Letters to the Editor

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RELIGION: Constitution has been misinterpreted

Letter by Jacquelyn E. Giles, University Place on March 19, 2012 at 1:49 pm with 30 Comments »
March 19, 2012 4:53 pm

The letter writer who said, “The Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, not freedom from religion” (letter, 3,19), misunderstands and misrepresents the First Amendment.

It reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” It goes on to protect freedom of speech, press, peaceable assembly and petitioning for redress of grievances.

This amendment prohibits the establishment of a state religion and laws governing religious dogma that existed in Europe and England before and after the Reformation and Henry VIII’s split with the papacy, declaring himself head of the Church of England which remained doctrinally Catholic. “Heretics” continued to be tortured and killed under the Calvinists, Henry, “Bloody Mary Tudor” and Elizabeth I, who was somewhat more tolerant.

Contrary to what most of us learned in public school, the Puritan “Pilgrims” fled England not to establish freedom of religion in the colonies but to gain freedom to practice, and to impose, their brand of Christianity on others. They forbade theatrical performances, even of Shakespeare’s plays, as the work of the devil, and they burned, drowned or hanged their neighbors as “witches,” confiscating their property, often to the profit of the clergy.

America’s founders rejected the historical establishment and enforcement of religion by the state that they and their forebears experienced. “Free exercise” requires the state to stay out of our spiritual lives. Americans are entitled to believe, or not. Freedom of, and freedom from, religion are equally protected by the First Amendment – at least for now.

Leave a comment Comments → 30
  1. Beware! Rick Santorum and others are more than willing to force their brand of religion on others, whether they be other Christians or persons of other faiths. If Rick Santorum is elected President, it will be interesting how he addresses the rest of the world and their differing faiths.

  2. aislander says:

    The letter write was on solid ground until the final paragraph–inflammatory rhetoric aside.

    The First Amendment was set up to prevent the establishment of a national religion. The Founders had no objection to the states having government-mandated religions, nor to the Federal government advocating religion–as long as it didn’t establish a particular religion.

  3. LornaDoone says:

    “The First Amendment was set up to prevent the establishment of a national religion.”

    Well, now. That sort of tears it on the latest misrepresentation of the First Amendment, doesn’t it?

  4. The First Amendment was set up to prevent the establishment of a national religion.

    rather than rely upon your interpretation, I prefer to just rely upon what the 1st Amendment actually says:

    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.

  5. sandblower says:

    “The habit of religion is oppressive, an easy way out of thought.”
    Amen!

  6. I wonder why Mormons no longer practice plural marriages.

  7. aislander says:

    If you have questions regarding the 1st Amendment, refer to the way it was interpreted and practiced by those who wrote the thing…

  8. aislander says:

    I was responding to the letter writer on the idea of establishing a national religion. The 1st Amendment ALSO proscribes governmental interference with religion, which is the current problem…

  9. sandblower says:

    Gov. interference with religion is only your evaluation. No one is stopping you from anything your religion dictates for yourself.

  10. aislander says:

    The Catholic religion requires that it not be involved with contraception, sterilization, or abortifacients. Government is trying to force it to be. THAT is governmental interference with religion…

  11. LornaDoone says:

    aislander, how does that picket fence feel? You appear to be caught in the middle of your two BS positions.

    “Government is trying to force it to be.”

    FALSE. The government took the Catholic Church out of the equation and they put themselves back in basically claiming that if anyone within 50 mile radius of their church begins to think about contraception, that Barack Obama made them do it and they were going to covert to the Catholic faith prior to that.

    TRANSLATION – The Catholic Church was given an out and chose not to take it because they are in bed with the conservative politics, which will not change a thing, considering a majority of Catholic women already use birth control.

  12. aislander says:

    You mean the mandate-laundering charade? That “out?”

    Government shouldn’t be imposing ANY of this BS on ANY of us, let alone something that has specific and explicit protection from government…

  13. aislander says:

    Besides, the taxpayer can no longer afford any of this, and China’s probably having second thoughts, too.

