Freedom for, of, and from religion

By Phil Plait | November 11, 2007 11:52 pm

The first official day of the meeting for the Americans United for Separation of Church and State has drawn to a close, and it’s been excellent. AU invited several bloggers to this meeting in an effort to help people understand what the organization is all about. We talked about grassroots activism to start off, and later we had a get together of bloggers (more on that in a later post) and ended with a really good talk from the Reverend Barry Lynn, who is the head of AU, and his trials with getting people to understand why keeping religion and government separate is so critical to our democracy.

Perhaps it’s ironic that the meeting began on a Sunday, but there you go. It’s certainly appropriate. It wasn’t a conscious decision to thumb a nose at religion… and oddly, that’s not even the real irony.

The actual irony is that AU is a group that does not fight against religion. It ensures the freedom of religion by making sure that no one uses religion to legislate or to enforce their own beliefs on others. And despite the cries of the far right, this does not protect just the nonreligious!

The counterexample isn’t hard to imagine. Suppose Muslims started increasing their citizenship numbers (through immigration, having lots of kids, or conversion) until they got a majority in 2/3 3/4 of the states. They could then amend the U.S. Constitution to override the First Amendment, and thus legislate anti-Christian rules. How do you think the average fundamentalist or evangelist would react to such an event?

The AU would be their very best friend. The Constitution was written to preserve the rights of the minority. The AU fights for this very thing.

There is no difference between freedom of religion and freedom from religion, except for point of view. What is "of" for you is "from" for me. But what’s "of" for me is "from" for you! The idea that some people complain that AU and ACLU and others fight for freedom "from" religion is a distraction and, more forthrightly, a lie. They want freedom for their own religion, but don’t they also want freedom from another?

So let’s put this another way: having said this, what groups would be opposed to what the AU does? The only group I can think of that would fight this would be one that wants to initiate theocratic rule over you, because they want their religion to be the only one used on which to base society, and from which to legislate laws. This is a fundamentally anti-American stance. They don’t want freedom for religion — they want freedom for their religion.

AU fights for everyone. Thats why I support them.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Piece of mind, Politics, Religion, Science

Comments (50)

Links to this Post

  1. squnlimited » Freedom for, of, and from religion | November 12, 2007
  2. Freedom for, of, and from religion | November 16, 2007
  1. Quiet Desperation

    You don’t have to imagine such things. Just keep an eye on Europe. The religious culture clash there of the Islamic influx versus the secular establishment is only going to grow. The evalgelical types here in the US, while endlessly annoying, sometimes seem to be a pack of dilettantes in comparison.

  2. “AU fights for everyone. Thats why I support them.” -amen. I could not have said it better myself.

    Also, I was looking at the bottom of the page and noticed something quite amusing: “Luke: I am your footer.” I lol’d.

  3. Essentially, you’re proposing “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” How odd that so many so-called Christians have difficulty with the concept.

  4. scienceteacherinexile

    Yeah, it is good to have groups like the AU. The people who want to force their religion on the rest of us believe they are working on divine mandate. It is hard to rationalize with someone like that, which is why these things have to go to court so often.
    Keep fighting the good fight AU!!

  5. tacitus

    Yes, Europe is having to deal with issues over the Islamic religion, and will continue to do so. Of course, many wingnuts believe that it is only a matter of time that Europe will fall under Muslim dominion because of the failure of the Christian bulwark to stem the time.

    Of course, that is nonsense, the demographic trends do not support it, but all the same, integration of minority Muslim populations is definitely an issue that has to be tackled. In the end, some sensible level of compromise will be found. Many Muslim traditions are allowed, but European governments will draw the line at anything approaching the full implementation of Sharia Law.

    I saw a dreadful article by Orson Scott Card on this subject regarding the US, where he was suggesting that all Muslim congregations be forced to join a recognized “denomination” that would be required to denounced seditious activities (amongst other things). Otherwise they would not be protected under the Constitution. He likened the idea to what happened to his Mormon Church when polygamy was outlawed by the federal government. There may be some parallels, but what he is suggesting would never be accepted by Christians if the government attempted to imposed it on them.

    I used to be a fan of Orson Scott Card until (a) his books became chock full of preaching and moralizing and (b) I found out that even though he claims to be a Democrat, he has some very wingnutty political ideas.

  6. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    This is an excellent point to place at the basic of working for freedom/freedom for minorities (and constitution, for US). It is, as so many times, the special pleading for religion or more specifically for the pleaders religion that interferes with a simple notion.

    For me it shows that the old chestnut is actually true: “there is only a small difference between an atheist and a believer: they agree that most deities don’t exists and disagree about a few of them”. The difference in practice between freedom for religion and freedom of religion is but a group (of atheists), and in principle there is none.

    But as it isn’t in the interest for theists of any specific religion to accept the natural non-pleading perspective, one has to pound the freedom perspective instead.

    Many Muslim traditions are allowed, but European governments will draw the line at anything approaching the full implementation of Sharia Law.

    Quite true. I can’t predict how integration of diverse theo-fascistic religions will turn out. But I note that it seems the majority of immigrants from muslim nations here [Sweden] want to keep the separation between state and religion. I imagine it can be part of the very reason they immigrated.

    The current conflicts are low key. For example “Muhammad dogs”, i.e. artistic presentation of religion and its conflicts being accused of defamation, and provocative religious and/or cultural symbolism.

    The Mohammad dogs is a test case for freedom (of speech) vs special pleading btw, a few muslims demonstrated for that it shouldn’t be allowed but it resolved peacefully so far. The authority for crisis handling has recently provided a sum for research into the difference in press reactions between Sweden and islamic nations. And the artist will make a musical describing it all. :-P

  7. Herman D'Hondt

    You don’t even need to think as far afield as Muslims to see a problem.

    I’m Australian, but I feel that, if the catholics tried to get pro-catholic legislation passed, fundamentalist christian Americans would be calling for a revolution. Let’s face it, no religion could stand it if another one tried to impose its laws – even if they honour the same god.

  8. hdhondt

    You don’t even need to think as far afield as Muslims to see a problem.

    I’m Australian, but I feel that, if the catholics tried to get pro-catholic legislation passed, fundamentalist christian Americans would be calling for a revolution. Let’s face it, no religion could stand it if another one tried to impose its laws – even if they honour the same god.

  9. boggis the cat

    You only need read a little history to see how religion is used if it is invested with state power. Less “religious” wars would be better, and the only way to ensure that is to keep the common space in society free from religion.

    There are some issues around religious/cultural traditions, e.g. Christmas in the nominally “Christian” western nations, but provided these are not turned into state-sponsored rituals they are fairly harmless.

    Unfortunately it seems that it is always easier to convince many people to hate others than love them. As far as I am aware, all of the major religions encourage the later and prohibit the former (except on some narrow grounds).

    It is only the weaselly hair-splitting religious lawyers / liars such as Osama Bin Laden or your average US “Televangelist” lunatic that poison and distort the basic message. My suggestion is that you also need a group to actively pursue these frauds and constantly publicise their dirty laundry. Eventually the stench should drive away even the most ardent supporters of these messengers of hate.

    If everyone stuck to the tolerance of difference that e.g. the New Testament and Quaran focus on, as concerns our dealings with one another, the world would be a much happier place.

  10. Mark

    Torbjörn Larsson, OM wrote: “But I note that it seems the majority of immigrants from muslim nations here [Sweden] want to keep the separation between state and religion. I imagine it can be part of the very reason they immigrated.”

    It makes sense that the first generation will feel that way. Its future generations, like those that comprise the christian fundamentalists in the US that can be a problem.

  11. ND Stegs

    “…until they got a majority in 2/3 of the states. They could then amend the U.S. Constitution…”

    They could then *propose* amendments. They’d need 3/4 of the states to get them ratified.

