Bravo American Family Association (up to a point, anyway)

I don't normally have reason to praise this right-wing group headed by Donald Wildmon that has, among other things, long government promotion of religion, especially in school.

But they've lately released a statement distancing themselves from one of the extreme views of one of their own senior people, Bryan Fischer. Fischer insists (for example in this July 18 blog post on the American Family Association's website) that the First Amendment doesn't extend any religious rights to non-Christians. Quoting Fischer:

For some time now, I have been virtually the lone voice in America urging local planning and zoning boards and city councils to refuse to authorize the building of mosques in their communities.

[...] The truth is, as I have written before, Islam has no First Amendment guarantee to build mosques anywhere it wants.

This is for the simple reason that the First Amendment was written neither to guarantee freedom of religion to Muslims or Buddhists or Hindus nor to prohibit their free exercise of religion. It wasn’t written about them one way or another.

It was written for one specific purpose: to protect the free exercise of the Christian religion.

AFA has released a statement titled Religious Freedom for All clarifying their official position. After brief history that mentions that an early Supreme Court Associate Justice named Joseph Story thought that the First Amendment extends rights only to Christians, and that this idea was at variance with the views of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison (the principal author of the Bill of Rights), the AFA statement concludes:

Jefferson’s position has ultimately prevailed; under American law all religions enjoy freedom from government interference. However Joseph Story’s view continues to have proponents, including Bryan Fischer, one of American Family Radio’s talk show hosts. However, the American Family Association (“AFA”) officially sides with Jefferson on this question. AFA is confident that the truth of Christianity will prevail whenever it is allowed to freely compete in the marketplace of ideas.

It's good to see that the AFA at least accepts the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. Unfortunately, they still reject the Establishment Clause. That is, while the government can't interfere with religions, it can pick one and promote it (which is what "an establishment of religion" means).

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