It’s a tragic thing to never know the vision of our Founding Fathers but act as though you do. This is exactly what’s going on in our country today and it’s causing America a greater harm than any ever faced.
You’re about to read something you and I were never taught in school – the true intent of our First Amendment’s freedom of religion.
Meet a man named Joseph Story. Joseph Story was appointed to Supreme Court Justice by James Madison, the Father of our Constitution and also the fourth President of our country. Justice Story served from 1812 to 1845 as Supreme Court Justice. He was also a U.S. Congressman from 1808 to 1809 and a Harvard Law School Professor from 1821 to 1845. He comments on the First Amendment:
“The real object of the First Amendment was not to countenance, much less to advance Mohammedanism, or Judaism, or infidelity, by prostrating Christianity, but to exclude all rivalry among Christian sects and to prevent any national ecclesiastical patronage of the national government.” [J. Story, III, Commentaries on the Constitution [section] 1871 (1833)]
Let me restate what the Honorable Justice Story is saying in contemporary language:
“The real intent of the First Amendment was not to approve or support, much less to advance Islam, Judaism, or other unfaithfulness, Atheism included, by submissively and willfully incapacitating Christianity, but to prevent all competition among Christian denominations for national government sponsorship and to prevent our national government from choosing one of these denominations to establish a national church.”
James Madison appointed Justice Story because they were like-minded. We have an abundance of examples today to show us that presidents only appoint those who will help them achieve or maintain their goals. How much more for the Father of the Constitution seeking to preserve the country founded on the document he helped author? It’s entirely right to conclude that James Madison and Joseph Story knew what they were talking about. It’s absurd to think that people would argue with James Madison about the meaning of the document he wrote. It appears, however, that they would even if he were here today!
Context is key. Our Founding Fathers had one religion on their minds when they wrote the Constitution – Christianity. They were not interested in the same thing happening in the new country they were creating that had happened in England – a state-established church as in Christian church.
As unpopular as this truth is today, the First Amendment does not guarantee the protection of the practice of any other religion but Christianity. Its purpose is to guarantee and protect our freedom to practice all Christian denominations equally without our government forcing one denomination on us all.
Additionally, if it was ever to be found that another religious belief was violating a person’s freedom to practice Christianity, the Christian would be protected by this right. Christianity would be preserved.
An anticipation of the conflict of beliefs necessarily means that the First Amendment does indeed allow the freedom of other religions to be practiced but not at the expense of that freedom, which, in this country is afforded by Christianity and ultimately God. Again, there is allowance but no guarantee of the freedom of all religions to be practiced in our country.
In other words, freedom is not to be practiced to the detriment of itself and, therefore, religion in our country is not to be practiced to the detriment of Christianity.
This built-in anticipation of an imposing conflict of beliefs demonstrates the true genius of our Founding Fathers in that they understood freedom needs to be protected.
We have an innumerable amount of examples today that demonstrate the need to protect freedom. The simple truth of it is this: man being what he is, without a guaranteed freedom there is no freedom. Consequently, without a guaranteed freedom to practice Christianity there is no freedom to practice it.
Sadly, our country, and the world, has lost sight of the value of freedom as evidenced by a misunderstanding of what it is, resulting in a general lack of respect for its maintenance. Freedom does have a rule, the rule of responsibility, and it needs to be maintained or it won’t exist. If this apathy continues, the result will be the loss of all freedoms for everyone.
Let’s consider these things as we celebrate the birth of our country.