The First Amendment …

The First Amendment covers a lot of ground and has been interpreted and re-interpreted ever since its writing.  In the news this week are three things pertaining to the 1st Amendment that worry me in one form or fashion.

Freedom of the Press …

I had heard the name ‘Samantha Bee’, but had no idea who or what she was, nor did I much care … until this morning.  According to Wikipedia, Ms. Bee is …

“… a Canadian-American comedian, writer, producer, political commentator, actress, and television host. Bee rose to fame as a correspondent on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, where she became the longest-serving regular correspondent.”

You guys probably already knew that, though, didn’t you?  So why, you ask, did Ms. Bee buzz across my radar?  On her show, Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, on Wednesday, she made some very astute statements about freedom of the press …

“Look, I know, it’s not exactly a revelation that the president is always trying to undermine the media, but that’s the problem: We’re all so used to it that we act like it’s normal. And the more that we ignore anti-press sentiment in America, the more it will spread.  When Trump became president, he was crushed to find that the job comes with criticism and that the glowing PR he got from the business media isn’t typical of the political press. Since the media refused to love him back, Trump has chosen to do the mature thing and use his presidential power to destroy them.  The scariest part about Trump’s war on the press is that he’s winning. No one’s been able to stop his attacks, so we just go about our lives while they run constantly in the background like white noise — which is, of course, Trump’s preferred color of noise. … When Trump undermines the free press, he’s not just attacking journalists’ rights to do their jobs, he’s attacking your right to know what’s going on in the world.”

She’s right.  If not for the free press, we would know only what Trump wanted us to know.  We would not know that Russia was paying the Taliban to kill U.S. soldiers and that Trump knew about this yet failed to act.  We would not have known that he attempted to blackmail the president of the Ukraine to ‘dig up dirt’ on his political rival, Joe Biden.  We would not have known any of the acts that Trump has committed against the people of this nation.  At all costs, we must … must support our free press!  We cannot become complacent and accept the denigration of the press as ‘normal’, for it is anything but normal … at least in this country.

Freedom of Speech …

The 1st Amendment includes many freedoms, including the aforementioned freedom of the press.  It also includes freedom of and from religion, and the one most-oft quoted, freedom of speech.  Over the past two centuries, that ‘freedom of speech has been interpreted by the courts to mean a wide variety of things.  Signs and symbols by hate groups such as white supremacists and neo-Nazis have been ruled acceptable because … freedom of speech.  KKK rallies have been deemed allowable under freedom of speech.  But, in my opinion, there simply must be limits.

This …nazi-flag-shooting… is highly offensive to all but the most ardent anti-Semitic white supremacists.  A woman was shot four times in the back in Garfield County, Oklahoma, for trying to remove one of the flags.

Now, I can tell you for a fact that if anybody in my neighborhood were to sport such a flag, I would not only remove it, but would douse it with lighter fluid then set fire to it.  The Nazi flag is a symbol of anti-Semitism, of hatred, around the globe.

The owner of the house and flags, one Alexander Feaster, was arrested and has been charged with assault and battery with a deadly weapon, and shooting with intent to kill, and is due to appear in court later this month.  A neighbor said that he had been flying the flags for around a year, and they had been snatched from his home a few times in the past. They added that he would occasionally dress up in black uniform with a red swastika armband – an outfit reminiscent of Nazi SS uniforms.  No less than 15 guns were recovered from Feaster’s home upon his arrest.  Who the hell needs that much firepower?

The district attorney says he is considering possible charges against the woman, who is expected to recover from her gunshot wounds.  Why?  Trespassing?  Destruction of private property?  In this case, I don’t see it … it was justified.  However, I know at least two of my readers who will disagree with me, so it is only my opinion.

Freedom of/from Religion …

The 1st Amendment says this about the freedom of religion …

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof

That’s all … just 16 words.  However, lengthy tomes have been written in order to interpret how this clause should be applied.  There are those who argue this is a Christian nation … it is not!  It is a secular nation, the foundation of which calls for a distinct separation between church and state.  This includes education.

A portion of our tax dollars is used to fund public schools.  PUBLIC schools, not parochial or religious schools.  If you want to send your children to a religious school, you do have that right … just not at the expense of the U.S. taxpayer.

