Thursday, April 1, 2010

Remember why we never 'assume'...for both our sakes.

Often during a discussion concerning the safeguards of keeping church and state separate or a rant over the intrusiveness of the ACLU, I throw out the question in which article or amendment is the separation of church and state mentioned by our Constitution. Most people, especially younger ones, struggle to recall exactly where the constitutional right is located...

They struggle because it's not there.

If you're surprised by that statement and are now frantically web searching to prove me wrong...sorry. My intent isn't to make anyone feel foolish. Not by a long shot. The principle of separation of church and state is a classic example of two problems that I see have developed in our country.

First, we just don't know our own Constitution. What most people know about the very principles that are the foundation of our Nation they learned in a civics class in middle school. I refer back to my last post about our nation's history, and again I'm amazed at the level of apathy when it comes to people actually knowing the Constitution. If you were to limit yourself to knowing one critical item about the United States...shouldn't it go a little further than rote memorization of the Preamble?

Second, we again take what other pundits or talking heads say about the Constitution as fact without any effort on our part to check those facts. It is far too easy to pull up an actual copy of the U.S. Constitution online for more people not to be doing it. Let's go back to my example of separation of church and state. The Founding Fathers only saw a need to establish in 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.

The phrase separation of church and state is derived from a letter that Thomas Jefferson wrote to the Dansbury Baptist in 1802 and was made public. In the letter, Jefferson contends:

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, 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.

The concept has been expanded to what we have today through interpretation of the Constitution by our court include the Supreme Court. That's why our children no longer pray in public schools. Don't blame it on our Founding Fathers...well, not all of them.

Just a quick sidebar. Thomas Jefferson was not a man of Christian faith as many people presume. Please check that fact out for yourself. The Jefferson Bible was his attempt to take all the teaching of Jesus he liked while eliminating the 'supernatural events' surrounding Christ (i.e. healing, miracles, Son of God, and oh yeah...the Resurrection).

This is just one example of how the principles of our Constitution (and National history) are being distorted and misrepresented, but only because We the People allow it to be. My post today is a plea that you not be complacent or apathetic about your Constitutional knowledge. I think it is crucial in today's political climate that we each know the scope of the Constitution and Amendments as they were written, ratified and adopted.

It's not nearly as complex as our ridiculous tax code...but a little more in depth than the Schoolhouse Rock lessons.

To be continued...(no, I'm not done yet)


David said...

The 1st amendment not only gives us the right to freedom of all types of expression, it also gives our opponents the right not to be legally offended.

The buzz word offense is a liberal retardation of our freedom, yet they want the terrorists to have untapped cell phone calls. But I digress, that's Article 1 Section 8.

Tracy said...

As I read the 1st amendment I am renewed in my thought that it actually gives me the right to freely practice my religion. So there's no reason I can't say things like "Merry Christmas", or football players can't pray as a group before school games, or the President can't hold a day of prayer.

Anonymous said...

Great post….you have hit on another hot button for me. We as Christians and Americans need to understand where we come from. Our roots say a lot about us and we can learn significantly from our past. While I agree with you that Thomas Jefferson was not a Christian man, we as Christians have a lot to be proud of in our American history. (and yes there are some ugly things as well) Our Christian heritage clearly contains our constitution, but I think it goes deeper than that. Looking back to the history before the constitution was written helps me grasp how deep our Christian roots go. The Mayflower Compact is blatantly Christian. Their purpose was to spread the Christian faith to North America. The founding of Harvard University was unapologetically Christian. The original Delaware constitution in Article 22 required leaders to signify that they were Christians….. I could continue. Thanks for the challenge….

Lula! said...

But I LOVE Schoolhouse Rock.

OK, school me some more...

Anonymous said...

A little to sanctimonious for me.

photogr said...

Some or most of our wacko left wing liberals and the ACLU ( socialist) in office like to over state the seperation of the church and state as a rallying call to restrict allowing prayer and religoius issues.

The real purpose for the seperation was to restrict a state dictating how or what you should worship as a religion. It did not include banishing a faith or practice because it offended some one.

It just makes me boil when I hear a politician saying seperation of church and state is why we support banning the ten commandments or prayer in a public setting.

Z said...

" law....prohibiting the free expression of (religion).." Couldn't they have ruled FOR the 10 Commandments on court steps from that phrase alone?
'Odd' that the more we've got away from God, the more Americans and this country are slipping from goodness in so many ways.....
Super post, Tony.
I hope you had a Happy Easter..xx