It's an election year and the Vermont primary is coming up very soon. I wonder how many Vermont voters ever think about their original consitution.
Constitution, Frame of Government, Section 9: "And each member [of the Legislature], before he takes his seat, shall make and subscribe the following declaration, viz: 'I do believe in one God, the Creator and Governor or the universe, the rewarder of the good and punisher of the wicked. And I do acknowledge the Scripture of the Old and New Testament to be given by divine inspiration, and own and profess the [Christian] religion. And no further or other religious test shall ever, hereafter, be required of any civil officer or magistrate in this State.'"
Monday, December 31, 2007
It's an election year and the Vermont primary is coming up very soon. I wonder how many Vermont voters ever think about their original consitution.
Sunday, December 30, 2007
Those who follow Supreme Court cases remember Lee v. Weisman from 1992. In it the Court declared that a non-sectarian prayer violated the First Amendment's "Establishment Clause." The Court said, "The principle that government may accommodate the free exercise of religion does not supersede the fundamental limitations imposed by the Establishment Clause, which guarantees, at a minimum, that a government may not coerce anyone to support or participate in religion or its exercise, or otherwise act in a way which 'establishes a religion or religious faith, or tends to do so.'"
To me this was a remarkable case. The First Amendment clearly put the establishment prohibition on our nation's congress, not on the states. Even if applied to the states via the 14th Amendment, how then does it apply to a school or even a school district?
Consider Rhode Island's historic documents:
Rhode Island Charter of 1683 began with these words: "We submit our persons, lives and estates unto our Lord Jesus Christ, the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords, to all those perfect and most absolute laws of His given to us in His Holy Word.
Their Constitution, 1842, stated: “We, the people of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, grateful to Almighty God for the civil and religious liberty which He hath so long permitted us to enjoy, and looking to Him for a blessing upon our endeavors to secure and to transmit the same unimpaired to succeeding generations, do ordain and establish this constitution of Government.”
Saturday, December 29, 2007
Their Constitution stated in Frame of Government, Section 10: "And each member [of the legislature], before he takes his seat, shall make and subscribe the following declaration, viz: 'I do believe in one God, the Creator and Governour of the universe, the rewarder of the good and punisher of the wicked, and I do acknowledge the Scripture of the Old and New Testament to be given by Divine Inspiration.'"
This is the kind of requirement that the Framers of the U.S. Constitution were trying not to interfere with when they drafted the First Amendment. Many states had some form of officially-supported religion and were intent on keeping the Federal Government out of these matters.
Friday, December 28, 2007
Their constitution said: "No person who denies the being of God, or a future state of rewards and punishments shall hold any office in the civil department of the state." And Article IX, Section 16 said: "Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government, the preservation of liberty and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall be forever encouraged in this state."
Thursday, December 27, 2007
In the words of President Eisenhower: "Without God there could be no American form of government, nor an American way of life. Recognition of the Supreme Being is the first - and most basic - expression of Americanism."
My point in posting quotes like this is NOT to say that President Eisenhower or any other president has the final word. His saying this does not make it so. However, I AM trying to show that his opinion is in keeping with the opinions of many, many historians, presidents, courts, and scholars. The general public assumed that we are a religious people for most of our history. Today some of the courts' decisions and various media sources have made us feel as though such opinions are inappropriate.
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Signed June 12, 1776, Article XVI of the Virginia Declaration of Rights states: "That Religion, or the Duty to which we owe our Creator, and the Manner of discharging it, can be directed only by Reason and Convictions, not by Force or Violence; and therefore all Men are equally entitled to the free exercise of Religion, according to the Dictates of Conscience; and that it is the mutual Duty of all to practice Christian Forbearance, Love, and Charity towards each other."
Labels: Founding Documents
Monday, December 24, 2007
In a recent news story, the Freedom from Religion Foundation complains about a Nativity scene next to the state capitol. The Foundation claims it a violation of "separation of church and state" and the Governor believes it is a simple and appropriate recognition of the season.
Nativity Scene Raises Objections
But the Foundation should read the Arkansas constitution (1874), which said in its Preamble:
We the people of Arkansas, grateful to Almighty God for the privilege of choosing and forming our own government...
Sunday, December 23, 2007
In the news recently was a huff over the Governor of Georgia holding a prayer vigil asking God to relieve the state of the devastating drought they were experiencing. The people who were complaining thought it inappropriate that a government official would rely on God in such an official capacity. I wonder if they have read their own constitution:
From the Constitution of Georgia: "We, the people of Georgia, relying upon protection and guidance of Almighty God, do ordain and establish this Constitution."
One would think that a state relying on the protection of God would not mind a prayer to the same god. But the people who show this concern, while in the minority, are not all that unusual. There is a great deal of misunderstanding about what our constitution does and does not prohibit. For a very fine insight, see the post from 12/22/2007:
Danger of a Metaphor
Saturday, December 22, 2007
Hillsdale College publishes a monthly newsletter called Imprimis. The following is a reprint from their October 2006 issue.
"Origins and Dangers of the 'Wall of Separation' Between Church and State"
Daniel L. Dreisbach
Professor of Justice, Law and Society, American University
Professor of Justice, Law and Society is a professor in the School of Public Affairs at American University in Washington, D.C., as well as the William E. Simon Fellow in Religion and Public Life in the James Madison Program at Princeton University. He received his D.Phil. from Oxford University and his J.D. from the University of Virginia. He is author or editor of numerous books, including Thomas Jefferson and the Wall of Separation Between Church and State; The Founders on God and Government; Religion and Political Culture in Jefferson's Virginia; and Real Threat and Mere Shadow: Religious Liberty and the First Amendment.
The following is adapted from a lecture delivered at Hillsdale College on September 12, 2006, during a Center for Constructive Alternatives seminar on the topic, "Church and State: History and Theory."
No metaphor in American letters has had a greater influence on law and policy than Thomas Jefferson's "wall of separation between church and state." For many Americans, this metaphor has supplanted the actual text of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and it has become the locus classicus of the notion that the First Amendment separated religion and the civil state, thereby mandating a strictly secular polity.
More important, the judiciary has embraced this figurative language as a virtual rule of constitutional law and as the organizing theme of church-state jurisprudence. Writing for the U.S. Supreme Court in 1948, Justice Hugo L. Black asserted that the justices had "agreed that the First Amendment's language, properly interpreted, had erected a wall of separation between Church and State." The continuing influence of this wall is evident in the Court's most recent church-state pronouncements.
The rhetoric of church-state separation has been a part of western political discourse for many centuries, but it has only lately come to a place of prominence in American constitutional law and discourse. What is the source of the "wall of separation" metaphor so frequently referenced today? How has this symbol of strict separation between religion and public life become so influential in American legal and political thought? Most important, what are the policy and legal consequences of the ascendancy of separationist rhetoric and of the transformation of "separation of church and state" from a much-debated political idea to a doctrine of constitutional law embraced by the nation's highest court?
The Wall that Jefferson Built
On New Year's Day, 1802, President Jefferson penned a missive to the Baptist Association of Danbury, Connecticut. The Baptists had written the new president a "fan" letter in October 1801, congratulating him on his election to the "chief Magistracy in the United States." They celebrated his zealous advocacy for religious liberty and chastised those who had criticized him "as an enemy of religion[,] Law & good order because he will not, dares not assume the prerogative of Jehovah and make Laws to govern the Kingdom of Christ." At the time, the Congregationalist Church was still legally established in Connecticut and the Federalist party controlled New England politics. Thus the Danbury Baptists were outsiders'a beleaguered religious and political minority in a state where a Congregationalist-Federalist party establishment dominated public life. They were drawn to Jefferson's political cause because of his celebrated advocacy for religious liberty.
In a carefully crafted reply, the president allied himself with the New England Baptists in their struggle to enjoy the right of conscience as an inalienable right-not merely as a favor granted, and subject to withdrawal, by the civil state:
Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.
