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Thursday, January 11, 2007

Free Exercise of Religious Expression without Government Interference

By Chris Buttars
Utah State Senator, District 10

Little by little, over the last 200 years or so, a cloak has been pulled over the First Amendment, masking it’s guarantee that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

I think it is time to pull back that shroud and carefully re-assert the vision established by our founders. As Lisa wrote in today’s Deseret Morning News, I am introducing legislation which will take a small step toward restoring the unalienable rights of freedom of expression and freedom of religion.

This bill puts Government out of the business of prohibiting religious expression. The only situation in which the government will be allowed to ban religious expression will be to further a compelling government interest using the least restrictive means possible. You can read the 2-page text here:
The Free Exercise of Religious Expression without Government Interference
This is, essentially, a mini-Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), carefully crafted with the Supreme Court’s 1993 decision in mind. Similar acts have passed in 13 states. It's a good bill. I have confidence it will pass the legislature and be upheld by any court in America.

Thanks for reading. I’d appreciate your thoughtful input.

15 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sen. Buttars,

Why not put together all of your "sin" bills and have a day of it at the Legislature? Then, once you've got it out of your system, everybody can get back to their jobs as legislators.

You're trying to fix something that's not broken. Your friend with the CTR shirt is certainly the exception, not the rule. Do you really believe that Mormon youth are oppressed in our public schools? Yes, the principal should have allowed the shirt, but that's an issue of education. There's no need for another First Amendment. We already have one.

1/11/2007 4:26 PM  
Anonymous Marie said...

As someone who intensely watches the legislative session(s); takes advantage of the wonderful tools on the legislative website to listen in on committee meetings, floor time, etc.; writes to my representatives and those serving on the committees that would vote on a proposed bill as to whether to send it on or not; and so forth...

I have a very difficult time understanding the language of the proposed bills in most cases. I don't trust the media to sum everything up for me and tell me what the bill means. Even the "General Description" of the bill doesn't satisfy me. It takes a lot of time to try to keep a watch on things that go on in the legislature, and I certainly still feel there is much wool in my eyes even with all of my efforts.

The premise of this proposal sounds nice. Of course we want to be able to have our 1st amendment rights protected. But I don't understand why we need a law to protect a constitutional right?

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;"
(1st Amendment, US Constituion)

Looking over the bill it just looks like another way for lawyers to have a way of suing someone for something. I don't understand, though. Maybe I just need more enlightenment. I wish that the common citizen didn't require a law degree in order to an involved citizen. It's all so frustrating!

1/11/2007 6:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sin. Buttars,

Clearly your ridiculous bill is designed to circumvent the establishment clause . . .

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . ." ~ 1st Amendment, US Constitution

. . . not to protect & preserve it.

The First Amendment protects the rights of all U.S. Citizens to either believe or not; it guarantees freedom OF and freedom FROM religion. You are attempting to remove the freedom FROM portion of our Constitutional protections in favor of YOUR brand of belief.

No dice, Buttars!

You are SO un-American!

Tenaciously Sincere,

PeskyAtheist

1/11/2007 8:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It looks like people are either ignorant of their surroundings or have totally sold out.

Here in Utah we have had school districts prohibit prayer at meetings and school events. Here in Utah we have had school administrators prevent a graduation speaker from finishing their speech because they acknowledged God. Here in Utah we have had seen the Pledge of Allegiance removed from the class room.

If you think it is just our schools that are trying to “prohibiting the free exercise” of religion then here are a few more…

Here in Utah we have had judges rule to remove the Ten Commandments from public land. Here in Utah we have had judges rule to ban Nativity scenes from public land. Here in Utah we have had judges rule to prevent a child from consensually being baptized.

Allowing others their religious expression is a far cry form the Federal Government making a “law respecting an establishment of religion”.

Senator Buttars, the system is broken. I applaud you for doing your job. Thank you.

Note to PeskyAtheist and Anonymous #1: If you have not read the constitution and it amendments stop embarrassing yourselves by telling others what you think it says.

Respectfully,

Defender of the Constitution

1/11/2007 10:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Defender of the Constitution,

It IS the courts upholding the U.S. Constitution that has removed and prevented those abuses and illegal activities. You should read the U.S. Constitution sometime. Just learn to keep your religion PRIVATE and out of the "public" arena you'll do just fine.

