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Judge: mixing church and state – not a problem

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”
— The First Amendment

There is no statement about the separation of church and state in the Constitution, but the U.S. Supreme Court has interpreted over time to mean it includes a “wall of separation.”

The bible-beaters have been trying to shave away at this, eagerly advocating for the appointment of judges that would narrowly interpret the First Amendment, excluding any separation so as to promote religion – and we all know that in this case they define “religion” as their brand of Christianity. We’re talking about the Ten Commandments here.


Judge Richard F. Suhrheinrich, appointed by President Bush in 1990, is one judge that sees it the wingnut way. Look at this unbelievable ruling; he’s clearly got an ax to grind with the ACLU. (WorldNetDaily):

A U.S. appeals court today upheld the decision of a lower court in allowing the inclusion of the Ten Commandments in a courthouse display, hammering the American Civil Liberties Union and declaring, “The First Amendment does not demand a wall of separation between church and state.”

…Writing for the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge Richard Suhrheinrich said the ACLU’s “repeated reference ‘to the separation of church and state’ … has grown tiresome. The First Amendment does not demand a wall of separation between church and state.”

Suhrheinrich wrote: “The ACLU, an organization whose mission is ‘to ensure that … the government [is kept] out of the religion business,’ does not embody the reasonable person.”

The court said a reasonable observer of Mercer County’s display appreciates “the role religion has played in our governmental institutions, and finds it historically appropriate and traditionally acceptable for a state to include religious influences, even in the form of sacred texts, in honoring American traditions.”

The attorneys that successfully argued the case were from winger American Center for Law and Justice.

How can things go so awry? For starters, it’s all about whether the folks on the bench take into account the intent of the founding fathers along with the Constitution itself. TJ was pretty clear. From religioustolerance.org:

Thomas Jefferson, as president, wrote a letter to the Danbury Baptist Association of Connecticut on 1802-JAN-1. It contains the first known reference to the “wall of separation”. The essay states in part:

“…I contemplate with solemn reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church and State…”

During the 1810’s, President James Madison wrote an essay titled “Monopolies” which also refers to the importance of church-state separation. He stated in part:

“Strongly guarded as is the separation between religion and Government in the Constitution of the United States, the danger of encroachment by Ecclesiastical Bodies may be illustrated by precedents already furnished in their short history.”

The US Supreme Court has interpreted the First Amendment as if it requires this “wall of separation” between church and state. It not only prohibits any government from adopting a particular denomination or religion as official, but requires government to avoid excessive involvement in religion.

That all goes out the window for the wingers. It’s all about “strict constructionism.” Intent and interpretation don’t matter, it’s all about the actual words and phrases in the document. Nothing more.

We’re going to see more rulings of this nature from judges like Suhrheinrich, given the appointments that Dear Leader has been making at all levels of the federal judiciary.

A quiz: What Do You Know About The Separation of State and Church?

Hat tip, No More Mister Nice Blog via Blender Kathy of Birmingham Blues.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding