Tag Archives: First Amendment

Protecting all civil liberties

“Well, the radical left believes that the freedom of religion is the freedom from religion. But it’s nothing the American founders ever thought of or generations of Americans fought to defend.”

The comment here is attributed to former Vice President Mike Pence, as if that’s any surprise.

I want to take a brief moment to challenge the ex-VPOTUS’s assertion.

When I took my oath upon being inducted into the U.S. Army in 1968, I presumed in the moment that I was going to protect the U.S. Constitution. That means all of the civil liberties enshrined in the document. One of those liberties includes the First Amendment’s protection against the government imposing a state religion.

Pence to revisit religious freedom act – High Plains Blogger (wordpress.com)

The amendment does in fact guarantee citizens the right to avoid religion if that is their choice. It isn’t mine, but I have no right to presume that every American should follow my lead. They are free to worship whatever or not worship any religious deity.

Are we clear? Good!


We are free from religion!

I want to express my outrage at politicians who continue to insist that the United States is a Christian nation and that the U.S. Constitution does not guarantee that we are guaranteed to free ourselves from religion of any stripe.

There. I just did express my intense anger.

Too many pols keep insisting that their Christian devotion is good enough for everyone. Therefore, they advocate foisting Christian beliefs on students in public schools.

There can be no greater perversion of what the Constitution lays out there than the idiocy being pitched by the likes of, oh, U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado.

She recently declared that this country is a Christian nation. It is nothing of the sort. The First Amendment to the Constitution spells out in clear, concise language that “Congress shall make no law” that establishes a state religion. As I have noted already on this blog, I cannot find a single mention of the words “Christian,” “Christianity” or “Jesus Christ.”

Boebert’s congressional wing woman, Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, called herself a “Christian nationalist.” Thus, she is proud to foist her religious beliefs on every other American simply because she was elected to Congress.

The Constitution makes it abundantly clear — and the courts have affirmed it — that Americans are free to rely on the faith of their choice and that they also are free to be religion free.

It is not illegal in this country to be an atheist, or an agnostic.

Politicians who imply that it is illegal are as un-American as anyone in public life … and they should be tossed out of office.


Prayer in school? Save it for church

You hear the refrain all the time, that society went to hell when the U.S. Supreme Court took prayer away from teachers and students in our public schools.

To which I say: nonsense!

For starters, I do not believe society has gone to hell. For critics of modern life, though, to assign blame for such an idiotic notion to a single court decision simply fails to look through a wide enough lens.

The SCOTUS ruled in the early 1960s that reciting prayers in public schools violated the First Amendment clause that prohibits the establishment of a “state religion.” Let’s be candid and clear about something: The prayers we all talk about are Christian prayers, which always end with a phrase that references “Jesus’s name.”

As I’ve tried to note, the Constitution doesn’t allow for Christian prayers, or Jewish prayers, or Muslim prayers in public schools. If we accept that public schools are products of local government — and I most certainly do — then public school systems are not exempt from the constitutional prohibitions laid out.

I also understand the “religious freedom” and “religious liberty” arguments that come from those who want to restore prayer in public schools. I happen to view those terms in broad terms. “Religious freedom and liberty” can be interpreted to mean that one is “free from religion” and is “liberated” from it, too.

Invariably I fall back on the notion to which I have subscribed my entire adult life. I am all for religion. I am a practicing Christian. I just want to save my prayer time for my own private moments … and for Sunday, when I’m sitting in church.


Jury makes example of hater

A Texas jury has done the right thing by assessing a hefty punitive damage award against one of the nation’s most noted and infamous purveyors of hate and outright falsehoods.

Alex Jones will have to pay the families of children slaughtered in the December 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre $44.5 million. The jury awarded that amount in assessing the punitive damages that Jones must shell out.

Of course, Jones claims to be impoverished.

Jones already was found guilty of defamation by declaring that the massacre of those kids in Newtown, Conn., was fake, that it never happened, that it was a staged event designed to gin up opposition to the gun owners’ rights lobby.

This individual is a disgrace to the human race. The jury decided, moreover, to make him pay for the damage he did to the loved ones of those precious children and the educators who sought to protect them against the madman.

What might be the fallout from this award? It is my sincere hope that this jury’s decision to hammer a known hate monger might deter someone else out there who is inclined to spew the kind of filth that comes from the mouth of Alex Jones.

I know all about the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech. Gasbags such as Jones use the U.S. Constitution as their first and last line of defense against who seek to muzzle them. The truth, though, is that I don’t want them necessarily silenced simply because they espouse views I find reprehensible. I believe it is important to keep such idiots in plain sight where we all can keep our eyes on them.

