Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Long Tradition of Freedom of Conscience in New Hampshire

On the day that New Hampshire holds its presidential primary, and the fundagelical candidate is struggling to finish a distant third, while for the first time leading the national Gallup poll, it might be appropriate to honor New Hampshire's historic tradition of religious freedom. When the New Hampshire convention became the ninth to ratify our Constitution, they passed a resolution recommending the following amendment: "Congress shall make no laws touching (my emphasis) Religion or to infringe on the rights of Conscience." (Leonard Levy, Origins of the Bill of Rights, Yale University Press, 1999, p.82).

If the First Amendment had begun that way instead of "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," the Christian Right would today have no wiggle room to distort the original intent (allegedly so dear to right-wingers) into sophistry like: "The First Amendment only prohibits an official state church," or "The First Amendment protects religion from the state but not the state from religion."


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