Sunday, June 27, 2010

Secularism Encroaches on Freedom of Religion

(CNA News).- "In an exclusive interview obtained by CNA, Dr. John Haas of the National Catholic Bioethics Center asked Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington D.C. about some of the issues facing the Church in the “contemporary context.” In his reply, Archbishop Wuerl spoke about the role of and need for religious freedom in society, a role which is dramatically changing."

Phil Cooke points out how in America free speech is being stifled in the world of science.  F.R. points out how the Supreme Court has infringed on our freedom of religion while allowing secularism to run rapant, pretty much unchallenged and unfetttered in our society while freedom of religious expression has been severely restricted and limited to approved areas in our society.

 The Jeremiah Project points out several cases where  encroaching secularism has violated our freedom of religious expression.

In Our Schools...

Freedom of speech and press is guaranteed to students unless the topic is religious, at which time such speech becomes unconstitutional. [Stein vs. Oshinski, 1965; Collins v. Chandler Unified School district, 644 F. 2d 759, 760 (9th Cir. 1981).]

Remove student prayer: "Prayer in its public school system breaches the constitutional wall of separation between Church and State." [Engel v. Vitale, 370 U.S. 421, 425 (1962).] On June 26, 1962, the Supreme Court bans the New York State school prayer, "Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers and our country."

It is unconstitutional for students to hear prayers of the Chaplain of the U.S. House or Senate. [State Board of Ed. vs. Board of Ed. of Netcong, 1970]

Remove benedictions and invocations from school activities: "Religious high school commencement exercise conveyed message that district had given its endorsement to prayer and religion, so that school district was properly [prohibited] from including invocation in commencement exercise." [Graham v. Central Community School Distict of Decatur County, 608 F. Supp. 531, 536 (W.D.N.Y. 1985; Kay by Disselbrett v. Douglas School District 719 F. 2d 875 (or. Ct. App. 1986; Jager v. Douglas, 862 F. 2d 824, 825 (11th Cir. 1989).]

If a voluntary, nondenominational prayer is coercive, what would you call the left indoctrination that has become the staple of modern pedagogy, from condom distribution to AIDS education to multiculturalism to Earth worship?

Prayer before athletic events is unconstitutional. [Jager vs Douglas, 1989]

In Our Court Rooms...

Remove the Ten Commandments from view: "If the posted copies of the Ten Commandments are to have any effect at all, it will be to induce the schoolchildren to read, meditate upon, perhaps to venerate and obey, the not a permissible state objective under the Establishment Clause...The mere posting of the copies [of the Ten Commandments]...the [First Amendment] prohibits." [Stone v. Gramm, 449 U.S. 39, 42 (1980).]

The ACLU has filed suit against Etowah County Circuit Judge Roy S. Moore asking that prayer be banned from his chamber and that he be ordered to remove a copy of the Ten Commandments from the wall above his bench. [Birmingham News/Birmingham Post-Herald, April 1, 1995.]

In California and Pennsylvania, prosecutors were banned from referring to the Bible in state courtrooms. [Pat Robertson, newsletter, March 1993.]

In the Public Square...

The city of Vienna, Virginia put up a secular Christmas scene alongside a nativity scene to avoid trouble. But that wasn't good enough for the ACLU, who filed suit, won, and had the nativity scene removed. Intimidated by the ACLU, city leaders asked the Vienna city chorus to sing only secular songs at the Christmas program. To its credit, the chorus refused. Now the city has dropped the program altogether. [D. James Kennedy, Coral Ridge Ministries newsletter, October 31, 1994]

More here


Ron Russell said...

The secularist movement is slowly, but steadily chipping away at religious freedom and have been doing it for many year via the SCOTUS and others such as the ACLU. The next big shoe to drop will be an effort to take away the tax exemption enjoyed by many religious institutions. That will mean the end to many small community churches and church charities.

Fuzzy Slippers said...

We need to start defending our constitutionally-guaranteed right to the free exercise of our religion. We've just let the left run wild with their phony "separation of church and state" thing (freedom FROM religion), when we are guaranteed to freedom OF religion. I'm sick of it. Taking our country back means taking back our God and our religion.

Z said...

Everybody has freedoms BUT CHRISTIANS.
Teresa, your post is excellent..And VERY depressing :-)
Imagine any of us even considering these kinds of things just 10 years ago? WHO'D HAVE THOUGHT?
I'm with Ron Russell..and have been saying it for five yrs or tax exemption is next..
it'll be in the guise of some islamist thing but WE will get it, too...
We take the church charities out and everybody HAS to go to the big gov't teet, right? God Help us ALL...this is NOT what He or the Founding Fathers pictured our country...