    Article V: “The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress”

  12. BFane

    “There is no difference between freedom of religion and freedom from religion, except for point of view.” I would suggest that this is not entirely true. The idea of “freedom from religion” implies that a person should be able to live their lives without having to interact with religion or religious ideas, displays, people, etc. Yes, the government shouldn’t be sponsoring these things in any way, shape, or form, but that shouldn’t prevent an individual from displaying or saying articles of faith in public.

    The unfortunate thing is that the more theocratically-bent have twisted the fight for a secular government to be a fight against religion. Which explains why, while standing in a line I overheard a comment between two guys — one was wearing a t-shirt showing the Ten Commandments. His buddy made a glib remark that he’d have to be careful or the ACLU would make him take it off.

  13. Zoot

    Freedom of religion as practiced in democratic countries is actually a rather logical consequence of every citizen being equal to the law and governance of the nation.

    And it is a fairly obvious one, more so than marriage (or equivalent legal provisions) for gay couples for example (though I’d argue that that’s fairly obvious too, come to think of it).

    The only reason not to accept it is that you think your religion is special while failing to recognize that every religious believer thinks his religion is special. To think that you are special by virtue of your religion, and deserve special treatment.

    A failure of seeing the bigger picture and applying logic.

    Ultimately a failure of education.

  14. BaldApe

    Excellent post. It ranks right up there with the speech about the ACLU in “The American President.”

    “Yes I am a member of the American Civil Liberties Union. My question is, why aren’t you? This is the organization that has, as it’s sole goal, the defense of the Bill of Rights.”

    I most likely got the words wrong, but that speech (and maybe your post too) should be required reading in all high school civics classes.

  15. In the UK we have had a state church, in the form of the Church of England, of which the head of State, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II is also the head.

    This arrangement seems to work ok over here.

  16. Graeme

    This is a pure system testusing an alternate id to see if the spam filters have it in for me – I am going to mention the result on the forum.

    I normally post as Sticks

  17. When the religion clause of the First Amendment was being debated, Roger Sherman, a devout Quaker, spoke out against it.

    Was it because he wanted a theocracy? Did he want Quakers, or Christians in general, to impose their rule?

    Absolutely not! He was as much in favor of separation of church and state as anyone. He was against it because he felt it would lead to the very misconceptions that got us into this mess now.

    See, the Constitution works on the principle of Enumerated Powers. If a power is not granted to the Federal government in Article I Section 8, they can’t do it. Since the government was not given any power to establish religion or prohibit its free exercise, the religion clause was redundant.

    But he foresaw a problem: by putting this clause into the First Amendment, it implies that without it, government WOULD have a legitimate power to do so, and so as long as people can debate about what the clause actually means, then any little perception might be perceived–wrongly–to be an implied power of the government.

    That is absolutely what’s going on now. But even if the First Amendment were repealed, government STILL wouldn’t have the power to establish a religion or prohibit its free exercise.

    And people who don’t understand that just don’t understand the Constitution. And as long as we don’t understand it, we’ll be having to spend all of this time and energy over something the government has absolutely no legitimate authority whatsoever to do in the first place.

  18. Actually, the speech from “An American President” flitted briefly through my mind last night as I drafted up this post. But since Aaron Sorkin stole from me once, I think it’s OK if I reciprocate.

    From the movie:

    For the record: yes, I am a card-carrying member of the ACLU. But the more important question is why aren’t you, Bob? Now, this is an organization whose sole purpose is to defend the Bill of Rights, so it naturally begs the question: Why would a senator, his party’s most powerful spokesman and a candidate for President, choose to reject upholding the Constitution? If you can answer that question, folks, then you’re smarter than I am, because I didn’t understand it until a few hours ago. America isn’t easy. America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, ’cause it’s gonna put up a fight. It’s gonna say “You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours. You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country can’t just be a flag; the symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms. Then, you can stand up and sing about the “land of the free”.

  19. Darth Robo

    “I strongly disagree with what you say, but I will fight for your right to be able to say it.”

