Fischer Again Asserts Christian-Only First Amendment

Bryan Fischer is not happy that a group of satanists are trying to argue for a religious exemption from the law, the kind that Christians demand daily, and he is once again promoting the absolutely moronic claim that the First Amendment applies only to Christians.

I have contended for years that the First Amendment, as given by the Founders, provides religious liberty protections for Christianity only. Most attorney types, befuddled by years of untethered Supreme Court activism, think it covers any and all religions you can name.

The results of this expansive but badly misguided understanding of the First Amendment have not been too costly to this point. But with Islam growing in America like a noxious weed, some of the more troublesome aspects of this distorted view of religious liberty are becoming evident, when it comes to things like school curricula, halal food, and Christian evangelism at Muslim street fairs.

These problems have been brought into stark relief now by Satanists, who are pressing for exactly the same kind of religious liberty protections the Supreme Court just recognized for Hobby Lobby…

Now if the word “religion” in the First Amendment was intended by the Founders to refer to any belief system in a supernatural power, then the Satanists are absolutely right. They have just as much a First Amendment claim as anybody else.

But if by the word “religion” the Founders meant Christianity, then they don’t. And Muslims don’t either.

Joseph Story, the longest serving associate justice of the Supreme Court and author of the first definitive history of the Constitution, wrote this about the First Amendment (emphasis mine):

“The real object of the amendment was, not to countenance, much less to advance Mahometanism, or Judaism, or infidelity, by prostrating Christianity; but to exclude all rivalry among Christian sects, and to prevent any national ecclesiastical establishment…”

He loves that quote from Story. Here’s the problem: Story was 9 years old when the Bill of Rights was written. He had nothing to do with it. Notice that he doesn’t quote any of the actual founding fathers? That’s because they didn’t support his claim. Here’s what some of the key founders actually believed:

George Washington, the first president of the U.S., stated in 1783, “the bosom of America is open to receive… the oppressed and persecuted of all nations and religions, whom we shall welcome to a participation of all our rights and privileges… They may be [Muslims], Jews, or Christians of any sect, or they may be atheists.”

Washington’s idea of America was that the country should be founded upon religious freedom, liberty and justice for all, principles that Chief Justice Moore wants to apply only to Christians.

Washington was not the only founding fathers who extended American rights to non-Christians. Writing for the Virginia colonial legislature in 1777, Thomas Jefferson , the author of the Declaration of Independence, noted that “the Jew, the Gentile, the Christian, and the [Muslim], the [Hindu], and infidel of every denomination” are welcome to the U.S. Jefferson’s statue at the University of Virginia also shows him holding a tablet which states, “Religious Freedom, 1786,” below which is inscribed “Allah” alongside “Brahma.”

None of this is actually relevant to the issue that Fischer is discussing, of course, because the demand for a religious exemption is based not on the First Amendment but on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which undoubtedly covers all religions. In fact, it was written specifically to overturn a Supreme Court ruling that denied an exemption for Native American religions. So even if Fischer were right about the First Amendment — and he isn’t — it would have nothing to do with the issue he’s talking about. Bryan Fischer — full of shit as usual.

"Nah, they're the Party of Law and Order. They have 2 mascots called "Law" and ..."

Gianforte Lied to Police About Assault ..."
"And still the justifications roll in...First, although Franken is acting like a 7th grader in ..."

How to Think Critically About the ..."
"If you’re wondering why Trump has remained silent on the allegations against Roy Moore but ..."

Trump Admitted to Peeping at Teen ..."

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!


What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Phillip IV

    Now if the word “religion” in the First Amendment was intended by the Founders to refer to any belief system in a supernatural power (…) But if by the word “religion” the Founders meant Christianity…

    And what if the founders meant Satanism by the word “religion”? Or a kitten? Or George Washington’s left shoe? A school of constitutional interpretation based on the assumption that the founders didn’t mean words to mean what they generally mean can go off the rails pretty quickly.

  • Michael Heath

    Ed you’re wrong. The founders didn’t realize it at the time the Bill of Rights was drafted, but Christianity is the only religion. By the time Joseph Story came of age God had revealed this Truth.

