By Bryan Fischer
Follow me on Twitter: @BryanJFischer, on Facebook at “Focal Point”
The leftwing political websites lit up over my column of last week in which I took the position that the First Amendment provides no guarantees to practitioners of the Islamic faith, for the simple reason it wasn’t written to protect the free exercise of Islam. It was written to protect the free exercise of the Christian faith.
I was quite explicit that all non-Christian religions ought to enjoy the presumption of religious freedom, although none of the critical reactions to the column even mentioned that clear and unambiguous statement. In other words, the First Amendment does not explicitly protect the Islamic faith, nor does it prohibit it. The First Amendment is simply silent about the issue of Islam.
Thus Islam should enjoy only the liberty it merits, and permission, for example, to build new mosques can be revoked if Islam does in American what Islam does everywhere it exists in the world, which is labor to subvert democracy and impose sharia law.
This view of the First Amendment is confirmed by a review of the debate surrounding the First Amendment in Congress in 1789. A re-reading of the all the entries in the congressional record of the debate over the First Amendment reveals no mention - zero, nada, zilch - of Islam.
Instead, as the Founders grappled with the wording of the First Amendment, they road-tested several variations, all of which make it clear that the objective here was specifically to protect the free exercise of the Christian faith.
Here are some of the alternative versions that were considered:
- "Congress shall make no law establishing One Religious Sect or Society in preference to others."
- "Congress shall not make any law, infringing the rights of conscience or establishing any Religious Sect or Society."
- "Congress shall make no law establishing any particular denomination of religion in preference to another, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, nor shall the rights of conscience be infringed."
- "Congress shall make no law establishing articles of faith, or a mode of worship, or prohibiting the free exercise of religion...”
- “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;”
The last, of course, is the wording Congress finally chose and passed on to the states for their approval.
The use of words and phrases such as “religious sect or society,” “particular denomination,” “articles of faith” and “mode of worship,” all terms exclusively used at the time for variations of Christian expression, confirm that what the First Amendment was all about was simply prohibiting Congress from picking one denomination and making it the official church of the United States, and about protecting all Christian denominations from the intrusion of the federal government.
There was no mention of Islam, no reference to Islam, no effort to protect the free exercise of the Islamic faith.
Since the Founders intended the First Amendment to apply only to Congress (“Congress shall make no law...”), this leaves the states free to do as they wish on matters of religious expression.
Some critics have pointed to the religious liberty plank in the Virginia constitution, and the statement of some of its advocates at the time that it specifically provided for the free exercise of Islam as well as Buddhism and Hinduism. But this only illustrates my point, because that has to do with religious expression in a state constitution, not the federal constitution.
States, under the Constitution as established by the Founders (that is, the Constitution before federal judges got hold of it and mangled it beyond recognition), were permitted to establish any denomination they wanted to and to prohibit any religious expression they wanted to. In fact, nine or 10 of the original 13 states did have an “established” Christian denomination in their states, that is, a denomination that was officially supported by the state and supported by the tax dollars of the citizenry. (By 1833, all state established denominations had wisely been removed from state constitutions.)
But states still maintain, in an originalist view, a great deal of latitude in matters of religious expression. They are restrained in this matter only by the strictures of their own state constitutions. From the standpoint of the federal constitution, they remain free, for example, to ban the building of any more mosques in their state, in the interest of societal security and tranquility. They would not be in violation of the federal constitution in doing so, since the First Amendment ties the hands of Congress and Congress alone.
The incorporation doctrine, by the way, which argues that the 14th Amendment imposed the First Amendment on the states, is a bogus doctrine and another manifestation of rank judicial activism. Years after the 14th Amendment was passed, Sen. Blaine attempted to amend the federal constitution by explicitly imposing the wording of the First Amendment (“No State shall make any law respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...”) on the states. His proposed amendment never made it out of Congress.
Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders, in what is the most important speech of the 21st century thus far, has argued that the spread of Islam to the West must be stopped. His speech is positively Churchillian, and anyone who cares about the survival of Western civilization in general and America in particular should read it. (American Thinker has posted his speech here.)
Wilders points out that the heads of Germany, France and England have all publicly proclaimed that multiculturalism is a dismal failure and that Islamic immigration is largely to blame, and yet have offered no solutions to solve the problem.
Wilders has, and his prescription is timely and of necessity must be followed to the letter by America if we are to stop the catastrophic Islamization of our culture.
His strategy can be pursued in America in a way that is perfectly consistent with our federal constitution.
First, Wilders says “we have to defend freedom of speech.” As I have often said, we are at a place where truth about Islam is now considered hate speech, as if criticism and disagreement were by definition expressions of hatred. This demonization of free speech must stop.
Islam should be no more exempt from criticism than Christianity is, and it’s quite obvious that every sector in society, including media, politicians, educators and pundits feel perfectly free to pummel the Christian faith at will. Unless that is criminal hate speech, then they have no right to complain when we point out the simple and straightforward truth about Islam.
Secondly, Wilders says we “must end cultural relativism,” and “proudly proclaim: Our Western culture is far superior to the Islamic culture.” He’s exactly right. It’s time we all stop apologizing for America, starting with the occupant of the Oval Office on down, and without hesitation affirm that a culture shaped by the Judeo-Christian tradition is vastly superior to anything we see in the Islamic world.
Third, Wilders says we must “stop Islamization...we must stop immigration from Islamic countries, we must expel criminal immigrants, we must forbid the construction of new mosques. There is enough Islam in Europe (note: and in America as well) already.”
Immigration is obviously a matter for Congress, since authority to control immigration is vested by the Constitution in Congress. But we must never forget that immigration to the United States is a privilege, not a right, and that we should follow the wisdom of the Founders who urged that we only admit to our shores those who will strengthen our nation and assimilate themselves into it, adopting our flag, our history, our heroes, and our values. This is something that devout Muslims simply cannot do. The privilege of immigration should be reserved for those willing to integrate into our culture, become unhyphenated Americans, and adopt American values.
So immigration is a congressional issue. But as I explained above, states have considerable latitude in religious liberty matters, and states are thus free to ban the building of any more mosques within their borders. If states won’t do it, then local planning and zoning commissions can and must do it. And if we understand the Constitution as given to us by the Founders, there is no constitutional impediment in their doing so.
Local governments are well within their rights to protect their citizens from the encroachment of a toxic ideology that will in time threaten religious liberty and equality under the law in their own communities.
As Wilders point out, based on the bitter experience of Europe, “The truth is that Islam is evil, and the reality is that Islam is a threat to us.” He reminds us that, while there may be moderate Muslims, there is no such thing as moderate Islam.
We must learn from our friends across the pond. The time to stop the spread of Islam in America is now. We have the constitutional power to do it. The only question is whether we have the will.
(Unless otherwise noted, the opinions expressed are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of the American Family Association or American Family Radio.)