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The Constitution and Religion

2/20/2005 - 6:40 AM PST

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THE CONSTITUTION BANS ESTABLISHMENT OF RELIGION AND RELIGIOUS TESTS, NOT GOVERNMENTAL SUPPORT OF RELIGION GENERALLY AND RELIGIOUS VALUES

The First Amendment forbids Congress from making a law “respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

The United States Supreme Court, in Everson v. Board of Education (1947), insisted that the First Amendment means that neither federal nor state governments “can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another.”

The drafters and ratifiers of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights defined religion in terms of Judeo-Christian theism.

Accordingly, the First Amendment was "God-centered." James Madison called religion "the duty we owe our Creator."

He did not define religion as "irreligion" or atheism.

They are the antithesis of religion, not religion.

The religious clauses of the First Amendment were written with God as the focal point.

But, that God-centeredness has been abandoned by a Supreme Court misinterpretation designed to put the Supreme Court above God in a secular state neutral between religion and "irreligion."

Article VI of the Constitution provides that "no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States."

Oliver Ellsworth, a Connecticut delegate to the Constitutional Convention, explained that this clause prohibiting any religious test for public office in a published letter written after the Constitution was written and before it was ratified.

And Ellsworth made it clear that the clause was NOT intended to undermine religious values.

Ellsworth wrote:

"Some very worthy persons who have not had great advantages for information have objected against that clause in the Constitution which provides that no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States. They have been afraid that this clause is unfavorable to religion."

Ellsworth assured:

"But, my countrymen, the sole purpose and effect of it is to exclude persecution and to secure to you the important right of religious liberty. We are almost the only people in the world who have a full enjoyment of this important right of human nature. In our country every man has a right to worship God in that way which is most agreeable to his conscience. If he be a good and peaceable person, he is liable to no penalties or incapacities on account of his religious sentiments; or, in other words, he is not subject to persecution."

Ellsworth dismissed "a test in favor of any one denomination of Christians" as "absurd" and an "indignity" to which the majority of American citizens would not submit.

But, Ellsworth rejected a test "requiring all person appointed to to office to declare, at the time of their admission, their belief in the being of a God, and in the divine authority of the Scriptures," even though "it may be said that one who believes these great truths will not be so likely to violate his obligations to his country as one who disbelieves them" and therefore "we may have greater confidence in his integrity," but because England's experience with religious tests showed that "[t]he most abandoned characters partake of the sacrament in order to qualify themselves for public employments," "the most sacred office of religion" should not be "thus prostitute[d]," and "making a declaration of such a belief is no security at all," because it is "easy...to dissemble" for "an unprincipled man who believes neither the Word nor the being of God" and is "governed merely by selfish motives."

Ellsworth further wrote:

"The business of a civil government is to protect the citizen in his rights, to defend the community from hostile powers, and to promote the general welfare. Civil government has no business to meddle with the private opinions of people. "

Note the word private.

"If I demean myself as a good citizen," Ellsworth continued, "I am accountable not to man but to God for the religions opinions that I embrace and the manner in which I worship the Supreme Being."

Those who wrote and ratified the Constitution recognized both a Supreme Being and a distinction between acts and opinions.

Even James Madison, in his letter remonstrating against religious assessments favored by George Washington, proclaimed man's duty to God:

"It is the duty of every man to render to the Creator such homage, and such only, as he believes to be acceptable to him. This duty is precedent both in order of time and degree of obligation to the claims of civil society. Before any man can be considered as a member of civil ...

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