Explaining The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
The following is from my book, “A Charter of Negative Liberties, Defining the Bill of Rights and Other Commentary.” I try to explain the First Amendment, which reads:
“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 First Amendment covers a great deal of protection from a central federal government. So much so there are those who have been and still are in government who feel the need to change the meaning of the amendment.
To discuss and interpret The First Amendment I will break it into five clauses. The first Clause will be:
- “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,
Seems pretty straight forward, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” In today’s English you have to read it, Congress shall make no law concerning the establishment of religion. Or plainly, it means there will never be a Central Federal State religion. There will never be a Church of America. That’s it!
On this point the central federal government has done damn well, since 1787 they haven’t created a Federal church.
So why did our forefathers make this the first sentence in the first amendment?
Many Americans of the time were practicing religion under the Church of England, which was not an option in England. America had fought a war against a tyrant king and wanted more than anything to right the wrongs of that tyrant. In doing so they wanted a central government impotent with regards to religion.
Yet, in 1962, the Supreme Court agreed with five parents when they sued over a twenty two word prayer recited each morning at their children’s school in Long Island, (Engel v. Vitale). In their decision the court wrote “it is no part of the business of government to compose official prayer.”
I don’t know who wrote that particular prayer, but if it was a government employee why not allow another prayer to be recited? In this decision the Supreme Court allowed the mythical barrier between church and State to be seen.
Does saying a voluntary prayer in a public school mean the government has “established” a religion? I say No!
Does stopping a prayer prohibit the “free exercise?” I say Yes!
The Courts decision was un-Constitutional.
- or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;
Again, pretty straight forward right? Let’s put the words together without Clause 1.
Congress shall make no law prohibiting the free exercise thereof.
The only way a Congress can follow this Clause is to not make any federal law concerning the free exercise of religion. So the federal government must remain mute on this issue.
Yet the Federal government consistently rules on what may be done or said when it comes to religion, mostly the Christian religion, in public places. “Public places” is understood to be places owned by the People and managed by the Federal government. A privately owned shopping center is not a “public place.”
There is nothing in the Constitution or Bill of Rights that mentions any separation of the Church and State except the one Clause of the First Amendment:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;
Remember, the Bill of Rights was written to protect the People from the central government. If there was any protection of one from the other it was to protect our religious beliefs and our churches from the government, not the other way around.
Banning a nativity scene or saying “under God” or mentioning God at a graduation is a government not mute, but actively engaged in the use of its power to prohibit the free exercise of religion.
A Christian Club using a public school room after school hours, does not constitute creating or the establishment of a religion. The First Amendment tells the government to just butt out, and quit prohibiting the free exercise of religion.
Again, the only thing that violates the establishment of religion would be to create a national religion. Instead the central government does not allow any practice, and exercise thereof, with laws banning the People from exercising their religion! The exact opposite of what our forefathers envisioned.
If any disagreements about religion pop up in any State, the Federal Government and Supreme Court should refer the problem to the People of that State. The People will resolve the problem with their vote at the local level.
Remember, the Supreme Court must enforce the Constitution and all Amendments, so it must remain mute unless the federal government continues abusing the people’s right to freely practice their religion. The Supreme Court must reverse its “separation of State and Church’ mythical law.
- or abridging the freedom of speech
How hard is it for the federal government to understand “or abridging the freedom of speech?”
If the federal government would follow the Constitution and oblige the First Amendment, it would just shut up. Any complaints about speech would be referred to the State as the Tenth Amendment demands. The Supreme Court would refer any cases back to the State’s involved and actually be following the Constitution.
Freedom of speech was at the forefront of America’s fight against the King of England. The ability to speak against the ruling class is at the foundation of a free people. Because the Bill of Rights was aimed at protecting the People from a possible tyrannical central government in the future, our forefathers wanted to protect the People’s right of free POLITICAL speech without the government prosecuting the speaker. It’s important to understand the Bill of Rights is a political document, written and adopted for the political freedom of the People.
Political speech shall never be silenced or place the one speaking in any jeopardy.
There is another form of speech that was never intended to be protected by the Bill of Rights or the Constitution and that is social or moral speech. That speech is not protected by the Constitution and “We the People” can censor social speech and art we don’t like. George Washington abhorred cursing and stopped it whenever it occurred.
