Vail Daily column: A religious litmus test?
There’s a burglar in the kitchen. When the law comes a’callin’, it will identify him as one Donald J. Trump. The mendacious lout that roared has been up to it again, this time holding that if the nation is fool enough to name him president, he will slam the door on Muslims.
Maybe he would …
But if he did, so doing would violate the most fundamental precepts of the Constitution, which the hyperventilating candidate gives lips service to holding sacred.
The United States Constitution is the foundation upon which our nation of laws is constructed, brick by careful brick. Few — even the most narrow-minded among Trump’s true believers — would profess to bring the Constitution to its knees. For the sake of precisely what, I’m not quite sure. And yet … what The Donald proposes is just that.
the first amendment
Let’s do a little basic math.
One comes before two, which comes before three and so on. If something is first by design rather than by caprice — instead of second, third or fourth — that generally suggests an intent to give it primacy. Here, the First Amendment is first for the reason that the framers held it most important. Within its scant 45 words are held the most essential rights upon which all other rights derive.
The First provides, in full, that “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.”
I’ll come back to this in just a second.
‘We the people’
The first three words in the Constitution are the most powerful; “We the People.” They declare that the Constitution derives its power not from a king, a would-be king or a Congress, but from the people themselves. This concept of popular sovereignty, power to the people, is the foundation upon which the entire Constitution relies. What’s more, you’ll note — and the crafting of each individual word contained in the constitution was a deliberate labor — the words employed are “We the People” not something most constricted. “We the People” includes all citizens of the United States of any race or gender or religion. The Muslim citizen next door is no less and no more one of the people than you or I. To be a part of “We the People,” one can be born in the United States or can receive his or her citizenship through naturalization. There is no caste system, no Lamarckian phylumization, and no distinction.
Back now to the First Amendment.
The most basic rights of the People are those of free, unfettered speech; freedom of the press; the right to peaceably assemble; to register one’s grievances against the government; and to be free from Congress “establish(ing) a (state) religion, or prohibiting the (free) exercise (of one’s religion).” This can be stated as freedom from and freedom of religion. Not only may a particular religion not be forced upon the People but neither may the government throw up obstacles to the practice of whatever religion one may choose.
Tradition of Religious Liberty
It is essential to understand how elemental this is. This nation was built upon the backs of immigrants fleeing religious tyranny. The reason your forefathers and mine came to these shores and built this — the greatest nation on earth — was preeminently, if not exclusively, to worship as they pleased.
While not an unbroken story of religious tolerance and acceptance, the ideal of religious freedom is the very backbone of America. It is as essential to the American story as the stars and stripes are to Old Glory.
In 1620, the Pilgrims came to America aboard the Mayflower in search of religious freedom. The Puritans soon followed, for the same reason. Ever since religious dissidents arrived at their shining “city upon a hill,” as Massachusetts colonial governor John Winthrop called it, millions from around the world have done the same, coming to an America where they found a welcome melting pot in which everyone was free to practice his or her own faith. While not an unbroken story of religious tolerance and acceptance, the ideal of religious freedom is the very backbone of America. It is as essential to the American story as the stars and stripes are to Old Glory. You’ll note, by the way, that the first right articulated in the First Amendment is the assurance of religious liberty.
Now the bombastic Trump, channeling a vein of righteous fear and anger, has declared that, if one day it is up to him, he will bar the barbarian Muslims at the gates. The Constitution be damned. His intent, it seems is to crush the First Amendment beneath the heel of his Trump Collection heel.
America has no place for this. He ought to wash his mouth out with strong soap. And besides, unless he effects a putsch, he can’t.
There’s a burglar in the kitchen. We would be wise to stop him before he stealths down the hall and raids the nation’s treasures.
With apologies to my German friends, “Go back to the Wehrmacht, Trump.”
You ain’t no American, bro.
Rohn K. Robbins is an attorney licensed before the bars of Colorado and California who practices in the Vail Valley with the law firm of Stevens, Littman, Biddision, Tharp and Weinberg LLC. His practice areas include business and commercial transactions, real estate and development, family law, custody, divorce and civil litigation. Robbins may be reached at 970-926-4461 and at either of his email addresses, firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.