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First Amendment Distortions


What passes for reasonable thought by those opposed to religion is exemplified by the letter of Jeff McKelvey found in the Charlotte Observer’s July 9 edition. He says in part: “…But when religious schools receive public funds, the government is forcing me – through my taxes – to support a religious institution. That is precisely what the framers intended to prohibit with the establishment clause…..” This is a rather convoluted argument which is entirely wrong and wrongheaded.

First, read the pertinent part of the 1st amendment. “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof….” That is fairly clear, except to those who wish it said; there shall be no government support, direct or indirect of any religion (except atheism). This is what Mr. McKelvey and those of similar mindset actually want. They want a government which supports their chosen religion or none. But none is supporting atheism which many see as a religion itself. Why else do atheists proselytize except to convince others to believe as they do? So where does that leave Mr. McKelvey and his wishes? If atheism is a religion than any school is religious and Mr. McKelvey would not support any school. But our state constitution requires us to support a system of free public schools. Ah, the dilemma.

Let me go another route. Mr. McKelvey, and those of like mind, don’t want their taxes going to support a religious school, so he would stop a parent from choosing a religious school for their child. In this he would dictate to others their beliefs and rights. Here it seems Mr. McKelvey doesn’t believe in freedom of religion. It seems instead he would have a law prohibiting religion, but wouldn’t that be Congress making a law respecting the establishment of religion?

Or how about this. Mr. McKelvey’s taxes go to build roads, provide police, fire protection and other services used by all. Some of these provide support of churches, their properties and peoples ability to attend those places. Additionally, churches are often exempt from some taxes, which means they are subsidized in their operations by ALL the taxpayers. What can Mr. McKelvey do?

It seems no matter which way he turns, his taxes are going to support religious institutions. So, perhaps his prescription for redress is of this  mold: don’t allow religion or religious institutions. Is that it?

To return to the main theme, Mr. McKelvey’s issue seems to be that his taxes go to support a religious institution. Since he opposes such, he seeks refuge in the constitution, but the constitution does not actually give him what he wants, so he distorts what it says to suit himself.

This is typical but, unfortunately, is not limited to religion but extends to almost any area of our social fabric. The constitution is a clearly written document. It is easy to read and understand, but has been distorted by those who find it restricts their actions, or doesn’t support what they prefer, almost since it was written. Mr. McKelvey find himself among them.

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