Is the First Amendment outdated?

posted at 6:00 pm on March 24, 2012 by Libby Sternberg

It’s easy to forget, in this freewheeling, anything-goes, tolerance-minded society of ours, that it wasn’t so long ago that Catholics were derided, their beliefs publicly ridiculed, and their leaders mocked.

Oh, wait, that was just yesterday.

Or so it seemed when the contraception debate began. That is, when advocates for the HHS mandate (saying all employers must include free contraception coverage in their insurance plans regardless of their church teachings on the matter) turned the tables on free-conscience supporters by making the debate about bishops and their fellow-traveling Republican men who want to control women’s health. You remember the infamous photo, correct? You can see it here, at this link.

Sorry, wrong picture. That’s a Thomas Nast cartoon from the 1800s suggesting bishops wanted to control American public schools (look closely—the alligators coming to attack the poor schoolchildren are wearing bishops’ miters). Those bishops. Always trying to control something or other.

The photo to which I’m referring, though, went so viral that a short description will probably suffice: about a half dozen men, most in clerical garb, seated glumly at a congressional hearing table, microphones and notes at the ready.

They were there to testify about religious rights, not contraception, but that didn’t matter to the folks who passed the photo around as one more example of the miter-wearing Y chromosome crowd trying to crush women under their heels.

In the interest of full disclosure, I do not agree with the Catholic Church’s position on many things, including contraception. But, like Kevin Seamus Hasson, the head of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, I believe the Church has the “right to be wrong.”

Hasson has penned a book with that title on first amendment issues. For Christmas one year, I gave each of my children a copy. It’s a fast read, chock full of valuable history and information.

Hasson’s book title is apt. It’s what the first amendment, with its protections of religious liberty, is really about: the right to a free conscience that makes moral judgments, even if sometimes those judgments are wrong and unpopular. That’s at the nub of the First Amendment, making it a relevant principle to atheists and believers alike—it protects individuals’ right to say, essentially, this is morally repugnant and I will not just “follow orders” and do it.

As I witnessed the contraception argument debated on Facebook and elsewhere, I was amazed at the number of people, however, who seem to think free conscience decisions should be popular in order to be truly valid. Many people seemed to think that the unpopularity of the Church’s contraception stance (as evidenced by the lack of large Catholic families) demonstrates that the Church is wrong on the issue, and because they are wrong, the Church must obey the more popular “right” stance on birth control coverage.

Arguing against this view usually elicited a litany of other Church wrongs, most notably the sex abuse scandals, Church views on sexuality in general, the celibate priesthood, and… Rick Santorum…as if these things confirmed the Church was wrong, too, on contraception.

The Church, of course, is not a democracy, and those who’d like to make it so should focus their efforts on trying to change it in the private sphere. (I suggest a nail, hammer, and some theses—perhaps, oh, 95.) Using the government to coerce the Church to change might get you what you want in the short-term but will likely lead to things you don’t want in the long-term, the dilution of free conscience rights overall.

The debate over the Church’s “wrongness,” however, reminded me that everything old is new again. It’s not really a joke that I included a link to the Thomas Nast cartoon above. It represented a commonplace view during its time, that Catholics were so wrong in their views that they needed to be legislated virtually out of existence. They had a different approach to worship (a Mass in Latin—quelle horreur!), celibate leadership (for a peek at views on this, take a look at Rev. Justin D. Fulton’s 1880s masterpiece Why Priests Should Wed, a treasure trove of anti-Catholic propaganda in the guise of “advice” on Catholic principles), a different Bible (the Douay and not the King James) and a foreign Pope, among other things. Anti-Catholic views were as acceptable back then as, say, bashing Mormons is today.

As a long-time school choice and voucher advocate, I’m aware of this history and how it played a distasteful part in a significant public institution in America—the creation of public schools, which were originally designed to blanche threatening “papist” views from new immigrant children’s minds. (That history still touches the voucher debate in the courts, by the way, in a tangential way. A regular legal opponent of school vouchers is the group Americans United for Separation of Church and State. At their formation in the 1940s in the wake of court rulings that benefited Catholic institutions, they were known as Protestants and Other Americans United for Separation of Church and State, only shortening their name in 1971.)

Here we are, more than a century after the anti-Catholic campaigns of yesteryear, though, and we’re still seeing the same old misunderstandings, and, in a way, the same old arguments. The Church is wrong, the Church is different, and—instead of “the Church is the enemy of America”—the Church is the enemy of women; therefore the State must make the Church into something else by legislating a violation of its principles.

In an increasingly secular society, people forget why it’s important to let the Church be wrong. Freedom of conscience is such a powerful human drive that it leads men to choose death over recanting their beliefs. Early Christians, after all, went to the arena rather than burn incense to pagan gods because they believed they had found a higher truth. Even atheists believe in seeking truth, which is at the foundation of a free conscience.

Hasson writes in his book, “A government that seeks to minimize the consciences of its citizens may well find itself, in a generation or two, in a predicament far worse than having too many principled people claiming too many points of conscience. It may find itself with too few principled people to sustain a society.”

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is fighting the HHS contraception mandate in court, is promoting rallies on Friday, March 23 for those interested in supporting rights of conscience. Information is here.

__________

Libby Sternberg is a novelist. Her book website is here. This post can also be found at the Center Right Side blog.

This post was promoted from GreenRoom to HotAir.com.
To see the comments on the original post, look here.


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You remember the infamous photo, correct? You can see it here, at this link.

Interesting, especially since those hats were originally designed to look like fish heads.
Yes, fish heads.

itsnotaboutme on March 24, 2012 at 6:03 PM

To the Major Media it is!

KOOLAID2 on March 24, 2012 at 6:05 PM

To the present Democratic Party..it is!

KOOLAID2 on March 24, 2012 at 6:05 PM

Who needs the 1st Amendment?

KOOLAID2 on March 24, 2012 at 6:07 PM

Holder will change all that with the blessing of ‘Present’

KOOLAID2 on March 24, 2012 at 6:09 PM

itsnotaboutme on March 24, 2012 at 6:03 PM

..I didn’t try…but you could have had a baker’s dozen! BISHOP!

KOOLAID2 on March 24, 2012 at 6:10 PM

If all humans were altruistic, loyal, honest, good, and loving…maybe.

But look at coarseness of society today. We need protection of speech. There are truly evil people in positions of power that need to be kept in check. Sunlight is the greatest disinfectant.

tom daschle concerned on March 24, 2012 at 6:11 PM

HELLO!