    Said by, um, somebody sometime…

  20. First of all:
    “The Constitution was written to preserve the rights of the minority. ”

    That statement is bogus, and is only used by people who believe that they must sue for their right to impose their will on the majority. You should have said, “The Constitution was written to preserve the rights of the American People.” People that spend their time ignoring the feelings of the majority trying to “fight for the minority” are people that don’t understand the principles that America was founded upon. Real patriots are people that fight for the majority’s right to dictate to our leaders how they want to be led as much as equally hard as they fight for the minority’s right to disagree with the majority. Most people in the freedom of/from religion camps don’t understand the principle.

    Even you seem to be speaking from both sides of your mouth.

    You support an organization for defending the rights of everyone, yet you deride your counterparts on the topic of God and religion.

    I don’t have a problem if people choose to be atheist, agostic, pastic (those adoring airborne pasta monsters), or theist. Most of the outspoken, whether it be on the “right” or “left” of an issue, are suffering from a bout of cognitive dissonance (CD for short). Many of your blog posts fall into this category as well.

    I think the most interesting piece of this whole religion vs. government discussion is that freedom of/from religion and the separation of church and state are very different topics. When they get lumped together is when you start to see the CD problem come into play, and if we allow CD to rule our thoughts, legislation and action the very principles that America was built on break down.

  21. Rav Winston
  22. Rav Winston

    No. Wait– That’s a misattribution. Erm. Hang on. I have it here somewhere…

  23. Rav Winston

    Okay. Apparently it was an Evelyn Beatrice Hall, who was paraphrasing Voltaire in a letter or an essay. And somehow the quote– “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”– became attributed directly to Voltaire.

  24. Doc

    Shane,

    Thanks for that note – it’s a bit of history I hadn’t been aware of.

    Having seen first hand how (some) Quaker organizations try to think things through in order to avoid potential problems, I can easily see how Sherman would have come to his conclusion.

  25. Redx

    Shane Killian,

    Was Roger Sherman speaking out specifically about the religion clause, the first amendment or the bill of rights in genral?

    Mucking about in wikipedia and google don’t seem to return all that much on the topic.

    SoF is my favorite western religion ever, and if I was a christian, that’s almost certainly the sect I’d belong to.

  26. Quiet_Desperation

    tactius: > “Of course, many wingnuts believe that it is only a matter of time that Europe will fall under Muslim dominion because of the failure of the Christian bulwark to stem the time.”

    Well, I’m no wingnut, but I give EU until about 2020 before being Islamacized. :)

    Sounds like an exercise program. Islamacize your way to weight loss! Explosives sold seperately!

    Aw, geez. There goes *another* fatwa against me…

    Not that it’ll matter. Most of the EU will be submerged under melted polar caps anyway.

    >”European governments will draw the line at anything approaching the full implementation of Sharia Law.”

    Some Muslim communities are just implementing it on their own.

    >”though he claims to be a Democrat, he has some very wingnutty political ideas.”

    I really don’t get the “Democrats can’t be wingnuts” meme. I know the GOP is an unholy holy mess right now, but I don’t get the pass so many give to the Democrats. Come to California. Our state government has some of the worst of the worst the Dem Party has to offer.

    One of them introduced a motion to make all state government buildings follow the “principles” of Fung Shui. Resolution ACR 144. Look it up. That one was at least funny. There are others who insist on bringing legislation to the floor year after year even though the voters have show they are against it by huge margins. *Representative* democracy? Helloooooooo!

    Phil: >”I am a card-carrying member of the ACLU. But the more important question is why aren’t you, Bob?”

    Because I agree with their spirit but not many of their tactics? Today’s ACLU is not the same one that fought the Scopes Monkey Trial. I’m really quite unhappy with their “money is speech” approach to campaign finance reform. And Romero’s secret complicity with the CFC, in opposition to the ACLU’s public stance, was the last straw for me.

    >”Now, this is an organization whose sole purpose is to defend the Bill of Rights, ”

    Very naive. This is why one should not quote movie scripts in a real world discussion (barring discussions about movies, of course). The ACLU has threatened to expel some of its own members for speaking out about problems within the ACLU.

