Mormon-US Sen. Orrin Hatch's Dispatch on "Religious Freedom" (invoking D. Oaks)

steve benson Oct. 2914

Before I get started, I should mention that I recently got a phone call at my work office, out of the blue, from Hatch, who was dailing me up from Provo, Utah, where he informed me he that had been hanging out at BYU with some of his 80-plus-year-old buddies.

I've personally known Hatch for years (having worked on Capitol Hill as a young Senate committee staffer in the same office building that housed Hatch's D.C. HQ). We've had some interesting meet-ups and conversations over time, including another call from him to my home one year while I was out sweeping my garage, asking me to do some political cartoons supporting him in his run for the U.S. presidency (I declined the request).

In his most recent surprise call directed my way, Hatch said he was thinking of me and simply checking in to see how I was doing. A pleasant, but increasingly (shall we say divergent) discussion ensued. Hatch quickly got around to religious matters, where he repeatedly tried to convince me to read the Book of Mormon (again) and to really pray about it this time, Lordy, Orrin. I replied that I was an atheist, which really seemed to rattle him. He bore me his testimony that he had never felt the Spirit quite so powerfully as when he was in the LDS Church office of my grandfather, ETB.

He also told me he was a great supporter of gays, even ones who had AIDS. I reminded him how I had criticized him in my cartooning for homophobic remarks he had made while on the campaign stump. He denied having ever done such a thing, but it is a matter of record. I took notes of our phone call as we were talking and will go into the details of that conversation at a later date.

Anyway, back to more church biz, brought to you by Elder Hatch. The following aptly-described "Hatch-hatched" document is making the rounds, having just been forwarded on to me by my good friends at the "Freedom from Religion Foundation" in Madison, Wisconsin, where they had received it from an ex-Mo feminist friend of theirs. Here's Brother Hatch's unholy, unhinged, over-heated, hysterical, hyperventilated hooey on the subject of "religious freedom" (at least as how he defines the term) and how it is supposedly under satanic assault like never before. In his tirade in behalf of time-honored theocracy, he solemnly invoked the sacred name of Mormon Church Apostle Dallin H. Hoax, as well as glowingly mentioned the name and role of LDS Church in fighting for galatically-imperiled religious freedom:


"Dear Friend:

"I had a wonderful opportunity last night to give the keynote speech at the 21 st Annual International Law and Religion Symposium at Brigham Young University. My remarks focused on religious freedom – the importance of this first freedom in our nation’s history, recent attacks on religious liberty, and how to return our nation to one that holds sacred the freedom of religion.

"As a current member and former Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a lead author of the 'Religious Freedom Restoration Act' (RFRA), this issue has been at the forefront of my work in the United States Senate.

"This is an unsettled and unsettling time for religious liberty. Both at home and abroad, religious liberty is under attack. What was once a broad consensus here in the United States that religious freedom deserves special protection has recently crumbled. By working to make government and religion partners once more rather than antagonists, we can revive the view that religion is a force for good rather than something to be swept under the rug.

"I know that many of you are also very interested in this issue and would invite you to read the speech I delivered, below.


"Orrin Hatch

"P.S.--I also felt honored to receive the Distinguished Service Award from the International Center for Law and Religion Studies at Brigham Young University for my support of religious freedom in America. In bestowing this award W. Cole Durham, the Director of the Center made the following comments:

“'Senator Hatch has played a truly significant role – perhaps the leading role – in shaping legislation affecting religious freedom in America. In 1994, Senator Hatch led the fight to pass the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), garnering near-unanimous support in both parties. RFRA is arguably the most important religious liberty legislation of the twentieth century. It provides heightened protections to religious organizations and limits government’s ability to substantially burden an individual’s or religious group’s exercise of religion. In 1997, after the Supreme Court limited RFRA’s application to the federal government, Senator Hatch introduced the Religious Liberty Protection Act to limit the scope of the Supreme Court’s decision. This was followed by Senator Hatch’s introduction of the 'Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act' (RLUIPA), which Congress unanimously passed within just two weeks in 2000. RLUIPA applies the RFRA legal standard to prison inmates and churches in zoning disputes.

“'Senator Hatch’s legislative initiatives have also included the 1979 introduction of the 'Religious Freedom in the Workplace Act,' and the 'Religious Liberty and Charitable Donation Clarification Act,' which was signed into law in 2006.

“'The Senator’s advocacy on behalf of religious liberty has extended to the judicial branch as well. He recently filed amicus briefs in the 'Hobby Lobby' case in both the U.S. Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court, and he has worked for many years to confirm judges that understand and respect the importance of religious rights.

“'Senator Hatch has also taken opportunities throughout his Senate service to educate Americans on the importance of religious liberty. In 1984, for example, as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on the Constitution, he held a high-profile hearing on the state of religious liberty. In 2010 he publicly defended the right of Muslims to build a mosque near Ground Zero in New York City. And just recently the Senator penned an op-ed in 'USA Today' titled ‘Why Religious Freedom Still Matters.’

“'Summing up Senator Hatch’s leadership on religious liberty, Professor Michael McConnell, one of America’s leading religious liberty scholars and the Director of the 'Constitutional Law Center' at Stanford Law School has written, "No Senator has fought longer, or more effectively, in defense of religious liberty for all Americans," than Senator Orrin Hatch. (“Utah Senator Orrin Hatch is a loyal advocate for religious liberty,” "Deseret News," May 27, 2012.)

“'On behalf of my colleagues and as director of the 'International Center for Law and Religion Studies' at Brigham Young University, it gives me great pleasure to honor Senator Orrin G. Hatch with the '2014 Distinguished Service Award' for his outstanding contributions to the defense of religious freedom during his long career of public service in the United States Senate.'”

Hatch then included in his religious dispatch his own "full remarks":

"It is my privilege to be with you for the 21st annual International Law and Religion Symposium. I am humbled to be added to the list of distinguished scholars and jurists from around the world who have given this address in the past.

"This is an unsettled and unsettling time for religious liberty. Both at home and abroad, religious liberty is under attack. What was once a broad consensus here in the United States that religious freedom deserves special protection has recently crumbled. Indeed, President Obama and his administration have taken positions openly hostile to religious liberty. To cite just two examples, the administration argued in the Supreme Court that the federal government may control a church’s decisions to hire or fire its own ministers. The administration also claimed authority to force employers to violate deeply held religious beliefs in providing health benefits to employees. At the state level, hundreds of small business owners across the country have faced fines, bankruptcy, and other sanctions under public accommodations laws for following their religious convictions.

"Internationally we see many troubling attacks on religious liberty. In Nigeria, Boko Haram continues to attack, maim, and kill Christians in its campaign of terror. In Iran, a man was recently executed for 'heresy' after he questioned the accuracy of certain religious texts. Pakistan continues to imprison religious dissenters for blasphemy. One such dissenter was recently killed by his jailer while awaiting trial. The rise of ISIS and other Islamist groups in the Middle East poses a significant threat to the fragile religious freedoms in that region. And nations from Europe to Australia are considering bans on various types of religious clothing.

"I would like to take my short time with you this evening to explain why religious freedom matters, how it is under attack, and what each of us as global citizens and thought leaders can do to protect this most precious and fundamental freedom.

"Why Religious Freedom Matters

"First, why religious freedom matters. Professor Thomas Berg of the University of St. Thomas writes that one of America’s greatest contributions to the world has been establishing religious freedom as both social reality and constitutional principle. I believe this formulation is not only descriptive, but can also be prescriptive, and it will form the basis of my remarks this evening.

"Religious freedom in America was social reality before it became constitutional principle. For nearly two centuries before the founding of this Republic, one religious community after another came here to live their faith. Puritans, Congregationalists, Roman Catholics, Jews, Quakers, Baptists, Presbyterians, and Methodists all found refuge on these shores. Professor Michael McConnell of Stanford has noted that in the years before the Revolution, America experienced a higher degree of religious diversity than existed anywhere else in the world.

"Religious freedom as social reality in America has traditionally had three dimensions. First, it has been freedom not only of belief, but also of behavior. Second, it has been freedom that may be exercised publicly as well as privately. And third, it has been freedom to act both individually and collectively.

"This robust social reality was the backdrop for our Constitution. America’s Founders knew that liberty necessitates limits on government, but they were divided as to what those limits should be. Some thought that simply listing the powers of Congress in the body of the Constitution was enough, that enumeration was effectively self-limiting. Others were more skeptical about government power and demanded affirmative protection for particular rights.

"The skeptics won the day, and the first right named in the Bill of Rights is the freedom of religion. Note that the First Amendment protects the free exercise of religion, a phrase that had been in use for more than a century before James Madison incorporated it in the First Amendment. Not a particular exercise of religion, or the exercise of religion by a particular person, or the exercise of religion for a particular purpose. The Constitution protects the free exercise of religion itself.

"Religious freedom, then, is not simply one of many competing values, but a special and preferred value. It is a central reason that America exists at all. Ninety-five percent of Americans, in fact, believe that one of the principal reasons America was founded was to enable people of all faiths to believe and practice their religion.

"The U.S. Supreme Court attaches the label fundamental to the most important rights. Fundamental rights are rights that are protected from virtually any encroachment and that take precedence over other interests or values. These rights, the Court has said, are deeply rooted in this nation’s history and tradition and are implicit in the concept of ordered liberty itself. Religious freedom is one of these fundamental rights.

"Religious freedom, however, is not an American invention. It is in fact the oldest internationally recognized human right, with a heritage going back at least to the Reformation.

