The recent ruling by Federal Court Judge Janet C. Hall banning the use of First Cathedral in Bloomfield as a site to hold graduation ceremonies for the Town of Enfield high schools has stirred the interest in the issue of separation of church and state. Which as any scholar of the constitution knows is never mentioned in the U. S. Constitution.
The basis upon which Judge Hall made her decision is the First Amendment to our Constitution which reads as follows; “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.” That is the entire amendment.
The intent of our founding fathers in amending the Constitution was to protect the people from the government. The first ten amendments are now known as the Bill of Rights. The concern of the representatives, as members of different colonies, founded with different religions, was to assure that no single religion would dominate and restrict the practice of religion. Americans would be able to practice religion unfettered by government and this freedom would also extend to freedom of speech, of the press, with the right to assemble and petition the government to remedy injustice.
The founders recognized the existence of “God” in the Declaration of Independence when they referred to “Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God”. Would those that today call for any mention of God or religion in connection to government also call for those words to be stricken from the Declaration of Independence? How would Judge Hall rule if the suit were questioning the wording of our founding fathers? The founding fathers were not in violation of the first amendment and the overly broad interpretations of today are inappropriate and misguided.
In the Enfield case Judge Hall interjected her personal belief and interpretation as too what religion is when she chose specific architectural features and leaps to the conclusion that they represent a religious endorsement. Her reasoning if strictly followed could lead one to the conclusion that overpasses crossing interstates are an endorsement of religion by the state because viewing them as you approach can look like a cross if a light pole aligns with the center support structure. Yes, that is convoluted and so is the reasoning of Judge Hall.
The cathedral is a building, it is not a religion it is structure. A building used by a congregation can become a church. Many communities have an ecumenical service outdoors at Easter this does not mean that the community is endorsing a religion in violation of the Constitution and that somehow all of the air breathed is intolerable for those that do not share the same belief.
There are many buildings that were at one time used as a church that have been converted to other uses. That does not mean the secondary user endorses one religion. The congregation of Saint Bartholomew church in Manchester used the gym of Buckley Elementary School as a church while their own church building was being erected. That did not make Buckley School a church and was not an endorsement by the Town of Manchester of religion. It was merely a rental of a site for use which is also the case for Enfield and First Cathedral.
The Enfield Board of Education’s decision to use a building that happens to also be used by a religious group does not make them part of or an endorsement for that religion any more than if the graduation ceremony were held on the football field it would not make graduates football players or fans of the game. Attending an Enfield graduation where ever it is held will not be an endorsement for other activities held within the same building.
The entire situation was addressed at another graduation. Opining Quill is reminded of the student that was to speak at a graduation ceremony surrounded by the same type of controversy that has been wrought upon the graduating classes in Enfield. The student walked to the microphone paused and then suddenly sneezed and the senior class responded in unison “God Bless you”. The speaker smiled and returned to their assigned seat no other words need be said.
For more on the importance of religion in government see Opining Quill of April 18, 2010 by clicking here: http://wp.me/pPLAn-1g