    If they at least demote Romero and Strossen and get some fresh leadership I may take them seriously again. Google articles by Wendy Kaminer and Michael Meyers, former ACLU board members, for more info on the mess.

  27. Gary Ansorge

    I just finished reading the Wikipedia entry on the US constitution, First Amendment. I note that it is the ONLY such statement on the separation of church/state in any constitution in the world.
    Wow! Those old guys who started this United States were really ahead of the curve.

    Darth Rebo:
    I believe that statement should include”…I will fight TO THE DEATH, for your right to say it,,,”.

    I LOVE humans. Of all the sentient species I know, they are the most passionate.

    Gary 7

  28. Redx: Sherman was speaking about the religion clause in particular, but I believe he did apply that concept to the entire Bill of Rights. He did make the same argument about other clauses, such as freedom of the press. I know Alexander Hamilton opposed the Bill of Rights on the same grounds, in Federalist #84. The reason for the 9th and 10th Amendments (completely ignored nowadays) was to assuage their fears.

  29. Duane Johnson

    For an interesting article dealing with the origins of separation of church and state in the U.S., I suggest http://www.uuworld.org/ideas/articles/50591.shtml

  30. Grand Lunar

    I recall reading someone in a religous newspaper that went on about “Freedom of religon doesn’t mean freedom FROM religon.”

    I imagine the author of that article (which I read many years ago) probably hates what the AU is trying to do.

    I wonder what the eventual result of the AU’s efforts will be. I hope it does seek and end to this nonsense with creationists trying to turn back education a couple of centuries. And I hope intelligent design goes down as well.

    More power to you guys!

  31. ozprof

    Hi BA,

    If you are *really* interested in freedom from and of religion, then you should subscribe to “Liberty Magazine”. For over 100 years, this magazine has been at the forefront of keeping religion and politics separate.

    http://www.libertymagazine.org/

    Cheers

  32. Nick

    Yu don’t have to worry about influx of Islam in western nations. u have got to plenty to worry about wolf(isrealis)
    in sheep clothing(pastor hagee or pat robertsons suckers)
    christianity is a shadow now, churches these days preach more for slavery to semites than welfare for a common ppl.

  33. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    Its future generations, like those that comprise the christian fundamentalists in the US that can be a problem.

    That is a good thought and a good comparison to boot. While it seems 2nd gen liberate culturally, there may be backlash as well. I see news of the former but not the later, but news is notorious for being slanted.

    I’ll have to chalk it up as a quite possible risk for the time being. The precaution that can be taken is probably to avoid alienating groups as much as possible.

    >”European governments will draw the line at anything approaching the full implementation of Sharia Law.”

    Some Muslim communities are just implementing it on their own.

    That would be, um, illegal. Maybe you mean “trying to implement” and “Sharia Unlaw”. ;-)

    Oh, and don’t be shy to point to examples and references. It may be awfully hard to guess what you are referring to, especially if it doesn’t exist.

  34. Darth Robo

    Gracias, Rav Winston & Gary 7. :-p

    Sticks (your post wasn’t there before)

    “This arrangement seems to work ok over here.”

    Depends on who you ask. While creationism has at least been ruled out of schools over here (mostly) faith schools are on the increase, which is not necessarily a good thing.

  35. VisionEngineer

    Rational Zen: “The Constitution was written to preserve the rights of the American People.”

