Saturday, January 15, 2005

Where is the coercion?


I watched the Hannity and Colmes show last night on Fox News Channel. One of the guests was Michael Newdow. Newdow is the publicity seeker that filed suite against the use of prayer in the Inauguration of President Bush. As I listened to the debate, I realized that the arguments from the conservative side seem to say that the Constitution was written buy the same people that gave us the Declaration of Independence. And since the Declaration states belief in God and the writers all seem to have different parts that show support of religious participation in government was at least tacitly approved.

The Newdow argument seems to be, as quoted from his web site, "The First Amendment states "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion." As I understand it, this resulted from the Framers' awareness of the persecution and animosity that inevitably accompanies state religions. With this in mind, they made the decision to ensure religious freedom by keeping the government out of that sensitive area."

The actual amendment says "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".

I think that the real argument is the one that seems to be ceded to the left by the right. If a person who is a member of the government stands in front of a crowd, either in person or in a broadcast, and displays some religious document on government property or dares to utter a prayer, the left and generally the courts claim that this is a violation of the establishment clause of the Constitution.

How is this making a law? Rather, prohibiting the prayer would seem to be prohibiting the free exercise therof. The same goes for displays of different religious documents such as the 10 commandments on public property. Prohibiting the display seems to me to be more of a violation.

If the government refuses to allow some religious group the right to display it's icons but allows others to do so, that seems to indicate a preference. Allowing the free display or distribution of documents or information seems to be simply that, free display or distribution. No law is involved. I have heard the arguments that it is somehow establishing because it is using the power of government to "indicate a preference." And if the voters choose to object to that, what is stopping them?

I firmly object to any legal coercion that leads to the establishment of a religion. The thing is, where does that happen in a Republic like ours? It just aint so!