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News Link • Bill of Rights

The First Amendment Means What It Says

• by L. Neil Smith

First of all, an apology of sorts: I was engaged this week in a Facebook "discussion" about the mandates of the First Amendment, and I promised one of the individuals I was arguing with that I would explain, the next day, why he is wrong and I am right about the meaning and intent of that article of the Bill of Rights.

Unfortunately, the next day, I got caught up in the finishing touches on my latest novel, Only The Young Die Good and completely forgot about the dispute. This essay is that explanation.

The initial ten amendments to the United States Constitution, commonly known as the Bill of Rights, constitute the highest law of the land. The portion of the First Amendment under contention is this: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…" This, most legal experts have held for my entire life, erects an impenetrable wall of separation between Church and State.

On the other hand, it has become trendy for conservatives like Rush Limbaugh to object that those words do not appear in the document, but "only" in a letter written by Thomas Jefferson, who championed that separation.

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