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Jewish World Review Feb. 4, 2002 /22 Shevat, 5762

David Limbaugh

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Yet more assaults on Christianity


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com -- BASED on stories I continue to encounter, the war against Christianity in America is escalating and becoming increasingly hysterical. Could it be that those attacking are motivated more by an antipathy toward Christianity than an affinity for religious freedom?

How ironic that instead of honoring the Judeo-Christian tradition underlying our unparalleled liberties, the secular neo-libertarians are trying to eradicate all vestiges of that tradition in the public arena.

The American Civil Liberties Union has brought an action in federal court seeking removal of signs on the outskirts of Franklinton, La., saying, "Jesus is Lord over Franklinton." What's the ACLU's constitutional excuse for this one? Answer: Parish road crews helped to erect the signs, which were paid for by area churches, on state roads. I'm sure the founders are rolling over in their graves contemplating the slippery slope leading toward a Christian theocracy that these signs surely represent.

Some people's sensibilities were offended by the sign's message -- that's right, the sign's message, not its so-called public sponsorship. "Can you imagine the hostility that Jews, Muslims, members of other minority faiths and non-believers must feel when living in or passing through that community?" asked one driver passing through. No, I can't. Jesus isn't hostile toward anyone.

As I read about this with my lawyer's hat on, I wondered whether the public workers who helped put up the signs were actively trying to promote the Christian message or whether they would have helped out any group. So I called Franklinton city hall and talked to Mayor Earle R. Brown. He explained to me that the parish crews would probably have helped any nonprofit groups erect their signs, not just churches. He also told me that these signs have been up for about two years, thousands of people have passed through and, up until now, no one had objected.

Last week, the ACLU threatened another lawsuit -- this one against the mayor of Inglis, Fla. (population 1,400), to compel her to remove her official proclamation banning Satan within the city limits from posts at the city's entrances. Mayor Carolyn Risher insisted, "I am not knocking any one faith. I am praying for the whole community." I wonder if Satan has authorized the ACLU to proceed.

Next we move to Washington, D.C., where both houses of Congress had the audacity to pass legislation allowing the use of the Capitol Rotunda for their prayer sessions. This apparently incensed Barry Lynn of the Americans United for Separation of Church and State, who said, "If members of Congress want a religious service, they can go to their houses of worship. The U.S. Capitol is not a revival tent." Don't tell Barry Lynn, but the murals around the Rotunda wall depict pilgrims praying, the baptism of Pocahontas, De Soto planting a cross on the banks of the Mississippi and George Washington passing into heaven. Also, don't inform him that the first calls for prayer to start legislative sessions began with the Continental Congress. And whatever you do, don't let him know that President Bush allegedly uttered the word "God" 17 times in his state of the union speech.

I know that some of you purists are reading this and thinking, "Because he's a Christian, Limbaugh is blinding himself to these constitutional encroachments. If he were objective, he would understand that public monies, services or facilities should never be expended toward anything that remotely smells like a religion." Wrong. I'm aware of the arguments, but know they found their way into American jurisprudence as a result of an activist and revisionist Supreme Court.

The framers never intended a complete ban on public sponsorship of religion. Nor by its terms did the First Amendment prohibit states or municipalities from sponsoring, even establishing, religion. It wasn't until the Everson case in 1947 that the Supreme Court grafted such terms into the Constitution, and the rest is history, revised that is.

I just wonder if many who possess such a religious zeal about enforcing this fictional wall of separation between church and state have ever studied the history of our founding. Do they know that Bibles used to be freely distributed in public schools? Or that one of the first U.S. Congresses' appropriations was for the printing of Bibles for the conversion of Indians?

The framers didn't want the federal government to establish a particular religion, nor do I. Of course, I don't want the states to do it either. But I also don't want the free exercise of religion all but outlawed in the public arena. It appears that inch-by-inch we are moving perilously closer to that result. These days, it seems that the First Amendment's Establishment Clause has become more of a hammer against Christian expression than a safeguard against a government-sponsored religion.



David Limbaugh, a columnist and attorney a practicing in Cape Girardeau, Mo., is the author of the just-released exposť about corruption in the Clinton-Reno Justice Department, "Absolute Power." Send your comments to him by clicking here.

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