The Ram Page (Angelo State U.)(U-WIRE) SAN ANGELO, Texas ? Well, congratulations are in order for George W. Bush, who I feel has made his first big blunder as president. Jan. 29, Bush unveiled a new religious-based charity plan.

Bush established a White House office that will distribute billions of dollars to religious groups and charities over the next ten years. Correct me if I?m wrong, but isn?t there something about the actual separation of church and state in the Constitution?

Doesn?t the First Amendment say, ?Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…??

Bush?s new orders won?t establish a national religion, but that is not the issue here.

Religious realities

The founding fathers? intent was made perfectly clear in Thomas Jefferson?s 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptists. ?The number, the industry and the morality of the priesthood, and the devotion of the people have been manifestly increased by the total separation of the church and state.?

In the 1800s James Madison wrote, ?Strongly guarded … is the separation between religion and government in the Constitution of the United States.?

Today?s accomodationists say the government can aid religion as long as it assists all religions equally. However, the House rejected a version of the First Amendment reading ?Congress shall make no law establishing any particular denomination in preference to another …? and the Senate rejected three versions of the First Amendment that would have permitted non-preferential support of religion.

Historical records show that the framers wanted the First Amendment to ban not only establishment of a single church, but also ?multiple establishments? ? that is, a system by which the government funds many religions on an equal basis (non-preferentialism).

On Feb. 28, 1811 President James Madison specifically applied the meaning of the establishment clause when he vetoed a bill passed by Congress. This bill would have donated a parcel of land to a Baptist church in the Mississippi Territory.

It was vetoed because the bill comprised ?a principle and precedent for the appropriation of funds of the United States for the use and support of religious societies.?

It is evident that the establishment clause was meant not only to keep the United States from establishing a single religion, but also to prevent the government from donating funds to any ?religious societies.?

Madison?s argument was that if the government gives money to religious groups, the groups would pander to the government for more funding and governmental ?favors.? Madison specifically feared this, thus his reason for vetoing the bill.

Reversing the same idea, this might also allow the government to pull certain religious-based ?strings.? Imagine a Branch Davidian-like sect under the influence of Bush.

Another reason this is wrong is because the founders specifically never intended for our government to be related to or based on any religion, especially Christianity.

Cut and dry

Support is found in the Treaty of Tripoli, a trade agreement signed between the United States and the Muslim region of north Africa in 1797 after negotiations under George Washington.

The document, which was approved by the Senate under John Adams, states flatly, ?the Government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion …?

Washington, Adams, Madison and Jefferson all agreed and it seems pretty cut and dry to me.

By bridging this legislative gap between church and state Bush is opening the floor for more religious vs. secular debate on subjects such as disability, familial status, marital status, pregnancy status, gender, religion, abortion, sexual orientation, prayer in public schools and teaching creation vs. evolution ? all of which are governmental subjects that should not involve religious decision-making

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