Friday, October 03, 2008

The First Amendment--Another Look

Fr. Neuhaus:

The deepest deformation is the subordinating of free exercise to no-establishment. Once we forget that no-establishment is a means and instrument in support of free exercise, it is a short step to talking about the supposed conflict or tension between the two provisions. And from there it is a short step to the claim, as it has been claimed in numerous court decisions, that the two parts of the religion clause are “pitted against one another” and must somehow be “balanced.”

And from there it is but another short step to the idea that the no-establishment provision protects “secular liberty” while the free exercise provision protects “religious liberty.” When the religion clause is construed according to this curious inversion, it is no surprise that religious liberty comes out the loser. Any impingement of religion upon public life is taken to violate the secular liberty of the non-religious. Thus has no-establishment become the master of the free exercise that it was designed to serve.

As a result,

In education, social services, and other dimensions of public life, it is claimed that, for the sake of the non-establishment of religion, Americans must surrender the free exercise of religion

Ain't THAT a curious way to look at 'free exercise'?


Once more, Jefferson’s underlined sentence: “The opinions of men are not the object of civil government, nor under its jurisdiction.” The state of current First Amendment jurisprudence is such that the opinions of men and women, when they are identified as religious, have been placed under the jurisdiction of the government. According to the inverted construal of the religion clause, wherever the writ of government runs the voice of religion must be silenced or stifled—and the writ of government runs almost everywhere. As we shall see, this gross distortion of the religion clause of the First Amendment is coming under sharp challenge today.

And that challenge is a good thing.

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