[from JohnS] As the second in my series of suggested changes to the Constitution, I propose the following:
National or State Religion.
Amendment I is amended as follows; delete the phrase “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion“, replacing it as follows: “Congress and the several states shall make no law establishing a national or state religion“.
I suspect that the words respecting an establishment in Amendment I has caused the judiciary to apply the amendment to all religious acts and displays etc on government property and also to allow federal law to intercede into religious practices. This proposed amendment limits the national and state governments from designating a national or state religion. It does not limit a community (including a city or town) from forming a religious community if it chooses. This is intended. We have religious communities within our country now, the Amish communities for example, and I see no reason to change. The amendment would also allow communities to display religious symbols and other religious artifacts if it so choose. This amendment allows Freedom of Religion as our fore fathers intended and not Freedom from Religion as some intend today.
Ira raised an interesting situation in his Blog Topic on polygamy, this amendment would allow communities to choose to become a religious community if they wish including becoming polygamous, however, it would have to be under the guise of religion.
Local ordinances and statutes will apply within a community. If a community wishes to define itself as an Islamic community, for example, it may do so by enacting appropriate ordinances, however, nothing precludes the citizens of that community from appealing to community leaders, the local courts or through local elections to become more secular and remove religious symbols they disapprove. However, it limits federal and state interference into the community’s affairs. The federal or state governments could probably pass laws restricting certain religious acts as endangering the people or contravening law and order, however, the burden of proof would be on the federal or state governments. This also ties into the intent of the tenth amendment.
I don’t know whether additional language will be needed to distinguish between communities, (incl. towns and cities), and counties and parishes. From my limited knowledge, towns are generally independent from counties and county administrations so I’ve not included such language. A non-incorporated community within a county would probably have to abide by county statutes.