Tag Archives: First Amendment

‘Church/state separation’ surely is included in the Constitution

While the president of the United States renews his boast about how he has brought “Merry Christmas” back into fashion during the holy holiday, I am reminded yet again of a phony argument that many on the far right continue to use about what the U.S. Constitution says about religion.

A former colleague of mine at the Amarillo Globe-News was fond of saying how the Constitution does not contain the words “separation of church and state.” His argument, preposterous as it sounds, was that if the Constitution doesn’t state it declaratively then such “separation” does not exist.

I sought on more than one occasion to counsel him that the Constitution does not need to make an overt statement to stand on a principle.

The First Amendment says that Congress “shall make no law” that establishes a state religion. Right there, in plain English, is the separation of church and state argument.

I mention it because Donald Trump continues to extol the virtues of Christian belief in a nation comprising people of many religious faiths. It’s laughable that this president, given his sickening personal history, would even venture into that briar patch . . . but he does.

He told the nation just the other day that since he became president, people are saying “God” in public again, as if they ever stopped saying the word. Then he talked yet again about how business owners are instructing employees to wish customers “Merry Christmas” during the holiday season. That, by golly, is the way it should be, according to the president.

I need to remind those who read this blog who might be disposed to side with Trump on this matter that the Constitution is as clear as it can possibly be on the matter of religion.

The government does not require people to worship any deity. None. It declares that the absence of a state religion means that citizens are free to worship as they wish — or not worship at all, if that is their choice.

Church/state separation is a reality in our nation’s governing document. On that score — and, yes, they missed the mark on a few matters in the creation of this great nation — the founders got it exactly right.

POTUS to block ‘fake news’ outlets? No can do

Oh, please, Mr. President. You cannot do what you are threatening to do.

Just because the Democratic National Committee chairman, Tom Perez, has decided that Fox News is too much in bed with you and your administration and has ruled that Fox cannot host any Democratic primary debates this coming year, you cannot invoke the power of your high office to retaliate.

Really, Mr. President? The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution expressly forbids that kind of interference from the government in the affairs of a free press. Really. It’s in there, Mr. President.

Tom Perez’s gambit falls outside the constitutional prohibition of such activity, given that the Constitution doesn’t even mention political parties.

What you are threatening to do, sir, flies directly in the face of what the founders intended when they provided specific protections for a private enterprise known as the “free press.” It’s the only such protection written into the Constitution. You would do well to read it, grasp what it means and stop this idiotic tit-for-tat game you’re playing with the media.

But I get that it plays well with your base. They love the grandstanding, the posturing, the hyperbole. They think you’re “telling it like it is.”

Actually, Mr. President, you’re telling it like you believe it is. Since your true believers agree with you, that’s all that matters to you.

Settle down, sir. Just stop that idiotic relationship with Fox News. Stop calling Sean Hannity and asking him for policy advice. He doesn’t know enough about the real world to give you any counsel that’s worth a damn as it is.

No ‘retribution,’ Mr. President; it’s not possible

How many times does one have to tell you, Mr. President, that you are not a monarch, or a dictator? You cannot bring “retribution” against a comedy show made famous by its parodies of powerful people.

But there you go again, threatening “Saturday Night Live” because it decided to spoof you yet again.

“SNL” trotted Alec Baldwin out to do that hilarious send-up of you and you just cannot stand being ridiculed. C’mon, Mr. President! Get a grip.

The comedy show has been doing this to presidents since 1975, when Chevy Chase poked fun at President Ford. It hasn’t stopped. They’ve all gotten the treatment. Not a single predecessor of yours has threatened “SNL” with any kind of political or legal payback.

And do I need to remind you once more, Mr. President, about that First Amendment matter? You truly need to read it, try to understand what it protects. It guarantees the right to worship as we please; it protects the press from government intervention; it says we can protest the government. It also says we can criticize the government without facing “retribution” from the government we are criticizing.

Your tweet about “SNL” was typically idiotic. As a reminder, you wrote:

Nothing funny about tired Saturday Night Live on Fake News NBC! Question is, how do the Networks get away with these total Republican hit jobs without retribution? Likewise for many other shows? Very unfair and should be looked into. This is the real Collusion!

Total Republican hit jobs? They “get away” with it the way “SNL” poked fun at Presidents Carter, Clinton and Obama. Those Democrats didn’t bitch constantly about “SNL.” For that matter, neither did the Republican presidents who had to take the heat, too.

I am tiring of repeating myself, Mr. President. Still, it bears repeating that you need to understand that positions of power invite this kind of treatment from the entertainment industry and the media. You are the most powerful man in the country, Mr. President.

