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Ten Commandments editorial ignores founding fathers' wishes

By Philip Alderink
Arizona Summer Wildcat
July 7, 1999
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To the editor,

Mr. Cieslak may be justifiably upset by the notion of posting the Ten Commandments in the classroom because they offend his own world view ('Ten Commandments should be kept in church not in school,' Wildcat editorial, June 30), but I am not so sure that he can appeal to the Bill of Rights to make his case.

The First Amendment simply states; 'Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.' The words: 'separation,' 'church,' or 'state' do not appear here at all. As a matter of fact, the phrase 'separation of church and state' do not appear in any of the founding documents. The constitution therefore is not 'crucified' by allowing a classroom teacher to express (not, preach, proselytize or recruit for) her religious beliefs....including the posting of famous sayings.

It seems clear that the intent of the First Amendment was to keep government from setting up a state church, as was the problem in England and on the continent, or prohibiting people from the exercise of their religion, not to prevent the involvement of religious views in government. Only a partial familiarity with the writings of the founding fathers makes it quite clear that that they had no philosophical problem with bringing their religious beliefs to the public square or the courts.

In his 'Farewell Address,' George Washington pointed out that the two foundations for political prosperity in America were religion and morality, and that no one could be called an American patriot who attempted to separate politics from its two foundations. He explained: 'Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should subvert these great pillars?'

Perhaps, in the final analysis, Mr. Cieslak, it is you who 'negates the wishes of America's founding fathers' (to borrow your line).

Philip Alderink
Adviser to the Graduate Student Christian Fellowship