Saul Alinsky school of thought, Obama knows that his radical notions of government-controlled health-care, his unprecedented spending and government intervention in American lives must be carefully sold and crafted to sound reasonable. Every syllable must be uttered in perfect cadence. Every word must count.

The only way that is possible is to be able to control, restrain and limit the free press.

And so it was, on Wednesday, that the most magnificent press secretary ever to take the podium at the White House, Robert Gibbs, was surprisingly confronted by two of his own from the press corps. This was not a polite, pre-scripted, paddy-cake exchange between a blind main-stream-media Obamacrat and the Messiah’s spokesman. This was no staged conflict.

This was classic.

Michael Blatt from News Busters writes:

Is the press corps starting to tire of the Obama Administration?

At a press conference today (Wednesday), Helen Thomas and CBS’s Chip Reid got into it with Robert Gibbs over how the administration has been prepackaging media events.

First Reid asked why the questions for Wednesday’s town hall on healthcare were being preselected. After Gibbs tried to dodge that question a few times, Thomas became involved, saying, “We have never had that in the White House. I’m amazed that you people … call for openness and transparency.”

Thomas said that the administration was trying to control the media, and she pointed out how they coordinated questions with the Huffington Post at a press conference.

Indeed, I diligently checked the news wires, combed through endless weather reports and even managed to listen to the “top of the hour” news reports on the radio, and I could not find any reports of dramatic temperature drops in hell.

Blatt continues:

Thomas is not the first journalist to question the White House’s coordination with the Huffington Post. The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank also took the White House to task for the coordination.

Wednesday’s press conference was also not the only media event that was in some way coordinated. Previous town halls have featured Obama campaign supporters and Democratic politicians lobbing softballs at Obama.

As Thomas noted, “[Obama’s] formal engagements are prepackaged.”

After Gibbs continued to dodge questions, Thomas said, “Of course you would, because you don’t have any answers.”

Before the exchange ended, Reid asked Gibbs to pass along this question to Obama: “Is he going to support a tax increase on the middle class?”

Afterwards, Thomas told CNS News that Obama’s grip on the media is even greater than that of Richard Nixon.

“Nixon didn’t try to do that. They couldn’t control [the media]. They didn’t try that. What the hell do they think we are, puppets? They’re supposed to stay out of our business. They are our public servants. We pay them. … I’m not saying there has never been managed news before, but this is carried to fare-thee-well–for the town halls, for the press conferences. It’s blatant. They don’t give a damn if you know it or not. They ought to be hanging their heads in shame.”

How about that?

My fingertips may actually detach themselves from the rest of my hand in revolt for typing this – and I may have to rub my eyes more than a couple dozen times to make sure that I have actually posted these words on my blog – but “Good for you, Helen Thomas!”

(Checking to make sure the world is still here).

As Eric at the great Vocal Minority website writes:

Why would two notoriously liberal establishment journalists suddenly turn on an administration they’ve heretofore been cheerleading for? My guess is it’s an ego/pride thing. The rigging of the Huffington Post “reporter” by the Obama team must have infuriated professionals like Thomas and Reid. And if there’s one thing you don’t want to do, it’s upset a news media type with a holier-than-thou complex.

Indeed, it goes without saying that the vast majority of the mainstream media has been in bed with President Obama since the moment he stepped forward from his blockbusting two years in the US Senate to become The One. He has done no wrong in their eyes – and it is reflected in the pages of their magazines and newspapers and in their broadcats. While never missing the opportunity to brand George W. Bush everything from a hayseed to a war criminal, the Messiah’s transforming blitzkrieg on American individualism, free market principals and liberty has brought very little in the way of hard criticisms from the lock-step fourth estate. They have done all they can to shamelessly promote and defend his intrusive big government policies while (unsuccessfully) attempting to maintain the veneer of impartiality.

However, media types don’t like being told what to do, how to do it and where it can be done – not even drooling, orgasmic Obamacrats.

Bam had best watch his step.

Media toes do not like being trod upon, even if the feet doing the smashing can walk on water.

