The most important of all the amendments is the First Amendment. This is demonstrably true. It was not until secular militants were leveraged by the 1947 Supreme Court’s Everson v. Board of Education decision that the role of moral absolutes ceased to be standard in government schools.
On September 25, 1789, Congress requested unanimously that President Washington proclaim a national day of thanksgiving and prayer. This is the same Congress that on the same day approved the final draft of the First Amendment to protect the people’s rights to religious freedom from suppression by government administrators, judges and legislators. President Washington proclaimed on October 3, 1789: “Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor… Now, therefore, I do recommend… that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted; for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed… And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions… And to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue.”
The First Amendment was added to the Constitution to emphasize the proper use of the Constitution as a tool to protect and uphold religious freedom. This freedom enables the religious denominations to compete in public, including education. This, in turn, sharpens the importance of moral absolutes in the minds of citizens who are the sovereigns under God over government. For most of our history, the Judeo-Christian basis for citizen self-rule has been vigorously taught. Non-denominational prayers and the Pledge of Allegiance were practiced in classrooms. For several decades now the moral religions, most directly Christianity, have been under systematic attack by liberal judges. Americans can agree with the following quote as long as any conflict between amendments to the Constitution are reconciled by having the First Amendment, in its original meaning up until 1947, upheld as supreme.
“A constitution, like any other document, is to be read as a whole. The court, in the language of the lawyers, ‘will take the instrument by its four corners’ and read each part in the light of the rest. Since written constitutions come into effect through popular assent, the meaning intended by the people would be sought by the courts. The common understanding of the words at the time the language was employed is therefore of cogent significance. This consideration, however, will not prevent the application of the terms employed to conditions arising later and not contemplated at the time the language was adopted… There is an ancient rule of statutory construction, coming down through Blackstone, that in seeking the true meaning of legislative language the court will take cognizance of the ‘old law, the mischief and the remedy.’ The rule is useful in constitutional construction” (Rosco Pound, Dean of the Law School of Harvard University, Volume III, National Law Library, P. F. Collier & Son Publishers, New York, New York, 1939, 23-24).
~ D. Norris