As we have noted several times before, American Family Radio’s Bryan Fischer subscribes to an entirely incoherent theory about the First Amendment, insisting that its prohibition against an establishment of religion only applies to Congress while also insisting that its prohibition against infringing upon the free exercise of religion applies to all levels of government.
The First Amendment says that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” so if the establishment clause only applies to Congress, then logically so too does the free exercise clause. Conversely, if the free exercise clause applies to anything beyond Congress, then so too does the establishment clause.
But somehow, Fischer cannot seem to comprehend this simple concept and continues to promote his unique and baffling interpretation, as he did on his radio show today while discussing Todd Starnes’ latest column alleging that NASA has banned mentions of Jesus in the Johnson Space Center newsletter.
“I cannot begin to even describe to you how much is wrong with that,” Fischer said. “Number one, the First Amendment prohibits Congress and Congress alone. The first words of the First Amendment, ‘Congress shall make no law.’ That is the only entity that is restrained by the founder’s Constitution. It’s never been amended; it still says Congress. Congress shall make no law. Now, let me ask you this question: are employees of NASA, are they Congress? No! They cannot possibly, conceivably violate the First Amendment of the Constitution even if they wanted to because they’re not Congress! Only Congress can do that.”
After laying out his case that only Congress can violate the First Amendment’s establishment clause, Fischer then immediately turned around and bizarrely attacked NASA for supposedly violating the First Amendment’s free exercise clause.
“The other thing about the First Amendment,” Fischer continued, “it says that no branch of the federal government, and you might consider NASA a branch of the federal government since it is part of the bureaucracy, they are not allowed to prohibit the free exercise of religion. That’s right there in the First Amendment. Make no law prohibiting the free exercise of religion. The federal government, not part of the federal government, no agency of the federal government, no bureaucracy of the federal government, no employee of the federal government is allowed to prohibit the free exercise of religion. This is exactly what NASA is doing, prohibiting the free exercise of religion. So it is wrong on so many counts, I can’t even begin to tell you.”
NASA, of course, is not Congress, so under the first half of Fischer’s argument, the agency is not restricted by the Fist Amendment in any way. But, amazingly, that is not the position Fischer took as he then proceeded to insist that the First Amendment applies to every federal agency and employee!
Fischer spent the first half of his argument asserting that the First Amendment only applies to Congress and then spent the second half of that same argument asserting that the First Amendment applies to every part of the federal government.
In the span of a minute and a half, Fischer managed to promote two views of the First Amendment that are not only illogical but entirely contradictory.