"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishing of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof:; or abridging the freedrom of speech or the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

These are the words of the First Amendment, United States Constitution. In the last several years, no other part of the Constitution has been more quoted that the First Amendment. There are some individuals, however, who, in the name of the First Amendment of the Constitution are practicing relugious discrimination.

We live in a nation whose founders considered free speech and free exercise of religion so important that they deliberately sealed their protection in the First Amendment of the Constitution. Today, however, Christians and other religious individuals, are being victimized by secular forces in an effort to suppress those freedoms.

The United States has a rich history No other nation in the worls has experience such a high standar of living. People from every continent came here in search of freedom. And it was because of religious discrimination and persecution that the pilgrims moved to America. Many others in foreign lands are not allowed freedom of religion. In some places, if you practice any religion other than the "official one", you will be discriminated against in the job, housing, etc. When our own troops were serving in Saudi Arabia during the Gulf War, our military chaplains had to conduct services in close door, and even that was difficult; had they been civilians it would not have been possible.

When we hear about liberty, we inmediately thing about our precious country which has a Republican form of government that guarantess individual liberties -including religious freedom-. The Founding Fathers recognized that our rights come from God, not the state. And because these individual rights are given by God, the government can not make any laws or regulation that suppress them.

During the debates in the Constitutional Convention of 1787 no other book was more quoted than the Bible and among the books of the Bible, the most often quoted was the Book of Deuteronomy since it was the book of the law and the Founders wanted to establish a Constituional Republic, a form of government where the law is the basis for everything, that is Biblical law.

There are some, however, who would like to see freedom of religion abolished, especiallt for Christians. Even though we do not want to admit it, there is religious discrimination in the United States today. Consider the following cases:

1. STONE v. GRAHAM. In 1980, the Supreme Court struck down a Kentucky law that required the posting of the Ten Commandments in the public schools classrooms. The Court ruled that posting the Ten Commandments was a form of state sponsored religious indoctrination prohibited by the First Amendment. Psting the Decalogue, the Justices worried, might "induce the school children to read. meditate upon, perhaps to venerate and obey, the Ten Commandments."

2. Last May, 1986, three Pennsylvania seventh grade students were suspenden for passing out a religious newspaper in the hallways of their public school. The paper, Issues and Answers, covers a variety of topics of interests to teenagers -sports figures, sex and dating, social issues, and problems with parents- with a direct Christian content of the newspaper unacceptable, and prohibited its distributiion. Believing the order restricted their free speech rights, the students continue to distribute the paper -an action for which they wre suspended. The students have sued the school district, and the case is still pending in the courts.

3. Twelve year old Rebecca Higgins was harassed by by school authories in May, 1985, when, after giving a short report on the Bible, she distributed free copies of the New Testament to her classmates. Afetr her report, a math teacher, acting unders of the school principal, confiscated the New Testaments. At the end of the school day, the New Testaments were returned. But when Rebecca tried to return the New Testaments to her classmates the next morning, she was ordered to the principal's office where she was "interrogated" about her religious beliefs and told that she had broken the law. Rebecca and her parents sued the school district, and the case eventually settled out of court. (1)

4. In 984, Mary May, a teacher's aide at Harper Elementary School District in Evansville, Indiana, filed suit against the school district after she and several co-workers were threatened with dismissal unless they stop holding their weekly early-morning Bible study on school property. Last April, the Seventh U.S. Court of Appeals ruled against May stating, "the school has never been used foer meeting unrelated to the business of the school." This, despite of the fact that the school is open for meetings of the PTA, the Boy Scouts, the Girl Scouts, a fine arts group, and others. Thus, at least in Induana, teachers are not permitted to pray or study the Bible together on school property.

5. At a public high school in Lake Worth, Florida, the principal forbade a student Bible club to meet on campus-even though the students me voluntarily and after school hours. The principal's insistance on what he percieved to be "separation of church an state" was graphically illustrated when he ordered the Bible club's page removed from the school's just printed yearbook. (2)

6. In Georgia, Mr. and Mrs. Terry Roemhild were arrested after they withdrew their childrem from public school in order to teach them at home. In spite of their religious convictions, and in spite of the evidence that the childrem were well educated at home. a Superior Court Judge found them guilty of criminal charge, levied a fine and ordered them to re-enroll their children in public school.

7. A Navy man in Virginia was threatened with possible Court Martial when commanding officers charged that some of his religious activities were disruptive and in violation of direct military orders. Those activities included playing a Christian radio station, reading his Bible and talking to others about his religious beliefs. (3)

8. A Christian Manifesto, written by th internationally respected scholar Francis Schaeffer, sold more than 300,000 copies in just one year. Yet, the book never appeared on any secular "best seller" list. It was never reviewed by the literary critics of any major newspapers of magazines. In fact, while Dr. Schaeffer's writings have sold more than three million copies, many "secular" bookstores and libraries seem loathe to stock his books.

9. To demostrate God's condemnation of the killing of human life, David and James Henderson picketed and abortion clinic in Jacksonville, North Carolina. Two physicians -including the head of the clinic that aborts 8 to 10 unborn children everyday- took the brothers to court in a $200,000 libel suit. These cases represent just a scant cup of water in the sweeping tide of censorship and discrimination threating the Christian voice. Many secularists -often backed by the potency of legislative and judicial action- are fighting to remove all religious expressions from our public society. yes, through laws and actions that would probable make our Founders rear up in defience, our First Amendment freedoms are being taken away. (4)

The Founding Fathers never meant to establish a secular state. The phrese "a Wall of Separation" does not appear in the Constitution or ther Declaration of Independence. Actually what Thomas Jefferson means when he wrote about this "Wall of Separation" between Church and State is that the Nation should not have an "Official Church." Indeed, there is a lot to be said about President Jefferson actually supporting the teaching of the Bible and Biblical morality in school during his presidency.

Countries such as England had an official state church and the Founding Fathers did not want that for us. But they did not mean that Gos, Religion, and Christian morality and principles should be left out of our everyday life. And, the Founding Fathers believed, the Government would not endorse a particular Faith, but that did not meant that the Government would not participate in religious affairs of the Judeo-Christian tradition.

Today, in the name of the First Amendment, many Christians are being discriminated against. Just as we should not force Christian beliefs on anyone, likewise, we should not be discriminated against becaused we want to freely exercise religion the way our conscience dictates.


Jorge Maspons

References and footnotes:

1. "THE NEW AMERICAN", Dec. 22, 1986. The NA. ISSN 0885-6540, Published biweekly by the Review of the News,, 395 Concord Ave., Belmont, Mass 02178 . Page 9-10

2. P,9-10

3. "THE REBIRTH OF AMERICA". Copyright 1986, Arthur S. Demoss Foundation. Page 135

4. Page 135

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