The First Freedom

With a hat tip to Opinion Journal’s Best of the Web Today we have the following.

On the ACLU’s website you will find this:

It is probably no accident that freedom of speech is the first freedom mentioned in the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” The Constitution’s framers believed that freedom of inquiry and liberty of expression were the hallmarks of a democratic society.

Perhaps Maureen Dowd wrote the text for them. Let’s examine what they left out in the ellipse. Any guesses? Here’s the full text of the First Amendment.

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.

Now, it could be that the ACLU intended the careful caveat of the word “freedom.” But what about “free exercise?”

That might be a plausible argument, except elsewhere on the ACLU’s website, we find this:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment
of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

These opening words of the First Amendment to the Constitution set forth a dual guarantee of religious liberty. Both the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause operate to protect the religious liberty and freedom of conscience of all Americans.

Perhaps the ACLU really just finds it inconvenient that freedom of religion comes before freedom of speech in the First Amendment. Perhaps the ACLU has spent so much time trying to convince people that the First Amendment relates solely to speech and freedom from religion that it has itself forgotten that the first freedom in the First Amendment is the freedom to freely worship. Perhaps this forgetfulness explains why the ACLU spends so much time using the federal courts to prevent people from freely practicing religion.

To paraphrase the ACLU, it is probably no accident that freedom of religion is the first freedom mentioned in the First Amendment. Maybe someone should remind them.

Crossposted at Red State with a much more controversial title.

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Erick Erickson

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4 Comments

  • Mr. Scheer,
    I carry a tiny booklet on the Constitution with me wherever I go. Boy, do I feel stupid! There it is, the full wording and meaning of the First Amendment…after all this time you’d think I’d have gotten that!

    Well done!

  • Actually, the joke’s on both of you. The original text of the Bill of Rights had 12 amendments, the first 2 of which were not ratified. (The second actually was ratified about 200 years later as the 27th Amendment.)

    Here’s the REAL “first freedom,” a ringing endorsement of eternal human rights:

    Article I

    After the first enumeration required by the first article of the Constitution, there shall be one representative for every thirty thousand, until the number shall amount to one hundred, after which the proportion shall be so regulated by Congress, that there shall be not less than one hundred representatives, nor less than one representative for every forty thousand persons, until the number of representatives shall amount to two hundred; after which the proportion shall be so regulated by Congress, that there shall be not less than two hundred representatives, nor more than one representative for every fifty thousand persons.

  • After bringing this to the attention of the ACLU webmaster, it only took three weeks for them to send this reply:

    Dear Friend,

    Thank you for your e-mail.

    This is from the Free Speech area of the ACLU web site at http://www.aclu.org/FreeSpeech/FreeSpeechMain.cfm

    “It is no accident that freedom of speech is protected in the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights: “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.” The Constitution’s framers believed that freedom of inquiry and liberty of expression were the hallmarks of a democratic society. “

    Sincerely,

    D. Barber
    Correspondence Manager, American Civil Liberties Union