Skip to comments.Religious and the ACLU
Posted on 10/09/2003 12:34:19 PM PDT by aynfan
Religious Intolerance and the ACLU
By Robert Wolf
Amendment I of the Constitution of the US reads: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; and continues with 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. This is the so-called Establishment clause we hear so much about.
The phrase separation of Church and State we hear so often comes from a letter by Thomas Jefferson 21 years later in which he remarks, Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, 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 and State.1
In the 1st part it is clear that there will never be a State religion in America; and it is equally clear, in the second part, that the founders did not intend hostility toward religion.
Philosophical and Historical Factors
Our republic and the constitution were born of the Enlightenment; its Founders inspired by the ideas of John Locke. In the words of Locke, It is not the diversity of opinions (which cannot be avoided), but the refusal of toleration to those that are of different opinions that has produced all the bustles and wars that have been in the Christian world upon account of religion . . . neither Pagan nor Mahometan, nor Jew, ought to be excluded from the civil rights of the commonwealth because of his religion . . . .If a Roman Catholic believe that to be really the body of Christ which another man calls bread, he does no injury thereby to his neighbour. . . If a Jew does not believe the New Testament to be the Word of God, he does not thereby alter anything in men's civil rights . . . If a heathen doubt of both Testaments, he is not therefore to be punished as a pernicious citizen. The power of the magistrate and the estates of the people may be equally secure whether any man believe these things or no.
If the Enlightenment can be summed up briefly it embodied the belief in progress through reason. Liberty was its major preoccupation and religious intolerance the chief obstacle to its attainment.
The great men of the Enlightenment were not atheists; they were Deists. For example Voltaire's often quoted lines from Epistle to the Author of The Three Impostors "If God did not exist, he would have to be invented." is incomplete. The line that follows reads, but all nature cries out to us that he does exist. The Deists argued that religions were bad only to the extent they promoted superstition and only when combined with the force and fury of the State
Public Displays of Religion
The Rotunda of the US Capitol is an impressive room comprised of 8.9 million pounds of masonry-covered cast iron. Upon its ornate walls are murals that include Pilgrims praying, the baptism of Pocahontas, De Soto planting a cross on the banks of the Mississippi, and, at the very top, the apotheosis of George Washington. Does the Rotunda establish a religion? If so, which one?
A carving of Moses holding the Ten Commandments adorns the frieze on a wall of the courtroom at the Supreme Court. Both former and current justices have noted on more than one occasion, the carving "signals respect not for great proselytizers but for great lawgivers."
The ACLU and others should realize what most Americans already know, that there is a clear distinction between acknowledging religion and establishing religion. Accommodating religion is not the same thing as establishing one.
Aside from the many displays of religion themes in public buildings in our nations capitol, Congress, from its inception authorized (and still funds) chaplains for the legislature and sessions in both the Congress and the Supreme Court begin with prayer. The Oaths of Office for the president and for legislators bear the imprint of 1st Amendment thinking as well. An office holder is given the choice to swear or affirm. They are not forbidden to swear. The Founders knew that banishing religion from the public square would not result in a vacuum, but in the monopoly of irreligion or in the more modern vernacular Secular Humanism.
Arguments against the Accommodation of Religion
Lately, the courts have tended to interpret the Establishment Clause as meaning that the state should be neutral on the question of whether God exists. Justice Hugo Black wrote that the government may not 'pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another.' At the heart of this argument is the notion that disbelief is default nature of man. This is an extremely tenuous position for when we consider human civilization, religion in found in every society throughout history.
It is held by the ACLU and others that it is less oppressive for a religious person to see God stripped from official expression than for an atheist to bear the mention of the word.
It is further argued that because Christianity is the predominant religion in America, if a more liberal interpretation of the establishment clause were permitted official expressions of Christianity would outnumber those of other religions and would constitute a de facto discrimination. In other words, the current interpretation of the Establishment Clause provides relief from discrimination. This is an argument ad absurdum. Discrimination is not eliminated by discriminating against all, even if one is fond of tautologies.