You can act like it simply by stopping these mindless, brainless and feckless threats against a TV comedy show.

Study the Bible in church, not public schools

Hold on a second! Donald J. Trump now says he supports the notion of allowing public school students to study the Bible. He endorses the idea of students learning about the history of the Judeo-Christian holy book.

Let’s put the brakes on that one.

The founders created a secular document to govern the United States of America. The very first clause in the very first amendment to the U.S. Constitution establishes a rule that Congress “shall make no law” that creates a state religion.

Legal scholars and courts have interpreted that to mean that government agencies — and that includes public schools — must avoid traveling down the slipperiest of slopes by allowing religious study in tax-supported schools.

So what is the president trying to do? My best guess is that he believes that the U.S. Supreme Court — which includes two justices he has appointed — would rule in favor of Bible study in public schools if the issue ever to reach the highest court on appeal.

Trump wrote this on Twitter: Numerous states introducing Bible Literacy classes, giving students the option of studying the Bible. Starting to make a turn back? Great!

Legislators in six states are proposing Bible study in public schools. I guess it’s some sort of move to return “prayer in school,” which the Supreme Court rule in the early 1960s violates the First Amendment’s implied separation of church and state.

There’s a place for everything in this world of ours. I believe firmly that the place to study the Bible is in a house of worship. We should make our public schools the place where students can learn about math, science, civics, humanities, theater . . . and the whole host of curricula that teach them about their earthly world.

I’ll just offer this notion as well: If we are going to study the Bible in public school, do we then allow the study of works read by our non-Judeo Christian citizens?

That’s what I mean by the “slipperiest of slopes.”

Actually, Mr. POTUS, it’s all ‘legal’

Donald J. Trump continues to fly off the rails with his ongoing assault on the media.

Here is what he posted this morning on Twitter: A REAL scandal is the one sided coverage, hour by hour, of networks like NBC & Democrat spin machines like Saturday Night Live. It is all nothing less than unfair news coverage and Dem commercials. Should be tested in courts, can’t be legal? Only defame & belittle! Collusion?

If you can past the mangled syntax of this tweet, I’ll provide a simple explanation of why the president — as usual — is dead wrong.

Mr. President, it’s all “legal.” It’s protected by the U.S. Constitution. The First Amendment says the government cannot interfere with what a “free press” reports. It says media freedom shall not be “abridged.”

How in the world do the courts rule on the accuracy of media reports? There is no defamation here. There is no slander. No libel.

I get that the president is uncomfortable with the tone of much of the media coverage.

One more time — but most certainly not the final time: It goes with the territory, Mr. President. The media are on duty to do precisely what they are doing at this moment. They are seeking to hold you and your administration accountable for your actions, your rhetoric and the myriad promises you make.

Yes, there is a church-state ‘separation’

A former colleague of mine used to insist that because the United States Constitution doesn’t contain the phrase “separation of church and state” that the concept somehow is not relevant.

Well, I would remind him that the First Amendment about a prohibition against writing laws that establish a state religion implies the separation graphically.

Enter the new man nominated to become the U.S. attorney general, William Barr. He has declared his skepticism about the “secular” state the founders created in the late 18th century. He wants to invoke “God’s law” when enforcing the laws of the land.

I am going to presume he means the laws of the Christian God. But what about the laws of all the other gods that Americans worship? The Islamic god, the Jewish god, the Hindu god, the Buddhist god, the Shinto god? Do they matter? Of course they do! Or at least they should.

Except the founders created a Constitution that say there should be no law passed “with respect” to a particular religion. It stipulates there should be “no religious test” for anyone seeking public office.

The words “Christian,” “Christianity” or “Jesus Christ” are not mentioned in the Constitution. Nor does it mention “Jewish” or “Muslim” or “Buddhist” or “Hindu.”

So, to the AG-designate, I merely want to urge him to stick to enforcing the laws of the land, as enacted by Congress, signed by the president and affirmed by the courts.

Hey, POTUS already has his media lapdogs!

Donald J. Trump has expressed a desire for the federal government to create a TV network that would report favorably on his exploits as president of the United States.

It’s a preposterous notion on at least one level: My reading of the U.S. Constitution prohibits such a thing in this country. A “free press” is supposed to operate without government interference or influence.

Trump, though, has expressed envy over the love and kisses heaped on his boyfriend, North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, by TV anchors in that reclusive nation. Well, that is laughable on its face. Those TV anchors are employed by a murderer — Kim — and they would be killed if they didn’t say what he demanded of them.