This missive was written in the wake of the bitter presidential contest of 1800. Candidate Jefferson's religion, or the alleged lack thereof, was a critical issue in the campaign. His Federalist foes vilified him as an "infidel" and "atheist." The campaign rhetoric was so vitriolic that, when news of Jefferson's election swept across the country, housewives in New England were seen burying family Bibles in their gardens or hiding them in wells because they expected the Holy Scriptures to be confiscated and burned by the new administration in Washington. (These fears resonated with Americans who had received alarming reports of the French Revolution, which Jefferson was said to support, and the widespread desecration of religious sanctuaries and symbols in France.) Jefferson wrote to these pious Baptists to reassure them of his continuing commitment to their right of conscience and to strike back at the Federalist-Congregationalist establishment in Connecticut for shamelessly vilifying him in the recent campaign.
Several features of Jefferson's letter challenge conventional, strictly secular constructions of his famous metaphor. First, the metaphor rests on a cluster of explicitly religious propositions (i.e., "that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship"). Second, Jefferson's wall was constructed in the service of the free exercise of religion. Use of the metaphor to restrict religious exercise (e.g., to disallow a citizen's religious expression in the public square) conflicts with the very principle Jefferson hoped his metaphor would advance. Third, Jefferson concluded his presidential missive with a prayer, reciprocating his Baptist correspondents' "kind prayers for the protection & blessing of the common father and creator of man." Ironically, some strict separationists today contend that such solemn words in a presidential address violate a constitutional "wall of separation."
The conventional wisdom is that Jefferson's wall represents a universal principle concerning the prudential and constitutional relationship between religion and the civil state. In fact, this wall had less to do with the separation between religion and all civil government than with the separation between the national and state governments on matters pertaining to religion (such as official proclamations of days of prayer, fasting, and thanksgiving). The "wall of separation" was a metaphoric construction of the First Amendment, which Jefferson time and again said imposed its restrictions on the national government only (see, e.g., Jefferson's 1798 draft of the Kentucky Resolutions).
In other words, Jefferson's wall separated the national government on one side from state governments and religious authorities on the other. This construction is consistent with a virtually unchallenged assumption of the early constitutional era: the First Amendment in particular and the Bill of Rights in general affirmed the fundamental constitutional principle of federalism. The First Amendment, as originally understood, had little substantive content apart from its affirmation that the national government was denied all power over religious matters. Jurisdiction in such concerns was reserved to individual citizens, religious societies, and state governments. (Of course, this original understanding of the First Amendment was turned on its head by the modern U.S. Supreme Court's "incorporation" of the First Amendment into the Fourteenth Amendment.)
The Metaphor Enters Public Discourse
By late January 1802, printed copies of Jefferson's reply to the Danbury Baptists began appearing in New England newspapers. The letter, however, was not accessible to a wide audience until it was reprinted in the first major collection of Jefferson's papers, published in the mid-19th century.
The phrase "wall of separation" entered the lexicon of American law in the U.S. Supreme Court's 1878 ruling in Reynolds v. United States, although most scholars agree that the wall metaphor played no role in the Court's reasoning. Chief Justice Morrison R. Waite, who authored the opinion, was drawn to another clause in Jefferson's text. The Reynolds Court, in short, was drawn to the passage, not to advance a strict separation between church and state, but to support the proposition that the legitimate powers of civil government could reach men's actions only and not their opinions.
Nearly seven decades later, in the landmark case of Everson v. Board of Education (1947), the Supreme Court "rediscovered" the metaphor and elevated it to constitutional doctrine. Citing no source or authority other than Reynolds, Justice Hugo L. Black, writing for the majority, invoked the Danbury letter's "wall of separation" passage in support of his strict separationist interpretation of the First Amendment prohibition on laws "respecting an establishment of religion." "In the words of Jefferson," he famously declared, the First Amendment has erected "'a wall of separation between church and State'. . . . That wall must be kept high and impregnable. We could not approve the slightest breach." In even more sweeping terms, Justice Wiley B. Rutledge asserted in a separate opinion that the First Amendment's purpose was "to uproot" all religious establishments and "to create a complete and permanent separation of the spheres of religious activity and civil authority by comprehensively forbidding every form of public aid or support for religion." This rhetoric, more than any other, set the terms and the tone for a strict separationist jurisprudence that reached ascendancy on the Court in the second half of the 20th century.
Like Reynolds, the Everson ruling was replete with references to history, especially the roles played by Jefferson and Madison in the Virginia disestablishment struggles in the tumultuous decade following independence from Great Britain. Jefferson was depicted as a leading architect of the First Amendment despite the fact that he was in France when the measure was drafted by the First Federal Congress in 1789.
Black and his judicial brethren also encountered the metaphor in briefs filed in Everson. In a lengthy discussion of history supporting the proposition that "separation of church and state is a fundamental American principle," an amicus brief filed by the American Civil Liberties Union quoted the clause from the Danbury letter containing the "wall of separation" image. The ACLU ominously concluded that the challenged state statute, which provided state reimbursements for the transportation of students to and from parochial schools, "constitutes a definite crack in the wall of separation between church and state. Such cracks have a tendency to widen beyond repair unless promptly sealed up."
Shortly after the Everson ruling was handed down, the metaphor began to proliferate in books and articles. In a 1949 best-selling anti-Catholic polemic, American Freedom and Catholic Power, Paul Blanshard advocated an uncompromising political and legal platform favoring "a wall of separation between church and state." Protestants and Other Americans United for the Separation of Church and State (an organization today known by the more politically correct appellation of Americans United for Separation of Church and State), a leading strict-separationist advocacy organization, wrote the phrase into its 1948 founding manifesto. Among the "immediate objectives" of this new organization was "[t]o resist every attempt by law or the administration of law further to widen the breach in the wall of separation of church and state."
The Supreme Court frequently and favorably referenced the "wall of separation" in the cases that followed. In McCollum v. Board of Education (1948), the Court essentially constitutionalized Jefferson's phrase, subtly and blithely substituting his figurative language for the literal text of the First Amendment. In the last half of the 20th century, the metaphor emerged as the defining motif for church-state jurisprudence, thereby elevating a strict separationist construction of the First Amendment to accepted dogma among jurists and commentators.
The Trouble with Metaphors in the Law
Metaphors are a valuable literary device. They enrich language by making it dramatic and colorful, rendering abstract concepts concrete, condensing complex concepts into a few words, and unleashing creative and analogical insights. But their uncritical use can lead to confusion and distortion. At its heart, metaphor compares two or more things that are not, in fact, identical. A metaphor's literal meaning is used non-literally in a comparison with its subject. While the comparison may yield useful insights, the dissimilarities between the metaphor and its subject, if not acknowledged, can distort or pollute one's understanding of the subject. If attributes of the metaphor are erroneously or misleadingly assigned to the subject and the distortion goes unchallenged, then the metaphor may alter the understanding of the underlying subject. The more appealing and powerful a metaphor, the more it tends to supplant or overshadow the original subject, and the more one is unable to contemplate the subject apart from its metaphoric formulation. Thus, distortions perpetuated by the metaphor are sustained and even magnified. This is the lesson of the "wall of separation" metaphor.
The judiciary's reliance on an extra-constitutional metaphor as a substitute for the text of the First Amendment almost inevitably distorts constitutional principles governing church-state relationships. Although the "wall of separation" may felicitously express some aspects of First Amendment law, it seriously misrepresents or obscures others, and has become a source of much mischief in modern church-state jurisprudence. It has reconceptualized-indeed, misconceptualized-First Amendment principles in at least two important ways.
First, Jefferson's trope emphasizes separation between church and state - unlike the First Amendment, which speaks in terms of the non-establishment and free exercise of religion. (Although these terms are often conflated today, in the lexicon of 1802, the expansive concept of "separation" was distinct from the narrow institutional concept of "non-establishment.") Jefferson's Baptist correspondents, who agitated for disestablishment but not for separation, were apparently discomfited by the figurative phrase and, perhaps, even sought to suppress the president's letter. They, like many Americans, feared that the erection of such a wall would separate religious influences from public life and policy. Few evangelical dissenters (including the Baptists) challenged the widespread assumption of the age that republican government and civic virtue were dependent on a moral people and that religion supported and nurtured morality.
