What does the first amendment really mean?
"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 United States has changed in the 219 years since the Constitution was ratified. It has evolved from a republic built on representation of the wealthy and educated, to a democratic republic. In that time the American people have prided ourselves for our ingenuity, our perseverance, our diversity, and above all our freedoms. Yet in recent years many of those freedoms have been cast aside out of fear, out of laziness and out of intolerance.
When I refer to the first amendment here, for the time being at least, I am referring specifically to the words
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof"
For over two hundred years this was interpreted to mean exactly what it says, Congress cannot establish a state religion or prohibit anyone from believing and worshiping as they choose. All that has changed, as religion's popularity dies away all that is left are fanatical religious, fanatical atheists, and those on the fence. The net effect is this, the fanatical religious want all religions, except their own to be eliminated. The fanatical atheists want all religions eliminated. And those in between are split.
In recent years we've seen more and more people getting upset over every thing religious. When a politician says a prayer the atheists and the fanatics of religions other than the politician's start a lynching mob. When a public official chooses to put the ten commandments on his wall the fanatics hunt him down and force him to remove it. When a child prays in school he or she gets expelled.
Perhaps I exaggerate some and yet all of those situations have occurred though I've never heard of a politician being lynched literally. The point is as liberals force feed the country racial diversity they attack religious diversity at every turn. We need both. Because if we continue down the track we're on then we will have a state religion in the next half century, the religion of atheism. There's nothing wrong with atheism but how would all you atheists like it if the government was telling everyone that you can't say God doesn't exist, simply because the Constitution mentions religion?
In effect that the same reasoning that's being used to systematically attack and destroy religion in the United States.
"The point is as liberals force feed the country racial diversity they attack religious diversity at every turn"
Perhaps this is due to the fact that race does not go door to door, disturbing peace to bring people into their culture... Religion does, and then as soon as someone says "No thanks" to a religious person, they treat you as though you are some sort of convicted felon.
Race is something that is not believed in, it is something you are born as. Religious organizations seek to propagate their ideas and inherently flawed philosophies of life, and use you as an example if you do not wish to join them for any reason.
Isn't this one of the reasons we left england in such a hurry, to get away from a manipulative church that had ties to the government?
"There's nothing wrong with atheism but how would all you atheists like it if the government was telling everyone that you can't say God doesn't exist, simply because the Constitution mentions religion?"
All of "us" atheists don't condemn people for believing in a god. If you do, you don't really know what you're talking about. We simply wish not to be judged by these religious organizations, and be accepted by them as fellow human beings. This doesn't happen though. I can live comfortably aside a religious person or an atheist, but they judge those who are not religious as someone below themselves or someone who has been tainted. That is the same segregation that we speak out against when it comes to racism. Do not attempt to judge that which you do not understand, and then expect to be protect from the same act being done to you by others.
The right analogy though, for that would be if a government official decided to hang a plaque outside of his office paying tribute to Charles Darwin that reads "There is no god" and then having religious people attack him for it. The law is suppose to be BLIND to religion, that means to leave out of government any hint of religion whatsoever. The people behind the desks can believe whatever they wish, so long as it doesn't infringe on the citizens rights to believe as they see fit.
The 10 commandments should be removed from government buildings because that building belongs to the people and a lot of people do not agree with the 10 commandments. It doesn't mean that the 10 commandments should be looked down upon, only removed from a public building. So what? Does this act in some way discredit the ten commandments, does it make the commandments worth less to the people that believe? No, so what's the problem?
If you want the ten commandments hanging up somewhere, do it on your private property, not on something owned by the public.
My point is, government without religion does not harm religion nor government. All people in America are citizens of it, and not all people believe the same thing, so for the sake of compatibility with all citizens, keep religion out of government. After all, it doesn't harm religion or the government... I do not see the problem.
Side: the government belongs to all citizens
1. Most atheists I know claim that anyone who believes in God is stupid. not all, but most. keep in mind, i don't believe in God.
2. Charles Darwin was agnostic, it shouldn't matter.
3. We vote in represenatives, some who are faith based and may make decisions based more on their faith than anything else. like subjects of abortion and gay marriage. but, both matters aren't only religious issues, it's not like they're creating a law saying everyone must have a crucifix on their door.
4. We left Europe for religious freedom and market freedom. you can say our founders were Puritans and Capitalists.
5. Nothing wrong with having the ten commandments in a public building. Atheists believe in nothing, so it shouldn't offend them (unless they're dousche bags) and every other religion believes in basically the same thing. besides the first commandment, it's something that good people follow in general. and since God is a vague term in this country, maybe it refers to ourselves as God? a massive power of energy in the Universe as God?