That’s social moral speech, and if anyone believes the Bill of Rights was written as a free pass to immoral acts and pornography, think again. However, the Bill of Rights is mute on social and moral speech or actions because morality can change over time. Our forefathers knew this and did not address any moral tenets. They left moral issues to the States and the People. Let me repeat, acceptable social and moral speech can change over time and it’s up to the People to determine what is acceptable. Not the Federal government.
- or of the press;
In the 17th century England if a printer or writer wrote anything that would cause the people to get upset with the king it was considered a crime punishable by quartering, hanging, flogging and their works burned.1
Thomas Jefferson felt a free press so essential he said, that if forced to choose between newspapers and a government, he would take his chance without government.1
I believe we all know why the press should be free, but what happens when the press decides to choose sides as it has today? I have another unfinished book entitled “Seldom Heard Quotes”. In it I comment on certain things said by various well known people. With the subject of the media (press) in mind, here are just three quotes.
“As science editor of Time, I would freely admit that on this issue we have crossed the boundary from news reporting to advocacy.”
Charles Alexander, Science Editor, Time Magazine, September 1989
This was said during the “Global Environment: Are We Overreacting” conference held at the Smithsonian, during which a stream of doomsayers spewed forth one catastrophe after another. Mr. Alexander was applauded by journalists for making the above statement. Andrea Mitchell, an NBC News journalist agreed and said, “Clearly the networks have made a decision now, where you’d have to call it advocacy.”
The fact that none of this has been reported to the American public further shows how one-sided the media really is. CNN, the major networks, and the print media have become lopsided reporters and mindless supporters of one of the most misleading eco-terrorism campaigns ever launched on the American people.
I find it incredible that in communist countries, like the former Soviet Union, a government-controlled press openly lied to its people, while here in the United States, where freedom of the press is protected by the Constitution in order to share the truth with the American people, the media chooses, instead, to lie.
If this version of “freedom of the press” is what Americans have died for in wars, beginning with the Revolutionary War, I don’t want any part of it. If freedom of the press means the media has license to lie to us, I want no part of it.
Everything we know about any current event is gleaned from the media: a media with a “tyrants’ agenda” advocating global environmental crisis; a media with a penchant for slanting issues; a media that lies by not reporting both sides of an issue; a media that reports with advocacy instead of objectivity.
“To hell with news! I’m no longer interested in news. I’m interested in causes. We don’t print the truth. We don’t pretend to print the truth. We print what people tell us. It’s up to the public to decide what’s true.”
Ben Bradlee, Editor, Washington Post, 1989 reported by David Brooks in The Wall Street Journal, October 5, 1989, and much earlier by John J. McKetta of the National Council for Environmental Balance.
It is obvious to me, from my attempts to talk to the local media, the local NBC affiliate, and local eco-reporter for one of our newspapers, that this attitude is pervasive. They do say it is impossible for them to determine the truth. I’ll give them that. It would be impossible to check out every story that crosses their desks.
But they make a limited effort to allow any opposing views to air or be printed. So while they air and print what may not be true, they don’t air or print what has been shown to be true.
As a result of this kind of media attitude, people are led to believe the most unfounded pending disaster stories in the history of man. In a time when the deficit is about to bankrupt our nation, Congress, reacting to perceived popular opinion, has allowed the wasting of money on environmental issues more than on any other project in Washington leaving the truly important projects delayed because of environmental untruths.
Environmental groups have learned the best way to get more money for favorite projects is to conclude any request with impending disaster–just in case the government decides not to approve their requests.
“I’m not sure it is useful to include every single point of view.”
PBS Producer Linda Harrar, 9/29/91, on her decision not to air “The Greenhouse Conspiracy.”
When an opposing view to an environmental issue is offered, the media either gives it limited coverage or ignores it completely. One such case was the PBS decision not to broadcast “The Greenhouse Conspiracy,” an excellent documentary by Hilary Lawson that blows the very foundation out from under the “global warming crisis.” The above quote was in response to a question why PBS was not broadcasting it to the American people. And this from “Public Broadcasting” supported by your tax dollars!
PBS and PBR are government supported media outlets. Could the central government get away with supporting a church and not be crossing the line? It’s time to stop this State controlled media (press) outlet regardless of how little or great that support is in dollars.
It is truly a shame that so much blood has been shed so the American media can be free to report honestly, and they choose a side. It must be stopped by the People, not by Congress, not by the Supreme Court, but by the People with their dollars.
- or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
As with most of the BILL OF RIGHTS, this clause is inspired by the life the People had been forced to endure under King George. Our forefathers wanted to be able to complain without fear.