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How would this work for you? Two vegetarians are offended by meat eaters, so they sue. Any restaurant, club or public facility where the public is invited to attend meetings that would involve any subject germane to the community cannot serve meat dishes. That would mean any meeting involving the public, including political meetings, meetings involving veterans, schools or any other public gathering held in a facility where the public was invited and dinner was served would not be allowed to serve meat dishes. Understand what this would mean; Lions Club, Rotarians, American Legion, VFW and even Little League and Boy Scout meetings would be affected.

A case of vastly greater freedom-restricting impact than the above hypothetical is being debated before the U.S. Supreme Court as we speak:

“[T]he continuance of public prayer and the public acknowledgment of God is in jeopardy, literally, not figuratively … our friends at the legal group Alliance Defending Freedom are arguing the case Town of Greece v. Galloway before the U. S. Supreme Court. The Court will then decide whether or not public prayer will be allowed to continue in America.

” … the Court Justices will vote and reach their decision as to whether or not to continue permitting public prayer (such as at city councils, school boards and legislatures) or whether it will now be officially prohibited. Once they make that decision during the next three days, they will then choose which one of them will write the majority and the minority opinions. It may be next June before they publicly announce their decision, but the crucial time is RIGHT NOW! …the fate of the 400-year-old tradition of public prayer in America literally hangs in the balance” (David Barton, WallBuilders, Nov. 6, 2013).

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Why? Because two women, who were “offended” and felt they were “being discriminated against” by prayers, sued in court and a federal appeals court agreed with them. Keep in mind, these two people, with full knowledge that every session opened with prayer, of their own free will and at times and dates of their own choosing, voluntarily attended meetings that were open to the public. One, an atheist, was “offended” by references to “God” and “our Savior” and by individuals who stood and said “Amen” at prayers conclusions. Consequently, she wants all prayers stopped, regardless of origin. Oddly enough, the other litigant is a Jewish lady.

Here’s the crux of my problem: I find myself unable to locate and separate “the Establishment Clause” (so-called) from the apparently nonexistent “free exercise clause.” Perhaps a non- judicial-oriented, non-lawyer type could offer a common-sense opinion here and help me out. Absent a legal background with years of practical legalese to rely on, I am faced with the challenge presented by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

Doesn’t the First Amendment say Congress shall make no law establishing or prohibiting?

Where is the separation? How can you practice one to the detriment/exclusion of the other? And doesn’t it say Congress, not courts, judges, school boards, etc., shall make no law? Aren’t courts supposed to rule on and define laws already on the books, not make new laws? Wouldn’t a ruling made by the Court, if contrary to the “free exercise clause,” essentially be a law made by the Supreme Court versus Congress? Wouldn’t that make the Court part of the legislative branch, as opposed to the judiciary?

And, while I am all in favor of the absolute right of citizens to be protected by the law, I am confused as to why only two people should be able to cause what is essentially a rewrite of the First Amendment to the Constitution and impose their will on the majority of Americans. On the other hand, maybe people who believe in a personal God shouldn’t really have any rights after all? Perhaps you can address that for me.

Let me read that First Amendment again in modern English: Congress shall make no law establishing or prohibiting religion.

Now it seems to me (a non-legal type), the moment you enforce the “establishment clause,” don’t you immediately violate the “free exercise clause”?

Hmmm. That makes sense to me. But I’m not a lawyer. Kinda brings us back to the “meat” dilemma, doesn’t it?

 

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