A sadly necessary defense of First Amendment liberty

A sadly necessary defense of First Amendment liberty

March 21st, 2012 in Opinion Free Press

It is not especially surprising that the Tennessee House of Representatives voted 93-0 for a measure that would let public buildings post "historically significant documents" such as the Ten Commandments and the Declaration of Independence.

What is troubling is that such a measure should be necessary in the first place.

Decades of activist court rulings against the free, voluntary religious expression guaranteed by the First Amendment have created the unfortunate misconception among too many Americans that such expression must somehow be confined to churches or homes.

The First Amendment envisioned a far more robust protection for religious speech - including in the public square - saying that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech ... ."

It is irrational to suggest that a city's or county's posting of the historically vital Ten Commandments - which visitors may read or ignore - amounts to an establishment of religion. And any claim that religious faith had little or no bearing on the founding and history of our country demonstrates a lack of historical knowledge on the part of the person making that claim. (By the strict secular rules some seem to want, even the Declaration of Independence might not be posted in public buildings because it refers to God.)

We commend the House for its vote in favor of allowing the public posting of important documents such as the Commandments. We lament the fact that distorted views of the Constitution made that necessary.