Since ideas have consequences and manifest themselves in reality, such half-baked notions provoke incidents like the following to occur. According to the Muslim American Society, a Muslim student in Ann Arbor, Michigan, was publicly reprimanded by her community college instructor for beginning her class presentation with the words, 'In the name of Allah.' and threatened to prevent her from giving future presentations if she repeated the phrase. In 1990, the US Court of Appeals, Third Circuit, ruled that the Philadelphia public school system was correct in firing a Muslim teacher because she wore a hijab, a headscarf worn by women as part of Islam's emphasis on modesty. The court was upholding an archaic Pennsylvania law requiring the termination of instructors who wear religious garb. The law was originally enacted in 1895 to prevent Catholic nuns from teaching in public schools, and has also been invoked to force Jewish teachers to remove their yarmulkes. That is the result of government discrimination against all in an area where the constitution wisely advises neither/nor.
Government accommodation in a majority Christian nation might indeed result in discrimination of religious minorities. But those minorities would at least then have the legal standing on which to argue for their right to free religious expression.
Friedrich Nietzsche argued that because "God is dead," man should live by appropriation, injury, overpowering of what is alien and weaker; suppression, hardness . . . exploitation. This idea became the foundation of German fascism. When we consider the inhumanity of the anti-religious Hitler, Stalin, and Maoist regimes, how can we say that religion has a monopoly on atrocity.
It is not true that all atheists behave immorally, or that theists behave morally; but on balance, religion's positive contributions to society far outweigh the negative, as long as religion is not combined with the coercive powers of government.
Contributions of Religion
The contribution of religion to law, ethics, and social stability cannot be ignored. Aside from providing an ethical and moral framework, religion tends to inculcate in its adherents the conviction that we are ultimately accountable for our actions. Religion, divorced from superstition, contributes to a strong family unit; it fosters an economic safety net by encouraging charity, and provides a source of strength for those recovering from addictions to alcohol, drugs, gambling, and other social diseases.
As the United States Supreme Court once stated, "this is a religious nation." The Court has discussed the historical role of religion in our society and concluded that "[t]here is an unbroken history of official acknowledgment by all three branches of government of the role of religion in American life from at least 1789." Lynch v. Donnelly, 465 U.S. 668, 674 (1984).
-1-Thomas Jefferson, letter to Danbury Baptist Association, CT., Jan. 1, 1802
This is basic but seems to be more than some can comprehend.
I was listening to a group of adults discussing politics last week when the question was asked if anyone had ever read the Constitution. Out of 8 adults, one did not and the rest pretended like the question was not asked.
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Amen to that.
They are for the teaching of religion in public schools here in California.
We have an 8th grade humanities course in which students are encouraged to memorize verses form the big book.
ACLU has never stopped this class from teaching religion here in Cally-Fonia!
The class I am referring to is teaching Islam to our kids and the big book they are encouraged to memorize passages from is the Koran.
Bible and gun grabbers too !
Holy warriors ... bolsheviks --- " a latter-day Politburo (( SAINTS - gods too ))" !
e-as (( another post - thread - poster )) ...
No. The ACLU says the First Amendment protects their right (( atheism )) to free speech, which the Second does not protect your right to keep and bear arms.
I was going to say they don't understand the concept that the militia is made up of the very people referenced in the text of the amendment. But they do get this, and very well. They simply know that when the people are completely disarmed, there is no impediment to the ... ACLU becoming --- a latter-day Politburo.
I'm telling you, gather weapons and ammo now while you still can.
50 posted on 03/28/2002 4:02 PM PST by Euro-American Scum
Here's the ... solution (( link )) !
They have the ... wishy (( dnc)) - washy (( rnc )) --- psuedo christians - catholics to help them !
thus building a wall of separation between church and State.
This is the part they leave out when they mention only the last phrase. A good lie always has a little truth in it.
The first Geo. W. was a very religious man. I forget the exact place I saw it, but there was a very religious speach he gave at least once, and I'm sure there are many examples you can find.
Jefferson wasn't quite so religious, although he did attend church services in the Congressional House chambers every Sunday. I suspect for purely political reasons.
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