Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,
or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . .
Bill of Rights, Article I.
The so-called ‘Establishment Clause’ of the Constitution’s First Amendment seems, to minds unburdened by doctrinaire religion, to disallow the government from either aiding or prohibiting the free exercise of any religion. Period. Religious bias, pro and/or con, is not an option. And while it’s true that the (oft-cited/criticized) ‘Separation of Church and State’ words are not used anywhere in the Constitution, the words make no law are crystal clear in meaning. It does seem, however, that the words free exercise inspire, in some, thoughts and attitudes which, to the rational mind, are in complete conflict with the Constitution’s stated “hands off” premise in re religion.
Recently, for example, (retired) Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin addressed an event sponsored by Liberty Counsel and the Freedom Federation wherein he went to some length to elaborate his views regarding the Constitution’s stated and presumably implicit positions in re his own religious biases. Boykin claims, for example (highlights mine), that the Founders must have understood there to be a major difference between “worship” and “religion” and the “freedom(s)” therein implicit, when he says:
Folks, if you accept the concept of freedom of worship you are going down a dangerous path. They [Founders] didn’t just give us freedom of worship, they gave us freedom of religion. What they said was you can believe what you want to believe, and you can live your faith.
In other words, to Boykin’s mind the difference is clear: freedom of worship imposes limits that freedom of religion does not. Freedom of religion apparently permits believers to do whatever they perceive their religion demands, even when doing so requires discrimination against those who believe differently. Freedom of worship, meanwhile, presumably denies to believers their ‘right’ to impose.
Boykin then continues to make his point:
Today, that constitutional freedom is in the greatest jeopardy of any of our constitutional liberties. It is the freedom of religion and it is based on a radical agenda to tell you that you can believe what you want to believe but you cannot live your faith in the public square. . . .
“If America accepts what Hitler forced the church in Germany to accept, which was freedom to worship, we’re going to wind up being just like Germany. We’re in the same situation today. We’re being told that we can have freedom of worship but we cannot have freedom of religion and we’re going to have to pay a price. . . . We’ve got to stand up to evil.”
Not sure I comprehend Boykin’s point. In his Nazi Germany ‘metaphor,’ is he suggesting that Jews were allowed the freedom of worship but not freedom of religion, i.e. “you can believe what you want to believe but you cannot live your faith in the public square” — ergo the gas chambers and crematoria? Is Boykin implying that if he and others who share his religious beliefs are allowed only the freedom of worship and not the freedom of religion — the right to discriminate against others because religion allows — that death camps therefore await?
Seems like quite a reach. Boykin ignores the fact that the word “worship” is nowhere in the Constitution; that the words “freedom of” are found only in the ‘freedom of speech’ context of the first amendment; that the word “religion” is found solely in the Establishment Clause cited above, and that the word “religious” appears in one place only, in Article VI of the main body as “no religious Test shall ever be required . . .”; the words “religious liberty” are never used anywhere.
Speaking of “religious liberty,” Ted Cruz recently suggested that
“We are one liberal justice away from the Supreme Court ruling that government can take our religious liberty away and force every one of us to violate our faith on penalty of prison or fine.”
Cruz, supposedly a Constitutional lawyer, seems to presume that somewhere in that document is a guarantee of “religious liberty” that matches his opinion of what that might mean, but yet nowhere is there even a mention of the concept — with the possible exception of the first amendment’s establishment clause closing phrase: prohibiting the free exercise thereof. But is it legally realistic to interpret those words to mean that believers of a particular religion have Constitutional permission, via the words free exercise . . . of religion in the first amendment’s Establishment Clause, to demand that everyone else submit to their beliefs because they believe that’s what their god instructs? Is the balance of the non-discriminatory and equality language in the Constitution as amended rendered meaningless by the concept of religion, by the free exercise thereof phrase? Do only the practitioners of a particular religion have absolute Constitutional rights?
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed
to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
Bill of Rights, Article IX.
Seems clear to me, but then I’m not a retired Lt. General, not a constitutional lawyer, not a presidential candidate, not a religious zealot. Thank all gods (sotospeak).