ANN ARBOR, Mich. (ChurchMilitant.com) - A top lawyer explained how the First Amendment has been slowly subverted and is now being used to destroy the United States' Judeo-Christian heritage.
In the wake of the recent Supreme Court decision favoring the religious freedom of a Colorado baker, Church Militant spoke with Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel for the Thomas More Law Center, to find out how the concept of separation of church and state has evolved over time.
Thompson explained that the Founding Fathers of the country did not envision a hard wall of separation.
"It's important to note that separation of church and state is not found in the Constitution," he said. The First Amendment, or Establishment Clause, reads: "Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion," he said, noting the states were still free to establish a state religion. A fact that is supported by all of the original 13 colonies having a form of state-supported religion in their laws or constitution.
He noted the question came about because "several of our states had established religions [and] they wanted to keep their established religions at that time."
The Danbury Baptist Association was concerned that the federal government was going to establish a national religion, so they wrote a letter to President Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson's response was to remind them the Establishment Clause forbids a national religion.
The Establishment Clause also forbids the federal government from prohibiting the free exercise of one's religion in any way. Thompson explained this is where we get our right to religious freedom.
"Government cannot control what people believe," he said.
"It goes back to the concept that our Founding Fathers had — we were creating a nation based upon the consent of the people," he said. "If you are going to have a moral nation, you have to have a moral people."
He added the Founding Fathers believed the foundation for morality is based upon strong Judeo-Christian principles.
Until the 1940s, there were very few court cases that talked about the First Amendment. The first was Everson v. Board of Education where the Supreme Court decided the Establishment Clause also applied to state governments and not just the federal government.
"All at once, all these cases blossomed and you had case after case eliminating Christianity," Thompson said. "At the same time that they're removing the Judeo-Christian principles from the public schools, they are allowing Islam to come into those schools."
"Under the guise of multiculturalism, or teaching social studies, they are inserting Islam as the proper, peaceful religion, promoting it over other religions," he said. "In some cases, they are promoting Islam and denigrating Christianity."
This favoritism of Islam is a violation of students' First Amendment rights. In January, the Thomas More Law Center filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Libby Hilsenrath and her son to stop the Islamic indoctrination of students in the Chatham Middle School in New Jersey.
Thomas More Law Center is also fighting to restore America's Judeo-Christian heritage by saving the 90-year-old Bladensburg Cross. This 40-foot cross was constructed to remember 49 soldiers killed in World War I at the behest of the grieving mothers.
Thompson said the cross was up for 90 years, and a few years ago, a couple of people passing by the cross were upset because of it.
"They were emotionally upset because of the cross and so they filed a lawsuit," he said. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals just ruled that the cross must be destroyed because its basic meaning is the crucifixion of Christ and its "inherent religiosity," Thompson noted.
Now, our concern now case is if the Supreme Court takes it up and affirms it, then what we will have a danger to several hundred crosses throughout the United States — especially in Arlington Cemetery where we do have monuments with crosses on them — they all would be in jeopardy. And I can assure you, if the ACLU and these other organizations have success in this particular case that they will go after all these crosses.
Thompson said the Thomas More Law Center is committed to fighting for the original intent of the First Amendment and return to our Judeo-Christian roots.
"Once biblical principles are set aside, then anything can happen," he explained. "Unless we get back into promoting Christianity as something that is necessary for the survival of our nation, we will ultimately lose the basic reason why our country was founded."
"The Constitution is a wonderful document — it has nice words but they're meaningless unless you really take action to implement those words," he said. "We need courageous, courageous Christians now to make those words of the Bible the biblical principles that we so much admire and believe in to permeate the entire culture."