Now that we have finished the original Constitution, it’s time to take a look at the amendments. As you probably already know, the first ten amendments, taken together, are known as “The Bill of Rights.” They enumerate a number of rights of American citizens not covered in the main Constitution.
The temptation is to consider these ten together, but that would lead to rushing and possibly missing important parts of them. For this reason, we will consider them one at a time. Today, we’ll consider the First Amendment.
This post is part of a series that will make more sense if it is read in order. If you haven’t read the earlier posts in this series, please click here to start with the first one. One reason I’ve broken this series into fairly small parts is that we have a tendency to rush through reading the Constitution and miss a lot of it. I hope the readers of this series will ponder the points in each session. I also hope you will comment on each post as we go along.
Throughout this series on the Constitution, my comments will be in black normal font, and the text of the document will be in this color and italicized.
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; of the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
This brief, no-nonsense statement has become a major stumbling block to our entire nation in recent decades. We need to take this bit by bit.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion. . . .” That’s a pretty plain statement, but it’s been stretched and twisted and warped by federal judges and leftists in government and the media until it’s almost unrecognizable.
This clause clearly forbids Congress from saying, “The United Methodist Church is the official religion of the United States.” Or the Roman Catholic Church, or any other specific denomination or sect.
What it does NOT do is forbid Congress, or any other government department or agency from acknowledging God. The very founders who drafted this document almost to a man recognized that our freedoms, and resulting prosperity, came from God. Our history is one of recognizing and thanking God for all that we have. Not Allah, not Buddha, not Hare Krishna, or any other name people might make up to worship, but the God who created the heavens and the earth.
Despite the obvious clarity of the statement, the leftists who would destroy our nation claim that this clause means God can never be publicly acknowledged. We can’t start the school day by lifting a prayer to Him. We can’t invoke His blessing on football games or other school activities. They would exclude our Creator from everything about our nation.
“. . .or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. . .” How plain is that? Congress, and by implication the entire government, may not prohibit our exercise of our religion. Yet we are prohibited from public prayer, forbidden to display the Ten Commandments in our courthouses. The list goes on of the violations of this clause.
” . . . or abridging the freedom of speech . . .” We have the right to speak freely in voicing our opinions, but we have perverted this right to apply it to protecting pornography, allowing entertainers to spew filthy language, artists to draw pictures and carve statues depicting all sorts of filth—none of which has anything to do with the right to freedom of speech.
” . . . or of the press . . .” We have bent this to the point that our media can now routinely publicize all manner of secrets to the detriment of our nation and the comfort of our enemies. In World War II and before, our enemies didn’t know what we were going to do until we’d done it. Nowadays, our enemies have almost unfettered access to our battle plans because of the media.
“. . . of the right of the people peaceably to assemble . . .” In today’s world, this seems to mean that mobs can gather and attack police, loot stores, or do pretty much whatever they want without fear of prosecution. Peaceably assemble?”
“. . . and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” This one hasn’t been perverted too much so far. We have the right to write our Congressmen, Senators, President, and other federal, state, and local authorities. I frequently wonder how much good that does, but we are guaranteed the right.
What do you think about the ways the meaning of the clauses in this amendment have been stretched through the years?
Benjamin Franklin, exiting Constitutional Convention:
“We’ve given you a republic, if you can keep it.”
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I feel it’s usually best to err on the side of being too lenient rather than to risk infringing on basic rights. Sometimes there’s a very thin line between the two sides.