Many people think that it is not true freedom in regards to religion if that religion offends or distracts from their non-religious convictions, the constitution is pro-religion not anti-religion. The atheists who claim to not have a religion (definition: belonging to the power to act, speak, or think without hindrance of restraint toward an interest, a belief that is very important to a person or group.), are waging war on traditional religious beliefs in this country based upon the theory that separation of church and state means freedom from religion. Well, it doesn’t. It means the freedom to establish any and all religions and the actual freedom to exercise those established religions/non religions. For the sake of the argument let’s say that atheists feel that the Christian religion should be taken out of schools, because it violates their first amendment rights. This is false in the misrepresentation of the first amendment and what the freedom OF religion meant. The government must observe and allow all religious belief systems, and not exclude any or all type of religions or belief systems. It does not say “but for public schools” or “to receive government funding”.
Freedom of Religion: Word break down: Freedom: The power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint. Of: belonging to, relating to, or connected with (someone or something), Religion: (informal) an interest, a belief, or an activity that is very important to a person or group. (No deity or God use in this evaluation). Freedom of Religion: belonging to the power to act, speak, or think without hindrance of restraint toward an interest, a belief that is very important to a person or group.
Freedom from Religion: Freedom: Freedom: The power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint. From: Used as a function word to indicate physical separation or an act or condition of removal, abstention, exclusion, release, subtraction, or differentiation. Religion: (informal) an interest, a belief, or an activity that is very important to a person or group. (No deity or God use in this evaluation). Freedom from Religion: belonging to the power to act, speak, or think without hindrance of restraint without exclusion to a belief that is very important to a person or group.
The first part is known as the Establishment Clause, and the second as the Free Exercise Clause.
Huffington Post: Freedom from religion does not mean, as some mistakenly seem to claim, being free from seeing religion in society. No one has the right not to see churches, religious expression, and other examples of religious belief in our nation — and those who advocate freedom of religion do not claim otherwise.
ACLU: Religious freedom is a fundamental human right that is guaranteed by the First Amendment's Free Exercise and Establishment clauses. It encompasses not only the right to believe (or not to believe), but also the right to express and to manifest religious beliefs.
(http://www.tgm.org/FreedomOfReligion.html) The Establishment Clause prohibits the government from passing laws that will establish an official religion or preferring one religion over another. The courts have interpreted the establishment clause to accomplish the separation of church and state.
(http://www.illinoisfirstamendmentcenter.com/religion.ph)The Free Exercise Clause prohibits the government from interfering with a person’s practice of his or her religion. However, religious actions and rituals can be limited by civil and federal laws. Religious freedom is an absolute right, and includes the right to practice any religion of one’s choice, or no religion at all, and to do this without government control. Your right to Freedom of Religion and the free exercise thereof means:
The Freedom of Religion is an inalienable right.
The First Amendment provides for the Freedom of Religion for all Americans.
The Free Exercise Clause provides that government will neither control nor prohibit the free exercise of one’s religion.
The government will remain neutral.
The language can be easily understood to mean that there would never be a “state church” established by the government. And, that the government would never interfere with the free exercise of religion. Clearly this is freedom OF religion FROM intrusive government.
NOWHERE in the entire Constitution or any of its Amendments does the phrase "Separation of church and state" even exist! (This phrase is actually from a personal letter from Thomas Jefferson to a Baptist Church - reassuring them that the government had no intentions of establishing a "state church" like the Church of England!)
NOWHERE in the cumulative imaginations of our founding fathers was it ever even considered that this Amendment was to protect Government FROM religion! The analogy would be that you had a pre-WWII law that guaranteed freedom OF the Jews and then the Nazis come along and twist it to say freedom FROM the Jews!
This is no more absurd than the twisted "Freedom FROM Religion" – and it is no less dangerous – this time to the Church.
The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States provides:
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.
Rather straight forward language! The limitation is clearly on Congress. This, as the other articles of the Federal Bill of Rights, adopted in 1791, was intended to protect the people from intrusive acts by the new Federal Government; hence the language is phrased to prohibit action by the Federal Legislature. It does not suggest, aspire or pretend to create any new right, or to limit any other body, individual or corporate, in any regard whatsoever.
Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, declared adopted in 1868--though not without an ongoing controversy as to whether it was in fact legally adopted;--provides: All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
Sections 2, 3 & 4, were basically intended to punish the South for secession, and were either dated, or are irrelevant to our purpose. Section 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment provides: The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
One may search the Congressional debates, both preceding and contemporaneous with the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment, without finding any suggestion that it was ever intended or seen to confer power on either Congress or the Courts to limit the public expression of religious sentiment or belief.
