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Understanding "Freedom of Religion"

SNP1
Posts: 2,406
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2/14/2014 3:45:48 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
What is freedom of religion? It is a title to the first amendment. What does the first amendment say about religion?

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion"

Now, why don't we break this down?

Establishment: the action of establishing something or being established.

Establish: set up on a firm or permanent basis.

Religion: the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods.

What does this mean?

"Congress shall make no law respecting the setting up, firmly or permanently, of the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods"

This means that religion itself cannot have favor by the government, not just specific religions.
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rockwater
Posts: 273
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2/14/2014 4:54:30 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 2/14/2014 3:45:48 PM, SNP1 wrote:
What is freedom of religion? It is a title to the first amendment. What does the first amendment say about religion?

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion"

Now, why don't we break this down?

Establishment: the action of establishing something or being established.

Establish: set up on a firm or permanent basis.

Religion: the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods.

What does this mean?

"Congress shall make no law respecting the setting up, firmly or permanently, of the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods"

This means that religion itself cannot have favor by the government, not just specific religions.

The establishment clause was in reference to the Church of England as the Established Church back across the pond. The term "Established Church" was invented in England in order to describe the Church of England after its split from the Roman Catholic Church. An Established Church is the government's official church and is controlled and funded by the government. In England at that time, only C of E members could attend university, occupy positions in the government, etc. Non-Anglican Protestants could have their own houses of worship but were subject to the restrictions above. Atheism, Catholicism, non-trinitarian Christianity, etc., were all technically illegal. In the 13 Colonies, the Church of England had been the Established Church in Virginia and the Congregational (Puritan) Church had been the Established Church in Massachusetts.

This is the situation that the Establishment Clause was trying to prevent, although it took a while for the Congregational Church to stop being the Established Church in Massachusetts.

Over the course of US History, court rulings have come to interpret the Establishment Clause to not only prevent the government from favoring one variety of religion over another, but also to prevent the government from favoring religion over non-religion (or non-religion over religion).

Right now, the Lemon Test is often used in US Courts to determine if a law or goverment action violates the Establishment Clause. The Lemon Test says:

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

(From Wikipedia article on Lemon v. Kurtzman)

The "freedom of religion" part of the First Amendment also prevents the government from inhibiting the free exercise of religion. Therefore you often see people referring to the "Establishment Clause" and the "Free Exercise Clause."
SNP1
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2/14/2014 5:46:11 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
Then why do we have "under God" in our pledge and "In God we trust" as our motto? According to the Lemon Test we shouldn't have either. Neither is secular. Neither has a primary effect other than advancing religion. It has caused many petitions to get rid of it so it has somewhat entangled the government with religion, but that point is weak. It failed 1 and 2, how come they exist?
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bladerunner060
Posts: 7,126
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2/14/2014 6:04:02 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 2/14/2014 5:46:11 PM, SNP1 wrote:
Then why do we have "under God" in our pledge and "In God we trust" as our motto? According to the Lemon Test we shouldn't have either. Neither is secular. Neither has a primary effect other than advancing religion. It has caused many petitions to get rid of it so it has somewhat entangled the government with religion, but that point is weak. It failed 1 and 2, how come they exist?

They were both established during the 50s in response to the "red scare" of the "godless communists".

Why they're allowed to remain such is open to debate--the usual defense is that despite the obvious theological aspects, their "primary purpose" is secular. I think it's a weak argument, but there haven't been that many challenges to it, all things considered, and barring legislative action the courts would have to be the ones to rule on it.
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SNP1
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2/14/2014 6:07:10 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
I usually hear people ignorantly claiming that they have been there since our countries founding. I always die a little when they say that.
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rockwater
Posts: 273
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2/15/2014 12:43:15 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 2/14/2014 6:07:10 PM, SNP1 wrote:
I usually hear people ignorantly claiming that they have been there since our countries founding. I always die a little when they say that.

"In God We Trust" was not the national motto until the 50's, but it was first printed on US coin currency during the Civil War after an act of Congress authorized it. "Under God" was indeed added to the Pledge of Allegiance in the '50's.

