Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Idaho Constitution - Grateful to God for Freedom

The Idaho Constitution dates from 1889. In its Preamble we find:

"We, the people of the state of Idaho, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, to secure its blessings and promote our common welfare do establish this Constitution."

The section below is part of the paragraph that serves much the same purpose as the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment, but it spells it out in more detail.

Article 1 (Declaration of Rights), Sec. 4
"The exercise and enjoyment of religious faith and worship shall forever be guaranteed;... No person shall be required to attend or support any ministry or place of worship, religious sect or denomination, or pay tithes against his consent; nor shall any preference be given by law to any religious denomination or mode of worship..."

Because of that, I think the common dispute (these days) of prohibiting Nativity scenes or other Christian displays at Christmas time should not even come up. It does not say that religion will not be recognized. It says no preference may be given to any religion BY LAW. A courthouse or other public facility allowing a Nativity scene would not seem to be prohibited unless there were a law requiring such a display. Section 5 of the Constitution is pretty clear that no public funds should be used to aid religions, but these displays are not intended to give financial aid to religion; they simply recognize the great number in the community who celebrate Christmas. Also, in many of the cases in the news this past Christmas, the religious displays were paid for by private funds.

I further do not think that Idaho was intending to rewrite or change the First Amendment. They are simply clarifying what the Founders intended when the U.S. Constitution was created.

The entire Idaho Constitution can be seen here.

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