No doubt, the distinctions between the First Amendment's protections for an individual's free exercise of religion and the First Amendment's prohibition against government's endorsement of religion can be confusing and complicated. However, each of the arguments that Mr. Heck [ACLU declares 'war' on the Constitution, 12/18/16] presents has been addressed and squarely rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Here is what past U.S. Supreme Court decisions say about the issues surrounding the town of Knightstown's decision to place a cross on top of a Christmas tree in the town square:
There are powerful and deeply American reasons why we prohibit government from endorsing any one religion or banning others. Our Founders understood that our country and our freedoms flourish when religious discourse and promotion are left to the people, instead of government. Then as now, America is a beacon of freedom for those living in other countries that impose rules on the faith or thought of their people. The Establishment Clause has ensured that all residents of America enjoy the greatest amount of religious liberty that exists on the globe.
The ACLU of Indiana will stand with all individuals who seek to preserve their constitutionally protected rights, such as the residents of Knightstown who, expressing their faith, have handed out crosses and displayed them on their private property. James Madison advocated for the adoption of the Bill of Rights, starting with the First Amendment, to protect such individual freedoms but also to protect minorities from the power of majorities in a democracy. The ACLU is proud to have the role of ensuring that the words of the Constitution have real and enduring meaning for everyone.
Editors: Please contact Lisa Vielee, (317) 979-4424 for more information or to publish.