October 12, 2008

Don't know much about history? The media sure doesn't

CBS News relies -- relies! -- on the Associated Press for information on Sarah Palin's use of taxpayer funds for "religious purposes." But before taking into consideration what the AP "reports," one must first take into account what the AP "knows" about American history. You'll find this "knowledge" in the third paragraph of their report:

An Associated Press review of the Republican vice presidential candidate's record as Wasilla mayor and Alaska governor reveals her use of elected office to promote religious causes, sometimes at taxpayer expense and in ways that blur the line between church and state. The U.S. Constitution provides for the separation of church and state.

No. It. Doesn't. Nowhere in the Constitution does it "provide" for such a concept. Here's what the First Amendment actually says:

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

The phrase "separation between church and state" was first used by Thomas Jefferson in his famous Danbury letter. And, noteworthy, Jefferson was not concerned with what state governments did; his worry was reserved for the national government -- as was the original meaning of the First Amendment when it was conceived by the Founders. A not very well known fact of American history is that individual state churches continued to exist for many years after the Constitution -- with its First Amendment -- was adopted as our governing document. But ... "how can that be??" flummoxed "progressives" may ask. Simple: As noted above, Jefferson and the Founders intended that the First Amendment's religion clause pertain to the federal (national) government. Individual states could do as they wished. [Individual] state churches did not disappear because some plaintiff litigated them out of business; they vanished simply because of waning interest and attendance. In other words, they became an anachronism.

After the Civil War and the adoption of the "slave" amendments (13, 14 and 15), the concept of not only the First Amendment but all the Bill of Rights was altered. Specifically, the 14th Amendment was viewed as "applying" the Bill of Rights to the individual states (the best known case is probably Everson from 1947). "Progressive" interpretation of the First Amendment, while expanding the overall sphere of free expression, began to limit the [public] religious aspect of that expression.

The AP's purpose was obviously to portray Sarah Palin as some sort of religious extremist, and wanted to use the Constitution as their basis. Unfortunately, far too many Americans would read what the AP wrote and go "Ohhh! She's going against the Constitution!" If the AP actually wanted to be fair, they wouldn't have written "The U.S. Constitution provides for the separation of church and state;" instead, they'd have used something akin to "The US Supreme Court, especially over the last 50 years, has increasingly determined that many interminglings of religion and government violate the Establishment Clause of the Constitution."

Posted by Hube at October 12, 2008 11:56 AM | TrackBack

Comments  (We reserve the right to edit and/or delete any comments. If your comment is blocked or won't post, e-mail us and we'll post it for you.)

Good points, but you still don't find it a bit odd that she used state funds for these purposes? I'd be in a friggin' tizzy if Aunt Bea Ruth Ann was doing this here in Delaware. I'd be tracking her down day-by-day. I think citizens should definitely be PO'd for this use of funds.

As well, the AP I don't think was attempting to make her look like a religious nut. The videos of her being prayed upon by a witch doctor do that well enough.

Posted by: Mike Matthews at October 12, 2008 12:06 PM

My view of the First Amendment isn't like that of post-1947 SCOTUS decisions (and your own), Mike. My view is that as long as the government doesn't favor one (or some) religion(s) over another, there is no Constitutional hassle. Palin attending various pow-wows doesn't bother me from a Constitutional/Establishment Clause aspect; however, from a good government POV, that's another matter...

Posted by: Hube at October 12, 2008 12:10 PM