Does the Religious Freedom Amendment
violate or strenghten the First Amendment?
June 10, 1998
in this forum:
How does this proposal protect minority faiths from discrimination? Is this amendment necessary? Does the amendment allow religious schools to receive federal and state aid ? What would the RFA allow that is not already granted under the First Amendment? Is this amendment just an example of the GOP appeasing its constituency? C.G. Glass of Chicago, IL., asks: Considering this amendment has no chance of passing, isn't this just an example of the GOP appeasing its own constituency rather than promoting national interests?
Arne Owens of the Christian Coalition responds:
Presenting for debate on the floor of the House of Representatives some of the great issues of the day is promoting the national interest. It is the nature of democracy that all the great issues that are addressed by the Congress and debated in the House or the Senate are rooted in the concerns of American citizens.
Whether the issue is religious freedom, something of great concern to evangelical Christians with a tradition of free and open expression of their faith, or national defense, a concern of everyone, the national interest is ultimately served when debate occurs in the halls of Congress and our elected representatives can make informed decisions on public policy matters.
Terri Schroeder of the ACLU responds:
The Religious Freedom Amendment certainly would not have protected national interests. The amendment would have overturned the basic constitutional principles, rooted in the Founders' conception of "a wall of separation between church and State," that now keeps American religions safe from one another and government safe from sectarian conflict. The effect of the amendment would have been to expand public control over religious life, expanding religious control over public education and public institutions, and a growing threat to religious liberty.
Americans are currently protected from government intervention in religious life by the Constitution, the Supreme Court, and acts of Congress. The Religious Freedom Amendment would have served to destroy that protection - an action that would have certainly been at odds with the interests of all Americans. Fortunately, the Congress recognized the national interest, and defeated Congressman Istook's Religious Freedom Amendment.