Thursday, June 5, 2014
Let’s Revise the First Amendment
letter to editor, The Advocate, Baton Rouge, LA, August 7, 1999, caption by the editor.
Even before the Columbine massacre, many people claimed that government sponsored Christianity would improve behaviors. Such government would dictate religion, even though the creator allowed freedom of choice.
I think America's forefathers erred to assume government could regulate religions and religious practices, and the United States Constitution should be changed in this regard.
A Christian majority came to America in rebellion against Christian institutions. Inclusive forefathers tried to avoid the tyranny and intolerance of religion, not succeeding. Our generation could significantly improve the Constitution.
America was not intended to be a Christian nation. A single community of less than 50 Christian Separatists, Puritans, in 1620 signed the Mayflower Compact, with its Christian references, "In the name of God, Amen...Having undertaken for the Glory of God and Advancement of the Christian Faith..." There was clear Christian purpose by this small sect.
However, about 155 years later, representative leaders including Secularists, Deists and tolerant Christians had more influence than did the Puritans. Authors of the Declaration of Independence, dated July 4, 1776, used non-Christian language to recognize higher power, citing "...the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God ... the Opinions of Mankind ... their Creator ... the Supreme Judge of the World..."
The Constitution, declared in effect on March 4, 1789, does not refer to God. Coming 2 years later, the Bill of Rights contains the First Amendment: "Congress shall make no law respecting the 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 this amendment is lacking, because it assumes that government can allow religious practices that are harmful to society.
I propose revising the First Amendment to read, "Congress shall make no law respecting religion; 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." Such wording would clarify that America is a nation with laws of society. Its courts would only debate society's laws, leaving peaceful, harmless religions for believers to improve and the creator to judge.
I think clarification of the Constitution in this regard would help people focus on bad behavior as the cause of harm.
I think it is time for America to recognize that government cannot manage church. It is time to separate church from state.