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Prayer is a key American right

August 8, 2012
By Christopher Santa

Today I stand resolute, perhaps a relic, still dreaming a dream aside the vanishing ghosts of long-dead men. Though it would be difficult, if not impossible, to argue that we Americans now live in anything but a post-constitutional United States, it remains anathema to me to ignore those individuals who feel qualified to dictate to me which rights I am entitled to enjoy. It is natural and correct for each of us to choose our own opinions; what is wrong is for one to presume to choose one's own facts. The very nature of these arguments which presuppose to tell me how to interact with my God is precisely that which widens the gulf between our extant progressive national leaders and our country's founders, who gave life and breath to this grand experiment in liberty.

Case in point is this banter, from several sides, I read recently in the opinion page of the ADE regarding God and God's place in our governmental and societal life. In no place in our United States Constitution is there the phrase "separation of church and state" or "wall of separation" or any other fantastic things as have recently been published as fact. It is painfully obviously that the lack of civics class in public education has taken its toll. Ignorance is not bliss; it is downright dangerous to the continuation of a free people. All empirical evidence records our forefathers and mothers understood God to be the director of our lives and decreed to their government against any interference whatsoever to this end.

God is indeed written into our founding documents. Contained in the Declaration of Independence, one finds penned in paragraph one, "the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God," and in the next paragraph, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator ..." Presumably, when they said God, they meant God. The Creator referenced is God, too!

Next find in the Articles of Confederation, our first document creating a union of the states and creating the term "United States," that we pray this new confederation has pleased The Great Governor of the World: God. God again shows up in the signing statement of the United States Constitution in the form of "year of our Lord." Can we assume, since the very calendar we use is based upon the birth of Christ and that this is acknowledged in our Constitution, that we were intended to be a Christian people? Yes, and some of us still are.

Perhaps most poignantly, many constitutional conventioneers and founders - Thomas Jefferson, not an attendee but notable among these objectors - were uncomfortable that our new Constitution, as written, could not be ratified without further guarantees regarding our protected, personal liberties. The compromise reached between the federalist and the anti-federalists was the Bill of Rights. Nowhere is it plainly stated that these rights were enacted in order of importance, but common sense would allow us to conjecture that the first protected right was at the foremost in our founders' thoughts. It says: "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."

There is no more text than this. There is no innuendo included in a subtext or note on the margin. This is the first amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America. Find for me, please, the supposed "WALL" or how this first amendment defines our lives as public and private as we pay homage to our God. My ability to proclaim myself a Christian in word, deed or demonstration on public or private land is a right. Allowing my child to say a prayer at the beginning of his school day is a right. Allowing a teacher to lead that prayer, if he or she wishes, has nothing to do with "establishment"; it has everything to do with "free exercise thereof." If prayer is good enough for our Congress to start their day, it is good enough for our school children as well.

Our liberty, by design, is the liberty of the individual. This is the founding principle of our nation. I invite those who believe that there is any such thing as group rights, or who believe that the state is the source of any of our God-given rights, to relocate to those few remaining lands where that system of government has not yet been relegated to the ash heap of history. Proudly, should I even be the last remaining American wishing it so, my United States shall always of and by the people and be one Nation under God with liberty and justice for all.


Christopher Santa lives in Saranac Lake.



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