The Government Shall Not Prohibit the Free Exercise of Religion | Beaufort County Now | I wanted to touch on something, as you already probably know, that had me really upset over Thanksgiving. And that was Obama's failure to acknowledge and thank God in his Thanksgiving message to the nation.

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The Government Shall Not Prohibit the Free Exercise of Religion

    I wanted to touch on something, as you already probably know, that had me really upset over Thanksgiving. And that was Obama's failure to acknowledge and thank God in his Thanksgiving message to the nation.

    I think we are witnessing something that our Founders warned us about ..... A government which is growing HOSTILE to religion. This is something that our founding settlers devoted their lives to and the one issue above all else that Thomas Jefferson devoted his public service career to - the notion that we all can worship and embrace the rights of conscience without the government prohibiting "the free exercise thereof" and without establishing a government-sponsored form of religion which creates hostility towards other denominations. As lovers of liberty, Tea Party members, and constitutional warriors, we know this and it kills us every time we hear public servants and activist judges cite the phrase "Wall of Separation." We know that activist judges created a legal fiction out of this phrase, and most offensively too, by claiming it was Jefferson's very own concept. They indeed used his own words, out of context, against the very freedoms he sought to protect. Jefferson, by his own wishes, wanted to be remembered as the Father of Religion... the man who secured the rights to free exercise and the right to be secure in one's own religion such that the government wouldn't establish one religion and punish a person for allegiance to another faith or denomination).

    When atheist groups such as Freedom from Religion, which represent less than 1% of the population, can sue to remove a religious artifact or a prayer or a word/phrase, they are suing because "It makes me uncomfortable to hear the prayer." "It makes me uncomfortable to drive past the town square and see a nativity scene." So what does the court do? It requires the prayer to be removed. Sometimes it requires the prayer to be so altered that it lacks religious significance and ends up being a pep talk. It requires nativity scenes to be removed and crosses to be taken down. In essence, the court is choosing NO RELIGION over religion. And that makes the current population of Christians in this country - 85% (according to a 2011 census) - and other believers very uncomfortable. It makes us uncomfortable because we can't recognize the proper religious implications of a holiday and it makes us uncomfortable because we know that government is becoming increasingly hostile to the rights of religion and rights of conscience. In particular, it makes us uncomfortable because the government is becoming increasingly more hostile to us and to those who think like us. Liberty is becoming more fragile.

    I write this as a plea to keep the pressure on public officials to respect the exercise of the Christian faith. We're not demanding that the government establish it as a national religion but we will not tolerate the hostility of the government to this very religion which was so instrumental in our founding and is so clearly evident in the words and spirit of our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution and our state constitutions. We all, including atheists and yes, even liberals, depend on the very freedoms that our founders secured for us. It is sheer hypocrisy to hear people, like Obama and Freedom from Religion groups, use the very freedoms that our reverent fore-fathers secured for us, based on religious principle, to destroy other fundamental freedoms.

    For those who have taken the time to study our founding history and turn to primary sources rather than nonsense put out by groups such as the Southern Poverty Law Center, we know that once our founding patriots fought the American Revolution to win our independence from Great Britain and secure the blessings of individual liberty for Americans, our early leaders had to figure out how best to protect those blessings for future generations and in fact, for posterity. Every generation of American deserves the full promise and exercise of freedom that our early Americans fought, secured, and protected. Our early leaders, those men we fondly, humbly, and proudly call our "Founding Fathers," drafted a Constitution for that purpose. The task falling to them was how best to secure those liberties. They did so by basing our founding documents on certain philosophies and values that they knew would enlarge liberty rather than limit and endanger it.

