Monday, May 21, 2007


Turning The First Amendment Provisions Against Themselves
A Schizophrenic Reading of the Framing Document

By ThomasPaine, BibleBelted, and Praetorone

"When I speak at a church or a university, I carry a copy of the Bible in one pocket and a copy of the Constitution in the other.  When I hold up both documents and ask, ''Which is more important, the Constitution or the Bible?' invariably people, even progressive people, answer, 'The Bible.'  That is a dangerous notion.  When it comes to guiding our democracy and running our government, the US Constitution must always trump the Bible, because the Constitution protects our rights to disagree about what the Bible says,  It is the only protection we have from  the ever-increasing incursion of fundamentalist Christian values into our religious and political lives.  The Constitution offers every citizen an umbrella of protection that will guarantee his or her right to read or not to read the Bible, to believe in God or to ignore God altogether, to attend or not attend church, synagogue, temple, or mosque."

From:   Religion Gone Bad:  The Hidden Dangers of the Christian Right
By:  Mel White

A Brief History of the Constitutional Convention and the Bill of Rights

When Theocrats try to rewrite, or at the very least, distort history, they often remind us that Benjamin Franklin,suggested that the delegates begin each day of the Constitutional Convention with a prayer.   But what they fail to mention is that there was not enough money to secure a chaplain, and more important, that there was a belief among the other delegates that such a move would create a sense of insecurity and thus deadlock the convention.   The fifty-five delegates to the Convention were businessmen, lawyers, clergy, lawyers, traders, and farmers who understood that they were creating a government of men for men, not a Christian Republic.   Religion was important to some, indeed many held religion in high regard, but they were attempting to create a document that would govern all the people, not those who happened to practice a particular faith.  They did not intend to create a Christian Republic.  And yet,despite a preponderance of evidence which says differently, right wing revisionists insist that the Constitution does not endorse the separation of Church and State because the words do not appear in the document itself. [2]

Prior to the inclusion of the Bill of Rights and its First Amendment Religion Clause, the Constitution only made one reference to religion and that was a negative one.   It was Article VI which reads:  "No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office of public trust under the United States."  As far as Madison was concerned, that simple statement, taken in conjunction with his attitudes towards freedom of religion and Church/State Separation, made any further statements about religion and Church-State separation superfluous. The Article itself was introduced to the convention by  Charles Pinckney, a pompous, even aristocratic delegate from South Carolina who openly defended Quakers, Catholics, and dissenting Protestants. The Article was adopted with little debate, although a few, a very tiny minority attempted to use Article VI and the absence of any reference to God in the Constitution itself, as an excuse to foil the entire Constitution.  Clearly their attempt failed.    Beginning in 1792, Delaware was the first state to bring its state constitution in line with the federal constitution.  Only two states held out.   They were North Carolina which finally followed the federal model in 1868, and New Hampshire which remained obstinate until the year 1946.  The other states quickly banned State religious tests.  [3]  Some on the right still argue that the states have a right to impose religious tests and established faiths based on the premise of States' rights.  That sounds good on the surface but there's that nasty little problem with the 14th Amendment which essentially makes the states subject to and obedient to the Federal Constitution. 

for additional information and the text of the 14th Amendment)

 The Constitution had no sooner become the law of the land, when it was felt that the document needed a Bill of Rights.  This brings us to the First Amendment Religion clause. Madison, as suggested above, did not believe that a Bill of Rights was needed, but on May 4, 1789, Madison announced in the House of Representatives that he would introduce a Bill of Rights. [4]  Madison's version of the religion clause read as follows:  "The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief, nor shall any national religion be established, nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience in any manner or on any pretext be infringed." [5]  Another, somewhat more familiar version, came from the United States Senate. That version read:  "Congress shall make no law establishing any particular denomination of religion in preference of another."  The House of Representatives proposed another version:  Congress shall make no law establishing religion, or to prevent the free exercise thereof, or to infringe the rights of conscience."  The Senate then revised the proposal to create the religion clause that we recognize today:  "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."  [6]

We Do Indeed Separate Church and State:
The Schizophrenic Right Wing View of the First Amendment

So what about the term "Separation of Church and State?"  Where does it appear in the Constitution.  Well to be perfectly frank, the First Amendment Religion clause doesn't need to mention the concept by name because, by its very nature, it is the definition of Church/State Separation, exactly as the Framers intended.  The non establishment section guarantees that we will not be compelled to support the religious beliefs of others, that we will not be forced to support any church or faith  that we might find repulsive or in violation of our own belief systems,  that we will not have a national church nor official state churches.  We have the freedom section which guarantees us the right.  We have the freedom section which guarantee and protects our right to join any church or to embrace any faith that we desire. 

