The American Taliban has officially taken over in Arkansas
Democratic state Rep. Buddy Blair was sick of bible-beating in the legislature; knuckle-dragging Repug Rep. Michael Lamoureux hasn’t read his Constitution lately and doesn’t give a damn — Christian beliefs rule (email: email@example.com).
It’s not speculation or a joke — they took a vote — the separation between church and state has been deemed irrelevant in Arkansas. The legislature has taken leave of its collective civic senses and figuratively lit the Constitution on fire. Is this our country? (AP):
The state House on Friday voted against affirming the separation of church and state in a resolution brought by a legislator who said he was fed up with a religious undertone at the Capitol.
The House voted 44-39 against the proposal. Only two Republicans voted for it, and one of them, Rep. Jim Medley, said he had intended to vote no but didn’t get to his machine in time to change his vote. Democratic Rep. Buddy Blair said he offered the measure because he was tired of conservative colleagues “making every issue into a religious issue.”
“It’s unbelievable to me. They have just voted against the U.S. Constitution and the constitution of the state of Arkansas,” Blair said.
Legislators have offered bills this session to keep gay people from adopting or serving as foster parents; define marriage in school textbooks as a one-man, one-woman union; require minors to get a parent’s permission before an abortion; and offer “In God We Trust” license plates. Republican Rep. Michael Lamoureux said Blair’s resolution wasn’t needed.
“It’s clear that our founding fathers, that they wanted Christian beliefs,” Lamoureux said. “The separation of church and state is not in our Constitution.”
I would point Mr. Lamoureux to this site, where he can educate himself on church-state separation issues.
The framers of the U.S. Constitution were concerned that European history might repeat itself in the new world. They wanted to avoid the continual wars motivated by religious hatred that had decimated many countries within Europe. They decided that a church/state separation was their best assurance that the U.S. would remain relatively free of inter-religious strife. Many commentators feel that over two centuries of relative religious peace in the U.S. have shown that they were right.
In 1789, the first of ten amendments were written to the Federal Constitution; they have since been known as the Bill of Rights. The First Amendment reads:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
This was ratified by the States in 1791.
The establishment clause of the First Amendment:
The first phrase in the First Amendment states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…” is called the establishment clause.
Three tests have been derived from various court decisions to decide the constitutionality of laws that have a religious component:
* The Lemon test: This was defined in a Supreme Court ruling in 1971. To be constitutional, a law must:
– have a secular purpose, and
– be neutral towards religion – neither hindering nor advancing it, and
– not result in excessive entanglements between the government and religion.
* The Endorsement Test: Justice O’Connor created this criteria: a law is unconstitutional if it favors one religion over another in a way that makes some people feel like outsiders and others feel like insiders.
* The Coercion Test: Justice Kennedy proposed this criteria: a law is constitutional even if it recognizes or accommodates a religion, as long as its demonstration of support does not appear to coerce individuals to support or participate in a religion.
A simple set of criteria is that the government (and by extension public schools) may not:
* promote one religion or faith group over any other
* promote a religiously based life over a secularly based life
* promote a secularly based life over a religiously based life.