    There were many philosophies floating around at the time. After all, the European Enlightenment Era (ie, the "Age of Reason") beginning at the start of the 18th century (1700) to about 1800, produced
many theories to explain social institutions and human behavior. This movement advocated rationality as a means to explain an authoritative system of governance, as well as to explain the basis for ethics and morality. Up until this time, theories were based on the writings of Plato and Aristotle. Plato believed that the State should establish an ordered society; that it should solve all society's problems. Consequently, he believed that individuals only role was to serve the interests of the State. They have no rights, just duties. Aristotle, his student, did not agree. He believed the individual was more important than the State and the latter cannot be trusted to solve all of society's problems. He did not believe in a utopia, and certainly not one that the State would create. He believed that the fundamental rights of life, liberty, and property should not be surrendered to the State because it would destroy the benefits that such rights create. The Enlightenment philosophers, like John Locke, William Blackstone, Thomas Hobbs, Montesquieu, and Adam Smith, offered the Natural law rationale behind the type of arrangement that Aristotle taught, with respect to individuals and their government. Our Founders could have adopted any of the philosophies floating around at the time, including those of Plato, in establishing the foundation for our nation, but they chose those that embraced individual liberty and the protection of fundamental rights. Our Founders were grounded in the teachings of the Bible and therefore sought the best form of government for fellow Americans, the one that would embrace freedom and promote the best and noblest pursuits and ambitions of man. They understood that when the best and noblest ambitions of man are promoted, all of society benefits. The French, on the other hand, sought "Equality of Outcome', rather than "Equality of Opportunity." In a society that is based on Equality of Opportunity, as we are (or were) under the Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights, there is an equal opportunity for all individuals to maximize their potentials and attain positions in society. This is made possible by equal protection of rights and equal access to things like education, the intellectual arts, and contracts. Equality of Outcome refers to a state where everyone receives equal amounts of rewards and an equal level of power in decision-making, with the belief that, no matter who contributes more, no one should be rewarded more than another.

    Our Constitution and our government were established by men who understood the absolute necessity of morality and religion in everyday life, as the only sure way to protect the rights of man. Benjamin Franklin wrote, "Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters." George Washington later praised the new American Constitution as the "palladium of human rights," but pointed out that it could survive only "so long as there shall remain virtue in the body of the people." By "virtue," he meant religion and morality. He made this clear in his farewell address to the American people. Washington and others believed in individual morality and virtue as identified with the Ten Commandments and obedience to the Creator's mandate for right conduct. John Adams said: "Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other." He also wrote: "The moment the idea is admitted into society, that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence. If 'Thou Shalt Not Covet,' and 'Thou Shalt Not Steal' were not commandments of Heaven, they must be made inviolable precepts in every society, before it can be civilized or made free."

    John Quincy Adams, sixth president of the United States, wrote in a letter his son: "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." In another letter he wrote: "There are three points of doctrine the belief of which forms the foundation of all morality. The first is the existence of God; the second is the immortality of the human soul; and the third is a future state of rewards and punishments. Suppose it possible for a man to disbelieve either of these three articles of faith and that man will have no conscience, he will have no other law than that of the tiger or the shark. The laws of man may bind him in chains or may put him to death, but they never can make him wise, virtuous, or happy."

    James Wilson, signer of the Constitution and Supreme Court justice (from 1789-1798) said: "Human law must rest its authority ultimately upon the authority of that law which is divine. . . . Far from being rivals or enemies, religion and law are twin sisters, friends, and mutual assistants. Indeed, these two sciences run into each other." And Oliver Ellsworth, Chief justice of the Supreme Court (1796-1800) wrote: "The primary objects of government are the peace, order, and prosperity of society. . . . To the promotion of these objects, particularly in a republican government, good morals are essential. Institutions for the promotion of good morals are therefore objects of legislative provision and support: and among these . . . religious institutions are eminently useful and important. . . . The legislature, charged with the great interests of the community, may, and ought to countenance, aid and protect religious institutions--institutions wisely calculated to direct men to the performance of all the duties arising from their connection with each other, and to prevent or repress those evils which flow from unrestrained passion."