Doug Indeap said...

Secularism--i.e., keeping government and religion separate--protects freedom of religion.

When discussing separation of church and state, it is critical to distinguish between the "public square" and "government." The principle of separation of church and state does not, as some suggest, purge religion from the public square--far from it. Indeed, the First Amendment's "free exercise" clause assures that each individual is free to exercise and express his or her religious views--publicly as well as privately. Students, for instance, are free to pray or otherwise exercise their religion in school as long as they do so in a time, manner, and place that does not interfere with school programs and activities.

The Amendment constrains only the government not to promote or otherwise take steps toward establishment of religion. As government can only act through the individuals comprising its ranks, when those individuals are performing their official duties (e.g., public school teachers instructing students in class), they effectively are the government and thus should conduct themselves in accordance with the First Amendment's constraints on government. When acting in their individual capacities, they are free to exercise their religions as they please. If their right to free exercise of religion extended even to their discharge of their official responsibilities, however, the First Amendment constraints on government establishment of religion would be eviscerated. While figuring out whether someone is speaking for the government may sometimes be difficult, making the distinction is critical.

The First Amendment embodies the simple, just idea that each of us should be free to exercise his or her religious views without expecting that the government will endorse or promote those views and without fearing that the government will endorse or promote the religious views of others. By keeping government and religion separate, the establishment clause serves to protect the freedom of all to exercise their religion. Reasonable people may differ, of course, on how these principles should be applied in particular situations, but the principles are hardly to be doubted. Moreover, they are good, sound principles that should be nurtured and defended, not attacked. Efforts to undercut our secular government by somehow merging or infusing it with religion should be resisted by every patriot.

Wake Forest University recently published a short, objective Q&A primer on the current law of separation of church and state. I commend it to you.

Fuzzy Slippers said...

Well, DI, there is no "separation of church and state" in our Constitution. There is, as you note, the establishment clause--this only says that the government itself cannot establish a state religion, and there is the free exercise clause, guaranteeing the people the right to freely exercise their religion without the government interfering.

What has happened, however, is that for decades the left have been bringing lawsuits, seating judges, and lobbying against religion. Their goal is only and solely to eliminate all vestiges of religion from our society, and they approach this wildly misreading and mis-applying the establishment clause. And it's high time, past time, for us to turn the tables. We must stop the erosion of our society, including our schools, by reinstating God--not the government--as the final Word.

The lawsuits they win against religion in schools and in everything related to government are the actual constitutional violations because they limit and restrict the free exercise of religion. No one can tell a child in a public school that they cannot, for instance, pray before a meal or a teacher that they cannot use the word "God" in a classroom--restricting these and other activities are clear violations of the First Amendment. So how, we all ask in wonder, is it that these very things have been banned? And upheld in courts of law? How indeed. Time to fight back!

Doug Indeap said...

Fuzzy Slippers,

The phrase “separation of church and state” is but a metaphor to describe the underlying principle of the First Amendment and the no-religious-test clause of the Constitution. That the phrase does not appear in the text of the Constitution assumes much importance, it seems, only to those who may have once labored under the misimpression it was there and later learned they were mistaken. To those familiar with the Constitution, the absence of the metaphor commonly used to describe one of its principles is no more consequential than the absence of other phrases (e.g., Bill of Rights, separation of powers, checks and balances, fair trial, religious liberty) used to describe other undoubted Constitutional principles.

Some try to pass off the Supreme Court's decision in Everson v. Board of Education as simply a misreading of Jefferson's letter to the Danbury Baptists--as if that is the only basis of the Court's decision. Instructive as that letter is, it played but a small part in the Court's decision. Perhaps even more than Jefferson, James Madison influenced the Court's view. Madison, who had a central role in drafting the Constitution and the First Amendment, confirmed that he understood them to "[s]trongly guard[] . . . the separation between Religion and Government." Madison, Detached Memoranda (~1820). He made plain, too, that they guarded against more than just laws creating state sponsored churches or imposing a state religion. Mindful that even as new principles are proclaimed, old habits die hard and citizens and politicians could tend to entangle government and religion (e.g., "the appointment of chaplains to the two houses of Congress" and "for the army and navy" and "[r]eligious proclamations by the Executive recommending thanksgivings and fasts"), he considered the question whether these actions were "consistent with the Constitution, and with the pure principle of religious freedom" and responded: "In strictness the answer on both points must be in the negative. The Constitution of the United States forbids everything like an establishment of a national religion."

The notion that so-called liberal judges are working to eliminate religion from society is poppycock. Notwithstanding sometimes lofty rhetoric about an insurmountable wall of separation between church and state, courts and commentators recognize various limitations and exceptions (more even, I suspect, than Madison would countenance). Again, I commend the Wake Forest paper to you, as it does a nice job of sorting through this. The so-called wall, as maintained by the courts, is low and leaky enough to allow quite a variety of religion-government relationships. Indeed, the exceptions and nuances recognized by the courts can confuse laymen and lawyers alike, which occasionally prompts some to question the principle itself, since decisions in various cases may seem contradictory (e.g., sometimes government display of the 10 commandments is okay and sometimes not).

Fuzzy Slippers said...

DI, you write: "The notion that so-called liberal judges are working to eliminate religion from society is poppycock."

Actually, the elimination of religion from our society is a stated goal of both American communists and socialists, just as it has always been of both ideologies. It's also, unsurprisingly, a key aspect of the "progressive" path to socialism, and for many--as with Lenin--on to communism, that was laid out back in the early 1900s here in America. The division on how to get there ("progressively" or by violent revolution) did not kill the movement/s. Nor did it kill their active goal of eliminating religion from society. And of doing so via both k-12 education and the courts.

Every Marxist, socialist, and communist knows that the only way to their goal is over the dead body (figuratively speaking) of God. From Marx himself to Lenin to Stalin and right down to Saul Alinsky (BO's personal "radical" hero), they all talk about the need to remove the influence of Christianity and to engage in "anti-religious" policies until the influence of Christianity on society is so muted as to be nonexistent. It's not a "conspiracy theory," it's historical, documented fact. It's part of the whole ideological makeup of all statists that cannot be ignored, myopically viewed through this court decision or that, nor dismissed as "poppycock."

Doug Indeap said...

Fuzzy Slippers,

Pointing out that some in our society would like to reduce or even end theism's influence is one thing. Attributing that goal to the many judges who have ruled on separation of church and state issues over the years is quite another. (You'll be hard put, by the way, to find a communist or even a socialist among them.)

Again, separation of church and state merely prevents the government itself from promoting or opposing religion and, thereby, protects the freedom of all individuals to exercise their religions without government promotion or opposition. The principle does not, by the way, prevent a child in public school from praying before a meal, nor does it prevent a teacher from using the word "god" in a classroom. Students are free to exercise their religions at school, as long as they do so in a time, manner, and place that does not conflict or interfere with school activities. Teachers are free to exercise their religions when acting as individuals and not as agents of their government employer. It is sometimes difficult to discern the line between government action and individual action, but that is the line the Constitution draws and the courts seek.

Teresa said...

Ron: You are correct. I fear that our government is going to take away Churches tax exempt status also.

Teresa said...

Thank you for your excellent and eloquent comments. I second your first response to DI. The Left has distorted the whole "separation of Church and State" to advance the anti-God or removal of God from everywhere in our society agemda in order to promote a secularist agenda. This is our time to fight "fire with fire" and defend our inalienable right to free speech which includes religious speech and freedom of religion.

Teresa said...

Your right. Christians are treated like 2nd class citizens nowadays. We must stop secularists from eroding our religious freedoms.

Teresa said...

"Secularism--i.e., keeping government and religion separate--protects freedom of religion."

Government and religion or God are not meant to be separate. The only restriction that our Founding Fathers gave regarding religion was to ensure the State did not adopt a State religion and impose one specific religion on the people.

The judges did misrepresent Jefferson's religious views in the case of Everson v. Board of Education. The Danbury were concerned about what "the free exercise of religion" meant since it is general and they thought religious rights could be perceived as alienable. But, then Jefferson understood their concern and made numerous declarations to clarify:

[N]o power over the freedom of religion . . . [is] delegated to the United States by the Constitution. Kentucky Resolution, 1798

In matters of religion, I have considered that its free exercise is placed by the Constitution independent of the powers of the general [federal] government. Second Inaugural Address, 1805

[O]ur excellent Constitution . . . has not placed our religious rights under the power of any public functionary. Letter to the Methodist Episcopal Church, 1808

I consider the government of the United States as interdicted [prohibited] by the Constitution from intermeddling with religious institutions . . . or exercises. Letter to Samuel Millar, 1808

Teresa said...

James Madison's statements on religious views are self-contradictory so using them to discredit the use of God in our government is deceptive. Plus, Today liberals are using Madison's statements to promote false views of our Founders and liberals are just distorting reality or the truth, plain and simple.

Madison stated: I have sometimes thought there could not be a stronger testimony in favor of religion or against temporal enjoyments, even the most rational and manly, than for men who occupy the most honorable and gainful departments and [who] are rising in reputation and wealth, publicly to declare their unsatisfactoriness by becoming fervent advocates in the cause of Christ; and I wish you may give in your evidence in this way.