KOOLAID2 on March 24, 2012 at 6:12 PM

Hey, did they ad a premium tax for health insurance for Obama Care? I just got my bill and I am pissed. It now includes a monthly tax of $4.34 on my $603 monthly premium. If the Supreme Court rules correctly and Obamacare is unconstitutional, are they going to refund these taxes, too?

karenhasfreedom on March 24, 2012 at 6:12 PM

“To compel a man to furnish funds for the propagation of ideas he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.”

- Thomas Jefferson

Resist We Much on March 24, 2012 at 6:12 PM

Perhaps a more apropos rhetorical title would have been:

“Is the First Amendment more important today than ever before?”

Or maybe:

“Is the First Amendment — like much of the rest of the Constitution — now effectively dead?”

ShainS on March 24, 2012 at 6:16 PM

Is liberty outdated?

petefrt on March 24, 2012 at 6:17 PM

No it’s not outdated, but it’s a major annoyance-nuisance-obstruction and pain-in-the-tuchus to the leftisprodlibturd dumbmasses who want to suppress the speech of anyone who doesn’t lap up and regurgitate their scummy leftistmarxistcommiesocialist weworshipandadoreobama noxioustoxic drivel. I don’t think any amendment gets mentioned or invoked as often as this one, and perhaps the most pertinent point made in this post, IMHO, is that the First Amendment is about conscience–something with which the left has absolutely no acquaintance or familiarity.

stukinIL4now on March 24, 2012 at 6:19 PM

The correct answer to the question “Is President Obama a Muslim?” is “No, it’s worse than that–he’s a Unitarian.”

What it boils down to with the contraception mandate is that Obama is telling the Catholic Church they must run Georgetown as it would be operated if the Unitarian Church was in charge of the school. And that is a clear preference of one religion over another, totally contrary to the non-establishment clause.

radjah shelduck on March 24, 2012 at 6:19 PM

Is the 1st Amendment outdated? That’s kind of like asking if freedom is outdated. Of course commie liberals probably think it is.

Axion on March 24, 2012 at 6:23 PM

(comment deleted)

Ugly on March 24, 2012 at 6:23 PM

Even atheists? You mean as in we would be the least likely in your mind to value freedom? I would say that even fundamentalist Christians and others for whom religion is the focus of their lives ought to. Our nation was founded in part as an escape from religious persecution. Our founders were well versed in the bloody history of England and Europe. They understood that no person’s religion could be protected if any person’s religion were allowed to make laws. The wall of separation was erected as much to protect religions from each other as it was to protect any other freedom.

MJBrutus on March 24, 2012 at 6:29 PM

bashing Mormons is today

Who’s bashing Mormons?

Or should I say, “Mormonism?” Just because someone bashes, say, Romney, it does not follow they are “bashing Mormons.”

davidk on March 24, 2012 at 6:33 PM

The wall of separation was erected as much to protect religions from each other as it was to protect any other freedom.

MJBrutus on March 24, 2012 at 6:29 PM

Except that there is no “separation” cited in our Constitution.

davidk on March 24, 2012 at 6:34 PM

we’re still seeing the same old misunderstandings

Wrong!

No, they are not “misunderstandings”. It’s called an AGENDA!

GarandFan on March 24, 2012 at 6:36 PM

Over 700 San Diegans Rallied for Religious Freedom: Elite Media Minimizes. There were over 130 cities that held similar events yesterday. Most of the ones in major cities were attended by 1000 plus people. All were focused on the HHS mandate’s threat to First Amendment Protections.

The elite media has tried to downplay reports with false numbers as questionable polls. However, every Bishop from the nearly 200 Diocese in America has sent a formal letter of protest, and the events brought together people of all faiths and races who know get what an existential threat the administration is.

Mutnodjmet on March 24, 2012 at 6:37 PM

Except that there is no “separation” cited in our Constitution.

davidk on March 24, 2012 at 6:34 PM

Don’t confuse the kostard with pesky facts, he has an agenda to advance.

tom daschle concerned on March 24, 2012 at 6:44 PM

Hasson writes in his book, “A government that seeks to minimize the consciences of its citizens may well find itself, in a generation or two, in a predicament far worse than having too many principled people claiming too many points of conscience. It may find itself with too few principled people to sustain a society.”

What’s the percentage of U.S. children born to single mothers again? In some demographics, it’s over 50%. Looks like we’re getting pretty close.

talkingpoints on March 24, 2012 at 6:54 PM

DavidK, when I mention bashing Mormons, I’m thinking of things like the successful Broadway musical, The Book of Mormon.

Others have suggested different titles for my piece. I wondered, as well, if I should have titled it with something else. Maybe “Is the First Amendment Obsolete?” — the thought being that, in an increasingly secular society, most people don’t cherish “freedom of religion” rights, even though they should, whether they are religious or not.

Libby

Libby Sternberg on March 24, 2012 at 6:56 PM

Libby Sternberg on March 24, 2012 at 6:56 PM

Thank you.

davidk on March 24, 2012 at 7:02 PM

The wall of separation was erected as much to protect religions from each other as it was to protect any other freedom.

MJBrutus on March 24, 2012 at 6:29 PM

EPIC HISTORY FAIL.

The phrase “separation of Church and State” has its origin in a private letter written by President Jefferson to the Danbury Baptist Association. He was trying to assure them that the federal govt would not interfere with any church’s affairs.

The phrase is not known to have been uttered or written after this letter until the early 20th century, when liberals dug it up & began twisting the phrase’s clear intended meaning to fit their agenda. They succeeded in convincing you & most everyone else.

itsnotaboutme on March 24, 2012 at 7:03 PM

The wall of separation was erected as much to protect religions from each other as it was to protect any other freedom.

MJBrutus on March 24, 2012 at 6:29 PM

That “wall” wasn’t “erected” until 1947 in the case of Everson v. Board of Education.

Resist We Much on March 24, 2012 at 7:03 PM

Since English colonists founded Jamestown in 1607, public expressions of faith have been common. It’s been fairly recently, since liberals fabricated an un-American distortion of the “separation of church and state,” that the ACLU has been able to drive religion – and Christianity in particular – out of the public square.

The Coercion Test may be just the ticket to restore sanity and genuine freedom of religious expression.

http://www.conservativenewsandviews.com/2012/03/14/constitution/supreme-court-coercion-test/

davidk on March 24, 2012 at 7:04 PM

Except that there is no “separation” cited in our Constitution.

davidk on March 24, 2012 at 6:34 PM

The concept is embodied by the words, “Congress shall make no respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”

MJBrutus on March 24, 2012 at 7:06 PM

They understood that no person’s religion could be protected if any person’s religion were allowed to make laws.

So guess we have to do away with all those laws against murder, theft, etc. since they come from this country’s clear Judeo-Christian heritage.

