As we have noted several times before, American Family Radio’s Bryan Fischer holds an incoherent understanding of the First Amendment that allows him to continually insist that it only applies to Congress … except for all the other times when he insists that it applies to all sorts of government entities.
Fischer continued to push this inconsistent message on his radio program yesterday when he interviewed Steve Crampton, a Religious Right attorney who is now seeking a seat on the Mississippi state Supreme Court, about the case of Eric Walsh, a lay minister who is suing the Georgia Department of Public Health.
Walsh claims that he was fired after government officials examined sermons he had delivered and is now suing state officials for religious discrimination. Fischer was outraged that the state of Georgia would so blatantly violate Walsh’s “free exercise of religion” in this manner because “it is a right that you possess as an American citizen under our Constitution 168 hours a week.”
This position, as usual, directly conflicts with Fischer’s repeated insistence that “the only entity that can violate the First Amendment is Congress.” Fischer has asserted time and again that the First Amendment only applies to Congress and that states are “allowed to regulate religious expression any way they chose.”
As he wrote just last month:
Under the Founders’ Constitution – that is, the one written by the Founders, not the one mangled beyond recognition by the Supreme Court – the only entity that can violate the First Amendment is Congress.
The very first word in the First Amendment is “Congress.” The First Amendment was intended as a restraint on Congress and Congress alone. It is simply impossible for any other entity – be it a state, a county, a city, a school district, a school teacher, or a student – to violate the First Amendment for the simple reason that it wasn’t written to restrain them … States under the Founders’ Constitution are free to regulate religious expression in any way they would like without any interference from the federal government. States can even have an established religion if they want to, and at the time of the Founding, 10 of them did.
If Fischer actually believed his own stated position, he would have no reason to be outraged about this case since, he says, states “are free to regulate religious expression in any way they would like.” Under his own theory, the state of Georgia is free to not only fire Walsh for religious reasons but to explicitly prohibit him from preaching or worshiping entirely without violating the Constitution in the slightest.
The fact that Fischer is consistently incensed by what he decries as violations of the First Amendment by a variety of entities that are obviously not Congress perfectly demonstrates that he either doesn’t understand, or simply doesn’t believe, his own nonsensical theory.