Second, a wall is a bilateral barrier that inhibits the activities of both the civil government and religion-unlike the First Amendment, which imposes restrictions on civil government only. In short, a wall not only prevents the civil state from intruding on the religious domain but also prohibits religion from influencing the conduct of civil government. The various First Amendment guarantees, however, were entirely a check or restraint on civil government, specifically on Congress. The free press guarantee, for example, was not written to protect the civil state from the press, but to protect a free and independent press from control by the national government. Similarly, the religion provisions were added to the Constitution to protect religion and religious institutions from corrupting interference by the national government, not to protect the civil state from the influence of, or overreaching by, religion. As a bilateral barrier, however, the wall unavoidably restricts religion's ability to influence public life, thereby exceeding the limitations imposed by the First Amendment.
Herein lies the danger of this metaphor. The "high and impregnable" wall constructed by the modern Court has been used to inhibit religion's ability to inform the public ethic, to deprive religious citizens of the civil liberty to participate in politics armed with ideas informed by their faith, and to infringe the right of religious communities and institutions to extend their prophetic ministries into the public square. Today, the "wall of separation" is the sacred icon of a strict separationist dogma intolerant of religious influences in the public arena. It has been used to silence religious voices in the public marketplace of ideas and to segregate faith communities behind a restrictive barrier.
Federal and state courts have used the "wall of separation" concept to justify censoring private religious expression (such as Christmas creches) in public, to deny public benefits (such as education vouchers) for religious entities, and to exclude religious citizens and organizations (such as faith-based social welfare agencies) from full participation in civic life on the same terms as their secular counterparts. The systematic and coercive removal of religion from public life not only is at war with our cultural traditions insofar as it evinces a callous indifference toward religion but also offends basic notions of freedom of religious exercise, expression, and association in a pluralistic society.
There was a consensus among the founders that religion was indispensable to a system of republican self-government. The challenge the founders confronted was how to nurture personal responsibility and social order in a system of self-government. Tyrants and dictators can use the whip and rod to force people to behave as they desire, but clearly this is incompatible with a self-governing people. In response to this challenge the founders looked to religion (and morality informed by religious faith) to provide the internal moral compass that would prompt citizens to behave in a disciplined manner and thereby promote social order and political stability. The literature of the founding era is replete with this argument, no example more famous than George Washington's statement in his Farewell Address of September 19, 1796:
Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism, who should labour to subvert these great Pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of Men and citizens . . . . And let us with caution indulge the supposition, that morality can be maintained without religion . . . . [R]eason and experience both forbid us to expect that National morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.
Believing that religion and morality were indispensable to social order and political prosperity, the founders championed religious liberty in order to foster a vibrant religious culture in which a beneficent religious ethos would inform the public ethic and to promote an environment in which religious and moral leaders could speak out boldly, without restraint or inhibition, against corruption and immorality in civic life. Religious liberty was not merely a benevolent grant of the civil state; rather, it reflected an awareness among the founders that the very survival of the civil state and a civil society was dependent on a vibrant religious culture, and religious liberty nurtured such a religious culture. In other words, the civil state's respect for religious liberty is an act of self-preservation. The unfortunate consequence of 20th-century jurisprudence is that the First Amendment, designed to protect and promote a vital role for religion in public life, has been replaced with a wall of separation that, in the hands of the modern judiciary, has restricted religion's place in the polity.
Legacy of Intolerance
In his recent book, Separation of Church and State, Philip Hamburger amply documents that the rhetoric of separation of church and state became fashionable in the 1830s and 1840s and, again, in the last quarter of the 19th century. Why? It accompanied two substantial waves of Catholic immigrants with their peculiar liturgy and resistance to assimilation into the Protestant establishment: an initial wave of Irish in the first half of the century, and then more Irish along with other European immigrants later in the century. The rhetoric of separation was used by nativist elements, such as the Know-Nothings and later the Ku Klux Klan, to marginalize Catholics and to deny them, often through violence, entrance into the mainstream of public life. By the end of the century, an allegiance to the so-called "American principle" of separation of church and state had been woven into the membership oaths of the Ku Klux Klan. Today we typically think of the Klan strictly in terms of their views on race, and we forget that their hatred of Catholics was equally odious.
Again, in the mid-20th century, the rhetoric of separation was revived and ultimately constitutionalized by anti-Catholic elites, such as Justice Hugo L. Black, and fellow travelers in the ACLU and Protestants and Other Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, who feared the influence and wealth of the Catholic Church and perceived parochial education as a threat to public schools and democratic values. The chief architect of the modern "wall" was Justice Black, whose affinity for church-state separation and the metaphor was rooted in virulent anti-Catholicism. Hamburger has argued that Justice Black, a former Alabama Ku Klux Klansman, was the product of a remarkable "confluence of Protestant, nativist, and progressive anti-Catholic forces . . . . Black's association with the Klan has been much discussed in connection with his liberal views on race, but, in fact, his membership suggests more about [his] ideals of Americanism," especially his support for separation of church and state. "Black had long before sworn, under the light of flaming crosses, to preserve 'the sacred constitutional rights' of 'free public schools' and 'separation of church and state.'" Although he later distanced himself from the Klan on matters of race, "Black's distaste for Catholicism did not diminish." Black's admixture of progressive, Klan, and strict separationist views is best understood in terms of anti-Catholicism and, more broadly, a deep hostility to assertions of ecclesiastical authority. Separation of church and state, Black believed, was an American ideal of freedom from oppressive ecclesiastical authority, especially that of the Roman Catholic Church. A regime of separation enabled Americans to assert their individual autonomy and practice democracy, which Black believed was Protestantism in its secular form.
To be clear, diverse strains of political, religious, and intellectual thought have embraced notions of separation (I myself come from a faith tradition that believes church and state should operate in separate institutional spheres), but a particularly dominant strain in 19th-century America was this nativist, bigoted strain. We must confront the uncomfortable fact that the phrases "separation of church and state" and "wall of separation," although not necessarily expressions of intolerance, have often, in the American experience, been closely identified with the ugly impulses of nativism and bigotry.
In conclusion, Jefferson's figurative language has not produced the practical solutions to real world controversies that its apparent clarity and directness led its proponents to expect. Indeed, this wall has done what walls frequently do - it has obstructed the view, obfuscating our understanding of constitutional principles governing church-state relationships. The rhetoric of "separation of church and state" and "a wall of separation" has been instrumental in transforming judicial and popular constructions of the First Amendment from a provision protecting and encouraging religion in public life to one restricting religion's place and role in civic culture. This transformation has undermined the "indispensable support" of religion in our system of republican self-government. This fact would have alarmed the framers of the Constitution, and we ignore it today at the peril of our political order and prosperity.
Reprinted by permission from Imprimis, a publication of Hillsdale College.
Link to Hillsdale's Imprimis Archive
Friday, December 21, 2007
In their 12/9/91, Time magazine said something that seems different from the articles I read today:
"For God to be kept out of the classroom or out of America's public debate by nervous school administrators or overcautious politicians serves no one's interests. That restriction prevents people from drawing on this country's rich and diverse religious heritage for guidance, and it degrades the nation's moral discourse by placing a whole realm of theological reasoning out of bounds. The price of that sort of quarantine, at a time of moral dislocation, is - and has been - far too high. The courts need to find a better balance between separation and accommodation - and Americans need to respect the new religious freedom they would gain as a result."
Thursday, December 20, 2007
"Before any man can be considered as a member of civil society, he must be considered as a subject of the Governor of the Universe. And to the same Divine Author of every good and perfect gift [James 1:17] we are indebted for all those privileges and advantages, religious as well as civil, which are so richly enjoyed in this favored land."
