Much of the misunderstanding about the particular issue of religion and government is perpetuated by too many Americans who continue the distortion as to what the Constitution commands in respect to the obvious misunderstanding at the center of the controversy, as illustrated by this cartoon, that is, too many teachers, preachers, and ordinary readers of its words fail to recognize and admit what the Founding Fathers, with capital Fs (see Webster’s Dictionary), the fifty-five men who actually debated and composed the principles of the supreme law of the land, literally wrote: the words “church and state” are not in the Constitution.
As James Madison, Father of the Constitution, wrote “Strongly guarded as is the separation between Religion and Government in the Constitution of the United States, the danger of encroachment by Ecclesiastical Bodies may be illustrated by precedents already furnished in their short history,” William and Mary Quarterly, 3:555. When Americans finally recognize that the Founding Fathers termed the basic problem as “religion,” not just a church, that simple concept will help direct the public and court debate toward the heart of the social controversy. The religion commandments in the Constitution address the fundamental concept of keeping religion and government separate. What a person chooses to believe is his or her own personal opinion, but the divisions of mankind which have too often led to death, war, and social discord because of the figments of imagination about a supernatural existence and the assumed preeminence of “holy” men is not worthy of perpetuation in institutions dedicated to education, especially in the United States of America whose Founding Fathers got it right from the beginning:
“No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States,” Art. 6., and “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,” First Amendment. It is way past time for state boards of education and all Americans to also understand the words of the Founding Fathers and the constitutional principle of separation between religion and government at all levels of government. In the USA religion is to be completely voluntary, within the laws of the land, not the business of coercive government at any level. Yet, no one is more obstinate about continuing the misrepresentation of what the Constitution commands and of exactly what its words say than media institutions such as TFN, AU, TIA, FFRF, etc., etc., etc. My book, The Religion Commandments in the Constitution: A Primer, provides specific documentation and is available from Amazon: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yb7SbUWw9dM .
I think the issue goes beyond just letting everyone choose what they want to believe. The more important issue is preventing a government that claims the divine right to rule, such as we see in Iran. It baffles me how the Right can be ready to bomb bomb Iran, and at the same time promote movement toward theocracy here in the US.
The book held by the child clearly has a cross in place of a “t” in social s+udies. The sweater marked SBOE is a fairly clear reference to the governmental body in question. The “Chaper 3, verse 18 …” is as clear a reference to Bible talk as one can get.
On the other hand, Gene Garmen’s rather vicious comment “figments of imagination about a supernatural existence and the assumed preeminence of “holy” men” is a bit strong for a scholarly tome.
The alleged Constitutional debate concerning some distinction between “religion” and “church” is irrelevant as “church” is the organizational manifestation of “religion” and subordinate thereto. One does not have a church without a religion, and if one does, one calls it a University.
The Texas SBOE situation was used as a lead-in to this story on Studio 360 tonight:
In 1974, during the most turbulent schoolbook boycott in U.S. history, schools were bombed and buses hit with sniper fire in Kanawha County, West Virginia because local community members objected to works by authors like Eldridge Cleaver and Allen Ginsberg. Studio 360’s Trey Kay looks into the literature that triggered it all.
The Constitution is about words, because words mean things, and it is words of the Constitution which have supreme meaning in USA law. Nevertheless, as they taught us in law school, ultimately, the Constitution means whatever the Supreme Court says it means. The law is about words, and it is simply not accurate to assert the word in the religion commandments is “church.” As even Glenn Beck will tell you, on page 297 of his book Arguing With Idiots, the words “church and state” are not in the Constitution. As the Constitution commands, it is the whole subject of “religion” which shall not be established by law or Congress, not just a church, as some, who would revise the words of the Constitution would have us believe, e.g., the Texas Board of Education and its emphasis upon teaching “religion” in Texas’ public schools, as the cartoon correctly captured. Yes, my Amazon book is about the religion commandments in the Constitution and does provide significant depth in respect to the historical and constitutional development of the principle of “separation between Religion and Government in the Constitution of the United States,” James Madison, William and Mary Quarterly, 3:555–see “Detached Memoranda” on the internet, which persons such as revisionist David Barton deny.
So there you have it. As “church and state” do not appear in the Constitution, so “church and state” do not appear in the cartoon above. Thank you, Professor: you confirmed my response to Gordon Fowkes.
The cartoon obviously refers to religion, not just “church and state.” It is “religion” which shall not be established by law or government at any level, including state school boards, which is the Constitution’s point. The First Amendment has been applied by the Supreme Court to all levels of government.
Gene, you yourself wrote: “The Constitution is about words, because words mean things, and it is words of the Constitution which have supreme meaning in USA law……The law is about words, and it is simply not accurate to assert the word in the religion commandments is “church.”
The WORDS “religion” and “government” do not appear in the cartoon above. (Unless you see a different cartoon than the one I see). I guess your background in Law explains your remarkable ability to dance around better than Baryshnikov.
The idea that the Constitution is about words is about as useful as saying that Mein Kampf is about words, or that Huckleberry Finn is about words. The Supreme Court does not act as a supreme dictionary, nor does is act willy nilly supreme arbitor of whimsy, or fancy.
The decisions of the Supreme Court are rarely unanimous and decisions, for and/or against a plaintiff are couched in precedent. The questions that reach the Supreme Court are over which precedents apply in given situations, nor some spelling bee, or Quiz show. Constitutional law includes consideration of customary law, conventions, statutory law, judge-made law or international rules and norms, etc.
“Constitutional law includes consideration of customary law….”
Sometimes. The Supreme Court recently overturned a century-old convention against corporate contributions to elections. In that case, the Supreme Court really did act “willy nilly supreme arbitor of whimsy or fancy”…. or corporate gain.
First, as I was taught at law school and as the Constitution itself claims, the Constitution is the “supreme” law of the land, which means its words are supreme, regardless of any other writing, which is why we have a constitution and a supreme law of the land.
Last, as I was taught at law school, the Constitution does indeed mean whatever the Supreme Court says it means, even when the Court is divided in its opinion, because the majority rules.
The Constitution may say that it is the Supreme Law of the land but it is not the supreme authority in the land, that authority is the authority to change or abolish the Constitution itself which is either a Convention convened to change it, or the ratification of amendments by three quarters of the state legislatures.
The Tenth Amendment specifically states that what powers not given to the Federal government remain with the states and the people. Pundits poopoo the Tenth Amendment saying it is no longer relevant, but the effect on authority is that the states can pass any law that does not violated the Constitution, while the Federal government can only pass laws that can trace, however tenuous, to powers granted to the Federal government by the Constitution.
The Seventh Amendment establishes precedent as decisive in court (the Common Law). Supreme Court decisions are always accompanied by arguments citing precedent for both the decisions and the opinions of the judges borth for an against.
While critics often claim the Supreme Court is inventing new law, that is not the form and format used by the courts. If the Supreme Court were really believed to be inventing decisions out of thin air, eventually the Amendment process would adjust whatever authority is being abused. While this is the battle cry of the Righteous Right, the adjustments demanded will have to get the ratification of three quarters of the state legislatures …..and that ain’t gonna happen