The assault on the First Amendment's protection of freedom of religion by the so-called progressives in our judiciary, the executive branch of government and the news media not only continues, but appears to be proceeding at an accelerating rate. The latest outrage occurred here in Texas where a high school in Medina, Texas had been prohibited by a federal judge from allowing students to give an invocation and benediction at the graduation ceremony. Out of the entire graduating class, apparently only one student and his family objected to the prayers. The student is agnostic.
The court therefore found that keeping this one young man from being offended was more important than the constitutional rights of freedom of expression and religion of the rest of the students. The fact is that the judge's order was incredibly broad in scope. It prohibited the use of the terms “invocation” or “benediction” and said the students were strictly prohibited from using the name Jesus Christ or saying the words “prayer” or “amen.” The ruling appeared to extend even to the valedictorian and would have her from including a short prayer of thanks for her graduation in her speech
This courageous young lady filed an emergency appeal with the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals to allow her to give her speech as she has written it. Her attorneys argued that to prohibit her from expressing her feelings during her speech violated both her First Amendment rights to free speech and freedom of religion. The court agreed with her and allowed her to make her speech and for the invocation and benediction to take place.
Yet, despite this ultimate victory this is still another egregious example of what is happening in our country. I've talked on and my radio show about the fact that across the country college students are being harassed, expelled, or denied their degrees for daring to disagree with the politically correct ideas that violate their religious beliefs and are being forced on them by the schools.
This assault on religious freedom is being justified by referring to the concept of “separation of church and state." In fact, most people, including students who take my constitutional law course, are surprised to learn that no such phrase exists anywhere in our Constitution. The wording of the First Amendment is clear enough. It states:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."
The idea of separation of church and state was never expressed by the founders in the Constitution or by the Congress. It was contained in a letter written by President Thomas Jefferson in response to a request by a church denomination that he mediate a dispute within the church itself. He declined, saying that he did not think this was the proper thing for the government to engage in. Many years later the federal courts started using this phrase to justify removing religious references from schools and other public places.
I have never found in my studies of the Constitution that this was in any way the intent of the men who wrote it. They were strictly concerned with seeing that the federal government did not establish a particular religion for the whole country, and further did not interfere with the right of the people to establish their own churches and denominations and worship freely. The concept of God, or a higher power if you will, was readily accepted by the founders and enshrined in documents like the Declaration of Independence and even on public buildings. To this day a copy of the 10 Commandments is still displayed in the United States Supreme Court.
In other words, the First Amendment of the Constitution was designed to protect freedom of religion, not "freedom from religion." In my view, being an agnostic or atheist is a form of religious belief because one is choosing not to believe in a deity. I defend the right to do so under the Constitution, but that does not give an atheist or agnostic the right to force their beliefs on Christians or any other religion that does believe in a deity. Yet, that is exactly what the district judge was allowing to happen in his ruling.
Instead of this agnostic student being allowed to exercise his constitutional right not to participate in a prayer during the graduation, the court had chosen to prohibit everyone else from exercising their constitutional rights to participate in a prayer. So in effect, this court and the other left-wing institutions and individuals that support this type of ruling are in fact establishing that atheism is the official state religion of United States of America, and the only one that is constitutionally protected.
When high school students are basically being told that if they dare to be politically incorrect and exercise their First Amendment freedoms they may face criminal charges then something is desperately wrong in this country. It is time for the rest of us to take a stand and do what is necessary to fight this form of injustice, not just in the courts, but in Congress, our state legislatures, and local governments. Otherwise, we will soon see all of our First Amendment rights disappear.