From Documentary History of the Struggle for Religious Liberty in Virginia, by Charles Fenton James. See a more complete Excerpt in Google Books
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Dan Rather recently hosted a panel discussion on Separation of Church and State. The panel was reasonable balanced and the discussion covered a lot of history and the politics of today's situation.
Panel Discussion Video
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
James McHenry is among the signers of the Constitution, which means he also ratified the Bill of Rights including the First Amendment. He said, "[P]ublic utility pleads most forcibly for the general distribution of the Holy Scriptures. The doctrine they preach, the obligations they impose, the punishment they threaten, the rewards they promise, the stamp and image of divinity they bear, which produces a conviction of their truths, can alone secure to society, order and peace, and to our courts of justice and constitutions of government, purity, stability and usefulness. In vain, without the Bible, we increase penal laws and draw entrenchments around our institutions. Bibles are strong entrenchments. Where they abound, men cannot pursue wicked courses, and at the same time enjoy quiet conscience."
-- Bernard C. Steiner, One Hundred and Ten Years of Bible Society Work in Maryland, 1810-1920 (Maryland Bible Society, 1921), p. 14.
With over 2,100 quotations from approximately 700 sources, this exhaustive reference tool contains inspiring quotations ranging from the Magna Carta (1215) to the 1990's.
This book was one of the top five finalists in the Reference Works category of ECPA's prestigious Gold Medallian Book Awards and was nominated for the Freedoms Foundation George Washington Honor Medal in 1995.
America's God and Country
Monday, December 17, 2007
Sunday, December 16, 2007
One organization with a long (25-year) history of helping people is the Rutherford Institute. It was founded by constitutional lawyer John Whitehead, who continues to work to preserve (or restore!) freedom to many families and groups who can not afford to pay for litigation. They tend to be relatively no-nonsense compared to some other groups, and publish a monthly newsletter about their activities and other issues concerning religious rights.
The Rutherford Institute
Post Office Box 7482
Charlottesville, VA 22906-7482
Phone: (434) 978-3888*
Fax: (434) 978-1789
*(8:30 AM - 5:00 PM EST)
The Rutherford Institute Website
Saturday, December 15, 2007
With initials that are all to close to the ACLU, the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) defends people whose religious rights have been violated, concentrating on issues of religious speech in public forums. They are often involved in local and national cases, and have argued before the Supreme Court. Some of their current cases can be found here.
American Center for Law and Justice
P.O. Box 90555
Washington, DC 20090-0555
Friday, December 14, 2007
There is an excellent article in the Terre Haute News that outlines the words and meaning of the First Amendment. It is very analytical and explains some of the history behind the amendment.
Delving deeper into origins of ‘separation of church, state’
Thursday, December 13, 2007
In 1929 the Communists issued a protocol which described the various ways they were to bring about the destruction of America. It said that the concept of separation of church and state should be pushed to the extremist position. All religion should be removed as the underpinning for the government for this nation in order that eventually having grown weak and flabby and convictionless and fearful, this government might fall.
According to former Secretary of Education William Bennett, "Some teachers and principals seem to think that, since schools must not encourage people to be members of one religious faith or another, the whole subject of religion in our society is out of bounds. That is wrongheaded and silly."
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
There is great article on Renew America that discusses the many ways our First Amendment rights can be infringed without a case gong to court. Groups like Americans United for Separation of Church and State often just send a letter to a school or civic group and intimidate them into a certain action. Few small organizations can afford to fight the ACLU or Americans United in court, so they acquiesce.
Non-Litigation Establishment Clause Fights
Fortunately, there are groups like The Rutherford Institute that sometimes jump in to help in these battles. They often assume some of all of the financial burden to help level the playing field.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
The Secretary of the Navy of the United States issued a policy that says Chaplains must only pray in a secular manner unless they are conducting a formal religious service. Many of the chaplains have objected to this, saying it stifles their religious freedom.
This also seems to go against the traditions the Navy has had since the beginning. Certainly it is against the practices of our earliest Founders. Just study the many times George Washington prayed with his troops, for example.
An organization called The Rutherford Institute has taken interest in the case, stating that this policy reverses tradition and previous practice and forces the chaplains into a mode of ecumenical theism and/or deism.
The Rutherford Institutes's press release on the subject is here:
Rutherford Defends Rights of Navy Chaplains
Monday, December 10, 2007
In the case of The Church of the Holy Trinity vs. United States in 1892, the Supreme Court examined all the state Constitutions, all the declarations and all of the covenants through the history of this country. Their research took ten years. They said, "There is no dissidence in these declarations. There is a universal language pervading them all, having one meaning, and they affirm and reaffirm that this is a religious nation. Christianity, general Christianity is and always has been a part of the common law. Not Christianity with an established church, but Christianity with liberty and conscience to all men. ... Our laws and our institutions must necessarily be based upon and embody the teachings of the redeemer of mankind. It is impossible that it should be otherwise. In this sense and to this extent our civilization and our institutions are emphatically Christian. This is a religious people. This is historically true. From the discovery of this continent to the present hour there is a single voice making this affirmation. We find everywhere a clear recognition of the same truth. These and many other matters which might be noticed add a volume of unofficial declarations to the mass of organic utterance that this is a Christian nation."
1931 Supreme Court again declared that this is a Christian nation.
So what does that mean? Even if more recent Court decisions had not gone in a different direction, these decisions don't have any effect on the actions of individuals wishing to worship (or not) one way or the other. The Court was just recognizing the history of our founding. The First Amendment's Establishment Clause does not suggest that we change history. Our country does not have a national religion. No one is forced to have any particular religious belief or any religious belief at all.
And which Court is more likely to have known the history and context of the First Amendment? The earlier courts or the later courts?
We seem to want to attach one's origin to their designation. For example, we don't usually use the word "Indian" these days, using "Native American" instead. And we have migrated from "black" to "African-American." In the latter case, many people who are called African-Americans have no history in Africa whatsoever. So by that same standard we could all be called Christian-Americans no matter if we are Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, atheist, or... (But I wouldn't look for that to happen any time soon!)
Labels: Christian Roots of the U.S.
Sunday, December 9, 2007
The Everson case has been mentioned before in this blog. In it, the Supreme Court brought Jefferson's metaphor "separation of church and state" into the decision. They described several restrictions on religion by the government, all based on the metaphor and without quoting the actual First Amendment. They also seemed to ignore many previous Court decisions that had a different opinion of the meaning of the First Amendment. This decision was a turning point, although one that initially had a very minor effect on religious freedom. However, the cases below use the language in Everson as a foundation for a progressive restriction on religious activity in the public sphere.
HOW WE GOT WHERE WE ARE NOW:
In 1962 the Court handed down a ruling that took prayer out of public schools (Engel v. Vitale). Here the Court referred to the "constitutional wall of separation between church and state" as though it was a fact rather than an interpretation, and only quoted that much of Jefferson's words. The Court continued: "...the people's religions must not be subjected to the pressures of government for change each time a new political administration is elected to office." [Yet as the Supreme Court changed in nature, the activities of government concerning religion changed markedly.]
In 1963 Bible reading was removed from schools. The Supreme Court said "If portions of the New Testament are read without explanation, they could be and have been psychologically harmful to a child."
In 1977 Atheism was recognized as a religion.
In 1980, Stone v. Graham ruled that the Ten Commandments were prohibited from hanging on the wall in any public school. The Court said, "If the Ten Commandments were to have any effect at all, it will be to induce students to read them; and if they will read them, they will meditate on them, and if they meditate on them they will respect them and obey them, and that would be unconstitutional."
In 1986 the Court recognized Secular Humanism as a religion. [Because of that , some say the Court did not remove religion from the school, they simply replaced one religion with another.]
Saturday, December 8, 2007
UT, Murry (and San Diego, CA): City officials tried to modify zoning in such a way as to require zoning permits for Bible studies in the home.
VA, Newport News: Ten-year-old Karen Lundy's class was asked to paint scenes on the window of the classroom for the Winter holiday season. Karen painted a nativity scene. The principal insisted it be removed because it was inappropriate for reasons having to do with separation of church and state. The next day she was asked to replace it with a different picture. She chose to put "Merry Christmas" on the window this time. Once again the principal said it was inappropriate and must be removed because it contained the word "Christ" The Rutherford Institute wrote to the school and explained the meaning of the First Amendment, and the principal reversed his prohibition. This year Karen is attending a different school system. When asked what she would paint if asked to contribute next year, Karen said "I'd probably just do a Christmas tree or something; I don't want to go through it again."
WA, Seattle: 2nd graders are asked at Thanksgiving to write what they are thankful for. A young girl writes that she is thankful Jesus died for her. The teacher tells the girl that is unacceptable; she has to write something else, something non-religious.
Friday, December 7, 2007
OK, Tulsa: A young boy prayed silently before taking a math test. The teacher sent him to the principal, who made the boy write 500 times, "I will not pray in school."
PA, Pittsburgh: Several years ago the principal of a high school issued the directive that no teacher was allowed to say "Merry Christmas" in the hallways.
TX, San Jacinto: A student was giving other students religious tracts during conversations at his college's Student Center. He was told he would be subject to disciplinary actions if he didn't stop.
Just as a reminder, the First Amendment says, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; ..." That is the total content of the religion clauses.
Thursday, December 6, 2007
KS, Emporia: Threatened by a suit from the ACLU, the school board voted to drop a traditional school program that had been a community event since the 1930's. In its place they have approved a program whose theme is "Peace."
MI, Bloomingdale, Bloomingdale High School: a portrait of Jesus Christ which had been hanging in the hall (along with many other portraits) was claimed to be contrary to the separation of church and state by ACLU attorneys representing one student who was offended by the picture. [What message is sent to students when, out of many portraits of famous people, the only one removed is that of Christ? Is it a message of neutrality or hostility toward religion by the school/government?]
NE, Omaha: Bridget Mergens Mayhew was turned down when she asked Westside High School principal James Findley to use school facilities for a Bible study club outside of class hours. [She took her case to the school board and, later, to the Supreme Court, who ruled 8-1 in favor of allowing the club to be formed in the school. But why should one have to go to court to have such a basic right?]
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
IL, Decatur: an elementary school teacher discovered the word "God" in a phonics book. She instructed her pupils to cross the word out because it is illegal to mention God in a public school.
IL, Oak Park: the town blocked a private Catholic hospital from putting a cross on its smokestack because the city council thought some local resident might be offended.
IN, Cedar Lakes: a fifth-grade girl wore a watch to school that had "Jesus Loves Me" imprinted on it. Her teacher ordered her to remove it and never wear it to school again because "it is illegal to wear anything Christian in school."
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
CO: A school district insisted, with the approval of a federal court, that a teacher remove from his classroom the Bible and any books on Christianity, even though books on Native American traditions and on the occult were allowed to remain.
DC, Washington: Hillary Rodham Clinton was seen at some inauguration events wearing a cross around her neck. A television commentator asked whether it was appropriate for the First Lady to display a religious symbol in public.
FL, Duval County: citizens voted (through their school board) to institute an abstinence-based sex education program in public schools. It complied with Florida law. Planned Parenthood sued the school board, claiming the program was unconstitutional because it was religious.
Monday, December 3, 2007
... in starting this particular blog was to point out the ways in which we are mis-using our Constitution's First Amendment. I use examples about Bibles in early American public school, for example, because such examples make it clear where the Founders thought the First Amendment did NOT apply.
Frankly, in our current era I doubt that I would vote for teachers interpreting the Bible as part of regular class work (this is partly in answer to a previous comment posted to the blog). However, I don't want people to think the Constitution prohibits such things. The very last thing the Founders wanted was for the Federal Government to have control over such actions.
The Constitution has a mechanism for adapting to changes over time. Our legislature can amend the document as it has done many times. This is a "high bar" kind of process, but it validates the changes very well and helps keep them permanent. Such changes were not intended to be put in the hands of a few non-elected judges.
It's important that we use the right process(es) to make substantial changes to our public policy. This is much more important than getting one's own way at a particular time in history. Roe v. Wade, for example, was decided on questionable logic and not especially on precedent or solid interpretation of the Constitution (that's my opinion, but is shared in a great many legal circles). It has a profound effect on public policy and invalidated many state laws. Today's Supreme Court is more conservative. If Roe comes up for a challenge, it may be overturned. No matter which side you are on, this important issue should not bounce back and forth depending on the makeup of the Supreme Court today or any day. It should not have been decided by that body in the first place. If state laws are unfair in this case or any other, the Amendment process should be the preferred remedy.
Sunday, December 2, 2007
From Newsweek, 12/27/82: "... the Bible has virtually disappeared from American education. It is rarely studied, even as literature, in public classrooms."
From Readers Digest, 11/92: "A study by New York University professor Paul Vitz found that most elementary and high-school textbooks take extraordinary steps to avoid any references to religion." ... "A U.S. history textbook defines Pilgrims an 'people who make long trips.' Another defines fundamentalists as rural people who 'follow the values or traditions of an earlier period.' A study by the liberal People For the American Way found that junior-high-school history textbooks typically 'treat religion by exclusion or by brief and simplistic reference.'"
From Time, 12/9/91: "One 1985 government-funded study of public school textbooks found that social-studies textbooks rarely mentioned religion at all, even when discussing events in which churches were a driving force, such as the abolition of slavery. Many books omitted the deep religious motivation of Martin Luther King Jr. Others failed to say to whom the Pilgrims gave thanks on Thanksgiving."
Friday, November 30, 2007
There is an interesting article on World Net Daily giving a different perspective (compared to typical news outlets) of Pat Robertson's endorsement Rudy Giuliani. Is Pat Robertson's endorsement based on religion or politics? Is such an endorsement appropriate? Read the article for a discussion:
Article by Tristan Emmanuel
Thursday, November 29, 2007
The Bible is more-or-less outlawed in public schools. Teachers have even been punished for having their own Bible visible on their desk. Students have been told they could not read the Bible during their free time at lunch or on the playground.
Consider the words of one of the primary contributors to the First Amendment:
Fisher Aimes wrote an article called "School books" in the Pladium magazine in January 1801, "We have trouble in the classrooms, we are putting in new text books. Nothing wrong with new books but we are spending more time on them than the Bible; it is drifting to the back of the classroom. We cannot tolerate this in American education. The Bible's morals are pure, its examples are captivating and noble.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Here is a link to an interesting article about some of the virtual discrimination against the Christian religion in public schools (just click on the title above or the link below). There is also a good discussion at the bottom from readers.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Justice James Wilson, also appointed by Washington, was one of only six men who signed both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. He was the second most frequent speaker at the Constitutional Convention. He said, "Christianity is a part of the common law of America."
In 1811, the Supreme Court said "Whatever strikes at the root of Christianity tends to destroy civil government."
Daniel Webster in 1820 (who became Secretary of State in 1841): "Let us not forget the religious characters of our origin. Our fathers brought here there high veneration for the Christian religion; they journeyed by its light and labored in its hope; they sought to incorporate and to diffuse its influence through all their institutions, civil, political, and literary."
Labels: Historic Quotes
Sunday, November 25, 2007
The American Civil Liberties Union is an organization that says they protect the Bill of Rights. Much of their work regards the so-called separation of church and state. I just went through some of their literature, where they bragged about their successes in court. Much of what they did seemed to me to fit their stated goal. They did some good upholding the Bill of Right. But most of their actions (as summarized in their document) regarding religion seemed to have it reversed from the Founders' intentions.
The First Amendment to the Constitution, religion clauses: “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
The First Amendment's prohibitions apply only to Congress. However, the 14th Amendment is often used to apply the same limitations to the states. The 14th says: "no state shall deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law." It seems a stretch to interpret this in a way that applies the Establishment Clause to the states, but I won't argue that point in this post. However, these are the only Constitutional limits on government action regarding religion, and mentioning them here is background for this post.
