Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Religion Is Part of Our History - by Ordinance!

We are all familiar with the Constitution's "Establishment Clause," as outlined in the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights - passed by Congress in 1787 and ratified by the states in 1791.  This amendment is cited as the basis for our present policy of total separation of church and state -  basically prohibiting religion from having any place at all in the public schools.  However, the Constitution's wording is clear  only in prohibiting the federal government from passing laws establishing some form of religion - nothing more, really.   The prohibition of inclusion of religion in a public school's curriculum or  public school's activities is the result of the Supreme Court's interpretation of that amendment.

I was surprised to discover that there is actually a federal ordinance that encourages religion as necessary for "good government." I thought my readers, like me, may not have been aware of this document.  The document cited is the Northwest Ordinance, passed by Congress in 1787, the same year as the Constitution, and intended to apply to the territories being settled in what was then considered "The Northwest."

As a supporter of the "wall of separation" between religious and civic activities, I must concede that it seems the "founding fathers" had considered religion an important as well as a necessary building block for "good government" and "happiness."

Here are the pertinent citings:

Amendment 1 of the Constitution
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.

Article 3 of the Northwest Ordinance
Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged. 

1 comment:

betty lee said...

Carl: Why did the FFs always write these directives backwards?