The First Amendment prohibits the establishment of a particular religion as the official religion of this country. As in formally codified a la the Church of England.

Not as in Christians putting a Nativity in the public sphere, or public prayer, or even Catholics not wanting to pay for something they’ve consistently said is immoral and contrary to Catholic teaching.

The “wall of separation” comment comes from a private letter from Jefferson. Hardly something we want to hinge our entire interpretation of the law on, especially since Jefferson’s other personal letters advised what it took to, oh, I don’t know…water the tree of liberty, etc.

englishqueen01 on March 24, 2012 at 7:06 PM

The phrase “separation of Church and State” has its origin in a private letter written by President Jefferson to the Danbury Baptist Association. He was trying to assure them that the federal govt would not interfere with any church’s affairs.

The phrase is not known to have been uttered or written after this letter until the early 20th century, when liberals dug it up & began twisting the phrase’s clear intended meaning to fit their agenda. They succeeded in convincing you & most everyone else.

itsnotaboutme on March 24, 2012 at 7:03 PM

Spot on – from the original context, Jefferson’s letter was not about suppressing expressions of faith in the public arena.

22044 on March 24, 2012 at 7:07 PM

itsnotaboutme on March 24, 2012 at 7:03 PM

Nothwithstanding the general progress made within the two last centuries in favour of this branch of liberty, & the full establishment of it, in some parts of our Country, there remains in others a strong bias towards the old error, that without some sort of alliance or coalition between Gov’ & Religion neither can be duly supported: Such indeed is the tendency to such a coalition, and such its corrupting influence on both the parties, that the danger cannot be too carefully guarded agst.. And in a Gov’ of opinion, like ours, the only effectual guard must be found in the soundness and stability of the general opinion on the subject. Every new & successful example therefore of a perfect separation between ecclesiastical and civil matters, is of importance. And I have no doubt that every new example, will succeed, as every past one has done, in shewing that religion & Gov will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together; [James Madison, Letter to Edward Livingston, July 10, 1822, The Writings of James Madison, Gaillard Hunt]

You were saying?

MJBrutus on March 24, 2012 at 7:09 PM

Except that there is no “separation” cited in our Constitution.

davidk on March 24, 2012 at 6:34 PM

Really?

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

What this clause implies is that the state will not establish any official state religions by showing preference to, or choosing one over another as a singular person might do.

Several of the gentlemen who wrote the Constitution have several famous quotes as regards this clause as well, and just what it was intended for.

Jefferson wrote, “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 & State.”

Jefferson’s metaphor of a wall of separation has been cited repeatedly by the U.S. Supreme Court. In Reynolds v. United States (1879) the Court wrote that Jefferson’s comments “may be accepted almost as an authoritative declaration of the scope and effect of the First Amendment.” In Everson v. Board of Education (1947), Justice Hugo Black wrote: “In the words of Thomas Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect a wall of separation between church and state.”

There is also, of course, Article VI of the Constitution that specifies that “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

But those are the only references to anything religious, but they are there precisely to show that our government wanted separation of church and state.

But don’t let facts get in your way…

SauerKraut537 on March 24, 2012 at 7:15 PM

Really?

Kraut537 on March 24, 2012 at 7:15 PM

Really. In spite of liberal misinterpretation of said Amendment.

davidk on March 24, 2012 at 7:17 PM

Others have suggested different titles for my piece. I wondered, as well, if I should have titled it with something else. Maybe “Is the First Amendment Obsolete?” — the thought being that, in an increasingly secular society, most people don’t cherish “freedom of religion” rights, even though they should, whether they are religious or not.

Libby

Libby Sternberg on March 24, 2012 at 6:56 PM

There isn’t much debate that churches have a First Amendment exemption from the mandate–even the administration agrees with that. The question is whether hospitals, universities and other corporations qualify. Potentially, all business owners are religious (the First Amendment doesn’t protect church organizations more than individual belief) and might view their corporation as an extension of their ministry. Depending on their belief, they could consider various parts of the mandate (or other federal laws) as causing a conflict. How do you define a house of worship for First Amendment purposes? Your post doesn’t address the point that courts have looked most closely at.

OptionsTrader on March 24, 2012 at 7:24 PM

englishqueen01 on March 24, 2012 at 7:06 PM

It wasn’t just the Danbury letter that backs up TJ’s stance on the importance of separation:

History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes.
– President Thomas Jefferson: in letter to Alexander von Humboldt, December 6, 1813

And his attitudes towards us evil atheists was not what you would pretend:

If we did a good act merely from the love of God and a belief that it is pleasing to Him, whence arises the morality of the Atheist? It is idle to say, as some do, that no such thing exists. We have the same evidence of the fact as of most of those we act on, to wit: their own affirmations, and their reasonings in support of them. I have observed, indeed, generally, that while in Protestant countries the defections from the Platonic Christianity of the priests is to Deism, in Catholic countries they are to Atheism. Diderot, D’Alembert, D’Holbach, Condorcet, are known to have been among the most virtuous of men. Their virtue, then, must have had some other foundation than love of God.
– President Thomas Jefferson: in letter to Thomas Law, June 13, 1814

So, you see, TJ certainly understood that one need not own a bible to live a moral life or to build a moral society.

MJBrutus on March 24, 2012 at 7:28 PM

You were saying?

MJBrutus on March 24, 2012 at 7:09 PM

I was saying the phrase wall of separation of Church and State has its origin in a private letter written by President Jefferson to the Danbury Baptist Association. He was trying to assure them that the federal govt would not interfere with any church’s affairs.

Nothing in your post refutes that.

itsnotaboutme on March 24, 2012 at 7:28 PM

itsnotaboutme on March 24, 2012 at 7:28 PM

Oh, I see. You weren’t trying to make any kind of statement about our founder’s attitudes, you were just making a pedantic point about that particular phrase.

MJBrutus on March 24, 2012 at 7:31 PM

The correct answer to the question “Is President Obama a Muslim?” is “No, it’s worse than that–he’s a Unitarian utilitarian.”.

radjah shelduck on March 24, 2012 at 6:19 PM

That being someone who views all questions of conscience, science, fact or theology on a single principle; What will get me what I want?

In The One’s case, that “want” is power, plus being able to tell himself what a wonderful, superior sort of being he is for forcing those he regards as morally wrong (defined as “anyone who disagrees with him”) to behave in ways he regards as morally right.

(This is how a utilitarian differs from an opportunist, to whom “right” and “wrong” are largely irrelevancies vs. his drive to fulfill his personal ambitions. A small but critical difference.)

