Saturday, July 24, 2010

What we Really Need is Freedom from Intolerance

What came first...the chicken or the egg? In this case, it was an article dated 7/19/10 from Catholic Online by Randy Sly, Obama Moves away from 'Freedom of Religion' toward 'Freedom of Worship.' Then Glenn Beck picked up this theme on his radio program from 7/19/10 and went on a rant about President Obama using the term “freedom of worship” instead of “freedom of religion.”

The inference of both Sly and Beck is that President Obama is heading toward removing everyone's right to religious freedom. Both Sly and Beck are using misguided, misinformed and outright lies as a scare tactic for their followers.

Media Matters puts some perspective on this issue in their article, Beck’s “freedom to worship” rant undermined by the Gipper. You betcha, Ronald Reagan also used the term 'freedom of worship.'
On his radio show today, Glenn Beck went off on President Obama for using the term “freedom of worship” instead of “freedom of religion.” The two are not the same thing, Beck insisted -- the constitution of the old Soviet Union also referenced “freedom of worship.” This led to Beck ranting about the separation of church and state and how “freedom of worship” equates to not practicing your religion in public and that it really means “you can speak out against [religion] but you don’t really have a right to speak out for it.”

Just one little problem with Beck’s line of reasoning: Obama is far from the only president to have used the term “freedom of worship.”

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette religion editor Frank Lockwood did the footwork (well, Google work). It’s not just Democratic presidents who have used the term -- he found an instance of Franklin Roosevelt referencing “the freedom of every person to worship God in his own way” – but Republican presidents as well, including, yes, Ronald Reagan:

Speaking at the United Nations on Jan. 30, 1988, he condemned the Evil Empire.
“Religious intolerance, particularly in the Soviet Union, continues to deprive millions of the freedom to worship as they choose.”
And here’s the Gipper, speaking at the Vatican after meeting with Pope John Paul II:
Perhaps it’s not too much to hope that true change will come to all countries that now deny or hinder the freedom to worship God. And perhaps we’ll see that change comes through the reemergence of faith, through the irresistible power of a religious renewal. For despite all the attempts to extinguish it, the people’s faith burns with a passionate heat; once allowed to breathe free, that faith will burn so brightly it will light the world.

And the Great Communicator, again, at the 1988 Republican Convention:
I know I’ve said this before, but I believe that God put this land between the two great oceans to be found by special people from every corner of the world who had that extra love for freedom that prompted them to leave their homeland and come to this land to make it a brilliant light beam of freedom to the world. It’s our gift to have visions, and I want to share that of a young boy who wrote to me shortly after I took office. In his letter he said, “I love America because you can join Cub Scouts if you want to. You have a right to worship as you please. If you have the ability, you can try to be anything you want to be. And I also like America because we have about 200 flavors of ice cream.” Well, truth through the eyes of a child: freedom of association, freedom of worship, freedom of hope and opportunity, and the pursuit of happiness — in this case, choosing among 200 flavors of ice cream — that’s America, everyone with his or her vision of the American promise.
Lockwood also pointed out that Obama has also frequently used the phrase “freedom of religion,” including in his 2009 speech in Cairo.

As State Department spokesman Andy Laine told Christianity Today, “the terms 'freedom of religion' and 'freedom of worship' have often been used interchangeably through U.S. history, and policymakers in this administration will sometimes do likewise."

Unless Beck wants to make the case that Ronald Reagan was some kind of commie -- and also wants to argue that Obama is sending some kind of coded message to his secret Muslim atheist friends -- he shouldn’t pretend that there’s a meaningful distinction between two words that have long been synonymous for pretty much everyone.
The shift in language to which Catholic Online refers to is found in four speeches of President Obama and three speeches from Hillary Clinton. There is an acknowledgment of the reference by Roosevelt. But no reference to Reagan.

Both Catholic Online and Glenn Beck never mentioned three important points of this discussion while they spewed their fear and lies.

The first is the right of "freedom of religion." The second is the right of "freedom of speech." Both of theses rights are granted to the citizens of the United Sates of America through Amendment I of the Constitution.

Amendment 1 - Amendment 1 - Freedom of Religion, Press, Expression Ratified 12/15/1791.

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

The third element is the process needed to amend the United States Constitution is no small task.

There are essentially two ways spelled out in the Constitution for how to propose an amendment. One has never been used.

The first method is for a bill to pass both houses of the legislature, by a two-thirds majority in each. Once the bill has passed both houses, it goes on to the states. This is the route taken by all current amendments. Because of some long outstanding amendments, such as the 27th, Congress will normally put a time limit (typically seven years) for the bill to be approved as an amendment (for example, see the 21st and 22nd).

The second method prescribed is for a Constitutional Convention to be called by two-thirds of the legislatures of the States, and for that Convention to propose one or more amendments. These amendments are then sent to the states to be approved by three-fourths of the legislatures or conventions. This route has never been taken, and there is discussion in political science circles about just how such a convention would be convened, and what kind of changes it would bring about.

Regardless of which of the two proposal routes is taken, the amendment must be ratified, or approved, by three-fourths of states. There are two ways to do this, too. The text of the amendment may specify whether the bill must be passed by the state legislatures or by a state convention. See the Ratification Convention Page for a discussion of the make up of a convention. Amendments are sent to the legislatures of the states by default. Only one amendment, the 21st, specified a convention. In any case, passage by the legislature or convention is by simple majority.

The Constitution, then, spells out four paths for an amendment:

  • Proposal by convention of states, ratification by state conventions (never used)
  • Proposal by convention of states, ratification by state legislatures (never used)
  • Proposal by Congress, ratification by state conventions (used once)
  • Proposal by Congress, ratification by state legislatures (used all other times)

It is interesting to note that at no point does the President have a role in the formal amendment process (though he would be free to make his opinion known). He cannot veto an amendment proposal, nor a ratification. This point is clear in Article 5, and was reaffirmed by the Supreme Court in Hollingsworth v Virginia (3 US 378 [1798]):

The negative of the President applies only to the ordinary cases of legislation: He has nothing to do with the proposition, or adoption, of amendments to the Constitution.
The founding fathers, in their wisdom, wrote into the Constitution which was later ratified by the Supreme Court, that the President of the USA can have no input into any phase of the amendment of the Constitution. Unfortunately what the founding fathers could not write into the Constitution was the 'right of tolerance.'


Athanasius Kircher said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Athanasius Kircher said...

You need to change the date of Randy Sly's article from 2001 to 2010. Thx.

rross said...

Thanks...I must have had a dyslexic moment.