Writer needs to rethink the First Amendment
Published: Sunday, January 15, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 14, 2006 at 9:32 p.m.
Lawrence Marraffino (12/24) believes that the First Amendment "mandates that government must not get involved in religion" and that there is to be "no governmental action that favors religion in any way."
This interpretation is a creation of 20th century Supreme Courts and does not reflect the original intent of the Founding Fathers. During the congressional debates on the Bill of Rights, James Madison stated the intent of the First Amendment: The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established.
Despite creating a secular Constitution, the Founding Fathers incorporated religion in government. At the suggestion of Benjamin Franklin, they prayed before congressional sessions. On the day the First Amendment was passed, Congress approved a day of public prayer.
In 1789, Congress appointed and paid Christian chaplains for both houses. They approved congressional acts that included funds for Christian missionaries. In 1800, Congress approved the use of the Capitol as a church building for Christian worship services.
Presidents Jefferson, Madison and Monroe signed enabling acts for new states that encouraged religion. President Jefferson chaired the school board of Washington, D.C., and authored its first plan of education, which used the Bible as one of the reading texts for public schools. President Adams proclaimed a National Fast Day. President Washington began the tradition of placing the hand on the Bible during presidential inaugurations.
If the original intent of the First Amendment is as Marraffino believes, then all of these acts should have been declared unconstitutional when they occurred.
Carlos Javier Rosaly,
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