Now, you could argue that in the Catholic Church’s case, this is an example of the biter bit. (Ref; the Inquisition, suppression of the Cathars aka “Albigensian Crusade”, suppression and virtual massacre of the Knight Templars mainly for refusing to participate in said “Crusade”, etc.) But in the West, and especially the Judeo-Christian part of same, we are taught that generally speaking, two wrongs don’t make a right. (And “Deteriorata” notwithstanding, neither do three.)

But ultimately, this is about President Obama, and those he regards as “right-thinking people”, using the power of government to force their definition of morality down somebody else’s throat. Never mind what the Constitution, Bill of Rights, or anything else might say about such behavior. In their minds, they are always absolutely right; and therefore anyone who disagrees with them is not only , ipso facto, wrong, but (since they are right by virtue of their “enlightenment”) also evil into the bargain.

Which means that, in the mind of the President and his “forward-thinking” cohorts, they have a moral duty to make everyone else “see the light”- of doing things their way, as Eric Frank Russell said.

This is why any and all attempts to reason with the President, or any of his enablers, on any subject, on purely legal, practical, or even moral grounds is pointless. They believe their ethics trump everyone else’s morals, the law, and ultimately reality. And if you don’t like it, it’s just proof of your lack of proper “consciousness” and true “enlightenment”.

You cannot reason with a dogmatist with a watertight-compartment mind. And that is precisely what the President repeatedly proves himself to be, no matter what the subject in question is.

The only solution is to send him back to academia. You will never be able to even have a sensible debate with anyone in power, on any subject, as long as President Obama and his like-minded fellow “intellectuals” are running the show.

They’ll just tell you you’re stupid, and to shut up and sing.

clear ether

eon

eon on March 24, 2012 at 7:32 PM

Really. In spite of liberal misinterpretation of said Amendment.

davidk on March 24, 2012 at 7:17 PM

There is no liberal or conservative way about it my friend. Words have meaning for a purpose, so that we’re all on the same page when things get said.

The Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause are unambiguous my friend, but keep believing what you want. I can’t make a horses ass drink.

SauerKraut537 on March 24, 2012 at 7:41 PM

There isn’t much debate that churches have a First Amendment exemption from the mandate–even the administration agrees with that. The question is whether hospitals, universities and other corporations qualify. Potentially, all business owners are religious (the First Amendment doesn’t protect church organizations more than individual belief) and might view their corporation as an extension of their ministry. Depending on their belief, they could consider various parts of the mandate (or other federal laws) as causing a conflict. How do you define a house of worship for First Amendment purposes? Your post doesn’t address the point that courts have looked most closely at.

I’m not a lawyer but am familiar with a fair amount of First Amendment litigation due to my school choice work. Many cases deal with an individual’s right to free conscience, not houses of worship per se. So, for example, you have cases where Amish parents sue for the right to keep their children immune from truancy laws due to their religious beliefs that no education is necessary after grade eight (Supremes upheld the right unanimously). Or you have cases where a welfare recipient still qualifies for her welfare rights, even though she was fired from a job…because she refused to work on the Sabbath for religious reasons. The “house of worship” part of it plays a small role. It’s the individual conscience aspect of the cases that prevails.

Libby Sternberg on March 24, 2012 at 7:44 PM

He was trying to assure them that the federal govt would not interfere with choose sides in any church’s affairs and thus not show favoritism to one over another.

itsnotaboutme on March 24, 2012 at 7:28 PM

FIFY

SauerKraut537 on March 24, 2012 at 7:45 PM

I side with Catholics, of course the government cannot force Catholics to buy birth-control for other people. Could you imagine if the government decided that the Catholics position on this subject should be criminalized? Could you imagine if the government arrested and fined and even imprisoned Catholics that didn’t buy birth control for their employees?

Because that’s one of the problems with Catholics: prominent Catholics like Santorum claim to be defenders of liberty, but only when it is their own. Santorum supports anti-sodomy laws which criminalizes gay sex. While I’m not gay any more than I’m Catholic, I still respect their rights, too, and don’t want to criminalize their way of life. That doesn’t mean they have a right to get “married”, IMO, but that is a different matter.

Freedom and liberty is a two way street. People like Santorum say that issues like anti-gay laws, abortion and creation “science” in school should be decided by the states, he’s a champion of federalism, but he only means it when he agrees with the outcome, like the examples above. If you ask him if states have a right to legalize MJ without federal interference, he’ll say no way. He believes that he has the right, even a duty, to violate peoples liberty to make them live according to his standards and other people like him. So much for liberty.

So, while I support Catholics on this issue, I just hope that it is a learning experience for them and more of them begin to respect everybody’s freedom and liberty, like I try my best to do. You can’t support liberty when it’s suits your interests but then support the criminalization of gay sex between consenting adults in their own home, or prohibit alcohol or MJ, especially with criminal penalties. How would Catholics like it if we start sending them away to lengthy prison sentences, three strikes and your out, for refusing to providing birth control pills as dictated by the morality of the majority?

It’s one thing to try to defend the definition of marriage, it’s another to try to outlaw peoples personal lives and throw them in jail because they do things you don’t like.

FloatingRock on March 24, 2012 at 7:53 PM

But those are the only references to anything religious, but they are there precisely to show that our government wanted separation of church and state.

But don’t let facts get in your way…

SauerKraut537 on March 24, 2012 at 7:15 PM

But, it was to keep the government out of the church. As late as 1833, Massachusetts had a state church. You should read Church of the Holy Trinity v. United States, 143 U.S. 457 (1892). I can give you many other case citations, if you would like.

You might be interested:

Joan Walsh: Liar, Liar! Pants on Fire!

Resist We Much on March 24, 2012 at 7:55 PM

I can’t make a horses ass drink.

SauerKraut537 on March 24, 2012 at 7:41 PM

davidk on March 24, 2012 at 7:55 PM

Correction:

….it was to keep the Federal government out of the church and prevent the establishment of a national church like the CofE.

Resist We Much on March 24, 2012 at 7:58 PM

For those debating the history of religious rights, I can’t recommend strongly enough Hasson’s book, THE RIGHT TO BE WRONG. It will leave you wanting to read more, but he does a terrific job of presenting an overview of the lack of religious freedom in the early colonies (as some have pointed out here) and how all of that history eventually led to the First Amendment encoding of religious freedom rights. The first colonies were not religiously free at all. Smithsonian Magazine also just had a terrific article about Roger Williams and his attempts to persuade people to embrace rights of free conscience in the pre-revolutionary era. He started out in the Massachusetts colony and eventually landed in Rhode Island.

Libby Sternberg on March 24, 2012 at 8:04 PM

So, you see, TJ certainly understood that one need not own a bible to live a moral life or to build a moral society.

