Every once in a while I wander from the beaten path of liberal discourse to trudge in the wasteland of the far right mind. I stumbled across this over at the Renew America website. X number of palms-to-foreheads later.....
Here we have a gentleman of the religious far right attempting to make the argument that, "What the liberals want to do is redefine the phrase "separation of church and state" to exclude Judeo-Christian religious expression in America." Very early in his missive, Mr. Swank rightly invokes the First Amendment of the Constitution as a shield for Judeo-Christian religious expression, but then goes on to beat his chest and cry to the heavens that, "They (meaning liberals) want not only "separation of church and state" defined on their terms but the exclusion of the Judeo-Christian religion and anything coming close to that particular religious expression — period." Lets us take a couple of minutes and review the First Amendment as it applies to Mr. Swanks concern. In full the Amendment reads;
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
I am not a constitutional lawyer but this seems pretty straight forward to me. The parts of the Amendment that most apply to his argument are the first three, no state sponsored religion, you can practice any religion you want, and you can talk about your religion all you want. Yet according to Mr. Swank, it appears that he, and his fellow travelers are headed for martyrdom on the floor of the coliseum. (Never mind that the Romans were very democratic about whom they fed to the lions, and if you asked the lions, Christians were probably no tastier than, say, an Egyptian or Persian, or Spaniard or someone from Gaul.)
The first part of the Amendment that states that there will not be a state sponsored religion goes down the tubes with this not so thinly veiled declaration from Mr. Swank, ".....America has a religious heritage. It's not Muslim. It's not Hindu. It's not Shinto. It's not animism. It's not New Age. It's not Paganism. It's not Voodoo. It's Judeo-Christian." While this might be considered in your face explicit, what Mr. Swank is saying here is that because most, if not all of the immigrant Americans around at the time of the founding of the country were Christian, then ipso facto we are a "Christian Nation" and that those dirty "Liberals, in other words, will do whatever it takes to obliterate America of its rightful Judeo-Christian heritage.", followed by this, "Therefore, if tolerating another religion such as Islam helps wipe out Judeo-Christianity, then so be it." I wonder if Mr. Swank thinks this is the 13th century and he is a Cathar? Now in Mr. Swanks somewhat history limited mind we should ignore for the sake of simplicity the entire Native-American population, and their beliefs. This is because to any like minded 13th century individual they will either be (A)converted or (B)killed. If (A) then it supports his account and if (B) they don’t count. See, problem solved. So now it is safe to move on to the second part of the Amendment.
It would seem from Mr. Swank’s article that the "free exercise thereof" really means the free exercise of ONLY his religion. A little further on in his rant Mr. Swank lets the cat out of the bag with this, "They (meaning liberals again) will even tolerate other religions, as they are presently doing with the Muslim infiltration...." Crusade anyone? It is a well documented historical fact that, in the preceding few centuries Christianity as a whole had been actively trying to wipe out every other religion in the world. So if radical Christian assurances of brotherly love are ok by you, please feel free to relax as they attempt to install a theocracy here in America. Mr. Swanks religious intolerance is only accented by his vivid display of intolerance on other issues as well when he says, "Once again, liberals have taken language to serve their own twisted purposes. They took "homosexual" and made it "gay." They took "pro-choice" and made it "protecting females." They take "separation of church and state" and make it wiping out America's Judeo-Christian heritage." Again with the martyrdom. Nothing more to see here. Let’s move on to the last part of the Amendment that has a bearing on Mr. Swanks words.
Freedom of speech is very easy to understand. Basically you can say whatever you want, as long as it is not libelous. Therefore Mr. Swank can spew forth on a blog. As can I, or you. Simple. Mr. Swanks’ speech, religious or other wise is not infringed on in anyway that I can see.
The point here is that according to the Constitution, its’ Amendments, the Bill of Rights and numerous decisions by the Supreme Court, the government of these here United States is NOT in the business of religion. Period. It does not promote one religion over another, it does not grant any special favors to one religion over another, and it does not restrict one religion over another. The separation of church and state is a political and legal doctrine that government and religious institutions are to be kept separate and independent from each other. Simple, easy to understand. Supposedly the concept originally comes from the English political philosopher John Locke, and as far as we Americans are concerned it can be traced to the letter written by Thomas Jefferson in 1802 in which he says the First Amendment to the United States Constitution establishes a "wall of separation" between the church and the state. The phrase was first quoted by the United States Supreme Court in 1878. The founding fathers understood the horrors of theocratic rule and sought to avoid it at all costs through the First Amendment. They also understood the horrors of religious persecution, and well understood that many of the people coming to these new shores were doing so to escape the kind religious singularity that Mr. Swank most assuredly advocates. Hence, the First Amendment. This Amendment was written to thwart people like Mr. Swank. But it is up to us to make sure it continues to do its job.