Worldnutdaily Fudges First Amendment

Tom Ambrose is the commentary editor of the Worldnutdaily. Given the extraordinary number of awful commentary pieces WND publishes, especially the "exclusive commentaries" which are generally so bad that one assumes they are "exclusive" because no one else would publish them, he's not very good at his job. But now he's joining in the absurdity himself with his own "exclusive" commentary. Homosexual Nazis are Savaging the Church, screams the headline, with the subtitle Tom Ambrose on Episcopal preists denied their 1st Amendment rights. Now let's see if the facts support this breathless description:

On Sunday, the Associated Press reported that six Episcopal priests in Connecticut may be removed as rectors of their parishes by their bishop because they have actively opposed the election of the first openly "gay" bishop, Vickie Gene Robinson of New Hampshire...

Apparently, the six churches had the audacity to try to "break away from Smith's authority and be supervised by another bishop." One of the priests being threatened, the Rev. Christopher Leighton, has referred to the threat as "spiritual gag orders."...

These priests are being threatened with the loss of their jobs because they are refusing to kowtow to a conspiracy to terminate their constitutional First Amendment rights.

Perhaps Mr. Ambrose has misplaced his copy of the Bill of Rights, but my copy has a first amendment that begins with the clause Congress shall make no law..., which has since reasonably been applied to states as well. Under no circumstances could it possibly be interpreted as barring churches from telling ministers within that church what they can say and how they may behave. Indeed, for the government to impose such restrictions on a church would violate the free exercise clause of the first amendment.

One cannot help but wonder where Mr. Ambrose was when Bishop Righter was put on trial for heresy by this same Episcopal Church in 1996 for ordaining a gay priest. Surely if an Episcopal priest has a first amendment right to make statements against homosexuality, they also have a first amendment right to make statements for homosexuality. First amendment rights are supposed to be content-neutral, right? Alas, Mr. Ambrose was dead silent on that question. He also did not bravely stand up for the "first amendment rights" of Jimmy Creech, a Methodist minister from Omaha who was subject to two heresy trials by his church rulers, acquitted in the first and convicted in the second, thereafter stripped of his ministry in the church. Nor did he defend the "first amendment rights" of Terry Gray, a biochemist who was convicted of heresy by the Orthodox Presbyterian Church where he was an elder for the horrible crime of teaching evolution at Calvin College, not far from me. He was also silent regarding the heresy trials of David Benke (Lutheran), Stephen Van Kuiken (Presbyterian), or C. Joseph Sprague (Methodist). The Chicago Tribune noted in 2003 that the Presbyterian Church USA alone had 28 heresy trials going on. As far as I can tell, Mr. Ambrose is bothered by none of them, as apparently only those he agrees with are protected by the first amendment against the actions of the church they belong to.

The truth, of course, is that none of these people have first amendment protection against those churches. Churches are entirely free to set their own doctrine and police their own clergy and membership without any restrictions from the government. The church may do what the government may not, which is decide on whatever grounds it wishes who may enter and what they may say upon doing so. Indeed, the first amendment protects the church's right to do so.

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...which has since reasonably been applied to states as well

It's not "reasonableness" that makes the 1st Ammendment apply to state governments, it's the 14th Ammendment which explicitly makes it apply:


No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

As the first ammendment contains some "privileges and immunities of citizens of the United States", it is explicitly unlawful for states to pass laws infringing on it. But that may be what you meant -- I'm assuming that you're saying that judges have reasonably interpreted the 1st Ammendment to apply to the states as well as Congress, but perhaps you meant that ammending the Constitution a la the language quoted above was reasonable...

It's not "reasonableness" that makes the 1st Ammendment apply to state governments, it's the 14th Ammendment which explicitly makes it apply:
Yes, I'm well aware of that. I just didn't want to distract from the point of my post by going into the history of the 14th amendment as well.

Even more ludicrous is Ambrose's assertion that "homosexuals" are behind the disciplinary actions of the Episcopal Church. Last I heard, there was exactly ONE gay bishop (e.g., leader) in the church, and I highly doubt he has the power to discipline priests outside his jurisdiction of New Hampshire. Unless the entire leadership of the American Anglican church is gay, Ambrose's sentiments are simply idiotic.

Hehe... looking at your list of examples reminds me of oen reason it's good to be a Baptist. We're far too disorganized to organize any sort of trial court. And other than the bogus SBC court of public opinion, most wouldn't want to.

"Homosexual Nazis are Savaging the Church."

This is hilarious all by itself. Who writes their headlines, and does he work for the Weekly World News?

Homosexual Nazis are Savaging the Church

Obviously someone at WorldNut HQ is getting slack, as this headline should be Homosexual Evolutionist Liberal Activist Nazis are Savaging the Church.

I left the Mormon Church after being raised a fifth-generation Mormon because I couldn't abide its teachings and reconcile its version of its own history with the facts readily available. I had no right to change the church -- my rights allowed me to walk away. When the government attempts to dictate what churches can espouse we enter very dangerous territory (so long as the rights of all are protected in the process). Libertarian republican democracy is -- can be -- a beautiful thing.

By Roger Plothow (not verified) on 13 Apr 2005 #permalink