Amendment One

Bill of Rights

Bill of Rights

In the parking lot after church last Sunday, another parishioner approached me, asking if I would sign a petition for a new law.  I was so glad that she asked me.  I knew about the petition and agreed with its goal.  Then she explained that she could not talk about the petition inside the church.  After signing the petition so that she could hurry on and catch more parishioners, I immediately thought of the U.S. Constitution.


“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.” -  Amendment One

What does this amendment mean?  Exactly what it says!  The Federalist Papers teach us that the United States Constitution is not subtle—it means what it says.

Amendment One clearly says that “Congress shall make no law . . . prohibiting the free exercise [of religion]; or abridging the freedom of speech . . .”

Any law that restricts the practice of religion—in any way—is unconstitutional.  Therefore, if a law even uses terms like “religion,” “church,” “pulpit,” etc, the law is unconstitutional.  It doesn’t matter if the law is pro, anti, or non-committal on the subject of religion, if it mentions religion, in any way, it is unconstitutional.

Freedom of religion does not mean that people can participate in illegal actions in the name of religion.  It does mean that anything that is legal in other settings is legal in a church.

Therefore, any law that bans talking about and/or endorsing a political candidate or issue within a church building or during a church service is unconstitutional.  Hiding behind a tax code doesn’t make it constitutional.  The First Amendment is very clear the no law can prohibit the free exercise of religion and freedom of speech.

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Mary E. Webster is a descendant of Noah and Daniel Webster, and traces her ancestry back to the Mayflower. She is a graduate of the University of Iowa, College of Business. She has worked as a writer for the Media Research Center, and has authored several books including "The Federalist Papers: In Modern Language."
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  • Dawn D

    Your writing makes it unclear what the actual reason your fellow parishioner couldn’t seek signatories within the Church was.

    Perhaps your Church has rules barring political endorsement, electioneering and petition efforts inside it’s sanctuary? If so, that is hardly an Unconstitutional prerogative.

    • Bob Ellis

      That sort of statement is usually from a misunderstanding of religious freedom as it relates to IRS tax rules. The Left has been so heavy-handed with the threats to tax exempt status of churches since the unconstitutional 1954 rule brought by Senator Lyndon Johnson, that they are terrified that if the church says, does or condones the slightest political thing, they’ll have the IRS down their throats in a heartbeat.

      The Alliance Defending Freedom has been working for years to clear up this nonsense, and since 2007 has been sponsoring a “Pulpit Freedom Initiative” where pastors have preached partisan sermons. The IRS hasn’t done a thing about it.

      More people need to understand that churches and pastors aren’t muzzled, that they still enjoy full religious freedom, and the Constitution still protects that as it always has since 1787.

    • publiushuldah

      I thought everyone in the Country knew that pastors permit the federal government to censor their speech so that the church can keep its 501 (c) (3) tax exemption. THIS is why pastors don’t allow any “political activity” in their churches.
      Their master doesn’t permit it.

      • thisoldspouse

        Good question, and it begs another question: will people be “allowed” tax deductions for contributions made to their “unapproved” non-registered churches? I honestly don’t know. If this is at least the implied case, is it essentially a form of government extortion?

        • publiushuldah

          No, they won’t be allowed the deduction if their church loses its 501 (c) (3) status.
          Yes. This is how the federal government neutralized the churches. Today our churches are no threat to Caesar.
          The pastors and the donators cared more about money than God.
          Any pastor who is a man would throw off the chains of the 501 (c) (3) tax exemption. Today.

  • thisoldspouse

    “Freedom of religion does not mean that people can participate in illegal actions in the name of religion. It does mean that anything that is legal in other settings is legal in a church.”

    This is a sloppy statement which doesn’t take into account the schemes of the Left. Putting everything within the context of law, man-made law, does nothing to bolster religious freedom. The major campaign of homosexual leftists is to expand the false concept of “public accommodation” until there is virtually nothing in society that cannot be encompassed by this arbitrary notion. What will we do about the “illegality” of it then, when the government declares the major religions such a part of public life, that they are “public accommodations?”

