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There is No Such Thing as "Freedom of Religion"
Mormons and the First Amendment


Maybe you've seen the article that should go here. Send us the link Or send us the book or journal article and we'll plagiarize it like all our other pages.

Here's what it says:

  • Secularists claim that the Constitution and the First Amendment guarantee freedom for all non-Christian religions, and especially for the religion of Secular Humanism
  • Polygamy has always been a crime in Christian nations.
  • Mormons tried to use the First Amendment and Jefferson's "wall of separation" metaphor to eliminate laws against polygamy.
  • They lost. America is a Christian nation.

Polygamists for Separation

Let's review the first U.S. Supreme Court case to mention Jefferson's "wall of separation" metaphor in a substantive way.

Shortly after the "Civil War," Mormon polygamists challenged the constitutionality of statutes against polygamy.

"Separation of church and state," they said.
"Freedom of religion," they argued.

"Christian nation," the Court ruled.

The 1878 case of Reynolds v. U.S., 98 U.S. 145 (1878), cited Jefferson's letter to the Danbury Baptists, which is generally credited with the creation of the "wall of separation" metaphor:

'Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God; that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship; that the legislative powers of the government reach actions only, and 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 and State.

Sounds noble, but the Court turned down the polygamists' argument, saying in effect, if you're a polygamist or a witch doctor ready to sacrifice a virgin to the sun-god, "freedom of religion" and 50 will get you a cup of coffee. In a Christian nation you can believe anything you want to put between your ears, but—and this is surely more significant—the punitive power of the civil magistrate will not tolerate overt acts which are contrary to Christian morality.

In 1890 the U.S. Supreme Court again reviewed a challenge to Christian penal sanctions under the "wall of separation" metaphor.

Probably never before in the history of this country has it been seriously contended that the whole punitive power of the government for acts, recognized by the general consent of the Christian world in modern times as proper matters for prohibitory legislation, must be suspended in order that the tenets of a religious sect encouraging crime may be carried out without hindrance.

And on this point there can be no serious discussion or difference of opinion. Bigamy and polygamy are crimes by the laws of all civilized and Christian countries. They are crimes by the laws of the United States, and they are crimes by the laws of Idaho. They tend to destroy the purity of the marriage relation, to disturb the peace of families, to degrade woman, and to debase man. Few crimes are more pernicious to the best interests of society, and receive more general or more deserved punishment. To extend exemption from punishment for such crimes would be to shock the moral judgment of the community. To call their advocacy a tenet of religion is to offend the common sense of mankind.
Davis v. Beason, 133 U.S. 333, 341-43 (1890)

To criminalize unChristian acts is no offense against "freedom of religion," the Court said, because these acts do not even rise to the level of genuine religion.

The Court in Beason repeated the analysis of the Reynolds Court twelve years earlier:

In our opinion, the statute immediately under consideration is within the legislative power of Congress. It is constitutional and valid as prescribing a rule of action for all those residing in the Territories, and in places over which the United States have exclusive control. This being so, the only question which remains is, whether those who make polygamy a part of their religion are excepted from the operation of the statute. If they are, then those who do not make polygamy a part of their religious belief may be found guilty and punished, while those who do, must be acquitted and go free. This would be introducing a new element into criminal law. Laws are made for the government of actions, and while they cannot interfere with mere religious belief and opinions, they may with practices. Suppose one believed that human sacrifices were a necessary part of religious worship, would it be seriously contended that the civil government under which he lived could not interfere to prevent a sacrifice? Or if a wife religiously believed it was her duty to burn herself upon the funeral pile of her dead husband, would it be beyond the power of the civil government to prevent her carrying her belief into practice?

Two years after Beason, the Court in Holy Trinity v. U.S. would declare at some length that America "is a Christian Nation."

Thus for well over 100 years after Jefferson used the "wall of separation" metaphor, the "wall" protected churches from the state, but never protected a rebellious or pagan state from the obligations of Christian morality. It was a "one-way" wall.

Another case is 136 U.S. 1, LATE CORPORATION OF THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER-DAY SAINTS et al. v. UNITED STATES, May 19, 1890. The Court said the following:

"It is distinctly stated in the pleadings and findings of fact that the property of the said corporation was held for the purpose of religious and charitable uses. But it is also stated in the findings of fact, and is a matter of public notoriety, that the religious and charitable uses intended to be subserved and promoted are the inculcation and spread of the doctrines and usages of the Mormon Church, or Church of Latter-Day Saints, one of the distinguishing features of which is the practice of polygamy,-a crime against the laws, and abhorrent to the sentiments and feelings of the civilized world. Notwithstanding the stringent laws which have been passed by congress,-notwithstanding all the efforts made to suppress [136 U.S. 1, 49] this barbarous practice,-the sect or community composing the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints perseveres, in defiance of law, in preaching, upholding, promoting, and defending it. It is a matter of public notoriety that its emissaries are engaged in many countries in propagating this nefarious doctrine, and urging its converts to join the community in Utah. The existence of such a propaganda is a blot on our civilization. The organization of a community for the spread and practice of polygamy is, in a measure, a return to barbarism. It is contrary to the spirit of Christianity, and of the civilization which Christianity has produced in the western world. The question, therefore, is whether the promotion of such a nefarious system and practice, so repugnant to our laws and to the principles of our civilization, is to be allowed to continue by the sanction of the government itself, and whether the funds accumulated for that purpose shall be restored to the same unlawful uses as heretofore, to the detriment of the true interests of civil society. It is unnecessary here to refer to the past history of the sect; to their defiance of the government authorities; to their attempt to establish an independent community; to their efforts to drive from the territory all who were not connected with them in communion and sympathy. The tale is one of patience on the part of the American government and people, and of contempt of authority and resistance to law on the part of the Mormons.
Whatever persecutions they may have suffered in the early part of their history, in Missouri and Illinois, they have no excuse for their persistent defiance of law under the government of the United States.

"One pretense for this obstinate course is that their belief in the practice of polygamy, or in the right to indulge in it, is a religious belief, and therefore under the protection of the constitutional guaranty of religious freedom. This is altogether a sophistical plea. No doubt the [Kali] Thugs of India imagined that their belief in the right of assassination was a religious belief; but their thinking so did not make it so. The practice of suttee by the Hindu widows may have sprung from a supposed religious conviction. The offering of human sacri- [136 U.S. 1, 50] fices by our own ancestors in Britain was no doubt sanctioned by an equally conscientious impulse. But no one, on that account, would hesitate to brand these practices, now, as crimes against society, and obnoxious to condemnation and punishment by the civil authority. The state has a perfect right to prohibit polygamy, and all other open offenses against the enlightened sentiment of mankind, notwithstanding the pretense of religious conviction by which they may be advocated and practiced. Davis Beason, 133 U.S. 333, ante, 299.

Note that the Court acknowledges past persecution of the Mormons, but distinguishes its decision from that embarrassing lawlessness.

And of course, the Court is clear that "religious freedom" belongs to those who practice the True Religion. The Court refuses to acknowledge that the practices of the worshippers of Kali even rises to the level of "religion." Even if they were "no doubt" sincere.

The modern Supreme Court has completely reversed this thinking, of course, calling even atheism a "religion," determining "religion" only on the basis of a "sincerely held belief." Separationist Leo Pfeffer, who argued for Roy Torcaso in the US Supreme Court, admits:

It is reasonable to suggest that an earlier generation would have been surprised at a holding that the term religion as used in our Constitution and laws does not encompass belief in God [as it did] in the 18th century, when our Constitution was written, [when] the meaning then generally ascribed to God [was] the deity depicted in the Bible.

This admission refutes Ed's assertion that the Founders had atheists in mind when they spoke of "religious freedom." But then Pfeffer describes the God of the Bible as "anthropomorphic," and claims that America in the mid-twentieth century would hardly accept such a definition, and the only conclusion is that neither the term "God" nor "religion" can be given a precise or static definition. In other words, the Constitution does not mean what the Founders intended it to mean, it means what we in the 20th century WANT it to mean. The Founders believed in religious freedom for those who worship the God of the Hebrew-Christian Scriptures. But we can't limit religious freedom to that envisioned by the Founders, cuz they liked the Bible and we don't. So for us, the Constitution's definition CANNOT be static, because we want to change it. Pfeffer's view is mere subjectivism, and subjectivism in law inevitably leads to facsism:

The state may constitutionally prohibit assassination, human sacrifice, and polygamy; but this is so not because the belief of the Hindu Thug, the primitive Briton, or the 19th century Mormon does not constitute "religion" within the meaning of the First Amendment's free exercise clause, but only because the societal interest in the preservation of human life or of the monogamous family is deemed by the state to be paramount to the Thug's or Briton's or Mormon's right to exercise his religion.
Church, State, and Freedom, 1953, rev ed 1967 ch 15.

This is exactly the opposite of what the Court held and what the Founders believed.

Notice that the State no longer considers monogamy an important state interest. Christian marriage can now be destroyed by the State. This shift to pure fascism is shocking. For the Founders, the government was "under God," and Christians -- and only Christians -- had religious freedom. We all had freedom because the State was limited by Christian principles, and when we saw the State exceeding Biblical limits, we could call it to account, by imposing God's requirements on the State. For Pfeffer and the Humanists, however, the God of the Bible no longer has anything to do with "religion," Christians cannot tell the State what it can or cannot do, ANYTHING can be a genuine "religion" -- even human-sacrificing Aztecs and assassins of Kali -- but the STATE will determine the extent of your rights, limited by the morality of no religion (except that of Secular Humanism, the worship of man the power-grabber).

It is undeniable that in 1890 the US Supreme Court did not believe in the ACLU version of "separation of Church and State," and the ACLU did not get that doctrine out of the Constitution.

The Constitution does not require us to believe the ACLU.

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