“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
I watched a fascinating program recently on PBS concerning freedom of religion, the first freedom mentioned in the First Amendment to the Constitution, which should be required viewing for every cleric and layman.
Those 16 words were intended to accomplish three purposes: (a) to prevent any government from creating a religion that all people had to participate in, thus making other religions illegal by default; (b) to give us the freedom to practice whatever religion we want, not just Christianity (i.e., freedom FOR religion); and (c) to guarantee the freedom FROM religion for those who choose not to participate in worshiping or acknowledging a deity.
We have frequently tried to impose religious beliefs or norms of behavior on our fellow Americans through political means because we do not or cannot comprehend the reality that the Constitution prohibits such efforts, many of which have succeeded for lack of zealous enforcement.
“Constitutional disobedience may seem radical, but it is as old as the Republic,” wrote Michael Louis Seidman in a recent article in The New York Times. Worse still, the Georgetown University professor continued, “The two main rival interpretive methods, 'originalism' (divining the framers’ intent) and 'living constitutionalism' (reinterpreting the text in light of modern demands), cannot be reconciled.”
Well, now, isn't that just dandy. The Supreme Court has decided to tackle same-sex marriage, whose foes are almost uniformly motivated by religious beliefs. The court's decision, while not focused on the First Amendment, will clearly help to define the limits of freedom for, and from, religion. And the loser will do everything in its power in the future, by whatever legal means available, to change that decision or its effects.
My question: What will you do if you wind up on the “losing” side?