- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 16, 2010

Dec. 15, Bill of Rights Day, has come and gone, but the many reasons to celebrate it resonate on a daily basis — and more so at Christmas.

There is but one reason for the season. A simple, declarative statement, the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution stands as the hallmark of America’s open society: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Yet here we are.

A woman in Georgia complains that worshippers in a hospital chapel are too loud, and a hospital official instructs them to tone it down.

The Southern Poverty Law Center expands its “hate group” list to include Christian groups that oppose homosexuality and promote the sanctity of marriage.

In Leesburg, Va., scenes depicting the birth of our Savior on courthouse grounds are tempered by secular symbols, in this case a Christmas tree, and by atheistic rhetoric with banners proclaiming there are “no gods” and religion is “superstition.”

What nonsense. It should be fairly obvious that one of the devil’s chief advocates, atheism, is trying to bubble to the top. How else to explain the hospital chapel incident?

“There was a family distraught by the loss of a loved one,” writes a blogger on the Rome (Ga.) News-Tribune website. “The hospital’s chaplain escorted the family to the chapel, where they cried and prayed. A passer-by complained to the hospital administration that their prayers were too loud and that the family’s ‘noise’ interfered with their rights as atheists. The administration told the family that they had to ‘keep it down.’ “

The Resurrection proves you can’t “keep Him down,” but nonbelievers certainly try.

They also, in the name of fairness, fail to understand the First Amendment, which protects the freedom “of” religion, not freedom “from” religion.

Similarly, it guarantees the right of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) to lump black supremacists with white supremacists. But are pro-family groups “hate groups,” too? The SPLC, which says its mission is to fight “hate and bigotry,” thinks so.

It has glued “anti-gay” and “hate” labels on several Judeo-Christian organizations that uphold traditional marriage and pro-life moral views — and make sure we keep “Christ” in Christmas.

The groups range from the Traditional Values Coalition in California and the Family Research Institute in Colorado to Coral Ridge Ministries in Florida and Concerned Women for America in the nation’s capital.

Christians and Jews are fighting back with the StartDebatingStopHating.com project, where advocates of faith, family and freedom are encouraged to sign a First Amendment pledge that says:

“We, the undersigned, stand in solidarity with Family Research Council, American Family Association, Concerned Women of America, National Organization for Marriage, Liberty Counsel and other pro-family organizations that are working to protect and promote natural marriage and family. We support the vigorous but responsible exercise of the First Amendment rights of free speech and religious liberty that are the birthright of all Americans.”

Now, you needn’t know squat about those organizations, but it’s incumbent upon us to ensure that Congress never tramples upon the First Amendment.

The devil’s advocates are prying loose the floorboards, in the courts and in our state and local legislatures. Lawmakers wimped out, and Santa Claus was put on equal footing with Jesus Christ.

Yield not to temptation, inertia or ignorance. The First Amendment holds the No. 1 spot because America is one nation, under God.

Not a righteous sermon; just some thoughts.

*Deborah Simmons can be reached at dsimmons@washingtontimes.com

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