Saturday, October 16, 2010

Speaking Out

In the last 100 years the government of the United States has taken many steps to remove or reduce our rights as citizens. An example of this is found in the following article:

Pastors to defy IRS with endorsements

Two Minnesota clergymen plan to thumb their noses at the federal government Sunday by endorsing political candidates from their pulpits.

In doing so, they hope the IRS will come after them, allowing them to wage a legal fight asserting their First Amendment right of freedom of speech.

To make sure we are perfectly clear. Here is the First Amendment.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

It seems quite clear that the government has violated this primary law in establishing any restrictions on the church. The ability to speak on all matters of religion and belief may freely stray over political issues. Just because someone should call them political does not remove them from the right as written in the first Amendment.

The key legal issue in question is the Johnson Amendment of 1954. This was placed into the IRS code without the standard scrutiny of congress. It was attached to the 501c(3) rules governing the tax exemption of churches. The law was very specifically written to muzzle the church at the time.

This law was born out of the idea promoted by the use of the phrase: “Separation of Church and State” — This phrase was completely foreign to US law until 1947 in the case of Everson -vs- Board of Education. Without citing a single precedent, and ignoring 175 years of historically consistent rulings, the Supreme Court made this claim, “The wall of separation between church and state must be kept high and impregnable.” With that single decision based on nothing, the wall was born.

Where did they get this phrase? It wasn't found in the constitution. It was found in a personal letter written by Thomas Jefferson to a church. He was attempting to relieve fears that the government would have any influence over the church under the constitution. This is where he coined the phrase "Separation of Church and State".

From 1947 when the phrase became adopted by the Supreme Court, until 1954 we see the phrase turned on its head by liberal progressives and used in many places. Rather then the separation being one way as described by Jefferson, it has been twisted to be used in both directions and ultimately in the opposite direction from its intention.

The Johnson Amendment perpetuates a system that requires government agents to monitor and parse the words of a pastor's sermon to determine whether that sermon violates the law and punishment should be meted out. That system is an excessive and unreasonable government entanglement with religion. The Johnson Amendment allows the government to determine when a pastor's speech becomes too "political." That is an absurdly ridiculous standard. A pastor's speech from the pulpit that talks about candidates from a scriptural point of view is religious speech.

The government once small and carefully crafted by our founders has taken power from the people in small incremented ways. We need to recognize this usurpation and stop it. We can start this November by removing heavily entrenched members of congress from office. We need constitutional patriots to take their place and start the hard work.

Links of interest.
See what has the IRS stopped in its tracks!
Pulpit Freedom Sunday
The Alliance Defense Fund Pulpit Initiative
History of the 1954 Johnson Amendment

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Blogger Doug Indeap said...

The phrase “separation of church and state” is but a metaphor to describe the underlying principle of the First Amendment and the no-religious-test clause of the Constitution. That the phrase does not appear in the text of the Constitution assumes much importance, it seems, only to those who may have once labored under the misimpression it was there and later learned they were mistaken. To those familiar with the Constitution, the absence of the metaphor commonly used to describe one of its principles is no more consequential than the absence of other phrases (e.g., Bill of Rights, separation of powers, checks and balances, fair trial, religious liberty) used to describe other undoubted Constitutional principles.

Some try to pass off the Supreme Court’s decision in Everson v. Board of Education as simply a misreading of Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists–as if that is the only basis of the Court’s decision. Instructive as that letter is, it played but a small part in the Court’s decision. Perhaps even more than Jefferson, James Madison influenced the Court’s view. Madison, who had a central role in drafting the Constitution and the First Amendment, confirmed that he understood them to “[s]trongly guard[] . . . the separation between Religion and Government.” Madison, Detached Memoranda (~1820). He made plain, too, that they guarded against more than just laws creating state sponsored churches or imposing a state religion. Mindful that even as new principles are proclaimed, old habits die hard and citizens and politicians could tend to entangle government and religion (e.g., “the appointment of chaplains to the two houses of Congress” and “for the army and navy” and “[r]eligious proclamations by the Executive recommending thanksgivings and fasts”), he considered the question whether these actions were “consistent with the Constitution, and with the pure principle of religious freedom” and responded: “In strictness the answer on both points must be in the negative. The Constitution of the United States forbids everything like an establishment of a national religion.”

