TPM enrolls in Glenn Beck “U” – snarkiness ensues
“Glenn Beck University” held it’s first lecture last night, the buttwipes at TPM were there with their “usual conservatives are stupid attitudes” and blogged about it today.
From the article it sounds like Beck actually tied to put out a decent lecture, although it sounds like it was about as accurate as most of his claims – about 49% I would say. The thing that all the idiot commenters jumped on was a statement by the lecturer that the drafters took a three day church break when things became heated and came back in a conciliatory mood. Someone fact checked it and it appears that didn’t happen. My guess is that the lecturer was talking about the Continental Congress and misspoke or that the person who was watching the lecture wasn’t really paying attention because he already had his mind made up about what he was going to say.
Jefferson’s quote about the wall of separation between church and state is also getting a lot of play in the comments. They seem to believe that this letter by one man, who wasn’t involved in the drafting of the constitution BTW, encompasses the views of all the founders. It doesn’t. The founders were not a monolithic entity, if they were we wouldn’t have had things like the 3/5th’s compromise. They also ignore the fact that many (most?) states had official religions until the 1800’s. I think Connecticut was the last to do away with theirs in the 1818.
The First Amendment to the US Constitution explicitly forbids the U.S. federal government from enacting any law respecting a religious establishment, and thus forbids either designating an official church for the United States, or interfering with State and local official churches — which were common when the First Amendment was enacted. It did not prevent state governments from establishing official churches. Connecticut continued to do so until it replaced its colonial Charter with the Connecticut Constitution of 1818; Massachusetts retained an establishment of religion in general until 1833. (The Massachusetts system required every man to belong to some church, and pay taxes towards it; while it was formally neutral between denominations, in practice the indifferent would be counted as belonging to the majority denomination, and in some cases religious minorities had trouble being recognized at all.)
The Fourteenth Amendment to the US Constitution, ratified in 1868, makes no mention of religious establishment, but forbids the states to “abridge the privileges or immunities” of U.S. citizens, or to “deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law”. In the 1947 case of Everson v. Board of Education, the United States Supreme Court held that this later provision incorporates the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause as applying to the States, and thereby prohibits state and local religious establishments. The exact boundaries of this prohibition are still disputed, and are a frequent source of cases before the US Supreme Court — especially as the Court must now balance, on a state (similar, but not equivalent to province) level, the First Amendment prohibitions on government establishment of official religions with the First Amendment prohibitions on government interference with the free exercise of religion. See school prayer for such a controversy in contemporary US politics.
All current U.S. state constitutions include guarantees of religious liberty parallel to the First Amendment, but eight (Arkansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas) also contain clauses that prohibit atheists from holding public office. However, these clauses have been held by the United States Supreme Court to be unenforceable in the 1961 case of Torcaso v. Watkins, where the court ruled unanimously that such clauses constituted a religious test incompatible with the religious test prohibition in Article 6 Section 3 of the United States Constitution.