"For the most part, the Republican Party is the only outlet where conservatives have a voice, so we have to use it. But it functions like a rusty knife we use only because we can't cut our steaks with a spoon."- Matthew Rathel

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Conservative Line on the First Amendment.

Around election time, when politics plays a large role in the lives of Americans, we often lose concentration on the major issues as the media and political parties focus on the personas of the candidates. Although each of us will cast our ballots for an individual, the contest should be seen as a competition between conflicting ideologies and not a popularity contest decided by whose face looks best on the side of a billboard. In keeping with the true tradition of our system of government, I feel compelled to list this blogger’s main concerns for the 2008 election in a series of brief descriptions of what it means to be a conservative and how a conservative’s views differ from the platforms of the Republican Party and the Democratic Party.

As a conservative, I believe that our constitution should be regarded as a document that says what it means and says it clearly. Strict Constructionalism should always been the intent of the conservative, even if that means he must forfeit some of his moral objections to a law. The Republican Party has often been a proponent of strict constructionalism, but it does break from that tradition on key issues where the constitution doesn’t support the will of the people. For the most part, we conservatives should agree that the constitution provides the only true interpretation of a law, and any attempt to dilute that interpretation, by either party, exemplifies irresponsible partisanship. Today we will look at the platforms regarding the religious clauses of the First Amendment to the Bill of Rights. Upon doing so, we can easily see where both sides go wrong, and we can find the real conservative stance on each subject.

The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States reads as follows:

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.

Here our constitution clearly states the rule of law in our country on five issues that dictate the daily lives of Americans, and by reading the simple words used, we know what the interpretation should be on each item. Despite 20th Century rulings on the subject, the Federal government has no right to makes laws regarding the establishment or free exercise of religions. Now many people often equate conservatism to Christianity, which shows a clear failure in logic. One can be a conservative if he or she wishes the government to refrain from limiting the free expression of religious citizens, and the constitution clearly provides the framework for a society that supports religion and rejects any attempt to limit it’s expression. The modern notion that the free religious expression of groups in our society oppresses members of other groups shows little regard for the First Amendment. The words are ever-inclusive, and each American should look at this clause as the means to one essential American freedom.

Where does each party fail to recognize this amendment? The Republican assertion that we are a “Christian Nation” directly conflicts with our own constitution. We are a predominately Protestant nation, but any attempt to make a law supporting the dominate religion is an attempt to create unlawful legislation. However, the rights of the majority to freely express its views are supreme, and Republicans are on the right side of the issue when they attack Democratic attempts to keep the Silent Majority silent. On the other hand, the Democratic Party has for years promoted the Jeffersonian ideal of the separation of church and state, but it has taken these words to be more important that the law itself. A separation of church and state doesn’t imply an unconstitutional interpretation of the First Amendment, but it does lead to attempts to remove the church from the state. In other words, the Democratic suggestion that anything to do with religion must be removed from our government does limit the free expression of the citizens who elect officials and take direct action within our government. The conservative stance on the issue of religion is simple: let each American openly exercise his or her religious beliefs, and in doing so limit any governmental control of that expression to cases where a clear promotion of one religion over another impedes on the written law.

Given the platforms of both parties, the conservative has no choice to reject both interpretations. While many Christian conservatives would like to think of our country as a Christian nation, they must check their dispositions at the doors of the courthouse. In a free society, each of us has the right to choose a religion and to express our unwavering support for that choice. A conservative should never frown on any religious group that stands on the street corner and professes its faith; likewise, we should take every opportunity to do so ourselves. In God We Trust; In the U.S. We Allow.

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