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Posted in First Amendment, Liberalism, Media Bias, Obama Bonehead, politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

“NO” TO THE DAY OF PRAYER POMP

Posted by Andrew Roman on May 7, 2009

ndpartlogo

Today is the National Day of Prayer – a day designated annually to be a call to prayer for people of all faiths in the United States. It has existed since 1952, and actually became a fixed day of observance (the first Thursday in May) in 1988 under President Ronald Reagan.

For the past eight years, under President George W. Bush, a public service has been held in the East Room of the White House commemorating the occasion. This year, however, President Barack Obama will do away with the public ceremony – the “pomp and circumstance” of it all – and sign a proclamation (as many other Presidents have done) instead.

It will, thus, be a private matter at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

This is no surprise, for a variety of reasons – not the least of which is the fact that there is no strategical advantage to it. There are no political points to be scored, power grabs to be made, or photo ops to be had with a public prayer service at the White House.

The larger problem, of course, is that the focus would be on God, not Obama.

Obviously, no one is compelled to pray (please see the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America), but being a country overwhelmingly comprised of people of faith, a national call to prayer is an American tradition, dating back to the Founding. From Thomas Jefferson, who himself attended Christian services held in the chambers of the House of Representatives, to George W. Bush and his East Room National Day of Prayer commemorations, prayer is woven into the American fabric.

The move to downplay the White House’s involvement and participation in the National Day of Prayer is, of course, applauded by some. To others, it doesn’t go far enough.

Predictably, five key words are at the heart of it all: “Separation of Church and State.”

From CNN:

It’s not his job to tell people to pray,” said David Silverman, national spokesperson for the organization American Atheists..

We are very happy he did away with the George W. Bush-era celebrations and party, but we wish he wouldn’t do it at all. … When church and state are separate, separate is separate,” he said.

Try as I might, I simply have not been able to come across the statement, press release, edict, decree, Executive Order, diktat or announcement from President Obama (or any President for that matter) telling people they had to pray. (I probably need to hone by googling skills). Perhaps I need to crack open a copy of the Athiest/English Dictionary, flip to the “Phraseology and Terminology” portion of the text and find the section that explains how “recognizing” faith and “calling” people to prayer is the same as “telling” people to pray.

There are four states, for example, that “recognize” same-sex marriage and “call” on those of us who wish to protect the traditional definition of marriage to deal with it and accept it … but I am not being forced to marry someone of the same-sex.

I actually have four words to throw back at Mr. Silverman – and mine actually appear the Constitution: “… The free exercise thereof.”

The moment Congress passes legislation declaring any one faith as an official state religion, come talk to me. Until then, relax.

No one is going to take away anyone’s Godless little play house if that’s where they want to take their toys.

White House involvement in the National Day of Prayer may be a desirable thing, but it won’t (and shouldn’t) affect things too much.

Despite numerous attempts to get a representative from the executive office to attend, “it doesn’t appear they are going to fulfill our request,” said Becky Armstrong, marketing and media manager of the National Day of Prayer Task Force.

“The White House is a small part of what the national day of prayer is all about… There will be dozens of events held in our nation’s capitol and governors from all 50 states have already issued proclamations recognizing the National Day of Prayer,” Armstrong said.

“It would be belittling to those millions of people to reduce this day to merely one event not being held at the White House.”

Task Force Chairman Shirley Dobson said in a statement that she was disappointed in the “lack of participation” by the Obama administration, adding that “at this time in our country’s history, we would hope our President would recognize more fully the importance of prayer.”

And even if you choose not to pray today, God Bless you anyway.

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Posted in First Amendment | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

KILLING THE FIRST AMENDMENT BECAUSE THEY HATE THE SECOND AMENDMENT

Posted by Andrew Roman on March 13, 2009

second-amendment

On college campuses across the star-spangled map, the First Amendment is taken very seriously – especially when it comes to protesting wars, demonstrating for abortion rights, fighting against global warming, resisting God, embracing socialism, advocating same-sex marriage, promoting multiculturalism, castigating America and crapping on the military. (Such diversity!)