This week the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the state of Montana could not use a provision in its Constitution to exclude religious schools from its private school scholarship program.  Although the ruling was narrow, applying only to the case before them, it is likely that religious groups in other states will be heartened by the decision and file their own cases against states.  By the end of next year, we could easily see a broader ruling stating that any state that issues vouchers or similar programs to help with tuition at private schools must also include religious schools in the process.

In fact, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos suggested just that …

“I’m calling on all states to now seize the extraordinary opportunity to expand all education options at all schools to every single student in America.”

I’m betting that those who championed and cheered this decision will be horrified when some day a family uses their vouchers to send their child to an Islamic school, won’t they?  Meanwhile, though, I am offended and angered by this decision.  As a citizen, as a taxpayer, and as a non-religionist, I absolutely do NOT want my tax dollars supporting a religious school where children are taught every form of bigotry imaginable.  It is a gross miscarriage of justice that people of differing religions and of no religion must pay to send another person’s child to a school that teaches only one religion and teaches that it is the one and only right religion and the rest of us are wrong in our beliefs or non-beliefs.  This is, in part, why there is so much hatred in this country today.

You want to send your child to a religious school, fine, but not on my dime!

16 thoughts on “The First Amendment …

  1. Coming to this a bit late, Jill. I have mixed feelings about your attitude on religious schools. There was a time in Ireland when relief of poverty was conditional upon a child attending a school that inculcated a different religion (version of Christianity) from that practiced by their parents. In the early days of formal education most schools were operated by churches of one sort or another. In the UK many state schools are linked to the established church and, of course, the monarch is titular head of that church, making it inseparable from the state, at least constitutionally, although, in practice there is supposed to be separation. I know nothing about the USA’s education system so need to be careful when debating with you. I would, however, suggest that because a school is affiliated to a church/religious organisation, it does not necessarily follow that students will be brain washed by that religion. The award of a scholarship should be based purely on the student’s abitilty to benefit therefrom. To exclude religious schools from participation in such schemes could be seen as descrimination every bit as damaging as racial bias.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Never worry about debating with me … you are always respectful, and I welcome civil discourse. A few points that constitute my reasons for being adamantly against public monies being used for religious education:

      * The Constitution expressly sets the government as a secular one and prohibits any interference with the right to choose any or no religion. When you start with something this simple, which may seem relatively harmless, you open the door for other, even more intrusive legislation down the road.
      * This legislation is narrowly focused on the Christian religion. As I mentioned in my text, if somebody attempted to use tax money to send their child to an Islamic school or Hebrew school … there would be such a hue and cry that you would hear it over there! Far too much lately, the evangelical Christians have actively been trying to affect our laws to force us all to adhere to their beliefs.
      * Your final point is a good one. Yes, if these schools taught only the academics and did not force children to learn their specific brand of religion, I might not feel as strongly. But the reality is that not only is a large part of their curriculum focused on religion, but they even colour the teaching of science, history, and literature to conform to the Christian viewpoint. They stifle free thinking.
      * And, of course, somewhere at the heart of my argument against tax dollars funding religious education is my own view. In studying history, I think that far too often, narrow religious views have led to murder, mayhem, and even war. Personally, as a young child raised by a Jewish father and Catholic mother, I experienced firsthand the hatred people project onto those whose religious ideologies may not agree with their own. I find religion in general to be one of the most exclusionary and divisive things in the world.

      Now, you have my thoughts … feel free to rebuttal!


  2. The Swastika should be a banned symbol as it was the symbol used by America’s enemy WWII. I;m aware that other cultures see the Swastika, Egyptian and Indian. Their method of display should still be allowed provided it cannot be mistaken for anti semitic,

    Liked by 2 people

    • I fully agree, and it is banned in most, if not all of Europe. When people act irresponsibly, they deserve to lose a bit of their freedom. We are removing confederate statues and symbols because they are offensive, why shouldn’t we also remove Nazi flags, which are equally offensive?