MJBrutus on March 24, 2012 at 7:28 PM

Jeremiah 31:33:
“But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the LORD, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” New American Standard Bible (©1995)

Romans 2:15: They show that what the law requires is written in their hearts, a fact to which their own consciences testify, and their thoughts will either accuse or excuse them. International Standard Version (©2008)

The Law Written on their Hearts

davidk on March 24, 2012 at 8:04 PM

davidk on March 24, 2012 at 8:04 PM

So you’re going to quote bible verses as your evidence that our founders insisted that religion and government be kept separate?

MJBrutus on March 24, 2012 at 8:08 PM

MJBrutus on March 24, 2012 at 8:08 PM

I meant as evidence that they should NOT be kept separate?

MJBrutus on March 24, 2012 at 8:09 PM

Since English colonists founded Jamestown in 1607, public expressions of faith have been common. It’s been fairly recently, since liberals fabricated an un-American distortion of the “separation of church and state,” that the ACLU has been able to drive religion – and Christianity in particular – out of the public square.

The Coercion Test may be just the ticket to restore sanity and genuine freedom of religious expression.

http://www.conservativenewsandviews.com/2012/03/14/constitution/supreme-court-coercion-test/

davidk on March 24, 2012 at 7:04 PM

davidk on March 24, 2012 at 8:11 PM

Funny thing is, those who keep banging on about freedom of religion when it comes that Catholic stuff are also the first ones to be up in arms when some Muslims want to build a mosque. It’s hard to take them seriously…

Durandal on March 24, 2012 at 8:11 PM

So you’re going to quote bible verses as your evidence that our founders insisted that religion and government be kept separate?

MJBrutus on March 24, 2012 at 8:08 PM

Well, no.

I quoted verses that show that those who claim to be “good” apart from God, are not “good” apart from God.

davidk on March 24, 2012 at 8:13 PM

davidk on March 24, 2012 at 8:13 PM

Oh. Well as long as you keep that filthy “goodness” away from my government I can live with not being good in your eyes.

MJBrutus on March 24, 2012 at 8:16 PM

Oh. Well as long as you keep that filthy “goodness” away from my government I can live with not being good in your eyes.

MJBrutus on March 24, 2012 at 8:16 PM

You mean “filthy ‘goodness’” like muder, theft, perjury?

And it’s not my eyes with which you need to concern yourself.

davidk on March 24, 2012 at 8:24 PM

davidk on March 24, 2012 at 8:45 PM

Why are the first four of those ten “commandments” wasted on the vanity of your god? SUREly your god could include more important commandments in his/her/its top ten besides those four, like say maybe thou shalt not have slaves? thou shalt not bugger young children under your care?

Anyone can make a better ten commandments… Try these

1 Do not do to others what you would not want them to do unto you.
2 In all things, strive to cause no harm.
3 Treat your fellow human beings, your fellow living things, and the world in general with love, honesty, faithfulness and respect.
4 Do not overlook evil or shrink from administering justice, but always be ready to forgive wrongdoing freely admitted and honestly regretted.
5 Live life with a sense of joy and wonder.
6 Always seek to be learning something new.
7 Test all things; always check your ideas against the facts, and be ready to discard even a cherished belief if it does not conform to them.
8 Never seek to censor or cut yourself off from dissent; always respect the right of others to disagree with you.
9 Form independent opinions on the basis of your own reason and experience; do not allow yourself to be led blindly by others.
10 Question everything.

SauerKraut537 on March 24, 2012 at 8:52 PM

SauerKraut537 on March 24, 2012 at 8:52 PM

All those are in the Bible.

And God is worthy of all praise and honor.

davidk on March 24, 2012 at 8:59 PM

LMFAO @ saurkraut. Poor poor fool…

tom daschle concerned on March 24, 2012 at 9:03 PM

I keep seeing reference to the Catholic fellow sitting at that table.

He was sitting next to a Lutheran, a Baptist, and a Jew.

The non-establishment clause means that the government will kindly keep its hands off of religion. The government may not mandate how the offerings of any kind of church are spent. The government may not dictate the beliefs or practice of any church.

That’s what this is about.

Scribbler on March 24, 2012 at 9:06 PM

davidk on March 24, 2012 at 8:59 PM

All which are in the bible? An injunction against slavery? I’ve read the bible in its entirety several times in my life and reread thousands upon thousands of verses, and I have NEVER come across a verse where god says that slavery is wrong.

You’re gonna make me pull out the quotes again aren’t you?

The following passage shows that slaves are clearly property to be bought and sold like livestock.

However, you may purchase male or female slaves from among the foreigners who live among you. You may also purchase the children of such resident foreigners, including those who have been born in your land. You may treat them as your property, passing them on to your children as a permanent inheritance. You may treat your slaves like this, but the people of Israel, your relatives, must never be treated this way. (Leviticus 25:44-46)

The following passage describes how the Hebrew slaves are to be treated.

If you buy a Hebrew slave, he is to serve for only six years. Set him free in the seventh year, and he will owe you nothing for his freedom. If he was single when he became your slave and then married afterward, only he will go free in the seventh year. But if he was married before he became a slave, then his wife will be freed with him. If his master gave him a wife while he was a slave, and they had sons or daughters, then the man will be free in the seventh year, but his wife and children will still belong to his master. But the slave may plainly declare, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children. I would rather not go free.’ If he does this, his master must present him before God. Then his master must take him to the door and publicly pierce his ear with an awl. After that, the slave will belong to his master forever. (Exodus 21:2-6)

What does the Bible say about beating slaves? It says you can beat both male and female slaves with a rod so hard that as long as they don’t die right away you are cleared of any wrong doing.

When a man strikes his male or female slave with a rod so hard that the slave dies under his hand, he shall be punished. If, however, the slave survives for a day or two, he is not to be punished, since the slave is his own property. (Exodus 21:20-21)

In the following parable, Jesus clearly approves of beating slaves even if they didn’t know they were doing anything wrong.

The servant will be severely punished, for though he knew his duty, he refused to do it. “But people who are not aware that they are doing wrong will be punished only lightly. Much is required from those to whom much is given, and much more is required from those to whom much more is given.” (Luke 12:47-48)

SauerKraut537 on March 24, 2012 at 9:14 PM

LMFAO @ saurkraut. Poor poor fool…

tom daschle concerned on March 24, 2012 at 9:03 PM

LMFAO@tom daschle. Poor poor fool…

I feel so sorry for you bro. Really and truly. Your mind is ossified.

SauerKraut537 on March 24, 2012 at 9:16 PM

But those are the only references to anything religious, but they are there precisely to show that our government wanted separation of church and state.

But don’t let facts get in your way…

If there is a wall of separation, then why is it the state can tell religion what it can/can’t do?

