Ron Paul's Texas Straight Talk - A weekly Column
June 8, 1998
Religious freedom found in following Constitution
Simply meddling with Bill of Rights will not correct problems

There is no doubt hostility exists -- and is growing -- against people of religious convictions, especially against those who consider themselves "conservative" or "fundamentalist." The hostility and discrimination is pervasive and routinely expressed in our courts.

And despite the claims of those who attack religious values, these actions are not motivated by a defense of constitutional liberty.

The politically correct religion of our nation has become Secular Humanism; although equivalent to a religion, it is incorrectly passed off by our courts and schools as being neutral with respect to spiritual beliefs and is often used to fill the void by forced exclusion of other beliefs.

This is indeed a problem deserving our close, careful, thoughtful attention. So it was with great sadness recently as I saw the debate unfold for a constitutional amendment which made claims of protecting religious freedoms, yet went sadly awry. While an original cosponsor of the Religious Freedom Amendment, I was forced to vote against it because of changes made in recent weeks. The measure did not pass the House.

Our basic problem is not a lack of constitutional direction regarding the right of Americans to freely practice their religious beliefs; for the First Amendment is very clear. In reality, the problem has been that our courts are filled with judges who have no understanding, appreciation, or concern for the original intent of our Founding Fathers, or for the constitutional Doctrine of Enumerated Powers, or of property rights. And as long as this disgraceful condition exists, any new amendment to the Constitution will only be similarly abused. How can we expect judges, or even Members of Congress, to follow new constitutional amendments when they do not now follow anything currently existing in the Constitution?

Those who supported the amendment correctly argue that the rapidly growing government has tried to replace the church, and actually encourages discrimination and hostility against people of faith. An argument which I believe to be absolutely true. However, the proper solution should be to shrink the size of the federal government -- not further enlarge the federal government or impose upon states rules by which they must manage their school districts and property.

Unfortunately, the final version of the so-called Religious Freedom Amendment further enabled the federal government to do more mischief by expanding their powers.

The proposed amendment encouraged a government solution to the problem by allowing the federal government and federal courts to instruct states and local school districts on the use of their property -- in direct contrast to the original intent of Constitutional framers to protect against a strong central government and in support of state and local government.

Further, and perhaps worst of all, the amendment would have forbade state and local governments from denying benefits to religious organizations. This would have had the chilling effect of forcing people to subsidize almost any bizarre practice or ritual B or at least the advancement of that activity -- which its practitioners could claim to be part of a religious exercise. Thomas Jefferson once said that to "compel a man to furnish funds for the propagation of ideas which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical."

The only solution is to shrink the government and raise a new generation of judges and congressmen who understand the constitutional principles of original intent, enumerated powers, and property rights. If we do this, our existing First Amendment right to freedom of religious expression will be protected more strongly than any effort at federal meddling.

Until our judges and our Congress embraces the Constitution, and willingly follows it, new Constitutional amendments will do little to help and will almost certainly make things worse by weakening the already-existing bill of rights.