Sunday, June 14, 2009

Endorsement = Establishment? 10 Commandments Must Go!

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceable to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

That's it. That is the entire First Amendment. The underlined portion contains two phrases called the religion clauses. The first of the two is called the “Establishment Clause,” and the second is called the “Free Exercise” Clause.

Looking at the Establishment Clause, one could argue that it means Congress may not make a law that affects any other (i.e. "state") laws about religion, which many of our colonies had at the time of the First Amendment. James Madison said, "The First Amendment was prompted because the people feared one sect might obtain preeminence, or two combine together and establish a religion to which they would compel others to conform."

Madison in a "generic" description used the same word as the Amendment itself used: establish. But now we see yet another news story where some interpolation has taken place. It seems that if the government seems to be "endorsing" religion, that is unconstitutional. That must be a surprise to the members of the First Congress, who wrote the First Amendment. After all, they asked the President to declare a national day of fasting and prayer, allowed and attended Christian worship services in the U.S. Capitol building, and did many other things that might appear to "endorse" religion.

But a federal appeals court in Denver, Colorado, said that Oklahoma's Haskell County violated the Constitution by displaying a Ten Commandments monument outside their courthouse. There whole story and a video can be found here:
Appeals court says Ten Commandments monument endorses religion

Perhaps the court wishes to rename the "Establishment Clause" to be the "Endorsement Clause." But even if it did, then we would have, "Congress shall make no law respecting an endorsement of religion;" Let's even extend that to include state, so states shall make no law respecting an endorsement of religion. Does erecting a 10 Commandments monument equate to making a state LAW?

Did we forget the words of President John Adams (our 6th president), who said the following about the importance of the Ten Commandments to American law and government: "The law given from Sinai was a civil and municipal as well as a moral and religious code; it contained many statutes . . . of universal application-laws essential to the existence of men in society, and most of which have been enacted by every nation which ever professed any code of laws." AND, "We are basing the hope of mankind in our ability to govern ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God."

Or the words of the 25th President of the United States, William McKinley? In his first Inaugural address (1897) he said: "In obedience to the will of the people, and in their presence, by the authority vested in me by this oath, I assume the arduous and responsible duties of President of the United States, relying upon the support of my countrymen and invoking the guidance of Almighty God. Our faith teaches that there is no safer reliance than upon the God of our fathers, who has so singularly favored the American people in every national trial, and who will not forsake us so long as we obey His commandments and walk humbly in His footsteps."

Or the words found in U.S. House Resolution 888: "Whereas images of the Ten Commandments are found in many Federal buildings across Washington, DC, including in bronze in the floor of the National Archives; in a bronze statue of Moses in the Main Reading Room of the Library of Congress; in numerous locations at the U.S. Supreme Court, including in the frieze above the Justices, the oak door at the rear of the Chamber, the gable apex, and in dozens of locations on the bronze latticework surrounding the Supreme Court Bar seating;"

The Constitution is not intended to remove the influence of religious morality from government. Indeed, many of our laws are based on moral principles. Where should the morality originate? From the best-selling author this month? From Oprah? Or Dr. Phil? Or ____ (name your favorite TV preacher here). If our Founders expected to create a lasting and successful nation, would they not have wanted laws based on principles that have some foundation? I think so - what do you think?

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