Paulson starts the article correctly, the first amendment is pretty misunderstood, mainly due to the liberal obfuscation that has gone on in the past, oh, 75 or so years.
Democratic candidate Chris Coons was quick to tell O'Donnell that religion and government are kept separate by the First Amendment.Indeed it is, Mr. Paulson? Really? Let's see what the first amendment says with regard to the subject matter at hand. The religion clause says, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." Well at first glance, I see nothing to suggest that the constitution says "separation of church and state" at all. It does say that congress can't make a law that establishes a religion, and can't prohibit the free exercise of religion. Seems to me that the restrictions here are pretty specific. But let's see what Paulson has to say to us in his article.
"You're telling me that's in the First Amendment?" she responded.
Indeed it is.
He asserts in big bold letters, "Keeping government out of religion and religion out of government is a core principle of the First Amendment." Okay, well, this kind of thing will certainly have a good argument to support it, since the actual document he claims says this doesn't actually say it at all. After quoting the establishment clause, he continues, "James Madison, the author of the Bill of Rights, would later explain the need for this separation, saying, 'religion and Govt. will both exist in greater purity, Â the less they are mixed together.'" Okay, so one quote from James Madison proves his point? Where does Madison here say anything about a separation of church and state?
Well let's look at the context of Madison's quote here to see what's being talked about. Immediately following what Paulson cites, Madison writes, "It was the belief of all sects at one time that the establishment of Religion by law was right and necessary; that the true religion ought to be established in exclusion of every other; and that the only question to be decided was, which was the true religion."1 Um, that doesn't look to me anything like the total abolition of religious recognition by the government, but rather a discussion about establishing, "by law," a religion of the state. There's nothing here about not acknowledging God in government at all. and certainly nothing there about teaching creationism in schools.
James Madison was a fierce proponent, as we all should be, of the first amendment. He was against the intrusion of the government into the life of the individual, as we all should be, especially on matters of religion. He battled legislation that would have instituted things that favored certain religions, like collecting taxes for specific churches.2 It's also patently obvious why forcing a religion on people by mandating it by law is a bad idea. First off, religion is about individual conviction, and the Christian religion is about a relationship, which cannot be coerced.
But this James Madison also said things like,
I have sometimes thought there could not be a stronger testimony in favor of religion or against temporal enjoyments, even the most rational and manly, than for men who occupy the most honorable and gainful departments and [who] are rising in reputation and wealth, publicly to declare their unsatisfactoriness by becoming fervent advocates in the cause of Christ; and I wish you may give in your evidence in this way.3He thought that it would be a positive thing for men in positions of power to publicly pronounce their allegiance to the Christian religion. So, state religion bad; acknowledgement of religion, not bad. There is a marked difference between making a state religion, and teaching creationism in school.
Paulson then says,
The phrase stemmed from a letter Thomas Jefferson wrote to the Danbury Baptist Association in 1802. He cited the language of the First Amendment and said that it built "a wall of separation between Church and State." This was not just some poetic flourish. This was one of the nation's founders and author of the Declaration of Independence explaining exactly what the First Amendment means.Paulson refers to truth, but gets it wrong. Yes, Jefferson, in response to the Danbury Baptist's fear of government intrusion in their worship, said that the government will not interfere because there is a wall separating the church from the state. But this was to assure them that the state will not infringe upon the rights of the people, not that God is to be extradited from the public square and relegated to chapels and bedrooms. Congress opens in prayer for Pete's sake.
To top it off, Paulson states, "The separation of church and state means that teachers in public schools can't teach their faith to their students." Oh come on. He argues that since teachers are public employees, they can't preach their faith to students. This assumes some pretty ridiculous things. 1) It assumes that creationism is a religion. It's not, it's a position on how the universe began that happens to be a part of a religion. 2) It assumes that if teachers mention something from a religion in class, it is preaching their faith. This is absurd.
Why is it that people like Paulson are so worried that big bad creationism could be mentioned in schools? If the theory that is propagated in schools today has such rousing evidential support, then certainly reasonable people will come to the conclusion that an alternative is wrong. Why is it that when the dogma of neo-Darwinism is questioned, there is such virulent and misleading things written about those who would criticize it? And why do people who fancy themselves experts on the first amendment attribute things to it that it doesn't say?
What does the first amendment say? It doesn't say what the left would have it say.
1 Madison, James. Letters And Other Writings Of James Madison, Fourth President Of The United States. Vol 3. Philadelphia: JP Lippincott & Co., 1865. 275.
2 Loconte, Joseph. "James Madison and Religious Liberty." The Heritage Foundation, 16 Mar 2001. Web. 19 Oct 2010.
3 Letter to William Bradford, September 25, 1773