Sunday, December 30, 2007

Rhode Island Charter (1683) and Constitution (1842)

Those who follow Supreme Court cases remember Lee v. Weisman from 1992. In it the Court declared that a non-sectarian prayer violated the First Amendment's "Establishment Clause." The Court said, "The principle that government may accommodate the free exercise of religion does not supersede the fundamental limitations imposed by the Establishment Clause, which guarantees, at a minimum, that a government may not coerce anyone to support or participate in religion or its exercise, or otherwise act in a way which 'establishes a religion or religious faith, or tends to do so.'"

To me this was a remarkable case. The First Amendment clearly put the establishment prohibition on our nation's congress, not on the states. Even if applied to the states via the 14th Amendment, how then does it apply to a school or even a school district?

Consider Rhode Island's historic documents:

Rhode Island Charter of 1683 began with these words: "We submit our persons, lives and estates unto our Lord Jesus Christ, the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords, to all those perfect and most absolute laws of His given to us in His Holy Word.

Their Constitution, 1842, stated: “We, the people of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, grateful to Almighty God for the civil and religious liberty which He hath so long permitted us to enjoy, and looking to Him for a blessing upon our endeavors to secure and to transmit the same unimpaired to succeeding generations, do ordain and establish this constitution of Government.”

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