The phrase "separation of church and state," by the way, was not foreign to U.S. law until the Everson decision in 1947. See Reynolds v. United States, 98 U.S. 145 (1878).

The First Amendment embodies the simple, just idea that each of us should be free to exercise his or her religious views without expecting that the government will endorse or promote those views and without fearing that the government will endorse or promote the religious views of others. By keeping government and religion separate, the establishment clause serves to protect the freedom of all to exercise their religion. Reasonable people may differ, of course, on how these principles should be applied in particular situations, but the principles are hardly to be doubted. Moreover, they are good, sound principles that should be nurtured and defended, not attacked. Efforts to undercut our secular government by somehow merging or infusing it with religion should be resisted by every patriot.

Wake Forest University recently published a short, objective Q&A primer on the current law of separation of church and state–as applied by the courts rather than as caricatured in the blogosphere. I commend it to you.

3:34 PM, October 16, 2010  
Blogger ablur said...

Doug - No where in Reynolds v. United States, 98 U.S. 145 (1878) did I find reference to Separation of Church and state.
We do find a case where federal law (polygamy) is being up held, trumping church beliefs. This would make a very interesting first amendment case but does not even compare to the extent of violation of said amendment prescribed in my post.

4:41 PM, October 16, 2010  
Blogger Joe said...

You hit the nail on the head. Jefferson was not trying to keep the church out of government, or out of public places, but reassuring the church that the government would NEVER restrict their freedom to practice their faith.

How twisted this has become over the years.

7:56 PM, October 16, 2010  
Blogger Joe said...

"The First Amendment embodies the simple, just idea that each of us should be free to exercise his or her religious views without expecting that the government will endorse or promote those views and without fearing that the government will endorse or promote the religious views of others."

That's just plain wrong.

The First Amendment embodies the simple, just idea that each of us should be free to exercise his or her religious views without expecting that the government will in any way RESTRICT religious views.

That's what it says and that's what it means.

7:58 PM, October 16, 2010  
Blogger Doug Indeap said...


On page 164, the Court quotes Jefferson's letter to the Danbury Baptists, including his wall of separation metaphor.


You focus on the "free exercise" clause and seem to disregard the "establishment" clause.

It is important to distinguish “individual” from "government" speech on religion. The First Amendment protects the right of individuals to exercise their religions--publicly and privately--and constrains only the government not to promote or otherwise take steps toward establishment of religion. As government can only act through the individuals comprising its ranks, when those individuals are performing their official duties (e.g., public school teachers instructing students in class), they effectively are the government and thus should conduct themselves in accordance with the First Amendment's constraints on government. When acting in their individual capacities, they are free to exercise their religions as they please. If their right to free exercise of religion extended even to their discharge of their official responsibilities, however, the First Amendment constraints on government establishment of religion would be eviscerated. While figuring out whether someone is speaking for the government may sometimes be difficult, making the distinction is critical.

6:25 PM, October 17, 2010  
Blogger ablur said...

Doug - I still don't see by your arguments, how the current rules being applied against the churches can be legal under the constitution.

We have violations of establishment, prohibition of free speech and peaceable assembly discussing grievances. I perceive a full violation of the amendment.

7:35 PM, October 17, 2010  
Blogger Doug Indeap said...

My concern is primarily with the constitutional principle of separation of church and state, and so my comments addressed your comments on that. I did not mean to discuss the churches' threat to violate tax laws.

The Wake Forest paper, though, does a nice job of summarizing the law on that subject as well.

9:59 PM, October 17, 2010  
Blogger ablur said...

The Wake Forest Paper would not load without errors. I was unable to view the text of said paper in order to have a reasonable discussion on its merit.

4:14 AM, October 18, 2010  
Blogger Joe said...

DI: "...constitutional principle of separation of church and state..."

There is no such principle. The Supreme Court got it wrong (as they did with Dred Scott).

The word "establishment" in the first amendment is a noun, not a verb.

You in: "I run a business establishment."

Madison would never have imagined that religion might one day be precluded from the public square or governmental office. He would have imagined that we would never sponsor a religion as a part OF the government, but we would never place governmental restrictions on religions.

4:02 PM, October 20, 2010  

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