"Nor is religious freedom a uniquely American ideal. In 1948, after the horror of World War II, numerous nations, including the United States, signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 18 of that Declaration states that every person has a fundamental right to freedom of religion, including “freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”

"Here again we see the three dimensions of truly robust religious freedom: belief and behavior, private and public, individual and collective. Genuine religious freedom exists when these three dimensions are both social reality and constitutional principle, and are understood as fundamental.

"In 1998, Congress unanimously passed the International Religious Freedom Act. I was proud to support the Act, which created an Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom within the Department of State and established the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. The Ambassador submits reports to Congress each year addressing religious freedom in other countries. Based on these reports, the Secretary of State may designate countries that engage in systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious liberty as countries of particular concern. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom also submits independent annual reports that go into greater depth on selected countries that in the Commission’s independent judgment deserve greater scrutiny.

"The Commission is a bipartisan, nine-member body that investigates religious freedom around the world and holds hearings to educate Congress and the public about instances of religious persecution. The Commission’s immediate past chairman, Professor Robert George of Princeton, last year wrote about what he called religious freedom in its most robust sense.

"Religious freedom is far more than a mere right to worship or to believe in private, he said, but the right to express one’s faith in public. According to Professor George, to overcome the powerful and broad presumption in favor of religious liberty, political authority must meet a heavy burden.

"The Commission’s current Chair, Katrina Lantos Swett, is equally vigorous in affirming religious freedom, and has special links to Brigham Young University because of her membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"The social reality of religious freedom has an additional, more practical dimension. America’s Founders, including George Washington, spoke about religion’s role in helping to create good citizens. The Massachusetts Constitution of 1780 similarly declared that general happiness, good order, and civil government all depend on piety, religion, and morality. And the eminent Alexis de Tocqueville, writing in the nineteenth century, observed that Americans across all classes and parties believed that religion is indispensable to the maintenance of well-functioning political institutions.

"This topic has more recently been the subject of conferences and a growing body of scholarship. Professor Mary Ann Glendon of Harvard, for example, has argued persuasively about how violence tends to be greater in societies that suppress religious liberty and that religious freedom correlates with democratic longevity.

"The last several American presidents have issued proclamations each year naming a day in January as Religious Freedom Day. These proclamations, by presidents of both parties, have made some of the same points I have discussed tonight. President Bill Clinton reminded us that religious freedom is a natural right and is essential to our well-being and dignity as human beings. President George W. Bush said that religious freedom is a cornerstone of the American republic and a fundamental human right that contributes to stable democracy.

"I have described the history of religious freedom in America to place in stark relief the consequences of weakening and constricting this freedom. A few blocks from the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. is the National Archives, which houses the most important documents from America’s Founding. Reaching the main entrance requires walking past a statute on which is inscribed the axiom 'eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.' That vigilance is necessary to ensure that religious liberty remains both social reality and meaningful constitutional principle.

"How Religious Freedom Is Under Attack

"Unfortunately, both dimensions of religious freedom in America are eroding. In terms of social reality, while nearly 90 percent of Americans say that religion is important in their personal lives, three-quarters believe religion is losing its influence in our society, the highest level in nearly 60 years.

"In several ways, pressure is mounting to deprive religious freedom of its foundational status in the cultural and political life of our nation. For example, arguments have been made in both the political arena and in America’s courts that laws should not — and even may not — be based on religious considerations.

"Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the LDS Church addressed this notion several months ago at Utah Valley University’s Constitutional Symposium on Religious Freedom. The argument against basing laws on religious considerations goes like this: because religion is a private rather than a public matter — or so the argument claims — the only legitimate basis for public debate and political decision-making is so-called public reasons, which are defined to exclude religious values and expression.

"This view attacks all three of the dimensions of religious freedom that I described earlier. It insists that religion is limited to belief, not behavior; that religious exercise is individual, not collective; and, especially, that religion is something that should be conducted in private, not in public.

"Religious freedom as constitutional principle is also under attack, in at least two ways. The first is through a general decline in American citizens’ knowledge about our Constitution, our history and heritage, and our form of government. James Madison, a principal author of the Constitution, wrote that only a well-instructed people can permanently remain a free people.

"Citizens cannot understand, let alone defend, what they do not know. Yet today, poll after poll shows that Americans are shockingly ignorant of even the most basic matters relating to their nation and their liberty. Author James Bovard aptly calls this attention deficit democracy.

"This general decline in Americans’ knowledge about government sets the stage for the second way in which religious freedom as a constitutional principle is threatened. For 150 years after America’s Founding, a consensus existed that judges have only a modest role in interpreting our written Constitution. Because the Constitution expresses the people’s will about government power and individual rights, that consensus maintained, only the people have authority to change the Constitution.

"But ignorance about American history, our political system, and the requirements of liberty has allowed a radical transformation in the courts. Since the 1930s, presidents have increasingly appointed judges willing to impose their own meaning on the Constitution rather than draw the people’s meaning from it. I mention this because the personal values and preferences these activist judges have imposed have been uniformly hostile to religion and religious freedom.

"The First Amendment prohibits federal establishment of religion and protects the free exercise of religion. America’s Founders viewed the Establishment Clause narrowly and the Free Exercise Clause broadly, a combination that allowed for robust religious freedom and an active role for religion in public life. Judges who have felt free to impose their own values, however, have consistently reversed that order, interpreting the Establishment Clause broadly and the Free Exercise Clause narrowly. The result has been a continued diminishing of religious freedom and an increasingly muted role for religion in public life.

"In a case titled Lee v. Weisman,' the Supreme Court in 1992 held that an invocation before a public school graduation ceremony was an establishment of religion prohibited by the First Amendment. Such invocations had been common throughout our history and are still practiced in legislatures across America, including in the U.S. Senate, where I serve. The argument seemed to be, at least in the public school context, that the mere uttering of religious words in the form of a prayer was an unconstitutional establishment of religion.

"While the Weisman decision broadened the meaning of the Establishment Clause, a decision two years earlier narrowed the Free Exercise Clause. The Supreme Court had for decades held that government action burdening religious exercise must meet a legal standard called strict scrutiny that requires a compelling justification for the government’s action. Applying this standard identifies the free exercise of religion as a fundamental value while also allowing for some restrictions under narrow circumstances.

"An Oregon state law prohibited the use of controlled substances, including the drug peyote. Two Native American state employees were fired for using peyote in their religious ceremonies and argued that this violated their First Amendment right to the free exercise of their religion. The U.S. Supreme Court disagreed, rejecting the view that there must be religious exemptions for laws such as Oregon’s controlled substance ban. Instead, it held that any neutral law of general applicability could override religious freedom claims, and that the strict scrutiny standard would apply only when government explicitly targets religion, and in certain other narrowly defined contexts.

"This decision, titled 'Employment Division v. Smith,' was deeply troubling. By significantly narrowing the circumstances in which religious exercise would be protected as a fundamental value subject to strict scrutiny, the Court significantly broadened the circumstances in which it would be subject to all sorts of government controls. In one fell swoop, the Court reversed decades of precedent, disregarded centuries of practice, and threatened to upend religious liberty’s status as a preferred value in American society.

"I knew that I had to do everything in my power as a United States Senator to limit Smith’s effect. And so I led a campaign to reverse the Supreme Court’s decision and restore heightened protection for religious liberty. The culmination of these efforts was the 'Religious Freedom Restoration Act, or RFRA, which I sponsored in the United States Senate. RFRA w'as the rare bill that attracted broad, indeed nearly unanimous, bipartisan support.

"RFRA’s purpose was to reinstate the broad protection religious liberty enjoyed prior to Smith. It said, simply and plainly, that '[g]overnment shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability.' This means government cannot pass laws or take action that substantially impedes a person’s practice of religion, even when the law is targeted to some other, nonreligious purpose and affects everyone — religious and nonreligious — equally. Nor is there any limit on subject matter. All government action that substantially burdens religious liberty is prohibited, regardless of whether it involves the environment, education, transportation, or health care.

"RFRA also contains an exception: Government can substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion, but only if two conditions are both met. First, the government measure must advance a compelling government interest. Second, it must be the least restrictive means of advancing that interest.

"This is the so-called strict scrutiny test that applied before the Smith decision. In order to intrude on religious liberty, government must have a very good reason for doing so, and the intrusion must be necessary to accomplish that goal. If there is an alternative way to accomplish the same result that does not intrude on religious liberty, the government must take it. Put differently, government may intrude on religious liberty only when it has no other choice. This restores religious freedom to its proper place in the pantheon of values. Other values and interests take a back seat where religious rights are involved.

"As you can see, RFRA is an incredibly expansive statute. It applies to all government action, and requires government to satisfy strict conditions before it can intrude on religious liberty.

"Equally broad was the coalition that passed RFRA. The bill passed the House of Representatives unanimously. Think about that — unanimously. There was not a single dissenting vote. Even the vote to authorize the use of military force against al-Qaeda following 9/11 was not unanimous. RFRA passed the Senate 97 to 3. Nearly unanimous. The day President Clinton signed RFRA into law was one of the proudest days of my life.

"RFRA has not had an uncomplicated history in the courts. In 1997, the Supreme Court held that Congress lacked constitutional authority to impose a stricter standard of religious freedom protection on the states than the Supreme Court had decreed in Smith. Intervening cases have confirmed that RFRA does restore the compelling interest test where federal legislation is involved. Significantly, nineteen states have adopted state religious freedom restoration acts, and courts in another twelve states have accomplished the same result by construing their state constitutions to require heightened scrutiny of religious freedom claims. Only four states have explicitly followed the reasoning of the Smith decision. Thus, while the Supreme Court narrowed the state protections provided by RFRA, the majority of states have followed the lead established by Congress in passing RFRA.

