Bryan Fischer’s Understanding Of The First Amendment Fluctuates To Suit His Needs

As we have noted several times before, American Family Radio’s Bryan Fischer holds an utterly incoherent view of the First Amendment that allows him to declare at one time that it only applies to Congress while, at other times, insisting that it applies to all sorts of other government entities, depending entirely on which view supports the argument he is making at that particular moment.

Fischer put this incoherence on display yet again earlier this week when he penned a column railing against a court decision that a large cross must be removed from the side of a highway in Maryland.

As Fischer sees it, the cross could not possibly violate the First Amendment because only Congress has the power to do that:

The First Amendment was written only to restrain the actions of Congress, as its first words clearly state: “CONGRESS shall make no law…” Only Congress can violate the First Amendment’s establishment clause, and the only way Congress can do that is by passing a LAW that designates one Christian denomination as the official church of the nation and ordering people to give money to it.

If Congress doesn’t do that, it can do anything else it wants when it comes to religious expression.

Not only is Congress the only entity that can possibly violate the Establishment clause, it is also the only entity that can even possibly violate the Free Exercise clause. That clause flatly forbids CONGRESS (and by extension, the entire federal government) from “prohibiting the free exercise” of religion. This restriction applies to every branch of the federal government. The executive branch is not allowed to prohibit the free exercise of religion in any way and neither is the judicial branch.

While this is a standard argument from Fischer, his insistence that Congress is “the only entity that can even possibly violate the Free Exercise clause” directly contradicts the arguments that he has made several times in the past.

  • When Atlanta fire chief Kelvin Cochran was fired by the mayor for distributing an anti-LGBTQ book he had written to employees, Fischer fumed that “Cochran has been stripped of every right that is cherished and protected under the First Amendment.”
  • When bakery owners Aaron and Melissa Klein were fined by the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industry for discriminating against LGBTQ customers, Fischer declared that “their right to the free exercise of religion, gone. Their right to free speech, gone. Their right to free association, gone.”
  • When it was determined that baker Jack Phillips had discriminated against gay customers, Fischer claimed that the “Colorado Civil Rights Commission discriminated against Phillips by trashing the ‘free exercise’ of his Christian faith.”
  • When Eric Walsh sued the Georgia Department of Public Health after being fired over the content of sermons he had delivered in his capacity as a lay minister, Fischer blasted the state of Georgia for violating Walsh’s “free exercise of religion.”
  • When high school football coach Joe Kennedy was fired by the school district for refusing to stop engaging in public prayer after games, Fischer was outraged that the school district had “prohibited his free exercise of religion.”

While maintaining that Congress is “the only entity that can even possibly violate the Free Exercise clause,” Fischer claimed in each one of these cases that the First Amendment’s Free Exercise clause was being violated, despite the fact that Congress had nothing to do with a single one of them.