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If First Amendment isn’t just about Christianity, we have to allow Satanism

The Orange County School Board in Florida is getting ready to ban God.

The board had allowed an evangelical group to passively distribute Bibles on its campuses. Passive distribution means simply that nobody is handing them out. They are placed on a table and students can come by and pick one up if they want. If they don’t want one, they don’t have to go get one.

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But once members of the Satanic Temple publicly declared their intentions to distribute material on the “philosophy and practice of Satanism,” the board re-evaluated its stand and decided not only to ban Satan from its campuses, but God too. No longer will Bible distribution be allowed on its campuses.

This incident serves as a prime example of how the gross distortion of the First Amendment is destroying religious liberty and turning Christian literature into the educational equivalent of pornography, something that is considered so toxic it must be kept from the eyes of inquisitive students.

I have written on numerous occasions that the purpose of the First Amendment, as Justice Joseph Story declares in his monumental history of the Constitution, was only to protect the free exercise of the Christian faith and to prevent the selection and designation of one Christian denomination as the official church of the United States.

Story said the purpose of the Founders in crafting the First Amendment was not to “countenance much less to advance Mohammedanism, Judaism or infidelity…but to exclude all rivalry among Christian sects” (meaning denominations).

But because low-information educators have so mangled our history, and activist judges have so mangled our Constitution, most Americans, even educated ones, do not understand this basic fact about the First Amendment: that by the word “religion” in the First Amendment, the Founders meant only the various expressions of Christianity.

In addition, the Founders restrained only Congress by the First Amendment, as the first word in the First Amendment plainly indicates (“Congress shall make no law…”). The regulation of every other form of religious expression is reserved to the states, who then have complete latitude to restrain or permit religious expression as they see fit.

In fact, nine of the first 13 states had “established” churches, specific Christian denominations that were given preference in law and supported with taxpayer dollars. This was perfectly constitutional.

But if we ignore the first word in the First Amendment (“Congress”) and twist and distort the word “religion” to make it mean not Christianity but “any system of supernatural belief,” then there is no way to prevent satanists from distributing literature in our public schools, from having satanist invocations in our city council meetings and satanist chaplains in our military.

It’s worthy of note that the first act of public education in America, in colonial Massachusetts, was known as the “Old Deluder Satan Act,” since its purpose was to provide every child with the ability to read and think so that he would not be deceived by the father of lies.

But now the Prince of Darkness, in our befuddled and historically ignorant fashion, has been given equal standing with the Creator of the universe. Can this possibly be what the Founders intended? Of course not.

Under the Constitution, as bequeathed to us by the Founders, Orange County is perfectly free to authorize the distribution of Bibles and forbid the distribution of satanic literature. Perhaps the Founders knew what they were talking about.

(Unless otherwise noted, the opinions expressed are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of the American Family Association or American Family Radio.)

Bryan Fischer

Bryan Fischer is the Director of Issue Analysis for Government and Public Policy at the American Family Association, where he provides expertise on a range of public policy topics. Described by the New York Times as a "talk-radio natural," he hosts the "Focal Point" radio program on AFR Talk,which airs live on weekdays from 1-3 p.m. Central on American Family Radio's nationwide talk network of 125 stations. A graduate of Stanford University and Dallas Theological Seminary, Bryan pastored in Idaho for 25 years, during which time he served for one session as the chaplain of the Idaho state senate. He founded the Idaho Values Alliance in 2005, and is a co-author of Idaho's marriage amendment. He has been with AFA since 2009. In his role as a spokesman for AFA, he has been featured on media outlets such as Fox News, CBS News, NBC, CNN, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the BBC, Russia Today television and the Associated Press, has been a frequent guest on talk radio to discuss cultural and religious issues. He has been profiled in publications such as the New York Times, Newsweek, the New Yorker, and BuzzFeed. He has been married to his bride, Debbie, since 1976, and they have two grown children.

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