Why all the Founding Fathers making public declarations and statements of faith?

The courts…heh. The courts do occasionally get rulings wrong. Creative reinterpretation of the Constitution (and all laws, really) isn’t exactly a new concept?

Why is it the wall is really a one-way door?

Funny thing is, those who keep banging on about freedom of religion when it comes that Catholic stuff are also the first ones to be up in arms when some Muslims want to build a mosque. It’s hard to take them seriously…

The day that Catholics fly planes into buildings killing 3,000 innocent civilians, the day Catholics make it a standard tenet of the faith to maim, murder and mutilate women who cause “dishonor” to their families, the day Catholics engage in riots and the burning of non-Catholic places of worship and the systematic theo-political suppression of non-Catholics is the day your comment can start to be taken seriously.

In the meantime, forgive the sane among us — Catholic and otherwise — who object to allowing a religion who’s basic purpose is to subjugate all who believe in something else under its crushing thumb erect a monument to their inherent violence and bigotry.

Liberals love to whine about Catholics oppressing women. Turn a blind eye to Islam and you can say buh-bye to every liberal pet cause: feminism, gay marriage, abortion, contraception, promiscuous consequence-free sex, etc. It’ll make paying $9 for your own darned birth control pills seem like a walk in the park.

englishqueen01 on March 24, 2012 at 9:18 PM

Really?

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

What this clause implies is that the state will not establish any official state religions by showing preference to, or choosing one over another as a singular person might do.

It’s NOT state that will establish a religion it’s CONGRESS. WHO, what, where, when does the 1st amendment state? CONGRESS. Not courts, supreme court, Thomas Jefforson’s letter to Dansbury Baptist Church(which is non binding. It’s states CONGRESS can make no law establishing a religion or prevent the free exercise of. It does not say a “state” can’t establish a religion which all of them had in the 13 colonies. At a federal level…no.

Several of the gentlemen who wrote the Constitution have several famous quotes as regards this clause as well, and just what it was intended for.

Unless it’s in the Constitution then it’s NON-binding. Courts can use quotes as original intent of the framers. Liberals will use quotes as actual Constitutional reference.

Jefferson’s metaphor of a wall of separation has been cited repeatedly by the U.S. Supreme Court. In Reynolds v. United States (1879) the Court wrote that Jefferson’s comments “may be accepted almost as an authoritative declaration of the scope and effect of the First Amendment.” In Everson v. Board of Education (1947), Justice Hugo Black wrote: “In the words of Thomas Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect a wall of separation between church and state.”

Hugo Black…A Klansman, a lawyer for Klansman and just makes this stuff up as he goes. Bet you didn’t know Black was a Klansman did you?

For Black to put Jefforson’s letter(which is non binding and goes aginst your assertion) to the Dansbury Baptist Church and atttatch it to the 1st amendment as an additional arm is UN-Constituional. Another words, Hugo Black just made it up to give some ruling. If he was any type of a decent Judge, He would have just ruled by the first amendment as it is written.

But those are the only references to anything religious, but they are there precisely to show that our government wanted separation of church and state.

AGAIN, you are wrong. It says “Congress shall make no laws”…no one else.

But don’t let facts get in your way…

SauerKraut537 on March 24, 2012 at 7:15 PM

Don’t let history get in your way…

b1jetmech on March 24, 2012 at 9:24 PM

LMFAO@tom daschle. Poor poor fool…

I feel so sorry for you bro. Really and truly. Your mind is ossified.

SauerKraut537 on March 24, 2012 at 9:16 PM

You know nothing about me so your puerile attempt at ridicule fails miserably, leroy johnson.

tom daschle concerned on March 24, 2012 at 9:33 PM

Funny thing is, those who keep banging on about freedom of religion when it comes that Catholic stuff are also the first ones to be up in arms when some Muslims want to build a mosque. It’s hard to take them seriously…

Durandal on March 24, 2012 at 8:11 PM

Catholics have no problem with the concept of reasonable municipal zoning. Religious freedom via the First Amendment doesn’t mean that you can build a house of worship anywhere, any time. Nice try though.

slickwillie2001 on March 24, 2012 at 9:38 PM

Catholics have no problem with the concept of reasonable municipal zoning. Religious freedom via the First Amendment doesn’t mean that you can build a house of worship anywhere, any time. Nice try though.

Also, the only mosque I’ve known there to be massive opposition to is the victory mosque meant for Ground Zero in NYC. That mosque is so close to where jihadis killed 3,000 people that the distance from said mosque to Ground Zero is actually shorter than the distance some of those poor souls fell when they were forced to jump from the towering infernos.

An insult to their memory, and a non-too-subtle salute to the jihadists who shed so much blood there.

englishqueen01 on March 24, 2012 at 9:58 PM

All which are in the bible? An injunction against slavery? I’ve read the bible in its entirety several times in my life and reread thousands upon thousands of verses, and I have NEVER come across a verse where god says that slavery is wrong.

You’re gonna make me pull out the quotes again aren’t you?

The following passage shows that slaves are clearly property to be bought and sold like livestock.

(Leviticus 25:44-46)
(Exodus 21:20-21)
(Luke 12:47-48)

Correct. Since you read the Bible front to end many times over. You will recall that the Israelites have gone to war many times over. Most they won. Some they lost.

This particular “law” stated in Leviticus 25:44-46 was deal with captured slaves from wars or foreigners acquired as slaves usually law breakers and sentenced as a slaves. But the focus was NOT about this. The passage was about Israelites who become slaves to another Israelite were to be treated differently and release automatically at the year of Jubilation where “everything” is redeemed.

Back then, if an Israelite had a slave there was nothing said that the slave could be freed.

This law was only stated to differentiate the foreigner slave and the Israelite slave.
The following passage describes how the Hebrew slaves are to be treated.

All correct.

Back then, to be a slave was totally different then it was 200 years ago.

If I, b1jetmech took out a loan from SauerKraut537 inc. and could not pay it back on the agreed time. I would have to either work you as a slave until the debt was paid or if you forgave the debt I would be set free. There were no banking institutions back then to get loans and debt collection was very severe. So a borrower’s time was traded for money. This lasted all the way through New Testament times.

Slavery through racial means came about 1,500 years ago maybe a little longer and the whole attitude changed.

But to dicredit the Bible because it doesn’t condemn slavery at any level is just unrealistic.

Slavery was different back then…verses during America’s founding.

(Ephesians 6:9)

And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.

b1jetmech on March 24, 2012 at 10:05 PM

In an increasingly secular society, people forget why it’s important to let the Church be wrong.

You have to be first told something before you can forget it.