    You are right on with that statement, but I think it also needs to be said that the constitution tries to accomplish this goal by limiting what the government can or cannot do. The constitution should never be construed as to be placing limits on what individuals can or cannot do. This is part of the reason there is such a big fight over Church vs. State. There are a lot of instances where individuals have been harassed for expressing their faith that has nothing to do with government intervention. If a group of high school christians want to get together on their lunch hour to do a bible study, they should be allowed to do so. Yet, some on the left will fight against such things saying it is in a public place. I say too bad. The constitution does not limit individual liberty. It doesn’t say worship can’t take place on public property. It simply prevents the government from establishing a religion or preventing the free excersice of religion. People that would limit worship in public are just as bad as those that would want to impose religion by government. One of the common responses I get to this argument is “Well, you’d feel differently if a group of Muslims wanted to get together to pray”. Actually, I wouldn’t. I think that is just fine. I can’t believe that we actually are having arguments over public religious displays at Christmas. A Christmas display is hardly establishing a religion. If another religion wanted to be a part of the display and were denied, that is a problem for me. Some cities have actually denied groups from entering a float in a “Holiday Parade” because the float had a religious theme. This is so bogus and wrong. These are the things that stir up a larger part of the religious right. I know a lot of conservative christians and the majority of them would never want a theocratic government or religion imposed by the state. But when anti-religion-in-public groups start limiting right to religious expression, you get a lot more people willing to join the fight. There is just as much intolerance of religion on the far left in this country as there is intolerance of non-christianity on the far right. And there is far more tolerance of other religions by the majority of christians in this country than the media will ever show.

    I also want to say that the ACLU is not geared toward defending the rights of the constitution. They pick and choose. Where is the ACLU when it comes to protecting the second ammendment? If the ACLU had the same zeal in protecting the second ammendment as they do the first ammendment, they would be saying that everybody in the U.S. is required to own a firearm! Strangely, the ACLU is largely absent from the fight to protect gun owership. (OK, getting off topic a little! :-) )

  36. Phil: Actually, starting a conference on a Sunday is less expensive for organizers. The weekends book fast, and hotels are hungry to maximize revenue.

    You got a deal — and a well earned one. Glad to hear it was a good experience.

  37. TheBlackCat

    @ Rational Zen
    You are incorrect. If the goal of the constitution was simply to protect the rights of the majority, there would be no need for the bill of rights or any other limits on the power of government. You could just set up a representative government and be done with it. That is because a representative government, by definition, does what the majority demands of it. For instance if the majority wanted every person in the country with the name “Fred” to be arrested and have their property confiscated, a representative government would have to do it. But under the U.S. constitution that would violate due process. That is would not be a problem if Freds were a majority of people because under a majority-rules system such a law could never be passed. Freds would only need to be protected from that sort of arbitrary action if they were a minority.

    Just look at the two houses of congress. In the house or representatives power is based on population. The more people you have the more votes you have. The Senate, however, is not like that. Power in the senate is set up to be even, two votes per state no matter what the population. That is about as far from a “majority rules” system as you can imagine. Election of the President is a mix of the two. And the federal court system is set up to be nearly independent of representation, they are appointed for life and cannot be removed from office. If all that mattered was majority rule then the entire government would be set up like the House of Representatives. It isn’t because the founding fathers did not trust the majority to not abuse the rights of the minority. They saw what British were able to do with unchecked power over the colonies. In fact originally voting in the U.S. was restricted to landowners. That was later changed, but if all they cared about was majority rule then such a way of doing things would never have happened.

    @ VisionEngineer
    Why would the ACLU need to defend gun ownership? There is already a major, very powerful group dedicated to that. There is no such powerful group for the other parts of the bill of rights. Sure, there is the AU but it doesn’t have anywhere near the power or visibility of either the ACLU or NRA (yet). The ACLU focuses its efforts on areas where it sees a need for its intervention. There is no such need in the case of firearms. They already have enough on their hands just handling the entire rest of the constitution.

  38. Doris B.

    This is one of the best political discussions that’s been held on this forum! Thank you one and all.

  39. Irishman

    There is no difference between freedom of religion and freedom from religion, except for point of view. What is “of” for you is “from” for me. But what’s “of” for me is “from” for you!

    BFane said:
    > The idea of “freedom from religion” implies that a person should be able to live their lives without having to interact with religion or religious ideas, displays, people, etc.

