The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment is like many things. It’s not complicated, but people can make it complicated when it serves their agenda. So when you see atheists railing against every public acknowledgement of God, and you wonder if they’ve really got the Constitution right . . . no, they don’t.
Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, nor restricting the free exercise thereof.
It could not be more straightforward. The government will not establish an official state religion. It’s up to you to decide how you want to worship, or not worship, and the government will not restrict your freedom here in any way.
So how did we end up with constant legal challenges to the most basic expressions of faith? To the nativity scene on city-owned property. To the invocation at the public high school’s graduation ceremony. Let anyone connected to government at any level, or even just trodding on government property, give heed to God and secular America goes into battle mode – often with the support of the courts.
The U.S. Constitution says nothing to validate any of this. Just because the federal government cannot establish Christianity or anything else as the official state religion does not mean people connected to government cannot offer their own acknowledgements of God. It doesn’t even mean units of government cannot offer a nod to the Almighty.
For instance, in a recent case here in Georgia, an atheist named Ed Buckner rented a cabin in a state-owned park and was upset when he found a Bible in the cabin. The Bible had been placed there as a donation of literature by a Christian group. The state had not paid for the Bibles and had not distributed them. But Buckner was still upset, apparently feeling it is not enough for him not to believe in God. He doesn’t want anyone else being persuaded to believe in Him either.
So he complained to park management, which initially had the Bibles removed. But that order was overruled by Gov. Nathan Deal, who said that the state could hardly be seen to be establishing an official religion just because it allowed one group to donate Bibles. Besides, Deal said, if atheists wanted to donate atheist books, no one would stop them either.
The atheists are going to do just that. I’m having a hard time thinking that many people will want to relax on their vacation while reading The Skeptics Annotated Bible, but this is America so the atheists can give it their best shot.
And believers can fight back against such attacks on faith – and must do so. This country was conceived on biblical principles. The founders made so many references to the Creator in the founding documents, there is simply no way – although non-believers try – to claim otherwise. They forbade state establishment of religion as much for the benefit of believers as anything else. I can’t imagine a worse development for Christianity than to see it become state-endorsed, as this would immediately tie up the workings of the church with politics. The founders knew the church was better off operating independently, and that there was no reason to put any legal shackles on the practice of other faiths. When it comes to God, people have to be free to find their way, and they certainly don’t need Congress passing any law telling them how to worship.
But if you want to know the founders’ own attitude toward God and faith, all you have to do is visit Washington D.C. and look at all the buildings with scripture passages inscribed. Or look at our money, which says in no uncertain terms, “In God We Trust.”
We are a nation under God. Properly applying the Constitution means the graduation speaker who decides to utter a prayer will neither receive the government’s endorsement nor the government’s opposition. It means the group who wants to put Bibles in the state-owned cabin will experience the same neutrality. It means Congress will make no law respecting establishment of religion, but all – including people in government – are free to make clear God has ultimate sovereignty over our nation.
Every one of these frivolous lawsuits by atheists is an attack on this nation’s Judeo-Christian underpinnings, and ultimately on God Himself. Believers should fight this on every front, not only because it is legally absurd, but because a nation that really believes in God can do no less.
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