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No matter the consensus, someone will still feel like an outsider

  • Published in Letters

To The Daily Sun,

In order to understand how we got to where we are today from being a nation in which Christianity exerted a central influence, you need to understand a peculiarity about our American culture. I outlined in my last letter (11/30/13) the process that caused the influence of Christianity on our culture to be weakened, but the push that began the actual severing of that influence depended upon a quirk in American culture that you might not notice if you've never experienced life in another culture. The Frenchman and historian Alexis de Tocqueville toured the U.S. in 1831. As a result of this visit, Tocqueville wrote the now famous historical work, "Democracy in America". In this commentary on our then fledgling nation, one of the things he notices is that though we in America have by constitutional guarantee freedom of speech, in our culture we draw a circle around what is acceptable speech and any speech that falls outside of that circle is ridiculed and not taken seriously. Please stop and ponder this phenomenon for a few moments, for once the truth, by consensus, is removed from the center of that circle; a nation so constituted is in trouble.

Another thing that deserves some serious contemplation is the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. When I first started paying attention to political thought one of the first constitutional controversies that I was made aware of was the question as to if the free exercise clause of the 1st Amendment was to be interpreted broadly or narrowly. The establishment clause and the free exercise clause together read: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof". Just by the hermeneutics of these two clauses it is the establishment clause that should be narrow in its application for it states specifically that this restriction is for Congress. Congress is the branch of our federal government that writes legislation, therefore it would seem permissible to conclude that its intent was to forbid our federal government from interfering with religion. More then that I'm afraid is to try to fashion it's meaning to suit ones own opinion. On the other hand, the free exercise clause hermeneutically is broad. Again this is for Congress, our federal lawmakers. Clearly this amendment was to keep the federal government out of religion, not just religious opinion either for the clause specifically states that Congress shall not interfere with the "free exercise of religion". With the matter stated so clearly in the amendment itself the only restriction the federal government should be allowed to place on the free exercise of religion is if a religion engages in an activity that is without controversy wrong like murder and stealing, etc. Then for the court to apply the establishment clause (Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion) through the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment, to the states — which the court has been doing since 1947, which is a whole other letter — the equal protection clause says, "nor shall any state"... "deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.", is to run afoul of the 9th Amendment which reads, "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people." If I am not mistaken up until this time the people had retained the right to the free exercise of religion. For the more local the government, the more closely the government reflects the will of the people and consequently unless these state and local governments are free to work these religious issues out themselves there is no free exercise of religion, not in the public sphere. And in effect, holding to the application of these amendments in this manner, to borrow an allegory from George Washington, has been to create a tool to remove the threads of religious piety from the fabric of our nation.
The 1962 Supreme Court case of Abington School District v Schempp (this case was an application of the principle discussed above), the case in which the Warren court ruled that state sponsored school prayer was "unconstitutional", on the pretext of protecting the minority from the tyranny of the majority, for as it was, a student could be excused from the Bible recitation in question, in school with a note from his parents. No one was forced against his will to participate in them. If there had been forced participation, I believe the exercise would have been in violation of the free exercise clause, here the court would have had legitimate constitutional authority to intervene through the equal protection clause, and the opinion of the court does lip service to this view, but then turns around and hamstrings the state and local governments with adherence to the establishment clause which they had no constitutional authority to do. The 9th Amendment forbids it. The objection was that those who did not participate in these exercises would be made to feel like outsiders, not part of the group. Please, no matter what the consensus is, to what is true, someone is going to feel like an outsider. Please let us now go back to Tocqueville's observation of acceptable speech. For in our culture there is going to be a circle drawn around acceptable speech. What the Warren Court did in banning these Scripture readings from our public schools was to insure that Scripture reading would be outside of what would be acceptable speech for the generations to come. What the court decreed was that Christians were to be the outsiders in our schools, even were they held a majority. I find it hard to believe that these judges — eight of them voted to ban these Scripture readings — did not know what they were doing, for Tocqueville's Democracy in America would be standard reading for someone studying law. This I believe was the main thrust of a stroke to sever the influence of Christianity and consequently God from our culture. Also you might note that Supreme Court justices are quite likely to have spent many years in the school system heavily influence by secular-humanism that I talked about in my last letter.
If God and the publishers are willing I will bring this back to Duncan v State of New Hampshire in my next submission.

John Demakowski