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Monday, November 1, 2010

Warping jurisprudence wrongly exorcises our religious values from our government

When a U.S. senate candidate recently challenged her opponent during a debate to clarify whether he meant that the theory of "separation of church and state" was actually in the Constitution, many in the audience at Widener University Law School howled in derision. Why did the legal audience not laugh when the other candidate in response omitted the religious free exercise portion of the First Amendment?
The law faculty and their protégés laughed selectively because they are steeped not so much in the actual text and original intent of the Constitution but in decades of ideological, warping jurisprudence that wrongly exorcises our religious values from our government. Taking Thomas Jefferson's "separation of church and state" phrase from a personal letter out of context has served to thwart not only the persuasions of Jefferson, who attended church services at the Capitol two days after coining the phrase, but also of virtually all of the Constitution's framers and the American citizenry who through their state legislatures ratified the document. Seeking to protect the Church from government dominance and to protect the consciences of individuals from state coercion, Americans at our founding forbade Congress to make any "law respecting an establishment of religion" and enshrined the "free exercise" of religion as a vital force in democracy.
Substituting judicial ideology for the Constitution while omitting the full protections of the First Amendment is a fast track to expunging religious views from the body politic and to a less tolerant, less inclusive and less just society.

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