Tag Archives: First Amendment

Should I proclaim my political allegiance?

I have been pondering a dilemma I have been facing during this election season, which is to what extent to what extent do I want to wear my political allegiance.

For decades I have forgone the displaying of yard signs at my home and bumper stickers on my vehicles. The answer is obvious: I was a journalist, and my craft presumes that its practitioners take an unsigned oath to keep our allegiance to ourselves.

I honored that pledge religiously for nearly four decades. To be frank, even though I am no longer employed by a media company, I am inclined to keep my pledge intact. I will stipulate that I do contribute freelance articles for a group of weekly newspapers in Collin County, but I am not on any payrolls. That means I am free to speak my mind … if I so choose.

I do write on this blog about my political leanings. You know, for instance, that I support President Joe Biden’s re-election. I oppose vehemently and viscerally the election of the presumed Republican presidential nominee, whose name I have been boycotting any mention on this blog.

I’ll need to stipulate that I know emotions run high on both sides of the chasm. Except that I never — not ever! — would damage anyone’s property if they decided to display a sign supporting the former Liar/Philanderer/Idiot in Chief.

Therefore, my angst at displaying my own allegiance has everything to do with how those on the other side might react.

To be candid, I dislike surrendering my First Amendment right to speak freely and peaceably about my government and the politics that produce our elected leadership. Yes, I am able to do so on this forum and for that I am grateful the founders granted us all that right. I just cannot take that expression to the next level, which would be to display a sign at my home or on my vehicle.

It’s just too weird out there … you know?

Court goes way beyond what is decent

The Alabama supreme court has issued a ruling that is going to reverberate all over the nation, as it endangers a medical practice that allows couples to welcome children into this deeply troubled world.

The court has ruled that embryos are “children,” and that the destruction of embryos that are not implanted into women’s bodies via in vitro fertilization theoretically could be construed as “murder.”

This despicable ruling is a nod by the court to the Christian nationalist movement in Alabama and it well could be — and should be — challenged as violating the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment.

This one hits many millions of Americans right where they live. Indeed, a member of my family gave birth some years ago to twins after she and her husband decided to seek an IVF procedure. Had the court ruling issued in Alabama had been in force in the state where they live, this couple could not have welcomed their son and daughter into the world.

The First Amendment declares that Congress must not enact any law that establishes a state religion. The Alabama high court has thumbed its nose at the amendment and declared that if Christian nationalists want to declare embryos to be children, then that’s all right. Let ’em have their say, the court has ruled.

This is crap. No, it’s worse than that. It is an evil intrusion into a couple’s most delicate decision-making process.

We are a ‘secular government,’ dammit!

I keep hearing about how U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson cloaks himself in the New Testament, about how he is pushing the doctrine of “Christian nationalism.”

Sigh … I want to remind the speaker and those who adhere to his reported view of how government should function of this irrefutable fact: You won’t find the word “God” anywhere in the U.S. Constitution. Why is that? Because the men who wrote it consciously avoided using such language because they had fled religious oppression in Europe. They wrote a secular document that establishes that human beings should determine our laws and that they should not be influenced by a specific religion. Yes, I am talking about Christianity. The founders established in Article VI that there must be “no religious test” to determine who should run for public office. The First Amendment to the Constitution lays out a number of civil liberties that deserve protection from government interference; the first one of them is religion, as the amendment declares that “Congress shall make no law” that establishes a state religion. Speaker Johnson needs to put a sock in his proclamation of faith. It is admirable that he is a man of strong faith. That is as far he should go, and he must end this rhetoric that attaches references to God to legislation enacted by fallible men and women.

Free press is ‘essential’

President Joe Biden stood at the podium this weekend at the White House Correspondents Dinner and made a stern and steadfast declaration about the value of a free press.

“A free press is essential to a democratic society,” he said, “and it is not the enemy.”

I want to offer a brief endorsement of the president’s statement, as it reflects the kind of understanding that a free, aggressive and unfettered press brings to those in power and to those who make decisions that affect our lives each day.

I feel the need to offer this endorsement because of the pummeling the press has been taking during the past, oh, six or seven years. As a member of what the right wingers and the MAGA crowd calls the “mainstream media,” I have taken great personal offense at the epithets being hurled at hardworking, dedicated reporters who signed on to report truthfully and fairly.

Presidents of both political parties, with one notable exception, have understood the role that a free press plays in holding government officials accountable. Does anyone in power like negative reporting on his or her activities? Of course not! However, to a person — again, except one — acknowledge that criticism simply goes with the territory.