:/

A government that seeks to minimize the consciences of its citizens may well find itself … with too few principled people to sustain a society.

Again. You have to be told it is necessary for persons to be principled in order for society to be sustained before you can deliberately attempt to minimize conscience, or deliberately work to make sure government does not do this — or even have this weird, electronic conversation about it.

Go back to Spring Break and ask the bikini-clad, fun-loving, refreshingly tanned college babes this:

“At what grade level did you learn that society can only exist when its citizens are virtuous, and do you remember the required virtues?”

Axe on March 24, 2012 at 11:21 PM

Only the 2nd Amendment guarantees the 1st.

profitsbeard on March 25, 2012 at 12:06 AM

You were saying?

MJBrutus on March 24, 2012 at 7:09 PM

So, in any place where religion and civil institutions intertwine — which are in many places, given that some religions have a political (e.g., works) element — who should yield to whom?

The obvious conflict we are seeing is in the matter of contraception. For over 200 years, we had no laws on the books mandating that any employer, or any insurer, offer contraception. Our government was mute, leaving the decision to use or refuse contraception as a private choice.

Now comes the Government saying that contraception is a “right”, and must be offered — for free if that is what it takes — by all insurers.

Now we have a definite conflict set up between insurers who feel that contraception is not moral, and those in the Government who feel that not offering it is equally immoral.

We have a conflict of religions — especially given what I have noted above concerning the amount of time the Republic has existed without a “right” of contraception which supercedes any right of conscience.

unclesmrgol on March 25, 2012 at 2:05 AM

FloatingRock on March 24, 2012 at 7:53 PM

As a Catholic, I would have no problem with homosexuals carrying on as they see fit, as long as they do not expect me to condone or approve or even to facilitate their behavior.

As the Methodist Pavilion incident proves, gays want to go much further than merely being free with respect to sodomy:

When Bernstein and Paster asked to celebrate their civil union in the pavilion, the Methodist organization said they could marry on the boardwalk — anywhere but buildings used for religious purposes. In other words, not the pavilion. Hoffman says there was a theological principle at stake.

“The principle was a strongly held religious belief that a marriage is between a man and a woman,” Hoffman says. “We’re not casting any aspersions or making any judgments. It’s just, that’s where we stand, and we’ve always stood that way, and that’s why we said no.” The refusal came as a shock to Bernstein, who says Ocean Grove has been revived by the gay community.

“We were crushed,” she says. “I lived my whole live, fortunately, without having any overt prejudices or discrimination waged against me. So while I knew it was wrong, I never knew how it felt. And after this, I did know how that felt. It was extremely painful.”

Luisa says that initially, they walked away from the situation. “We were so stunned, we didn’t know what to do. But as we came out of our initial shocked stage, we began to get a little angry. We felt an injustice had been done,” she says.

So the couple filed a complaint with New Jersey’s Division of Civil Rights, alleging the Methodists unlawfully discriminated against them based on sexual orientation. Attorney Lawrence Lustberg represents them.

This is the slippery slope in a nutshell. If someone wants to take my religious freedoms away — my freedoms of conscience and of association — well, I’ll take their freedoms first.

It’s one thing to expect an accommodation by Government, and quite another to expect an accommodation by a church.

unclesmrgol on March 25, 2012 at 2:23 AM

unclesmrgol on March 25, 2012 at 2:05 AM

The contraception thing that you cited is a violation of free exercise and should be barred on that basis.

MJBrutus on March 25, 2012 at 3:59 AM

Re: the mosque-building debate: They had the right to build the mosque. But those who opposed it (count me among those) wanted the mosque-builders to consider not exercising that right. So, many opponents were not FOR using government/state control to stop the mosque but were still against it being built there. That distinction often got lost in that particular argument. It was really: yes, you have the right to build it, but, please, don’t.

Libby Sternberg on March 25, 2012 at 7:10 AM

So, while I support Catholics on this issue, I just hope that it is a learning experience for them and more of them begin to respect everybody’s freedom and liberty, like I try my best to do. You can’t support liberty when it’s suits your interests but then support the criminalization of gay sex between consenting adults in their own home, or prohibit alcohol or MJ, especially with criminal penalties.

All you need to do is replace this HHS mandate with gay marriage laws and you’ll see why we oppose them too. The entire argument for forcing the Catholic Church to pay for contraception is: IT’S THE LAW and YOU MUST OBEY THE LAW! REFUSING TO DO SO VIOLATES A WOMAN’S CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS!

It’ll be the same argument for gay marriage, which will NOT respect religious liberty. Those laws too will be used as a bludgeoning tool to sue, harass and ultimately force the federal government to “mandate” churches perform same sex wedding ceremonies or face penalty.

Catholic teaching on freedom, and the common sense view of liberty, is that it’s not about being able to do whatever you want. Genuine freedom and liberty are the ability to do what is right. The ability to do whatever you want isn’t freedom, but slavery to whatever vice(s) you may think it’s within your “liberty” to pursue.

There is a moral code that societies must abide, one written in natural law, and if we don’t abide by that our society will founder.

englishqueen01 on March 25, 2012 at 7:35 AM

What this clause implies is that the state will not establish any official state religions by showing preference to, or choosing one over another as a singular person might do.

SauerKraut537 on March 24, 2012 at 7:15 PM

The clause doesn’t imply anything. It’s straightforward and unambiguous.

It says nothing about “showing preference” or choosing one over the other. It was written to keep the hand of government out of the affairs of religion, not the other way around.

darwin on March 25, 2012 at 8:24 AM

“The phrase “separation of Church and State” has its origin in a private letter written by President Jefferson to the Danbury Baptist Association. He was trying to assure them that the federal govt would not interfere with any church’s affairs.”

I would also note that Jefferson had nothing to do with drafting or debating the passage of the first amendment or any of the bill or rights. So, why does the left cite him as some kind of authority in interpreting the same? He was in France the whole time.

tommyboy on March 25, 2012 at 8:33 AM

“Why even atheists should support First Amendment rights.”

Huh?

EddieC on March 25, 2012 at 9:01 AM

Catholic teaching on freedom, and the common sense view of liberty, is that it’s not about being able to do whatever you want. Genuine freedom and liberty are the ability to do what is right. The ability to do whatever you want isn’t freedom, but slavery to whatever vice(s) you may think it’s within your “liberty” to pursue.

There is a moral code that societies must abide, one written in natural law, and if we don’t abide by that our society will founder.

I agree with the founders that a moral code is essential to keeping this country on solid footing. However, that Free Exercise clause is there because there may be religions whose doctrines you don’t agree with (i.e. gay marriage), but as long as they play nice with everyone else, their followers have every right to live their lives as they seem morally fit. We set a dangerous precedent if we start codifying behavioral codes of certain religions (even if it’s a vast-majority religion) into law.

