We Are To Be Allowed
Freedom From Religion
I took a quick look at your "George Bush says no Freedom from Religion" section [President, States, Courts Bound By First Amendment from Gene Garman], and it got me to thinking about some research I had done on the first amendment a while back.
What did Madison mean when he wanted to make the first amendment? The current language is difficult to understand.... at least, for certain Christian groups it is difficult to understand.
We look into the first draft of the 1st amendment for a little advice on exactly what Mr. Madison wanted:
Madison's original proposal for a bill of rights provision concerning religion read: "The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established, nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience be in any manner, or on any pretence, infringed."
So what does religious conscience mean? It simply means what a person believes. Therefore, a person does have the right to freedom from religion should his conscience say so.
During House debate, Madison told his fellow Members that "he apprehended the meaning of the words to be, that Congress should not establish a religion, and enforce the legal observation of it by law, nor compel men to worship God in any Manner contrary to their conscience." 1 Annals of Congress 730 (August 15, 1789).
That his conception of "establishment" was quite broad is revealed in his veto as President in 1811 of a bill which in granting land reserved a parcel for a Baptist Church in Salem, Mississippi; the action, explained President Madison, "comprises a principle and precedent for the appropriation of funds of the United States for the use and support of religious societies, contrary to the article of the Constitution which declares that 'Congress shall make no law respecting a religious establishment.'"
The Writings of James Madison (G. Hunt. ed.) 132-33 (1904). Madison's views were no doubt influenced by the fight in the Virginia legislature in 1784-1785 in which he successfully led the opposition to a tax to support teachers of religion in Virginia and in the course of which he drafted his "Memorial and Remonstrance against Religious Assessments" setting forth his thoughts. Id. at 183-91; I. Brant, James Madison -- The Nationalist 1780-1787, 343-55 (1948). Acting on the momentum of this effort, Madison secured passage of Jefferson's "Bill for Religious Liberty". Id. at 354; D. Malone, Jefferson the Virginian 274-280 (1948). The theme of the writings of both was that it was wrong to offer public support of any religion in particular or of religion in general.
Ergo, yes Mr. President. We are to be allowed freedom from religion.
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