"Religious Right activists like to play up the supposed tension that exists between the Free Exercise Clause and he Establishment Clause.  Actually no such tension exists,  Interpreted properly the two clauses compliment one another and do not clash.  The problem occurs in the way the religious right interprets 'free exercise.'

"Americans have the right to worship as they see fit within the bounds of the law.  But no American has the right to expect the state to endorse or promote his or her religious beliefs or to demand the power of the government for help in spreading sectarian messages.  The understandable refusal of government to support religion is often what the Religious Right means when they talk about 'free exercise problems'"  [7]

In other words, the religious right has adopted a schizophrenic understanding of the First Amendment Religion clause.   They are in effect, arguing that their freedom of religion is being violated because they are not allowed to establish their religion.  They not only demand the right to practice their religion, they also demand that the government provide the site and the funding so that they may do so.  Or, if you will, they demand governmental power and funding to shove their very repressive religious views down the throats of their fellow Americans.  As if that weren't bad enough they claim they support democracy, but this is only partially true.  They support Democracy to the degree that they can use the democratic process to destroy democracy as we know it in favor of a rigid, totalitarian state.  Or if you prefer, a Christian Theocracy based more on the rantings and ravings of the blood-thirsty Old Testament God than the loving, accepting, and forgiving Jesus Christ of the New Testament.

"They will end democracy not by violence but by the legitimate means provided by the same democracy they would overthrow.  And they will govern their theocratic version of democracy by the 'righteous' men they select.  Remember that Jerry Falwell said to an audience of millions of Americans who didn't even blink when he said it  '... is my goal that before I die, every national state, school board, or board of supervisor election will elect and re-elect men of God into positions of authority...We must elect the righteous into office who will see that righteousness prevails.'"  [8]

It would not be going too far to say that American Theocrats have taken the old Puritan practice of dragging religious dissidents into Puritan Churches for compulsory public worship on its head.  Instead of dragging the religious dissident to the church however, they seek to use the resources o f the federal government to drag their repressive practices, their authoritarian churches,  to the religious dissident.  The end result is the same in both methods.  One religious group exercises tyranny over the other. 

Remove the Motes From Your Own Eyes

Another common argument used against Separation of Church and State is the ridicules notion that Church/State Separation causes societal decay and moral degradation.  That may play well to the glassy eyed followers of snake oil men and flam flam artists, but the truth of the matter is that there are more powerful and more dangerous forces at play in society than church/state separation.  A good place to begin might be the unregulated form of capitalism that the Social Darwinists on the far right insist is what Jesus intended for us to live under.  No matter how you read the four Gospels, the teachings of Christ are, for the most part, teachings of love, peace, forgiveness, generosity, and charity towards one's fellow man.   Not the cut throat law of the jungle economic system that is being promoted by the radical religious right.  If you want to know what is tearing this society apart one might look at the materialism and consumerism that is imposed on us on a regular basis.  If you want to know why public morality is what it used to be, by all means, take a close look at the television programming that is focused on our children.  We have to face the fact that our media are now operating under a model which panders to the lowest common denominator.  So if you're unhappy because television programming--both Network and Cable--aren't what they could be, you might want to take a look at the economic model which so greedily and willingly undermines the culture on a daily basis with argumentative talk shows, shock jocks, mindless situation comedies and fluff dramas.   If your children are compulsive shoppers who want the latest and brightest toy, don't look at church/state separation.  Look at the economic model that is promoted by the our Theocrats and that should give you some idea as to why mommy and daddy are dismayed and bewildered by both, their children's behavior and the lack of civility and compassion in the culture as a whole.  If children are sexually promiscuous, don't blame church/state separation of liberal human secularism, take a look at the bizarre, often abusive sexual expressions that children watch in our corporate media on a regular basis, and then remind yourself again that it is the Radical Christian Right that supports the economic model that makes so many of our social problems a part of our every day lives.

