Freedom To Practice Religion, Not Freedom From Religion
A widely distributed email that discussed the history of America and its Judeo-Christian roots contained the following quote from Patrick Henry:
"We have staked the whole of all our political institutions upon the capacity of mankind for self-government, upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God."
This led Skip March to opine:
OK..let's go to the source.
The First Amendment of the Constitution states, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion".
It is interesting to note that the amendment specifically refers to Congress and its power in regards to religion. The Framers of the Constitution, having just come off a near fatal experiment with the Articles of Confederation as well as the tyranny of an all powerful central government, learned important lessons. One of these is that the central government must have specifically enumerated powers and that those powers must be limited and few. They also recognized that a central government should not, and in fact could not, regulate, define every aspect of individual citizens' lives. Thus our federal form of government and the 9th and 10th amendments.
They recognized that outside of the specifically stated powers and rights of the Constitution, all other related decisions must be made at the state, local and individual level. So if a community and its citizens want to put up a creche scene or menorah or whatever symbols that represent that community and its citizenry, it can. One could also argue that the federal government and any of its branches has no business or power to interfere with these local decisions.
Now as to whether the Framers ever contemplated excluding references to faith or faith symbols from our lives, any supporting documents, quotes, etc point overwhelmingly to an answer of NO. To suggest otherwise would be rewriting history. Interesting to note those who want keep wanting to rewrite history, isn't it. This is not to say that the Framers were without biases as illustrated by Jay's and Henry's quotes. ( Jay is quotes as saying: "Americans should select and prefer Christians as their rulers."). However, the enumeration of specific rights also speaks to the Framers' recognition of that human frailty.
Neal Phenes: I would add that fears about prejudices centuries old should not be a worry for non-Christian Americans today where the large majority of people do not hold such exclusionary beliefs. As a matter of fact, Jews in America who follow Foxman of the ADL have done more to hurt Jewish causes by this irrational fear of Christians than anything skin-heads, Klanners can muster. The worry should be of avowed preachers of genocide from Iran than friends from the "Bible Belt".
And Jay notwithstanding, the other Founders were decidedly more tolerant of others than their fellow countrymen of the 1700's.