The Republicans really do not understand the First Amendment. And, as I will explain, when I say “do not understand” I mean, “do not care.” They seem to be saying that, “Just because the First Amendment forbids the establishment of religion, does not mean we should not establish a religion.”
But it’s far more sinister than that.
It would be nice if it were as easy as waving a copy of the First Amendment in front of their faces.
This Amendment, as most Americans know, forbids the federal government from establishing a religion in clear, concise terms anyone with two brain cells to rub together can understand:
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.
By ‘establish,’ what is meant is establishment of a state religion. The Founding Fathers were well aware of the centuries of religious strife endured by Europe – and also colonists here – because of state-sponsored religion: Protestants on one side, Catholics on the other.
They wished to avoid that being the fate of America.
It is as clear as the ringing of a church bell.
If the First Amendment is not clear enough, there is plenty of additional evidence in the form of letters and documents written by the Founding Fathers, especially Thomas Jefferson and his close friend and colleague, James Madison, the guy known as the “Father of the Constitution.” These documents explain to the dimmer among us their intentions.
Let’s just say it: It is virtually impossible for anyone to be anything but willfully ignorant of the First Amendment’s purpose.
Republicans like to play dumb. They say the First Amendment guarantees freedom of religion only to Christians. They like to pretend the First Amendment actually ESTABLISHES Christianity as a state religion even though it clearly forbids such establishment.
Or like Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, pretend that it doesn’t forbid that establishment:
I think the main fight is to dissuade Americans from what the secularists are trying to persuade them to be true: that the separation of church and state means that the government cannot favor religion over non-religion.
Right. We are only trying to convince you of what the First Amendment actually DOES say. So sue us.
Scalia wants to stop us from “forcing” Republicans to obey the Constitution. And yes, he came right out and said it:
“I think we have to fight that tendency of the secularists to impose it on all of us through the Constitution.”
Well, that’s sort of what the Constitution does, doesn’t it? It is ONLY the law of the land, after all.
If you parse this, you realize two things:
- Scalia says the First Amendment does not ban the establishment of religion; and,
- The Constitution can’t force Republicans do obey the dictate of the First Amendment
What does this tell you about the intent of the Republican Party?
Let’s look at some more examples:
Iowa Republican Joni Ernst say that we don’t need Obamacare because people should be relying on their churches. Comments like this can only leave us shaking our heads in wonder:
We’re looking at Obamacare right now. Once we start with those benefits in January, how are we going to get people off of those? It’s exponentially harder to remove people once they’ve already been on those programs.
We have lost a reliance on not only our own families, but so much of what our churches and private organizations used to do. They used to have wonderful food pantries. They used to provide clothing for those that really needed it, but we have gotten away from that. Now we’re at a point where the government will just give away anything. We have to stop that.
Obviously – and again, this needs be said only to the dimmer-witted among us – if the churches were working as Ernst claims, Obamacare would never have been necessary in the first place. We would have all this time been receiving the healthcare we need.
There was nothing stopping the church from paying for its congregations’ medical care. They just never did it. And they’re not about to start now. They WILL pray for you, but that won’t cure your cancer or replace your heart valve.
And then – talking about the dim-witted among us – there is Georgia Republican Jody Hice, who earlier this month asked who could possibly be offended by school-sponsored (in other words, government-sponsored) prayer?
Oh, I don’t know, anyone who can actually read the First Amendment?
Hice’s new “Big Idea” is that state-sponsored religion will put an end to government tyranny. Yes, religious tyranny will put an end to government tyranny. Let’s make this clear: Government-sponsored religious tyranny is preferable to simple old fashioned government tyranny.
To be in the midst of a fight against secularists who are trying to impose on all of us that it is unconstitutional to acknowledge God and to honor God, the secularists want to tell us that that’s unconstitutional. And Scalia is arguing that not only is that, in fact, constitutional, but it is in the best interests of who we are.
One of the biggest dangers that we are facing today, is judges who think that the Constitution is some sort of living document that changes with the times.
Hmmm…what was it James Madison said again? Oh yeah:
What influence, in fact, have ecclesiastical establishments had on society? In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of the civil authority; on many instances they have been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny; in no instance have they been the guardians of the liberties of the people.
And Jefferson said, in a September 23, 1800 letter to Benjamin Rush:
They [the clergy] believe that any portion of power confided to me, will be exerted in opposition to their schemes. And they believe rightly; for I have sworn upon the altar of god, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man. But this is all they have to fear from me: and enough, too, in their opinion.
Of course, nobody has said that it’s unconstitutional to “acknowledge and to honor God.” What the Constitution says is that it’s unconstitutional to force everybody else to “acknowledge and to honor God.”
There is a huge difference between the two, obviously, one the Constitution makes clear enough for anyone but an idiot to understand.
Another willful dimwit is Peter LaBarbera, who said yesterday that America must “return to a basic law, a Christian oriented law that does not try to grant civil rights status to a sin, which is homosexuality.”
If you believe that you are God, as government has proved over and over again that it believes it is…you don’t want there to be another God, you don’t want anybody to have an allegiance to the one true and living God, the God of the Bible whose son is Jesus Christ, because if that exists it is the enemy of your own idolatry.
As you can see, this willful ignorance of the United States Constitution and its First Amendment is pretty much across the board. We can go right to the Supreme Court to see this behavior in action in a very meaningful and dangerous way. American democracy, as established by the Constitution of the United States, hovers on the brink of destruction.
Contrary to Scalia’s assertion, the facts are all in the liberal camp. What Republicans are telling Americans is that freedom = tyranny, and that tyranny = freedom. I guess if you want to insist up is down and down is up, feel free to vote Republican. We liberals do believe in liberty and if you want to be Bobby Jindal-stupid, that is your Constitutional right.
It is the next thing to impossible to find a Republican candidate today who is not a religious extremist, and the examples given here are, rather than exceptions, the rule, in conservative politics.
Keep that fact in mind as you go to the polls. When you cast your ballot, you will be voting for more than simply a candidate. You will be voting for a democracy, or for a theocracy. This election could tell us which we will have.
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.