I know it's obvious, but everything below is bracketed by [IMHO][/IMHO]. I recognize that my language has an ex cathedra tone, though, which I don't know how to avoid--hence the disclaimer.<br><br>Freedom of religion has to be put in the context of the period in which the principle is being articulated and deployed. Now, although some of the most profound thinkers of the 18th century who contributed to the founding documents were Deists, I'll grant you that Deism is a sort of Christian heresy. So yes, the country was founded by people for whom "religion" meant Christianity, and who were large-minded enough to include Catholicism as a "Christian" faith (something that John Milton, political radical though he was a hundred or so years earlier, could not bring himself to do, as he makes very clear in his political tracts). In effect, that large-mindedness meant that the Christianity held in common by "the people" was at best pretty ill-defined. I mean, Presbyterians, "Independents," and Episcopalians had fought a horrible set of Civil Wars in England in the 17th century precisely because each confession wanted its particular brand of Christianity to be the definitive one. In the late 18th century in America, and maybe even through the early 20th century, pulling Christian punches was the way to prevent such a fiasco.<br><br>But by the 1960s it became obvious that "Christian" could not possibly describe the spiritual aspirations of the nation as a whole. If the state was not to "establish" a religion, then it could no longer simply assume that a generic "Christianity" was scattershot enough to accommodate all "the people." Jews certainly did not fit into such a scheme. Muslims didn't. Buddhists didn't . . . . And as the US became more and more varied there were more and more people for whom a generically "Christian" public discourse of spirituality just couldn't suit.<br><br>It would have been possible simply to ignore those folks and make believe that my having to say the Lord's Prayer in 4th grade, or to recite (ad nauseam) the 123rd Psalm in 5th grade didn't establish a religion. And, again, when "the people" were generally Christian, and there was no particular theological approach attached to the prayer or to the Psalm, that might have been true. But what about that Hindu boy who sat next to me in 5th grade. What was he supposed to think when day after day we recited the 123rd Psalm, which in principle violated his religious training and so imposed a state sanction on a particular spirituality . . . in effect "established" a religion precisely because it was so different from that boy's own religion that he couldn't just assume the generic similarity that Christians of all denominations could, simply because all Christians hold that verse in common? I suppose that that boy could just excuse himself from reciting the Psalm. But that "solution" doesn't solve the Constitutional problem: because of the changes in American culture, reciting the Psalm in practice establishes a religion, and that's clearly something that the 1st Amendment prohibits.<br><br>What is the SCOTUS supposed to do? Give a wink and a nod and let the violation ride?<br><br>One of the things that makes the American Constitutional system particularly genial is that it is politically and socially evolutionary. What happened to prayer in schools is the same thing that happened to the poll tax, or to the exclusion of blacks and women and 18-year-olds from the franchise. As the understanding of what "the people" means changes, so does the way that the Constitution is enacted change. I think on the whole the history of those changes has been a great thing, a tribute to the rationalism of the Enlightenment that undergirds the Constitution. There have been aberrations, like Prohibition, but those get corrected by the same evolutionary process. I hope some other aberrations get corrected soon . . . like the power that Mr. Bush has arrogated to himself of signing a law and, by means of "signing statements," nonetheless nullifying it. There's a Constitutional way to do that, called the veto. "Signing statements," as practiced by the current president, are IMHO unconstitutional. But I digress. (A nice 18th century habit, by the way, as anyone who's read Tristram Shandy will know).<br><br>If I were religious, I don't think I would be in favor of the public display of religion. The kind of generic Christianity that was acceptable in the 19th and earlier 20th centuries is, after all, neither hot nor cold--in New Testamentary terms, an abomination to be spewed out. But that's really the only kind of religion that could be exercised publicly without establishing a particular theological perspective on Christianity. And establishing such a theological perspective would have brought onto this continent the same excuse for religious warfare that defaced Europe from the 15th through the 18th centuries. If I were religious, I would want my religion unadulterated by political compromises.<br><br>[color:red]&#63743;</font color=red> [color:orange]&#63743;</font color=orange> [color:yellow]&#63743;</font color=yellow> [color:green]&#63743;</font color=green> [color:blue]&#63743;</font color=blue> [color:purple]&#63743;</font color=purple>
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