According to the ACLU's own literature, here are some of their successes regarding the First Amendment religion clauses.
1947: Everson Vs. Board of Education. This is the decision where Justice Black first brought up the phrase "separation of church and state" without actually relying on the words in the First Amendment.
Justice Black found all kinds of things in the First Amendment that are simply not stated. Justice Black in Everson said: "The establishment of religion clause of the First Amendment means at least this: neither a state nor the federal government can set up a church; neither can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another. No tax in any amount, large or small, can be levied to support any religious activities or institutions whatever they may be called or whatever form they may adopt to teach or practice religion. In the words of Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect 'a wall of separation between church and state.'" Compare that with the actual words of the First Amendment. And even if you agree with Black, note that he applies this "logic" to the Federal Government and to State Governments only - not to cities or counties.
1962: Engel v. Vitale. Banned the New York Regent's nondenominational prayer.
If you believe the 14th Amendment applied the First Amendment's religion clauses to the states, then this could be supported (although it does not fit the Founders' own actions very well).
1963: Abington School District v. Schempp. "Building on Engel, the Court struck down Pennsylvania's in-school Bible-reading laws..."
Same comment as above. Note that the ACLU says they built on Engel.
1968: Epperson v. Arkansas. The state had banned teaching the man evolved from lower animals. The Court struck this down as a violation of the Establishment Clause.
Same comment as above.
1985: Wallace v. Jaffree. Alabama had a law specifying a moment of silence for prayer of silent meditation." The Court banned it as a violation of the Establishment Clause.
Now the Court is saying that a moment of silence essentially a law establishing a religion.
1992: Lee v. Weisman. The Court said that starting a high school graduation ceremony with a prayer was unconstitutional.
Where in the Court decisions above did the prohibitions start applying to a school?
2000: Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe. The local school district had a policy that permitted the students to vote each year to decide whether football games would start with prayers. The Court said this violated the Establishment Clause.
Now the Court has banned actions that are decided by the students. Note that the First Amendment has TWO religion clauses. One is the Establishment clause (Congress shall make no law...) and the other is the Free Exercise clause (...nor prohibit the free exercise...). The 2nd clause seems to be largely ignored, or at least overwhelmed, by the 1st clause.
2004: McCreary County v. ACLU of Kentucky. The Court banned two courthouses from displaying the Ten Commandments.
Despite statements by our Founders that much of our law and morality are based on the Ten Commandments, the state's Supreme Court has decided that a house of law should not display the Commandments. This also ignores the fact that they hang in the Supreme Court building (for now, anyway).
Remember that the Founders feared a Federal Government that might become too strong. The Constitution outlines limited powers for the Government. The Bill of Rights further defines those limitations. Yet it many cases, the decisions above were the Federal Court limiting the power and freedom of expression of states, counties, school districts, and even schools.
Saturday, November 24, 2007
As you read this, remember that it is Jefferson's metaphor "separation of church and state" that is often used today to prohibit the government from doing anything that might be religious in nature.
On October 31, 1803, President Jefferson proposed to the senate a treaty with the Kaskaskian Indians which provided that federal money be used to support a Catholic priest and build a church and Catholic mission for ministry to the Kaskaskian Indians. The treaty was ratified by Congress on December 23, 1803.
Thursday, November 22, 2007
Above the chair of the Speaker of the House is our official national motto, approved by the house and senate: "In God We Trust."
The Ten Commandments hang on the walls of the Supreme Court building.
Over the fireplace in the White House are the words placed by the first president to occupy that house, John Adams: "I pray heaven to bestow the best of blessings on this White House, and on all that shall hereafter inhabit it."
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
While legal proceedings are going on to eliminate a cross in a veterans' cemetary, and to forbid government employees from mentioning God during funeral services (and at most other ceremonies), there is a huge body of evidence in Washington, D.C. that our Founders did not fear such Biblical references.
The following words are inscribed inside the Washington Monument:
God and our native land. The memory of the just is blessed. Proverbs 10:7
Search the scriptures.
Holiness to the Lord.
Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not for of such is the kingdom of God.
Train up a child in the way that he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.
In God we trust.
May Heaven to this union continue its beneficence.
At the peak is inscribed:
Praise be to God.
Monday, November 19, 2007
On the walls of the Library of Congress are many religious quotes, including: "What doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humble with thy God," and "One God, one element, and one far-off divine event, to which the whole creation moves."
The cornerstone of the U.S. Capitol Building was laid by George Washington. In it is a box containing a number of documents, including a paper created by Daniel Webster, Secretary of State. It concludes with these words: "And all here assembled, whether belonging to public life or to private life, with hearts devotedly thankful to almighty God for the preservation of the liberty and happiness of this country, unite in sincere and fervent prayers, that this deposit in the walls and arches, the domes and towers, in columns and in tabletures now to be erected over it may endure forever. God save the United States of America."
Saturday, November 17, 2007
According to the American Political Review (189, 1984)
The Holy Bible was found to have directly contributed to 34% of all quotes by the Founding Fathers. This was discovered after reviewing 15,000 items from the Founding Fathers (including newspaper articles, pamphlets, books, monographs, etc.). The other main sources that the Founders quoted include: Montesquieu, Blackstone, Locke, Pufendorf, etc., who themselves took 60% of their quotes directly from the Bible. Direct and indirect quotes combined reveal that 94% of all the quotes of the Founding Fathers are derived from the Bible.
Friday, November 16, 2007
One of the slogans of the American Revolution was "No king but Jesus."
The same Congress that wrote the First Amendment also appointed chaplains for the House and Senate and for all the branches of the Armed Forces.
James Madison: "The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. ... The powers reserved to the several states will extend to all the objects which in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State."
President James Madison proclaimed a day of national fasting and prayer so that the nation might "be delivered from all dangers which threaten it."
Jefferson: "The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg..."
Thursday, November 15, 2007
I posted earlier about the Governor of Georgia holding a prayer vigil for rain. Many news sources have published articles condemning this action. The latest comes from an editor of the University of Georgia's student newspaper, Red and Black. This article is linked below and is an excellent example of a college student's lack of knowledge of our Founders' beliefs and actions in areas related to the First Amendment. I suggest you read the article and also the comments. It is good insight into our situation today and the diverse opinions about the First Amendment's meaning. Unfortunately, many of these heartfelt opinions are not based on history and the actual meaning (i.e. the words) of the Constitution.
Rain Vigil Not a Practical Solution
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Despite limitation placed on religious people, the Supreme Court has found only the following seven practices to be a violation of the establishment clause:
- State-directed and required on-premises religious training,
- State-directed and required prayer,
- State-directed and required Bible reading,
- State-directed and required posting of the Ten Commandments,
- State-directed and authorized "periods of silence" for meditation and voluntary prayer,
- State-directed and required teaching of scientific creationism,
- State-directed prayer by a clergyman at public school graduation ceremonies.
Finally, we all need to know what our rights are. We need to understand some of the ways that the Supreme Court's decisions have been inadvertently misapplied by local officials. We need to question actions that seem contrary to the law and our constitutional rights. Even though while the Supreme Court has limited rights of religious people, perhaps contrary to the framer's intentions, we need to understand that religious rights are not as limited as many believe.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
This particular quote is probably over-cited, but it is still instruction to read Lincoln's words, spoken as part of an official proclamation.
"We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand, which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us! It behooves us, then to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness."
Proclamation Appointing a National Fast Day, March 30, 1863
Monday, November 12, 2007
In the article linked here:
Secular Group to Protest Prayer for Rain
the Governor of Georgia wants to hold a service to pray for relief from the drought. He is being sued by the Atlanta Freethought Society to prevent this.
