Tag Archives: First Amendment

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.


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.