First Amendment Presentation by Judge Will Roach – Martha Dandridge Washington Chapter (MDW), National Society Daughters of the American Revolution

The presentation on the First Amendment by Tennessee General Sessions Court Judge Dennis “Will” Roach II on September 14 prepared the members of the Martha Dandridge Washington Chapter (MDW), National Society Daughters of the American Revolution (NSDAR), for Constitution Week, September 17-23. In addition, MDW Constitution Week Chairman Glenda Roach gave each member a jingle bell to use to ring in Constitution Day, September 17, with “Bells Across America.”

Tennessee General Sessions Court Judge Dennis “Will” Roach II addressed the Martha Dandridge Washington Chapter, NSDAR, for Constitution Week. He was introduced by MDW Constitution Week Chairman Glenda Roach, who is also his mother.

Two hundred thirty-two years have passed since the writing of the Constitution, October 17, 1787. Some of the original framers and many delegates in the state conventions were very concerned that the original Constitution lacked a list of individual rights, so in 1791, the founding fathers expanded the Constitution with amendments, the first ten of which became known as The Bill of Rights.

Judge Roach explained, “Our Constitution was birthed on the heels of a world-changing revolution, was argued over in every state of the Union before being ratified, and has been argued over and come under assault ever since.” However, it still holds sway in our interactions with other people within our borders and with other nations.

The First Amendment promises Freedom of Religion to all Americans. According to the speaker, it was placed first in the list of initial rights because of the foresight of our founding fathers who were well aware that the settlers who came to our shores were seeking the opportunity to practice their faiths without oppression and persecution.

Judge Roach noted that the amendment says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The first part of that statement is called the establishment clause, and the second part is the free exercise clause. Unlike many governments overseas, the American government cannot establish a religion or favor one over another. In addition, it cannot prohibit freely practicing one’s religion.

Because individuals are guaranteed the freedom to worship according to their own consciences here, there are certain things that the amendment prohibits including the following:

  1. A state church arbitrarily run by a king, as England once had;
  2. Subjection to the Papacy in Rome, as many kings and nations once experienced;
  3. Compulsion to believe what the government says we should as in China where the state is God and North Korea where Kim Jong Un is considered divine;
  4. A theocratic state where there is one religion and clerics rule “with an iron hand.”

The founding fathers believed that government must not violate one’s conscience thereby guaranteeing Americans the right to worship and conduct their families as they think right.

Judge Roach referred to scripture saying, “The Bible teaches that the choice to obey or disobey God was given to humanity in the Garden of Eden. The western legal tradition has historically understood that the freedom to choose predates civil government.” The founding fathers “codified this pre-existing right in the First Amendment.”

In many countries around the world, people can lose their jobs, have family imprisoned, be imprisoned themselves, or be martyred for practicing their faith, according to the speaker. His teenage daughter and he recently traveled to Oklahoma to work with the Voice of the Martyrs ministry, which represents persecuted Christians around the world. They were deeply affected upon seeing the granite wall in front of the headquarters which bore the names of Christians who had died through the centuries in countries where religious freedom was opposed.

Judge Roach gave his audience something to contemplate as he closed. He said, “We have no idea how long America will remain a vibrant, thriving, and freedom-loving nation.” We are an inspiration to other nations who do not have that freedom. We need to preserve the freedom we have so it will be more than just a memory.

For information about the DAR, contact Registrar Karen McFarland at (865) 258-8670 or Regent Jane Chambers at (865) 591-3857.

Source: Submitted by Jane Busdeker, Corresponding Secretary, MDW Chapter, NSDAR