"RFRA was a broad law supported by a broad coalition that recognized the law’s expansive scope. When President Clinton signed it into law twenty years ago, there was widespread agreement as to religious liberty’s fundamental status, and the fact that government should have to exhaust all other possible avenues before intruding on religious rights.

"But unfortunately, times have changed. Where once there was broad agreement, now there is discord.

"Earlier this year, in a case titled 'Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores,' the Supreme Court held that Obamacare’s birth control mandate did not sufficiently accommodate the free exercise of religion. The plaintiffs in the case argued that providing certain mandated birth control products would violate their deeply held religious beliefs regarding the sanctity of life. In ruling for the plaintiffs, the Court found that there were available alternative means of accomplishing the policy objective of providing insurance coverage for birth control that would not force the plaintiffs to violate their sincere, deeply held religious beliefs.

"Set against the broad backdrop of American history, of religious freedom as both social reality and constitutional principle, the Court’s decision was not remarkable at all. But throughout American society, the longstanding consensus about religious freedom has deteriorated, and the Court’s decision has proven controversial.

"As with 'Smith,' members of Congress responded to the 'Hobby Lobby' decision with legislation to overturn it. But there was a key difference between the decisions: 'Smith' diminished religious freedom, whereas Hobby Lobby secured it.

"Think about that. In 1993, Congress responded to the 'Smith' decision that had weakened religious freedom with legislation to protect it. In 2014, however, a mere two decades later, many members of Congress — including many who had voted for RFRA — responded to the 'Hobby Lobby' decision that had protected religious freedom with legislation to weaken it.

"Nor are these attempts to diminish religious liberty in the wake of 'Hobby Lobby' limited to the specific facts of that case. Hobby Lobby dealt with Obamacare’s birth control mandate. The proposed legislative responses to Hobby Lobby, however, sweep much more broadly. They would exempt from RFRA’s strict scrutiny requirement not just birth control coverage, but all federal laws and regulations relating to health care. Just as 'Smith' provoked a broad legislative response, so did 'Hobby Lobby.' The difference is that in 1993 there was near-unanimity that religious liberty deserves the highest protection, whereas now, a significant portion of Congress believes religious liberty deserves no particular protection, at least where health care is involved.

"I have served in the U.S. Senate for nearly 38 years, and have been involved in developing, negotiating, drafting, and enacting thousands of bills. Rarely have I seen a bill that was clearer or simpler than the 'Religious Freedom Restoration Act.' In 1993, Congress was nearly unanimous that the free exercise of religion was to continue its preferred place in our hierarchy of values. Just 20 years later, many of the very Senators and Congressmen who supported RFRA are now pushing legislation that would render it impotent.

"Another way in which religious freedom is being pulled down from its preferred status is by placing it in conflict with other rights, including statutory rights. This situation occurs, for example, when the constitutional right to the free exercise of one’s religion is said to conflict with a statutory right to be free from discrimination.

"The U.S. Supreme Court addressed this issue in 2012 in a case called 'Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church v. EEOC.' In 'Hosanna-Tabor,' a religious denomination argued that its First Amendment right to determine who would serve as its ministers created an exception to a federal law prohibiting employment discrimination.

"Ordinarily, the proposition that statutes must conform to the Constitution is accepted as an obvious principle. A conflict between the two typically comes before the courts when a party alleges that a statute violates the Constitution. This case, however, came to the Supreme Court in the opposite posture. The plaintiff employee argued, in effect, that the Constitution violated the statute.

'The Supreme Court, thankfully, rejected this twisted view, and instead vindicated the First Amendment right of churches to choose their ministers free from governmental interference. Notwithstanding this clear judicial victory, however, the case revealed something very disturbing — even offensive — about the Obama administration’s view of religious freedom.

"The administration argued that there was no need for a special religious exception to federal discrimination law, because all groups— religious and secular — already enjoy some level of protection under the First Amendment freedom of association. As the Court explained in rejecting this “remarkable” proposition, the administration wrongly believed that, 'the First Amendment analysis should be the same, whether the association in question is the Lutheran Church, a labor union, or a social club.'

"Let that sink in for a moment. The President of the United States was arguing that a church’s right to select its leader free from governmental interference was no different from that of a scout troop, a local Kiwanis club, or an intramural sports team. The administration, in effect, was asking the Court to read the Free Exercise Clause right out of the First Amendment and hold that a church is no different from any other group in terms of its relation to government. Churches, in the administration’s view, are just another social group.

"Thankfully, the Supreme Court rejected this position unanimously, noting that “the text of the First Amendment itself . . . gives special solicitude to the rights of religious organizations.” You would think this point would have been obvious to the President and his lawyers.

"Do not think, however, that the Obama administration has consistently argued that statutes trump the Constitution. Just last year, for example, the Obama administration argued to the Supreme Court that the federal Defense of Marriage Act violated the Fifth Amendment’s implicit guarantee of equal protection.

"Lay aside for the moment the remarkable fact that the Obama administration chose not to defend a duly enacted federal law. Focus instead on this fact: It became the official position of the United States that, on the one hand, an implicit constitutional right trumps a federal statute recognizing the millennia-old, religiously rooted, traditional definition of marriage, while on the other hand, an explicit constitutional right to religious freedom fails against a federal anti-discrimination statute. It would be difficult to imagine a more direct attack on the fundamental status of religious liberty.

"The alleged conflict between religious liberty and anti-discrimination laws represents another area where the former consensus favoring religious liberty has fallen apart. Last year I was proud to support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA, which would prohibit discrimination in hiring and employment on the basis of sexual orientation. The bill, which contained a robust exemption for religious organizations, struck the right balance between religious liberty and a competing right. It advanced the cause of equality by prohibiting workplace discrimination against gays and lesbians, but also protected the rights of religious organizations. In this way, it maintained religious liberty as a preferred right.

"Many LGBT advocacy groups, however, have since withdrawn their support for ENDA expressly because of its religious exemption. In their view, religious groups should be treated just like any other groups, and the principle of equality should trump the right to religious liberty. Far from giving religious freedom preferred status, these groups would subsume it beneath other values.

"We are seeing the same dynamic play out across the country as LGBT and other advocacy groups are increasingly opposed to religious exemptions that even a few years ago would have passed without conflict. I am deeply concerned by this dynamic. From my perspective, it appears that now these groups believe they are “winning” the argument and therefore have no need for religious accommodations. Whereas in the past they were willing to respect religious freedom, now that they believe they have the upper hand they are ready to disregard religious liberty altogether.

"The U.S. Supreme Court begins its new term tomorrow, the first Monday in October. On Tuesday, the Court will consider a case presenting once again the question whether religious freedom remains a preferred value in American law and culture. In 2000, I introduced — and Congress unanimously passed —the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. This law applies the same protective standard found in RFRA to the contexts of incarceration and local zoning practices.

"In the case to be argued this week, a Muslim prisoner in Arkansas was denied permission to grow a half-inch beard that his faith requires, even though the state allows prisoners to grow beards for medical reasons. As I described earlier, neither the First Amendment nor the statute makes religious exercise an absolute value. But it is a preferred value. This case is important because it measures whether a particular policy is the least restrictive means available, or whether a particular purpose is compelling. For that reason, the Court’s decision may signal whether religious freedom remains fundamental.

"Preserving and Protecting Religious Freedom

"Tonight I have painted what seems like a negative picture. Religious freedom in three-fold dimension is being eroded and weakened as both social reality and constitutional principle. It is increasingly viewed not as a fundamental right, or even as a preferred value, but at best as one of many competing interests, and at worst as something that should be kept out of the public square altogether. This trend not only restricts religious liberty, but also limits the impact faith has on society.

"I said at the outset that Professor Berg’s formulation of religious liberty as social reality and constitutional principle can be both descriptive and prescriptive, and I turn now to the latter as I conclude my remarks. The solution to the problems I have identified is to strengthen religious freedom as both social reality and constitutional principle. That may sound simplistic, but it is hardly simple.

"As we have seen, it is taking mere years to undermine and possibly destroy what took centuries to build. I agree with Professor Glendon of Harvard, who argues that whether religious freedom in the future will be a fundamental right is primarily a cultural challenge. Professor Glendon gave the 2011 'Harold J. Berman Lecture' at Emory University, and I commend it for your consideration. In her lecture, Professor Glendon endorsed legal and political efforts to defend religious liberty, but also said that in the end, success “will depend even more on the attitudes and actions of religious believers and leaders themselves.”

"I think Professor Glendon is exactly right, and I am deeply dismayed at the way contemporary society has come to treat religion.

"Much of this can be laid at the feet of media. So much of what we see or hear in movies, on the radio, and particularly on television seems to scorn or degrade religion. Churches and charities are depicted as corrupt and self-indulgent. Late-night comics treat believers as buffoons. Reporters fawn over atheists and agnostics who purport to “speak truth to power” by belittling our religious heritage even as they enjoy more media coverage and a more lavish lifestyle than any parish priest could ever hope.

"When did religion become such a negative thing? How many movies must we endure where the villain is a priest, a pastor, or a self-righteous zealot? One might be excused for thinking that, based on representations in popular media, religious organizations are forces for evil rather than the backbone of much that is good and generous in our society.

