The meaning of Christmas and the First Amendment

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December 18, 2011 by falcon7204

Just came across an article by Todd Starnes of Fox News relating to a decision by Travis AFB to not remove a Christian nativity scene and a Jewish menorah from their on-base Christmas display, despite a protest from the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.

I applaud Travis AFB and the United States Air Force for taking a stand on this issue, but I also believe the MRFF is barking up the wrong tree – and so are atheists and “freedom from religion” people when it comes to the First Amendment, which they cite so often in making their argument.

First of all, it doesn’t say “Government shall not…” That’s where everyone gets it wrong. When it comes to free speech and aggrieved parties who claim their rights are being violated by bigger groups of all stripes (local government, business, school districts, employers, etc.), what they fail to understand is that the First Amendment doesn’t address that issue.

For those who fell asleep in Civics class (or had a left-wing instructor, as so many of us did), here is the text of Amendment I of the Constitution of the United States:

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.

Note the first word in that sentence – Congress. Not your local school board, not your employer, not your city council or State legislature, not even your next door neighbor. In fact, they have the same freedom as you to say what they want, or to try and shut someone up who doesn’t want to listen to them, or to put a Menorah in their front yard, or to complain when someone else does.

The MRFF certainly has the right to complain about the Travis AFB display. It’s in the First Amendment. But what they need to rememeber is that the United States Air Force is NOT Congress. And even though it’s a branch of government (the Defense Department), it is not a lawmaking body. And whether some airmen decide to put up a religious display or not is not a government “endorsement” of religion.

The First Amendment doesn’t preclude Congress from making a law that makes it illegal to abridge those rights, but it would be a moot point because the First Amendment exists.

Anyone who cites the First Amendment in claiming they have the right to shout “Fire!” in a crowded theater misses the point, and misuses the Amendment. So, too, does anyone who cites the First Amendment in claiming the USAF has no legal right to set up religious displays.

If you’re going to use the Constitution to defend an action, or argue against an action, at least make sure you understand what the Constitution says.

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