Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

The reality is that "religious freedom" in the Constitution's Bill of Rights probably doesn't mean what religionists think, from the perspective of "originalism"

I do write about the "establishment clause" and the separation of church and state as outlined in the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States from time to time, but it's hardly a focus of a blog on urbanism.

I have written about churches in the context of urbanism ("Churches, community, religion and change," original piece, 2012).  And I am a fan of religious architecture and design, especially stained glass.  

Now here in Salt Lake, I am fascinated about how the LDS Church builds churches to anchor neighborhoods, and they are sited to encourage walking to church (I'm not sure many people do), so there is an abundance of churches within neighborhoods.  But like urban churches elsewhere, they are running into having "too many churches" as the city becomes more religiously diverse.

An article in the Salt Lake Deseret News, "What does ‘a wall of separation between Church and State’ mean exactly?," made me think about it anew, based on my experiences in DC, and learning about the early history of the region.  

Pro-religionists focus on the clause "or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," rather than the first clause of the sentence, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion."

My interpretation of this section of the First Amendment is that it concerned the forced payment by American households to financially support the Church of England, the "official religion" of Maryland and other Southern colonies and Congregationalism in New England.  Some colonies required payment to the Protestant denomination of their choice.  Only Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island did not require religious payments.

Although I'm really only familiar with Maryland, because DC was originally part of Maryland, and what is now St. Paul's Episcopal Church on "Rock Creek Church Road," was the official church for that part of what is now DC.

Maryland was originally founded with a doctrine of religious freedom, and the earliest Lords Calvert were Catholic.  Because the Calverts continued to practice the Catholic faith, eventually the Royal Charter was withdrawn from them, in 1689, and the Church of England became the state religion in Maryland.

All householders had to pay a tax to support the operations of the church in their region.  Later the Calverts converted, and in 1699, the Royal Charter was restored.  

Queens Chapel Road in DC and Prince George's County, Maryland is named after the Queen Family (who owned about three square miles of land in what are now the Brookland, Edgewood, and Woodridge neighborhoods), which maintained a hidden chapel to practice their Catholic faith, despite the forced adoption of Anglicanism for the Maryland Colony.  

(We don't know where the chapel was located but it was probably close to origin point of Queens Chapel Road, which is near the intersection of 18th and Irving Streets NE, on the Woodridge side of 18th Street.)

For some time, I've let myself believe that the example of the Queens and Maryland was one of the influences on what became the final wording of the First Amendment.   

Based on my interpretation of those events, I figured that resentment over having to pay to the church, even if you chose not to practice that faith, was a key impetus behind this clause of the First Amendment.  

Not so much the ability to practice religion free of the state, but the ability to not practice religion or a particular religion.  And definitely to not be forced to pay for its maintenance ("Public Funding of Religious Activity in 18th-Century America," Pew Research Center).

OTOH, because the Calverts started out Catholic and understood the problems their practice of an unapproved religion created for them politically and financially vis a vis the King of England, they were more tolerant of other faiths, and in 1649, they facilitated the passage of the Maryland Toleration Act, one of the earliest laws mandating religious tolerance for the practice of other religions.

So you can make the argument that the First Amendment clause about religion is equally about the freedom to practice religion, as much as it is to not practice it.

Donald Trump holds up a Bible during a photo opportunity in front of St John’s Episcopal church on Monday. Photograph: Tom Brenner/Reuters.

Be that as it may, the rise in religionism on the part of conservatives and the frequent involvement of religion-related interpretations in federal lawmaking and interpretation is about religious perspectives superseding the independence of government from religion and vice versa ("Religion and Right-Wing Politics: How Evangelicals Reshaped Elections," New York Times).

The SLDN article makes the point that originally the Constitution ordered the relationship between the federal government and states, and citizens, but that states were not subject to all of its provision.  

Therefore, official religions persisted in some states for some time after the creation of the United States. So the tension of church and state, and yielding authority to either the state or to religion remains.

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At 1:50 PM, Anonymous charlie said...

I'm sure you saw this:

Very peculiar:

"At another point, Barrett recounted her job interview with the late Justice Antonin Scalia to clerk for him in 1998. “He asked what area of the court's precedent I thought needed to be better organized, and off-the-cuff I said, ‘Well, gosh, the First Amendment,’” she recalled. “And he said, ‘Well, what do you mean?’ Then I fell down a rabbit hole of trying to explain without success – because it is a very complicated area of the law – how one might see one's way through the thicket of balancing the Establishment Clause against the Free Exercise Clause. … It's been something that the court has struggled with for decades, to try to come to a sensible way to apply both of those clauses.”"