~PeskyAtheist

1/11/2007 11:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

PeskyAtheist

Your revisionist interpretation of the constitution is difficult to understand. A strict constructionist finds that the simple language of the 1st Amendment guarantees "FREEDOM OF" religion ("Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion....", without government restriction ("....or prohibiting the free exercise thereof"). This is a beautifully plain and simple standard. It is not government's (please read... Court's) right, duty, or obligation to re-write the Constitution to establish a "FREEDOM FROM" standard. It is unfortunate that the courts have bowed to every liberal "victim" that seeks government protection from feigned offense at traditional American principles and values.

One might respectfully suggest that if you find religion offensive, the vast majority of Americans find the removal of, or government protection from, religion far more offensive and in direct conflict with the simple language of the Constitution.

Respectfully,

Voice in the Widerness

1/12/2007 5:30 AM  
Anonymous Marie said...

I was very distressed when my oldest daughter started her fist year of public education and the school did not have the pledge of allegiance recited due to the statement "under God". This was in SLC, UT, and it did disturb me. That patriotism could be lost to the insensitivity of those who are offended by the word "God", which is in no way establishing or compelling religious participation. I see these things as an intentional assault on relgion. Don't get me wrong. I want to protect my rights, and believe that I should be able to worship how, where or what I may while allowing others the same privilege. I just don't understand this proposal by Sen. Buttars. It seems that if these happenings in our society are a compromise of our rights, we have the Constitution to protect us, don't we? I would think the Constitution would be stronger a defense than a law written into the code in one state. I worry that making laws to validate our rights only weakens the intention of the Constitution, but I really am no scholar or lawyer. Just a plain old concerned citizen.

1/12/2007 9:08 AM  
Blogger Jennifer Killpack-Knutsen said...

I'm all for protecting people's right to worship, but not to force others to worship their definition of a diety. I support your right to believe what you want, to display religious artifacts in your home and on your property, to wear clothing that states your beliefs, to pray and worship in your churches and homes. I do not support the creation of a culture where one narrow definition of diety is forced upon the rest of us in school and public prayers and speeches and displays of Christian religious symbols are displayed to the exlusion of all others.

Your bible is very clear on public displays of piousness:

Matthew 6:5 - 6

5. And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites [are]: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

6. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

It seems to me that this drive to be as publicly pious as possible shows either a huge ego problem or a lack of faith in your god. Don't you believe that all your time spent at home and church worship, and living your life to your god's highest standards is good enough to get you into heaven? Give your god some credit, and in the meantime, leave the rest of us to live our lives in the way we choose.

1/12/2007 12:07 PM  
Anonymous tencommandments said...

I'm not sure where Marie and Defender got their information on the Pledge of Allegiance. I have taught in Utah schools for years and we have always said the Pledge of Allegiance. There has been no problem of it not being allowed to be said. Lest we forget, Senator Buttars DID get a law passed already about that.

While I agree with some of what he says, I get leery when it's Buttars sponsoring a bill, many of which seem to be more about political agendas and vendettas thinly disguised as things that appeal to others' emotions. Someone should write a book on the Buttarisms he says.

We also seem to forget that the LDS have solved part of this issue with release time seminary. This has been the case for my area OUTSIDE of Utah.

If someone DOES have to depend on or have their children depend on the public arena for their religious expression or worship, there is something wrong. Growing up we had seminary, morning and evening family prayer, prayers at mealtime, Monday night family home evening, mutual, Sunday worship, personal prayers, and so on for that and that was plenty.

Of course, we shouldn't completely discourage religious expression. One should be free to have personal prayers and be able to sing traditional Christmas songs, for intstance, but we shouldn't polticize things so much (on either side) that we lose the real meaning of things.

This smells of another of Buttar's vendettas and publicity hunts. I don't have to have government tell me when I can and can't worship my God anyways.

1/12/2007 2:25 PM  
Blogger Alienated Wannabe said...

Dear Senator Buttars,

Thank you very much for sponsoring this piece of legislation. I agree with your instincts, and I believe that what you are doing is necessary and appropriate.

Increasingly, a certain faction of the population believes that religion is something that must be expressed in "private," like some kind of dirty little secret, and they seek to enforce this false interpretation of the Constitution upon the rest of us.

The truth is that all of us, including elected officials, have the right to make religious expressions in public anytime we want to do so. We know this was the original intention of the framers of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, because the men who authored and approved those documents frequently engaged in such public activity before, during, and after they were penned.

