The First Amendment states, “Congress shall make no law respecting anestablishment of religion.” Justice Hugo Black believed that the FirstAmendment requires the state to remain neutral in its relationship withreligious believers. I disagree with Justice Black’s interpretation of theFirst Amendment.
The First Amendment states that Congress can make no law establishinga religion. It does not say that the state may not favor a religion orit’s general philosophy. We, after all, have history of Judeo-Christianityinherent in the beliefs and practices of today. It does not say that thegovernment cannot take part in the celebration of holidays or prayers,which is the current interpretation in our government.
However, it would still be the state’s job to make sure that allcitizens, especially citizens of all religions, would be treated equally.
When government officials convey themselves with religious expressions orsymbols, it is sometimes seen as alliance between church and state. Inactuality, it is called freedom of expression. This type of “favoring” ofreligion should be allowed.
In the past, the state has used it’s power to handicap religions.
Torcaso v. Watkins (1961) was a famous Supreme Court Case that declaredreligious tests for public office candidates as unconstitutional. Thisruling was justifiable. A public office should not be limited to a personof a specific religion. Public officials represent everyone in theircommunity, not a just a specific religious interest.
In the recent and famous case of Moore v. Glassroth, Alabama ChiefJustice Roy Moore was charged with judicial ethics charges because herefused to remove Ten Commandments monuments from a government buildingafter being ordered to. The monument was eventually removed. I don’tagree with the ruling of this case. The Framers built their belief onJudeo-Christian philosophy. This is shown also in the fact that “Moses”and the “Ten Commandments” are depicted on the wall behind the Justices andChief Justice in the Supreme Court. The monument wasn’t hurting anyone.
It simply stated rules of morality that are believed by many cultures andmany believers of different religions.
Government officials are under the rule of law; therefore they mustfollow the same regulations as anyone else in society. Corresponding tothe rule of law, officials must also have the same rights as all othercitizens. Government officials must have the right to express theirbeliefs and philosophies in seeking the common good.
There have also been times that state power has been used to favorreligions and their associations In the Supreme Court Case of Bowen v.
Kendrick (1988,) the Court allowed federal funds to support religiousorganizations offering counseling. This was because of the new AdolescentFamily Life Act that had been put in to effect. This decision wasjustifiable because it was not going to the organization to further thereligion, but to help the community.
More recently, President Bush has created the Faith-based andCommunity Initiative Program. This allows faith-based institutions to vie,equally, for federal funds. Now, churches, synagogues, mosques, and otherreligious groups can seek federal funding without being discriminatedagainst simply because they are a religious organization. Theseinstitutions help the community and the general welfare of its people.
Just as it was in Bowen v. Kendrick (1988,) this act is reasonable becauseit is for the common good of the people.
In conclusion, I believe that the First Amendment does not requirethat government to remain neutral between religions, as long as the naturaland civic rights of all citizens of all religions are equally protected.
The government may favor specific religions and/or religious philosophiesfor the betterment of the welfare and morality for themselves and theconstituents it seeks to serve. I disagree with Justice Black’sinterpretation of the First Amendment. He once said,”I am for the First Amendment from the first word to the last. I believeit means what it says.”We believe this too. “Congress shall make no law respecting anestablishment of religion,” is what the First Amendment says and that isexactly what it means.