    Such is the recent cases of Catholic schools refusing to hire or for firing employees who don’t exemplify Catholic teaching in their lives. Many of these schools are being legally attacked on the basis of employment law to make them conform to an unchristian world view.

    • Bob Ellis

      I think I know what she meant, but you’re right: we do have to be careful in this Isaiah 5:20 culture.

      After all, as we find in Acts 5:29 when Christians were ordered by the authorities to keep quiet about their religion, “Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings!”

    • publiushuldah

      I thought what Mary said was very clear. Think about what she actually said without reading anything in.

      The federal government has no constitutional authority to force churches to do ANYTHING, or not do ANYTHING, re how they run their schools, hospitals, and charities. That is not an enumerated power.

      The federal government has no constitutional authority to dictate ANYTHING to churches re homosexuality, what they can and can’t say, etc. THAT is what the First Amendment prohibits and that is what Mary is talking about.

      But in order to keep the 501 (c) (3) tax exemption, churches agreed to put on a muzzle.

      Shame on the churches. The manly pastors of the Black Regiment of our Revolution would not have stood for this.

      • thisoldspouse

        I wasn’t disagreeing with Mary’s statement. I was just showing where it is a slippery proposition in her one statement which puts everything “allowable” to a church in the context of current laws when laws themselves are often unconstitutional and oppressive.

        Do you really think that a church which refuses to “register” for 501 (c) (3) tax status will nevertheless not be held to “anti-discrimination” labor laws, either locally or federally? “Participation in society” is now deemed sufficient standing to impose all manner of regulation on even the most cloistered religious groups in many locales.

        • publiushuldah

          The federal government has no constitutional authority to dictate re ANYTHING involving the churches. Such is not an enumerated power.

          Furthermore, the 1st Amendment specifically prohibits such interference by the federal government. THIS is Mary’s point.

          The federal government has no constitutional authority to dictate to ANYONE re labor practices. Such is not an enumerated power.

          What the State Constitutions permit re churches is a totally separate matter governed by the STATE Constitutions.

          The distinction here is the vast one between what the federal Constitution permits the federal government to do & what the first amendment specifically forbids it to do, and the innumerable powers it has unlawfully usurped.

          • thisoldspouse

            Agree complete with you and Mary on the strict Constitutional limits on the federal government. But what does that mean for states which want to severely restrict, or even outright ban a particular Christian viewpoint?

            • publiushuldah

              “Religion” is in issue reserved to the States and The People. Remember, several of the States had “established religions” (tax supported religions) even after ratification of the federal Constitution. Massachusetts did not disestablish the congregational church until 1832 or so. I give the links to the original source documents here:

              The first 10 amendments were not intended to restrict the States. It was not until 1927 or so that the supreme Court “discovered” that the 14th Amendment “incorporated’ the 1st amendment so as to give that court POWER over the States to force them to comply with the supreme Court’s conception of the meaning of the 1st Amendment. I have the cites in the linked power.

    • Mary E Webster

      “when the government declares the major religions such a part of public life, that they are ‘public accommodations?'”

      My point is, according to the Constitution, the federal government cannot make any declarations about religion. None.

  • Cindy Lyons

    The Constitutional is an all or nothing document. It is either all plain and clearly set law or faux law that is viewed as “living and breathing” and changeable at a whim… at the political whims of the day. If you view the latter it is a fickle law that ceases to be law and changes into a power struggle for whomever mob can win the debate or deception via media and public discourse. Of course, the first is the law and the later is the lawless set up for evil forms of government such as: democracy, socialism, fascism, marxism, and communism which are all beginning or ending totalitarian systems. These evil systems can be lead by an oligarchy, monarchy, or the dictatorship of a single evil individual. The only law that the Constitution supports is a Constitutional Republic which in the individual is protected from the power struggle of the mob (majority) rule.