These references to God have been upheld in court cases:

From http://en.wikipedia.org...:

"The motto was first challenged in Aronow v. United States in 1970, but the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled: "It is quite obvious that the national motto and the slogan on coinage and currency 'In God We Trust' has nothing whatsoever to do with the establishment of religion. Its use is of patriotic or ceremonial character and bears no true resemblance to a governmental sponsorship of a religious exercise."[34] The decision was cited in Elk Grove Unified School District v. Newdow, a 2004 case on the Pledge of Allegiance. These acts of "ceremonial deism" are "protected from Establishment Clause scrutiny chiefly because they have lost through rote repetition any significant religious content."[35] In Zorach v. Clauson (1952), the Supreme Court also held that the nation's "institutions presuppose a Supreme Being" and that government recognition of God does not constitute the establishment of a state church as the Constitution's authors intended to prohibit.[36]"

See also: http://en.wikipedia.org...

There are various arguments, but the chief one seems to be that "ceremonial Deism" is not a religion, or that references to it do not constitute an excessive entanglement with religion.

I think it is a bigger entanglement with religion that we have is we hire and pay chaplains for the House and Senate to open up each house with a prayer. That has been held up in court too.
Khaos_Mage
Posts: 23,214
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2/15/2014 1:26:23 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 2/14/2014 5:46:11 PM, SNP1 wrote:
Then why do we have "under God" in our pledge and "In God we trust" as our motto? According to the Lemon Test we shouldn't have either. Neither is secular. Neither has a primary effect other than advancing religion. It has caused many petitions to get rid of it so it has somewhat entangled the government with religion, but that point is weak. It failed 1 and 2, how come they exist?

Test 1: I see no reason that there can be no appeal to a higher power. Yes, that higher power is referred to as God, but it is not specific to any particular religion. Nor is there a requirement to follow such God, nor is the oath of office, courtroom Bibles, or pledges of allegiances required to put faith in God.
Test 2: It does not advance any religion specifically, and since the government cannot prohibit the free exercise of religion, it can recognize religion in a general term. Otherwise, the clergy:parish protection advances religion, and should thus be eliminated. So does tax exempt status.
My work here is, finally, done.
sadolite
Posts: 8,842
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2/15/2014 1:53:00 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
The biggest misunderstanding about freedom "OF" religion is that it is not freedom "FROM" religion.
It's not your views that divide us, it's what you think my views should be that divides us.

If you think I will give up my rights and forsake social etiquette to make you "FEEL" better you are sadly mistaken

If liberal democrats would just stop shooting people gun violence would drop by 90%
rockwater
Posts: 273
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2/15/2014 9:47:54 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 2/15/2014 1:53:00 PM, sadolite wrote:
The biggest misunderstanding about freedom "OF" religion is that it is not freedom "FROM" religion.

This whole thread is about how people in the US are constitutionally free "from" a government establishment of religion. Free exercise "of" religion is in a different part of the first amendment. There is some disagreement as to what constitutes a government establishment of religion. Hence the court cases that continue today.
AnDoctuir
Posts: 11,060
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2/15/2014 11:19:50 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
I think we should pay sadolite a salary for his posts for in case he ever thinks of stopping.
SNP1
Posts: 2,406
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2/16/2014 10:35:35 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
khaos_mage: Test one puts non believers before believers, therefore it fails this test. We should also look at the official motto and pledge of allegiance.
"In God We Trust"
There can be debate on if it is talking about the Christian God or generic god when looking at the motto. Now, let's look at how it came to be. When it was first proposed to be put on our money it was proposed by REVEREND M. R. Watkinson, a minister of the gospel. Then, since we have more Christians in office than non-Christians, it slowly took over and became the motto. Here is the thing, looking at the origin you can see that the god being talked about is the Christian God. Even if we do not look at that it is still putting non-believers bellow believers
Now let us look at the pledge,
"under God,"
Look at the actual pledge, it does not capitalize every word, but the word God is capitalized. The only god referred to as God with a capital G instead of having a different name is the Christian God. If the G was not capitalized then it could be seen as being generic, but it still puts non-believers lower than believers.

Test 2: Motto pushes religion over non-religion, looking at the origin it pushes Christianity. If fails the test.
Pledge pushes the Christian God, failing the test.

Sadolite: How can you of freedom of religion if a government puts favor in religion? The only way to truly have freedom of religion is to have freedom from government sponsored religion. Even if the government just pushes religion in general it still is pushing religion over non-religion.

rockwater: Thank you for explaining that.

andoctuir: I think that is a horrible idea.
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