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Saturday, April 15, 2006

Religion and the 1st Amendment

Greta, the Hooah Wife, put up a post a few days ago about why she blogs, it was a great read, with some good logic and interesting points, and basically explained where she's coming from.

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.

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Blogger Paula said...

Whatever. It seems only common sense for the gov't to stay as far away from religion as possible.

9:48 AM  
Blogger Praguetwin said...

Hi Politico,

I'm just visiting your site for the first time. We are both new on the American Bloggers for Inclusive Debates that was set up by Gun Toting Liberal which looks interesting so far.

You blog is clearly well informed and fits the profile. It seems there are so few level heads these days. Good on you, Sir.

On this issue of providing protection from tithing taxes, I think you are right. In light of that I find the administrative's interest in providing direct public funding to the churches violates the spirit of the law.

With regards to the fire department putting out a church on fire, I think it is obvious that a church should enjoy all of the same services that a resident of the community would especially in light of the fact that they are funded by the community. When the church is on fire, a little piece of everyone who belongs to the communitie's house is on fire.

But when it comes to busing kids to private religious schools, the line gets blurry. The government doesn't want to be seen supporting the church. However, if a family chooses to pay for their own child's education, the least the community could do is give the kids a ride to and from.

So, keep up the good work, and I would be honored if you would drop by sometime.


10:21 AM  
Blogger ablur said...

I did a rant on how Everson -vs- the board of education has changed the fundamental meaning of the constitution and has allowed the US to get in the current state.

We have much work to do in order to put or Nation on the path. We are only wondering further astray with Ginsberg introducing international law into our justice system. The balance of power once so carefully laid by our founders has been tipping.

12:10 PM  
Blogger shoprat said...

I have no problem seperation of church and state, but I do have a problem when they try to seperate religion from culture or religion from public life. These are two different issues and should never be confused.

For puroposes of the law, I consider Atheism to be a religion under the same legal allowances and restrictions as any other religion.

2:12 PM  
Blogger Crazy Politico said...

Praguetwin, thanks for visiting. I think you are confused on the difference between a tithe tax and the administration's "Faith Based Initiative.

A tithe tax was layed specifically for the purpose of supporting a church, for no reason other than support.

The Faith Based Initiative allows faith based groups to compete for federal funds for services, such as adoption, marriage and family counselling. Very much services "to the community". They'd have to fall under the same guidelines as any other group competing for those funds.

Ablur, I linked to your post, interesting stuff. Everson was definitely a case of folks reinterpretting what was written, and specifically, WHY it was written.

Shoprat, unfortunately, in a legal sense atheism isn't religion, so those zealots are exempt from the rules. At least until judgement day :)

Paula, I actually agree to an extent. I don't want an officially proclaimed religion, but I think we've gotten slightly carried away in other cases.

8:22 PM  
Blogger Patrick Joubert Conlon said...

Very meaty. Lots of food for thought. Thank you.

12:24 AM  
Blogger Crazy Politico said...

You're welcome Patrick. Good thing about food for thought, I doesn't affect the waist line :)

4:01 AM  

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