It’s OK to Say God,Prelude to a Constitutional Renaissance,by Tad Armstrong (Bloomington, Indiana: Westbow Press, 2011), 350 pp. + xiii, paper $25.00
Tad Armstrong, an attorney and founder of ELL Constitution Clubs, established to provide a forum for lay people to study the actually pronouncements of the United States Supreme Court, has a deep concern. He believes that most people, including Christians, are ignorant of the actual rulings of the Supreme Court, especially as they touch our freedoms of religion and speech as expressed the First and Fourteenth amendments of the Constitution (p. ix). As a result, many of us not only believe but also spread half-truths and outright lies, causing unnecessary anxiety and distrust of our government. The only solution, Armstrong believes, is to become educated by reading the actual words of the Court’s rulings and correcting those who do not know the truth. The author writes,
It is my contention that, once Christians have the facts in tow, most of the unwarranted skirmishes will cease and the real battles for legitimate turf (in the field as opposed to the courtroom) can then be fought with greater success. Best of all, hopefully, victimized Christians will learn to turn that misdirected anger into the love of Christ for all. That is my hope.
This book is a good beginning in this educational process. Armstrong demonstrates that the founders of our country were highly sensitive to state-established and state-controlled religion as found in European countries, which had been a source of much pain and sorrow over the centuries. The framers of our constitution, including the Bill of Rights, wanted to ensure that America would never travel down that pathway. The very first amendment, known now as the “Establishment Clause,” guaranteed these freedoms. Thomas Jefferson, in a personal letter to Danbury Baptist Association, was the first to mention a wall of separation between church and state (pp. 33, 341-342), and the Supreme Court has been trying to determine how high that wall is ever since.
What becomes clear as one reads this volume is that applying the First Amendment to actual life is far more complicated than most of us imagine. Armstrong presents 34 Supreme Court decisions as referencing the First and/or the Fourteenth Amendments. He scores 22 rulings “for” religion and 12 “against” (see summary pp. 333-348), although he believes some of the rulings for religion were in error and will prove troublesome in the future.
I believe Armstrong does exactly what he has set out to do, i.e. educate the American people, especially Christians. This reviewer came away feeling more positive about our freedoms in general and the Supreme Court in particular. For those interested in government and/or the direction America is headed, especially concerning rights and freedoms, It’s OK to Say God is an essential read.
Reviewed by Gary E. Gilley, Pastor-teacher, Southern View Chapel