First  Amendment

The purpose of the Bill of Rights is twofold; to protect those unalienable, God-given rights the Declaration of Independence
declares to have been endowed by our Creator; and to clarify the intent and extent of the doctrine of enumerated powers.
The First Amendment protects the primary freedoms of religion, speech, press and assembly. The Second Amendment
confirms the right of personal defense. Amendments Three through Eight protects the rights of privacy and liberty.
Amendment Nine protects rights not specified, and Ten reaffirms the doctrine of enumerated powers.

    First Amendment, Clause 1: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the
    free exercise thereof;

During the past half-century, there has been a concerted effort by secular progressives to eliminate God from American
public life and deny our Judeo-Christian heritage. Insisting on strict adherence to the concept of political correctness,
imported from communist China in the 1970s, organizations like the ACLU and Americans United for the Separation of
Church and State, have kept the courts busy with lawsuit after lawsuit designed to force local communities, by intimidation
or court order, to remove any public expression of Christianity from community property and events.  In this effort, the
courts have been willing accomplices.

Prayer has been banned from public schools, local courthouses have been required to remove copies of the Ten
Commandments from public display, and any references to the birth of Christ are fast disappearing from our Christmas
celebrations. All accompanied by the claim that our Constitution demands it.

The Founders who “with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence“, mutually pledged to each other their Lives,
their Fortunes and their sacred Honor and then endured eight years of war and hardship to establish a new nation, would be
dismayed to see how we have misinterpreted and misapplied the Constitution and contorted history in an attempt to eliminate
the influence of God from our public life.

Some of the most common arguments used by progressives, secular humanists, and religious modernists to support their
efforts to kick God out of America are the First Amendment, and the “wall of separation between church and state”
mentioned by Thomas Jefferson, and the absence to any reference to God in the Constitution.

With the possible exception of the doctrine of enumerated powers found in Article I, the First Amendment has been more
consistently under attack by statists, secular humanists, and progressives than any other part of our Constitution. Instead of
preventing religious oppression by the federal government as intended, the First Amendment is used by the left to suppress
Christianity at the state and local levels. Thus far, no one has been burned at the stake yet, but that’s not how the left works.
Instead, it does its work through conditioning, taking away just enough liberty to engender mild protest. It then pauses and
allows the population to become accustomed to life without the lost freedom. As soon as it does, a little more is taken. The
process is repeated, one step at time until one day, we realize that all our liberty is gone.

A major part of the process is propaganda and half-truths spread through the media and the modern education system. Given
enough time, the lie becomes truth and meanings are reversed.  Freedom of religion becomes freedom from religion. Free
speech becomes hate speech.  Patriotism becomes obstructionism and patriots become dangerous radicals.

The Bill of Rights is often treated as a single unit much like Article I, Section 8, in the body of the Constitution.  It is not.
Section 8 is a single, compound sentence, listing the unique powers delegated to the Congress— separated only by
semicolons, as noted by James Madison in Federalist Number 41. The Bill of Rights consists of ten stand-alone amendments,
each dealing with a different subject. It went through at least four revisions before being ratified by the states.

The meaning of the First Amendment can be seen clearly by considering the drafts it went through before the final wording
--- as refined by Senate Committee, --- was  presented to Congress for a vote. Three things about the First Amendment are
apparent from the wording and from history.  First, the Amendment applies only to Congress and the Federal Government,
not to the states. Second, its purpose was to forbid the establishment of a national religion. Third, the Federal Government,
including the Courts, Congress and the Executive branch, are forbidden to interfere with how individuals, communities, or
states choose to express their faith in God. Any objective reading of the First Amendment in context makes apparent that its
purpose is to protect the practice of religion from the tyranny of government not to protect government from the influence of
religious principles.

As proposed to Congress by James Madison, the various amendments were intended to be incorporated into the body of the
Constitution.  What eventually became the First Amendment was, in Madison’s original proposal, a part of his Fourth
Amendment.

    “Fourthly. That in article 1st, section 9, between clauses 3 and 4, be inserted these clauses, to wit:  ‘The civil rights
    of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established, nor
    shall the full and equal rights of conscience be in any manner, or in any pretext, infringed.” “The people shall not be
    deprived or abridged of their right to speak, to write, or to publish their sentiments; and the freedom  of the press, as
    one of the great bulwarks of Liberty, shall be inviolable.”

    “The people shall not be restrained from peaceably assembling and consulting for their common good; nor from
    applying to the Legislature by petitions, or remonstrance, for redress of their grievances….” *

It was reported out by the House Select Committee on July 28, 1789 as,

    “No religion shall be established by law, nor shall the equal rights of conscience be infringed”

    “The freedom of speech, and of the press, and the right of the people peaceably to assemble and consult for their
    common good, and to apply to the government for redress of grievances, shall not be infringed.” *

It was passed by the House of Representatives on August 24, 1789 as the third and fourth amendments.

    The Third Amendment read, “Congress shall make no law establishing religion or prohibiting the free exercise
    thereof, nor shall the rights of Conscience be infringed.” *

The Fourth Amendment contained the clauses dealing with speech, the press and assembly. The Senate combined the third
and fourth amendments of the House version and passed them as the Third Amendment:

    “Congress shall make no law establishing articles of faith, or a mode of worship, or prohibiting the free exercise of
    religion, 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.” *

It was revised further, to its present form, before being proposed to the States by Congress as the Third Amendment.

    “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 to peaceably assemble and to petition the
    Government for a redress of grievances.” *
    * Quotes from Richard Labunski, James Madison and the struggle for the Bill of Rights (Oxford University Press,
    2006)

The Bill of Rights was proposed to the states as twelve separate amendments. The first two were not ratified, making the
Amendment dealing with the freedom of religion, speech, press and assembly the first Amendment.

What is important to note here is that the First Amendment applies only to Congress, it does not apply to the states. Had it
been submitted to the states and ratified as reported out by the House Committee, the restrictions would also be binding on
the states under Article VI, clause 2.

The phrase
“Congress shall make no law”, added by the House and carried through the Senate and the final version, limit’s
the restriction to Congress only. However, most states have similar protections in their State Constitution. The Illinois State
Constitution, for example, reads, in part;
“…No person shall be required to attend or support any ministry or place of
worship against his consent, nor shall any preference be given by law to any religious denomination or mode of worship….”

A study of the First Amendment in its historical context reveals several important facts concerning its scope and purpose.
First, its purpose was to prevent the establishment of a national religion as concisely expressed in Madison’s proposal and
carried through all the various versions to ratification.  Although the Madison version and the Senate version contained more
detailed specifics, all unquestionably continue the same intent. A second purpose was to prevent the federal government’s
sanctioning of religious persecution.

An unspecified additional consequence of the Amendment was to prohibit the use of federal tax monies to fund church
activities and pay the salaries of clergy.  The fact that these practices were continued in several of the states long after the
ratification of the First Amendment is an additional indication that its scope was limited to the federal government.  In effect,
the First Amendment is a reaffirmation of Hamilton’s argument in Federalist Number 81 that the federal government has no
powers that “would allow it to affect the freedoms of religion, speech or press in any way.”
E-mail address
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Philosophy of
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Chapter 21
Bill of Rights
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