A Progressive Theo-Political Blog Bringing You The Best and Worst of Baptist Life.

Monday, October 02, 2006

An Attack On The First Amendment....

Just a few short days ago, the House of Representatives passed the so-called "Public Expression of Religion Act." According to Rob Marus of the Associated Baptist Press, H.R. 2679 would (in cases involving the First Amendment's Establishment Clause) "prevent federal courts from requiring government entities to reimburse the legal costs of the individual or group that sued the government agency - even though the agency was found in violation of the Constitution."

Ardent supporter of church-state separation and MY Congressman, Chet Edwards (D-TX) courageously challenged the sponsors of this bill during the floor debate...

"Mr. Speaker, let's be clear -- there's nothing benign about this bill. This bill makes it more difficult to enforce the First Amendment to the Constitution and the very words thereof designed to protect the religious freedom of every American," said Rep. Chet Edwards (D-Texas).

The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United had this to say...

“This bill is a sop to the Religious Right, but even worse a dangerous attack on the First Amendment,” Lynn said. “The House leadership is openly hostile to federal courts for upholding church-state separation and this bill reflects that motivation. The bill seeks to slam the courthouse doors on citizens who challenge government-sponsored religious activities. It is a repugnant affront to the civil rights of all Americans.”

However, Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission chose to play the ACLU-card...

If you agree that groups like the ACLU should not be permitted to recover attorneys’ fees from municipalities in cases where a court rules that a public religious symbol violates the Establishment Clause, then please call or email your senators and tell them to vote for the Public Expression of Religion Act (S. 3696/H.R. 2679).

Thankfully, Richard Land is not the only Baptist voice in Washington D.C.. On the 27th, K. Hollyn Hollman of the Baptist Joint Committee FOR Religious Liberty published an article entitled, "Inopportune time for bill attacking the Establishment Clause." Hollman writes...

With religious wars raging around the globe, it seems an especially inopportune time to take the religious freedom Americans enjoy for granted. Yet some members of Congress are doing just that. With only a few legislative days left, the leadership of the House of Representatives this week made room on its calendar to debate and vote on a measure that it knew would not be taken up by the Senate, but that they bargained would gain them popularity with voters this fall....
The big picture is lost on many of the bill's proponents. By citing the cases they don't like and some of interest groups that bring them, they inflame passions and threaten far greater damage to religious freedom than any particular case could do. Governmental officials should be encouraged to uphold constitutional values, not invited to ignore them. Yet this legislation, like the floor debate this week, would give tacit encouragement to government officials to put politics above principle whenever they find it politically advantageous to do so.

Read Hollman's op-ed published in the Minneapolis Star.

Also check out Erwin Chemerinsky's Washington Post op-ed.

Bruce Wilson of Talk2Action has great coverage of the Senate version of the bill which he dubbs "The Christian Supremacy Act."


Blogger Michael Westmoreland-White said...

And this is happening at the same time as a kid has been stopped from reading a Bible in spare time. So, we are violating both religion clauses of the First Amendment all over the place.

Along with the attacks on free speech, freedom of the press, privacy (domestic spying without a warrant), habeas corpus, the 8th Amendment's ban on cruel and unsual punishment, etc., it does make one wonder what will soon be left of the Bill of Rights in this land of the formerly free and home of the not-so-brave.

12:47 PM


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