Lots of talk about how Democrats are a coalition and Republicans are a ideology.

That's actually a very old saw; basically goes back to the 1880s where the Republicans are the party of Capital and Democrtts the party of easy money and the people.

But also also to say there ins't some truth in there.

But Republicans are part of coalitions as well.

Reminds me of women group using Prohibition, or evaganical groups using Darwinism. Using Abortion as that wedge issue just isn't going to work out well in the long term for Republicans.

(true for democrats as well, at any given point only about 25% of the country care about access to abortion -- that is women under 40.)

So i I was a republican, I'd be worried about people like Judge Amy because she's basically been raised to do one thing -- kill Roe v. Wade --but she could do a lot more damage on all other other constitutional issues.

Bizarrely, the Senate committee did understand that to a degree. the media did not.

Her views on the 1st amendment seem very unformed.

I'd disagree with your views on the Establishment clause; the first amendment clearly didn't disestablish state churches. Only states could do that. Yes it prevented a national church.

I.e. I see nothing preventing Utah, for instance, to declare Mormomism the state religion and to pay state money to it.

But I'd agree with Judge Amy -- the 1st amendment is a mess. Only our norms and political pressure -- i.e.Utah wouldn't have been admitted as a state, or that Jerry Falwell's kid turns out to be a bit gay and a bit swingy -- keep us on the straight and norm.

At 9:45 AM, Anonymous charlie said...


"The Big Question: Is the Capitalist System Headed For Collapse?"

At 12:37 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

With the 14th amendment you can't have state religions. But yes state official religions existed into the 1800s, until eventually a determination was made that this was counter to the establishment clause.

Will read the cite.

At 3:34 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Great piece, thanks. I'll have to track down that book.

But it's not just "efficiency" it's shareholder capitalism + the conversion of top executives of corporations to "capital" in that they can extract significantly extranormal rewards for revenue generation increases. (40 years ago, people didn't make many tens of millions/dollars/year in income when running a corporation. Jack Welch wasn't the only person who changed this calculus, but he was one of them.)

In shareholder capitalism, and with the income metrics for top executives, efficiency is prized, and converting labor into capital saves money.

When you do that, you begin diminishing the ability of the workplace to generate middle class incomes.

When I did those tv shows on IT on the PBS Adult Learning Satellite Service in the early to mid 1990s, I read a bunch of the popular business literature of the time, especially the reengineering thread (which is why I read Davenport and business process redesign).

I remember the book by James Quinn, Intelligent Enterprise, which was an early book on"outsourcing."

Not offshoring, but making the point that businesses had particular competencies and some functions were best jobbed out, depending on whether or not the functions/corporation added significant value.

Capitalism could be on the ropes because the people at the top garner most of the rewards. And this becomes more evident and seems unjust.

The Kuper article mentions significantly higher minimum wages in order to make it possible for lower value but necessary jobs to be filled (clerks, etc.).

I have to read the book. He talks about "the Amazon" but the interview doesn't mention the size and scale of the platform, and how you can keep building both the breadth and intensity of the platform.

It's why Barnes & Noble can't be as successful with the Nook as Amazon can be with the Kindle. And Amazon can bundle e-books, and streaming movies and tv because people are buying other stuff.

One interesting thing about e-groceries according to Kroger -- given that they aren't making money on it -- is that the customers are more loyal and spend more.

So Amazon builds that in too, and can work to make it profitable (or at least break even) and make more money on the other elements.

But like Barnes and Noble, the ability of Kroger to build a comparable platform is limited.

Sure, they can do it. They have the divisions that sell all the other kinds of stuff, in their Marketplace stores, or the Fred Meyer division in the Pacific Northwest.

They could build that digital platform and begin adding that other stuff, just like Amazon.

But then Amazon has AWS to carry the financial weight.

It's like Walmart buying Jet. First, the Jet idea was crazy in that it wasn't likely to become revenue positive. And obviously, setting up savings for customers by trying to build delivery efficiencies wasn't enough of a sell. Second, does WM have it in them to be innovative in terms of the platform and range of items beyond the Sams + WM? They might. But even for them it will be tough.

At 3:38 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

The thing where Microsoft trumped Word Perfect, Lotus, and Dbase was by bundling. It's actually a form of Christensen's disruptive innovation in one way: Access wasn't originally better than dbase; Excel wasn't better than Lotus; Word wasn't better than Word Perfect. But the bundle was cheaper than buying just one of the competitive applications, and you got the other 2 for free.

Amazon took that to the next level, by creating a platform for physical goods, supplemented by some digital goods that require a physical interface (e-books, tv streaming).


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