Ferociously Observant

It’s not who you are that holds you back, it’s who you think you’re not. -Anon.

Constitutional Contridictions? 29 November 2007

Filed under: Rants — ferociouskater @ 11:53 pm

We are not supposed to be a country of one religion, or any religion for that matter. We are supposed to be a country of religious freedom. (Or the freedom to choose no religion at all, which I’m feeling is less and less acceptable but that’s another rant.) Now I understand the phrase “freedom of religion” means that every religion should have the right to practice and proselytize without being censored, but a lot of people are taking it way out of proportion.

I got an email forward from my grandmother recently about a 1996 speech by Minister Joe Wright to the Kansas Senate. This email has probably been circulating for years, in fact Snopes attributes to a version of it starting in 1999.

There are countless quotes I find incredibly offensive in this prayer, but right now I just want to touch on this one, the end of his prayer: “Guide and bless these men and women who have been sent here by the people of the State of Kansas […] ordained by you to govern this great state.”

“Ordained?” Pardon me, but I thought that ministers were ordained. But legislators?

The first amendment doesn’t go into a lot of detail about the separation of church and state, and in fact the phrase “separation of church and state” was actually coined by Thomas Jefferson in a separate document even though a lot of people attribute it to the Constitution itself. The actual document states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

Now sure, Wright’s prayer was technically protected under the second part of the amendment, the free exercise (and free speech) part. But proclaiming that the state congress itself has been divinely chosen by God to pass laws for the good of the state is going a bit far. Has Bush, too, pulled the Sword out of the Stone? No wonder legislators walked out on the spectacle.

Bringing up this line in Wright’s speech, and the speech itself, brings me to an interesting realization. I feel like a lot of people, especially conservatives, really like to bring up the Constitution in some arguments but completely ignore it in others. Would an NRA member from the Bible Belt try to argue his firearm rights without quoting the second amendment? You bet your Charlton Heston he wouldn’t. But at the same time he might completely ignore the Constitutional problem with Wright asserting that the people of America “have worshiped other gods and called it multiculturalism.”

I’ve heard of Cafeteria Christianity, but has the religious right of this country invented Cafeteria Constitutionalism?

I’m sorry, but it’s very hard to take you seriously when you clutch so tightly to one line of our founding document and casually paint a neat stroke of Wite-Out over the next.

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2 Responses to “Constitutional Contridictions?”

  1. I liked the fact that you are trying to relate current actions to the intent of the Constitution. But I don’t think “ordain” is poorly used here, at least by one definition. According to The Free Dictionary, it can mean: “To order by virtue of superior authority; decree or enact.” I assume that is the use intended by the speaker you quote. Also, the Preamble to our Constitution says, “…do ordain and establish this constitution of the United States of America.”

  2. Thanks for your comment, and for taking the time to point out that definition for me. You’ve actually helped me to define Wright’s quote even further, since he was obviously calling the members of the Kansas Senate “ordered by virtue of superior authority” (God) to make decisions for the good of the state. And although he did say that the senators were sent by the people of Kansas, he was still undermining the electoral power with all that “ordained by you” business. Apparently according to Wright, people are completely wasting their time when they go out to vote.


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