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« on: December 21, 2004, 03:14:02 AM »

First Amendment Was Meant to Protect Religion, Historian Says

by Chad Groening
December 17, 2004

(AgapePress) - A conservative history professor hopes his new book will help to educate Americans about the so-called separation of church and state. He insists that, in spite of frequent wrong interpretations of the establishment clause, the founding fathers' original intent was to ensure the federal government's complete nonintervention in religious issues.

Dr. Thomas E. Woods has a bachelor's degree in History from Harvard and a master's and a doctoral degree from Columbia University. However, this professor of history in the State University of New York system is unapologetically conservative and has just published The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History (Regnery, 2004).

Woods says many contemporary Americans fail to realize that their founding fathers meant for the Constitution of the United States to safeguard Christianity from governmental interference. "Everyone at the time of the drafting of the First Amendment understood that it was intended to restrict the federal government," he explains. "Since there were a variety of different Christian denominations, they didn't want one Christian denomination oppressing all the other ones, so they wanted the federal government to be more or less neutral, although favorable to Christianity."

Contrary to many people's belief, Wood says the U.S. Constitution does not by any means imply the wide latitude and authority that many judicial activists exercise in their efforts to limit what they consider to be intrusions of religion into public life. However, he says even the most progressive-minded among the founding fathers advocated giving more discretion to the people and limiting the decision-making power of the national government in issues relating to religious belief and practice.

"It was understood," the history professor says, "even by people like Thomas Jefferson, that these are matters for local communities -- friends and neighbors -- to decide on their own, not some federal judge imposing a one-size-fits-all policy on the entire country." But today, he adds, courts are willfully perverting the "hands-off" policy that the constitutional framers intended.

Wood says America's founding fathers wanted the First Amendment to prevent the federal establishment of a particular religion or church, meaning they wanted the government "not to impose a single national religion that would get taxpayer support and have special privileges." These patriots intent, he explains, was for the states and local communities to be places where people were free to do as they wished with regard to church and state issues.

According to the history expert, nothing in the First Amendment would have been construed by any of the constitutional framers as suggesting that federal judges had authority to issue rulings in religious matters. "There is no interpretation," he insists, "that would have been understood by any of the framers of that amendment [to allow] the federal government to tell a school system whether it can have prayer or not, or whether it can mention God or not, or whether it can have a Nativity scene in front of [its schools] or not."

The First Amendment was intended to protect Christianity from government, Wood says, and not government from Christianity. His hope, he says, is that his new Politically Incorrect Guide to American History can help to set the record straight.


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