A meme on the left is that Christian conservatives desire to establish a theocracy, that they want to trample on people’s liberty, and they are are the jihadists of the West. When is the the establishment clause of the First Amendment actually violated? Which is why we have that clause, to avoid a national religion and make sure religious liberty is maintained (the free exercise clause).
Mark Levin, in Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto describes when it is not violated… careful now, the following is full of common sense.
A theocracy is not established if certain public schools allow their students to pray at the beginning of the day, or participate in Christmas or Easter assemblies; or if certain school districts transport parochial students to their religious schools as part of the district’s bus route; or certain communities choose to construct a manger scene on the grounds of their town hall or display the Ten Commandments above their courthouse steps. The individual is not required to change his religious affiliation or even accept God’s existence. He is not required to worship against his beliefs or even worship at all. Some might be uncomfortable or offended by these events, but individuals are uncomfortable all the time over all kinds of government activities. Some might oppose the use of their tax dollars to support these events. So what? Individuals oppose the manner in which government uses their tax dollars all the time. That does not make the uses unconstitutional. While all religions may not have similar access to these public places, they are largely free to conduct themselves as they wish, uninhibited by the community, as long as they do not engage in criminal or immoral practices. Yet even these passive expressions of religious liberty, which represent a community’s dominant religion or religious denomination, must according to the Secularist and the Court, be abandoned, (pg. 32-33).
Which hinders liberty… the Constitution does not promise religion or religious speech free zones. It doesn’t guarantee a naked public square. What it does guarantee is that Government will not pass a lot that will establish a religion… there will be no state-sponsored church. There will be no endorsement of religion by the State. It will not pass laws that prohibit you from your free exercise of worship or lack thereof. You have the constitutional right to be theologically wrong in this country, and I have the constitutional right to say you are theologically wrong! Isn’t America great? 😉
I urge caution on how this debate is approached though. I remember Coleen did a related post that may be helpful. For those of us on the right we should avoid reducing Christianity into an American civic religion. Those on the left needs to be care they don’t regulate it to a government-sponsored social welfare program. It is neither.
So I have no problem with rendering unto Caesar, what is Caesar’s. When I get perturbed is when Caesar interferes with my rendering unto the Lord what is the Lord’s. I am disturbed when I see individual religious freedom hindered by this inappropriate interpretation of the establishment clause which has no historical foundation or legal precedent pre-1950. I am disturbed when individual religious liberty is thwarted by hate crimes legislation, civil rights codes that don’t protect religious freedom, unfair zoning ordinances, etc.
When those things happen, a theocracy is being established. One that doesn’t worship God, but rather the State… with secular humanism it’s religion of choice.
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