"Nevertheless, we cannot lay all the blame at the feet of the media. To do so would be to pretend that we — academics, government leaders, journalists — are powerless. But we are not. Even if we cannot control what media elites disseminate, we can work within our own spheres of influence to remind our fellow citizens of our shared religious heritage and the tremendous good religion has accomplished in our society.

"First, we must be resolute against efforts to remove our religious heritage from educational curricula. I do not mean here to get into the debate about whether the United States is a 'Christian nation,' or similar controversies. Rather, I mean to suggest that we should be honest with our children about the profound — and profoundly positive — impact that religion had on some of our greatest leaders. It is fashionable to question the Christianity of George Washington, and volumes have been written on Thomas Jefferson’s heterodoxy, but the fact remains that nearly all of our greatest leaders, from Washington to Lincoln to Martin Luther King, were men of faith who found deep strength in their religious convictions. Our heroes were religious men. To teach this is not to “inject” religion into a place it does not belong. It is simply to state the truth.

"Remember, too, that many of our greatest social movements, from abolition to the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, were led by religious individuals motivated by religious conviction.

"Second, we must reclaim the public square as a forum friendly for religion. Nearly seventy years ago the Supreme Court committed legal and historical malpractice by importing into its early Establishment Clause jurisprudence the false notion that our Founders intended to wall off religion from the public square. Myriad historians have since proved the Court’s error, but the idea it planted has flourished into the widespread belief that religion has no place in school, in government, or anywhere else in the public sphere. This is simply wrong.

"There should be room in all aspects of the public square for affirmations of religious devotion and recognition of the important role religion continues to play. This does not mean we should mandate school prayer. But it does mean we should allow students and government leaders to express religious views without condemnation and without criticism that religion is a purely private affair.

"I am deeply concerned by the movement to cut off school funding for religious groups that require leaders to affirm the groups’ religious beliefs. We should encourage, not hamstring, students’ efforts to join together with co-believers. I am particularly concerned that some schools are eliminating funding for religious groups even while leaving funding for secular groups untouched. And I call on state officials to ensure that such schools are not using nondiscrimination codes as a fig leaf for getting rid of disfavored religious groups.

"Third, we must support efforts to partner government with religious and charitable organizations to reach undeserved populations. I believe that one of President George W. Bush’s most important, and least heralded, initiatives was his effort to tap into the faith community’s ability to provide services to poor and underprivileged communities. President Bush recognized the tremendous work that religious groups do to care for and support the needy. He also recognized that faith-based organizations can often provide services more efficiently and effectively than government. These efforts show that government and religion are not antagonists, but partners.

"Fourth, we should highlight the good that religious leaders do for our nation. We are bombarded constantly with negative news about religious leaders. Pastors embezzling from their congregations, ministers cheating on their wives, priests abusing young worshippers. To be sure, there are bad apples in religious groups as there are everywhere. But the few bad apples do not spoil the whole barrel. Wouldn’t it be nice, for a change, if among all the unrelenting negativity there were some positive stories about lives changed for the better? There are awards, degrees, honoraria, prizes to be given. Commissions, boards, panels to be filled. Books, papers, studies to be written. Perhaps we could give greater thought to religious leaders in our communities that are deserving of such awards, or available to serve on such commissions, where their service can be recognized. Professional athletes and boorish musicians receive enough attention. Let’s try to reserve some for our upstanding religious leaders.

"Fifth, we should work harder to convince people that religious freedom is worth protecting, a point made by Professor Christopher Lund at Wayne State University. For much of American history, we either assumed the answer or did not ask the question at all. But the heritage that began with social reality and became constitutional principle will not protect itself. Professor Lund writes that unless we do better at explicitly making this case, legislators will no longer enact laws such as RFRA, judges will not properly interpret constitutional provisions and statutes protecting religious freedom, and religious liberty will indeed no longer receive the standing it deserves.

"Sixth, we must affirm our own individual faith and devotion. As community leaders, we have the ability to reach and influence broad audiences. By publicly affirming our faith, we both show that faith does have a place in the public sphere, and show community members that their leaders place a priority on religion. This does not mean we should become public pastors. But it does mean we should not be shy about our own beliefs. By demonstrating that religion is important to our own self-identity and desire to serve, we show our community members that religion is a thing of value and source of motivation.

"And who knows? Showing others how religion has changed our lives may spark a desire in them to seek greater devotion in their own lives. There can be no greater protector of religious liberty than a society composed of individuals who actually value religion.

"Changing culture is no easy thing, and we here in this room are too small a group to redirect a trajectory that has gone so far off course. But we are not the only people dedicated to religious liberty, and concerned that it is retreating both here in the United States and across the world. The Pew Forum reports that three-quarters of the world’s population live in countries with high government restrictions and significant social hostilities surrounding religion, and that level is increasing. In many places, religious freedom has never been social reality or constitutional principle.

"Many of our neighbors and fellow community leaders share our concerns about religious liberty’s retreat. By reasserting religious freedom’s proper place we can appeal to those who recognize the importance of religious liberty but are unsure how to proceed. By making the public square more friendly for religion we can invite back into the square those who share our convictions but feel uncomfortable expressing those convictions in public.

"By working to make government and religion partners once more rather than antagonists, we can revive the view that religion is a force for good rather than something to be swept under the rug. And by ensuring that our religious heritage maintains a robust role in our educational curricula, we can ensure that our children understand that religion helped our heroes accomplish great things and made our nation what it is today.

"Religion may never be fashionable in the way it once was. Our insular and insulated media elites will work to that end. But if we can help our young people see religion as a force for good, they will be more inclined to protect it and to stand up against secularists who seek to rid religion from our history books and banish it from our public discourse.

"A 2011 survey revealed that 90 percent of Americans believe that religious freedom is an inherent right that is not granted by government. That is perhaps a slim reed, but it is an essential belief for rebuilding the foundation of religious freedom. The preamble to our Constitution states that that charter was established to secure the blessing of liberty to ourselves and our posterity. True religious freedom is essential for that security.

"I wish each of you God’s blessing in seeking to advance the cause of religious liberty, here in the United States and throughout the world."


Like I said, more to come later from my handwritten notes of my recent personal phone call from good ol' Brother Hatch of the First Quourm of the Congress.

The exmo formerly known as Br.
blah blah blah blah blah

So what I'm hearing here is: We are religious and should be allowed to dictate the rules of life to everyone else. We should be allowed to do whatever we want, as long as our religion says we should, and everyone else should have to swallow it. Nice.

Re: Mo-US Sen. Orrin Hatch's Dispatch on "Religious Freedom"

Moron Hatch's definition of religious freedom seems to be 'the freedom to force religion on others'. What a dick.

Re: Mo-US Sen. Orrin Hatch's Dispatch on "Religious Freedom"

Yes, we have to thank Borin Orrin for saving TSCC [this so called church] from financial peril when he worked to clarify the bankruptcy law that did not allow people to make "charitable donations" during bankruptcy procedures and allowed a trustee to recoup anything paid to a "charity" within 6 months of filing. I mean, THAT infringed on people's religious freedom. That should not apply to churches. Can you imagine how much money the church would have lost once that started being enforced? Especially during the recession. But Borrin saved the day. People now do not have to use God's money to pay creditors. However, creditors cannot take into consideration what someone feels obligated to pay to God when they are making credit-worthiness decisions.

But we all know the money doesn't go to TSCC. They are only the trustees who hold it and manage it for God. They are not telling you to be dishonest with creditors in order to give money to the corporation of Tommy. Nope, not what they're saying. Just ask them if you don't believe me.

Re: Mo-US Sen. Orrin Hatch's Dispatch on "Religious Freedom"

So, if Hatch can't dictate laws based on his religion to everyone, then religious liberty is at risk...


Talk about "unclear on the concept..."
Thanks for this, Steve. I look forward to your personal phone call notes. That he bore his testimony to you is odd enough, the rest must be downright bizarre.

"What was once a broad consensus here in the United States that religious freedom deserves special protection has recently crumbled.

Poor Orrin, a 19th century man stuck in a 21st century universe: yes, Orrin, your "special protection" is undergoing special scrutiny. A scrutiny that is proving ever more devastating to religious flim-flammery such as the one you promote.

Tall Man, Short Hair
Re: Mo-US Sen. Orrin Hatch's Dispatch on "Religious Freedom"

It would be helpful due to the large volume of information here if those who are alarmed by some of this content could distill the exact points and reasons for their alarm.

It may be self-evident to some of you, but for the sake of intelligent discussion, anyone care to elaborate on specific areas of disagreement and your alternate position?


steve benson
Why don't you help yourself out by telling us where you agree with Hatch...
. . . and why? Then we could have a point of focus tailored to your interests.

Perhaps I can help you pinpoint more precisely in that regard. The following personal observation was attached by the Freedom from Religion Foundation co-president, Annie Laurie Gaylor, who sent me Hatch's "religious freedom"dispatch:

"An ex-Mo feminist friend of mine forwarded the below nauseating message today. I hadn't realized Hatch helped 'hatch' RFRA (which is behind the 'Hobby Lobby' ruling) — but should have known."

So,there's your hook: Defend the "Hobby Lobby" ruling.

Re: Mo-US Sen. Orrin Hatch's Dispatch on "Religious Freedom"
Tall Man, Short Hair Wrote:

OK. Near the beginning of the rant:

"By working to make government and religion partners once more..."

