The First Amendment to is the perhaps most important of all the amendments to the Constitution because it protects the freedoms that make America, America, i.e., the freedoms of religion, speech, press, assembly, and petition. Equally important, is the relevance the First Amendment has to the maintenance and functioning of a viable democracy.
The amendment reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances”
Twelve years after ratification, Thomas Jefferson channeled Roger Williams, the Founder of Rhode Island who perhaps was the first to articulate the notion of a wall of separation between church and state when he wrote, “An authentic Christian church would be possible only if there was “a wall or hedge of separation” between the “wilderness of the world” and “the garden of the church.”
More than a century later, in a letter to the leaders of the Danbury Connecticut Baptist Church Jefferson wrote, “Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God…their legislature would make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between Church and State.”
Jefferson believed that any government involvement in religion would eventually corrupt it. And for the first 150 years of our country’s existence, there was little debate over the matter of religious freedom or the separation of Church and State. However, as the citizenry became more diverse, challenges arose to existing laws and practices, and eventually, the Supreme Court was called upon to determine the meaning of the establishment clause. And in 1947, FDR appointee Justice Hugo L. Black wrote in his opinion regarding Everson v. Board of Education “The First Amendment has erected a wall between church and state. That wall must be kept high and impregnable. We could not approve the slightest breach”.
Justice Black understood the Founders’ need to separate government from religion and like Jefferson, also believed that government involvement in “the church” would prove corrosive. Yet today in what has garnered suspiciously little attention from the legacy media, we face another potentially significant departure from the vision of the Founders.
You’ll find little argument that without separating church from state there can be no real religious freedom. But what’s not often discussed is this same principle applies to ‘freedom of the press.’ And one would have more success making a square circle than constructing an arrangement where a free press and a government that subsidizes it could coexist in an honest relationship—government subsidizing a free press is the ultimate oxymoron
Yet this is exactly what the left in proposing. What I’m referring to is the $1.7 billion subsidy for local journalism in the Build Back Better bill. There is a provision in the bill that would provide a payroll tax credit to print & digital publishers of up to $50,000 a year for each journalist on staff. The tax credits would be capped at 50% of each employee’s wage in the first year and then drop to 30% thereafter for any “local newspaper publisher” that serves “the needs of a regional or local community.” The democrats would have us believe this is to help the starving local news outlets hit hard by the pandemic.
But who hasn’t been hit hard by the pandemic? So why single out the news media? Do journalists deserve a subsidy more than say, doctors, nurses, teachers, or firefighters, all of whom make significant contributions to society? And once the Left begins subsidizing journalists, who’s next? It wouldn’t surprise me if this is legislated into law, it wouldn’t be long before Pelosi and Schumer began making their case for subsidizing lobbyists. No, this isn’t about helping “starving local news outlets,” this is little more than a thinly disguised scheme to induce journalists to write favorable stories about those who support them financially.
The Founders understood the necessity of a free and honest press, recognizing it as a pillar of democracy and guarantor of liberty. And a federal subsidy to journalists would be beyond harmful because such a notion conflicts with the vision of the Founders who were absolutely clear about the need for an objective and independent press.
Providing government subsidies to journalists is a recipe for disaster. And if you think the media is dishonest now, life in these United States would soon become unrecognizable if such a “pay for play” scheme between the government and those who write about it were legitimized.
If government were allowed within the purview of religion or an independent press, we would soon have neither.
Quote of the day: “Whenever you do something, act as if all the world were watching.”—Thomas Jefferson