Oklahoma case concerns First Amendment interpretation
You knew this was coming sooner or later, didn’t you?
The Satanic Temple, a structure in New York City which is often full of demons posing as human, is demanding that the state of Oklahoma erect an idol of one of the Devil’s henchmen, the god Baphomet, right next to a brand spanking new Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of the state capitol. The sculpture will be seven feet tall and will be in the form of a “bearded, goat-headed, winged hominid with horns.” Baphomet will be seated on a throne and will be designed with a lap on which children may sit “for inspiration and contemplation.”
Why did the satanists decide to strike now? Because they understand it’s open season on Christians in America these days and because, when it comes to religion, the First Amendment’s establishment and exercise clauses have been so horribly mangled by judicial activists as to be unrecognizable. Beelzebub does his best work when confusion reigns.
For the record, the First Amendment says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of RELIGION (emphasis mine), or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” This inevitably leads, of course, to a discussion of what the word “religion” means in the first line of the First Amendment. The satanic point of view is that the First Amendment guarantees the “free exercise” of religion to everybody, thus the Constitution prohibits discrimination of any kind against the Prince of Darkness.
Now, if by “religion” the Founders meant “any system of belief in a supernatural power,” it’s hard to see how the Lord of the Flies can be denied. But, if by “religion” the Founders meant “Christianity” and its various denominations, as historian Joseph Story has written, then the answer to the problem is quite simple.
Story was the longest serving associate justice in Supreme Court history and was appointed to the bench by James Madison, the father of the Constitution. In his epic history of the Founding Document, Story wrote with great clarity that Christianity was the only topic the Founders were dealing with in crafting the First Amendment. It’s not that they were prohibiting other forms of religious expression, it’s that they weren’t dealing with them at all.
“The real object of the First Amendment,” Story wrote, “was not to countenance, much less to advance Mohammedanism, or Judaism, or infidelity (atheism), by prostrating Christianity, but to exclude all rivalry among Christian sects, and to prevent any national ecclesiastical establishment, which would give to an hierarchy the exclusive patronage of the national government.” Story was building on what Thomas Jefferson wrote in a letter to a fellow signer of the Declaration of Independence, Ben Rush. In Jefferson’s words, “The clause of the Constitution” covering “freedom of religion” was intended to necessarily preclude “an establishment of a particular form of Christianity through the United States.”
In other words, the First Amendment was intended to prohibit Congress from picking one Christian denomination and making it the official church of the United States. Thus, according to Story, the esteemed historian, the First Amendment neither protects nor prohibits alternative religions to Christianity. The Founders simply chose to ignore everything but Christianity.
So, if the First Amendment is silent on the subject of all the other belief systems in the world, then who has the legal authority to weigh in on such matters? According to the Founders and the Constitution they passed down to us, that responsibility rests with the states. As Jefferson wrote, “Certainly no power to prescribe any religious exercise, or to assume authority in religious discipline, has been delegated to the general government. It must then rest with the states.”
Story agreed with Jefferson. He wrote, “Thus, the whole power over the subject of religion is left exclusively to the state governments, to be acted upon according to their own sense of justice, and the state constitutions.”
The Founders made it abundantly clear. The very first word of the First Amendment is “Congress.” Congress is the only entity that is restrained by the First Amendment from establishing religion or prohibiting the free exercise of religion. States are allowed, under the Constitution, to regulate religious expression as they see fit. What states do with regard to religious expression is none of the federal government’s business, no matter if it is Congress or the judiciary. The Founders said to the Feds then and they say to the Feds now, “Butt out of religion.”
In other words, if we operate under the Constitution as given to us by the Founders, the solution to the Satanic Temple problem will be quite simple. Should the matter reach the U.S. Supreme Court, the justices must, under the Constitution, throw the case out and return the decision to Oklahoma where it belongs. If the Sooner state doesn’t want an idol to Satan on its capitol grounds, it doesn’t have to have one.
Unfortunately, liberals tend to see the Constitution as a “living” document and have pretty much had their way in the courts for the past fifty years or so, shredding the document into a pile of confetti. By “living,” leftists mean the document can be twisted to fit their agenda on any given day and their agenda is to drive God out of the public square.
“Progressives” want this country to be secular, like Europe, or worse. They have worked diligently for at least a half a century to destroy the Christian foundation of the United States and now Baphomet wants to come to Oklahoma to roost.
Still, the Supremes may get a chance to return the words of the First Amendment to their original meaning with a ruling against the Satanic Temple and its evil demand. If the justices back the Founders, Oklahoma can tell the Devil to go to hell.
Ed Baswell pastors The Clarion Church and is the host of Crossfire Radio, weekdays from 7-9 am, on The Promise, 90.7 FM. The show is streamed live worldwide at promisetalkradio.org and at ktbs.com. It can be seen each day on the KTBS 24-hour, digital news channel.