Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Those are the words of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.
And here are the words of Republican Herman Cain:
“[The First Amendment] says the government can’t establish a religion, it doesn’t say that people can’t have religion in government. If you elect people who share the founding spirituality of this country, you will be able to depend on them to make the right decisions.”
Cain made those comments whilst campaigning in Iowa. He’s a possible GOP presidential candidate and the former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza. He’s actually correct, the First Amendment doesn’t specifically say “you can’t be religious and be in government, too.” But if you look at the words of Thomas Jefferson, one of the Founding Fathers the Republicans are so fond of fawning over, it’s pretty apparent that the intention of the First Amendment was to keep
religion out of the governing of the nation, because, as a democratic society and a society in which people are entitled to their own beliefs, religion in government cannot represent 100% of the country and it is a corrupting force in government. I think the Founding Fathers knew that, and the Republicans are very good about dancing around that. In a letter from 1802, Jefferson wrote:
“Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of 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.”
In 1797, Article 11 of the Treaty of Tripoli, submitted to Congress by President John Adams, reads as follows:
“As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.”
And James Madison, principal author of the Bill of Rights, had this to say:
“Practical distinction between Religion and Civil Government is essential to the purity of both, and as guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States.”
So yes, Cain is right when he says, “it doesn’t say that people can’t have religion in government.” But I think it’s safe to say that the intention was to keep religion out of government decision making – something that Republicans have proven they are incapable of doing, because they are driven by their religious base, by their so-called “family values” – which they can’t even stay faithful to themselves – and their obsessive desire to control the masses through their theocratic agenda. It’s been on display for all to see.