  • dugglebogey

    Which christians, exactly? All denominations? What about Mormons? Baptists? COG? COC? Methodists? Lutherans? Presbyterians?

    Which one of these groups has rights, and which of the rest of us have no rights at all?

  • Chiroptera

    But if by the word “religion” the Founders meant Christianity…

    “… or, more specifically, members affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention….”

  • John Pieret

    Story was nothing more than one of those befuddled attorney types,

    But I’m glad that Fischer has come out in favor of denying Jews religious freedom. That should get him another disclaimer from the AFA.

    ————————————

    P.S. That version of when and where Jefferson wrote (the words were his) is wrong. It appeared in his autobiography and at the time Jefferson’s Virginia Act For Establishing Religious Freedom was passed (by Madison’s doing) Jefferson was in France.

  • D. C. Sessions

    And of course, as soon as we establish as the Law of the Land protects only “Christianity” the following week there will be all sorts of interesting cases brought arguing that Islam is, after all, a branch of “Christianity.” Not to mention various sectarians in power denying that some other Christian sect is not “Christian” within the meaning of the law.

    But we all know that that would never happen, right?

  • vereverum

    @ D. C. Sessions #6

    Well, some Christian Identity sects hold that the constitution only applies to Christian wasps.

    No matter how restrictive your are, there is always someone restrictiver.

  • Pingback: Loonies on parade | Civil Commotion()

  • Paul Watson

    We need to be very careful in attributing quotes. We need to be better historians than David Barton, a low bar to be sure. The extended quote from Washington cited in the article sounds a bit “fishy” and is, in fact, a combination of two Washington quotes on separate subjects and for separate purposes.

    The first quote beginning with “the bosom of America is open to receive…” to “we shall welcome to a participation of all our rights and privileges…” is taken from a 1783 speech to an association of Irish immigrants and reflects America’s officially pluralist attitude toward religion.

    The second quote “They may be [Muslims], Jews, or Christians of any sect, or they may be atheists.” Is taken from a 1784 letter from Washington to Tench Tilghman and concerns the purchase of workmen (slaves) for Mount Vernon. He says he is not concerned about their religious faith as long as they are good workmen.

    To mash the two together gives an impression that is not Washington’s, particularly with reference to atheists. We need to check our sources if a quote looks “to good to be true”.

    These source quotes can be found at.

    http://www.pbs.org/georgewashington/collection/other_1788dec2.html

    and

    http://etext.virginia.edu/etcbin/ot2www-washington?specfile=/texts/english/washington/fitzpatrick/search/gw.o2w&act=surround&offset=34248622&tag=Writings+of+Washington,+Vol.+27:+*To+TENCH+TILGHMAN&query=March+24,+1784&id=gw270396

  • http://rationalrant.blogspot.com/ sbh

    The Joseph Story quotation has several difficulties associated with it. First, it is taken out of context. It is part of a complex argument involving the question of whether a government can function in the absense of a shared set of religious beliefs among the people governed. Story thinks it can not; it is therefore incumbant upon the government to support a religion. Story wrote:

    Indeed, the right of a society or government to interfere in matters of religion will hardly be contested by any persons who believe that piety, religion, and morality are intimately connected with the well-being of the state, and indispensable to the administration of civil justice. The promulgation of the great doctrines of religion, the being, and attributes, and providence of one Almighty God; the responsibility to him for all our actions, founded upon moral freedom and accountability; a future state of rewards and punishments; the cultivation of all the personal, social, and benevolent virtues;—these never can be a matter of indifference in any well ordered community. It is, indeed difficult to conceive how any civilized society can well exist without them. And at all events, it is impossible for those who believe in the truth of Christianity, as a divine revelation, to doubt, that it is the especial duty of government to foster and encourage it among all the citizens and subjects. This is a point wholly distinct from that of the right of private judgment in matters of religion, and of the freedom of public worship according to the dietates of one’s conscience.

    Given the existence of the first amendment to the Constitution, how can this be accomplished? It is in the course of this discussion that Story makes his observation about the purpose of the first amendment (as he sees it). He concludes however that the first amendment does take the Federal goverment out of the picture as far as promoting Christianity goes, observing that “the whole power over the subject of religion is left exclusively to the state governments, to be acted upon according to their own sense of justice, and the state constitutions; and the Catholic and the Protestant, the Calvinist and the Arminian, the Jew and the Infidel, may sit down at the common table of the national councils, without any inquisition into their faith, or mode of worship.”

