Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Did You Say That The Constitutions Didn’t Say Anything About What?

I met a new friend that, in his own words finds "Rush Limbaugh too liberal" for his taste. So it was only a matter of time before nature took its course and we found ourselves wrapped around political axels. It was like having my very own chance to argue with Old Oxycontin and Viagra himself. I quickly found the frustration that Ron Paul feels when being asked to give a 30 second response to a 20 minute topic at a Republican debate. He would spit out facts and figures that seemed inaccurate and misleading, but standing in a bar, with angry cowboys and a band with a fiddle on stage, I found it hard to disprove. This is complicated by the fact that this dude is one of the sharper pencils in the Crayola box. I felt there was some silver bullet factoid that I could open his eyes and have him seeing the world in a new light. Alas, we just got really drunk and made comments about the local girl’s butts.

I have heard one of the arguments he made many times before, and I heard it again this weekend. I never understand what grounds they make the argument. He actually said, "The Constitution does not say anything about separation of church and state." HUH!?. (Imagine a sliding record needle here)

OK, if you do not consider any of the amendments and most importantly not the "Bill of Rights" which also includes the "Right to bear arms" as "part of the constitution", then by the letter of the statement he is right. I really don't think that anybody wants to concede the right to not be harassed by police, a prosecutor, or a judge. Nor would most people give up the right for their state to makes its own laws. If you want to give up those rights, then turn your guns in, we'll scrap the bill of rights and most of you will be in jail by the weeks end. Since the "cruel and inhumane punishment" clause will have been scrapped, we'll throw most of you in jail for 20 years for having a bumper too high and/ or chucking your PBR cans out of the window as you drive down the road.

Let’s say tossing out the bill of rights isn't appealing to you. After all claiming you are an American that doesn’t believe in The Bill of Rights is kind of like claiming you are a Christian who doesn’t believe in the New Testament. The bill of rights is considered part of the constitution after all. Well the very first amendment, the top of the list appears this statement.

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; ...." The rest has nothing to d with religion.

In case that wasn’t clear enough for you, I will break down what that actually means. I think every "self-respecting" conservative will agree that language of choice is English. In fact that is what The Constitution was written in. The "Congress shall make no" part is pretty clear. So let us say you dispute the word “law”. Since the 12th century the word has meant, a binding custom or practice of a community : a rule of conduct or action prescribed or formally recognized as binding or enforced by a controlling authority, According to Merriam-Webster.

Updating, “Congress shall make no Law(binding custom or practice of a community : … enforced by a controlling authority) Respecting(giving a relation or reference to a particular thing or situation) an establishment of religions. The next obvious word to consider would be “establishment”. This is probably the hardest word to put into this sentence because “establishment” is a very different meaning then “establish”. The only definition of “establishment that fits though is, “a permanent civil or military organization” and/ or “a public or private institution”.

Continuing on we have so far resolved that the first amendment says, “Congress shall make no Law(binding custom or practice of a community : … enforced by a controlling authority) Respecting(giving a relation or reference to a particular establishment (public or private institution thing or situation)) of religions. The last word in the statement is religion. The most fitting definition is “a personal set or institutionalized system of attitudes, beliefs, and practices” .
Out of fear of repletion and loosing your attention I won’t restate the statement again. The only hair left to split is to address anybody who said, “but I said there is no ‘church and state’ in the constitution.” The very definition of “church” is “an established religion.” Please note that two of the “shall nots” are encompassed with in the word church.

In case there are any confusions about the intent behind the first amendment, we are not left with out explanation. Thomas Jefferson was the main writer of many of our founding documents. His ideas were the craft and collaboration of many hours and days of discussion the other founding fathers. A great reference for his discussions and quotes can be found here.

"The government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion” George Washington.

If that don’t get your sacrificial goat, maybe the words of Thomas Paine will clarify things for you.

"All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish [Muslim], appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit. I do not mean by this declaration to condemn those who believe otherwise; they have the same right to their belief as I have to mine. But it is necessary to the happiness of man that he be mentally faithful to himself. Infidelity does not consist in believing, or in disbelieving; it consists in professing to believe what he does not believe. It is impossible to calculate the moral mischief, if I may so express it, that mental lying has produced in society. When a man has so far corrupted and prostituted the chastity of his mind as to subscribe his professional belief to things he does not believe, he has prepared himself for the commission of every other crime. He takes up the profession of a priest for the sake of gain, and in order to qualify himself for that trade he begins with a perjury. Can we conceive anything more destructive to morality than this?" (Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason)

A further point by point argument can be found here.

The truth is that mixing Church and State is the quickest way to corrupt both of them. It still amazes me to this day how incredibly genius and how much foresight our founding fathers seemed to have. Time after time they made laws that seemed should have been met with extreme controversy back then. Yet they have found their clarification so relevant in today’s United States.


So the next time you hear somebody say it isn’t in the constitution simply ask them to recite the first 10 words of the first amendment.


That (separation of church and state) was never in the Constitution, however
much the liberals laugh at me for saying it, they know good and well it was
never in the Constitution! Such language only appeared in the constitution of
the communist Soviet Union” Pat Robertson quotes

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