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Mon, Dec. 16

Courts, founders diverge on religion

Many would assume that Justin Green, as a former professor of politics, is an expert, and that his opinions must be accurate. Unfortunately, many of us defer to the "experts" who frequently use a little objective information as a cover for their own subjective beliefs. Although Mr. Green is entitled to his opinions, his Sept. 11 article went too far in misrepresenting facts to reach his desired conclusions.

Because of limited space and time, I will target just his misstatements about the voucher education program. He states an an opinion and then supports it by misrepresenting the facts. He says voucher education may affect the wall of separation of church and state "firmly erected by a large majority of our founders." The founders did not create a wall of separation of church and state. The Supreme Court created it in 1947 in the Everson v. Board of Education decision.

The concept of separation that the court referred to does not appear in the Constitution, Declaration of Independence or any other state or national document. Thomas Jefferson made the reference in a personal letter he wrote to the Danbury Baptist Association in 1802. He told the Association that, although he sympathized with their cause, because of the Constitution and the First Amendment, the federal government was not able to interfere and disband a state church.

John Adams, one of our first presidents and a founding father, stated, "Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It's wholly inadequate to the government of any other." Concerning opinions of the Supreme Court, John Jay, the first chief justice of the Supreme Court said, "Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers, and it is the duty, as well as the privilege and interest of our Christian nation, to select and prefer Christians for their rulers."

The list of supporting quotes of founding fathers as well as references to their actions as government officials supporting religion could fill several pages.

If our founding fathers thought religion in our schools and government were unconstitutional, why did it take more than 150 years for the Supreme Court to ban school prayers and the reading of the Bible in the classroom? Lower courts recently have banished the Ten Commandments from schools and courtrooms and even declared Ohio's motto, "With God, all things are possible," is unconstitutional.

As intended by Jefferson, the wall of separation of church and state is a good concept. The Constitution was supposed to ensure that the government would "make no law respecting an establishment of religion." Unfortunately, its guarantee of the "free exercise thereof" certainly seems to be in question.

When reading Mr. Green's column in the future, be careful not to mistake the opinions of an "expert" for fact.

(James Arthur is a practicing physician in Prescott.)

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