"Separation of Church and state is not the villain.  Separation of church and state does not mean that moral values and government are separated. It does mean that the government is not in the business of legislating religion.  Separation has always meant that the government cannot establish one religion over others, or, for that matter, attempt to establish religion, period.  It does mean that government, as much as possible, stays out of religion.

"Separation means that religion will not take over the engines of government as has happened in places like Iran.  Separation of Church and State is the best way yet t devised to ensure a free church in a free state"  [9]


And that's the problem.  For all intents and purposes Separation of Church and State is the means by which we protect our religious freedom, and, as we shall see in the next installment, that is not what our Theocrats have in mind.  Because of Separation of Church and State, America is one of the most religious nations on the faith of the earth.  We accept Catholics, Baptists,  Lutherans, Methodists, Congregationalists, Unitarians, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, Muslim, the Greek Orthodox, ad infinitum. [10]  And that's the last thing the religious right wants.  When your reason for living is the establishment of a Christian Republic one of the last things you want is that damnable Separation of Church and State protecting people of differing faiths from your authoritarian intentions.  The last thing you need is a religion clause in a bill of rights that prevents you from subverting and over throwing a democratic form of government. 

So how far are they willing to go?  Perhaps you have heard of the Constitutional Restoration Act.  Proposed in 2005, the House Version reads as follows:

To limit the jurisdiction of Federal courts in certain cases and promote federalism.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,


This Act may be cited as the `Constitution Restoration Act of 2005'.



(a) Amendment to Title 28- Chapter 81 of title 28, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following:

`Sec. 1260. Matters not reviewable

`Notwithstanding any other provision of this chapter, the Supreme Court shall not have jurisdiction to review, by appeal, writ of certiorari, or otherwise, any matter to the extent that relief is sought against an entity of Federal, State, or local government, or against an officer or agent of Federal, State, or local government (whether or not acting in official or personal capacity), concerning that entity's, officer's, or agent's acknowledgment of God as the sovereign source of law, liberty, or government.'.

(b) Table of Sections- The table of sections at the beginning of chapter 81 of title 28, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following:

`1260. Matters not reviewable.'.


(a) Amendment to Title 28- Chapter 85 of title 28, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end of the following:

`Sec. 1370. Matters that the Supreme Court lacks jurisdiction to review

`Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the district courts shall not have jurisdiction of a matter if the Supreme Court does not have jurisdiction to review that matter by reason of section 1260 of this title.'.

(b) Table of Sections- The table of sections at the beginning of chapter 85 of title 28, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following:

`1370. Matters that the Supreme Court lacks jurisdiction to review.'.



In interpreting and applying the Constitution of the United States, a court of the United States may not rely upon any constitution, law, administrative rule, Executive order, directive, policy, judicial decision, or any other action of any foreign state or international organization or agency, other than English constitutional and common law up to the time of the adoption of the Constitution of the United States.



Any decision of a Federal court which has been made prior to, on, or after the effective date of this Act, to the extent that the decision relates to an issue removed from Federal jurisdiction under section 1260 or 1370 of title 28, United States Code, as added by this Act, is not binding precedent on any State court.


To the extent that a justice of the Supreme Court of the United States or any judge of any Federal court engages in any activity that exceeds the jurisdiction of the court of that justice or judge, as the case may be, by reason of section 1260 or 1370 of title 28, United States Code, as added by this Act, engaging in that activity shall be deemed to constitute the commission of--

(1) an offense for which the judge may be removed upon impeachment and conviction; and

(2) a breach of the standard of good behavior required by article III, section 1 of the Constitution.

The above bill, if it had been passed, would have forbidden the Supreme Court to rule on issues and legislation which might inevitably lead to the creation of an American Theocracy.  Indeed, it would allow the federal judiciary to impose Biblical punishments, a frightening scenario when you realize that there are eighteen offenses for which the Bible promotes the death penalty, including:  adultery, premarital sex, practicing witchcraft of astrology, refusing to obey ones parents or even talking back to ones parents, blasphemy, homosexuality, etc.  Please remember that the Radical Religious Right considers secular government and democracy to be the enemies of their faith.  They genuinely believe that the Bible should trump the Constitution, that religious pluralism and tolerance are sinful, and that every aspect of the American nation, from the top of the government on down to the conduct of our personal lives must be dictated by the diktats of the Old Testament.   They genuinely believe that men should be subservient to God and that women should be subservient to their husbands.  They genuinely and truthfully believe that women are flawed creatures because--at least in far right Christian theology--Eve was tempted first in the Garden of Eden.  

