May 21, 2024

Letter to the Editor: Amendment 1

The hullabaloo over the 2nd Amendment roars on unabated — we need our guns! This refrain seems constant. As a criminal defense attorney, I have former clients calling about how they might get their gun rights back. They need their guns back as if that were the necessary requirement for their self-esteem. I’ve never had one ask me how to get their wife or kids back, just their guns. Apparently guns are more important than wife or kids.

However, if one were to actually read the Amendments to the Constitution of the United States, the gun thing comes in second to religion. Religion frightened our founding fathers and rightly so. It really hadn’t been too long since the protestants and the Catholics were slaughtering each other all over Europe, the auto de fé was still in mind, and witches and heretics recently were still being burnt to a crisp or dunked till drowned. Jews were still being killed at random and muslims were the antichrist. To people like Benjamin Franklin, Samuel and John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, Thomas Jefferson, Madison and Monroe, religion above all other things, concerned them the most.

Amendment 1 of the Constitution of the United States reads as follows:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an established religion, or prohibiting the 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 redress of grievance.”

Folks, this is number one!

The Puritans didn’t much care for the religious climate in England which was apparently way too indifferent. What they preferred was an enforced, religiously based government in New England, which they created as soon as they got here. So the idea that the American colonies were founded for purposes of religious freedom needs some closer scrutiny than most are willing to give it.

Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, New York supported the Anglican Church; New England supported the Congregational Church; Delaware, Rhode Island, Georgia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey had no colonial supported religion. The founding fathers decided that a government-sponsored religion would not be allowed in any national government for it would cause way too many problems as it had in the previous centuries. And, you know, it still would.

We have people of certain religious views today attempting to implant their views into the rest of us. We are seeing a resurgence of these efforts in the United States now. Listen to the TV and radio evangelists, look to the book banning and the laws being passed. Religion by nature is intolerant; it abhors difference. We have a new, successful effort through our legislature here in Iowa not only to monitor and control behavior, but to control beliefs — the beliefs opposing their beliefs.

Fortunately or unfortunately we have a country that is made up of every possible religion and political belief found on the planet. The idea that one group will now impose its beliefs on the rest of us, is not only unconstitutional, but simply absurd. Regardless of the efforts, it isn’t going to happen.

Richard E. H. Phelps II