Religious Freedom[sic] Amendment Nixed

From: <>
Date: Thu, 4 Jun 1998 23:16:07 EDT
Subject: Subversives At Work


I'm sure that the various right-wing religious fanatic groups who supported this had no intention whatsoever of forcing Christianity upon all of us...oooohhh nooooo....never.... kids go to school six hours a day 180 days a year (1080 hours) ... and somehow these few hours are soooo damned important that we all must grovel before Christian sensibilities because the indoctrination process that Christian kids endure for the other 7680 hours a year are so ineffective that they must be further brainwashed while compelled to attend school. The Christians certainly are blind to their own failures if they cannot see that they already control their children's lives 87% of the time (7680 hours/ 8760 hours per year).... if they can't indoctrinate them with that amount of input just how do they figure jamming Christianity down the non-Christian kid's throats is going to accomplish anything.... except, perhaps, to ensure that gangs of the future will be irretrievably insane religious fanatics instead of only the economically inspired gangsters of today.... And we can see from the eden-like paradise of the middle east that enhanced religious divisions are a sure calming influence, can't we?


Religious Freedom[sic] Amendment Nixed

By JIM ABRAMS © The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) - The House rejected a proposed Constitutional amendment Thursday that would have guaranteed rights to religious expression on public property.

The measure was a top priority of social conservatives seeking to restore moral fiber to the nation's schools but couldn't overcome fears it would break down the wall between church and state.

The vote was 224-203, 61 short of the two-thirds majority needed to approve constitutional amendments, which also require ratification by three-fourths of state legislatures.

Republicans mostly supported the amendment, with Democrats opposed, although 27 Democrats voted for the proposal and 28 Republicans voted against it.

The chief sponsor, Rep. Ernest Istook, R-Okla, insisted that getting a simple majority was a victory. He said he fell short of the two-thirds vote because "many people have decided that political correctness is more important than freedom of speech or freedom of religion."

The proposal stated that the government may not infringe on "people's right to pray and to recognize their religious beliefs, heritage or traditions on public property, including schools."

It specifies that the government cannot establish an official religion or require anyone to join in religious activities. But opponents argued that the right to voluntary prayer is already well protected by the First Amendment and federal guidelines.

"The most tragic result of this amendment though is that it sows the seeds of strife and divisiveness that the Bill of Rights was designed to protect us against," said Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y.

President Clinton strongly opposed the amendment. The administration said in a statement that for more than 200 years, the First Amendment has protected religious freedom, and "Congress should not tamper with this most precious liberty."

It said that under federal guidelines, students are already free to privately pray at school, can say grace at lunchtime and meet in religious groups before and after school and can read the Bible or any other religious text during study hall or other free class time.

But Istook said there was a fundamental problem when in an era in which guns, knives and drugs are prevalent in schools, the Ten Commandments is banned.

He said the First Amendment "has been attacked and twisted and warped by the U.S. Supreme Court" over the past three decades. He and others cited court cases that prevented a first-grader from reading from a Bible storybook, refused to allow students to wear rosaries, banned prayers at commencement ceremonies and restricted Nativity scenes and caroling on public property.

"There is no doubt in my mind that there is a special place in hell for a number of federal court judges, as I am sure there will be for members of Congress," Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., said in a floor speech last month highlighting the intensity of the debate.

On the other side, Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Texas, warned that "you could easily have satanic prayer, Branch Davidian services and animal sacrifices in the public schools - all constitutionally protected courtesy of the Istook amendment."

One Democrat, Sanford Bishop of Georgia, tried to make the amendment more acceptable by removing the reference to God and taking out a clause saying the government could not deny equal access to a benefit on account of religion. Neither side was swayed and the changes were defeated 419-6 and 399-23.

The Christian Coalition and other conservative groups campaigned aggressively for the amendment as one of their top legislative objectives this year, and the coalition's executive director, Randy Tate, said it would inform the public on how their lawmakers voted on the issue through millions of political scorecards and voter guides. "We're in this for the long term," he said.

The Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, agreed that "the House vote was designed to identify which members of Congress support the religious right agenda. Those who were brave enough to oppose this gambit will now face harsh and unfair attacks during the upcoming election system."

The measure was supported by groups such as the Family Research Council, the Southern Baptist Convention and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Among opponents were the American Civil Liberties Union and religious groups such as the American Jewish Congress and the Episcopal Church.

AP-NY-06-04-98 1936EDT

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