Interesting that those brave folks, and especially the Framer’s of the U.S. Constitution — when constructing the very document — that is revered more than what it actually says is so blown out of context that the original meaning, moreover, the original intent behind the clauses seems to have been lost in the politics and special interest groups abounding in the Nation. Take for example:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…”(Amendment 1)
Now then…sounds easy enough, right? Nobody needs to have a college degree to understand this principle, right? We support that if a student really listened, took notes, and read the required reading given the average student would probably have this down pat by grade six.
Someone, anyone please – show us where there is a clause for separation of church and state – or how about atheism, monuments, icons, Ten Commandments, or nativity scenes? We could go even deeper and say why the Islamic holidays are printed on just about every day-timer or wall calendar in the United States? Fact is folks…it’s not there.
With a new Supreme Court justice appointee just around the corner, and the painful process each candidate will face, the question is really, “…does he or she legislate from the Bench?”
In recent years the Supreme Court has placed the Establishment and the Free Exercise of Religion Clauses in mutual tension, however this was not so with the Framers. None of the Framer’s believed that a governmental connection to religion was an evil in itself. Rather, many (though not all) opposed the established church because they believed that it was a threat to the free exercise of religion. Their primary goal was to protect free exercise.
This is the centrality of the debate used by James Madison in his famous Memorial and Remonstrance (1785) in which he argued that the state of Virginia should no be paying the salaries of Anglican clergy because such a practice impeded on a person’s free connection to whatever religion his conscience directed him.
Accordingly most of the Founding generation believed that government ought to be “untainted” by religion, or ought not to take an interest in furthering the people’s connection to religion. Take the Northwest Ordinance (1787) which the First Congress reenacted, stated: “Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.”
As President, George Washington’s practice concretized the understanding of most of his contemporaries. In his first inaugural address, Washington declared as his “first official act” his “fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the universe” that He might bless the new government.
In addition, Washington bracketed his years a President with similar sentiments in his Farewell Address in 1796:
Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and morality are indispensable supports. “… The mere Politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them.” And then he added:
“And let us with caution indulge the supposition, that morality can be maintained without religion.”
Therefore a person who is an atheist, agnostic, or whatever religion they subscribe too, is not and will not be the focus or intention of this or subsequent writings . . . what is the centrality are those ten simple words that were carefully orchestrated to guarantee and protect “free exercise.”