A Quick Breakdown of the First Amendment so that Conservatives Might Finally Understand It

bill-of-rightsNot too long ago I wrote a piece where I expressed an opinion that if conservatives had their way, they’d repeal and rewrite our First Amendment.

Why wouldn’t they?  The First Amendment is what keeps them from turning the United States into the theocracy that they so desperately want it to be.

And an argument I hear from many conservatives is that the First Amendment isn’t about freedom of religion, because it doesn’t say that.  Which is true.  It doesn’t say “freedom of religion” in the First Amendment.

But let’s take a look at what it does say:

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.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.  

Though many conservatives seem to believe that the Tenth Amendment (states’ rights) gives them the right to run each Republican controlled state like a theocracy.

Just one slight problem: The states’ rights argument still doesn’t give a state the right to violate any American’s Constitutional rights.

States’ rights allow states like Colorado and Washington to legalize marijuana, even though it’s still illegal federally, because those laws don’t violate anyone’s Constitutional rights.

It’s why laws banning gay marriage are being overturned.  Those laws do violate the Constitutional rights of Americans.

So while the First Amendment doesn’t literally say “freedom of religion,” it’s impossible for Americans to be free from established religious rule (as per our First Amendment) if states are allowed to pass laws based on religion.

As for the “free exercise thereof,” that clearly pertains to what Americans do in their private lives.  Because how can someone forcibly exercise their religious views on someone who doesn’t share those beliefs, while still allowing the individual on which they’re trying to force their views to enjoy their freedom of (or from) religion?

It’s simple, they can’t.  By forcing someone to adhere to laws based on a religion they do not follow, they immediately violate that person’s First Amendment rights.

Even if a state passes such a law.  Which is why it’s unconstitutional (though states continue to do it anyway) for states to pass laws which violate an American’s Constitutional rights.

This is really not that complicated.  Just follow one simple rule: If even one person who doesn’t subscribe to your religion is forced to follow a law based on your religion, it’s unconstitutional.

Yes, it’s really that simple.


Allen Clifton

Allen Clifton is a native Texan who now lives in the Austin area. He has a degree in Political Science from Sam Houston State University. Allen is a co-founder of Forward Progressives and creator of the popular Right Off A Cliff column and Facebook page. Be sure to follow Allen on Twitter and Facebook, and subscribe to his channel on YouTube as well.

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