Religion and the 1st Amendment
One of her issues is with the ACLU, which fired up one of her contributors, Brainhell and started an interesting conversation on the First Amendment and religion. Here on my blog, we've had one on the same amendment and free speech of late.
For instance, on the issue of religion and the First Amendment, many folks believe that Jefferson wrote the amendment to prohibit any government involvement in religion. This belief comes from a 1947 court ruling (Everson v. Board of Education) that quoted his famous letter to the Danbury Baptists shortly after his election.
The truth is that he didn't write, or even work on that amendment, and his letter to the Baptists was in response to their letter about problems with the State of Connecticut, not the National government. Connecticut was taxing religion, and sending the money to the Congregationalist Church, and it was difficult to get the money sent to one's own church.
Jefferson's letter was to reassure them that the Congregationalists couldn't become a national religion because of the establishment clause in the 1st Amendment. It had nothing to do with government involvement with religion per se, but establishing a national religion.
True, some of the amendment was based on his Bill to Establish Religious Freedom in Virginia, but it was actually Madison who was the "point man" in driving the Amendment through the first Congress.
The Founders Constitution has an outstanding recap of the debate on this clause of the amendment in the House of Representatives in 1791.
Mr. Sylvester had some doubts of the propriety of the mode of expression used in this paragraph. He apprehended that it was liable to a construction different from what had been made by the committee. He feared it might be thought to have a tendency to abolish religion altogether.
Evidently Mr. Sylvester's fears came true, as groups like the ACLU and others have tried to corrupt the meaning of the 1st Amendment to just that end.
Justice Jackson, dissenting in Everson made an excellent point on why the ruling was wrong. For history, Everson v. Board of Education had to do with the State of New Jersey reimbursing students for riding public busses to school, including Catholic schools, but excluding private schools.
In his dissent he noted that if it is indeed "taxpayer support of religion" to reimburse a bus rider for a trip to school, since taxes were used for such, then it would also have to be unconstitutional to allow firefighters to protect a church, since they are paid from taxes, or allow police to protect a churches property.
He argued that, correctly in my belief, that what the Congress was trying to stop was the practice of "tithing taxes", money raised for the specific purpose of supporting churches. Many states, lacking guidance from the Article of Confederation, or the Constitution as originally written had begun adopting these taxes.
Think how much easier this conversation would be if Madison had gotten his way and the religious clause had included the word "national", as he wished, and specified the laying of taxes for direct support, as he writes in many places.
Trackbacks at Blue Star Chronicles and Stop The ACLU, Pirates Cove, and Bullwinkle Blog
Ablur has a post on his site from about a month ago about the Everson decision.
Technorati Tags: Jefferson, politics, Madison, 1st Amendment, Religion, ACLU