Now, as for Trump’s desire for favorable TV coverage, he already has a major cable “news” network in his hip pocket. Fox News — aka Faux News — is chock full of talking heads who suck up to the president daily. Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, the trio on “Fox & Friends,” all are loath to say anything critical of Trump. So, they don’t. Plus, the network brings on an array of “contributors,” the vast majority of whom follow the lead of the network’s staff of anchors and correspondents.

Which brings me to my question of the day: Why does Donald Trump want to create a TV network that slobbers all over him when he already has one doing his bidding?

Bizarre.

State-run TV station? Sure thing, Mr. POTUS

Donald J. “Authoritarian Wanna-be in Chief” Trump wants the government to establish a TV network.

Yep, the protector of the U.S. Constitution has suggested the government establish a network to report news that is favorable to the president, his policies, his pronouncements and the direction of the government he was elected to lead.

Hmm. I believe the Constitution — the one that Trump swore when he took office to uphold — forbids such a thing. It’s that First Amendment clause that refers to a “free press” not being abridged.

This suggestion well might rank among the more idiotic ever to come from the 45th president of the United States. That’s really saying something, when you consider the mountain of idiocy that has poured out of his pie hole.

I’ll also remind everyone that the president once expressed a level of envy that North Korea’s TV anchors speak so glowingly about dictator/murderer Kim Jong Un. He wishes he could get that kind of love from the networks in this country, or so he said during his visit with Kim in Singapore earlier this year.

Here’s a reminder, Mr. President. Those TV anchors work for the same government that is run by Kim Jong Un. If they were to report the news accurately, you know, chronicling such things as the starvation and the abject poverty that afflicts the population, they likely would be yanked off the air, executed and their corpses would be fed to starving dogs.

I hope the president gets the picture.

However, I doubt that he does.

Mitt takes up cudgel for a ‘free press’

U.S. Sen.-elect Mitt Romney is filling me with hope that he might become a Republican who actually is willing to challenge the nation’s demonizer in chief.

The media, according to Mitt, aren’t the “enemy of the people.” Even a “biased” media, the new senator from Utah writes in an op-ed for USA Today, are essential to the nation.

I agree with him. So do all of Donald J. Trump’s predecessors. So should most of the congressional Republicans who will take office in January along with their Democratic colleagues.

Sen.-elect Romney says categorically that Trump is wrong to vilify the media. He writes: America is indebted as a democratic nation to the free press for truths it has uncovered, for truth it has disseminated, and for falsehoods it has repudiated. The press uncovered the government’s lies about the war in Vietnam; it exposed Watergate; it opened our eyes to the sexual abuse of children by priests; and, most recently, it shed a light on the sexual assault by numerous men in power. The free press dispelled the false conspiracies about the 9/11 attacks, President Obama’s birth, and Joe McCarthy’s lurking communists. The work of a free press is essential.

The president doesn’t see it that way. He says the media that report on issues he deems critical are disseminating “fake news,” which of course is the ultimate irony given his own lying about so many issues, so many individuals. He has defamed seemingly countless public figures with lies.

But I’ll leave it to Mitt Romney and perhaps a few other brave souls in public life to try to hold the president accountable for his continuing attacks on the media.

Donald Trump could not be more wrong. Mitt Romney couldn’t be more correct.

CNN, Acosta score a win for the First Amendment

I am wondering now if Donald Trump’s “enemies of the people” list has just grown by one member.

U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Kelly, a Trump appointee to the federal bench, has ruled that the White House must restore CNN White House reporter Jim Acosta’s press credentials.

The president ordered Acosta’s credentials yanked after he and the correspondent got into another public tussle at a press conference the day after the midterm election. It isn’t the first time Trump and Acosta have jousted.

Let me be clear on one thing. I detest the idea of a reporter becoming part of the story. That simply is not right. Acosta has this annoying way of thrusting himself onto the stage when reporting the news. For his part, though, the president reacts hideously when confronted with reporters who ask him tough questions.

The crux of the judge’s ruling seems to center on the stated reasons the White House yanked Acosta’s credentials. It changed its story, but the final version of the White House’s rationale is insufficient to merit such a drastic move, according to Judge Kelly.

This is a victory on behalf of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment, the one that guarantees “freedom of the press” from government interference. And, yes, given the political nature of judicial appointments, I find it fascinating that a Trump-nominated judge would rule against this particular president who’s made such a hash of his dispute with the media.

If only now we can get back to some form of what’s called in Congress “regular order.” That means reporters ask questions, the person who gets the questions answers them, and the reporters move on to the next question. This White House vs. The Media idiocy has to stop. How about it stopping right now?

As for the judge ruling against the president who nominated him, it validates the notion that lifetime appointments have this liberating effect on those who have the authority to rule from the federal bench.