Article III, Section 1 of the Constitution provides in relevant part: The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.
Section 2 of that Article provides in part: In all other Cases before mentioned, the Supreme Court shall have appellate Jurisdiction, both as to Law and Fact, with such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make. (The non-quoted parts of the Section define generally the class of cases to which the Federal judicial power extends, and as to which of those the Federal Supreme Court has original Jurisdiction. Since First Amendment cases come in under the appellate jurisdiction, after originating in a Federal District Court, the above are the only passages relevant to our subject.)
The American, most commonly and closely associated with the principles of the First Amendment, was Thomas Jefferson. And, while this is true as to all provisions; it is most distinctly and universally so in the case of the first two clauses, those that deal with the separation of Church and State and with freedom of religion. It was Jefferson, after all, who had just authored the 1786 ACT for establishing RELIGIOUS FREEDOM in Virginia. That Act begins with these five clauses:
Well aware that Almighty God hath created the mind free; that all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burthens, or by civil incapacitations, tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and are a departure from the plan of the Holy Author of our religion, who, being Lord both of body and mind, yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as was in his Almighty power to do; [containing four different, clear and unambiguous acknowledgments of God].
You will note that, in effect, Jefferson attributes our system of religious freedom to the "Holy Author of our religion." The very concept is premised upon the acts of a specific deity. Or how else can even the most extreme secular humanist interpret the quoted language?!
It was also Jefferson, who coined the phrase, so often quoted by the foes of any religious observance in a public institution, to characterize those clauses as building a wall of separation between church and State, in a New Year's Day, 1802, personal letter to Connecticut Baptists.
We cited Jefferson's comments on the Church directed Welfare system that prevailed at the time of Independence, in Chapter 1 of this Handbook, to show how the Collectivist "Liberals" have violated the Separation of Church and State in our time. It was Jefferson, also, who in founding the University of Virginia, had inscribed as its motto, the language from the Book of John (8:32): And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.
Jefferson closed his First Inaugural Address on March 4, 1801, with these words:
And may that Infinite Power which rules the destinies of the universe lead our councils to what is best, and give them a favorable issue for your peace and prosperity.
In his Second Inaugural Address, exactly four years later, he said:
In matters of religion, I have considered that its free exercise is placed by the Constitution independent of the powers of the general government. I have therefore undertaken, on no occasion, to prescribe the religious exercises suited to it; but have left them, as the Constitution found them, under the direction and discipline of State or church authorities acknowledged by the several religious societies. [In a famous Presidential letter to the Rev. Samuel Miller, on January 23, 1808, Jefferson made further First Amendment distinction between State and Federal religious action.]
Jefferson concluded the Second Inaugural Address: I shall need, too, the favor of that Being in whose hands we are, who led our forefathers, as Israel of old, from their native land, and planted them in a country flowing with all the necessaries and comforts of life; who has covered our infancy with his providence, and our riper years with his wisdom and power; and to whose goodness I ask you to join with me in supplications, that he will so enlighten the minds of your servants, guide their councils, and prosper their measures, that whatsoever they do, shall result in your good, and shall secure to you the peace, friendship, and approbation of all nations.
Before he left office, Jefferson again displayed the same reverential acknowledgment of our ultimate dependence upon a living God, in the conclusion to his final State of the Union address, November 8, 1808: I carry with me the consolation of a firm persuasion that Heaven has in store for our beloved country long ages to come of prosperity and happiness.
So spoke the foremost champion of American religious freedom, while acting in his official capacity as our foremost public servant. Nor were the sentiments of his successor, James Madison, who has been dubbed the Father of the Constitution, any different:
my confidence ... that which we have all been encouraged to feel in the guardianship and guidance of that Almighty Being whose power regulates the destiny of nations, whose blessings have been so conspicuously dispensed to this rising Republic, and to whom we are bound to address our devout gratitude for the past, as well as our fervent supplications and best hopes for the future. [Inaugural Address, March 4, 1809]
And yet today, under the pretext that the Complainants are enforcing the Bill of Rights, schools and Court Houses have been ordered to take down the Ten Commandments; Public High School Valedictorians, known to be practicing Christians, have had their addresses cancelled, their texts subjected to prior restraint, even denied publication as dissents in their school newspapers, for no other reason than that they affirmed a personal belief in the same God the founders of America honored on virtually every public opportunity.
