Recently, Bill Sierichs wrote of “Infringing of First Amendment rights through religious bans.” He quotes several practices by school boards, and local and state government that he alleges violate the First Amendment and a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling. While he used rather extreme terms in his letter, he did not quote the First Amendment itself:

“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.”

Please note, the First Amendment reads “Congress shall make no law” — it makes no mention of states or local government or school boards at all. Now add to that what the 10th Amendment says: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” Hmm, it would seem that the power to “make laws respecting an establishment of religion” is reserved to the states.

This would be born out by history, since at the time the Bill of Rights was passed (1789 and ratified in 1791) the following states had “established church” (i.e., establishment of religion) until the dates listed: Connecticut (1818), Massachusetts (1834) and South Carolina (1790).

Thus, his conclusion that state, local and school board practices clearly violate the First Amendment does not seem to hold water. What is unquestionably true is that activist courts have used their loose interpretation of the First Amendment to infringe on the rights granted to states and the people.

Now I’m sure actually quoting the text of the Bill of Rights and, worse yet, historic facts will have Sierichs applying all sorts of extreme terms to me.

P.S.: I find most such “public” prayers offensive, mostly because most of them do not express the faith I hold.

Gerald Lester

software architect