Donald J. Trump launched the war against the media with his proclamation that the media are “the enemy of the people.” He turned “fake news” into a cliche that his followers picked up. I won’t belabor the obvious hypocrisy in that label coming from the godfather of fake news and outright lies. I do, though, want to suggest that news that runs counter to officials’ point of view isn’t “fake”; it is the truth that officials just don’t always want to hear.

President Biden’s inherent understanding of the media’s role in keeping him and the government he inherited accountable for their actions is a welcome return to what has been the standard since the beginning of the Republic.

May the press always remain free of government interference … and able to keep our government’s feet to the fire.


GOP set to impose religion in public schools

Pass the Pepto … because my gut is starting to churn over a highly contentious issue making its way out of the Texas Legislature.

The state Senate has approved a bill that would require public schools in Texas to display the Ten Commandments.

Oh, boy! Here we go.

It’s headed to the House, with its own Republican majority. Any bets on whether it ends up on GOP Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk and on whether Abbott will sign it into law? I didn’t think so.

Why is issue so troublesome for me? For starters, I need to stipulate that I have no particularly strong personal objection to the Ten Commandments being displayed in public schools. The commandments, let us remember, are chronicled in the Old Testament, which tells of the instruction Moses received from the Almighty.

That’s out of the way.

However … the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution stipulates several civil liberties. The first of them declares that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion … ” Hmm. What does that mean, precisely?

It means, as I read it, that Congress’ prohibition is exclusive to that body. Meaning that Congress can’t enact a law. Does that also preclude state legislatures? Maybe I’m splitting hairs. I also understand fully that the founders created a secular government that is supposed to be free from religion.

Does it preclude religious influence? No, not that I can tell.

The Ten Commandments clearly are a religious statement, given to us by God Almighty. Public schools are government entities, paid for with taxpayer funds, some of which come from individuals and families that might object to any element of religion being installed in public school system. Is it fair to them to expose them to a statement they could find objectionable? No, which is what the founders realized when they created a secular Constitution.

I am not going to mount a protest if the Legislature sends this bill to Abbott’s desk and Abbott signs it.

I just fear we are about to head down that proverbial slippery slope.


It’s a secular document!

Marjorie Taylor Greene doesn’t know the Constitution she took an oath to defend and protect, as she exhibited tonight in a “60 Minutes” interview.

The fire-breathing Republican congresswoman from northwest Georgia said the United States needs to become a “Christian nation,” which prompted the interviewer, Lesley Stahl, to remind her that the First Amendment to the Constitution prohibits the establishment of a state religion.

Greene answered that the founders sought “spiritual guidance” when the drafted the nation’s governing document.

OK. Yes. They did. However …

The document they produced doesn’t make a single reference to Christianity, or to Jesus Christ or the New Testament. What’s more, Article VI in the Constitution says specifically that there shall be “no religious test” required of anyone seeking public office in the United States of America.

What part of “secular government” does this idiot not get?

I just had to weigh in against this moronic testimony from a second-term member of Congress who is earning her spurs by spouting dangerous demagoguery.


Free speech not always totally free

Many years in journalism taught me many valuable lessons about the law, the Constitution and people’s ability — or their occasional  inability — to abide by various rules.

Let’s examine one of the clauses contained in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the one that says “freedom of speech, or of the press” shall not be “abridged.”

Many people assume — incorrectly, in my view — that the free-speech clause means one can say anything they want anyone they choose without any consequence or punishment.


I’ll cite this blog as an example of what I mean. The Constitution protects bloggers such as me, but only to a point. It says the government should “make no law” that limits what people can say, but it does nothing to keep me from blocking people from popping off irresponsibly. It is, therefore, my call to determine who is being irresponsible.

When I see someone commenting on a public official, I seek to weigh the value of the individual’s comment. If it lends any value to the public debate, then bring it on … by all means!

I lost count long ago of the arguments I would have with readers of opinion pages I edited in Oregon and in Texas who would challenge my decision to nix commentaries submitted for publication. They would say “but the Constitution gives me the right to say what I want.” No … it doesn’t. It gives me the right, I would respond, to determine what is suitable for print.

I would tell the reader that they need to buy a printing press, load it with ink and paper and say whatever the hell they want to say.

Most recently, I have nixed commentaries on this blog that suggest that President Biden is suffering from “dementia.” I will not allow that defamatory comment to stand on my blog. If the individual whose comments I have blocked continue with that trash, then I will block that individual from using this venue for any purpose.

It is my right — under the Constitution — to do such a thing.

There. Are we clear? Good.

Have a great day.


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.