However, the jury ruled that Alex Jones took several giant steps too far by defaming the families of innocent victims.

Now he has been ordered to pay for the garbage he has blathered and the damage he has inflicted.



No church-state separation? Ridiculous!

For the life of me I cannot understand how anyone with half a noodle in their noggin and with a poker face can question what the nation’s founders intended when they separated “the church” from “the state.”

The argument rages on and on. To my way of thinking, there is no argument to be made against the idea that the First Amendment separates the two.

I once had a colleague at the Amarillo Globe-News who would declare — stupidly, I should add — that the Constitution doesn’t declare in so many words that there is a “church-state separation.” Well, no, it doesn’t. Nor does it declare straight out that we shouldn’t murder other human beings.

The founders created a secular government run by a document that expressly forbids any mention of any specific religion. There’s no mention of Christianity, or of Judaism, or Islam, or Shinto,, or Buddha. Nothing, man!

All it says rests in the First Amendment, where it stipulates in plain English that “Congress shall make no law” that establishes a state religion.

Period. Full stop.

Now we have individuals, such as the distinguished Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, referring to the “so-called separation of … church and state.” There are members of Congress, the law-writing body, saying that church-state separation is a “myth.” It’s a “hoax.” That this is a Christian nation.

These nimrods make me want to scream from the depth of my lungs.

It is true that the founders argued among themselves over whether there should be a religious clause written into the Constitution. Ultimately, though, they decided against it. They believed that government must not be hidebound to theology in writing and enforcing the laws of the land.

And yet we have rubbish being spewed by the likes of Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., who said, “I’m tired of the separation of church and state junk that’s not in the Constitution. It was in a stinking letter, and it means nothing like what they say it does.”

Actually, young lady, you are wrong on this, as you are wrong on most things. Read my lips: Church-state separation most certainly is in the Constitution.

One final point. The founders were so intent on keeping religion out of our government, they wrote in Article VI: ” … no religious Test ever shall be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” 

Are we clear? Good! So, let’s quit having his idiotic debate.


It was no mere ‘riot’

The more I see and hear from — and about — the 1/6 House committee examining the insurrection, the more secure I feel about some of the command decisions I made regarding how I would communicate on the matter through this blog.

What do I mean?

What occurred on 1/6 now looks for all the world like a premeditated attack on our nation’s governmental process.

Thus, I do not refer to it as a “riot,” which by definition is a spontaneous event that erupts during a protest, which brings me to Point No. 2.

I do not refer to that event as protest, nor do I refer to the mob who attacked the Capitol as protesters. The U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment refers to “the right of the people peaceably to assemble … ” The mobsters were traitors to the nation.

There was nothing “peaceable” about what we witnessed that day.

I long ago adopted the word “insurrection” to define on High Plains Blogger what occurred that day. A couple of critics have told me that no formal charge of insurrection has been filed against anyone. Testimony and eyewitness accounts of what transpired that day have confirmed — to my eyes, at least — that we did witness an insurrection.

I say all this with a heavy heart. Spare me the criticism that I am crying “crocodile tears” over what transpired on 1/6. It truly does pain me, as a red-blooded American patriot, to see this chapter being re-told in this fashion.

It is an abject lesson we all must watch and heed, no matter how much it hurts.


Christian nationalism? Ugh!

Christian nationalism is clawing its way back onto the political stage. If you’ll pardon my seeming hysteria, but … this notion frightens me.

Why? Well, the United States of America — despite the lies put forward by Christian nationalists — is not a Christian nation.

I have looked everywhere throughout the U.S. Constitution for the words “Jesus Christ,” or “Christian,” or “Chistianity.” I’ll be deep-friend and slathered in butter, but I cannot find any of those terms. Nowhere. The Constitution does not mention any of them. Not one time!

Why do you suppose that’s the case? It is because the nation’s founders were descended directly from those in Europe who fled religious persecution. They also fled governments that demanded that they worship a certain way.

Let’s also stipulate for the umpteenth time that the First Amendment to the Constitution declares that “Congress shall make no law” that establishes a state religion. Got it? Good!

Not everyone gets it, though. Take the recent blathering of the QAnon queen herself, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., who said that she is a “nationalist” and also a “Christian.” Therefore, she said, “I am a Christian nationalist.”

She’s also stupidly misrepresenting the oath she took when she entered Congress in January 2021. The oath does not specify allegiance to a deity, let alone a Christian deity.

