Donna’s Blog: A Refresher Course on the First Amendment
By One Iowa Executive Director Donna Red Wing
It seems to me that Bob Vander Plaats could use a lesson in American history, specifically the First Amendment’s protection of religious liberty. In his last “Iowa View” tirade, “A Tale of Two Conventions,” he lauded the Republican Party for proclaiming God as the source of our rights. He then went on to say that the Democrats “trampled” religious liberty with a platform that included—among other things—“women’s rights”.
Bob, the First Amendment protects the boundaries between religion and government. The simply elegant establishment and free exercise clauses have created for you, for me, and for all Americans, the right to choose our religion and to worship as we will without fear of having our freedom “trampled” on. It also protects the rights of those who choose no religion at all.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion (The Establishment Clause) or prohibiting the free exercise thereof… (The Free Exercise Clause)
Bob, our First Amendment right of religious freedom is what makes this nation so extraordinary. It is not only concerned with your beliefs, Bob, it makes room for me and for everyone else whose views differ from yours. You are opposed to a woman’s right to choose, to equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in marriage and in basic human rights, and as you said, “tolerance.”
At One Iowa we embrace diversity and tolerance, we believe in the rights of women, we are proud of our state that recognizes all Iowa families, and we celebrate Iowa’s proud history of upholding the promises of our Constitution.
And Bob, that’s what makes this nation so great; there is room for all of our beliefs, there is room for all of us.
Look back into your history books. Read about James Madison and John Leland, the Baptist minister from Virginia who wanted to be sure that this new nation would never establish a “state” religion. It was the evangelical Christians who led the way, who were the key supporters of separation of church and state from the beginning.
We are a religiously vibrant nation because of the First Amendment, because of its strong religious freedom clause. Your right to believe in your God and to freely practice your religion, Bob, comes from your government’s First Amendment. And it is important to point out that the Varnum decision actually strengthened religious freedom in Iowa as it upheld the promise of equal protection for gay and lesbian couples who wish to have their marriages legally recognized by the state. Varnum reiterated that religious institutions have the freedom to make their own decisions about whom they will or will not marry.
We agree with you: religious freedom is a right that we must all defend.
Religious freedom in this country, and in the great state of Iowa, was granted by our government’s founding documents. Because of their foresight and genius, Bob, every one of us is free to believe and to practice our religion as we choose. All Americans and all Iowans are included, Bob—even the ones you don’t like.