    In other words, Joseph Story clearly does see the first amendment as applying across the board to all religions (he specifically mentions “the Jew and the Infidel”), not as applying only to Christianity.

  • busterggi

    “years of untethered Supreme Court activism”

    Yeah, those damned unChristian Catholics do it every time!

  • http://rationalrant.blogspot.com/ sbh

    A second problem with that particular quotation has to do with its basis. While it is true that Joseph Story was only a child at the time, he doesn’t claim to rely on personal knowledge; he gives his source.

    That source is the problem. His citation for this claim is “2 Lloyd’s Deb. 195.” This however is nothing more than Thomas Lloyd’s notes on the congressional debate over the first amendment, and that debate does not support his claim in the least. The relevant discussion starts on page 194. The issue here is whether to add the words “no religion shall be established by law, nor shall the equal rights of conscience be infringed” to the Constitution.

    Peter Sylvester objected to the idea of Congress establishing “no religion” by law; “he feared it might be thought to have a tendency to abolish religion altogether.” This brings us to page 195. John Vining suggests transposing the two parts of the sentence and Gerry suggests that it should read “no religious doctrine shall be established by law”. Roger Sherman suggests that the amendment is unnecessary as Congress had no authority given it to establish a religion. Daniel Carroll argued that regardless the measure was politically necessary; “he thought it would tend more toward conciliating the minds of the people to the government than almost any other amendment he had heard proposed.”

    At this point James Madison gave his opinion about the meaning of the words under discussion: “congress should not establish a religion, and enforce the legal observation of it by law, nor compel men to worship God in any manner contrary to their conscience”. Madison’s summary of its purpose was to keep congress from making “laws of such a nature as might infringe the rights of conscience, or establish a national religion”.

    Benjamin Huntington then objected that this wording might be construed in a manner hurtful to religion; “He hoped therfore the amendment would be made in such a way as to secure tthe rights of conscience, and a free exercise of the rights of religion, but not to patronize those who professed to relligion at all.”

    By now we are on page 196, and other than Huntington’s little display of bigotry (which as far as the record shows nobody else supported) there is nothing to favor Joseph Story’s claim.

  • http://rationalrant.blogspot.com/ sbh

    I also intended to cover the Washington frankenquote made up of a couple of genuine fragments juxtaposed to give a false impression, but I see that Paul Watson beat me to it.

  • sugarfrosted

    My rebuttal is Bryan Fischer isn’t really a Christian.

  • sabrekgb

    A school of constitutional interpretation based on the assumption that the founders didn’t mean words to mean what they generally mean can go off the rails pretty quickly.

    Agreed. Seems like this would play into the interpretation of other amendments as well…

  • StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    Fischer Again Asserts Christian-Only First Amendment ..

    Seems Fischer has forgotten the whole Judaeo- part of what is often termed Judaeo-Christian again hasn’t he?

    @7. vereverum : “Well, some Christian Identity sects hold that the constitution only applies to Christian wasps.”

    Don’t you think that could stretch to at least the whole hymenoptera order adding Christian bees and ants too or instead d’you think maybe it ought to be limited to just ichneumon wasps* say?

    * Despite their rather anti-Christian parasitic eating prey alive from inside nature which made a certain Mr Darwin among others think :

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ichneumonidae#Darwin_and_the_Ichneumonidae

  • Nick Gotts

    Christianity is the only religion. – Michael Heath

    No, no, no! Christianity is not a religion at all, it’s a “personal relationship with Jesus”.

  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Company_of_the_Wolf podkayne

    Infidelity is a religion now?

  • D. C. Sessions

    Infidelity is a religion now?

    Just about every war of religion in European history has been against the Infidels, and they’re still around. Tough bastards.

  • Crimson Clupeidae

    So Fischer fancies himself a modern day Humpty Dumpty, does he?

    Let’s hope he can find a nice high wall.

  • weatherwax

    Thank you Paul Watson. I was going to ask for a source for the quote, just so I could use it myself.