Monday, December 25, 2006

Freedom of Religion

Freedom of Religion, the first amendment right that allows us to practice, or not practice, any religion of our choice, and also prohibits our government from establishing any religion, or religious test is in the news.

In a private ceremony a Congressperson (Keith Ellison, D-Minn) wants to be sworn into office using the religious tome of his faith--the Qur'an --in a second private ceremony. And this has caused a bru ha ha . Actually no Congressperson is sworn in on any religious tome--they all stand en masse and raise their right hands and are sworn in. Besides , if the oath was administered upon a Bible, as those opposed to Ellison are stating, this would violate the Constitution. The Constitution states “The Senators and Representatives... [and other State and Fedral Officials]... shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

The Supreme Court has decided to hear the Freedom From Religion Foundation lawsuit which challenges the White House office of faith-based initiatives. Initially a federal judge tossed the lawsuit out saying the FFRF did not have standing. This was appealed to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals which held that tax money raised by Congress, which then goes to executive officials, cannot be used to support religion in violation of the Establishment Clause. The Bush Administration appealed this decesion to the Supreme Court.
If the Supreme Court decides for the FFRF it means that they can continue with their lawsuit, if they find against the FFRF it means that citizens do not have standing to challenge the executive branch's actions.
The issue here goes beyond the anti-establishment clause and speaks to the issue of the president using Congressional approriations however he (or in the future:she) may deem fit. This would fortify an imperial president. For, if Congressional appropriations can be used by the Administration in disregard of the Constitution and in this case the Establishment Clause, then Congress and the American public should be aware that no citizen would have standing or the right to challenge such violations, since executive-branch violations are not subject to court review.

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