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Jill, great post. A couple of comments:
    – Samantha Bee is dead on accurate on all counts; the president attacks critics, so he vehemently and often childlishly ridicules the press.
    – Slightly off topic, but he also attacks the Deep State; per Michael Lewis’ excellent and well-researched book “The Fifth Risk,” the deep state are the hard working folks who actually know what they are doing and remember that allegiance to the Consitution.
    – Tax payer dollars paying for parochial schools is simply unconstitutional. I do not know what SCOTUS is thinking. So, we need to tell these folks, funding an agnostic school is then OK
    – Freedom of speech is a hard one; as long as violence (or the threat) or hate speech is not part of it, we sometimes have to tolerate speakers we strongly disagree with.

    Great post. Keith

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks Keith!

      Yes, when I read Ms. Bee’s commentary I thought she was spot on … we cannot let this become the norm! And he does attack the “deep state” which I believe is a figment of the imaginations of conspiracy theorists. If George Soros had done even 1% of what he’s accused of, why the man would never have time to eat, sleep, or shower! You’re right, though, about the freedom of speech … it is a tough call. I think that when you abuse a right or privilege, you risk losing it. I think that some of what has been done under the guise of free speech, is an abuse of the right. I would include all forms of hate speech, Nazi flags, KKK hoods, and other symbols of hate. Perhaps it’s time to make some exclusions to the right to free speech. Nowhere in Europe would a Nazi flag be acceptable flying on a home. Good sense has not reigned, so perhaps it’s time to legislate good sense … can you even do that? Sigh.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Jill, having statues to Nazis or flying the Nazi flag is a definite no-no. Here in the states, I applaud businesses for finally moving forward with address racism in the past. Truist is the merger of BB&T and SunTrust banks. The CEO put on a press release yesterday denouncing the racist past of one its founders, Mr. Branch. The first B in BB&T stood for his name. I also applaud the state of Mississippi legislature for taking the Confederate emblem off its flag. As you will see in a post later today, Mississippi doing that is very much a lightning rod of change. Keith

        Liked by 2 people

        • Yes, here we are taking down confederate symbols and statues, but defending the flying of a Nazi symbol? No … just no. I didn’t know that about Branch of BB&T. Yes, I definitely applaud the state of Mississippi for removing that emblem from their flag! I think perhaps we are truly moving in the right direction this time. Fingers crossed.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. On a technical point — the first amendment does guarantee the right of a private citizen to display a nazi flag.

    I don’t like that people display that flag. But I do value the first amendment, even though it sometimes leads to results that I don’t like.

    I agree with you on the religious schools issue. I see that as a bad court decision.

    Liked by 1 person

    • As re the Nazi flag … I just think it’s time to put some restrictions on that ‘freedom of speech’ clause. Some things are simply too obscene, such as KKK hoods and the Nazi flag. I, too, value the 1st Amendment and free speech, but with rights come responsibilities, and it is not responsible behaviour to display a symbol of hatred that caused the deaths of over 6 million people. Sigh.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Are Americans allow to state they do not want their personal tax dollars to be used for particular projects, like a wall between the US and Mexico, or providing federal money to promote relgioys schools, in fact, ANY private schools. I realize this means people can also say they do not want to fund abortions, or LGBTQ2S+ events, but what is good for the goose…
    Of course, you have to trust your government to abide by your wishes, and in the present situation I wouldn’t trust Trump to listen to anyone, especially a Social Justice Warrior!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Nope. Imagine the chaos if we could, though … everybody would have some pet peeve they didn’t want their tax dollars spent on. And, about 90% of the republicans would not wish their tax money spent on anything that benefited immigrants or the poor, so those programs would lose most of their funding. No, Trump nor anybody else in our government today will listen, but I’m half tempted, if that ruling ultimately becomes nationwide, to go burn down the closest religious school. So, I go to jail … I’ve been in jail since March anyway, it seems.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I know you’re being sarcastic about being in jail since March, but I doubt anyone who was ever in jail, including me, would allow you to get away with that statement. It might be called a lockdown, but it is nowhere close. In a lockdown you have to live in an 8′ x 8′ cell (if not smaller), possibly with a bunkmate you would never share anything with on the outside, and only 3 walls to keep others away.
        You get to learn what a caged animal has to put up with, no privacy of any kind, being leered at by guards whenever they feel like it, in a city where bribery is the main source of currency. Any humility you might have, you lose in a very short time.

        Liked by 2 people

Comments are closed.