In the original AP story they mention that many past presidents have prayed and even supported a National Day of Prayer and Fasting. They mention that Jefferson was an exception. What they don't mention is that Jefferson did not recommend such a thing because he believe the Federal Government should not do this (remember that the Founders were very cautious of a too-strong Federal Government). HOWEVER, later Jefferson did recommend a Day of Prayer and Fasting as Governor of Virginia. He thought that was the proper level at which to do it.
It seems that many people today believe religion feeling should be kept quite when one is speaking in public. This is not part of our historic tradition and was not followed by our Founders. But consider more recent examples from some of our presidents (more Presidential quotes will follow).
"Here is the nation God has built by our hands. What shall we do with it?"
"A man had deprived himself of the best there is in the world who has deprived himself of this, a knowledge of the Bible. When you have read the Bible, you will know it is the Word of God, because you will have found it the key to your own heart, your own happiness and your own duty."
"It is very difficult for an individual who knows the Scripture every to get away from it...it forms a part of the warp and woof of his life"
"Liberty has never come from the government; it has always come from the subjects of it. The history of liberty is a history of limitation of governmental power, not the increase of it."
"I am sorry for the men who do not read the Bible every day. I wonder why they deprive themselves of the strength and of the pleasure."
"In entering upon this great office I must humbly invoke the God of our fathers for wisdom and firmness to execute its high and responsible duties."
"Let us look forward to the time when we can take the flag of our country and nail it below the Cross, and there let it wave as it waved in the olden times, and let us gather around it and inscribe for out motto: 'Liberty and Union, one and inseparable, now and forever,' and exclaim, Christ first, our country next!"
Saturday, November 10, 2007
Below is a link to an article about the Osceola County commissioners prayer before meetings. It seems they invoke Jesus' name in the prayers. They are being pressured by various groups and the general public to stop.
If you read this (short) article, you can see where I think we often go the wrong direction today. Despite some previous misinterpretations by courts, open a county meeting with a prayer in Jesus' name is NOT unconstitutional. They should not be forced to stop because of a lawsuit. The opinion article below makes is sound as though the general public find such prayers offensive. That should be considered, but it is a matter of sensitivity, not of legality.
The First Amendment is meant to keep the Federal Government from making a law creating an official religion that people will be forced to participate in. It also prohibits that government interfering with people's worship. Later court decisions have been thought to provide that same limitation to the states. Even if we extend that decision down to the county and local level (which courts have not done in a declarative way), the First Amendment is about LAWS, not about the habits of leaders of meetings.
We should (in many areas, not just this one) avoid looking to the courts to solve all our disagreements. If the commission's leaders are insensitive that should be discussed and resolved. If the leaders are not willing to listen, it can be handled in the next election. It should not come to a lawsuit.
County Commissioners Praying in Jesus' Name
The topics in this blog may also be read in a categorized format in the following forum:
Religion and the First Amendment
Friday, November 9, 2007
Some attribute public statements of religion and government to be the domain of right-wing conservatives. But consider this quote from John F. Kennedy:
"The rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God."
See Kennedy Inaugural Address
Thursday, November 8, 2007
The article linked here is about a local housing authority banning a group from holding worship services in a building that is funded by HUD (Housing and Urban Development). So one should not be angry at the Memphis Housing Authority, even if you agree with the posts on this blog. They are simply trying to follow HUD constraints.
The real question is, "Why does HUD have that rule?" If they know their history, they also know that the largest church services in the early days of our country (after the First Amendment was written) were held in the nation's capital.
Even Thomas Jefferson, to whom we usually attribute the phrase "Separation of Church and State," apparently did not have such fears. Jefferson was the founder of the University of Virginia. From its inception in 1819, the school was governed, managed, and controlled by the Commonwealth of Virginia. Consider:
- In order to accommodate and perpetuate the religious beliefs and practices of students at the university, he recommended that students be allowed to meet on the campus to pray, worship, and receive religious instruction, or, if necessary, to meet and pray with their professors.
- He provided in his regulations for the University of Virginia that the main rotunda be used for religious worship under the regulations allowed to be prescribed by law.
- He proposed that all University of Virginia students be required to study as a matter of ethics "the proofs of the being of a God, the creator, preserver, and supreme ruler of the universe, the author of all relations within morality, and of the laws and obligations these infer."
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
As stated before on this blog, modern writers sometimes claim that the vast majority of our Founders were atheist or deist. Yet their writings do not seem to support this. In my opinion, the fact that they had strong Christian views is noteworthy, because they were able to create and sustain a Federal Government that does not force one to worship any particular way. But they might defined "forced to worship" in a different way than we do now. It seems that now people think that a high school valedictorian stating that she was influenced by Christ is in the same category as our Congress (or a state's legislature) making a law establishing a religion. Why else would school officials pull the plug during her commencement address just as she got to that part of her speech?
U.S. Supreme Court
- John Jay (1st Chief Justice) - President of the American Bible Society; member of American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. He said: "Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers, and it is the duty, as well as the privilege and interest of our Christian nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers."
- John Marshall - Vice President of the American Bible Society; officer in the American Sunday School Union
- Smith Thompson - Vice President of the American Bible Society
- Bushrod Washington - Vice President of the American Bible Society; Vice President of the American Sunday School Union
- Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of New York, James Kent. Considered the premier jurist in the development of the legal practice in the U.S. In the case of The People v. Ruggles, 1811, his opinion said in part: "We are a Christian people, and the morality of the country is deeply engrafted upon Christianity, and not upon the doctrines or worship of those impostors [other religions]"
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
The Liberty Bell tolled to call citizens to hear the reading of the Declaration of Independence once it was completed. It was an important part of our history and was commissioned by the Pennsylvania Assembly in 1751. On it you see this:
"Proclaim liberty through all the land and to all the inhabitants thereof. (Leviticus XXV, 10)"
Now this was a state, not the yet-to-be-formed Federal Government, that chose those words. Yet in current interpretations of our Bill of Rights, states are constrained the same as the Federal Goverment. (Actually, even towns and school systems are now seemingly subject to a broad set of prohibitions.) Keeping in mind the Founders intense desire to keep the Federal Government from getting too powerful and from messing in their affairs, does a reasonable person believe that they would have drafted an act that could force them to undo many of their institutions?
Monday, November 5, 2007
Compare the following 2 quotes explaining the First Amendment. The first is by James Madison, who is regarded as the author of the Constitution and was instrumental in its wording. The 2nd is from the Everson decision in 1947. Notice how many specifics that Justice Black finds in the simple principle that Congress should not make a law establishing a religion. And one could wonder why the is so little attention paid to the other part of the religion clause (Congress may not prohibit the free exercise of religion).
In the words of James Madison, "The First Amendment was prompted because the people feared one sect might obtain preeminence, or two combine together and establish a religion to which they would compel others to conform."
Justice Black in Everson: "The establishment of religion clause of the First Amendment means at least this: neither a state nor the federal government can set up a church; neither can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another. No tax in any amount, large or small, can be levied to support any religious activities or institutions whatever they may be called or whatever form they may adopt to teach or practice religion. In the words of Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect 'a wall of separation between church and state.'"
Saturday, November 3, 2007
At the News-Leader.com there is a fine article on our Christian roots. Note that the author is not advocating that we turn our Government into a State Church, nor does this blog. It is just that we feel people are using the Constitution to justify taking religion out of public life. Such was not the intent of the Founders.
U.S. history demonstrates founders promoted Christian nation
Especially note the responses posted there. Such discussions, even though they are mostly quoting history, seem to generate some heated responses. And that is the author's point: that we don't learn enough in school about our founding to understand such discussion.
Friday, November 2, 2007
A tradition had evolved at burial services in veteran's cemeteries. The text below was read about the folding of the American flag. However, now the VA has prohibited its employees from reading that text as part of the ceremony. The VA says that private participants may read it, but not VA employees who are part of the ceremony.
This blog contains numerous examples of quotes and actions by our early Government that prove the people who were most familiar with our Constitution saw no problem whatsoever with officials invoking God's name or asking for His blessing.
