The Istook Religion Amendment: Reflections of a Texas-Bred, Spirit-Led, Cornbread-Fed Baptist

By Dunn, James M. | Church & State, April 1998 | Go to article overview

The Istook Religion Amendment: Reflections of a Texas-Bred, Spirit-Led, Cornbread-Fed Baptist


Dunn, James M., Church & State


Last month, Andy Waddell of Maysel wrote to two Clay County elementary school principals protesting Christmas programs that included prayers and altar calls, where people can publicly proclaim they have been saved.

Principal John Gency, a local preacher, made the altar call at Clay Elementary. According to Waddell, Gency said, "If you don't know Jesus Christ as your personal Saviour, come forth now ... witness and be saved."

--Charleston (W.Va.) Gazette, Feb. 5, 1998.

Can you imagine it? An "altar call," a revivalistic invitation, was extended by the principal to a captive audience of 6to 12-year-olds?

Such stunts now are the exception, not the rule. If H.J. Res. 78, sponsored by U.S. Rep. Ernest Istook, R-Okla., were to pass, they'd be the rule not the exception.

Rep. Istook would apply his Religious Freedom Amendment "locally." Being interpreted, that means "by the prevailing majority in a particular place." What Rep. Istook doesn't understand is that freedom is not really free if it depends upon the mood of the majority at the moment. That's exactly why we have a counter-majoritarian Bill of Rights. In other words, the minority is protected from the lynch-mob inclinations of the majority.

Rep. Istook would replace the first 16 words of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution with his garble. No thanks! I'd rather be Madisonian than Istookian.

The freedom of religion protected by the Bill of Rights is not up for grabs or subject to local option elections.

Ten Unanticipated Problems with Religio-Public Schools:

1. Beginners' swimming could be offered in the multi-purpose kindergarten baptistry.

2. Kids would be singing "Nearer My God to Thee" instead of "My Country 'Tis of Thee."

3. Along with crayons, children would have to buy miniature Ten Commandments from Judge Roy Moore Inc.

4. …

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