Saturday, November 03, 2012

Why Religion in The Public Square Works

The first amendment of the U.S. Constitution is:

"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.  "

Structure of this sentence is as follows.

Congress shall make no law (that):

     Item 1,
     Item 2;
     Item 3, 
     Item 4;
     Item 5,
     Item 6 .

Lets fill in the items.

Congress shall make no law (that):

     establishes a religion,
     prohibits the free exercise of religion;
     abridges the freedom of speech,
     abridges the freedom of the press;
     abridges the right to peacefully assemble,
     abridges the right to petition the government.

The ideal specified in the founding declaration that, “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights . . . That to secure these rights, governments, Governments are instituted among men . . .” (DI, 1776) makes it clear that the amendments do not create rights but are intended to 'secure' the identified rights from suppression by the government.

In putting these rights together in one amendment, the writers not only secured these rights for us but also provided an elegant but simple statement of how these rights make it possible for both government and religion to relate in the public square. While government is prohibited from sponsoring or interfering with religion or its citizens living out their faith it also protects those same religious citizens (as well as non believing citizens) right to speak, write, assemble or participate in politics. 

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