The First Amendment under siege

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; 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
– First Amendment to the United States Constitution

With the news that Attorney General Jeff Sessions has established a “religious liberty task force,” the Trump administration’s assault on the First Amendment is now complete.

It seems surprising that people who take the Second Amendment literally have such a hard time with the First, which makes several things crystal clear:

  1. Congress, which is the lawmaking body of our nation, cannot establish a state religion, nor can it stop anyone from worshiping however they please.
  2. Nor can our system of laws restrict freedom of speech or of the press, no matter how upset it makes the current president. This doesn’t mean you’re free to print libel or to yell racist slogans in the street without the risk of someone taking you to court or firing you. It does mean that the government can’t sue you or arrest you or have you fired for expressing yourself or for publishing the news.
  3. We have the right to protest, and we have the right to demand that our lawmakers address our grievances — which presupposes that we have a bone to pick and a right to pick it.

We already know how 45 feels about the press and about free speech for anyone who dares oppose him. We also know that the neo-Nazis who march in favor of his policies are “very fine people,” according to him, while the opposition is repeatedly disrespected and dismissed.

So that leaves the first part of the amendment, a provision drawn up by men who opposed the idea of a state religion and who in fact did not mention a deity in the whole of the Constitution.

Sessions’ “religious liberty task force” is an outgrowth of the Trump Administration’s indebtedness to the Evangelical Right, which apparently doesn’t like being told that whom people marry and whether they choose to reproduce is no one’s business.

An actual quote by Sessions in announcing his needless task force, as reported by Lydia Wheeler on

“We’ve seen nuns ordered to buy contraceptives. We’ve seen U.S. senators ask judicial and executive branch nominees about dogma — even though the Constitution explicitly forbids a religious test for public office. We’ve all seen the ordeal faced so bravely by Jack Phillips . . . .”

In speaking of Jack Phillips, Sessions was referring to the Colorado baker who took his case to the Supreme Court after he was found to have violated the state’s anti-discrimination laws for refusing to make a cake for a same-sex wedding.

So, baking a cake is an “ordeal’ for a baker, but being forced to have children isn’t an ordeal for a woman who can’t afford contraception? And I don’t know of any nuns who’ve been “ordered to buy contraceptives,” but in the light of revelations that religious sisters in Africa and elsewhere have been sexually molested and even impregnated by priests, it sounds like a good idea to me.

As for senators questioning court nominees about “dogma,” when you have potential Supreme Court justices indicating that their religion takes precedence over the rule of law, it’s proper to ask just what laws they would overturn in the name of their faith.

What this all boils down to is a backdoor way of making abortion illegal and forcing school prayer.

Sessions may be invoking “religious freedom,” but in the Bizarro World that is the current administration, he means just the opposite.

7 thoughts on “The First Amendment under siege

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