By getting laws such as the one you have authored onto the books now, and upheld by the court system, we help to preserve the original intent of the Founding Fathers for future generations. I wish this wasn't necessary, but history and current events have made it clear that we must do these things to preserve our freedoms.

Vigilance is the price a free man must pay to remain such. Thank you for being ever vigilant. Thank you also for being willing to bear the ridicule directed toward you by those who don't get it yet. You are a hero. God bless you!

Sincerely,
Alienated Wannabe

1/12/2007 3:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jennifer,

You request those of us who believe in God to “leave the rest of us to live our lives in the way we choose”. The problem I see with your statement is that you are not leaving us to live our lives in the way we choose. When the valedictorian of a Salt Lake City high school can not mention God without being removed from the stand, it is not “us God believers” that are intruding into your life. Do you not believe that students’ hard earned recognition was deserved? Do you not believe if they wanted to thank their parents in the speech it should be allowed? Do you not believe if they wanted to thank the “green earth” is should be allowed? Then why should thanking their God not be allowed?

Why do you get your freedom of speech to preach green, or what ever you hold dear, but we do not get our freedom of speech?

Defender (Again)

1/12/2007 8:42 PM  
Blogger The Senate Site said...

I appreciate the calm, sincere, informative tone of most of our commenters so far. Probably don't have to remind anyone out there but we are not so far removed from the era when small wars were fought over subjects like this. The fact that we can sustain a thoughtful dialogue like this without devolving into personal attacks is a tribute to... something. Please keep it up.

1/12/2007 9:57 PM  
Blogger steve u. said...

Ric,

Again, you do such a wonderful job of promoting public dialogue on tough issues, while working to encourage a civil tone. This is a very good service to the public.

1/13/2007 1:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Landing of the Pilgrim Fathers
by Felicia Dorothea Hemans.

The breaking waves dashed high
On a stern and rock-bound coast,
And the woods, against a stormy sky,
Their giant branches tost;

And the heavy night hung dark
The hills and water o'er,
When a band of exiles moored their bark
On the wild New England shore.

Not as the conqueror comes,
They, the true-hearted, came;
Not with the roll of the stirring drums,
And the trumpet that sings of fame;

Not as the flying come,
In silence and in fear, -
They shook the depths of the desert's gloom
With their hymns of lofty cheer.

Amidst the storm they sang,
And the stars heard and the sea;
And the sounding aisles of the dim woods rang
To the anthem of the free.

The ocean-eagle soared
From his nest by the white wave's foam,
And the rocking pines of the forest roared -
This was their welcome home!

There were men with hoary hair
Amidst that pilgrim band:
Why had they come to wither there,
Away from their childhood's land?

There was woman's fearless eye,
Lit by her deep love's truth;
There was manhood's brow serenely high,
And the fiery heart of youth.

What sought they thus afar?
Bright jewels of the mine?
The wealth of the seas? the spoils of war? -
They sought a faith's pure shrine!

Ay, call it holy ground,
The soil where first they trod!
They have left unstained what there they found -
Freedom to worship God!

2/03/2007 10:39 PM  
Anonymous PeskyAtheist said...

Quote Voice In The Widerness:

"PeskyAtheist

Your revisionist interpretation of the constitution is difficult to understand. A strict constructionist finds that the simple language of the 1st Amendment guarantees "FREEDOM OF" religion ("Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion....", without government restriction ("....or prohibiting the free exercise thereof"). This is a beautifully plain and simple standard. It is not government's (please read... Court's) right, duty, or obligation to re-write the Constitution to establish a "FREEDOM FROM" standard. It is unfortunate that the courts have bowed to every liberal "victim" that seeks government protection from feigned offense at traditional American principles and values.

One might respectfully suggest that if you find religion offensive, the vast majority of Americans find the removal of, or government protection from, religion far more offensive and in direct conflict with the simple language of the Constitution.

Respectfully,

Voice in the Widerness"

----------

PeskyAtheist Replies to Voice in the Widerness:

Voice,

Clearly you are one of the majority and your comments demonstrate that people like you come a dime a dozen. Too many Americans fail to understand that the First Amendment really does guarantee FREEDOM FROM RELIGION. Were this not so a religion other than your own could gain complete control of our government and form a powerful theocracy to force everyone -- even you -- to worship something they don't believe in. Are you willing to sacrifice your FREEDOM OF religion by denying yourself (and all others) FREEDOM FROM religion?

THINK.

Sincerely,

PeskyAtheist

2/12/2007 5:00 AM  

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