The US government and religion have never been "partners." And the constitution specifically prohibits them from being "partners," as that would be an establishment of religion. What Orrin doesn't seem to realize (or care about) is that any time a government "partners" with a religion, that "partnership" is a threat to the freedom of any other religion, or to those without a religion. Because the "partnership" has the government preferentially helping or being helped by a particular religion with specific beliefs, goals, and ideas NOT shared by everyone.

Governments "partnering" with religions is what theocracies are. We are not a theocracy.

The tone of the rest of the rant is similar: essentially, we (christians) used to be able to get away with doing stuff that was unconstitutional, because most everybody was christian. Now that we're more diverse, and people call us on our unconstitutional actions, we don't like it. So let's go back to christians being able to ignore the constitution, because we liked that better.

Another specific point: complaining about the Native American workers fired for using peyote, and claiming that was "infringement on religious practice." It was no such thing. Those people are free to use peyote in their religious practice if they want to -- what they're not free to do is show up to work OUTSIDE of their religion in a drugged, mind-altered state that would be a threat to others. You're free to practice your religion, you're not free to endanger others in a non-religious job because of it.

That's the same argument Orrin (and others) have used when people talk about removing the tax-free status of churches who engage in politics or otherwise meddle in non-religious areas; removing a church's tax-free status does not infringe on their "freedom of religion," they can continue to practice their religion as they see fit. They just can't get a tax break for doing so if they don't follow the rules. The constitution doesn't guarantee a tax break for religions.

And finally, one of the specific "liberal activist judges" cases he cites as a threat to religious freedom -- against school-sponsored prayers at school functions -- was initiated by a group of religious Jews and Mormons (ironic, yes?), who felt the always Evangelical-christian prayers infringed on THEIR religious freedoms. Clearly showing the "partnership" claim results in threats to freedom of religion, not the opposite.

Re: Mo-US Sen. Orrin Hatch's Dispatch on "Religious Freedom"

He slams the removal of prayer from schools, yet he and his ilk would change their tune very quickly if in addition to a christian prayer a kid got to go up front, face Mecca, and pray to Allah before each assembly.

steve benson
The noxious notion of government & religion becoming "partners once more"--

. . . was directly confronted--and soundly blunted--by the Founders via the Separation Clause of the FIRST Amendment. The Founders were understandably and justifiably concerned with dangerous church-state partnerships arising in the colonies in the form of government-approved, -sanctioned and -sponsored religious systems. Some of them had seen and experienced, first-hand, that intolerable situation in Europe (notably in regard to England with its officially-blessed church) and wanted nothing like it raising its ugly head on American shores.

Re: Mo-US Sen. Orrin Hatch's Dispatch on "Religious Freedom"
Government partnering with religion will not make a moral government, but an immoral religion. Where religions are supported by taxes, they die. There is an old expression: "He who pays the piper calls the tune". So it is when government and religions partner - eventually religions lose.

steve benson
Exactly. Note here Hatch's exclusive attack on radical Islamicists . . .
. . . who are waging war against Christians:

"Internationally we see many troubling attacks on religious liberty. In Nigeria, Boko Haram continues to attack, maim, and kill Christians in its campaign of terror. In Iran, a man was recently executed for 'heresy' after he questioned the accuracy of certain religious texts. Pakistan continues to imprison religious dissenters for blasphemy. One such dissenter was recently killed by his jailer while awaiting trial. The rise of ISIS and other Islamist groups in the Middle East poses a significant threat to the fragile religious freedoms in that region. And nations from Europe to Australia are considering bans on various types of religious clothing."

What about Christian extremists burning the Koran or trying to impose their fanatically fundy religious beliefs on students in tax-funded public schools attended by believers and non-believers alike?

On that Orrin is snorin.'

steve benson
Hatch doesn't seem to have much respect for the Separation Clause . . .
. . . embodied in the underlying principles of the First Amendment.

As one of the attorneys for the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) recently wrote (shared with me by FFRF), when underscoring the bedrock importance of the First Amendment's idea of separation of church and state it is important to remember the following:

" . . . [S]ome violations of state-church separation are [not] too small to worry about. [G]ive an inch and violators will take a mile.

"FFRF once fielded a complaint from a mother who didn’t report small violations: assigning the Bible for handwriting transcription exercises or making students write Christmas stories featuring Jesus. Eventually, she removed her daughter from school after a classmate slammed her head into a bathroom wall and called her a witch. Her son was surrounded on the playground by four other first-graders—they threatened to cut off each of his fingers and toes, and then hang him until he confessed that Jesus was his savior. The school did nothing until FFRF intervened. Little violations lead to bigger, violent ones.

"There is no such thing as a small violation. That’s why in the landmark 'McCollum' decision the Supreme Court wrote, 'Separation means separation, not something less. Jefferson's metaphor in describing the relation between Church and State speaks of a "wall of separation," not a fine line easily overstepped.' Schools are not mission fields. FFRF will continue to work to ensure they remain a neutral place where children can learn without having to fend off proselytizing adults."

Is that enough of a start for you, "Tall Man, Short Hair"? :)

Re: Mo-US Sen. Orrin Hatch's Dispatch on "Religious Freedom"

Well … I loved your introduction. I was laughing for a full five minutes after reading, " . . . and to really pray about it this time, Lordy, Orrin." I'm still laughing. Maybe I'm really tired and resistance is low.

I didn't love that seemingly endless tossing of words at the dartboard hoping a few would stick. I guess a lot of people must believe a point is strong just because it is so long--thick books are truer than thin ones. Hate to think that works on people.

This word salad approach as a substitute for substance is getting a little old and Orrin should know better at his age. Lordy, Orrin! Now I'm laughing again.

Re: Mo-US Sen. Orrin Hatch's Dispatch on "Religious Freedom"
"I took notes of our phone call as we were talking"

Do you have a warehouse? :)

steve benson

I have a "Where is Orrin's brain?" house. :)

Re: Mo-US Sen. Orrin Hatch's Dispatch on "Religious Freedom"

"Religious freedom as constitutional principle is also under attack, in at least two ways. The first is through a general decline in American citizens’ knowledge about our Constitution, our history and heritage, and our form of government. James Madison, a principal author of the Constitution, wrote that only a well-instructed people can permanently remain a free people."

Wow! Where to start with this from a supposedly knowledgeable statesman.

I need a sharp stick so I can stab myself in the eye!

Tall Man, Short Hair
Re: Mo-US Sen. Orrin Hatch's Dispatch on "Religious Freedom"
ificouldhietokolob Wrote:

The Establishment Clause is certainly one that rallies many on both sides. Partnerships in one form or another have been longstanding between religious groups and the government. In most instances it's a good thing.

The Salvation Army receives millions of dollars each year to provide social programs and homeless shelters at an expense level the government could never approach. If these avenues were to be severed, it would result in worse homelessness and likely deaths in colder climates.

Partnering is not establishing.

Taxation is different. If you tax a religion, it must be granted a full place at the table. And it would open doors that would clearly force government to violate other portions of law. A church that fails to pay property taxes would be in jeopardy of losing their land. This would result in the government closing a church, and that's pretty clearly a violation of the Establishment Clause.

Additionally, those who are upset at the role of money in politics would likely find a very upsetting consequence of taxing churches. Since we will not tolerate taxation without representation, churches would become a (bigger) political force than they currently are. And I fear a PAC created among some denominations would dwarf anything dreamed of among the secular community.

The founders rightly recognized that religion predated the creation of our Republic, and as such it was treated as exempt from much of our laws. It's very similar to the treatment afforded foreign embassies, which are also tax exempt and granted broad diplomatic freedoms.

steve benson
Partnership is NOT neutrality & in fact, brings church & state into . . .
. . . an unholy alliance that greatly troubled the Founding Fathers.

The government should be out, and stay out, of the faith-promoting business, altogether.

That is why Founder Thomas Jefferson, during his two terms as U.S. president, refused to issue any executive-office Thanksgiving Day declarations that encouraged the nation's citizens to pray or give thanks to a higher god force. Jefferson was rightly of the view that religious worship was a private matter and that the government should stay the hell out of it.

Likewise, Founder and U.S. President, James Madison, eventually rued the day he promoted the idea of government-sponsored and -sanctioned Congressional chaplains, concluding that it constituted an unconstitutional breach of the wall between church and state.

Tall Man, Short Hair
Re: Partnership is NOT neutrality &, in fact, brings church & state into . . .
t; wall between church and state.

We may not have too much disagreement here. Madison and Jefferson both celebrated religious freedom. Their immediate example of a church/state relationship was the Church of England supported by forced taxes upon the populace. Wishing to place a high wall between that experience and the one we have now has clearly been accomplished. There is no compulsory church attendance nor support thereof through taxation. And that's a good thing.

But it's problematic and unsupported to say that there can be no interactions between church and state. The government has long relied upon faith-based organizations to supply needed elements of social welfare. And some of these organizations are paid to do so. It's irrelevant if they are secular or religious as long as the activity supported is secular in nature. A meal provided to a homeless family is a purely secular event. Forcing that family to sit through a religious service in order to receive it? Probably not. That specific wrinkle has been litigated, I believe.

Dave the Atheist
Re: Mo-US Sen. Orrin Hatch's Dispatch on "Religious Freedom"

We've ALREADY had a partnering of religion and government.
It was called the dark ages.

Tall Man, Short Hair
Re: Hatch doesn't seem to have much respect for the Separation Clause . . .

Yes, a fine start. Thank you. But we'll probably need to pick a better topic to really mix things up, because I'm not disagreeing much with what you're saying here.

