Why the right to civil government is important

Article: https://www.foxnews.com/us/texas-school-board-president-says-called-christmas-break-holiday-break.amp

In the United States, the First Amendment to the Constitution states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”. However, this is critically lacking in three ways.

First, the prohibition on establishing a religion only applies to Congress. States are apparently able to enact laws establishing a religion, and if states don’t specifically prohibit municipalities from doing so, municipalities could also enact ordinances establishing a local religion. According to the Constitution, we can have religious cities and states, we just can’t have the federal government telling them to be that way. As described in the linked article, Texas law specifically allows displaying Christmas trees in schools, and this is constitutional because the states are not prohibited from enacting law establishing a religion. And, although other religious symbols may also be allowed, non-Christians living in the United States simply can’t avoid Christmas since it’s a major cultural event. It’s “Christmas break”, not the “holiday break”. And this makes sense, because it’s scheduled with respect to Christmas and other religious holidays may sometimes coincide with it but are not considered when making the school calendar each year and deciding when the break will be.

Second, the prohibition on prohibiting the free exercise of religion only applies to Congress. States are apparently able to enact laws prohibiting the free exercise of religions they don’t like, and similarly municipalities could enact ordinances banning certain religious practices. Such bans might start with certain religious symbols, clothing, accessories, or practices not allowed in certain places, and the list could expand from there, eventually suppressing or driving out anyone who practices that religion.

Third, while the First Amendment creates a liberty for people to practice their religion, and prevents Congress from establishing a religion, it doesn’t specifically protect people from a government enacting laws or doing things that are religious in nature without explicitly establishing that religion as a state religion. In 1870, Congress passed a law that made New Year’s, Independence Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day official federal holidays. The inclusion of Christmas Day is an obvious violation of the establishment clause in the First Amendment. Espeth Wilson argues that because it was enacted together with three secular holidays, that it somehow doesn’t make it religious. It’s a silly argument because it means Congress, especially with its tendency to combine many unrelated items into a single large bill (something that itself needs to stop), could enact a law that declares Christianity to be the official national religion, while also declaring that the sport of football involves two teams, that the military should recruit more servicemembers, and that the moon is not made of cheese, and claim that because there are four items in the bill and three of them secular, that the obviously religious item is somehow not violating the establishment clause. The government headed by President Eisenhower did even more, adding “under God” to the pledge of allegiance and making “In God We Trust” the official motto of the United States, which is now printed on currency and displayed in public buildings. Apparently if it has a believable secular purpose of somehow combating communists then it’s fine to violate the Constitution. Obviously the wording needs to be more explicit.

A civil government in a democratic country is run by elected officials. When those officials make Christianity a part of the pledge of allegiance, the motto, the federal holidays, the school calendars, and more, the combined effect is that Christianity is the national religion even if there isn’t a law enacted by Congress that explicitly declares it. Besides making the country less welcoming to non-Christians, an established religion also opens the door wide open for religious leaders to influence government. They already do so now, whenever a deeply religious person is elected or appointed to a government office and then applies their religious beliefs to their work, and such individual beliefs and practices should be protected. Bu t the more the country feels like a religious country run by a religious government, the more influence religious leaders have over the country. This might not seem like a problem to someone who has the same religious beliefs because, after all, they are good and spreading them is good; but to everyone else who doesn’t share those religious beliefs it’s a big problem because not only is that religion being imposed on them, but those religious leaders having a big influence are not even elected by the public.

The right to civil government would specifically prevent this situation using a broader clause that “No government shall adopt, establish, or impose religious symbols, beliefs, or practices” and the complementary right to religion would ensure that people have the liberty to believe what they want and practice whatever religion they want — within limits of course, such as not violating other people’s rights or violating the law (which due to the rights cannot target religion specifically but must have a secular purpose). This is important to make people feel welcome and safe, and ensure the government will be focused on work for the benefit of all people, not just people who practice the national religion.

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