December 26, 2003


Antidisestablishmentarianism is more than just a big word which we had fun knowing. It has been an important political issue in England, and it has relevance to an important issue in the United States.

Just as any discussion of the Second Amendment must begin with the understanding that the battles at Lexington and Concord were fought against the gun-grabbers, so too any discussion of the non-establishment clause must begin with the understanding of the role of the established church in the government of the time. To this day, the Church of England is a part of the government of Great Britain. Altho its grip has loosened, it has never been disestablished. Being Roman Catholic, or being married to a Roman Catholic, is still disqualification for being crowned King or Queen.

At the time of the War of Independence, and for some time thereafter, being an adherent to any faith other than that of the Established Church was a bar from many other forms of advancement. Marriages performed by Nonconformist clergy had no legal standing, and the oath of office for Parliament included an affirmation that one held that the adoration of Mary and the Saints, as practiced by the Church of Rome, constituted idolatry. This is what the Framers wanted to block. They may have intended to separate Church and State, altho that phrase never appeared in the Constitution, but there is no basis for claiming that they intended to separate religion and State. Using the establishment clause to block firefighters from decorating the firehouse as they see fit, or to defend the government school monopoly goes against the Framers intent. Laws banning prayer in the schools would in fact be unconstitutional, since they would be prohibiting the free exercise of religion.

Posted by triticale at December 26, 2003 07:09 AM
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