In my last article with Townhall, I wrote about the misuse of the phrase, “separation of church and state.” The origin of that phrase’s misuse begins with a horribly decided Supreme Court case in 1947.
In Everson vs. Board of Education, FDR appointee Hugo Black, a member of the Ku Klux Klan, reinterpreted the meaning of the First Amendment of the Constitution. He took completely out of context a phrase used by President Thomas Jefferson, “separation of church and state,” found in a letter he wrote to the Danbury Baptist Association in 1802. Justice Black limited the religious liberty of all Americans by basing his decision on Jefferson’s letter.
Yet, Jefferson’s letter is not Constitutional law. Jefferson was not even in the USA at the time the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were written. Jefferson’s phrase, “separation of church and state” is not even found in the Constitution. That did not matter to Justice Black and his other FDR appointed colleagues. They used Jefferson’s letter to justify stifling the free expression of religion in public.
In 1984, the Supreme Court clarified what Jefferson meant in his letter. In Lynch vs. Donnelly the court said that the phrase, “separation of church and state,” is nothing more than the opinion of Thomas Jefferson. They called Jefferson’s use of that phrase a “euphemism,” not Constitutional law.
Nonetheless, the 1947 case set off a chain reaction of events that has led to more terrible judicial decisions and the stifling of the free expression of religion in the public square.
You may recall from my last article that I mentioned a 5 year-old girl named Kala Brotos of Sarasota Springs, NY. Her kindergarten teacher, who scolded Kala in front of the kindergarten class, trampled upon this little girl’s First Amendment rights. What was little Kala’s crime? She simply prayed out loud and gave thanks before eating her lunch. The teacher called what Kala did a “crime against humanity.”
As shocking as this is, there is still more to this story than previously mentioned.
After little Kala was chided and condemned by her kindergarten teacher for simply exercising her First Amendment right to religious expression, the teacher reported the incident to the school attorney. The school even held a press conference stating that Kala’s prayer violated the separation of church and state. Kala’s parents refused to allow their daughter’s rights to be marginalized. They took the school to federal court and won. Kala was allowed to voluntarily pray in school.
This may sound like an “all is well that ends well” story but think of what a five year-old girl and her family had to endure simply to win back their First Amendment rights. The fact that Kala’s parents had to go to court is a serious concern for us as Americans. The fact that Kala and her family won their case in federal court gives more credence to the truth that student-led, student-initiated prayer in school is a constitutionally protected form of free speech. Many Supreme Court cases have upheld these rights. They include:
Prince vs. Jacoby, (2003), Gentala vs. City of Tucson, (2003), Lamb's Chapel vs. Center Moriches School District, (1993), and Board of Education of Westside Community Schools vs. Mergens (1990).
No matter how many times these kinds of Supreme Court cases are settled, there are still far too many instances where a public official, judge or teacher completely disregards the free exercise clause of the First Amendment in the name of the establishment clause. Mostly, this happens due to ignorance of what the First Amendment states and means. This only proves all the more that the free exercise clause of the First Amendment is not being taught or even spoken of near enough.
This past December 2, 2008, the Capitol Visitor Center (CVC) finally opened. The $621 million underground complex, which was supposed to cost around $71 million when it was first proposed, is more than just a blatant disregard for taxpayer money. This visitor center actually shows blatant disregard for the free expression of religious speech. Congressional Members of the Congressional Prayer Caucus found a number of prominent references to God curiously omitted from our history within the CVC.
For instance, when walking into Exhibition Hall of the CVC, on both the left and the right walls you will find the phrase, “E Pluribus Unum.” This Latin phrase simply means, “out of many, one,” and is a nice idea that we all can respect. However, the original CVC display on these walls claimed “E Pluribus Unum” was our nation’s national motto. Actually our nation’s motto is, “In God We Trust.”
Was this a mistake or just a willful attempt to keep a reference to God out of the CVC?
Well, on the far right wall within the CVC is a window display of the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 for new territory north-west of the Ohio River and east of the Mississippi River. The Congress passed this legislation while our nation was still operating as a confederacy. Inside the window display is a sign with an incomplete quote from the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, Article 3. The sign with an incomplete quote states, “… education shall forever be encouraged.” However, the entire quote, made by the Congress under the confederacy, which was omitted from the CVC display originally, actually states, “Religion, morality, and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.” That is certainly a whole lot of information to exclude from one important piece of legislation.
After the Congressional Prayer Caucus spoke up, a second and much smaller sign in the Northwest Ordinance window display with the complete quote has been posted, but you have to practically squint to read it.
