May 31, 2013 at 3:28 pm #20692
My question has multiple facets: What is the relation of the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses especially in light of Jefferson’s 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptists? Could you also comment on SCOTUS cases: Reynolds v. US (1879); Everson v. Board of Education (1947) and Torcaso v. Watkins (1961)? Thanks.June 12, 2013 at 12:15 pm #20693
Anybody there?June 12, 2013 at 1:38 pm #20694
Everson is discussed at length in WHO KILLED THE CONSTITUTION? and THE POLITICALLY INCORRECT GUIDE TO THE CONSTITUTION. In general, the Establishment Clause bans the Federal Government from setting up a national church, as well as from disestablishing state churches, while the Free Exercise Clause bans the FG from establishing national practice/observance requirements/bans.June 12, 2013 at 1:57 pm #20695swalsh81Member
The Danburry Baptists were concerned that the federal government would interfere with them. That they would come in and tell them what they could and could not do. This is what Jefferson was assuring them would not happen (and unfortunately is starting to be what is happening now). The Wall of Separation Jefferson was talking about was a wall keeping government out of religion, not the other way around. This would include the establishment of a national religion. If a national religion were established then it would still be an interference of government in religion.
I am not a scholar on court cases but I will put in my two cents.
Reynolds v. United States: I’m going to leave this to the professors. But I will say that while religion is not an excuse to commit a “crime” the definition of the “crime” is what is of more interest to me. If a muslim engages in an honor killing, its still murder whether he thought it was the right thing to do or not. If, on the other hand, a church preaches against something they believe as sinful but is considered “hate speech” by the government, and they do not engage in force to uphold these values, what crime have they really committed?
As for the other 2, this comes down to Incorporation. The Bill of Rights were limits imposed on the federal government, just as the constitution was. Both were imposed on the government by sovereign states. The order of authority was States over the government. The 14th amendment extended the bill of rights to the states whether intentionally or not. If you look at this Wiki entry and listen to the lectures here, you will see that incorporation was not really exercised until the 1920s. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incorporation_of_the_Bill_of_Rights In these 2 cases, the first amendment was applied to matters within a state. There was no original constitutional justification for this. In fact, it was directly opposed to the structure of power setup by the states.
For instance, some local towns get in trouble for having a nativity scene during christmas. This is not a violation of anything, but, they say it falls under the first amendment because it has to do with religion. But if that is the case, should we legalize murder because the Bible is against it? After all, isnt that respecting a religion? Basically the whole thing about the first amendment is that government should not interfere with religion. Not that all things related to religion should be forced to be equal. And, originally, this only applied to the federal government, the states could do as they pleased in this area.June 12, 2013 at 2:50 pm #20696
Thank you Dr. Gutzman. I’ll have to try and remember where I put the PIG book on the Constitution and look at the Everson case again.
Thanks Sterling…I appreciate your examples.
I’m convinced that the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses were never written to exclude religion. I’m even more convinced that the Founders had a firm belief that without God the new US would falter quickly. While I do not advocate a theocracy, I’m sure that a godless national government only invites eventual decay, decline and doom!June 13, 2013 at 8:50 pm #20697
In JAMES MADISON AND THE MAKING OF AMERICA, I give considerable space to Madison’s campaign against Patrick Henry’s 1785 proposal for a general assessment. Among other things, Madison wrote “Memorial and Remonstrance: Against Religious Assessments,” in which he purported to show that close ties between government and religion have always harmed both government and religion. If by “to exclude religion” you mean “to prevent government from being religious,” I’m afraid you’re mistaken.
The paperback version of the book has a new introductory essay, “James Madison and the American Ideal of Religious Liberty,” taking the story up to the end of Madison’s life. He became more libertarian in this area all the way to the end.June 13, 2013 at 10:14 pm #20698
Thank you for your response Dr. Gutzman. I understand Madison’s paper is against a state supported religion. I guess I should have been more specific in saying that the clauses were not intended to exclude religious expression…even by government officials. Am I missing something? Should government be a-religious…that is, without expressing a moral foundation? And if there is a moral foundation, from whence does it come?June 16, 2013 at 9:31 am #20699
Again I have to call your attention to the introduction to the paperback edition of JMMA. There, I answer your question, at least insofar as Madison is concerned, in detail.
If Madison was on one end of the spectrum among the Founders, you may also want to take a look at this:June 17, 2013 at 12:00 pm #20700
Thank you for the link to the article. I’ve also ordered JMMA so will read the intro (and the rest) when I get it.
It has been written of Sherman, “In Congress he advocated the Christian duty and propriety of appointing days of fasting and prayer and thanksgiving to Almighty God, and was the author of several of those eminently Christian state papers. He had great influence in imbuing the public and legislative transactions of the country with a scriptural sense of the need of God’s presence and blessing” (Morris, “The Christian Life and Character of the Civil Institutions of the United States”, p. 150).June 18, 2013 at 8:36 pm #20701
I notice that the comments on my AmCon review are a bit … heated. Of particular note are the ones that say that Hall didn’t prove his thesis, solely on the basis of my entirely laudatory review asserting that he did. People see what they want to see much of the time.
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