First Amendment’s intent

Published 11:00 pm Saturday, September 29, 2012

Sid Salter’s column, “In politics, separation of church and state still a thorny debate” in the Sept. 9 edition, prompted me to comment on that issue.

I must state up front that I am not a lawyer, but lately, I have been fascinated with the issue of separation of church and state.

In the Constitution, there is no such mention. That phrase has become part of the vernacular used in the controversy and court decisions.

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The term “wall of separation between Church & State” comes from a letter from Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptist Association in the State of Connecticut dated Jan. 1, 1802.

In the first part of the First Amendment, it is stated “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” In the Ninth Amendment, it is stated, “The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”

The 10th Amendment states, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

The First Amendment does not say that the federal government shall not give any hint of establishing religion; it states that Congress shall pass no law establishing religion or the practice of religion.

Having “In God we Trust” on our money, “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance and prayer in Congress reflects some of the founding principles of this country, not the establishment of religion since Congress made no law to that effect.

In my view, the Ninth and 10th amendments provide for the power of the states or people to pray or display religious items such as the Ten Commandments or Nativity scenes at times and locations of their choosing.

Nowhere is it mentioned in the Constitution that a person or group has the right to not be offended by the will or actions of another person or group.

Numerous scholars have written that the intent of the First Amendment was to prevent the federal government from getting involved with a state religion, not to prevent religion from becoming involved with government. Considering what is in the Constitution, it is hard to understand why this is a thorny issue. It seems clear to me.

Rick Robertson