Monday, September 12, 2005

Paul Pressler on the First Amendment

Paul Pressler gave his interpretation of the First Amendment when he spoke at the conference on Religious Liberty at Southwestern Seminary last week. He said, "The prohibition (in the First Amendment) is not on worship (the church), but on congress (the state)."

He explained, "The Bill of Rights did not prohibit a state or municipality from establishing a religion. . . . Until 1947 (Everson vs. Board of Education) that was the opinion of the Court."

In Pressler's opinion it was the Everson case and not the 14th Amendment that applied the First Amendment to the states.

During the Q & A session a student asked Pressler about an unintended consequence of his interpretation. He asked, "Were it not for Everson, would states and local governments also be able to restrict religions?" Pressler responded that it meant that the federal government would not be able to use the First Amendment to deal with violations of religious liberty, but assured the student that while this was theoretically possible, it would not be a problem "in this day and age."

In other words, once participants like Barret Duke, Ben Phillips, Richard Land and others finished railing about the threat of "secular fundamentalists," Paul Pressler concluded the conference by saying that secularists really weren't that much of a threat "in this day and age."

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