In my book, “A Charter of Negative Liberties,” I try to interpret each Amendment to the Constitution. One reason is because so many American’s are being led down a twisting road of redefining our history, who we are and the meaning of the Constitution and Bill of Rights.
The following is an excerpt from my book that I hope explains the part of the First Amendment that addresses the “separation of church and state,” myth.
The First Amendment
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.
—First Amendment to the United States Constitution
The First Amendment covers a great many kinds of protection from federal government—so many that there are still those in government today who feel the need to change the meaning of the amendment.
To interpret the First Amendment, I will use five clauses.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion …”
In modern English it reads, Congress shall make no law concerning the establishment of religion. In other words, there will never be a central, federal, or state religion; there will never be a “Church of America.” That’s it!
On this point, the federal government has done 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, in England was not a choice. 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 federal government impotent in regard 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 do not know who wrote that particular prayer, but if it was a government employee, why not allow another prayer to be recited? By 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.
Thus, the court’s decision is unconstitutional.
Or prohibiting the free exercise thereof …
Let us put the words together: “Congress shall make no law … prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
The only way Congress can follow this clause is by making no federal law concerning the free exercise of religion; on this issue, the federal government must remain mute.
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. In Civics classes, I was taught public places is understood as places owned by the people and managed by the federal or state government. It then follows that a privately owned shopping center is not a public place.
There is nothing in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights that mentions any separation of church and state except the first two clauses 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 federal government. If there were 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 banning the utterance “under God,” or simply “God” itself, during a graduation ceremony is a government not mute, but instead a government actively engaged in the use of power to prohibit the free exercise of religion.
A Christian club using a public school room after-hours does not constitute creating or establishing a state religion. The First Amendment tells the government to stay out, and quit prohibiting the free exercise of religion.
The only thing that violates the establishment of religion would be to create a national religion. Instead the federal government disallows any practice, and exercise thereof, through 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.
The Supreme Court must enforce the Constitution and all amendments, and 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 mythical separation-of- church-and-state law.