The First Amendment states, “Congress shall make no law respecting anestablishment of religion.” Justice Hugo Black believed that the First
Amendment requires the state to remain neutral in its relationship with
religious believers. I disagree with Justice Black’s interpretation of the
The First Amendment states that Congress can make no law establishing
a religion. It does not say that the state may not favor a religion or
it’s general philosophy. We, after all, have history of Judeo-Christianity
inherent in the beliefs and practices of today. It does not say that the
government cannot take part in the celebration of holidays or prayers,
which is the current interpretation in our government.
However, it would still be the state’s job to make sure that all
citizens, especially citizens of all religions, would be treated equally.
When government officials convey themselves with religious expressions or
symbols, it is sometimes seen as alliance between church and state. In
actuality, it is called freedom of expression. This type of “favoring” of
religion should be allowed.
In the past, the state has used it’s power to handicap religions.
Torcaso v. Watkins (1961) was a famous Supreme Court Case that declared
religious tests for public office candidates as unconstitutional. This
ruling was justifiable. A public office should not be limited to a person
of a specific religion. Public officials represent everyone in their
community, not a just a specific religious interest.
In the recent and famous case of Moore v. Glassroth, Alabama Chief
Justice Roy Moore was charged with judicial ethics charges because he
refused to remove Ten Commandments monuments from a government building
after being ordered to. The monument was eventually removed. I don’t
agree with the ruling of this case. The Framers built their belief on
Judeo-Christian philosophy. This is shown also in the fact that “Moses”
and the “Ten Commandments” are depicted on the wall behind the Justices and
Chief Justice in the Supreme Court. The monument wasn’t hurting anyone.
It simply stated rules of morality that are believed by many cultures and
many believers of different religions.
Government officials are under the rule of law; therefore they must
follow the same regulations as anyone else in society. Corresponding to
the rule of law, officials must also have the same rights as all other
citizens. Government officials must have the right to express their
beliefs and philosophies in seeking the common good.
There have also been times that state power has been used to favor
religions and their associations In the Supreme Court Case of Bowen v.
Kendrick (1988,) the Court allowed federal funds to support religious
organizations offering counseling. This was because of the new Adolescent
Family Life Act that had been put in to effect. This decision was
justifiable because it was not going to the organization to further the
religion, but to help the community.
More recently, President Bush has created the Faith-based and
Community Initiative Program. This allows faith-based institutions to vie,
equally, for federal funds. Now, churches, synagogues, mosques, and other
religious groups can seek federal funding without being discriminated
against simply because they are a religious organization. These
institutions help the community and the general welfare of its people.
Just as it was in Bowen v. Kendrick (1988,) this act is reasonable because
it is for the common good of the people.
In conclusion, I believe that the First Amendment does not require
that government to remain neutral between religions, as long as the natural
and civic rights of all citizens of all religions are equally protected.
The government may favor specific religions and/or religious philosophies
for the betterment of the welfare and morality for themselves and the
constituents it seeks to serve. I disagree with Justice Black’s
interpretation of the First Amendment. He once said,
“I am for the First Amendment from the first word to the last. I believe
it means what it says.”
We believe this too. “Congress shall make no law respecting an
establishment of religion,” is what the First Amendment says and that is
exactly what it means.