The First Amendment has become, to put it bluntly, one of the biggest lies in the American Judiciary system.
We've all heard it before; or, at least, the fallacy that atheist organizations such as Freedom From Religion have made of it. From the way they bring it up and cite it in court, one would almost believe that it called for religious censoring in the name of freedom. Given how clearly the Amendment was worded when written as an addition to the Constitution, it's absurd that these notions hold any water. Here is the First Amendment: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.
-First Amendment (emphasis added)
For some inexplicable reason, the phrase preventing Congress from prohibiting free exercise of religion never comes up in court. It's never acknowledged in lawsuits over courthouses displaying the Ten Commandments. It's never followed in the battle to allow students in public schools to pray without persecution.
It is quite intentionally and blatantly ignored.
Instead all citations of the Amendment in court cases stop with "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion." It's almost as though, for some reason, atheist groups are under the notion that this phrase gives Congress the authority to eradicate all religious references from the more public aspects of the nation. This phrase may not be so pointedly ignored, but it's easy to see how frequently it's twisted beyond recognition into permission to regulate religion.
Does this phrase say that Congress can't issue laws forcing people to own Bibles or pray in school? It is. And, within the bounds of reasonable interpretation, that's really all it does. This goes both ways: not only does it prevent Congress from making laws forcing aspects of religion on America, it also pretty obviously asserts that Congress also can't make laws denying America religious rights. "Make no law" does not mean "Make no law in favor of religion." It means "Make no law." Passing legislature that takes away religious rights such as City Halls displaying Nativity scenes or Ten Commandments is in violation of the Constitution.
So that's all the Constitution says about religious regulation, right? What about that old phrase "Separation of church and state" that people bring up every time a government official makes any passing religious reference whatsoever?
Well, it's time for your homework. Go read the Constitution (constitutionus.com
), find the phrase "Separation of Church and State," and copy/paste the entire article from whence you found it in the comments. Failure to find it will result in your getting a passing score for the class.
I'll go ahead and spare you the trouble of looking. It's not there. You can read and reread the Constitution ten times over, you will not find anything relating to religion at all outside the First Amendment.
Where did "Separation of Church and State" come from? Thomas Jefferson wrote of it in a letter to friends in 1802, a decade after the Constitution was drafted. Jefferson did not say this at the Constitutional Convention; he was never at the Convention. He wasn't even in America at the time— he was serving as an ambassador to France.
Technicalities aside, what did Jefferson mean when he wrote about Separation of Church and State? Let's see for ourselves with the very letter that made the phrase famous. Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church & State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.
Why did Jefferson applaud Separation of Church and State? It's easy to see when viewing his original thoughts on the issue: he wanted that separation not to keep religion out of government, but to keep the government from oppressing religion. The phrase in question is not one of censoring religious beliefs from the public, but of preventing those beliefs from being censored
. This, friend, is the core value on which the Constitutional rights of religion were founded.
The grand myth that the Constitution enables the courts to regulate religious expression is just that: a myth, devised from out-of-context and incomplete quotes and dependent upon the lack of knowledge of the American public. Issues such as this, that could be so simply solved in favor of Christianity, serve as an important reminder that, yes, Christians NEED to be involved with the affairs of the government. Our very rights are depending upon it more and more.