Rodricks rewrites the First Amendment [Letter]

May 13, 2014

On May 6, Dan Rodricks wrote a column concerning prayer in Carroll County Commission meetings ("A 'frustrating, disingenuous' Supreme Court ruling"). Mr. Rodricks quotes the prayer that Robin Frazier read and then quotes a law professor, "the Founding Fathers and framers of the Constitution — Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison and others — might have mentioned a specific religion when speaking among themselves, but when they addressed the public they were 'incredibly sensitive' not to appear to favor any particular creed." Oops, Ms. Frazier read George Washington's prayer.

I pointed out the oops to Mr. Rodricks, but instead of thanking me he sent this response: "For those who missed civics class: The Establishment Clause (First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution) prohibits the government from doing anything to establish an official religion or prefer one religion over another. It enforces the 'separation of church and state.'"

It is true that I missed some civics classes, so I quote the First Amendment: "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." I can read and wonder why Mr. Rodricks found it necessary to add the words "prefer one religion over another," to his explanation. Unfortunately, I missed all my journalism classes, but even I know you can't add phrases to the First Amendment.

I find it troubling that Mr. Rodricks makes a rather embarrassing error, uses sarcasm and adds an extra phrase to the First Amendment. That just ain't good journalism.

Devon Coats, Baltimore

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