There's no real problem presenting the Bible (or Koran, Upanishads, Torah, etc.) as literature in a public school (Schempp), but you cannot force a student to participate in something that is purely religious in nature. I wish you had chosen a better example, though. It's a bit incredible to claim that, "first they'll mention the Bible, and before you know it, they're committing class one felonies!" as if one logically leads to the other. The Supreme Court ruled that the Bible may be taught as literature in public schools. Beyond that, I agree that teachers need to refrain from proselytizing.

I'm not one who thinks the world ended the day prayer was removed from school. But I also recognize that ripping Jefferson's wall of separation out of the context of compulsory church attendance at a state-sponsored and supported church does it a bit of a disservice. Some seem to think he meant that henceforth any government official who responds to a sneeze with "bless you" should be jailed.

We've clearly avoided the church/state relationship he loathed. We have no state run or supported church. No compulsory attendance. We have a purely secular government as well. We are not taxed to support a state sponsored church.

What we don't have is a purely secular people, and that's where the conflict usually begins. Americans have the right to openly and freely practice religion. Even people involved in government are allowed to be religious. They can invoke their religious beliefs as they choose as long as they do not do so with any force or compulsion, and do not use their position to foist it on others.

The McCollum decision was followed several years later by Zorach v. Clauson which reinstated the right for religious instruction during class time. The difference is that it took place off campus and used no public funds. The only allowance was for students to be allowed to leave campus for the instruction. I agree with both decisions. Ultimately, freedom prevailed without infringing upon the rights of others.

Dave the Atheist
"That specific wrinkle has been litigated"

If it has been litigated then why is it still common ?

Any "good" that religion does is ultimately paid for by the taxpayers.

Tall Man, Short Hair
Re: "That specific wrinkle has been litigated"
does is ultimately paid
> for by the taxpayers.

Now you're just being silly. Not all soup kitchens receive government funding, and those that don't can run entirely as a church. Next time you feel outraged at this, just ask the homeless person how much they're offended by sitting through a sermon before receiving a free meal and warm bed.

And all from taxpayers? Is this using the fantasy of "missing tax money equals money out of my pocket?"

Dave the Atheist
Re: "That specific wrinkle has been litigated"
maybe you are unclear on the concept of tax deductions.

Re: Mo-US Sen. Orrin Hatch's Dispatch on "Religious Freedom"

There are a lot of things I could say about Mr. Hatch's speech but I'll limit myself to just three:

1) The U.S. Supreme Court had imposed restrictions on religious behavior prior to the peyote case. Mr. Hatch conveniently ignored the 1880s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that upheld the law against polygamy, a law that was being directly used to stop said practice in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

2) Thomas Paine,whose book Common Sense, inspired the American Revolutionary War, wrote a book in the 1790s that tried (and pretty much succeeded, if one chooses to read it) to show that the Bible was wholly a work of fiction because the dates given in it didn't add up.

3) Finally, I am providing a link to achapter in the 2006 book written by Kevin Phillips about the history of the development of religion in the U.S. since its founding and some of the implications for the future. This chapter is well-researched and I especially recommend it to Tall Man, Short Hair.

steve benson
Jefferson and Madison didn't want the government in partnership . . .

. . . with religion for purposes of promoting, endorsing or sanctioning religion. They wanted the government out of religion and religion out of government.

The U.S. Constitution is a total and sweeping secular document--the first of its kind in the history of modern Western civilization--one which provides protection for individual freedom of religion, forbids the mingling of church and state, and bans religious oaths for service in public office.

In case you are not aware of this additional and telling historical fact, the delegates to the Constitutional Convention tabled (meaning they refused to vote on) a proposal by Benjamin Franklin to open the Convention's daily proceedings with prayer, thereby permanently sidelining Franklin's motion.

Below is basic tutorial on the approach of noted Founders to matters of church-state separation:

--Thomas Paine

“'Whenever we read the Obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and torturous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness, with which more than half the Bible is filled, it would be more consistent that we call it the word of a Demon, than the word of God. It is a history of wickedness, that has served to corrupt and brutalize mankind: and, for my own part, I sincerely detest it as I detest everything that is cruel.' (Thomas Paine, "The Age of Reason," Part I, (1826 edition) p. 13 (first published by R. Carlile, London, 1794) available on Google books) . . .

“'Independence is my happiness, and I view things as they are, without regard to place or person; my country is the world, and my religion is to do good.' (Thomas Paine, "Rights of Man," Part 2, p. 50 (first published by J. Parsons, London, 1792) available on Google books)

“'I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church.' (Thomas Paine, "The Age of Reason," Part I, (1826 edition) p. 4 (first published by R. Carlile, London, 1794) available on Google books)

--Benjamin Franklin

“'When a religion is good, I conceive it will support itself; and when it does not support itself, and God does not take care to support it, so that its professors are oblig’d to call for help of the civil power, ‘tis a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one.' (Benjamin Franklin, Letter to Dr. Richard Price, October 9, 1780, in "The Private Correspondence of Benjamin Franklin," Part I, ed. William Temple Franklin, 2nd ed., Henry Colburn, London 1817) p. 69, available on Google books)

"The Convention, except three or four persons, thought Prayers unnecessary." (See original scan of Franklin’s proposal and the notation that prayers are unnecessary; Max Farand, "The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787," Volume 1 (Yale University Press, 1911) p. 452, n. 15, available at The Library of Congress) . . .

--George Washington

“Religious controversies are always productive of more acrimony & irreconciliable hatreds than those which spring from any other cause . . .” (George Washington, letter to Sir Edward Newenham, June 22, 1792) . . .

"Washington’s refusal to take communion, kneel in prayer, pray at Valley Forge, and have priests and Christian rituals at his deathbed is well-documented. See Ron Chernow, "Washington: A Life" (Penguin, 2010); Edward G. Lengel, 'Inventing George Washington' (Harper Collins Publishers, 2011); Joseph J. Ellis, "His Excellency: George Washington" (First Vintage Books Edition, 2005); Brooke Allen, "Moral Minority: Our Skeptical Founding Fathers" (Ivan R. Dee Publisher 2006). . . .

"On the rare occasions when Washington did attend church, perhaps 12 times a year pre-presidency and only three times in his last three years, he made it a point not to take communion (although Martha did). When asked specifically if Washington was a 'communicant of the Protestant Episcopal church,' Bishop William White, who officiated in churches Washington occasionally attended wrote, 'truth requires me to say that Gen. Washington never received the communion in the churches of which I am the parochial minister. Mrs. Washington was an habitual communicant.' (Bishop William White, letter to Colonel Mercer, Aug. 15, 1835) Other contemporary ministers who personally knew Washington confirm his distaste for cannibalism, symbolic or otherwise. (Allen, p. 31; Lengel, p. 13; Chernow, p. 131)

"George Washington did not kneel in prayer (Lengel at 13, 91; Ellis, p. 45; Chernow, p. 131)

"George Washington did not pray at Valley Forge. Historians agree that this did not happen. There is no contemporaneous report to verify it and the original report is from The Life of Washington, by Parson Mason Weems, who did not include the story until the 17th edition and also gave us the myth of the cherry tree. (See Lengel, pp. 13, 22-23, 76-86; Chernow, p. 131)

"George Washington did not have a priest at his deathbed or take last rites.

"There was '. . . missing presence at the deathbed scene: there were no ministers in the room, no prayers uttered, no Christian rituals offering the solace of everlasting life. … He died as a Roman stoic rather than a Christian saint.' (Ellis, p. 269. See also Chernow)

"George Washington did not add 'so help me God' to the presidential oath The oath, laid out in laid out in Article 2, Section 1 of the Constitution, does not contain the religious verbiage and according to Edward Lengel, editor-in-chief of the George Washington papers and over 60 volumes of Washington’s documents, put it: '[A]ny attempt to prove that Washington added the words ‘so help me God’ requires mental gymnastics of the sort that would do credit to the finest artist of the flying trapeze.] (See Lengel, p. 105)

"In all of Washington’s correspondence, 'several thousand letters[,] the name of Jesus Christ never appears, and it is noatbly absent from his last will.'(Gen. A.W. Greely, "Washington's Domestic and Religious Life,' in "Ladies’ Home Journal," April, 1896; See also, Lengel, p. 13;
John Adams)

"[See] Treaty of Tripoli, Art. 11 (1797). Negotiated during the George Washington’s presidency, signed by Adams, unanimously approved by the Senate, in "American State Papers," "Foreign Relations," Vol. 2, p. 19: Senate, 5th Cong., 1st sess., 26 May 1797) . . . [the treaty states that the United States is not a Christian nation]

--Thomas Jefferson

“'Religion. your reason is now mature enough to examine this object. In the first place, divest yourself of all bias in favor of novelty & singularity of opinion. indulge them in any other subject rather than that of religion. it is too important, & the consequences of error may be too serious. on the other hand, shake off all the fears & servile prejudices, under which weak minds are servilely crouched. fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. question with boldness even the existence of a god; because, if there be one, he must more approve the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear.' (Thomas Jefferson, letter to Peter Carr (August 10, 1787). . . .

“'Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.' (Thomas Jefferson, letter to the Danbury Baptists (January 1, 1802; See the original draft, which referred to it as a 'wall of eternal separation' here)

--James Madison

“'During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the Clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity, in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution.' (James Madison, "Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments" (1785) paragraph 7). . . . If you haven’t read this concise masterpiece, please do so now.

