The First Amendment — “Separation of Church and State” and Freedom of Expression
By Dave Eagle, August 8, 2017
One of the fundamental principles of the American experiment is the idea that We, the People, should be allowed to express our opinions and ideas freely and openly, without interference from government forces and without fear of suppression and retaliation by those in power. Those of us who bothered to study our civics and government curriculum (in bygone days when these subjects were actually taught in public schools) may remember discussing some of the concepts inherent in our First Amendment.
We should welcome disagreement and political discourse. We should encourage robust and heated debate, in order for us to ferret out all ideas so that we may be afforded an opportunity to arrive at the truth of the matter based upon careful examination, research and reasoned argument. Sometimes we will disagree. That is okay.
But today, disagreement is not allowed. Today, having a different opinion is verboten. Today, if you disagree with such things as the current state of affairs with our public school system in Texas, the manner in which public education is financed, and the disproportionate number of administrators and bureaucrats versus teachers, you subject yourself to being shouted down by those in power and, even more disconcerting, being threatened with some sort of feigned legal consequences if you refuse to shut up. You will be metaphorically tarred, feathered, drawn and quartered.
We hear many folks tied to the public school system cry out time and again the phrase “Separation of Church and State – Separation of Church and State” – any time they feel that some religious leader or some religious idea is presented in context to a political discussion or in context to the public school classroom. Once such a cry is made, the echo chamber will begin to fill with the gnashing of teeth, beating of chests, wrenching of hands, and the wailing and moaning of the brainwashed parrots.
For instance, right here and right now, we have seen the Hood County Pastor Council publish a two-part OpEd in the Hood County News entitled “Conservative Values in Public Schools.”
The main purpose of the pastors’ two-part OpEd is to point out some of the inadequacies of the current public school system in Granbury and to make a plea for conservatives to run for the school board.
The two half-page two part OpEd was bought and paid for by the Hood County Pastor Council, a private group of pastors and ministers. These “paid ads” express the opinions and concerns of some of those who sit on the Hood County Pastor Council.
Based upon the outrage these two installments have generated within some folks who are currently on the school board, it appears that the Pastors’ Council has gotten extremely close to home. As one of my military friends has told be before, “If you are taking a lot of flak, it is only because you are flying directly over the target.”
Whatever the case may be, it appears that certain school board members demand that the folks on the Pastor Council who dare express an opinion different than theirs be silenced. Hiding behind their perceived banner of “Separation of Church and State”, these anti-constitutional tyrants intend to silence anyone who disagrees with them. Rather than welcome open and honest discourse regarding the current state of affairs of our public schools, they want to totally silence any dissent. I would add, parenthetically, that they immediately painted themselves as victims. Even though no names are mentioned in the Pastors’ OpEd, it appears that some school board folks are taking this as a personal attack. Oh, the smell of burning martyrs! Feeling a little guilty, are we? If the shoe fits . . .
The purpose of this OpEd is to discuss the narrow-minded hypocrisy displayed by these types of arguments.
First — the First Amendment. – Establishment Clause
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; . . . ”
The preceding statement seems to be simple and to the point. One would think these school board members who are so intent on silencing these pastors might have read this part of the First Amendment before. Since they completely misconstrue what this clause means, I can only conclude that they must be products of the public school system and either they were not taught the Bill of Rights in school or they did not pay attention to class on the day the First Amendment was discussed.
I do not see one word in the “establishment clause,” as it is called, that spells out separation between church and state. Moreover, there is not one word or phrase in the Declaration of Independence or in the Constitution that speaks to the concept of “Separation of Church and State.” The concept of “separation of church and state” is one of the biggest fallacies ever perpetrated upon the masses, all mainly as a result of government-run public education. No one can even trace its exact origins, though many point to a letter written in 1801 by Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptists where he posits that the First Amendment has “erected a wall of separation between church and state.” Interestingly enough, as much as the progressive left tends to hate Thomas Jefferson, they cling to his words as written in his private letter to the Danbury Baptists.
Opponents of free speech love to use the so-called Johnson Amendment as a stick to beat the church into submission and to coerce a church body to “stay out of politics or else.” I say, bring it on with your 501(c)3 argument. The Johnson Amendment is blatantly unconstitutional and I would like to see nothing more than its constitutionality tested in court. To this date, not one church has been sued by the US government under the Johnson Amendment. Why? Because they know it is unconstitutional and they are not willing to actually revoke a church’s 501(c)3 based on that provision. So – I say, bring it on! Let’s get this one behind us once and for all. File your lawsuit, Mr. Democrat chairman. Let’s get this one to the 5th Circuit – the sooner the better. That way, all churches may learn that they can actually speak to a political idea, whether it aligns with the church or not.
