by Robert Arvay, Contributing Writer
According to a recent news report, “Arizona lawmakers are scrambling to change the rules regarding prayer at council meetings in an effort to keep The Satanic Temple from delivering an invocation at a February session.”[i]
There is no need for them to scramble. A proper understanding of the Constitution resolves their problem, and prohibits Satanic prayer in their venue. Let me explain.
One of the founding principles of the United States is freedom of religion. More explicitly, the First Amendment prescribes that, quoting from the text:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . . .”
For about two hundred years, this rule was rarely if ever controversial. It was applied in a commonsense manner. If you choose to go to Church “A,” and I choose to go to Church “B,” the law must not force either of us to suffer any penalty for that. Jews are likewise accommodated.
Problems did indeed exist, for example, sometimes a requirement to work on the Sabbath, but these were addressed in a manner that at least seemed sensible to most people.
What was sensible was that the government is not permitted to prefer any one religion over any other.
Wait. That’s not completely true. Not all religions are equal. What the actual amendment really says is that the government is not allowed to respect any “establishment” of religion. While this may seem to be a minor detail, in context it is not. In the context of our nation’s history, the Amendment prohibits the government from forming a state religion, such was the case with the Church of England, which was supported with tax dollars.
Government neutrality with respect to religion has over the years been misinterpreted to mean, in practice, two things. One of them is a government hostility to religion, and not only to religion, but even to religious principles. The other misinterpretation is that anything calling itself a religion is entitled to all the protections of the Constitution.
Both of these misinterpretations cry out for reform. Failure to clarify the principle of religious freedom will make a farce of the Constitution.
It needs to be clarified that our freedoms come from God, the Creator, not from an anti-God such as a satanic entity. It also needs to be emphasized that our Constitution was designed to protect those specific freedoms, the God-given freedoms. It does not protect the freedoms which, for example under Sharia Law, permit men to subjugate women, and to punish those who change their religion.
The founding documents make this clear, as do the subsequent letters and literature written by those who founded our Republic. We do not burn witches, nor permit any religion to do so. At the same time, the Constitution does not protect religions which profess evil, such as religions of witchcraft.
Finally, while no one is forced to believe in any God, government neutrality regarding religion must not be construed to mean that the government must assume an atheistic perspective. Quite the opposite, our nation’s founding is predicated on what the Declaration of Independence terms, “a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence.”
The Satanists in Arizona proclaim that they do not worship an evil entity. They even deny believing in Satan. They simply proclaim an atheistic basis for human secular morality.
Their argument is fraught with confusion and contradictions, one of them being that in demanding their right to offer prayer at a public meeting, they fail to answer, to whom are they praying?
The issue, however is much larger. It involves the soul of our nation.