Side: the government belongs to all citizens
You seem to have missed the point of my argument. No where in the Constitution does it say that the government is "BLIND to religion" the first amendment states that government cannot interfere in religion. There should be no question here, the government doesn't have the right to tell me when or where I can worship or pray. Nor does it say that government officials cannot exercise their right to free exercise of religion even in official capacity.
As for a plaque quoting Darwin, I could care less. I personally don't care if someone else believes in God or not. It's their choice. And nobody should take issue that I do believe in God.
The problem is that the people are ignoring the Constitution. The problem is that people no longer bother to consult the document that should be the rigid skeleton of government. The problem is that every time the Constitution is interpreted a little more loosely the American Dream dies a little more. Before long the Constitution will have no meaning what so ever.
All I want is to see a country that accepts diversity. That means that we get over this silly fear of immigration, we get over the prejudice and the feeling that society owes anyone anything, because it doesn't, and we accept that others believe differently from ourselves and go with it.
Though no one has said it officially the courts have ruled that atheism is the state religion of the United States. When religion cannot creep into any aspect of public life, the First Amendment is being flouted and destroyed.
Side: the government belongs to all citizens
Yes , I can see your point , my errors in sentence structure and the fact that I used all caps...would make all the points irrelevant to you...still...facts are facts..and we can not change history...unless..we would rather believe a lie than the truth. If that is the premise of the opposing view, then the quote ," those who will not learn the lesson of history are doomed to repeat it."...come to mind. There is another quote that also might apply..."be careful what you wish for ...you just might get it!".....
Side: pvtNobody overreacts
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof" The reach of this provision hinges on the word "law" - namely that it limits this sections applicability to official legislation, not to behavior by government officials that occurs in the absence of governmental sanction (which by the very nature of this statute is prohibited anyway).
However, the trick to understanding this amendment is to look beyond the words themselves. HOLD UP! THAT MEANS I'M ADVOCATING AN ACTIVIST VIEW OF THE CONSTITUTION! No, it doesn't. Legal interpretation of any law, not just this one, does not occur in a vacuum. It always includes a review of any official documentation that surrounded the law's derivation. Today we look to Congressional records from committees and such. In contemplating late 19th Century legislation, we must look to official papers published by those involved in a law's passing. The argument for/against that practice is moot. Suffice to say it is a practice that predates the existence of our country, has been practiced since its inception, and therefore is legally considered part of Common Law, contrary to what Antonin Scallia and Clarence Thomas would have us believe.
Thomas Jefferson wrote the most prolifically about this topic and summed up his views regarding a 1779 religious freedom law in Virginia thus:
"[N]o man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer, on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities."
It's safe to say that his views did not magically alter between that time and when the Bill of Rights were drawn up less than a decade later so we can accept this statement as applying to what he thought regarding this part of the 1st Amendment. Notice there is no mention of a "law" or "legislation" from a government but rather the idea of a person being "burthened" [burdened] or to "suffer" based on their existing beliefs by the government. The final part of that quote was written to address a recently repealed law that prevented Catholics from holding office but can logically be interpreted to apply to any activity a person may do on behalf of government.
Neither of those points is absolute - a person has a right not to be put upon religiously by a government just the same as a person holding office is not prevented from exercising religious freedoms. That equally means that a person holding office must not exercise his religious freedoms past the point where others not of his beliefs are forced to endure his religious ideology or practice. This means that Mr/Mrs Elected Person can profess all day long what they believe but in an office where they hold sway over another citizen (e.g. every government office and by extension every employee of that office) they cannot exercise their religion in an official capacity IF said citizen is made to feel burdoned or made to suffer because of those actions. Here, citizen means the entire general public.
It is further the burden of government and its officials not to take actions it knows violates this tenant. So even in the absence of a person saying, "Hey! I feel religiously put upon by this government action!", the government has the responsibility to not take actions it reasonably knows would cause such prohibited burden in the first place.
Bringing the article full circle then, while the 1st Amendment specifically addresses only a law, it is not restricted to that language but instead applies to all government action. It therefore holds that the freedoms favor the citizen over the government official and any actions he takes when acting on behalf of government (passing laws, displaying plaques, reciting prayer) in any official capacity but said official does not relinquish his own religious freedoms outside of his office.
