Sunday, April 26, 2009

Constitution Prohibits an Atmosphere of Religion?

A public high school in Wisconsin had planned to hold its graduation ceremonies in a church. I know of a nearby school that does the same thing because the church can hold many more people and has better traffic control, parking, etc. It also has a couple of large-screen monitors that enable a good view from anywhere in the seating area.

That seems logical enough, but Americans United for Separation of Church and State filed suit to stop this plan. The reason stated is that having graduation there creates "a religious atmosphere that makes non-Christians uncomfortable."

Americans United has named their group after a metaphor describing one aspect of the First Amendment, the establishment clause. That clause says, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion..." The 14th Amendment may have applied that same restriction on the states (not all agree), which would mean states could make no law respecting an establishment of religion.

No where in the Constitution is there language about creating a religious atmosphere or keeping people from feeling uncomfortable. In fact, the same Congress who wrote the First Amendment also allowed (and attended) Christian worship services in the U.S. Capitol chambers and sponsored a printing of 20,000 Bibles for use in the public schools.

But forget about Congress' actions in the early days. Just read the language of the Amendment. The first word is "Congress." That is the body limited by the Amendment. How do we get from that to disallowing a school from holding ceremonies in a more comfortable setting than they could otherwise provide, simply because that facility happens to be a church?

Read the article here

No comments: