For forty-four years the National Oration Contest sponsored by the NSSAR carried the name Douglass G. High. In 1993 the name of this oratorical contest was changed, in perpetuity to the JOSEPH S. RUMBAUGH HISTORICAL ORATION CONTEST.
To date twenty State Societies have won the National Contest.
|2014||Hayley Caroline Snowden||Virginia|
|2013||Luis Edmundo Vasquez||Texas|
|2012||Phillip Paul Cozzi||Illinois|
|2011||Jackson Bloom||North Carolina|
|2010||Kristin “Kristi” Bowers||Virginia|
|2009||Philip Bryan Hayes||Texas|
|2008||Virginia "Ginger" Macfarlan||Arkansas|
|2006||Edward Seage, Jr.||Delaware|
|2005||Terilyn T. Parker||Louisiana|
|2003||Blake Phyllip Sercye||Illinois|
|2002||Gregory Field Price||Maryland|
|2001||Micah Wade Kubic||Missouri|
|1999||Erik W. Jorgensen||California|
|1998||Anna Rene Smith||Arkansas|
|1997||Joshua M. Koenig||Florida|
|1996||John Barry Dunlap II||Maryland|
|1995||Julie M. Paik||California|
|1993||Dennis Purvis II||Ohio|
|1992||John C. O’Quinn||North Carolina|
|1990||Jonathan Chad Sauls||Florida|
|1988||Kena M. Tague||Kansas|
|1986||Brian Nicholson||North Carolina|
|1985||Herman Graham III||Ohio|
|1983||Ruth L. Arnet||California|
|1981||David T. Johnson||Texas|
|1980||Brian K. Stolley||Florida|
|1976||Kelly P. Gallagher||Texas|
|1975||Mark A. McCord||Georgia|
|1974||Jack O. Thomas||Ohio|
|1972||Joseph W. McLean||Virginia|
|1971||John R. Davis||Texas|
|1970||George A. Ott III||Georgia|
|1966||James A. Haverkamp||Indiana|
|1965||Robert P. Lacey||Virginia|
|1964||Gary Lee Thorne||Virginia|
|1954||William P. Lynch||New Jersey|
|1952||( No Contest)|
|1950||Ronald Hergen||New York|
When I studied history in my AP class, I could not understand the indecision and hesitation of the American settlers on the eve of the Revolutionary War. How could they hesitate to protect their rights? The leaders of the Revolution were offering Americans freedom and they did not immediately snatch it up? But then I put myself in a colonist’s shoes. If I were alive during the Revolution, I might not be as eager as I had previously thought. Nowadays, every aspect of our lives as Americans roots in one key truth: we are a free, democratic society. The colonists did not know that England would lose the war. England was all powerful, the motherland; its navy was a thing of legend and its army had protected the colonists from the French only a few years before. For centuries, the colonists (even before they were colonists) had pledged allegiance to a king. How, then, could they suddenly renounce their trusted leader? How could they say, “Forget all you have done for us Mother England; you are unfit to rule us colonies,” when, less than a decade before, English and Americans had fought side by side in the French and Indian War? If I lived at that time, I would see friends turn on each other: colonists were suddenly grouped under two large headings: Tories and Revolutionaries. The Tories wanted the ungrateful rebels hanged; the Revolutionaries wanted the unjust tyrants persecuted.
What side do you pick? If you remain loyal to the king, your neighbors want you dead and if you join the revolutionaries, you become a traitor to one of the most powerful countries in the world. If the revolutionaries lost, you would surely hang. And who are these revolutionaries? You may have heard talk of a Continental Congress…you may even have read an excerpt of a revolutionary speech but it was in such extravagant language that you could not understand it… what do you really know? The revolutionaries say they are fighting for freedom but what will they do if freedom is actually obtained? What is freedom?
Then a pamphlet was published that changed everything. Thomas Paine was a failure. He was a radical writer whose business attempts had all failed. He was poor… he was common… but he had faith in the cause of the revolutionaries. He had faith in liberty. Thomas Paine published one of the most influential pamphlets in American History, Common Sense. Paine declared that it was only common sense for people to support the revolutionaries who were trying to protect the basic human rights of life, liberty, and prosperity from a government that had forgotten what it was formed for. He advocated for the cause of the revolutionaries with frank and simple arguments about protecting our rights as human beings. And because he spoke up, hundreds, maybe thousands flocked to the revolutionary cause.
But Thomas Paines’s ideas were not new ones; many of the revolutionary leaders including Thomas Jefferson, Samuel Adams, Patrick Henry, and so on had long been advocating the same ideas. But what was so important about Common Sense was the style in which it was written. Thomas Paine wrote in common terms and made sure that his pamphlet could be understood by anyone from a poor farmer to the governor. Because of this style, more people could understand exactly what the Revolutionary War was founded on and be more likely to support the colonists. Also, when charismatic speaker gives a speech, his voice can only carry so far; few will actually hear what that speaker had to say and most will only receive garbled and inaccurate summaries of what once was a rousing, patriotic speech. Common Sense, on the other hand, was published in pamphlet form, a cheap and easy way to get a point across to a large mass of people. No one need summarize or distort a pamphlet when it would be easier just to read it. Therefore, even after 100 people had read the pamphlet, the 101st person would still be hearing Thomas Paine’s words, not a summary. All of these benefits of a pamphlet are reflected in the overall impact of Common Sense. Common Sense was the spark that lit the fire of revolution. It convinced the wavering colonists to strengthen their resolve and protect their rights. Who knows what would have happened without it? Would we still be an independent country today?
Common Sense is an example for us, American citizens. If this nobody… this failure… could publish an article that changed the face of history, then why can’t we do the same. Thomas Paine was a normal, unnoticed citizen just like us before he published Common Sense but because he made his opinion known, he is one of the many heroes of the Revolutionary War. We have the opportunity to make our opinions known. Through our far reaching media, we, normal citizens, can express our ideas; many of us are already following Thomas Paine’s example through blogs, the modern form of pamphlets. In blogs, normal, unnoticed citizens can publish their thoughts and who knows? Maybe someday a high school student will be writing a report about the impact of a blog or other publication that changed the face of the country today.
In conclusion, I urge you to follow the example of Thomas Paine and make your ideas known; only through communication will this country evolve into a better society. Thomas Paine did not sit around and just wish for support for the Revolution; he got up and did something about it. If you feel strongly about an issue, get up and do something about it and you may just change the world.
Last summer I had the opportunity to travel to Mt. Vernon, the Virginia home of our first President, George Washington. As I walked the grounds I was struck at how the personality of Washington was evident in every aspect of the plantation. You had the prestigious head of state evident in the immense gardens and lavish mansion, but also the simple farmer in the plain study and unadorned barns. The desire for independence was clearly seen in his efforts to make Mt. Vernon itself self-sufficient, and his pious nature was evident in the chapel. Washington, the Lord of Mt. Vernon, was without a doubt firmly rooted in his principles and values, and because of his lifework the nation he has founded has become the strongest in the world. George Washington's impact is immeasurable, from his work as a Commander-In-Chief, first President of the United States, and his lasting legacy today.
Washington without a doubt adhered firmly to the founding principles. When called upon he left his beloved Mt. Vernon estate to travel to the second continental congress as a delegate. By this time the first shots at Lexington and Concord had been fired and the British held Boston. Washington appeared at the congress in his military uniform, to demonstrate his readiness to fight for freedom. He was even reported as saying, " …I am prepared to raise 1000 men, subsist them at my own expense, and march to the relief of Boston." The statement embodies the qualities that had Washington unanimously confirmed as Commander-In-Chief of the Continental Army, a post he held for eight years, enduring hardships, setbacks, privations, but ultimately, through his fortitude, victory. When I read Bruce Chadwick's biography, George Washington's War, I was moved by the account of a British warship that sailed up the Potomac River past Mt. Vernon. George Washington's servant in charge of the estate sent the British Commander numerous provisions and supplies as a way to ensure that Mt. Vernon remains untouched. Upon hearing this George Washington became enraged, so fervent was his adherence to freedom's cause that he said it would have been better for the British to have burned Mt. Vernon to the ground and decimated his livelihood than to have the forces of tyranny aided by his own purse. To further demonstrate his devotion to freedom's principles, he surrendered his commission back to Congress, rejecting the opportunity numerous times to be a military dictator. He was so dedicated to the founding principles that he would not accept a salary for his services, seeing them as a duty to his country. After the war he was unanimously selected to lead the Constitutional Convention, ensuring that the form of government the nation created adhered to the founding principles, and as President he held this nation together through a tumultuous time, enduring the nation remained united and that freedom did not falter.
As President, Washington had to draw on the skills he had used to hold the Army together as Commander in Chief in order to hold the fragile new Nation together. The idea of a national identity to the people was as foreign to them as being a "citizen of the United Nations" is to Americans today. Isn't that a scary thought? The disparate backgrounds of the states caused an understandable mistrust of each other. Washington faced the task of uniting all the different peoples and States together under one government, a task no one else could have done. Washington had to keep thirteen sovereign nations together and meld them into one. What is even more remarkable was that he did it without firing a shot. When the Whiskey rebellion threatened the stability of the new nation, Washington personally led the federal troops to suppress the rebels. Upon hearing the name of Washington, they disbanded without any conflict. It was not through strength of arms, but through the strength of his character that Washington held the nation together.
Washington set many precedents that still have an impact on our lives today. The practice of a military subordinate to the civilian authority was firmly rooted in the new Republic during the rebellion, when Washington, often to his misfortune, allowed Congress and the states ultimate control of the military, saying, "when we take up the soldier, we do not lay aside the citizen". The Presidency also bears the echoes of Washington's character. At the Constitutional Convention, the delegates crafted the office with one man in mind, and that man was Washington. As President, everything Washington did would become precedent, from his two-term example to the notion of a Cabinet to civilian heads of all executive departments. But one of Washington's most lasting legacies, and one that future Presidents would strive to uphold, was his contribution to the morale center of the Presidency and nation. On taking the oath of office, Washington added spontaneously to the oath, "so help me God," a phrase that all subsequent presidents have also said, affirming the nation's reliance on the protection of divine providence. Washington supplied the support morally that a new nation needed, offering an example of the decency of Americans to the world, and reaffirming the importance of the nation's values to Americans themselves. As he said in his first inaugural, "let us raise a standard to which the wise and honest can repair."
When I was in the second grade my class had a mock election to determine who the students believed was the greatest President. From that day through the time I visited Mt. Vernon I have always campaigned for George Washington. George Washington was vital to our nation's founding. HE realized our principles of constitutional government, republican ideals, and a free and independent citizenry. Because he shaped those principles, fought for those principles, and embodied those principles. In modern times the Presidency gives dignity to the man, but when Washington was elected he gave the dignity to the Presidency. He truly is, "first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen."
Gray mist swirled on the docks, preventing a view of much else. The only noise was the sound of water lapping quietly. Then the mist fell back like a ghostly curtain, and all along the gray-brown line of the docks, there were ships. They stood in the water like tall, stern, immovable captains. The air was filled with a pungent, exotic scent, mixed with the tang of saltwater. The smell spread for miles. In the water of the harbor floated sodden leaves. The dark plants were everywhere, moving with the gentle motion of the water, carpeting its surface. Seaweed? No-tea!
The Boston Tea Party is one of the most famous and widely-known events of the Revolutionary War. Many people from the thirteen colonies were frustrated by the taxes levied on them by England. The taxes were minimal; however, the colonies were taxed despite the fact they weren't represented in Parliament. Though the taxes were low, the price of tea was high. Angered by the taxation without representation, colonists refused to buy tea.
The East India Company was on the verge of bankruptcy after the tea strike dragged on. In a desperate attempt to save it, England lowered the taxes to three pence a pound. Some colonists bought the cheaper tea, but the clamoring for tax removal did not cease. Six years later, England passed the Tea Act. This allowed the East India Company to sell tea directly to the colonists without paying the usual taxes imposed on the colonial merchants. The company would be able to sell tea for a lower price than the colonial merchants and run them out of business. The Patriots were furious at this attempt to disguise the taxes under cover of lower prices. So on the night of December 16th, 1773, one hundred and fifty Sons of Liberty, led by Samuel Adams, boarded three ships and threw the cargo of tea into Boston Harbor. England demanded payment for the tea. The colonists refused.
All of Boston paid dearly for the Tea Party. Retribution was swift and deadly. England, irate, ruthlessly limited the self-government in Boston, allowed soldiers to be quartered in the citizen's houses, and worst-closed Boston Harbor. Ships were Boston's link to the outside world. Ships brought in supplies. With no harbor, there could be no new supplies. No goods for shopkeepers to sell…no clothing for the cold winter…and no food. Boston was catapulted into an economic famine. For refusing to be a puppet, all of Boston was going to starve. Business would close, since no one would have money to buy goods. Mother England had dealt punishment to her rebellious child.
The only thing England didn't expect was a second mutiny. But that is exactly what happened. All of the thirteen colonies were outraged. Instead of bowing and cowering before England, they rebelled. From all over America, food was shipped to Boston. Rice from the south, fish from the coastlines, even monetary gifts were sent. The Tea Party sparked revolution in the hearts of the thirteen colonies. The colonies could see what their destiny would be under England---total subservience under tyranny and despotism. England's punishment on Boston already displayed this. The colonies banded together with fierce loyalty. They were determined to be England's children no longer.
We think of the Revolutionary War beginning at Lexington and Concord with the famed "shot heard round the world," but in many ways, the fight for American independence began with the Boston Tea Party. America realized that England wanted them in bondage, whether economic bondage or bondage to England's laws. It took brave men like Samuel Adams to let out the first battle cry by dumping tea into Boston Harbor. It was a bold move, but Samuel Adams and all the courageous Sons of Liberty knew that suffering through any punishment England gave would be preferable to living their lives in mute obedience.
Even more importantly, the Boston Tea Party prompted the colonies to think of themselves as one united nation. Up until this time, they were thirteen independent colonies. They were not "Americans". Those from the prison colonies of Georgia saw themselves as Georgians. The refined, wealthy landowners of Virginia were proud to call themselves Virginians. The peaceful Quakers of Pennsylvania saw themselves as Pennsylvanians. Each individual colony was a matter of pride to its own citizens, and no citizen wanted to be associated with another colony.
England never intended for the colonies to lift their heads, stand to their feet and demand to be seen as a force to be reckoned with. The Boston Tea Party and its repercussions did what nothing else could. It united the thirteen colonies that were astronomically different into an entity of a single vision: freedom.
England only meant to intimidate Boston into submission. Instead, they got a rebellion. The Boston Tea Party was a catalyst that set the Revolutionary War into motion. Without it, America might never have come into existence. The desire for liberty bound the colonies during the Revolutionary War. They bound us through the American Revolution. They bound us through the War between the States and two World Wars. They bound us through Vietnam and through 9/11. They still bind us today. Because of the foundation set down by the Boston Tea Party, we continue to be fifty United States of America.
“The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket, nor breaks my leg.”
Thomas Jefferson is a man known for the power of his words. His words here, said shortly after the American Revolution, speak volumes about the importance of the separation of church and state.
Most Americans today believe that our country enjoys such a separation. However, we often hear the United States described as a Christian nation. We hear of court cases concerning prayer in schools or religious displays on public property. So, if we are enjoying this “separation of church and state,” why all the trouble? Well, the term itself appears nowhere directly in the Constitution. Thomas Jefferson used the expression in a letter to the Danbury Baptist Association in 1802. But it is alarming that people insist on questioning the constitutionality of various laws and practices based on an idea that doesn’t even appear in the document. Going further, this separation, upon which so much weight is placed, is not clearly defined.
The first time religion is mentioned in the Constitution is in Article VI. Here, it says that all those serving in public office “shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” It is important to note that one must make an oath or an affirmation. This option is offered, itself, as a safeguard of religious freedom: so that someone who could not or would not swear could still affirm his or her support for the Constitution and be bound by a sense of personal responsibility.
Next, Amendment I states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” This Establishment Clause ensures a separation of church and state as well as an individual’s right to worship in whatever manner he or she wishes, or not to worship at all. It is a truly essential element of both the Constitution and our nation’s character. Many early American colonists were fleeing religious persecution at home in Europe. The Puritans settled in New England, the Quakers in Pennsylvania, and the Catholics in Maryland. These individual colonies became havens for people who sought religious freedom. The First Amendment also guarantees freedom of speech and the press, the right to assemble, and to stand up to abusive government. Incorporating all these rights into a single amendment truly serves to affirm the unified nature of political and religious freedom.
As recently as 1985, the Supreme Court held in Wallace v. Jaffree that an Alabama law authorizing public school teachers to conduct religious prayer services in the classroom violated the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause. Justice William Rehnquist argued against this ruling. In his dissent, he wrote that “George Washington himself, at the request of the very Congress which passed the Bill of Rights, proclaimed a day of ‘public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many…favors of Almighty God.’” Rehnquist concluded that “history must judge whether it was the Father of his Country in 1789, or a majority of the Court today, which has strayed from the meaning of the Establishment Clause.”
Then, in the 1989 case Allegheny County v. Greater Pittsburgh ACLU, the Supreme Court ordered that a crèche bearing the words “Gloria in Excelsis Deo” be removed from the town’s courthouse. However, it upheld another display that included a Christmas tree, a menorah, and a sign saluting liberty. They claimed that “Both Christmas and Chanukah are part of the same winter-holiday season, which has attained a secular status in our country.
Finally, in the 2003 circuit court case, Glassroth v. Moore, Alabama Justice Roy Moore was ordered to remove a monument of the Ten Commandments that he had erected in the state judicial building. He refused, stating that it violated his right to acknowledge God. The Supreme Court held the lower court’s decision that his right to acknowledge God was not denied, but that he himself had violated the Establishment Clause in erecting such a monument on government property.
In each of these examples, the Establishment Clause is said to be threatened. The cases seem to take the issue to the extreme, saying there should be no public prayer, no religious display and no acknowledgment of a higher power. Although their outcomes were varied, they show a consistent theme. Simply put, Americans do not want to be confronted with any beliefs that they, themselves, do not hold. But to be afforded that convenience, everyone must be willing to sacrifice the public expression of their own beliefs as well. It is probable that we have moved away from the original thinking of the founding fathers in our approach to this issue. Most likely, their intent, and what ours should be today, is to defend the freedom of every American to believe whatever he or she wishes. While completely eradicating religious expression in public may be the most effective means of deterring abuse of this freedom, I believe that it would surprise our forefathers to find that the American people are so easily offended by the beliefs of others as to precipitate government involvement in this issue through lawsuits and legislation. As James Madison, a fervent advocate of religious freedom, once remarked, “Religion and government will both exist in greater purity the less they are mixed together.”
"I have learned to hate all traitors, and there is no disease that I spit on more than treachery." Aeschylus, the Greek tragedian, put it best. The founding fathers couldn't have agreed more. To the founders of our country, treason was the worst offense a man could commit. Our country's forefathers had such an overpowering love for America that they included an entire section of the Constitution strictly to deal with treason. Section 3 states that Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court. The Congress shall have power to declare the punishment of treason, but no attainder of treason shall work corruption of blood, or forfeiture except during the life of the person attainted.
Treason was a constant worry for the American patriots during the revolution. It was impossible to tell who was a revolutionary and who was a loyalist. The person you thought was your patriotic neighbor could have been a Tory. For example, the most famous traitor of the American Revolution was the least likely person to be one. American General, Benedict Arnold was the model of a patriot. An active soldier in the revolution, a companion of George Washington, and a revered and respected general, Benedict Arnold was the last person anyone would have expected to be selling secrets to the British army. Nonetheless, in 1778, Arnold was discovered conspiring to hand the American fort of West Point to the British Army. After the founding fathers saw one of their own patriots committing treason they knew the issue must be addressed in the Constitution. The framers included section 3 in the Constitution in order to protect the American dream and system both in the time of the revolution and today.
So what exactly does Section 3 mean? Well, just like every other part of the Constitution, it's open to interpretation and debate. And it has been debated. The problem is that the crime of treason, although punishable is not clearly defined and it is not easily proven. Treason, as defined by article 3, consists only of levying war against the United States or in giving aid and comfort to the enemy of the U.S. The best interpretation of section 3 came from Supreme Court Justice John Marshall during the trial of Aaron Burr. Burr had been accused of conspiring to overthrow the U.S. Government. He had planned to gather Mexican troops. While this may sound like treason, under the definition of Article 3, it is not. Treason only includes levying war against the government, not conspiring to. Justice Marshall stated, "there must be an actual assembling of men, for the treasonable purpose, to constitute a levying of war." Since a person can only be proven guilty if there are two witnesses of the treasonable action, or by confession in open court, Aaron Burr was acquitted; his actions were covert.
Unfortunately, as time went on, Section 3 proved to be somewhat inconsistent. During the Cold War, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, a husband and wife scientist team working for the U.S. atomic bomb project, were accused and convicted of treason for selling nuclear secrets to the Soviet Union. They were both executed in the electric chair. Aaron Burr, who had planned to gather troops, raid America's border and help Mexico destroy the U.S. Government, was acquitted, but the insipid husband and wife scientists were electrocuted. The Rosenbergs truly suffered from the inconsistency of interpreting Section 3. The secrets they passed to the Soviet Union were not all that valuable, yet they were given the maximum possible punishment. In contrast, Klaus Fuchs, a Soviet spy from the same time, was only sentenced to 14 years in prison after selling the most valuable atomic secrets of the 1940's.
With the Patriot Act, Guantanamo Bay, and America's war on terror, traitors to the American cause have grown significantly in number. Most famous was the case of John Walker Lindh, a young California native who was found fighting for the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2000. Walker Lindh fit the definition in Section 3 as closely as one possibly could. He was captured during an Afghani prison revolt carrying a machine gun, possessing two hand grenades and fighting alongside the Taliban against American troops. He was sentenced to twenty years in prison.
The cases speak for themselves. The founding fathers had every reason to be concerned about treason. From Benedict Arnold to John Walker Lindh, treason has been an ongoing issue. The drafters of the Constitution believed in the greatness and sanctity of the American way and incorporated section 3 to ensure that the American dream would live on. Some were jailed, some were fined, some were executed, but all those who betrayed America were brought to some kind of justice because of section 3. Although the wording of section 3 may be vague and open to interpretation I think the message of the founding fathers is clear. "I have learned to hate all traitors, and there is no disease that I spit on more than treachery."
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness." According the Declaration of Independence this is the basis of the American Revolution. Today I would like to speak to you on separation of church and state. To understand this, we must first see the part that religion played in the American Revolution, second how separation of church and state began, and third how the courts have brought this separation to the point that it is now.
When the colonists decided to separate from England, religious freedom played an important part in the revolution. The king was seen as the direct representative of God on earth. When the Declaration of Independence was written, it was said that all men are "endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights." The concept of God was deeply embedded in the foundations of the new country. The heads of this new government knew that a church could not rule the United States of America. They had seen what a church headed government had done in England and what it had the potential to do in America in terms of religious persecution. When the Bill of Rights was written, in the First Amendment it was stated that, "Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."
The separation of church and state began when Thomas Jefferson used the term "a wall of separation between church and state" in his letter to the Danbury Baptists. It is my opinion that this separation of church and state was not meant to be the strict separation that it is today. Jefferson was enduring these people that the state would not persecute or discriminate against the Danbury Baptists. It is clear that the forefathers did not want a separation so complete that children are not allowed to speak of God at their schools. They only wanted a country where all could practice religious freedom. Thomas Paine said that, "above all things the free exercise of religion" is essential to our freedom. The founding fathers wanted us to have a wall of separation between our religions and government, but they did not intend for us to completely block out all religion. When Thomas Jefferson was President of the school board, the Bible was used as a textbook in the first public schools.
Just looking at history as well as famous monuments and government buildings proves that religion, whatever religion that may be, was meant to be a part of the lives of the American people. The 83rd Congress designated a room in the Capitol that is always open for prayer and meditation for the members of Congress. The Washington monument has the words "Praise be to God" engraved in its cap as well as Bible versus written on its staircase. The Jefferson Memorial contains a reference to God. If we are trying to block out religion from our school system, should we stop public schools from visiting these monuments? Or should these historic sites, which are such an important part of our country, be destroyed because they mention a God that everyone may not believe exists? Or should we not teach the Declaration of Independence and other historical documents because of their reference to God?
The first amendment does not state that religion cannot be practiced in schools. It states that we cannot pass laws that prohibit the practice of religion. In the 1947 Supreme Court case Everson v. Board of Education, a case concerning the use of state funds to transport children to religious schools, Justice Hugo Black cited the wall of separation. The case of Engel v. Vitale in 1962 was the first ruling that separated Christianity and education. In this case the court defined "church" as "a religious activity in public". Prior to this there was no historical or legal precedent banning religious activities in public settings. Is not prohibiting religious activity in schools and other public circumstances passing laws prohibiting the practice of religion? Where is the freedom of expression in these laws and court cases?
I am in agreement with the Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist when he stated, "the wall" diverted judges "from the actual intention of the drafters of the Bill of Rights." I am not the only one in disagreement with these laws completely separating the church and state. A senior class was told that God could not be used in their graduation ceremonies. In response to this when a speaker stood up to give his speech, he let out a large sneeze. On cue every senior stood and said, "God Bless You".
In conclusion, I would like to say that I agree that the churches should be separate from the state to a degree. This is what allows our country to be a place of freedom where all can worship according to their own beliefs. The government should not step in and stop people from worshipping, or choosing not to worship, their God. This was clearly the intent of the Declaration of Independence. Our forefathers fought and won the American Revolution so that we could have freedom. We should all have the freedom of religion that they believed in, a true freedom where everyone can practice his or her own religion at any time and in any place.