Originally Posted by rstone
What Thomas Jefferson called "a wall of separation between Church and State" in his letter to the Danbury Baptists is a fundamental principle of American government. This principle of separation of church and state is defined in the Establishment Clause, found in the First Amendment to the Constitution. The clause states that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free expression thereof." The purpose of this passage is to guarantee each citizen's right to practice or not practice religion as they choose without fear of government interference. As president, Thomas Jefferson said, "I consider the government of the US, as interdicted by the Constitution from intermeddling with religious institutions, their doctrines, or exercises." James Madison, known as the "father of the Constitution," expressed criticism for government prayer proclamations when he wrote that they "imply...the erroneous idea of a national religion." These comments are representative of how the founders intended the Establishment Clause to be interpreted. They believed that the line between government and religious beliefs should be kept completely separate. Centuries later, in the 1992 Supreme Court case Lee v. Weisman, the Establishment Clause and the opinions expressed by Jefferson and Madison were upheld when prayer at high school graduation was ruled unconsitutional because it forced participation in a religious exercise. Thus, the constitution, the founders, and the Supreme Court all assert that government should never impose a religion or specific religious practices on any citizens.
When I or the Supreme Court refer to private speech it is meant in the context of a citizen speaking as a private party, which means whatever Jefferson said, you say in a Church, or on a street corner is private speech. Government speech on the other hand is refered to as using laws or inserting religious speech into documents or text that is endorsed and promoted by the government at large. This does not mean a politician cannot speak religious words, it just means he must be done as a private party, and is not on behalf of some government policy or as a belief supported by the government.
Your right the consitution does say you have a right to be religious, but your right does not mean the government has the same right to force your beliefs unto others. I am not suggesting we take away your right to be religious, what I am suggesting is we take away the governments right to endorse it. You can still continue to be religious as you see fit, but lets stop pretending here that this is not about an endorsement of religion by the government.
Still now following me??, Lets break this down into simple terms..
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion".
Congress will NOT make ANY law that shows or refers to a condition or fact that institutes (as a law) permanently by enactment or agreement of a religion.
The constitution applies to everyone, regardless of if they believe in the consitution, religion, or anything else for that fact.
The founding fathers inserted the establishment clause for a reason, and that was because they did NOT want our government to establish laws with religious indoctorinations in them. They did not want the U.S. to become another England, where a government would force there own religious beliefs on the people.
Opinions OUTSIDE of the constitution and the bill of rights should be just that, but unfortunately, as you point out, letters that were written to the Danbury Baptists, which were letters expressing HIS opinions were used to support a position that IS NOT IN THE BILL OF RIGHTS. "Congress shall make no law . . . " is clear as water. No law will be made. ". . . or prohibiting the free exercise, thereof " is just as clear. But yet laws HAVE been made prohibiting the free excercise of religion. The children who chose to have prayer at a graduation event were excercising their right to practice free religion. Non believers didn't have to participate but yet the will of the smallest minority over ruled the will of the majority. The Supreme Court overstepped their bounds when they prohibited prayer in schools. The Ten Commandments hang in the Supreme Court building but an Alabama Chief Justice was forbidden to display it in the Alabama Courthouse. Each session of Congress begins with prayer which is no different than beginning a school day with prayer.
We are a nation of double standards.
Separation of Church and State: That dog don't hunt! It's a FALLACY that has been made into law which is a direct violation of the Bill Of Rights that it is supposed to support.