My following column appeared on April 5, 1996 in the Cobb Chronicle. It is always worthwhile to check on where we are to determine if we are following the map for our ship of state. This is the first of a two part series on this subject.
Michael S. Opitz
The United States Supreme Court, in its historic 1964 decision, ruled that prayer in public schools is illegal because it violates the First Amendment’s principle of separation of church and state. The judicial court system at all levels across the land has expanded that ruling to include the prohibition of Christmas manger scenes on government property and the Ten Commandants being posted in county buildings. In some schools, even religious Christmas songs are forbidden.
Because of the relentless attack by the ACLU and the mass media, millions of U.S. citizens have been indoctrinated into believing that the Constitution emphatically states that “the church is separated from the state, and the school from the church.” I have thoroughly researched the Constitution and much to my surprise, I have found those exact words. The meaning is clear and concise and not left open to interpretation. It is stated so simply that it leaves no argument for informal debate among friends or formal legal challenges in a court of law.
Because of the crystal clear wording, I have no doubt that this is absolute constitutional law and because it is constitutional law, it should be adhered to until the citizens wish to change it by prescribed constitutional process. The subverting of the legal process by any other means leads to undermining the bases of constitutional law and leads to anarchy, and that means the ultimate loss of our country.
The thing that may surprise you, if you are not a constitutional scholar (as most Supreme Court Judges claim to be), is that this irrefutable statement concerning the separation of church and state can be found under “Article 52 (Religion)” in the former Soviet Union’s constitution, not our own. Article 52 states:
“(1) Citizens of the USSR are guaranteed freedom of conscience, that is, the right to profess any religion, and to conduct religious worship or atheistic propaganda. Incitement of hostility or hatred on religious grounds is prohibited.
(2) In the USSR, the church is separated from the state, and the school from the church.”
The only reference in the U.S. Constitution to religion is found in the First Amendment. Let me provide an exact quote of the First Amendment, because it is very clear to me that a great many citizens of the United States, attorneys, and judges are unfamiliar with it. Article I states:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for redress of grievances.”
The framers of the constitution were merchants, farmers, and everyday people who were literate and knowledgeable. Though there were legal scholars and attorneys advising the drafting of the document, their understanding was based on something called natural law. If today’s litigation lawyers had been involved in the process, the language would be full of fine print, legalese and be beyond the understanding of average citizens. Fortunately, that is not the case, and the document is as easily understood today as it was back then. The wording of the Soviet Constitution is equally clear.
Now if the reader will take a moment to go back and review Article 1 of the U.S. Constitution and Article 52 of the Soviet Constitution. Please determine which language clearly states that there is a separation of church and state and schools from the church. This is not a complex question or a great philosophical issue. The words mean only what they say.
Clearly, you see, it is the latter.
The first part of Article I, of our constitution forbids congress from establishing a national religion. This was done because many of the forming states sponsored a favored religion during that time, and there was a concern that some in the federal government would sponsor a national religion, which would conflict with state preferences, potentially mimicking a scene like that of merry old England. Under Article I, Congress could not “enact any laws “prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”
Even though Congress is forbidden to limit the free exercise of religion, the Supreme Court, in the name of separation of church and state, has limited that right by prohibiting the reading of the bible in school, of open prayer in school and other religious expressions in schools. The framers of the Soviet constitution, however, thought it was important enough to clarify in two distinct clauses that ” (1) “the church is separated from the state” and (2) “the school from the church.” Soviet framers felt that government run schools were not part of the state apparatus when it came to the free exercise of religion. These two clauses do not exist in the U.S. Constitution.
The U.S. Supreme Court members, as learned jurists, are certainly familiar with the constitutions of the top five world powers. To think otherwise would be to believe that nine of the top experts on U.S. history have no knowledge whatsoever of world history. The soviet constitution can be read in about 15 minutes. I know because I reviewed my two copies from Cornell University on the Internet and quickly found Article 52 and others, such as Article 56 on Privacy, (You may find it interesting to know that privacy, the basis for Roe v. Wade, is mentioned nowhere in the U.S. Constitution. But that is another can of worms that we can discuss at a later date.
So the real question is: Which constitution were the supreme court justices reading when they decided to reverse almost 200 years of unrestricted religious freedom in our country? The Constitution is not written in Latin, and we are not dependent on priests to interpret the sacred texts to tell us what it means. The responsibility of the Supreme Court is to rule on the law as it is written; not to interpret the law based upon their personal beliefs and prejudices. When personal interpretation occurs, either by intentional distortion or simple incompetence, it is the responsibility of Congress and the people to demand removal of these justices.
Congress and the people must examine the entire judicial system and ensure that it, and the rulings of this system, are honestly following what the framers of United States Constitution intended. If we, the people of the United States want separation of church and states as it is set forth in the Soviet constitution, then we should introduce this article as a properly debated issue and submit it as an amendment to be voted on and ratified by the states. To attempt to infuse this position into law by Supreme Court decision confirms in my mind that indeed the price of freedom is eternal vigilance.
This country belongs to “we the people,” not to the officials we appoint. We must always supervise them carefully, even if a lifetime appointment seems to remove them from our authority. Contrary to what some might think, they do not rule us; they work for
I would like to add a couple of current observations to this column. We have seen the Florida Supreme attempt to seize self initiated control of Florida’s Executive and Legislative branches. None of the judges were impeached for usurping their authority.
The U.S. Supreme Court continues to interpret the Constitution through their, oh so cloudy crystal ball, while we citizens stand around and wonder how they did that trick.
Remember, the United States, when founded, was the first country in the history of the world that gained it legitimacy and authority directly from the people who were created by God with “unalienable rights.” The country belongs to all of us and not to the government which only administers the functions. If good men and women stand by and do nothing, while the “Music Man” tells us that the band is real, and we think we hear the music, then it is time for us to go the way of all the civilizations of antiquity. Nero is smiling.