"Madison opposed chaplainces, government days of prayer:

“'Is the appointment of Chaplains to the two Houses of Congress consistent with the Constitution, and with the pure principle of religious freedom? In strictness the answer on both points must be in the negative. The Constitution of the U. S. forbids everything like an establishment of a national religion… The establishment of the chaplainship to Congress is a palpable violation of equal rights, as well as of Constitutional principles.'

"Madison was equally critical of presidential and governmental prayer: 'Religious proclamations by the Executive recommending thanksgivings & fasts are shoots from the same root… Although recommendations only, they imply a religious agency, making no part of the trust delegated to political rulers. … An advisory Government is a contradiction in terms. The members of a Government as such can in no sense, be regarded as possessing an advisory trust from their Constituents in their religious capacities. In their individual capacities, as distinct from their official station, they might unite in recommendations of any sort whatever, in the same manner as any other individuals might do.' )James Madison, "Detached Memoranda "(ca. 1817) . . .

"A three pence tax to support teachers of the Christian religion 'will destroy that moderation and harmony which the forbearance of our laws to intermeddle with Religion has produced among its several sects. Torrents of blood have been split in the old world, by vain attempts of the secular arm, to extinguish Religious disscord, by proscribing all difference in Religious opinion. Time has at length revealed the true remedy.' (James Madison, "Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments" (1785), paragraph 11)

("Celebrate Our Godless Consitution," Freedom from Religion Foundation, see its additional links for original documents cited above, at:

steve benson
This is a perfectly fine topic to mix things up over, particularly since...
. . . Hatch addresses and supports (as quoted in the OP) various religious practices in public schools, including prayers and other tax-funded religious activities.

That's lurchin' toward churchin' in a big way.

Re: Mo-US Sen. Orrin Hatch's Dispatch on "Religious Freedom"

With all that has been said,remember that organized religion and Christian belief are on a down hill slide,this according to annual gallup polls taken of u.s.residents since 1948-for emphasis the percentage of answering none have greatly increased over the years.

steve benson
The point still stands: Give believers an inch, they take a mile . . .

Below are several examples of religious institutions doing just that, thereby underscoring the need for a continually- and stoutly-defended "wall of separation" (as Jefferson told the Dansbury Baptists) between church and state"

"Church Violations

"Church Polling Places

"A church is being used as a polling location. Is that legal?

"It is a basic principle of Establishment Clause jurisprudence that the government is prohibited from promoting a specific religious belief. Furthermore, the government cannot compel a citizen to enter a house of worship or profess a particular religious view. Unfortunately, during election seasons many Americans of varying faiths or no faith at all are required to enter a house of worship in order to fulfill the most basic civic duties of all-to vote. . . .

"Churches and Political Lobbying Activities

"A church is participatiing in political lobbying. What can I do about it?

Every election year, the Foundation receives complaints and questions by its members and members of the public about churches involved in political activity. . . .

"Tax Exemption of Churches

"Tax exemption of churches — Is it constitutional?

As much as one quarter or one-half of a typical U.S. city may be made up of tax-exempt property, much of that churches or church schools. FFRF receives many queries by disgruntled taxpayers over this involuntary form of subsidy. . . .


Blue Laws/Sunday Closing Laws

"My state/town has a law restricting the sale of certain items on Sundays. Is this legal?

"Many states and local governments have established a variety of laws restricting the sale of certain goods on Sundays. An example of a law of this kind, which collectively have become known as 'blue laws,' would be a law declaring that it shall be illegal to sell alcohol on Sundays. These laws may also include mandatory store closings on Sunday. . . .

"Court-Ordered Participation in A.A.

"Can a court, prison, or probation officer sentence me to attend A.A., which is a religious program?

"The trend of current case law shows that forcing a prisoner or probationer to attend A.A. or N.A. or other religiously centered rehabilitation program is increasingly seen as a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. . . .



"Blasphemy laws violate the First Amendment. They promote religion, specifically Christianity, over nonreligion in violation of the Establishment Clause. They prohibit speech in violation of the Free Speech Clause. They violate the guarantees of religious free exercise and free press. In general, blasphemy laws assault the First Amendment’s protection of the freedom of conscience. . . .

"What's Wrong with the Ten Commandments? . . .

"Critics of the Christian Bible occasionally can score a point or two in discussion with the religious community by noting the many teachings in both the Old and New Testaments that encourage the bible believer to hate and to kill, biblical lessons that history proves Christians have taken most seriously. Nonetheless, the Bible defendant is apt to offer as an indisputable parting shot, 'But don’t forget the Ten Commandments. They are the basic Bible teaching. Study the Ten Commandments.' . . .

"Is America A Christian Nation? . . .

"The U.S. Constitution is a secular document. It begins, 'We the people,' and contains no mention of 'God' or 'Christianity.' Its only references to religion are exclusionary, such as, 'no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust' (Art. VI), and 'Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof' (First Amendment). The presidential oath of office, the only oath detailed in the Constitution, does not contain the phrase 'so help me God' or any requirement to swear on a bible (Art. II, Sec. 7). If we are a Christian nation, why doesn't our Constitution say so? In 1797 America made a treaty with Tripoli, declaring that 'the government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.' This reassurance to Islam was written under Washington’s presidency, and approved by the Senate under John Adams. . . .

"In God We (Don't) Trust

"For an overwhelming part of U.S. history, America's motto was purely secular, 'E Pluribus Unum' (From many [come] one). E Pluribus Unum was chosen by a committee of Jefferson, Adams and Franklin. Many Americans mistakenly assume our founders chose 'In God We Trust' as the motto, but nothing could be further from the truth. Our founders were committed to a secular government. For most of U.S. history, our money was likewise free of religion. . . .

"Religious Decorations & Activities HUD Housing

"I live in a HUD-subsidized housing. What are my rights to avoid religious activities and decorations?

"A typical complaint involves the exhibition of religious holiday decorations in common areas (lobbies, recreation facilities, laundry rooms) of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) subsidized housing. Such religious holiday decorations often include angels, crèche displays, biblical scripture, menorahs, Stars of David, etc. Federal funding is distributed by HUD to support low income housing, as well as housing for senior citizens and the disabled, according to the stipulations enumerated in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). The CFR is explicit and unequivocal in its prohibition on religious activities as part of any program funded through the Department of Housing and Urban Development. . . .

"Religious Holiday Displays on Public Property

"Are religious holiday displays a violation of the First Amendment?

"The most frequent complaint that FFRF receives during November and December concerns religious displays on public property. The majority involve a crèche, or nativity scene, being displayed at a public park, or outside or inside a government building. FFRF has even received complaints about a nativity scene prominently displayed on the front lawn of public schools! We also receive complaints about other religious symbols being displayed on public property, such as menorahs or crosses. Members of the public are shocked to find these displays authorized, supported, and erected by their local, state or federal government entities. . . .

"Religious Activities at Senior Centers

They make us listen to prayer before we eat lunch at public-funded senior centers. Help!

"An unfortunately common state/church violation concerns prayer imposed on a captive audience of senior citizens before lunch at public-funded senior centers. This is illegal! . . .

"Religious Tests for Public Office

"Why do some states require a religious test for public office? Isn't that unconstitutional?

"The Supreme Court ruled in 1961 that States cannot impose a religious test for public office, in conformity with Art. VI of the U.S. Constitution. . . .

"Good Friday Closings

"Is it legal for government offices and public schools to close for Good Friday?

"FFRF often receives complaints from the public about government offices and public schools closing for Good Friday. . . .

"Prayers at Government Meetings

"Is an Establishment Clause violation occurring at government meetings?

"One of the most frequent complaints to the Freedom From Religion Foundation from the public over state/church violations concerns government officials opening government meetings with prayer. . . .

"Churches Renting Public Library Space

A religious group is holding meetings in a public library. What can I do about it?

"Like most government property, public libraries are not automatically open for individuals and private groups to exercise free speech. Once a government body chooses to open up library space for use by private groups, either through action (renting out facilities) or through a “library use policy,” there are a number of steps to take to determine if it is inappropriate for a religious group to be using the facilities. . . ;


"Flag-Folding in Military

"Do flag-folding ceremonies have a Christian meaning? No. . . .


"Immigration Oaths

I want to become a U.S. citizen, but am not religious and don’t want to take a religious oath. What are my rights?

"The Freedom From Religion Foundation doesn’t want you to be forced to take a religious oath, either! In fact, our country is in need of more people like you, who understand better than many native-born citizens how vital it is to separate religion from government. The U.S. Constitution is entirely godless, so it is dismaying that a religious oath would be imposed on new citizens. . . .

"Jury Oaths

"I've been called for jury duty. Or, I need to testify at a trial. Am I going to have to take a religious oath or place my hand on a bible?

"Unfortunately, most state statutes routinely provide for religious oaths to swear in jurors or testifiers. Fortunately, most also permit alternative affirmations. Affirmation is for anyone who has conscientious scruples against swearing an oath to a deity. (This can include not only unbelievers but some form of Baptists, Jehovah's Witnesses, etc.) . . .

"Marriage Oaths

"When we went to apply for our marriage license, the county clerk told us we had to state an oath to 'God.' What can we do?

":Although most state statutes routinely provide for religious oaths, they also usually provide for alternative affirmations. Usually, statutes pertaining to applications for marriage licenses, certificates and solemnizations designate a religious oath. However, elsewhere in your state statutes, there is probably a provision for affirmations (which, by definition, means you are not swearing to a deity, but affirm you are telling the truth). An affirmation is for anyone who has conscientious scruples against swearing an oath to a deity. (This can include some form of Baptists, Jehovah's Witnesses as well as nonbelievers.) . . .