    There are atheist groups who challenge our Founders and the Constitution and say that they indeed intended to create a secular state. They point to the wording of the Constitution and the lack of any mention of God in it. This view evidences an astonishing lack of understanding of the federal nature of the system unanimously created by the delegates at the Constitutional Congress of 1787 and endorsed by the States in their ratifying conventions. The failure of the Constitution to mention "God" or provide for His acknowledgment has nothing to do with the intentional creation of a secular state; in fact, the Constitution has nothing to do with religion at all except to forbid the federal government from interfering with an individual's rights to recognize and worship the religion of their choice. The Constitution was silent on the subject of God and religion because there was a consensus that, despite the framer's personal beliefs, religion was a matter best left to the individual citizens and their respective state governments. Simply put, the Constitution appears "godless" or secular because in so doing, there was an intention decision to leave all matters regarding religion and devotion to God to the individual States. As we can easily confirm, relationships between religion and state and local government are defined in most state constitutions. Our Founders and Framers, in the pursuance of the greatest freedom of Americans to worship, believed it would be inappropriate for the federal government to encroach upon or usurp state jurisdiction in this area. State and local governments, and not the federal regime, were the basic and most fundamental political units of the day.

    Thomas Jefferson, father of religious freedom in the United States (and I mean freedom to worship and NOT freedom from religion), envisioned that there would be two documents in every house... a Bible and the US Constitution. The first would teach Americans how to have a servant's heart and the other to inspire them to step up and serve their country. In our young nation, the Bible was used as a text book for the purpose of teaching children moral principles to live by. As time went on, the Bible was gradually replaced by other text books such as Noah Webster's Primer. Webster's Primer taught children to spell but was also filled with moral Bible verses. In the front of this book was Mr. Webster's picture, accompanied by the inscription: "Noah Webster, who taught millions to read but not one to sin." Webster's Primer was eventually replaced by public school textbooks. From the 1960's on, the federal government (through the Supreme Court and then, in the late 70's, by the US Department of Education), removed religion, morality, and ethics from its curriculum. The consequences of those decisions quickly followed, as teenage pregnancy, crime, lack of discipline, and disrespect for authority quickly rose. It used to take a "community to raise a child," but now that community is destroying children because the federal government demands that religion and morality take no part in that rearing.

    The government is slowly eroding our religious rights. Perhaps the more accurate statement is 'Government is quickly eroding our religious rights.' The First Amendment guarantees that "CONGRESS shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion OR prohibiting the free exercise thereof." The First Amendment only proscribes conduct by the federal legislature. That is all. In fact, the First Amendment proposed initially by James Madison read: "The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established." The Supreme Court, a branch of the federal government, has incorrectly interpreted the First Amendment. Our former Chief Justice, William Rehnquist and our current Chief Justice, John Roberts, both have publicly acknowledged that the Court got that decision wrong and the "Wall of Separation" has no place in constitutional jurisprudence. Yet the uninformed American people and even members of the media were quick to jump all over Christine O'Donnell, senatorial candidate from Delaware, in 2010 when she correctly noted in a debate that nowhere in the First Amendment do the words "Separation of Church and State" appear. Even lawyers and constitutional groups criticized her for not recognizing the phrase as "Jefferson's summation of religious rights." I guess rights and liberties are in the eyes of the beholder.

    The two clauses of the 1st Amendment right of Religion - the "Free Exercise" Clause and the "Establishment Clause" - exist in a delicate balance. If the government regulates too heavily under the Establishment Clause, it necessarily burdens the Free Exercise Clause, which is just as important and sacred. And this is exactly what we are seeing. The federal government is burdening our free exercise of religion. It is forcing us to worship at select times and places - such as our homes or in churches. Government is forcing us to be "neutral" and in denial when we are on public property, on public time, or acting in a public capacity. The US Congress may not have "established a law prohibiting the free exercise of," but the Supreme Court, under its illegal judicial activist power, has achieved that game result.

    In a free society, people do not require constitutional authority to act and conduct themselves. Only government does. Yet, notice how much we have to read between the law and make sense of constitutional interpretation these days to see if we are legally able to act as we would like, in accordance with our free will and the endowment of rights given by our Creator. We know something just isn't right in this land established for individual liberty.