The main issue on governmental action regarding religion is brought by those who confuse morality with religious practice. (Most of) The contents of the 10 Commandments are very admirable and the advocacy of their practice is a laudable goal, however a government office/official cannot display them in a government office because they are quite literally religious text. Nope, sorry - a person's office space or government grounds is still owned by the public at large. There is only cultural habit, not legal allowance, that a public official can make his office space a representative part of his life/personality. Likewise, there is no allowance for teaching religious viewpoints in public school (except as a purely academic pursuit such as for comparative religion or religious history study) since public schools are extensions of government.
As far as the recent brouhaha over the contraception mandate, there is no constitutional right to own a business or to even hold a job (don't confuse the Declaration of Independence with the Constitution). A church is allowed to run a university, adoption program, food kitchen etc. for no other reason than because the government does not prohibit it. The government is very much within its scope of powers to put restrictions/requirements on these organizations' activities with no allowance made for the religious beliefs of those that work there. This applies to extraneous organizations that fall outside the providence of church operations and not to intrinsic actions that are part of direct execution of religious activities.
The notion that companies have rights is not something I am going to address here and in the face of any precedent beyond Citizens United's free speech issue, I stand by what I just said.
Please notice that at no time did I reference the separation of church and state. I think that phrase is simplified sound bite taken from a speech Jefferson gave nearly 20 years after the Bill of Rights was passed.
Side: pvtNobody overreacts
WELL, I TRIED THIS 4 HOURS AGO AND IT DID NOT MAKE IT TO THIS SITE...SO..I WILL TRY ONE MORE TIME...AND REMEMBER WHAT I SAID....THIS ARGUEMENT THAT THE 1ST AMENDMENT DOES NOT GUARENTEE FREEDOM FROM GOVERNMENT INTERFERENCE OF THE EXPRESSION OF ONE'S FAITH IS NOT FACTUAL. THE FOUNDING FATHERS WERE NOT TRYING TO STOP RELIGOUS FREEDOM..THEY WERE TRYING TO STOP THE ESTABLISHMENT OF ONE REGLIGION. ANY EXPRESSION OF FAITH...OR RECITING A BIBLICAL QUOTE ANYWHERE ANYTIME ..IS NOT AN ATEMPT TO ESTABLIS A RELIGION...BECAUSE FAITH IN GOD...AND BELIEF IN THE BIBLE IS NOT PRACTICING A RELIGION, IT IS AN EXPRESSION OF A RELATIONSHIP. BAPTIST IS A RELIGION, CATHOLIC IS A RELIGION, METHODIST IS A RELIGION. BEILIEF IN GOD OR A SUPREME BEING IS NOT A RELIGION NEVER HAS BEEN. OUR FOREFATHERS LEFT ENGLAND AND EUROPE TO ESCAPE THE RELIGIOUS PERSECUTION OF STATE RUN RELIGIONS LIKE THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND AND THE PAPACY. BUT IT NEVER EVEN OCCURED TO THEM TO EXCLUDE GOD FROM OUR GOVERNMENT, OUR EVERYDAY LIVES, AND EVERY PART OF THEIR BEING. THEY JUST DID NOT WANT ANY ONE RELIGION TO RUN THE GOVERNMENT. DENYING THAT FACT IS AN EXCERCISE IN HISTORICAL IGNORANCE. IT IS A FACT THAT EVERY TIME THERE WAS A ORGANIZED MEETING WHEATHER IT WAS THE CONTINENTAL CONGRESS , ETC...PRAYER WAS ALWAYS OFFERED, TO ASK GOD FOR GUIDANCE. THEY REALIZED IT WOULD BE GROSSLY IMPERTANT FOR THEM TO THINK THEY COULD ENTER INTO SUCH A GRAND UNDERTAKING LIKE SEPARTING THEMSELVES FROM ENGLAND AND STARTING THEIR OWN COUNTRY FROM SCRATCH WITHOUT ASKING FOR DIVINE HELP...NO MATTER HOW MUCH WE TRY...THAT FACT CAN NEVER BE DENIED. AMERICA BECAME THE GREATEST NATION ON EARTH BECAUSE OF THAT BEGINING AND MILLIONS WHO CARRIED ON IN THE SAME FASHION...IT IS THE BEST OF WHAT WE ARE...AND OUR FOREFATHERS WANTED TO GUARENTEE THAT AMERICANS WOULD ALWAYS HAVE THE RIGHT TO PRACTICE THEIR FAITH WHATEVER IT WAS WITHOUT ANY INTERFERENCE FROM ANY GOVERNMENT CONTROLS ...LOCAL OR NATIONAL..
Side: pvtNobody overreacts