Gays and Lesbians won't be treated any better.

"...since a judge may assert that God is the sovereign source of law under HR 3799, may not that judge decree God's law as stated in the Bible to be supreme over every law written by mere mortals? By definition the word "sovereign" means: "the supreme repository of power in a political state." (Webster's Third New International Dictionary). So the sentence in HR 3799 (and S. 2082) establishes the right of an individual to assert God's sovereignty over all laws in the United States.

"If a judge can make this assertion with impunity, what prevents him, should this ill advised law pass Congress, from applying biblical law instead of the law of the state? Of course he could be struck down by the appellate courts in his state—but what if all those courts are packed with Dominionists or the legislative body can impeach any judge in the state for failure to follow God's sovereign laws?

"Let's take a hypothetical situation. A homosexual or an adulterer is arrested for violating the sodomy laws of Texas. Regardless of the punishment for the crime of sodomy in the statute, the Old Testament portion of the Bible establishes the death penalty. So the Dominionist appointed judge finds God to be the sovereign source of law.

"He then finds the defendant guilty as charged and issues the death penalty. All the appellate judges in the state uphold the lower court judge out of fear. If HR 3799 (or S. 2082) is passed and becomes the law, the defendant would not be able to appeal to the Supreme Court or any federal court for help because the law prohibits the Supreme Court from hearing a case decided upon the basis of [an] individual's belief that God is the sovereign source of law."

By all means, read the Old Testament.  Not only does it apply the death penalty for a variety of offenses.  It also reduces women to less than second class citizens (some might say chattels) and establishes criteria for the conduct of slavery and the treatment of slaves.  Of course a majority of our radical Christians would hasten to claim that they do not endorse slavery nor the death penalty for given offenses, but by the same token, when Hitler was running for office during the 1920s he managed, quite successfully to tone down the antisemitic, often violent, rhetoric of previous years, successfully convincing the German people that he had moderated his views. 

The fact that the radical religious right, the domionionists and theocrats of the 21st Century would go so far as to pass a bill that would tie the independent judiciary in a pseudo Christian straight jacket should tell us that these people are nothing less than serious when it comes to the overthrow of our democracy. When Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, and other delusional madmen announce that they want their literal interpretation of the Bible to trump our Constitution in favor of a Christian Republic we might do ourselves a favor and start taking these people seriously.

If we don't, the democracy that we lose will be our own and we will only have ourselves to blame.

End Part III


[1] From: Religion Gone Bad: The Hidden Dangers of the Christian Right
Page 257
by Mel White
Published by Jeremy P Tarcher/Penguin
Copyright 2006, Mel White

[2] From: Separation of Church and State, Guarantor of Religious Freedom
Pages 58-59
By: Robert L. Maddox
Published by Crossroad Publishing Company
Copyright 1987 by Robert L. Maddox

[3] Ibid
Pages 60-61

[4] Ibid
Page 63

[5] From: Why the Religious Right is Wrong About Separation of Church and State
Page 63
By: Robert Boston
Pubished by Prometheus Books
Copyright 1993 by Robert Boston

[6] From: Separation of Church and State: Guarantor of Religious Freedom
Page 63
By: Robert L. Maddox
Published by The Crossroad Publishing Company
Copyright 1987 by Robert L. Maddox

[7] From: Why the Religious Right is Wrong About Separation of Church and State
Page 152
By Robert Boston
Published by Prometheus Books
Copyright,1993 by Robert Boston

[8] From: Religion Gone Bad, The Hidden Dangers of the Christian Right
Page 269
By: Mel White
Published by Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin
Copyright 2006 by Mel White

[9] From: Separation of Church and State, Guarantor of Religious Freedom
Page 11
by Robert L. Maddox
Published by the Crossroad Publishing Company
Copyright 1987 by Robert L. Maddox

[10] From: Religion in America/Wikipedia
Last modified April 2007

[11] From: Yurika, News Intelligence Analysis
The Constitution Restoration Act of 2005

[12] From: The Yurika Report, News Intelligence Analysis
Dominionist Bill Limits The Supreme Courts Jurisdiction
The Constitution Restoration Act of 2004-2005

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