Monday, May 08, 2006

All the facts you need to win any separation of church and state debate.

It really is a broken record I hear day in and day out from coworkers, people on the radio call in shows, even a guy standing in line behind me at a Neal Boortz book signing the Friday before Katrina struck in New Orleans.

"There's no separation of church and state in the constitution. Those words were made up by activist judges with their warped interpretation of the first amendment."

Normally I'm not a confrontational guy unless I think I may need to protect myself , someone with me, or my property but I just couldn't help it. Standing in line at the Borders book store in new Orleans waiting for Neal Boortz to sign my FairTax book I turned to the guy and said .

"You know the people who typically make that argument that you just made usually believe in the holy trinity. Yet the phrase holy trinity doesn't even appear in the bible."

He just kind of nodded his head and grinned. I continued by saying that I can write a poem describing a beautiful day and never once use the phrase " It's a beautiful day".

I typically refer to people like this as "theocrates". A Person who ( rather they know it or not or admit it or not) support theocracy.

He seemed like a nice intelligent guy and I'm sure he was. However I am just amazed at how people can willingly accept such fallacious arguments without even thinking about them . It's as if when people hear something that reaches a conclusion that they already agree with they are less likely to be skeptical of the premises that lead to the conclusion. If an argument is fallacious it is fallacious even if it comes to a conclusion I think is true for some other reason.

Just as I can write a poem about a beautiful day and never once use the phrase "it's a beautiful day", the Constitution has a separation of church and state even though that actual phrase is not even there.

The argument comes down to what does "respecting an establishment of religion mean"?

Another broken record argument we hear from theocrates is that the first amendment means that there will be no national church and that's it. Nothing else, faith based initiatives are ok, graven images on public land are ok, organized prayer in school is ok, etc.

Now one would have to wonder how far these people made it in English class because that is not what the first amendment says. The word establishment is clearly a noun. This means an institution or a place. There will be no law respecting a religious place or an institution! That's what it says. It's plain freakin English!

Now let me drive some more nails in the coffin of their fallacious reasoning. James Madison authored the first amendment so who else better to turn to than James Madison when looking to what the first amendment means?

In 1811 as President, James Madison vetoed a bill that was intended to support financially a church to help the needy. ( The first faith based initiative was vetoed!)

Not only was it vetoed but it was vetoed by the man who authored the first amendment and in the explanation of the veto refers back to the (gasp!) FIRST AMENDMENT! Madison said in part. ( emphasis added by me)

"Because the bill exceeds the rightful authority to which governments are limited by the essential distinction between civil and religious functions, and violates in particular the article of the Constitution of the United States which declares that "Congress shall make no law respecting a religious establishment."

There you have it ladies and gentlemen. It's really cut and dry isn't it? Notice the bold portion of the quote there. You see that it not only is congruous with my explanation above of how establishment is used in the first amendment, it is referenced in regard to an attempt at supporting religion in a way that contradicts the thoecrates broken record claim that the first amendment is only there to stop a national church from being established.

Another paper Madison wrote is called, "Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments."

This was his rather lengthy explanation as to why he remonstrated against a bill that would have funded the salaries of Christian school teachers and it is a very good read. I highly recommend that everyone take the time to read this because it is worth it.

But why am I picking on James Madison so much and not any of the other founding fathers? As I do agree that there are many quotes and acts by the other founding fathers that support the separation of church and state as it is in the Constitution, James Madison is after all the man who authored the first amendment. As I stated above, who else better to turn for an explanation of what it means than the man who authored it?

Theocrates will often find obscure quotes and even early violations of the separation of church and state and posit that as proof that it doesn't exist. But that is not proof that there is no separation of church and state. It only proves that it was as contentious an issue then as it is now.

Look at it this way. Alexander Hamilton wanted a strong central government instead of the small limited government that the Constitution calls for. Suppose I then quote from Hamilton and then conclude that there should be a large government because of this quote? Would that over ride what the constitution says? Of course not. Ultimately of coarse what matters is what the Constitution says. James Madison wrote the first amendment and I have clearly shown what it means and backed it up with Madison's own words and actions as President.

Now if any theocrate ever mentions to you ( for example) that the national day of prayer proclamation proves there is no separation of church and state. All you have to do is call that what it is , a red herring. You know what the first amendment says and any theocrate pointing to early violations of it does not prove or lend any credence in any shape or form to their fallacious argument.