"Liberal" members of Congress and various State Legislatures have intoned on the need for legislation against "hate"; proposals, which would make it a criminal offense to proclaim the basic religious teaching that homosexuality is an abomination, or to treat those of other faiths as less worthy of favor or salvation, whether in Heaven or on earth; clear restraints on religious freedom, coupled with new programs to condition school children to be less fervent in pursuing the faith of their fathers throughout their lives.
To the question of religious observance in public buildings, we look again to Jefferson. In an 1822 letter to Dr. Thomas Cooper on plans for the University of Virginia, our retired third President spoke fondly of the religious use of his own County Court House:
In our village of Charlottesville, there is a good degree of religion, with a small spice only of fanaticism. We have four sects, but without either church or meeting-house. The court-house is the common temple, one Sunday in the month to each.
But of course then, we did not have the benefit of the ACLU or activist Judges, who saw their mission to employ the techniques of fallacious reasoning’s which only appear to be sound; and the obscuring actual meaning; so as not to vindicate American freedom, but to distort the terminology of that freedom out of any relationship to what the Fathers intended.
A Closer Look at the Constitutional Issue
It was settled law that the First Amendment was not applicable to the States before the "adoption" of the Fourteenth Amendment. The latter, a creature of the Radical Reconstruction Congress, did indeed seek to change the basic Constitutional structure; but what the ACLU and activist Twentieth Century Justices have written into it, goes way beyond anything ever envisioned by even the most radical Reconstructionist.
The debates in Congress show clearly that the Amendment was intended to drastically change local law in many areas, as it pertained to legal disabilities imposed because of race. There were also a few--really very few--discussions as to its effect on religious bodies. In summary, those few amounted to this: It was seen as a basis to prevent a State from imposing a specific denial of equal right before the law to individual members of an out of favor religious denomination. But no one ever suggested that it would limit the right of a State or community to promote--in a non-denominational way--a reverence for the Creator, or a sense of dependence upon His ultimate Power.
Nor is there anything in the language (above)--which could possibly justify the United States Supreme Court in finding that the Fourteenth Amendment somehow made the specific limitation on Congress in the First Amendment applicable to the States. Nor did the Supreme Court in the opinion written by Hugo Black in Engel vs. Vitale, Jr.--the 1962 case, by which the Court first effectively forbade any school prayer--offer any explanation other than the bald-faced assertion (370 U.S. 421, 423) that the First Amendment of the Federal Constitution ...commands that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion"--a command which was "made applicable to the State of New York by the Fourteenth Amendment of the said Constitution."
Mr. Justice Black, so far from justifying the assertion which he put in quotations, didn't even deign to tell us who he was quoting, or from whence that quotation on applicability came. There are numerous clauses in the Fourteenth Amendment--see above--but none which apply on their face. Surely, America deserved a better explanation of the perceived nexus, than we were offered.
The opinion did go on to generalize what the Court claimed the Founding Fathers meant by the Establishment Clause--i.e. that Congress cannot establish a State Church--out of all recognition by legal historians; citing Madison and Jefferson's work in disestablishing the Episcopal Church in Virginia in the 1780s. But that establishes no nexus. Nobody prior to Hugo Black and the Warren Court, ever considered a simple non-denominational acknowledgment of our dependence upon a Creator as an "Establishment of Religion."
The prayer forbidden in the Engel case was as follows:
Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers and our Country.
No one who objected to that prayer was required to recite it.
We have already quoted the actual views of Jefferson and Madison on public dependence upon Almighty God. To pin down the point with absolute finality, we refer to the Declaration of Independence, itself. While the power of the Federal Government comes wholly from the Constitution, it is not so with the States that created that Constitution. Their assumption of sovereignty--the right of self-government--is in the Declaration; and it speaks very clearly, indeed, on the subject of that New York prayer:
When ...it becomes necessary for one people to ...assume among the Powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them...
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created..., that they are endowed by their Creator...
We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America...appealing to the Supreme Judge of the World for the Rectitude of our Intentions...
And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm Reliance on the Protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.
Our whole system, then, is founded on four (4) assumptions:
1. There is a God of Nations who establishes the place of nations.
2. He created man.
3. He endowed man.
4. He is the Supreme Judge of human conduct.
We may argue how best to honor God! We may, individually, even deny his very existence--at our own individual risk. But what we may not do, if heritage and honorable commitment mean anything, is to deny our fellow Americans their right to celebrate that heritage and renew that commitment to the God before whom the Fathers pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor, in the cause that gave us the liberty to even hold this debate.
To those who believe in the God of the Fathers, the New York prayer was little more than simple courtesy; no more intrusive than suggesting that students say "please" and "thank you" when addressing their teachers.