So yes, social mores are important, but those must stay on the “honor system”.

TMOverbeck on March 25, 2012 at 9:16 AM

And yes, I believe murder and rape should be outlawed. Every state has laws against that. That’s not “playing nice with everyone else”. But if a state wants to allow gay marriage or legalize MJ, hey, whatever floats your boat.

TMOverbeck on March 25, 2012 at 9:39 AM

“Why even atheists should support First Amendment rights.”

Huh?

EddieC on March 25, 2012 at 9:01 AM

lol … yeah. But if you pull “first amendment rights” and push “the Catholic Church in it’s current first-amendment right struggle,” it settles down a little. :)

Axe on March 25, 2012 at 9:40 AM

This is one of those lovely moments when the old saw “Be careful what you ask for, because you might just get it!” keeps ringing in the air.
Hugo Black and a whole litany of modern utilitarian pragmatists have managed, in their desperate need to break free of any constraint, brought us to the point where we are now free to cherry-pick guotes from the private correspondence of almost any prominent figure of the Revolutionary Generation, to justify whatever interpretation that suites our convenience. Thank You! Thank You! Thank You!
Now the task at hand will be to pack the courts with “jurists” who will use the particular selection of quotes from this vast treasure trove that suite OUR visions and biases, so that we can make the world WE choose.
For anyone of the despotic mindset, this is a godsend. I can cherry-pick a treasure trove this immense to compile almost anything, and be well grounded in judicial precedent and intellectual consistency.
Yeah, Baby! What’s not to like?

Lew on March 25, 2012 at 10:21 AM

I would also note that Jefferson had nothing to do with drafting or debating the passage of the first amendment or any of the bill or rights. So, why does the left cite him as some kind of authority in interpreting the same? He was in France the whole time.

tommyboy on March 25, 2012 at 8:33 AM

Jefferson had worked closely with, and was an intellectual influence on, Madison. Madison drafted the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom for Jefferson, which was a forerunner of the First Amendment. That Jefferson was in France during the drafting of the US Constitution didn’t prevent the ideas he had shared with Madison to influence the document.

OptionsTrader on March 25, 2012 at 11:46 AM

itsnotaboutme on March 24, 2012 at 6:03 PM

Oh my gosh, someone still depending on Alexander Hislop’s Two Babylons for anti-papal propaganda!

Do you check under your bed for Dagon each night?!

Akzed on March 25, 2012 at 12:14 PM

The correct answer to the question “Is President Obama a Muslim?” is “No, it’s worse than that–he’s a Unitarian.” radjah shelduck on March 24, 2012 at 6:19 PM

Exactly. The UCC of which Jerry Wright’s “church” is a member is in communion with the UU’s. Meaning that the UCC is a club like the UU, and not a church in any meaningful sense.

However, one needn’t become a Christian to join that outfit in Chicago, so he could still be both.

Akzed on March 25, 2012 at 12:18 PM

I would also note that Jefferson had nothing to do with drafting or debating the passage of the first amendment or any of the bill or rights. So, why does the left cite him as some kind of authority in interpreting the same? He was in France the whole time.

tommyboy on March 25, 2012 at 8:33 AM

The first point is that it isn’t just the left who disputes your claims. Second, as I noted above, Madison himself (and Franklin and many other founders) was a strong advocate for separation. Your attempt to isolate Jefferson as the sole founder responsible for the 1st Amendment or the concept of separation of church and state is either disingenuous terribly uninformed.

MJBrutus on March 25, 2012 at 4:34 PM

“The real object of the [First] Amendment was not to countenance, much less advance, Mahometanism, or Judaism, or infidelity by prostrating Christianity; but to exclude all rivalry among Christian sects.” -Joseph Story, Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court 1811-1845, founder of Harvard Law School, Commentaries on the Constitution, Vol. II, 1871 (1833).

Our liberty depends on our education, our laws, and habits . . . it is founded on morals and religion, whose authority reigns in the heart, and on the influence all these produce on public opinion before that opinion governs rulers.” -Fisher Ames, Framer of the First Amendment (Fisher Ames, An Oration on the Sublime Virtues of General George Washington (Boston: Young & Minns, 1800), p. 23.)

Akzed on March 25, 2012 at 4:51 PM

In the interest of full disclosure, I do not agree with the Catholic Church’s position on many things, including contraception. But, like Kevin Seamus Hasson, the head of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, I believe the Church has the “right to be wrong.”

Just had to get your dig in, too, huh?

Jazz on March 25, 2012 at 4:57 PM

Jazz, it’s not a dig. It’s context. I’m arguing the Church has the right to their stance, whether I or anyone else agrees with it.

Libby Sternberg on March 25, 2012 at 5:18 PM

I do not like this paragraph:

A government that seeks to minimize the consciences of its citizens may well find itself, in a generation or two, in a predicament far worse than having too many principled people claiming too many points of conscience. It may find itself with too few principled people to sustain a society.

It is exactly backward in respect to how the United States was founded. We do not have a government with a citizenry, we have “government of the people, by the people, for the people” — or, at least, that’s what it’s supposed to be.

JamesS on March 25, 2012 at 5:51 PM

There is only one way to change the First Amendment,or for that matter any of the other Amendment, and that is with another Amendment. I know that is contrary to Obama and Holder’s belief’s, but that’s the way it goes. If more people would take the time and read and learn what the Constitution is about, we would not need these dialogues. But then we are really doing nothing but singing to the choir.

savage24 on March 25, 2012 at 10:05 PM

When the Constitution is no longer relevant to the decisions made by SCOTUS, then what is the reason for SCOTUS to exist at all?

swinia sutki on March 26, 2012 at 6:04 AM

the first amendment, with its protections of religious liberty, is really about: the right to a free conscience that makes moral judgments, even if sometimes those judgments are wrong and unpopular. That’s at the nub of the First Amendment, making it a relevant principle to atheists and believers alike—it protects individuals’ right to say, essentially, this is morally repugnant and I will not just “follow orders” and do it.

So the First Amendment is inherently morally relativist? Sorry, but I don’t buy that. I think that the Founders wanted to set up a certain foundation of morality (call it Judeo-Christian) and then allow people to follow their religious beliefs only if they meet those fundamental guidelines.

Because otherwise, I could be a pagan who thinks that he needs to practice human sacrifice as religious ritual. Such a pagan would think it morally repugnant NOT to sacrifice people to their God and will not just “follow orders” and not do it.

See what I did there? Moral relativism would make the First Amendment a completely worthless section of paper.

solatic on March 26, 2012 at 12:12 PM