To put it simply, "Nothing." The First Amendment says this.
- 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.
In other words. The government may not meddle with the church and the church can do or say what it likes without interference. This is highly troubling to many, given that the churches of the United States are given by the Constitution, great freedom and latitude to do their work, while the poor government may only stand by and wring its hands if the pastors of the nation say mean things about it.
This was a revolutionary idea in the world of the late 1700s/early 1800s given that most of the nations of the world had a government-sponsored church. The key feature of such a system was that only the approved church was encouraged and all others, if tolerated at all, were repressed. Because the state church depended on the state largess for it's continued existence, most state churches were well-behaved towards their political masters. The First Amendment was a revolutionary idea because most nations were governed by the nobility. Churches, as any king worth his salt knew, could be quite troublesome if allowed to call out the princes for their bad behavior. After all, the princes believed that because of all the hard work they did governing the ignorant masses, a little moral leeway should be allowed them. That's probably why the bit of my family tree that strays into the noble classes has so many branches that grow together at the top or were lopped off by less-deserving branches. The noble classes were naughty boys and girls.
a key role in the success of the American Revolution.
So the Constitution, after it's fashion, limits government's power to restrict the rights and privileges of the people. Our founding documents tell the government what it cannot do and tells the churches their rights are protected along with the rights of other peaceful assemblies of the people. It also took the time to create a second protected moral voice by protecting the freedom of the press which also was supposed to act as a curb on power-mongering.
Churches have recently spoken out against efforts by government to legislate the acceptance of gay marriage, in particular by churches which find the practice in violation of their principles. Churches have also spoken out against abortion, which most find to be nothing less than murder of a human being. Because the issue of when a fetus becomes human is something of a philosophical or theological argument, the government has rightly left the decision with regard to abortion in the hands of the individual mother. Other aspects such as father's rights or the establishment of some sort of mutually agreed upon limit to how late an abortion can be performed might find some wiggle room for government legislation, but, again, this is something we as a nation can debate and churches have every right to put their oars into that debate.
Recently, laws regarding public restrooms have been challenged by churches on the grounds that such laws violate the establishment law by imposing secular standards upon the practice of faith by church members. More blatantly, laws which gag pastors from speaking out about political issues against the threat of IRS stripping them of the nonprofit status granted all religious organizations. If you're a strict constitutionalist, IRS sanctions would definitely fall under the establishment clause.
Remember, the Constitution tells the government it cannot meddle with churches. The right of churches to state their opinion or to advise their members on public issues, on the other hand, is protected by the Constitution along with the rights of individuals as well (under the right to petition for redress of grievances clause).
|Secular priesthoods are never kindly or benevolent. They are a tyranny|
because they have no moral compass, nor any fear of God.
There is a concerted effort going on right now to establish a new government-sponsored religion. This religion is being established by silencing and banning all other religions from any influence it might have with government. Therefore, by denying all other religions the right to petition for redress of grievances with the government, militant secularism establishes itself as the only government-approved belief system. No matter that secularism has every earmark of a religion. It has codes of conduct, fundamental beliefs and websites. It holds evangelistic meetings, sells books, and pamphlets. It has prophets and preachers. It proclaims loudly that God is dead and therefore must have no influence upon the government which must only recognize the tenets of secularism. Most of these tenets are rules of behavior and belief as ironclad as the ten commandments. And, it seems, the secularists are making up their tenets as they go, largely in the form of cultural laws and rules which gag preachers and hobble religious institutions from doing their work of influencing the culture for what they see as "good".
For an amendment with just 45 words total, the forces of secularism have certainly managed to wring a lot of meaning out of the establishment clause that doesn't appear to be present. Dylan Thomas once wrote, "Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light." I agree with the fiery Welshman as I watch the Christian church face enemies that would have its light extinguished. I do not believe we should go gently. As another great philosopher once said, "I'm tired of runnin'. I aim to misbehave." I even bought the tee shirt.
I'm just saying,
© 2017 by Tom King