However, a disturbing trend is developing at America’s higher institutions of indoctrination – er, learning.  The protection of free speech provided for in the First Amendment is, in increasing numbers, becoming optional in the eyes of academia when the speech touches upon a long-time anathema of the Left, namely the Second Amendment – the Constitutional right to bear arms.

On Mike Gallagher’s radio show yesterday, he took a couple of moments to read an article posted at the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA) website that counts some of  an ever-growing number of instances where students on campuses across the country face censorship, police inquiry, or even penalty, for simply talking about guns – and nothing that could even be remotely construed as threatening or promoting of violence. Rather, students are being silenced for exercising their right to free expression.

Want to talk Marxism? Feel free.

How about the slaughering of North American Indians by evil Europeans? You bet.

Feel like screaming about the need to impeach President Bush? Have at it, crusader.

Think reparations for the descendants of slaves is a good idea? Testify, brother.

Think the idea of carrying a concealed firearm on a college campus is worthy of, at least, some discussion? Get ready to be questioned by the cops.

Literally.

According to the article at the website’s Daily Policy Digest page:

… an unfortunate consequence of the tragedies at Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois University is that students are increasingly facing punishment or investigation for engaging in any kind of gun-related speech, says William Creeley, of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

It’s useful to review just how many incidents of overreaction to gun-related speech we’ve seen on the part of school administrators in the past several years, says Creeley:

• At Central Connecticut State University, a student gave a presentation for his speech class about the safety value of concealed weapons on campus; his professor called the police, who subsequently interrogated him about where he was storing the guns that were registered under his name.

• At Tarrant County College in Texas, a student chapter of Students for Concealed Carry on Campus was prohibited from wearing empty gun holsters to protest policies that forbid concealed carry on campus; in addition, the group was only allowed to protest (still without holsters) in the school’s tiny and restrictive free speech zone.

• At Colorado College, two male students were found responsible for sexually-related “violence” after they put up posters making fun of a feminist newsletter; because the posters, which also parodied “guy stuff,” made references to chainsaws and the range of a sniper rifle, administrators claimed that feminists on campus became afraid for their lives.

Also:

• At Lone Star College near Houston, the Young Conservatives of Texas distributed a humorous flyer listing “Top Ten Gun Safety Tips” at the school’s “club rush”; they were threatened with probation and derecognition, and the flyer was censored.

• Arkansas Tech cancelled a student production of Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins “out of respect for the families of those victims of the tragedies at Northern Illinois University and Virginia Tech, and from an abundance of caution.”

• Yale University attempted a similar maneuver after the Virginia Tech shootings, banning the use of any realistic-looking weapons in theatrical productions at the school; under public pressure, Yale backed away somewhat from its original overreaction but still required audiences to be “notified in advance of the use of fake guns, swords and knives.”

American Leftocrats believe in liberty – as long they define the parameters – and they’re more than happy to limit exercise of the First Amendment if the speech is intended to defend the Second Amendment.

The fact is, the Second Amendment not only provides for the citizenry the right to protect itself against a potentially tyrannical government, but against criminals with intent on doing harm. That liberals seem to have a difficult time differentiating between law abiding citizens exercising their right to bear arms and criminals who couldn’t give a damn what laws are on the books illustrates why liberals cannot be trusted with protecting innocents.

Is there anyone who lost a family member or friend in any college campus murder spree who would have objected to a student carrying a concealed weapon blowing away the killer before their loved one was slaughtered?

Yes, Virginia, violence is sometimes justified and moral.

Yet, on American college campuses, where free expression of thought and the open exchange of ideas is supposed to be at the very heart of their purpose, anyone who even broaches such an argument seemingly runs an ever-increasing risk of being silenced, censored or branded a right-wing radical by totalitarian-like educators and their indoctrinated.

These are the values being slammed into the skulls of your children at today’s universities.

And if you do have kids that are going away to college, pray they stay drunk.

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Posted in Academia, Education, First Amendment, Liberalism, Second Amendment | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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