    I have come to the realization that there is more than one way to parse the sentence, “Freedom of religion means freedom from religion.” It seems to me that many religious people are taking that sentence to imply as BFane does, that the intent is to remove all personal religious expression from public venues. This is not the position of most secularists, who wish to be free from forced religion and freedom from the appearance of government preference for religion. While many of us would appreciate less encountering of the public displays, we accept them as part of living in a diverse free society and tolerate them as we would any other annoying content. What we fight against is displays and expressions that convey government sanction for one religion over others, or religiousness over non-religiousness.

    Torbjörn Larsson, OM said:
    > The current conflicts are low key. For example “Muhammad dogs”, i.e. artistic presentation of religion and its conflicts being accused of defamation, and provocative religious and/or cultural symbolism.

    >The Mohammad dogs is a test case for freedom (of speech) vs special pleading btw, a few muslims demonstrated for that it shouldn’t be allowed but it resolved peacefully so far.

    I am not familiar with the “Mohammad dogs” case you mention, but I would point out the murder of Theo Van Gogh, the riots over the printing of the cartoons about Mohammed and Islam, and roving bands of Muslim men raping and disfiguring women for the audacity of showing their faces in public (happening in European countries, no less) as examples of counter examples to the claim that conflicts are low key.

    Shane Killian said:
    > When the religion clause of the First Amendment was being debated, Roger Sherman, a devout Quaker, spoke out against it…. See, the Constitution works on the principle of Enumerated Powers. If a power is not granted to the Federal government in Article I Section 8, they can’t do it. Since the government was not given any power to establish religion or prohibit its free exercise, the religion clause was redundant.

    >But he foresaw a problem: by putting this clause into the First Amendment, it implies that without it, government WOULD have a legitimate power to do so, and so as long as people can debate about what the clause actually means, then any little perception might be perceived–wrongly–to be an implied power of the government.

    That was a debated point, and one of the reasons the clauses were compiled in the first 10 amendments and labeled “The Bill of Rights”, rather than embedded within the Constitution itself.

    Rational Zen said:
    > “The Constitution was written to preserve the rights of the American People.”

    Yes, all of the American people, not just the majority of the American people.

    VisionEngineer said:
    > If a group of high school christians want to get together on their lunch hour to do a bible study, they should be allowed to do so. Yet, some on the left will fight against such things saying it is in a public place.

    I would be interested to see an example of the claim. They would be wrong. A group of students choosing to spend their free time together in religious study is perfectly acceptable.

    > I can’t believe that we actually are having arguments over public religious displays at Christmas. A Christmas display is hardly establishing a religion. If another religion wanted to be a part of the display and were denied, that is a problem for me.

    The argument is that Christmas is a Christian holiday (baby Jesus, etc), and that the public displays are being put on by government agencies or on public property, thus coveying the appearance of a government preference for Christianity. While there are a number of sketchy or weak assumptions in that line of reasoning, it is not completely false.

  40. A lot of the framers opposed the Bill of Rights on the basis that it was redundant. Since the powers denied the government therein weren’t allowed to it in the first place, they were already denied to it. Right? Right?

    Wrong.

    For a bunch of very smart people, those of our Founding Fathers who argued against the Bill of Rights were being pretty damned stupid. What was always going to happen is what really happened. The necessary and proper clause (without which the government couldn’t function) was used to justify (quite properly, it seems, since the Supreme Court has constantly allowed it) vast expansions of the power of the federal government in order to allow the execution of its duties, until the only barrier to the government’s power is now that certain powers are expressly denied it in amendments to the constitution. (inasmuch as this fact is actually recognized by the United States Supreme Court, which appears to be spotty of late.)

  41. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    Irishman:

    I am not familiar with the “Mohammad dogs” case you mention,

    Why should you, as I was describing current events in local for Sweden? But it seems it has made it into english texts.

    counter examples to the claim that conflicts are low key.

    They don’t counter my claim that current swedish conflicts are low key.

    I’m sure we can find examples of atrocities correlated to all groups in society. Of your list I think the protests against the Mohammad cartoons are most serious (but see the later Mohammad dogs), but it was also not confined to a local protest but influenced and was influenced by abroad. If it isn’t entirely a question of integration it is hard to use it in such an analysis. (Incidentally, the same critique can be leveled against my example. But the peaceful and limited demonstrations I refer to were done before public foreign reactions AFAIU.)

