A state religion?

Understanding the founding fathers’ fears of government offers insight into the meaning of their words in the United States Constitution. Many of their demanded freedoms were born from the British trail of William Penn who challenged the sovereignty of the Church of England, the state religion. On its steps, he dared to gather and preach a different belief, a capital offense.

Following a short trial, the judge instructed the jurors in the law, telling them to “render the proper verdict.” But, a lone juror named Edward Bushell claimed the law was wrong and voted not guilty, with repeated deliberations bringing fellow jurors to his point of view. The infuriated judge put the jurors in jail and demanded they do as the bench instructed.

Their plight ended up before the British equivalent of our Supreme Court, and surprisingly the court sided with the jurors. One simple man had successfully nullified bad law. The British government could no longer demand a specific belief in public.

Common sense, right? Wrong. Our legal system of well-educated, well-intentioned people continually reads more into the simple words of the First Amendment than is there. In fact, they have so re-defined what the founding fathers said about freedom of religion that many of us believe the words “separation of church and state” are in the Constitution.

The First Amendment says exactly what the founding fathers wanted it to say – “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The government cannot pass a law mandating a specific faith nor can it interfere with the expression of our faith. That’s it.

Yet, have well-meaning legal minds distorted the First Amendment and created a state religion? In many communities, nativity scenes cannot be on government property. The Ten Commandments are banned in courthouses, though they are the basis of our legal system. Some children are not allowed the recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Currently, there are threats of lawsuits to force removal of crosses from the graves of our military personnel in Arlington National Cemetery.

Read the First Amendment. Does a nativity scene in a public park violate it? Does a display of the Ten Commandments in a courthouse? Does reciting the Pledge of Allegiance? Are the crosses of Arlington anything more than a show of respect? Have we returned to the days of Edward Bushell, our government demanding that only one faith be expressed in public?

And what faith is the only government endorsed faith? Atheism, which is defined as “the faith or belief that there is no higher power, no God.” As it says, atheism is a faith, a belief system just as is my Christianity.

Though you will not receive the death sentence if you are so blasphemous as to put a Nativity scene on a courthouse lawn, but you could go to jail. We deride some Muslim countries harsh laws forbidding other faiths, yet we do the same.

Only atheists can legally express their faith in public places, pushing all others aside. Merry Christmas is an inappropriate phrase. I assume Happy Hanukah is equally repugnant.

Maybe we need another Edward Bushell or maybe we need to return to the “earthy” language used in an apocryphal story about Harry Truman. Some ladies approached Mrs. Truman, asking if she would talk to her husband and get him “to stop saying manure.” She politely responded, “Ladies, you don’t know how long it took me to get him to say manure.”

Let’s follow Truman’s example and call this what it is and get back to our values and our Constitution before it’s too late. It’s our choice.

Print page


Leave a Reply

Name (required)