A Brief Briefing: Jessica Ahlquist, a high school student in Rhode Island, brought a case against her high school to have a prayer removed from the school. Ms. Ahlquist attempted to avoid bringing a legal judgement against the school by arguing its unconstitutional nature, but the board refused voting to keep the prayer up. The case was taken to court, widely reported by media outlets, which resulted in the removal of the prayer. In January, the ruling was made to remove the prayer yet it was not removed until March. The ailing school district was ordered to pay $150,000 to the lawyer costs and filing fees incurred while bringing the case to court. To this very day, Jessica must have police escorts to go to classes, to and from school, and to protect her family from very serious death threats by both students and adults who are Christian. The ruling is based on the interpretation of the First Amendment, which prevents one religion being accepted over others by the United State’s government. Arguments have ensued over whether this is right or wrong, based entirely on interpretation or misinterpretation of the First Amendment.

Jessica Ahlquist isn’t wrong for fighting to have the prayer removed, considering what the Constitution determines in the First Amendment and the Establishment Clause which is: “[t]he First Amendment provision that prohibits the federal and state governments from establishing an official religion, or from favoring or disfavoring one view of religion over another.” A plaque of a prayer, as displayed in the school, is certainly placing the Christian religion as a favored view of religion over any others. The fact that the existence of such a prayer in a school is unconstitutional is seriously misunderstood by many, often by those of the Christian faith who view such a ruling as an affront to their beliefs. They even go as far as to say that there is a campaign to persecute religion and remove religion from the public schools which their tax money pays for. While the argument is cyclical, linear, and shallowly presented as persecution of the religion, the misunderstanding and misinterpretation of the amendment and the foundation of the United States of America is wide and deep. Before exploring why the misinterpretation and misunderstanding occurs, allow me to very briefly explain what that Establishment Clause means.

The Establishment Clause is not just designed to keep Christianity from being declared the official religion, but it is expressly designed to keep any religion from being favored one over another by the government. That means any religion no matter what that religion is is not permitted to be held in higher regard (favoring) or in lower regard (disfavoring) by any government entity, no matter what, according to this clause in the Constitution. That means that Christianity will not be held in higher regard than Islam, Islam will not be held in higher regard than Buddhism, and Buddhism will not be held in higher regard than Pastafarianism and so on. That also means that Islam, Buddhism, Judaism, and any other religion will not be considered lesser than Christianity or Pastafarianism (disfavored) and so on. The problem is that, according to Christians, the Establishment Clause should not apply to Christianity since they misunderstand that the United States of America was founded on the belief. It was not, as the Treaty of Tripoli clearly states that it was not. The real problem is not an attack on Christianity, as many suppose, but is simply upholding the Constitution and the proper application of it’s amendments in government and daily life as it has never been applied before. The question is, resoundingly, why?

For the last eight or so decades, the weight of Christianity has become aggressive. The addition of “under God” to the pledge, the recitation of “God bless America” at the end of every Presidental speech, opening Congress with a prayer, and the faith based initiatives has given Christians the incorrect or misleading impression that their religion is favored by the government and government entities. The fact that so many of these decades were spent favoring this religion without being properly checked by the Constitution has been out of control and bordering on forcing America into a theocracy, not a democracy. Over those decades came many scientific advancements that directly challenged the idea of god as interpreted by Abrahamic religions, the creation myths that are identified as a foundation of a religion, and the logical interpretation of god’s “law” as spelled out by the myriad of “prophets” or “holy men”. As time advanced, so did the minds of many, based exclusively on the popularity of actually thinking independently from antiquated texts and exercising the right to be informed and make informed decisions. With this, the minds of many evolved beyond the absurdities and inconsistent textual relations written; therefore questions remain unanswered, logical rationale trumped mythical declarations, and a large amount of people who once lived their lives in accordance with a “holy text” became independent from the tenets of such faith. Aggressively, during the 1980s until now, Christianity has struggled to maintain its control of the thoughts and minds of Americans. Fortunately, in the mid 1990s to now, the availability of instant information via the internet and online research has freed many from the bindings of religion, unquestioning faith, and group thought processes valued by Christianity. Over the internet, thousands of like minded people have met one another and more people who have more questions than adequate answers have leaned away from being religious in nature. This too has created a community of non-believers, free thinkers, and Atheists unwilling to continue being held in thrall by religious dogma and tenets designed to keep control of people via faith.

The astounding misinterpretation of the Establishment Clause and the First Amendment and the misunderstanding of the purpose of the separation of church and state is bred almost entirely from the mindset that “cherry picking” laws, texts, and tenets is a perfectly acceptable method for living one’s life, that twisting interpretation of texts to mean what one wants it to mean is acceptable, and that any kind of differing opinion from their own is abnormal, unacceptable, and unnatural. In direct observation of Christian Extremists and Christian Conservative Extremists, the defiance of many Atheists is a direct affront to their way of life and their control in the communities in which they live. If they are willing to pick which parts and “verses” of their “holy text” applies to them, certainly this approach would be acceptable when interpreting law, lawfulness, and justice. The misunderstanding and misinterpretation that the separation of church and state excludes Christianity is born from A) The idea that America is a Christian Nation, B) Christians have enjoyed a very long period where they were not kept in check via the Constitution, C) They are the one true religion, D) Failure to evolve from Bronze Age morality into modern ages, E) Harvesting religious texts for what they want, not its entirety, in order to fulfill their lives. For example, you have a small child. You do not discipline the child, failing to introduce him or her to the difference between right and wrong and what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior. When the child grows into a teenager and you desire to finally instruct the difference of right and wrong, acceptable and unacceptable, the teen will be abrasive to any changes or simply revolt now that rules suddenly apply to him or her. The same thing is occurring with religion, no matter what that religion is, now that rules apply to them they find it unfair. Accountability for the religious, again no matter what that religion is, has become such an alien concept to them that they will do whatever necessary to keep their faith from being responsible for the destruction of many things such as natural and healthy needs such as sex and intimacy, childhoods racked with fear of hell and evil, and the availability of being loving as opposed to hateful. The accountability is rewired to their appropriate god, instead of owning their actions and bigotry.

The radical thought is that rules apply to them when they have gone so long without rules. This causes them to elect religious people into public office in order to promote their tenets and faith which is purely unconstitutional. This causes them to seek out people of like minds and like attitudes to represent them, be their friends, and become part of their families. The only time such meetings are unfavorable is when their mislabeled “enemies” start doing the same thing and take action to forward their rights afforded to them under the Constitution. They want history to mean what they want it to mean, deleting anything that does not exalt their faith; they keep slavery out of textbooks, the truth of the Civil War, the likelihood that America isn’t a Christian nation, evolutionary theory and application of scientific theory, and the list could adequately go on. The remaining problem is that unless one takes up the cause to halt the theocracy and start the democracy, the USA will continue to suffer domestically and internationally.

Jessica Ahlquist isn’t wrong, she’s right. The need for the separation of church and state is necessary to keep the US free instead of locking them in religious slavery for obsolete morality and outdated wisdom.

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