I can usually tell that the Christmas Season is upon us, not by the decorations and lights that sprout like mushrooms around Thanksgiving, but by the litany of news stories about the latest, militant-secularist-atheist lawsuit attacking another Christmas celebration. These suits usually threaten to bring ruinous monetary damages against a community or an unwary group who actually believed that the First Amendment still offered them protection for them to express their religious beliefs.
As a boy I remember that in the middle of our small military town, a huge Christmas tree adorned the traffic island in the town center; we didn’t have a streetlight there for some years to come, just an island round-about.
The post office, a large red brick 1920s-era building with classical lines was decorated in lights with a large Christmas crèche in front. Sometime in the early 1960s, that disappeared, first the crèche, then in the ‘70s, the tree went as well, along with a good deal of community spirit. This year “Scrooge” even attacked Charlie Brown, successfully getting a church play of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” cancelled for school children who wanted to participate in a local field trip, with parental permission of course. We have no one to blame for this but ourselves, as we let it happen with hardly a murmur of protest.
In 1947, the Supreme Court in the case Emerson v. Board of Education declared “the First Amendment has erected a wall between church and state. That wall must be kept high and impregnable … without the slightest breach.”
The court quoted Jefferson, as other courts had in the past, but this time only cited eight words from Jefferson’s letter of Oct. 7, 1801, to the Danbury Baptist Association in which he expresses the phrase, “a wall of separation between church and state.” By the way, that phrase is not found anywhere in the United States Constitution, the supreme law of the land. It is merely the court’s interpretation that it exists, ignoring every case precedent and reversing longstanding constitutional protection for public religious expression.
For 150 years, the “separation clause” of the First Amendment was interpreted by the courts to be a restriction upon the government, not upon individuals in exercising their right to freely express their religious beliefs in the public square. In Jefferson’s full letter, he makes it clear that the “wall of separation” was erected not to limit your right to freely express your religious belief, but to “provide security against governmental interference with those expressions, whether public or private.”
Jefferson was a champion of the right of individuals to freely express their beliefs and on numerous occasions and writings stated as such that the government could not interfere with religious expression. That would include nativity scenes and Christmas celebrations in the public square.
In the Everson case, the court interpreted for the first time that the “separation” phrase required the federal government to remove religious expression from the public arena.” The public yawned, the congress and senate said “ho-hum.” No justices were impeached nor constitutional amendment passed to undo this mischief. The ministers and congregations were silent and too pious to get involved in politics, and the “first freedom” that the Founders listed in the Bill of Rights, “freedom of religion,” was lost in America. Liberties lost are seldom recovered, except at great sacrifice by a determined people to restore their heritage.
Al Fonzi is a retired Army Lt. Colonel and career intelligence officer with more than 30 years of service. He is a self-described conservative and active in several political organizations. Fonzi first moved to Atascadero in 1972.
For the complete article see the 12-12-2012 issue.
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