The Instigator
Tatarize
Pro (for)
Winning
41 Points
The Contender
clsmooth
Con (against)
Losing
37 Points

The First Amendment of the US Constitution guarantees freedom from religion.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 1/25/2008 Category: Religion
Updated: 9 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 3,947 times Debate No: 2190
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (32)
Votes (23)

 

Tatarize

Pro

The First Amendment of the US Constitution guarantees not only freedom of religion but freedom from religion.
clsmooth

Con

This is absolutely not true.

The First Amendment is very specific and not at all unclear:

"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."

CONGRESS SHALL MAKE NO LAW. Congress. Shall make no law. That's it.

And what shall they not make a law doing? Respecting the establishment or religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

This in no way implies a "right" to be "free from" religion. The only freedom "from" religion you have is to walk away from proselytizers and retreat to your own property; and to not associate with religious individuals. There is no "affirmative" or "positive" right implied by the First Amendment.

The First Amendment -- like the rest of the Constitution -- was written with Original Intent. THERE WERE STATE CHURCHES AT THE TIME OF THE CONSTITUTION'S RATIFICATION. The state constitution of Massachusetts recognized the establishment of religion until 1830. Never was there a First Amendment challenge, because the First Amendment clearly only applies to the federal government. It has only been more recent bastardizations of the Constitution by Dictators from the Bench that have reinvented the meaning of the First Amendment and the rest of the Constitution.

And I say this as a firmly secular atheist. Facts are facts.
Debate Round No. 1
Tatarize

Pro

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

Congress (and by 14th amendment expansion to all US government) guarantees the rights of the people to be free from religion _imposed by the state_.

Many people fail to understand that the bill of rights are specifically crafted to protect the people from the state. Many believe "freedom from religion" to contend that the rights of the people are to be infringed upon by the government, keeping people separated from their religions. However this is a strawman and your freedom of religion in such a case would be infringed.

My opponent contends that "[t]he only freedom 'from' religion you have is to walk away from proselytizers and retreat to your own property; and to not associate with religious individuals." -- This is categorically false. I have the freedom to not have the state infringe upon my religious rights by forcing on to me a religious opinion I do not accept.

The wall of separation between church and state prevents the state from infringing your freedom of religion and or your freedom from religion. The government of the United States can neither restrict your religious exercises nor have you to engage in religious exercises against your will.

The idea that freedom from religion is freedom from the religion of other people is terribly naive. You have freedom from religion being force on you from the state.

The Supreme Court is tasked with interpreting and understanding the meaning and intent of the Constitution, if you don't believe me you should still be inclined to believe their interpretations as they are the baseline understanding of your rights. Everson v. Board of Education's decision has clarified the positions of religious rights for the last 60 years:

The "establishment of religion" clause of the First Amendment means at least this: Neither a state nor the Federal Government can set up a church. Neither can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another. Neither can force nor influence a person to go to or to remain away from church against his will or force him to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion. No person can be punished for entertaining or professing religious beliefs or disbeliefs, for church attendance or non-attendance. No tax in any amount, large or small, can be levied to support any religious activities or institutions, whatever they may be called, or whatever form they may adopt to teach or practice religion. Neither a state nor the Federal Government can, openly or secretly, participate in the affairs of any religious organizations or groups and vice versa. In the words of Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect "a wall of separation between church and State."

The Federal Government cannot "force him to profess a belief or disbelief in religion". Taxes cannot be "levied to support religious activities" nor can the state or Federal Government "participate in the affairs of any religious organization". -- The government cannot push religion nor prevent it. The government cannot infringe upon your freedom of religion nor your freedom from religion.

Your rights guaranteed by the bill of rights are to protect you from the government which must, by law, show no favoritism to any religion.

My opponent is correct that initially there were state churches and that was not strictly forbidden by the Constitution until the 14th amendment increased the powers of the federal government and extended the bill of rights protections to restrict the powers of government at all levels of government. This was because the southern states were routinely violating the rights of southern blacks and the the restrictions on government power at the federal level were expanded to be a restriction on all government power (rightly so). So that neither the Federal Government nor the state governments could violate your right.

However, even if the bill of rights was not expanded to apply to the state and local levels you would still have a first amendment freedom of religion and from religion right at the federal level. If not for the 14th amendment you could be forced to pray to Allah at the state level against your will with threat of force but not at the federal level.

The government due to the first amendment has no right to enforce any establishment of religion upon you. You have freedom from religion.
clsmooth

Con

1. The 14th amendment was never properly ratified. See: http://en.wikipedia.org...

2. Even if the 14th amendment were legitimate (it isn't), it still does not apply all of the Bill of Rights to the states. It is absurd to suggest that it does. This is NOT how the amendment was understood at the time it was supposedly ratified, and your interpretation was created out of thin air by the Supreme Court in 1947.

The 14th amendment states: "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

Where does this say that all of the restrictions on government imposed by the Bill of Rights and Constitution are thus imposed on the states? NOWHERE. Your interpretation of the 14th (which again, was never even ratified) was birthed by the most bogus and overt act of judicial activism in our nation's history.

The 9th amendment: "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people." Does this amendment apply to the states as well? If so, then the people have every imaginable natural right, and thus, virtually every bit of state legislation is unconstitutional. Obviously, the 9th does NOT apply to the states (and the federal government is undeterred by it as well).

The 10th amendment: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." This amendment was NOT repealed by the 14th (nor was the 9th), and thus still remains. State churches are not prohibited anywhere in the Constitution, and thus, the right of establishing one is RESERVED by the state.

And finally: Even if I were to accept your statist argument (which I don't), the fact is that this still does NOT imply a "right" to be "free from" religion -- only against the establishment of religion. Nothing in the Constitution bans co-mingling of religion and government.

Separation of church and state is a good principle and one that I agree with. BUT IT IS NOT NOW, NOR HAS EVER BEEN, LEGITIMATE LAW.
Debate Round No. 2
Tatarize

Pro

The 14th amendment has been part of our established law for more than a hundred years. The Supreme court has ruled, and properly so, that the First Amendment protections of freedom of religion and freedom from religion extend to all branches of the government.

Further, I do not need the 14th amendment to succeed in showing that a freedom from religion, a freedom protecting the people from having a religion imposed upon them by the government, does exist and is conveyed by the first amendment of the Constitution. Even if the state government could threaten to lock you in jail for not converting to Islam. The federal government could not come in and force you to adopt or endorse religious statements that you do not endorse. You are unsuccessfully arguing a moot position as you would have the rights at the federal level.

It was the purpose of the first amendment to establish, as Jefferson wrote, a "wall of separation between church and state" that is not to suggest that the federal government would keep people from their religion. People are allowed to do whatever they want and the first amendment forbids the government from either infringing your freedom of religion or to be free from religion being push on you by the state.

This doesn't stop the Hare Krishnas from bothering you at the airport but does prevent the government paying the Hare Krishnas to convert your children as well as prevent the government from stopping the Hare Krishnas from practicing their religion. The bill of rights "prevents the government" from doing things.

Even if you contend that my local mayor could abuse his rights and force the local schools to convert the kids to being Satanists or something, the federal government would still be so prevented. Your rights would extend at the federal level (although that's a silly argument as your rights clearly extend all levels of government by the 14th amendment as you freely admit).

You say that nothing in the constitution bans the co-mingling of religion and government, however that absolutely wrong. The Bill of Rights restrict the power of the government. The government cannot take away your guns, your free speech, your religion, your life or liberty without due process, force religions on you, compel speech, quarter troops in your house. The first clause of the first amendment says that congress has no place in the creation of laws which co-mingle religion and government. Further in the Supreme Court Decision of Lemon v. Kurtzman rather expressly established the Lemon Test to see if government action violated the religion clauses:

1. The government's action must have a legitimate secular purpose;
2. The government's action must not have the primary effect of either advancing or inhibiting religion;
3. The government's action must not result in an "excessive government entanglement" with religion.

See number three there? The excessive entanglement of government with religion. That's what I'd like to call a smoking gun as, not only does the first amendment prevent the co-mingling, they pretty well word for word say you are wrong. The Supreme court (which by the way is constitutionally established to decide such things) says you are wrong about the constitution.

Your argument seems to suggest that people don't have rights, the powers of government are unchecked and if your state wants to take your guns they can, that the constitutionally established Supreme Court have no right to decide whether or not these non-existent rights are being violated. These kinds of arguments have always seemed rather odd to me. Would you contend that the State of Virgina (just a random selection) could constitutionally pass a law requiring people be shot in the head if they said the word Vajayjay? You contend that the bill of rights do not restrict state government, so no freedom of speech there. Further, if this law was not acceptable and the "Dictators from the Bench" are not allowed to judge what the Constitution says... who strikes down the law? Does it sit there? Can you just ignore what is in the constitution as nobody has any say when it is violated?

Why is it that people who seem to claim to want to restrict the power of government are constantly arguing that the government has unlimited power?

You have freedom of religion. The state cannot keep you from your religion.
You have freedom from religion. The state cannot force you to adopt a different religion.
clsmooth

Con

You're twisting my words.

I never said the First Amendment does not apply to the federal government. Obviously, the federal government cannot establish a state religion. However, religion and government have co-mingled since our nation's inception. James Madison essentially wrote the Constitution, and yet he made four religious proclamations as president. REF: James D. Richardson, A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents (Washington: Bureau of National Literature, 1897), Vol. II, pp. 498, 517-518, 543, 545-546.

You admit that prior to the 14th amendment's supposed passage, the Bill of Rights did not apply to the states. This is obviously true since Jefferson himself gave a Thanksgiving prayer as governor of Virginia, after the 1st amendment's passage.

But the weakness of your argument is this: You just point to the Supreme Court -- the same court that gave us Dred Scott. Who made the Supreme Court the final arbiters of law? They did themselves. The founding fathers would have never stood for this. Jackson himself did not. And it was only after the War of Northern Aggression that the Supreme Court's totalitarianism became widely accepted (it took the death of 650,000 Americans). Prior to this time, it was the executive, legislative, AND judicial branches -- as well as the states -- that determine a law's constitutionality.

Thus, according to you, if the Supreme Court decided tomorrow that the United States would hereby abide by Shariah law, then you would have to agree. After all, in your blindly-trustful-of-government haze, the Dictators of the Bench are omniscient gods in black robes: They can never be wrong. Again, see Dred Scott.

The 14th amendment was not ratified, no matter how long we've been pretending it has been. No one really even argues that it was properly ratified, they just go along with the charade. (This is NOT a "conspiracy theory" as many have with the 16th -- the 14th REALLY WASN'T ratified). And even if we continue this fantasy, the fact is that the amendment does NOT say what the Supreme Court has determined it says.

The blind faith in the Supreme Court that has given you your atheist utopia is the same one that can enshrine socialist Mike Huckabee as Grand Ayatollah of Christendom.

Be careful what you wish for.
Debate Round No. 3
32 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Kleptin 8 years ago
Kleptin
Tied this, someone halp.
Posted by happypancakeeater 9 years ago
happypancakeeater
Sorry about filling the comment section. I just wanted to know if he really was a crazy as he sounded.
Posted by SchinkBR 9 years ago
SchinkBR
Wow, clsmooth, apparently having more faith in several Supreme Courts, congresses, and presidents over you makes means I worship false Gods and I'm not a conservative, depsite the fact that I agree with you side. I took an AP government class so that's how I came to understand the constitution. It's so nice to know that you accuse people who disagree with you, rather than try to maturly debate them you turn to childish assusations and insults.
Posted by Tatarize 9 years ago
Tatarize
Nah, you can object to the entire premise of the statement and disprove it just as easily as you can object to the reasoning.

A debate that your mother doesn't know you're gay. Could be potentially defeated on the grounds of not being gay. Though, I'm sure some gay guy would jump in for the quick win there.

Though, the points still the same. If you object to that one, feel free to pick a better topic...

Much easier than debating in the comments of this old debate.
Posted by happypancakeeater 9 years ago
happypancakeeater
As much as I enjoy exercises in futility, I don't think I would enjoy it in this particular case.

Besides, arguing
"Lincoln was the American Hitler precisely because he rejected Jeffersonianism." would mean that Lincoln was Hitler and we would we just be debating why.
Posted by Tatarize 9 years ago
Tatarize
No debate csmooth.

"Lincoln was the American Hitler precisely because he rejected Jeffersonianism."

Choose Con and offer him the debate.
Posted by happypancakeeater 9 years ago
happypancakeeater
How so?
I can't debate you if you make the thesis that "the constitution guarantees freedom from state sponsored religion" because you would be totally correct.

I can't debate clsmooth because he is the type of person who would tell JFK that his perception of the cuban missile crisis was wrong.

I would probably enjoy debating you, but you should probably tell me what topics you would like debating.

If we do debate, please try to make your points mostly in syllogism or reference lengthy proofs with at tag.
Posted by Tatarize 9 years ago
Tatarize
Perhaps you should offer the debate.
Posted by happypancakeeater 9 years ago
happypancakeeater
"Now, there were many reasons why the South did not appeal to the right of revolution. One reason was that there were no abuses that they had been subject to, comparable to the ones enumerated in the Declaration of Independence. Lincoln, in his inaugural address, said that there was not a single constitutional right which anybody could point to, to say that that had been violated. They were exercising this right as something that was to their pleasure, for their own purposes, but that had nothing to do with the Constitution, and yet they were claiming it as a Constitutional right to withdraw from the Union."

-Lincoln had motivation on two fronts, first, this rights of the individuals preempt the rights of the state, so slavery was justification alone, Lincoln just preferred that it die out slowly rather than result in bloodshed. Second, there is no right of secession and never has been. The state doesn't have the right to change the citizenship of its citizens. That right is given to the individual and the individual alone.

"The bill of rights did not apply to all the states."
If that were the case, the document was entirely useless and the citizens should be subject to any unconstititional, draconian measure legislated by a given state.

"Lincoln was the American Hitler precisely because he rejected Jeffersonianism."
-by that logic, half the founding fathers were "American Hitlers"

You have no understanding of the American system and no appreciation of different perspectives.
Posted by clsmooth 9 years ago
clsmooth
You're an idiot. Lincoln was the American Hitler precisely because he rejected Jeffersonianism. Jefferson was the champion of American virtue and liberty. Lincoln, though he used Jeffersonian rhetoric, was an Old Whig; an enemy of the Constitution and of the Jeffersonian Democrats.

When I was your age, I was just as dumb as you. You've been exposed to the truth. Hopefully, it will take root in time.

Goodbye.
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Tatarize
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