The First Amendment continues —
“. . . or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
This clause, regarding the freedom of speech and of the press, are cornerstones of this nation. Yet, decade by decade, year by year, since the ratification of the First Amendment, the powers that be have continually tried to suppress and silence dissent, either by marginalizing dissenters, or by down right calling for the dissenters’ political heads on a platter. A perfect example of this is the Facebook feeding frenzy that is going on over there on some of these school board members’ Facebook pages. Of course, all the usual suspects can be seen posting snide comments on these recent posts.
Notice how the clauses regarding freedom of speech and freedom of the press are connected to the right to assemble and to petition. What this means is that we, the People, have an unalienable right to speak our mind, to write about it in a public forum and to call out our government when we disagree with what the government is doing. This is exactly what these pastors did when they published their OpEd. Yet three sitting school board members have openly attacked these pastors for expressing their opinions. I’d say that sitting school board members who openly attack certain pastors in our community should remember that they are public officials. What kind of example are you setting for our children with that type of behavior?
Interestingly, these folks have not cornered the market on the way things ought to be and they are certainly not the final arbiters of the truth. However, if you dare to disagree with them or call into question what they are doing, you better watch out. They are all for Freedom of Speech as long as it is their speech. With regard to your speech that might disagree with them, not so much.
The Texas Constitution —
Art. 7, Sec. 1 of the Texas Constitution calls for the State to “establish and make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an EFFICIENT system of public free schools.” What does that mean? I do not see that the Texas Constitution excludes private schools, home schools, charter schools, or other organizations to provide for an education. I also do not see in this provision that the state of Texas gets to maintain a monopoly on educating children. One thing is for certain, more money does not equate to improved efficiency. Our current public school system is living proof of that.
Reach down deep into your psyche. Do you really believe, deep down, that our children in our public schools are being provided the most efficient AND effective education available? If so, why are so many folks taking their children out of the public school system and either taking their kids to private schools or homeschooling? If so, why do folks like me look at the dismal statistics published each year about our public schools and wonder: Could we be doing a better job educating our children in the public schools?
I don’t know about you, but I do not see that the public school system is working in an efficient manner. Other people I know do not see that the public school system is working in an efficient manner. I realize that I do not live in the little snowflake bubble world where those on our current school board reside. But just because they live in a little snowflake bubble world, does not mean they have cornered the market on the best path to take regarding our public school system. Yet, on top of everything else, they want to force their will upon all Hood County residents, like it or not. My question to you is this: Is this what YOU want?
Might I suggest you take a good long look at Inside American Education: The Decline, The Deception, The Dogmas, by Thomas Sowell, first published in 1993, wherein Mr. Sowell charges that our educational establishment is not only morally and intellectually bankrupt, but American education constantly utilizes “technically sophisticated brainwashing techniques” to steer our children into the collective.
One has to merely read the Facebook posts made recently by some of our sitting school board members to understand that these “brainwashing” techniques were not only utilized on them, but were quite effective in the results.
Interestingly, these sitting school board members allege that the pastors who allegedly penned the subject OpEd were somehow influenced by the local Republican Party and/or TEA Party to write and publish said OpEd. No offense, school board members, but my guess is that these pastors have minds of their own and have the free will to think for themselves and express their respective opinions for themselves. Just because you do not have minds of your own and are there to do the bidding of James Largent, the head public school lobbyist, I mean school superintendent, please do not project your collective mindlessness upon these brave pastors who had the courage to speak out in a public forum.
Frankly, I see the constant drum beat being played by the public school administrators, the school boards, the teachers’ unions and the Joe Straus democrats as representing anything but a shining example of efficiency. They just want more money.
If the Pastor Council’s two-part OpEd made the folks on the school board uncomfortable – if this OpEd makes the folks on the school board uncomfortable – then maybe it is time for you on the school board to take stock in what you are doing. Maybe it is time you reach in there and find minds of your own rather than robotically doing the bidding of James Largent. Maybe it is time for you to take the best interest of the children to heart rather than the best interest of you and the administrators and the superintendent. Maybe you should consider taking your collective egos out of the equation. After all, it’s all about the children, right? Or is it?