    And now I have to return your question: I am not familiar with the “roving bands” case, do you have any references?

  42. JediBear:

    That’s why many of the founders didn’t want Supreme Court justices to rule for life. There’s really no checks and balances with that body, and no real recourse for the people if they make horrible anti-freedom decisions like Kelo.

    Our founders ALL knew that government will try and grab any piece of power it can justify. The “necessary and proper” clause is being abused, because the clause specifically says that it’s only the ones necessary and proper for executing an enumerated power. That part of the clause is being completely ignored.

    Really, it’s the Income Tax and the Federal Reserve that allow them to do all of this. Otherwise, they just wouldn’t have the resources. Before 1913, our Federal government ran just fine (and had more than its share of abuses as it was), but now there’s just nothing stopping the machine of government. As long as they can tax incomes with impunity, and as long as they can print up enough money to cover whatever shortfalls they want, they’ll have the power to act against anyone they like, at any time.

  43. @BlackCat

    I am not incorrect about the Constitution, I never said the role was to only protect the rights of the majority.

    What I said was that Phil was incorrect saying that it’s role is to protect the rights of the minority.

  44. TheBlackCat

    @ Rational Zen:

    What you said was:

    Real patriots are people that fight for the majority’s right to dictate to our leaders how they want to be led as much as equally hard as they fight for the minority’s right to disagree with the majority.

    So according to this it is the majority’s right to decide the rules. The minority can disagree with the rules, but it ultimately the majority that makes the decision. That is not how it works. The ability of the majority to make decisions is explicitly and carefully limited under the U.S. constitution, as I explained. The only place where a majority of the population makes a decision is in the House of Representatives, and the sort of decisions it is able to make are limited to specific sorts of decisions.

  45. Big Al

    Maybe you’re right about this Christian thing. I used to be a tithing, card-carrying Methodist. But I kind of like the idea of fearing none but the mighty. If my ability is greater than another’s I should be able to take what is his. Self-interest is the only valid interest. Cool.

  46. SK:
    The thing is that the Supreme Court has been right. Supreme Court Justices could serve two-year terms and they would still conclude that the “necessary and proper” clause lets Congress do very well nigh anything they like, persuant to their extensive enumerated powers and duties.

    The income tax is actually an enumerated power, established by the sixteenth amendment to the United States Constitution. Article I, Section 8 establishes the power of Congress to “lay and collect” uniform “Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises.”

    The Federal Reserve is a private entity from which the federal government borrows money, as allowed in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution.

    As to the Supreme Court, it’s not nearly as inviolate as you think. Only the /existence/ and /powers/ of some (as opposed to any particular) supreme court are established in the constitution. In theory, any of all of the justices could be replaced by executive order or act of congress. The court could be expanded or reduced in number of justices, or a term of service could be established without even amendment to the constitution, which has always been and remains possible.

    Lacking even this, the Justices of the United States Supreme Court are subject to impeachment, trial, and removal for “High Crimes and Misdemeanors.” (such as judicial misconduct.)

    The recourse of citizens to an unfair decision by the Supreme Court, then, is to enist the aid of their Senators, Representatives, and President. No one branch of government can ultimately stand against the other two united.

    As to Kelo v. City of New London (which I’ll admit I had to look up,) the Supreme Court’s decision appears to be correct in terms of the current form of the Constitution. The power of eminent domain is not provided but limited by the Fifth Amendment, which does not actually limit its use to public use, but only requires compensation (which was provided.) If Kelo offends you, I might suggest that you advocate a bill banning such use of eminent domain, or move to one the the states where it is already illegal.

  47. JediBear:

    I’d love to see you explain how taking property from citizens to give to a corporation constitutes “public use.”

  48. Jeff

    I know it’s in the comments up there somewhere, but why are so many people intent on making sure that everyone knows their beliefs? “I’m a Christian and…” If you need validation from others about your religious beliefs, you have problems

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