    We shouldn’t be even thinking of adding anything; we should be figuring out how to take apart this whole, unconstitutional structure. After all, if we had stayed as close to constitutional limitation as we should have, there would be no debt at all…

  14. “The Founders had no objection to the states having government-mandated religions”

    This is an outright lie.

  15. “The 1st Amendment ALSO proscribes governmental interference with religion”

    LOL – sure. Thanks for a great laugh.

  16. aislander says:

    WHERE do those comments COME from? Are they comic relief or something? They certainly don’t have anything to do with actual American history…

  17. Frankenchrist says:

    It’s common knowledge that the goal of Mullah Santorum and the Christian Taliban is to create a theocracy here where only those who share their specific “religious beliefs” will be welcome or even tolerated. The question is HOW do they plan on getting rid of the rest of us? What will be the fate of gay Americans, Muslims, Asians, Latinos, Blacks, Mormons, single moms, working women, etc.?

  18. If you have questions regarding the 1st Amendment, refer to the way it was interpreted and practiced by those who wrote the thing…

    So you maintain that subsequent opinions by the Supreme Court are invalid if they weren’t made by the writers of the Amendment?

  19. flamotte says:

    Thank you for an eloquent, wise, and historically educated letter. A breath of fresh air, especially when compared to the ignorant right-wing diatribe in today’s first letter. You have elevated the discussion.

  20. “They certainly don’t have anything to do with actual American history…

    So says Mr. Slander, completely ignorant to the fact the early Massachusetts colonies were de-facto theocracies, until idea of the separation of church and state came from Roger Williams.

  21. “The Catholic religion requires that it not be involved with contraception, sterilization, or abortifacients.”

    Not really no, it does say it’s members can’t do any of those things but, the ‘church’ can and does whatever it wants.
    Now explain how why the rest of us must be part of it’s 3rd century practices?
    When did the vatican gain power in the US?

  22. aislander says:

    kluwer writes: “…it does say it’s members can’t do any of those things but, the ‘church’ can and does whatever it wants.”

    You mean like when progressives politicians get power?

  23. aislander says:

    The early state governments established state religions (except for Rhode Island), some of which lasted decades after the ratification of the Constitution.

    I have yet to discover any constitutional crisis precipitated by what our progressive protectors of original intent on this subject would call an untenable conflict between church and state…

    Perhaps our resident scholar e***l could point to one that other historians somehow have missed…

  24. aislander says:

    Beyond those things, most of the Founders spoke approvingly of the necessity of promoting religious belief, and the same Congress that wrote the First Amendment passed laws requiring the promotion of religion in the newer territories…

  25. “You mean like when progressives politicians get power?”

    No I mean here in the real world.
    A world where rational adults don’t tell lies to prop up their churchs.

  26. Thats what people are telling you aislander.

  27. “most of the Founders spoke approvingly of the necessity of promoting religious belief”

    Irrelevant to the foundational document of American laws, the constitution. Try again.

  28. aislander keeps getting confused – the Founders weren’t gods or prophets and, unlike Joseph Smith’s golden tablets, the Constitution wasn’t sanctified scripture – it is a legal document that is interpreted by the courts.

    In the 21st century it is completely moot what the Founders thought and what they did unless one is writing a dissertation about the application of the Bill of Rights in the 18th century.

  29. aislander says:

    Principles don’t change, beerBoy–that’s why the Constitution is short on specifics. You can expand the document to more fully realize those constitutional principles, but creating a “right” that puts an affirmative obligation on other people is contrary to the spirit and principles of the Constitution…

    People are people, and we are not endowed with any greater number of intrinsic rights than we were when the document was ratified. Once government gets into the business of creating and distributing so-called rights, those rights and, by extension, other rights, are distributed politically, and can be removed as well as added by government.

  30. aislander says:

    …which means they are not really “rights…”

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