"Prayer at School Board Meetings

"The school board at my child's school is praying before school board meetings. Is that legal?

"No. Public school boards are an integral part of the public school system and must not advance or endorse religion. School boards cannot schedule prayer as a part of their meetings, invite local clergy to give invocations, or engage in religious ritual at any time during school-sponsored board meetings. . . .


"Evolution is the scientific theory that explains Earth's wide variety of species and their striking similarities. Evolution explains how species descended from a common ancestor and were modified by natural selection during that descent. Essentially, parents pass traits on to offspring and different individuals have different traits that give them a competitive edge in passing on those traits to offspring. . . .

"Bible Distribution in Public Schools

"Can Gideons pass out bibles at my child's public school?

Every school year, the Freedom From Religion Foundation receives countless complaints from parents about The Gideon Society or other similar groups who are distributing bibles to their children at public schools. . . .

"Churches Meeting at Public Schools

"A church is meeting in a public school. What can I do about it?

The Freedom From Religion Foundation often receives queries from shocked members of the public who receive flyers at their home inviting them to attend 'church' at their local public school. Or citizens notice prominent signs at public school entrances on Sundays advertising church meetings. 'Public schools can’t host church meetings, can they?' we are asked. . . .

"Equal Access Act Violation

"The 'See You at the Pole' movement started in Texas in 1990, as an ostensibly 'student-initiated' and 'student-led' religious expression. Students meet at their school’s outdoor flagpole to pray before classes begin on the fourth Wednesday of September. . . .

"Can Public School Graduations Include Prayers?

"No. The Supreme Court has continually struck down school-led prayers at school-sponsored events, including public school graduations. High school graduations must be secular to protect the freedom of conscience of all students. . . .

"Pledge of Allegiance

"Do I (or my child) have to participate in the religious Pledge of Allegiance in my public school?

"No. You (or your child) have a constitutional right not to be forced to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance. Nor should a student be singled out, rebuked, told they must stand, or otherwise be penalized for following their freedom of conscience. Nor should students who participate in the pledge, or who volunteer to lead the class in the pledge or to recite it over the intercom, be rewarded or favored over students who don’t participate. . . .

"Prayer in Public School

"What is the law about prayers in public schools?

"Public schools exist to educate, not to proselytize. Children in public schools are a captive audience. Making prayer an official part of the school day is coercive and invasive. . . .

"Release Time for Religious Activities

"Can public schools offer early release times for students wishing to participate in religious activities?

"Public schools may release students during school hours to participate in private religious activities with parental consent. In McCollum v. Board of Education, the Court found a release time program that was supported by public funds, held during school hours, and on school grounds violated the First Amendment . . .

"Religious Music in Public Schools

"My child's choir is singing religious music. Is that legal?

In its more than three decades of activism, the Freedom From Religion Foundation has taken more complaints over promotion of religion in public school music classes and team sports than any other type of complaint . . .

"Religious Take-Home Fliers

"A teacher is sending my child home with religious literature. Can I stop it?

"Parents frequently contact the Freedom From Religion Foundation with complaints about religious fliers being sent home with their school children—sometimes as young as five years old. Typically, these fliers are from outside religious organizations, such as the Good News Club, inviting students to participate in proselytizing after-school clubs and activities. . ..

"See You at the Flag Pole Prayer Gatherings

"Is it lawful to hold a 'See You at the Pole' prayer gathering at my public school?

"The 'See You at the Pole' movement started in Texas in 1990, as an ostensibly “student-initiated” and “student-led” religious expression. Students meet at their school’s outdoor flagpole to pray before classes begin on the fourth Wednesday of September. . . .

"School Involvement in Baccalaureate Services

"A public high school is holding a religious baccalaureate service. Is that legal?

"It is a fundamental principle of Establishment Clause jurisprudence that a public school may not advance, prefer or promote religion. Because it is generally understood that a baccalaureate service is a religious event, a public school may not be involved in the organization or execution of a baccalaureate in any way that would make an objective observer believe that the school is endorsing the event . . . "

("State/Church FAQ: Church Violations," go to site to click on extensions of the above categories to get their full respective text, at:

Re: Mo-US Sen. Orrin Hatch's Dispatch on "Religious Freedom"

I think Hatch needs to look further back in History to understand the context behind the arguments to 'Freedom of Religion'.

Hatch Said: "First, why religious freedom matters. Professor Thomas Berg of the University of St. Thomas writes that one of America’s greatest contributions to the world has been establishing religious freedom as both social reality and constitutional principle. I believe this formulation is not only descriptive, but can also be prescriptive, and it will form the basis of my remarks this evening."

You could look back at least 100 years prior to the constitution of the USA and you'd find the Putney Debates taking place in the UK where Englishmen debated what the rights of the people should be with the discussions stalling again and again (including in the various debates with the Parliamentary Army Chiefs) on the subject of 'Freedom of Conscience' You'll note I said 'Conscience' rather than 'Religion' as the thing men like John Lilburne noted was that man also needed a right to believe in nothing if he so wished. Some thought this 'Atheism' was a potential evil, and Lilburnes group, the Levellers were never able to drive home most of the freedoms they wished to see adopted in the UK.

Oliver Cromwell became defacto King of England in the years after the beheading of Charles I, and upon the return of Charles II things the new kind issued warrants of arrest for 50 or more leading Parliamentarians who'd been involved in the overthrow of his father. Many of these men fled to Holland and to the US (if you're not familiar with the story of the Angel of Hadley it makes good reading) where continued discussions on the rights of the people went on and where the writings of these men penetrated and entirely shaped what evolved into the United States.

From the work of Thomas Paine (greatly based on some of the ideas of John Lilburne) to the Declaration of Independence (which draws on the work of John Locke), what we see is an America and a war of Independence that in reality is an extension of the English Civil War of 1642.

What seems to be forgotten or perhaps never learned by Hatch is that part of those early discussions asked questions about voting rights for all, about freedom of conscience for all. When you understand that freedom of conscience was the intention, you can then read freedom of religion and understand that it intends to prevent persecution for religious beliefs, but offers nothing that permits religious organisations the right to dictate the laws of the land or to leverage its wealth and position to bring change to the law outside of the democratic process. Freedom of Conscience meant the right to believe whatever you will, even if that included a belief that nothing existed.

Hatch Said: "Religious freedom in America was social reality before it became constitutional principle. For nearly two centuries before the founding of this Republic, one religious community after another came here to live their faith. Puritans, Congregationalists, Roman Catholics, Jews, Quakers, Baptists, Presbyterians, and Methodists all found refuge on these shores. Professor Michael McConnell of Stanford has noted that in the years before the Revolution, America experienced a higher degree of religious diversity than existed anywhere else in the world."

This supports my view expressed above.

"Religious freedom as social reality in America has traditionally had three dimensions. First, it has been freedom not only of belief, but also of behavior. Second, it has been freedom that may be exercised publicly as well as privately. And third, it has been freedom to act both individually and collectively.

Hatch harps on about freedom of religion, again, missing the point that the right to personally hold a religious belief was being protected, but no religion was being awarded any additional right to be enabled to manipulate the state, nor would the founding fathers have wanted that but would have feared it based on their understanding of the various European wars organised by churches and kings. Reading it the way Hatch offers simply ignores the historical reality that the founding fathers understood.

Hatch Said: "This robust social reality was the backdrop for our Constitution. America’s Founders knew that liberty necessitates limits on government, but they were divided as to what those limits should be. Some thought that simply listing the powers of Congress in the body of the Constitution was enough, that enumeration was effectively self-limiting. Others were more skeptical about government power and demanded affirmative protection for particular rights."

This is a direct extension of the debates of November 1647 where John Lilburne and the Levellers met with Gen Henry Ireton to discussion freedoms of the people. Ireton explained that there was a tension between Liberty and Peace, and that it was reasonable to surrender the former in favour of the latter - hence stronger governmental control. But the Levellers resisted this view.

Hatch Said: "The skeptics won the day, and the first right named in the Bill of Rights is the freedom of religion. Note that the First Amendment protects the free exercise of religion, a phrase that had been in use for more than a century before James Madison incorporated it in the First Amendment. Not a particular exercise of religion, or the exercise of religion by a particular person, or the exercise of religion for a particular purpose. The Constitution protects the free exercise of religion itself."

I agree with the above, but disagree where Hatch again appears to imply that freedom of religion could be construed as awarding some standing that afforded it opportunity to influence government or allow religious dogma to supercede the law of the land or be accounted for in the formation of such laws as opposed to being constrained by religion to the extent that it should not inhibit their freedoms within the grounds of loss or harm.

Hatch Said: "Religious freedom, then, is not simply one of many competing values, but a special and preferred value. It is a central reason that America exists at all. Ninety-five percent of Americans, in fact, believe that one of the principal reasons America was founded was to enable people of all faiths to believe and practice their religion."

Have to call BS on this. Nothing I've read supports this view. Religious freedom simply meant the right to practice according to your own conscience, it never extended to pressing your views on others and certainly not on the state.

As for why America was founded, it was founded for a host of reasons often related to new land, opportunity, and profit. It was then populated by many disaffected and fleeing groups. Many puritans went there because of persecution in the UK and Europe. Many political refugees fled there after the restoration of Charles II. Irish immigrants arrived as did Italian and Polish etc. Freedom of Religion simply set out to avoid the state mandated religions of Europe.

Apologies for the longwinded post.

"Recovery from Mormonism -"