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First Amendment encourages, not prohibits, religion

Published: Monday, Jan. 21, 2013 1:15 a.m. CDT

Bret Bushaw’s letter on Jan. 2, “Nativity scene should have been removed,” is wrong on every point he makes, not because of his opinion, but because of the supposed facts he bases it on.

Bushaw’s main point is that the First Amendment prohibits the Nativity from being displayed on the courthouse lawn. His extreme view is based not on the First Amendment, but on the 1947 Supreme Court Everson decision, which itself broke with all previous court precedent and the intent of the Founders on this matter, clearly seen from their writings and actions.

Stated another way, the First Amendment was for encouraging religion and keeping the government out of the churches, but to prohibit the government from favoring one particular denomination (“an establishment of religion”).

The Founding Fathers overwhelmingly were Christians, with the exception of a handful, Jefferson likely being one. Yet Jefferson himself was quite supportive of Christianity in government and public life, even desiring that the Bible be used in the public schools. To say he viewed the entire Bible and Christianity as “a dunghill” is either ignorant or dishonest.

An accurate characterization of the Founders’ view would be that the Bible and Christianity were inseparable from successful civil governments and peoples. Quoting from George Washington’s Farewell Address: “… [O]f all the habits and dispositions that lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the virtue of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars.”

John Adams said: “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate [for] the government of any other.”

And when the Founders talked about “religion,” it was implied they were talking about Christianity – everything else was a false religion.

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