Louisiana and the First Amendment, redux
April 28, 2014 § 7 Comments
Last week, the Louisiana politician who proposed making the Holy Bible the official book of the Pelican State withdrew his proposal before it went to the state House of Representatives for a vote. Originally, Thomas Carmody, a Republican from Shreveport, had intended to make a specific copy of the Bible, housed in the state museum the official book, but his colleagues in the House had other ideas, and amended his legislation to make the Bible itself the official state book, not just a specific copy.
Carmody withdrew his legislation, stating that it had become a distraction.
I wrote about this last week, raising questions of the First Amendment’s injunction against an established religion. In the meantime, following a spirited discussion in the comments, I spent more time digging deeper into the issue of religion and the state in the United States. I’ve always found this topic interesting, given the First Amendment’s injunction against established religion, and the Founding Fathers’ well-known suspicion of religion itself. At the same time, of course, the dollar bill in my pocket states, on its back, “IN GOD WE TRUST.” Of course, there is a difference, as the Founding Fathers well knew, between a belief in God and religion. Jefferson himself was a life-long religious skeptic, though he maintained his faith from cradle to the grave.
The New Orleans Time-Picayune quotes a few legal scholars, who seem to be of the opinion that the now-scrapped legislation isn’t worth getting excited about, as it has no real value, it cannot lead to the establishment of religion or the enforcement of religion. Yet, in withdrawing his legislation, Carmody noted that it could’ve caused “some constitutional problems.”
And this is what I find interesting. From my own deeper reading of the issue over the past week, as well as what the legal scholars quoted in the Times-Picayune said, it does appear this was really just a tempest in a teapot. And yet, both Carmody and the New Orleans Democrat Wesley Bishop (holder of a J.D.) appear to be confused about the meaning of the First Amendment in real terms.