    Atheist groups claim that they can't ride down a street or by a public square if they should see the word "Christ" or see a picture of a baby Jesus. They claim that it makes them uncomfortable. Judges, for some reason, see everything in terms of "religion" or "no religion" and fail to see any other possible implications, such as history or heritage. Nativity scenes at Christmas and crosses at Easter are hardly ever erected to promote one religion over another, but rather to educate and reinforce that certain holidays are grounded in a religious event. There are historical and traditional roots to our holidays and people have a right to know what they are. I, personally, see these symbols as paying proper respect to the holiday not as promoting a religion and maybe if people, and particularly judges, stopped thinking so myoptically, perhaps this country could maintain the integrity of the First Amendment as it was intended and stop the persecution of Christians.

    The Constitution was drafted to transfer a limited list of responsibilities from the States to the federal government. The Constitution was written for We the People, but was ratified on their behalf by the States. Under the prevailing theory of government, which is a social compact or contract theory, individuals already transferred some of their sovereign rights for security to their States, in return for an absolute protection of their rights which is why the States were the signing parties to the Constitution. The compact was an agreement by the States (on behalf of the People) to bound by the particular design of government. The Constitution contained a serious of "checks and balances" to curb abuse and centralization of power in any one branch of government, but more important was the ability of the States to interpose to prevent the government from assuming any power it was not delegated. And herein lies the most important reason for state sovereignty and states' rights. The Constitution puts things into the proper perspective for people. The document is OURS to limit government and not the government's to restrain the people. Too often we see government in terms of the latter. The Constitution is our prenuptial agreement. We don't give up rights to the government just because of some relationship it may think it has.

    Every authority on the Constitution, including the Federalist Papers, the transcripts from the state ratifying conventions, and the voluminous writings and warnings of our Founders point us in one unambiguous direction - that the Constitution delegated limited and clearly-enumerated powers to a federal government (over the "sword and the purse"; those powers primarily related to foreign policy, coining money, raising an army, providing a navy, declaring war, establishing patent laws, establishing a post office, establishing uniform laws of naturalization, and regulating of interstate commerce...), with the bulk of sovereign power to remain with the States, where government is closest and most responsive to the People. The federal government could exercise no additional powers without the consent of the States, in the form of constitutional amendments. Even Alexander Hamilton, the founder most opposed to a small, limited government, gave this assurance in Federalist #78: "There is no position which depends on clearer principles than that every act of a delegated authority contrary to the tenor of the commission under which it is exercised (ie, the Constitution), is VOID. No legislative act, therefore, contrary to the Constitution, can be valid. To deny this principle would be to admit that the servant is above his master; that the representatives of the people are superior to the people themselves; that men, acting by virtue of powers, may do not only what their powers do not authorize, but what they forbid."

    The Supreme Court, after the decision in Marbury v. Madison (1803), assigned itself the grand position of ultimate arbiter and interpreter of the US Constitution. The decision held that when the Constitution - the nation's highest law - conflicts with an act of the legislature, that act is invalid and that determination falls within the domain of the federal court system. As such, with this case, the Supreme Court granted itself the power of judicial review. Anyone who fully understands the nature of the Constitution and the spirit under which it was written and ratified by the States, immediately comprehends the fatal flaw in that decision and the precarious situation we Americans have been put in as a result. The Supreme Court is itself a branch of government. Its judges are appointed under political circumstances and according to ideology that merely furthers a political agenda rather than necessarily protect the one thing that is most at stake - individual rights. So, in a dispute between the States and the federal government, the dispute is supposed to be resolved by which party??? The federal government? Under this arrangement, the States are clearly subordinated to the federal government; the interests of the States are clearly subordinated to the federal government; the concerns of the States are clearly subordinated to the federal government; and the interpretations of the Constitution are certainly subordinated to the interpretation by the federal government. As we can clearly see, and as Jefferson advocated strongly, it is impossible to comprehend that the States would have agreed to a system that assured their subordination.


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