Patrick Bohan for Congress: Religious Liberty

The doctrine called “the separation of church and state” is implemented in Genesis when Moses led the government and his brother, Aaron, led the spiritual aspect of society. Most societies have separation of church and state. That said, “The entire history of the separation doctrine had been to prevent the State from meddling with, interfering against, or controlling the Church’s beliefs and religious expressions.” The separation doctrine has nothing to do with the exclusion of God. In fact, the establishment clause and the free exercise clause of the First Amendment pertain to prohibitions against the government, not a restriction against the Church or the individual to pursue religious avenues. The goal of progressivism is to rewrite history without God. Thus, the establishment and exercise clauses of the First Amendment have been used by the government to ban public parking if a vehicle has a religious sticker, prayer at a graduation ceremony, grammar school students praying before lunch, senior citizens praying at community centers, a librarian wearing a cross, college students conducting bible study in their dorm rooms, a third grader wearing a shirt referring to Jesus, students praying at a football game, students doing research papers on religious topics, a choir singing religious songs, and having a bible located in a classroom. In the bible and during the Founding Era seeking advice and counsel between the clergy and government was common. Unfortunately, this support system has been abolished by the incorrect interpretation of the separation of church and state doctrine.

First Amendment religious rights first came under attack by Justice Hugo Black in Everson v. Board of Education. Although the case was correctly decided and allowed tax dollars to bus parochial students to school, Black introduced the doctrine of separation of church and state. Separation of church and state which is not in the Constitution, yet many courts would use the separation of church and state doctrine to determine the fate of future establishment clause cases. The separation of church and state doctrine was discovered in a letter between Thomas Jefferson and a Connecticut pastor and should have no purpose or basis for deciding Constitutional law cases. In Zelman v. Simmons-Harris the Court held educational vouchers could not be used to send children to parochial school. In Locke v. Davey the Court held a scholarship could be withheld from students studying theology. In Lee v. Weisman the Court held that prayer at a graduation ceremony was unconstitutional. In Lee, the Court essentially rescinded religious liberty to protect a new invented right to prevent people from feeling uncomfortable. Other cases denied the right of government institutions from displaying the ten commandments. All of these cases not only deny First Amendment rights of religious liberty, but they also deny the right to obtain knowledge. The separation of church and state doctrine allowed the establishment clause to evolve from preventing governments to establish a religion to restricting education, prayer, and ten commandment displays. 

Even the exercise clause prohibiting Congress from creating any law abridging religion has been mitigated. In Human Resources of Oregon v. Smith, the Court struck down the Native American ritual of using peyote during religious ceremonies. Drug use may be beyond western societal norms, but the government must have a compelling reason to deny these practices. Jewish and Catholic rituals allow minors to break the law and drink alcohol. Where is the line drawn on what is acceptable and what is not acceptable religious behavior? 

The Court was in damage control mode to correct past mistakes interpreting the exercise clause in Sherbert v. Verner. In this case, the Court held an employer could not force or compel a person to work on Saturdays (Day of Sabbath). Likewise, in the Church of Lukumi Babalo Aye v. City of Hialeah the Court held hallucinogens were legal for some religious rituals. Similarly, in Gonzalez v. O Centro Espirita Beneficiente Uniao do Vegeta the Court held that animal sacrifices were legal for some religious rituals. Justice Anthony Scalia feared that people would hide behind the guise of religious freedom to commit crimes. That said, in all Supreme Court cases regarding religious behavior, there has never been anyone trying to use religion to benefit financially or to commit a crime. But drawing the line between religious behavior and criminal behavior would make more sense than to eliminate practices that do not harm others. For example, drug use that only harms the user and does not harm others should be tolerated behavior. John Locke taught us that the law was not to protect individuals from self-destructive behavior, but to protect individuals from violating the rights of others.