What is the best response to the first admendment.

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What is the best response to the first admendment.

Postby Dust » Sun Oct 21, 2007 4:27 am

I was debating on separation of church and state. I quoted the first amendment.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;


The response that I got was this:
or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;


I honestly don't even know how to approach this. It seems wrong on so many levels. I'm just curious to what the best way to approach this is.
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Postby Diagoras » Sun Oct 21, 2007 4:58 am

It obviously means that the government is going to protect your right to practice whatever faith you want, with the qualification that it cannot involve a government establishment of religion. Your free exercise of religion does not allow you to break the law. That means you can't throw virgins into volcanoes, you can't stone homosexuals, you can't refuse to pay your taxes because you say your property really belongs to God, etc., no matter how important it is to the faith that your practice.

That also applies to the establishment of religion: the Amendment obviously doesn't mean your freedom to express your religion extends to the freedom to use the government to promote that religion. That's why they explicitly stated that as an exception, and they mentioned it first for a reason: because it's incredibly important for religious freedom.

You can't build a church or mosque or temple with government funds, you can't mandate prayer in school, you can't put giant Ten Commandments monuments on government property, or in any way give the impression that the government is supporting the establishment of religion (by the way, atheism is also considered a religion for legal purposes). If the founding fathers intended to allow that kind of "freedom to practice your religion", they wouldn't have added in that first bit prohibiting an establishment of religion.

Cutting the Amendment down to omit that important phrase is misleading in the extreme. Why not cut out the second bit and leave the first? "Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion". Does that mean we can use government funds to bulldoze all the churches in the country, force Muslims to eat during Ramadan, and throw Jews in prison just for the hell of it? You have to read the whole Amendment in its context, and furthermore you have to interpret that Amendment in light of its context in our judicial history. I've noticed that Christians who complain about atheists taking Bible quotes out of context don't really want to take things in context when doing so questions something they desperately want to believe.

An excellent (if lengthy) read on this that is quite relevant is the judge's opinion from the Kitzmiller v. Dover case:
http://www.pamd.uscourts.gov/kitzmiller ... er_342.pdf
“Oh Neddy, it was terrifying. I thought I was headed for the eternal bliss of paradise!â€
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Postby bugsoup » Sun Oct 21, 2007 5:12 am

I assume you are looking to defend laws that religions try to get exeptions for, such as human sacrafice. I started with the Wikipeida article on the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. The article seems to say that the religious don't deserve special treatment in the eyes of the law that any other non-religious people wouldn't get.

If a normal secular person can't kill someone, then neither can the religious person. "Restricting free exercise" would mean preventing human sacrafice, in this case. Failing to prevent murder would give religions that practice sacrafices an exemption under the law, which is clearly not allowed because it would require a law that "respects an establishment of religion".
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Postby donnyton » Sun Oct 21, 2007 5:05 pm

Ask him if terrorism should be illegal.
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