If you have ever watched a state of the Union address on television, you can see the Speaker of the House sitting near the President of the United States. Just above the head of the President, etched into the wall of the House Floor is the statement, “In God We Trust.” The CVC contains a display that is a replica of the Speaker of the House’s rostrum. Well, the CVC’s original display just happened to omit from the display the phrase, “In God We Trust.”
The Congressional Prayer Caucus spoke up and the phrase, “In God We Trust” was placed above the Speaker’s chair display, where it more accurately represents the wall above the Speaker’s chair in House Chambers. Yet, the display of “In God We Trust” it is not etched into the wall, even though “E Pluribus Unum” is etched into the wall of the Senate display of the CVC. What is above the Speaker’s chair is merely a sign that can be removed at any time.
So much inattention to so many details cannot easily be explained away as a series of mistakes. Something else is going on here.
Consider the intended CVC display of Abraham Lincoln’s White House desk, the same desk where he kept his Bible. The original intention of this CVC display was to show Abraham Lincoln’s desk, but not his Bible. When Members of the Congressional Prayer Caucus spoke up about Lincoln’s Bible not being on his desk, Lincoln’s Bible was not added to the display. Instead, Lincoln’s desk was simply removed from being a display at the CVC.
There are even more examples of God and faith-based omissions alive and well in Washington, DC.
If you ever visit the WW II Memorial, located on the mall in Washington DC, give close attention to the quote by General Dwight D. Eisenhower. It is his D-Day message that is carved into the walls of the WW II memorial. The problem is -- his quote is incomplete. Eisenhower’s last line, “…the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking,” has been omitted.
We as Americans must remember that the Bill of Rights was written to ensure there was a balance between the free expression of religious speech and not mandating a government sanctioned religious practice. It is simply disingenuous for a judge, teacher, employer or even the Architect of the US Capitol, to uphold the establishment clause of the First Amendment at the expense of the free exercise clause.
As Americans, we certainly do not want citizens to be forced to pray a prayer they do not believe in. We also do not want those who do desire to voluntarily pray in public to be denied their First Amendment rights either. If a historical figure in our nation’s history just happened to give credit to God in a speech or statement, that speech or statement should not end where the mention of God begins. We must not allow ourselves to buy into the delusion of Roger Baldwin, the founder of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and a member of the Communist Party of the USA, who desired the removal of all references to God from the public square.
When we consider the gravity of the aforementioned cases, it is safe to say that there is clearly a concerted effort by some to remove all references to God and Judeo-Christian faith from our society. Attempts to remove Judeo-Christian references from our society, while paying no mind to other religious references, is another common practice today in America.
In 2004, the ACLU sued the city of Los Angeles, California over a tiny cross that appeared on the right side of the city seal. On the center of that same seal is a large image of the Roman goddess Pomona. The goddess Pomona is far larger and more prominent than the cross. In fact, the cross on the seal was only the length of goddess Pomona’s arm. In spite of the obvious hypocrisy, the ACLU said nothing about the image of the goddess Pomona. They simply wanted a tiny cross removed from the Los Angeles seal. At the expense of the taxpayers of Los Angeles the cross was removed, but goddess Pomona is still there.
How many of us know what our rights are as Americans? How many of us know that the truth of our Judeo-Christian heritage has come under assault? It is mind-boggling when we begin to ponder what has taken place and is still taking place concerning the right of religious expression in America. Consider what has occurred in the last sixty years or so. The freedom of religion in America has been limited and even demonized in some cases, due to a lie that began with a member of the Communist Party of the USA, who influenced an FDR appointee to the Supreme Court, who was himself a member of the Ku Klux Klan. It’s totally insane!
The late Daniel Webster, born during the decade that the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were written, played a large role in the early days of our nation’s history. He was a member of the House of Representatives, member of the US Senate, Secretary of State and prominent attorney who argued cases before the Supreme Court. Webster, as if by Divine revelation, had this to say about America’s future:
"There is no nation on earth powerful enough to accomplish our overthrow. Our destruction, should it come at all, will be from another quarter: From the inattention of the people to the concerns of their government, from their carelessness and negligence. I must confess that I do apprehend some danger. I fear that they may place too implicit a confidence in their public servants and fail properly to scrutinize their conduct; that in this way they may be made the dupes of designing men and become the instruments of their own undoing."
When we see all the evidence of our right to religious liberty being turned on its head by liberal activist judges, government officials and other authority figures, we should take Webster’s warning to heart. We must hold our government accountable for their actions when they refuse to act as the protectors of our freedoms, which is their Constitutional role in the first place.
I think Thomas Jefferson summed it up well when he said, “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” Let us be vigilant as Americans; Webster’s warning is becoming a reality.