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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.
How profoundly simple, how elegantly clear and understandable can you get? Our Founding Fathers labored and conferred and, yes, prayed, over this First Amendment to our hallowed Constitution. They honed and pared and polished it, until it still shines like a rare diamond. Which politically it is.
It says exactly and precisely what they intended.
How is it, then, that today, certain people are straining and misrepresenting and actually twisting it completely out of its pristine meaning?
A man named Newdow, in San Francisco, adamantly quotes just the first phrase, before the comma, in his diabolical quest to wrench the two words “under God” out of our Pledge of Allegiance. Though he is trained as a lawyer, supposedly able to interpret the wording of a law – certainly including the wording of the Constitution – he manages to convince a majority of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that he is correct in claiming that those two words might be unconstitutional! And that misguided Court then decrees that school children in nine Western states should stop including those words in the Pledge we’ve all been saying since 1954.
When I confronted Newdow personally on the “Crossfire” TV show, I asked him if he was aware of the next phrase in the Amendment, and why he stopped short of quoting that? He stammered and mumbled something unrelated to my question. And then, when I asked, “You’re aware, aren’t you, that your atheism is a religion, a faith system based on a premise you can’t prove – while the faith system of most Americans is based on a premise the evidence for which is everywhere?”
He answered defensively, “Well, I’m not trying to force my belief on others.” And I shot back, “Are you serious? What do you call what you’re doing? You’re trying to silence 99 percent of America because you – one man – don’t believe our affirmation! You’re not trying to force your belief on us?”
Of course, the malevolent ACLU, like legally trained Storm Troopers, prowls the whole United States trying to tear every religious symbol or statement out of the public square and out of our public life. They’ve dragged a high school principal and a coach into a Florida court, wanting to have them both thrown into jail and fined $15,000 each for the heinous crime of saying a prayer of thanks before a midday lunch – a lunch for supporters of the school programs. And they’ve already coerced and intimidated the L.A. County Board of Supervisors into very expensively erasing a tiny cross from the County Seal, though not one person had complained!
On and on it goes, for years now, and the crusade is accelerating now that an ultra liberal president and Congress are in power. They’ve even gotten a growing number of clergy, ordained Christians, into fearing that, if they preach from their own pulpits what they believe the Bible actually says on controversial topics, they may lose their nonprofit status and even be shut down.
How is this possible in the United States of America? Have we really misinterpreted the First Amendment for over 200 years? Or are some people determined to twist and pervert it until it means the reverse of the original intent?
I originally planned to be a high school teacher. I think it’s a high calling, and I wanted to spend my adult life helping kids see and appreciate truth, and making it comprehensible and reasonable. So let’s look at the First Amendment.
First, “Congress.” That’s our federal, elected governing body. Not “state” or “county” or “city.” Congress shall make no law … repeat and emphasize no law … that means literally no law at all, pro or con. No law.
OK so far?
“Respecting.” That’s concerning, pertaining to … “an establishment.” Establishing means creating, mandating, bringing into being, making permanent.
So the meaning is incontrovertibly clear: The U.S. Congress shall make no laws at all pertaining to mandating, enforcing, or making permanent any religion. Religion is absolutely off limits, legislatively nonexistent, to our national government. That’s what President Thomas Jefferson was alluding to when he wrote the little Danbury Baptist Church that this amendment had “built a wall of separation” between them and their government. Never, in our new America, could the government mandate a national religion, as the British had with the Church of England. Baptists could be Baptists; Methodists and Presbyterians, deists and, yes, even Episcopalians could be whatever they chose. And government could say nothing – NOTHING about it.
Jefferson stressed the original intent of the framers of the Bill of Rights. And they, of course, just to make their intent abundantly clear, added the next phrase, “or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
Hey, ACLU – what part of that phrase don’t you understand? “Free”?
Or “exercise”? “Thereof”? Let me explain: It means neither you, nor Congress, nor any power on earth, have any right whatsoever to try to prohibit the free, open, exuberant and individual expressions of faith of any American!
This precious amendment says “You may not like my expression of faith, or that of a church, or a humanitarian or even secular organization; you have no legal right to abridge that in any way. However, you can climb up on your own roof and shout your expressions to all who can hear; you can buy pages of newspapers, and put your beliefs in TV ads if you want. You can publish contrary beliefs all you want. Have at it. But you can’t shut me up! You and I have equal rights, and Big Brother government can’t say a thing about it!”
That includes license plates. Amazingly, USA Today (Oct. 13) reports the slugfest between folks in more than 24 states over the simple phrase “Choose Life” on their license plates! Planned Parenthood is vehement, threatened and rabid about that phrase being seen on the back of somebody’s car – and have instituted court cases against that vile expression across the country. Five U.S. circuit courts have already ruled on the matter, each coming to different conclusions.
What part of the First Amendment don’t they understand?