Freedom of religion or Not?
(Source: Original Intent, The Courts, the Constitution, & Religion - by David Barton)
Consider the following decisions delivered in the jurisdictions of contemproary courts (past 50 years):
"Separation of church and state" appeared in only two cases in the Supreme Court's first 150 years,
however, in the past 50 years, it has been cited in countless number of cases, with some of the following
- A verbal prayer offered in school is unconstitutional, even if that prayer is both voluntary
and denominationally neutral. ENGEL v. VITALE, 1962; ABINGTON v. SCHEMPP, 1963; COMMISSIONER OF EDUCATION
v. SCHOOL COMMITTEE OF LEYDEN, 1971.
- Freedoms of speech and press are guaranteed to students and teachers -- unless the topic is religious,
at which time such speech becomes unconstitutional. STEIN v. OSHINSKY, 1965;
COLLINS v. CHANDLER UNIFIED SCHOOL DIST., 1981;
BISHOP v. ARONOV, 1991; DURAN v. NITSCHE, 1991.
- It is unconstitutional for students to see the Ten Commandments since they might read,
meditate upon, respect, or obey them. STONE v. GRAHAM, 1980; RING v. GRAND FORKS PUBLIC SCHOOL DIS., 1980;
LANNER v. WIMMER, 1981.
- If a student prays over his lunch, it is unconstitutional for him to pray aloud.
REED v. VAN HOVEN, 1965.
- A school song was struck down because it promoted values such as honesty, truth, courage, and faith
in the form of a "prayer." Interestingly, the song occurred as a part of voluntary
extracurricular student activies. DOE v. ALDINE INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT, 1982.
- It is unconstitutional for a war memorial to be erected in the shape of a cross. LOWE v. CITY OF EUGENE, 1969.
- The Ten Commandments, despite the fact that they are the basis of civil law and are depicted in
engraved stone in the U.S. Supreme Court, may not be displayed at a public courthouse. HARVEY v. COBB COUNTY, 1993.
- When a student addresses an assembly of his peers, he effectively becomes a government
representative; it is therefore unconstitutinal for that student to engage in prayer. HARRIS v.
JOINT SCHOOL DISTRICT, 1994.
- It is unconstitutional for a public cemetery to have a planter in the shape of a cross,
for if someone were to view that cross, it could cause "emotional distress" and thus constitute and
"injiry-in-fact" WARSAW v. TEHACHAPI, 1990.
- Even though the wording may be constitutionally acceptable, a bill becomes unconstitutional if
the legislator who introduced the bill had a religious activity in his mind when it was authored.
WALLACE v. JAFFREE, 1985.
- It is unconstitutional for a classroom library to contain books which deal with Christianity, or
for a teacher to be seen with a personal copy of the Bible at school. ROBERTS v. MADIGAN, 1990.
- It is unconstitutional for a Board of Educatino to use or refer to the word "God" in any of its
official writings. OHIO v. WHISNER, 1976.
- It is unconstitutional for school officials to be publicly praised or recognized in an open community
meeting if that meeting is sponsored by a religious group. JANE DOE v. SANTA FE INDEPENDENT SCHOOL OF DISTRICT, 1995.
- It is unconstitutional for a kindergarten class to ask whose birthday is celebrated by Christmas.
FLOREY v. SIOUX FALLS SCHOOL DISTRICT, 1979.
- It is unconstitutional for a school graduation ceremony to contain an opening or closing prayer.
HARRIS v. JOINT SCHOOL DISTRICT, 1994; GEARON v. LOUDOUN COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD, 1993;
LEE v. WEISMAN, 1992; KAY v. DOUGLAS SCHOOL DISTRICT, 1986; GRAHAM v. CENTRAL COMMUNITY SCHOOL DISTRICT, 1985.
- It is unconstitutional for a nativity scene to be displayed on public property unless surrounded
by sufficient secular displays to prevent it from appearing religious. COUNTY OF ALLEGHENY v. ACLU, 1989.
- Because a prosecuting attorney mentioned seven words from the Bible in the courtroom -- a statement which
lasted less than five seconds -- a jury sentence was overturned for a man convicted of brutally clubbing a 71-year-old
woman to death.
- In the Alaska public schools, students were prohibited from using the word "Christmas" at school, from
exchanging Christmas cards or presents, or from displaying anything with the word "Christmas"
on it because it contained the word "Christ."
- In a high-school class in Dickson, Tennessee, students were required to write a research paper using at least
four sources. Despite the fact that the students were allowed to write about reincarnation, witchcraft, and the occult,
because student Brittney Settle chose to write her paper about the life of Jesus Christ, she was given a
zero by her teacher.
- Although States print hundreds of thousands of custom license plates purchased and ordered by individual
citizens, Oregon refused to print "PRAY," Virginia refused to print "GOD 4 US," and Utah refused to print
"THANK GOD," claiming that such customized license plates violated the "separation of church and state."
- An elementary school principal in Denver removed the Bible from the school library, and an elementary
school music teacher in Colorado Springs stopped teaching Christmas carols because of alleged violations of
the "separation of church and state."
- In DeFuniak Springs, Florida, a judge ordered the courthouse copy of the Ten Commandments to be covered
during a murder trial for fear that jurors would be prejudiced against the defendant if they
saw the command "Do not kill."
- In Omaha, Nebraska, a student was prohibited from reading his Bible silently during free time, or even
to open his Bible at school.
So why did the founding fathers put "Separation of church and state" in the constitution? They didn't. "Separation
of church and state" is not in the constitution and it is not in the amendments. The First Amendment simply states:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...
A verbal prayer at school, a bible on a teacher's desk, a nativity scene displayed on public property,
a student reading his Bible at school,
none of these comes close to be "establishment of religion by the Congress".
Who are the judges who decided on these cases? They are not elected by the people. They are selected by the President
and confirmed by the Senates. The President and the Senators are however elected by the people. That is where we
as citizens have the responsibility to choose appropriately.
John Francis Mercer said in the Constitution Convention, "It is a great mistake to suppose that the paper (Constitution)
we are to propose will govern the United States. It is the men whom it will bring into the government, and the
interest they have in maintaining it, that is to govern them. The paper will only mark out the mode and the form;
men are the substance and must do the business." The Constitution does not govern the people, it is the government.
James A. Garfield, former President of the United States over hundred years ago recognized the problem already. He
said, "Now, more than ever before, the people are responsible for the character of their Congress.
If that body be ignorant, reckless, and corrupt, it is because the people tolerate ignorance, recklessness,
and corruption. If it be intelligent, brave, and pure, it is because the people demand these high qualities to
represent them in the national legislature. If the next centennial (which is our time) does not find us a great
nation ... it will be because those who represent the enterprise, the culture, and the morality of the nation
do not aid in controlling the political forces." The people are responsible for these absurdities.
We will see more absurdities, more corruption, if we do not
demand these high qualities to represent us in the government.
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