Madison stated this on the First Amendment: The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established.

In 1789, Madison served on the Congressional committee which authorized, approved, and selected paid Congressional chaplains.

In 1812, President Madison signed a federal bill which economically aided a Bible Society in its goal of the mass distribution of the Bible.

Doug Indeap said...


The legislative history of the First Amendment belies the narrow scope you would give it. The first Congress debated and rejected just such a narrow provision ("no religion shall be established by law, nor shall the equal rights of conscience be infringed") and ultimately chose the more broadly phrased prohibition now found in the Amendment. As reflected in his Detached Memoranda, Madison certainly did not read the Amendment as you suggest. Madison stated his views consistently on this score. The quotation you offer, saying it pertains to the First Amendment, actually was uttered with respect to the proposal quoted above, not the First Amendment as adopted. You cannot, with credibility, so readily dismiss the plainly expressed intent of the founder perhaps most central to the drafting of both the Constitution and the First Amendment.

In keeping with the Amendment's terms and legislative history, the courts have wisely interpreted it to restrict the government from taking steps that could establish religion de facto as well as de jure. Were the Amendment interpreted merely to preclude Congress from enacting a statute formally establishing a national church, the intent of the Amendment could easily be circumvented by Congress and/or the Executive doing all sorts of things to promote this or that religion--stopping just short of formally establishing a church.

Nor can Jefferson's letter to the Danbury Baptists be discounted as solely about the free exercise of religion and not government establishment of religion. The Baptists expressed their concern about Connecticut's religious establishment as well. Jefferson took the opportunity to offer his own views of the First Amendment's meaning. His only mention of the free exercise was in conjunction with reference to the establishment clause, which together erect the wall of separation. His words: ". . . I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature would 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between church and state."

The very letter to Samuel Millar you quote affirms Jefferson's understanding that "the government of the United States [is] interdicted by the Constitution from intermeddling with religious institutions . . . or exercises." Favoring this or that religion and thereby disfavoring others is about as intermeddling as can be.

Which brings me back to the main point. The First Amendment's prohibition against government intermeddling in religion serves to protect (rather than encroach on) each individual's freedom of religion by assuring that the government will not interfere by favoring or disfavoring any religion.

Fuzzy Slippers said...

There is nothing in the constitution about the government meddling (or "intermeddling") in religion. The amendment clearly states that the government can not do two things: establish a religion or restrict the people's free exercise of their religion.

That's it. Period.

Court decisions have been made, many restricting free exercise of religion and many designed to remove religion from the public sector. These decisions can, at any time, be overruled by a new court (just as the court can overturn prior rulings as in Citizens United and the Chicago gun ruling that just came down). There are more and more conservatives now more than willing and able to stand up for their First Amendment right to freely exercise their religion, and I suspect that there are many court battles to be waged with regard to the until recently relatively unchallenged concept of "separation of church and state." That's been bandied about by people who want to banish religion from public life, but it is not a valid constitutional argument. That's why legal groups like Pacific Legal are taking case after case of teachers being fired, school board members praying, Christian student groups disbanded, and cheerleaders being told they can't hold up signs with scripture written on them at school pep rallies.

Teresa said...

"The First Amendment's prohibition against government intermeddling in religion serves to protect (rather than encroach on) each individual's freedom of religion by assuring that the government will not interfere by favoring or disfavoring any religion."

This would be fine if the government did not interfere in our freedom of religion which is what is happening today. But, you are making religious freedom alienble, dependent on the government giving us certain religious rights when freedom of religion is in fact an inalienable right.

Could you quote the 1st Congress rejecting that narrow provision?

"Favoring this or that religion and thereby disfavoring others is about as intermeddling as can be."

I agree with this, but that isn't what is happening nowadays. Today, the individuals' religious rights are being infringed upon and encraoched upon by secularism. There is no respect (not usually any) for religion among secularists.

Doug Indeap said...

Fuzzy Slippers,

You repeat your assertion that the First Amendment states merely that the government cannot establish a religion or restrict the free exercise of religion and helpfully add "That's it. Period." Only problem is you fail even to address my previous posts debunking your assertion with evidence, reasoning, and such.

As for your further assertion that court decisions restrict free exercise of religion and are "designed to remove religion from the public sector," I urge you to remove the ideological blinders and deal with the actual decisions the courts really make. They hardly resemble the politically charged caricature you paint. Again, I commend the Wake Forest paper to you. Prepared by knowledgeable lawyers representing the full range of interests, it objectively describes the law as the courts apply it today.


The legislative history of the First Amendment, including the provision I quoted and Madison's remarks about it, can be found many places on the internet and in many books. Here are two convenient ones: and