Posted: Feb 06, 2002 12:00 AM
I feel compelled to follow up on my last column to respond to many questions and objections I received from e-mailers. I'll give you the essentials in case you missed that column. I chronicled more examples of the ACLU and others targeting virtually any expression of Christianity in the public arena. I argued that while they cloak their crusade in the righteous veil of the First Amendment's Establishment Clause, their real motive might be hostility toward Christianity. (Does the ACLU ever complain when the teachings of Islam are glorified in public schools?) One question was: "Would you feel differently if Islamic or Buddhist messages were posted in the public arena?" The answer is: Of course I would feel differently. But my feelings aren't the issue. The Constitution is. Please understand the distinction. I am not advocating the public sponsorship of Christianity. There may even be legitimate constitutional objections to it, but the Establishment Clause isn't one of them. It was never intended to preclude all government sponsorship of religion or to mandate the so-called separation of church and state. I don't think the government ought to have its nose in half the things it does today because there are no express or implied powers authorizing them in the Constitution. Indeed I doubt that the Constitution authorizes federal employees, at least, to erect signs promoting Jesus. But neither does it authorize them to do any other kind of private work on the government nickel. But the Establishment Clause itself was never intended to preclude these types of activities. The Establishment Clause was meant to prohibit the federal government from mandating a particular religion, not from sponsoring a religion in certain limited respects or invoking Christian symbols in its functioning, e.g., "God bless this honorable Court." Also, there is another religion clause in that very same First Amendment: The Free Exercise Clause. The framers would be horrified by the extent to which our modern courts have diminished the free exercise of religion (for example, in voluntary school prayer) in the name of the Establishment Clause. So, no, I wouldn't like it if public workers helped Buddhists or Muslims erect signs promoting their religion. But as originally written, the Establishment Clause wouldn't bar these activities. But, you ask, since this is a nation of diverse peoples, why should the Ten Commandments be displayed on government property to the exclusion of other religious symbols? Perhaps that's a question better addressed to the founders, who manifestly had no problem with it, which is further proof not only that they were predominantly Christian, but that they didn't intend anything approaching a complete separation of church and state. Another e-mailer suggested that I lost credibility because I went too far in saying that the Establishment Clause only limits the federal government and not the states. Well, I can't help it, but that happens to be the truth. The fact that an activist Supreme Court artificially incorporated most of the Bill of Rights as limitations against the state governments as well does not mean the framers intended such a result. It also doesn't mean that I personally favor states establishing particular religions, including Christianity. Don't worry; I'm sure most state constitutions forbid this practice anyway. In fact, I -- and all Christians I know -- am opposed to a government-mandated religion. The very concept is repugnant to Christianity, which is all about freedom of conscience. There is no such thing as forced conversion to Christianity, as the choice of Christianity is a matter of individual will (not discounting God's sovereignty in the process, by the way). Finally, many e-mailers and others insist that few of our founding fathers were Christians and that the Constitution is based not on Christian principles, but those of the secular Enlightenment period. This is perhaps one of the most widely held pieces of historical revisionism in our society. Even many Christians have bought into this error. I believe that if you truly study the historical record -- as opposed to the conclusions of secular humanist-dominated academia -- you will discover that while some of the framers were Deists, Atheists or Agnostics, probably 90 percent of them were Christians. Thankfully, they did not adopt the enlightenment brand of liberty, equality and fraternity -- which amounts to abstract allegiance to freedom without the underlying moral foundations -- because it doubtlessly would have led us down the perilous French path. History has repeatedly shown that naked freedom, not grounded in morality and untempered by the rule of law, leads to survival of the fittest and the extinction of liberties.