We must keep a watchful eye on Christian nationalists. They are a frightening bunch.


Church and state are separate … period!

Lauren Boebert must believe she knows something that’s lost on practically every American alive today, given that the nation’s founders created a government more than two centuries ago, long before any of us were around.

The Colorado Republican congresswoman made a patently preposterous assertion recently. She said: “The church is supposed to direct the government. The government is not supposed to direct the church. That is not how our Founding Fathers intended it. I am tired of this separation-of-church-and-state junk.”

Well …

She made the comment at a church service. Imagine that, eh?

Let me spell out what I believe the founders intended. They intended to create a secular governing document, one that does not answer to the dictates of spiritual teaching. The First Amendment, for example, contains several civil liberties the government protects. The first one mentioned — and this is important — deals with religion.

The amendment declares that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof … ” I want to call attention to the fact that the founders thought enough of that clause to make it the first one mentioned in the First Amendment to the nation’s government document.

Boebert’s ignorant statement about “separation-of-church-and-state junk” reminds me of a mantra a former Amarillo Globe-News colleague of mine used to recite. He kept insisting that since the Constitution doesn’t mention church-state separation specifically that it doesn’t really exist. I had to remind him that the courts have held over the course of two centuries that the First Amendment’s meaning intends to keep the church out of government’s business. Just because the Constitution doesn’t declare in so many words that the church cannot mingle in state business doesn’t make it less true.

So it is with nimrods such as Lauren Boebert, who in her brief time in Congress has managed to stand out as a spokeswoman for some truly wacky notions.

I tend to interpret the Constitution the same way I interpret my Bible, in that I am inclined to take a broad, expansive view of what both documents mean.

It’s my right to do so. The Constitution speaks clearly to it in that First Amendment.


First Amendment violation? Nope!

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ….

First Amendment, U.S. Constitution

Of course, the First Amendment says a lot more, but this is the first clause in the first attempt to improve the nation’s governing document.

I want to bring this up because of something I posted earlier about whether we can tax religious organizations if they seek to coerce or bully politicians into enacting certain public policy.

I believe religious organizations that endorse candidates for public office or — in the case of the San Francisco Catholic archdiocese — deny communion to officials over their abortion stance make them fair game for taxation.

Public policy = taxation | High Plains Blogger

I’ve seen some chatter out there that such a taxing policy would violate the “separation between church and state” spelled out in the First Amendment. I shall disagree with all due respect.

The religious exemption is quite specific, as I read the Constitution. It declares only that Congress must avoid enacting laws that establish a religion. The clause makes no mention of tax policy. It says only that the government cannot force people to believe a certain or faith or prohibit them from the freedom to worship — or not worship — as they please.

It appears to my reading that the Constitution grants considerable leeway to tax religious organizations if their leaders venture into the political realm.

The late Rev. Jerry Falwell entered the arena in the 1980s and 1990s with his constant attacks on Bill and Hillary Clinton; so did the Rev. Franklin Graham with his endorsement of political candidates; Catholic clergy have sought to deny politicians communion over abortion policy for decades; churches with predominant African American congregations have been staging political rallies for many years.

All of them are exempted from paying taxes.

To ascribe some sort of constitutional prohibition from taxing these entities is to expand what the First Amendment declares beyond anything I recognize.


First Amendment revisited

Let’s take a quick second look at the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in light of a decision the Supreme Court is likely to deliver about a former high school football coach who lost his job because he wanted to pray on the field after games.

Joe Kennedy, a former coach at Bremerton (Wash.) High School, has seen this case make all the way to the top of the judicial food chain.  His prayers drew criticism from those who said it violated the Constitution’s ban on state-sanctioned religion.

OK, back to the amendment. It sets four liberties for protection; it calls for a free press, freedom to assemble peaceably, to petition the government for gripes … and it has a religion clause.

It says, specifically, that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof … ”

The framers set the religion matter first among those liberties. Why? Because their direct forebears had fled Europe’s religious mandate. They created a secular state in the New World. The other provisions came secondary to the religious one.

It does trouble me, therefore, that someone would complain about a coach praying on the field, which is his right as a U.S. citizen. The athletes who joined him in prayer? They weren’t forced to do it. The coach didn’t threaten them with losing their playing time if they decided against praying.

Common sense would seem to dictate that the young athletes were free to do what they felt like doing. Common sense also tells me the framers had it right when they lined out the prohibition against establishing a state religion as the first civil liberty to be protected.