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Chris Field is Editor of Human Events Online [go to Field index]

The ACLU's Very Own Constitution
Picking and choosing
[Chris Field] 1/17/05

For years now, conservatives have repeatedly shouted their frustrations with attempts by many on the Left to remove God from our society. Liberals love to tout a "wall of separation between church and state" that is somehow constitutional. But as Michael Tremoglie pointed out in his HUMAN EVENTS Online piece ("Theophobia -- Part I") Friday:

"The advocates of this bowdlerization campaign display a clever sophistry. They claim that by removing religion from government they are merely being faithful to the Constitutional doctrine of separation of church and state. The Theophobes routinely refer to a 'wall between church and state' as if it were mentioned in the Constitution.

"However, there is no such Constitutional doctrine. The phrase, 'wall between church and state,' was used by Thomas Jefferson -- who was not involved with writing the Constitution. Jefferson wrote this in a letter. How his personal correspondence became Constitutional law is not known. If Jefferson's correspondence is a precept of Constitutional law then segregation should be Constitutional as well. Jefferson wrote in an 1814 letter to Edward Coles that, 'Their (blacks) amalgamation with any other color produces a degradation to which no lover of his country...can innocently consent.'"

Yes, the "anti-God" practices of many on the Left have confounded and enraged many of their fellow Americans on the right. Other than thinking liberals to be "anti-religious" or "God-hating" or "un-American," we've never been able to figure out why groups like Americans United for the Separation of Church and State and the ACLU preach the things they do about religion in public.

But now, at least in the case of the ACLU, the reason has been made clear: the ACLU uses a different Constitution than the rest of America.

This week the Opinion Journal's James Taranto, in his daily "Best of the Web," cited the following passage from the ACLU's "Free Speech" online page:

"It is probably no accident that freedom of speech is the first freedom mentioned in the First Amendment: 'Congress shall make no law...abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.' The Constitution's framers believed that freedom of inquiry and liberty of expression were the hallmarks of a democratic society."

Notice anything missing?

See those ellipses in the ACLU's quotation of the 1st Amendment? Do you know what portion of the Amendment the ACLU "censored"?

Here's the 1st Amendment in its entirety:

"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."

No wonder the ACLU is usually wrong on religious issues: The ACLU version doesn't include religious protections.

Instead, the organization found a handy-dandy version that supports its claim that the Framers considered the freedom of speech so important that they put it at the very tip-top of the Bill of Rights.

If the ACLU (and its constitutional editors) had any integrity at all, it would tout the importance of the freedom of religion, since, in copies of the Constitution that everyone else has, religion is listed first. But I doubt that such a move will ever happen, considering how much the ACLU must focus on the sanctity of speech in order to protect pornographers, flag-burners, and strippers. Of course, the only reason free speech is listed first in the ACLU's copy is that it cut out all the constitutional "God-talk" of our supposedly atheist, deist, irreligious Founders.

Surely, though, an organization like the ACLU -- one that loves to defend the constitutional rights of "all" Americans and claims to stand up for religious liberty -- believes in the Freedom of Religion as stated in the 1st Amendment, right?

Well, on the ACLU's "Religious Liberty" online page the group fails to quote the Constitution at all. Instead it refers to "the establishment clause" that "requires the separation of church and state."

I suppose, though, if the ACLU did quote the Constitution, it would have to explain how the organization gets around the fact that the government "shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." Since prohibiting the free exercise of religion is something at which it excels, the ACLU doesn't want to be painted into that corner.

No liberals want that. tOR

copyright 2005 Human Events




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