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Join the conversation! There are now 15 comments on this chapter's page 31. A Bill of Rights. What are your thoughts?
  1. Librarian says

    Amendment I “Congress shall make no law…”
    Strictly restricts the federal United States Congress, It said nothing regarding the states, which, at the time, even after ratification of the Bill of Rights, some still had “State Religions” and Religious Restrictions on Public Officials.

    Further, according to the Maxim “to swear is to call God as a witness, and is an act of divine reverence,” the Swear or Affirm, was a nondenominational, but still wholly religious test. “Or Affirm” was added in order to not discriminate against certain Christian Sects that believed the New Testament forbade Swearing, it was not meant for Atheists, who, by definition, held and hold, no divine reverence to compel them to honor such an oath, and as such could not make a valid one.

    • i believe it was the 14th amendment which said “what goes for the federal government goes for the states” which is why even though the 1st amendment says that congress can’t have an endorsement of religion, the 14th amendment says “and that goes for the states too”

      • Actually, the Supreme Court said that the Fourteenth Amendment said that- “and the Tenth Amendment be damned!”

        • For a long time after it was ratified, the Fourteenth Amendment wasn’t considered to incorporate any of the rights in the Bill of Rights. Starting in the 1920s, one at a time rights started to be incorporated. At present, many of those rights have been held to apply to the states, but not all of them have — most of the provisions about juries, for example, have not been held to be binding on the states.

    • I am suffering from a fairly bad cold right now so I can’t devote the focus or energy for a debate on the role of religion in gov’t (or lack thereof), but I’d like to point out that it said “Government OUT OF religion”, not “Religion OUT OF government.”

      So, that particular founding politician is talking about “freedom to worship” and not “separation of church and state”

        • The theory is also that if any one religion is in the government (that is, having a direct effect on laws or enforcement) then by its very nature that is infringing on other people’s right for the government to not interfere with their right to worship.

          • It’s nonsensical to suggest keeping religion from influencing the law. What that would mean is that lawmakers and those who vote on them would be required to disregard their religious beliefs- which for most people whose religion is actually significant to them means their worldview, principles, and fundamental beliefs about right and wrong.

            And no, having religion influence the law does not by nature infringe on someone’s right to worship or not to, just as having a state with Democratic leadership does not infringe on the rights of Republicans within that state. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” – an establishment of religion being an institution, an organization, not individual beliefs, which are covered in the next phrase.

      • “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion.”

        Take from that what you will, but the Court has taken it pretty much to mean “religion out of government.”

        • Except, of course, for refusing to admit Utah as a state until the Mormon Church forswore polygamy, or exempting Sacramental wine from prohibition enforcement while the Rastafarian Sacramental marijuana enjoys no similar exemption, etc.

          Religious freedom seems to be fine as long as it includes mainstream religions; those outliers do not enjoy the same rights.

        • Except that the words “Under god” were added to the (communist) pledge of allegiance by act of congress…

      • You’re right, I must have misread it, so what it says is representative of the facts, “government out of religion,” rather than “religion out of government.” I suppose I shouldn’t have jumped to a conclusion so readily.

  2. Greg says

    While the Bill of Rights was indeed ratified in 1791, the Constitution proper was ratified in 1788 and went into effect in 1789.

    • Thanks, I’ve made that awkward phrasing a little less awkward.

      I must have revised that one box ten times, and still did it badly. Apparently, I was delirious with the flu at the time. (I kept insisting it was just a weird cold, and my wife kept insisting that I was a moron who needed to be in bed.)

  3. WJS says

    Dude in panel one makes a good point; listing the things the govt. can’t do would take forever, and anything not on the list would be implicitly OK. If they’d stuck to defining what it can do, the fed might not be the monster it is today. Not that there wouldn’t be a whole slew of other problems in the absence of the bill of rights, of course.

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