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Ann Coulter on Church and State
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"Arguments" like this always get my hackles up:

The ACLU along with the Southern Poverty Law Center sued [Alabama Judge Roy] Moore for having a Ten Commandments plaque in his courtroom.


Apparently, in a little-noticed development, Judge Moore had become "Congress," his Ten Commandments plaque was a "law," and the plaque established a national religion.

Coulter is referring, of course, to the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, which in its entirety reads:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Most people tend to gloss over the bit about "prohibiting the free exercise thereof", but let's let that go for a minute. Is the Establishment Clause really the benchmark for the separation of church and state that we want to abide by in this country?

Consider the following example:

Mrs. Jenkins, a third-grade teacher, tells her class to stand up every morning and repeat each line of a prayer which goes something like this: "Thank you Jesus for filling our hearts with your love. Thank you for reminding us that all other gods are false but you, and that those who do not believe in you will burn in everlasting hell. Amen."

Now following Coulter's cue, I could say something pithy and witty like:

Apparently, in a little-noticed development, Mrs. Jenkins had become "Congress," her prayer was a "law," and the prayer established a national religion.

Under Coulter's standards for violating the First Amendment, a state-hired employee leading third-graders in a christian prayer that forsakes all other religions would be just hunky-dory.

Apparently the only violation of the First Amendment would be the passage of a Congressional Bill instituting a particular religion as the law of the land.

But that's not exactly a good benchmark, is it? Because it would let all sorts of governmental infringement of religious rights (such as Mrs. Jenkins' little prayer) pass.

Which brings us back to that bit about "free exercise". Can you really freely exercise your religion if the government is coercing you to conform to the religious standards of, say, christianity?

In a word, no. The government just plain shouldn't be in the business of religion. That's the best way to insure that people can freely believe, and practice their beliefs, in a society that's openly tolerant to any and all beliefs, as long as they don't infringe on one another.

Wouldn't that be nice?

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