The same First Amendment misunderstanding that leads some people to think Government officials may not talk about God also contains the section about freedom of speech. It seems as though VA employees had that right abridged here.
The First Amendment, even if it purpose was to keep religion away from the Federal Government in some way, says that "Congress shall make no law...". The reading of this flag verse is not a law made by Congress; it is not a law made by a state (if you believe that the First Amendment's limits on Congress apply to the states because of the 14th Amendment); it is a tradition. The First Amendment in no way prevents Government personnel or agencies from observing traditions.
The unofficial reading in question is below. This not part of any official flag code; it is simply a tradition that many family members have appreciated. Any family could opt it out of their ceremony. Our military has many traditions that become part of such ceremonies, and often these traditions are not codified. According to this tradition, the 13 folds represent:
1. Symbol of life.
2. Symbol of our belief in the eternal life.
3. In honor and remembrance of the veteran departing our ranks who gave a portion of life for the defense of our country to attain a peace throughout the world.
4. Represents our weaker nature, for as American citizens trusting in God, it is to him we turn in times of peace as well as in times of war for his guidance.
5. A tribute to our country, for in the words of Stephen Decatur, "Our country, in dealing with other countries, may she always be right; but it is still our country, right or wrong."
6. Represents where our hearts lie. It is with our hearts that we pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
7. A tribute to our armed forces.
8. A tribute to the one who entered into the valley of the shadow of death, that we might see the light of day, and to honor mother, for whom it flies on Mother's Day.
9. A tribute to womanhood.
10. A tribute to father.
11. In the eyes of Hebrew citizens, represents the lower portion of the seal of King David and King Solomon, and glorifies, in their eyes, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
12. In the eyes of Christian citizens, represents an emblem of eternity and glorifies, in their eyes, God the Father, the Son and Holy Ghost.
13. When the flag is completely folded, the stars are uppermost, reminding us of our national motto, "In God We Trust."
Thursday, November 1, 2007
More Quotes and Background of Our Early Presidents. Readers may wonder why I am focusing so much on quotes from so far back in our history. My reason is simple enough. These people had more of a first-hand understanding of what the Constitution meant and what the First Amendment meant to the people who wrote both and the people who ratified both. See the quote below by Jackson, and then try to think of the reaction if a current President said that the Bible is "the rock on which our Republic rests."
- (Inaugural Address) - "And may that Being who is supreme over all, the Patron of Order, the Fountain of Justice, and the Protector in all ages of the world of virtuous liberty, continue His blessings upon the nation."
- Other writing: "The Christian religion is, above all the Religions that ever prevailed or existed in ancient or modern times, the religion of Wisdom, Virtue, Equity, and Humanity."
- Vice President of the American Bible Society, member of the Massachusetts Bible Society: "Duty is ours; results are God's."
- "I have myself, for many years, made it a practice to read through the Bible once every year..."
- Discussing the importance of Bible reading to his son: "... [Y]ou should form and adopt certain rules or principles, for the government or your own conduct and temper... It is in the Bible, you must learn them, and from the Bible how to practice them. Those duties are to God, to your fellow-creatures, and to yourself."
- "In entering upon this great office I must humbly invoke the God of our fathers for wisdom and firmness to execute its high and responsible duties."
- (see Signers of the Constitution post)
- "That Book (the Bible) is the rock on which our Republic rests."
- "The Bible is the cornerstone of liberty...students' perusal of the sacred volume will make us better citizens, better fathers, and better husbands."
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
The First Congress ratified the Constitution and the Bill of Rights (which contains the First Amendment). Perhaps their words and deeds give us better insight into the meaning (and limitations) of the First Amendment. This congress heard the debates, took part in the drafts and revisions, and ratified the final version. Surely they understood its meaning better than our courts today, yet some of today's courts would surely have found the acts of the Ratifiers of the Constitution to be unconstitutional!
- Fisher Adams - "Should not the Bible regain the place it once held as a schoolbook? Its morals are pure, its examples are captivating and noble."
- The first official act in the First Continental Congress was to open in Christian prayer, which ended in these words: "...the merits of Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Savior. Amen".
- In 1777, during the Revolutionary War, the First Continental Congress called the Bible "the great political textbook of the patriots" and appropriated funds to import 20,000 Bibles for the people. Many do not know that the Continental Congress began its sessions with prayer, a practice that is still followed by both houses of congress even today.
Notice in that last paragraph that the U.S. Government used Federal funds to pay for the printing of Bibles.
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Some of this material will be found in other blog posts here, but I wanted to collect these quotes from our first three presidents to demonstrate a point. These men are accused of being atheists or deists. They are said to have wanted to shun religious connections to government. Yet their quotes do not bear that out. They recognized, privately AND publicly, that our freedoms and the basis for much of our government are from God. How could a man who supposedly wanted script prohibition of religion from government also think our "liberties are of the Gift of God" if he had a conscience? (See the Jefferson section below.)
"It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible. It is impossible to account for the creation of the universe, without the agency of a Supreme Being. It is impossible to govern the universe without the aid of a Supreme Being. It is impossible to reason without arriving at a Supreme Being."
"Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports."
"It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God and to obey His will."
"Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other." ....so great is my veneration of the Bible that the earlier my children begin to read, the more confident will be my hope that they will prove useful citizens in their country and respectful members of society."
"The highest story of the American Revolution is this: it connected in one indissoluble bond the principles of civil government with the principles of Christianity."
"God who gave us life gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the Gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that His justice cannot sleep forever."
These two examples are known to me personally. Many more are in the newspapers if one keeps an eye open for such things.
CT, Gales Ferry: when she was in elementary school, my daughter told me at supper that it is against the law to talk about God in school. This was an impression created by her teacher and by the general attitude at school (and in the news).
CT, Montville: Students in a fifth-grade class was asked to write a book report on any book they each chose pertaining to history. A girl chose the book of Genesis for her report. Her teacher told her that was unacceptable because of the "separation of church and state." Her father talked with the teacher and asked what limitations had been put on the assignment. There were none. With only a little persistence from the father, the teacher permitted the girl's topic. I suspect this teacher did not have an "agenda" of any kind. She was just doing what she thought was required, an impression created by some of the misdirected lawsuits that make it into the news.
I used to read USA Today regularly. Part of the paper is a one-page overview of a couple headlines from each state. Scanning through just that small view I often found examples similar to (or worse than) the stories above.
Continuing the threads about the religious affiliations of our Founding Fathers, here are a few members of the Constitutional Convention. See also the posts about the Continental Congress (10/29), signers of the Declaration of Independence (10/27), and signers of the Constitution (10/25). Or just follow the keywords for Christian Roots of the U.S..
- Baldwin, Abraham - Chaplain in the American Revolution (Delegate to Constitutional Convention, Signer of Constitution)
- Bassett, Richard - Participated in writing the Constitution of Delaware, which states: "Every person who shall be chosen a member of either house, or appointed to any office or place of trust... shall... make and subscribe the following declaration, to wit: 'I, ____, do profess faith in God the Father, and in Jesus Christ His only Son, an din the Holy Ghost, one God, blessed for evermore; and I do acknowledge the holy scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be given by divine inspiration.'" (Delegate to Constitutional Convention, Signer of Constitution)
- Bedford, Gunning - Funeral oration on the death of Washington: "Now to the triune God, The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, be ascribed all honor and dominion, forevermore." (Delegate to Constitutional Convention, Signer of Constitution)
- Blair, John - Member of the Episcopal Church (Delegate to Constitutional Convention, Signer of Constitution)
- Blount, William - Member of the Presbyterian Church. Helped draft the Tennessee Constitution, which said, “No person who denies the being of God, or a future state of rewards and punishments, shall hold any office in the civil department of this State.” (Delegate to Constitutional Convention, Signer of Constitution)
- Brearly, David - A warden of St. Michael's Church, a compiler of the Protestant Episcopal Prayer Book, and a delegate to the Episcopal General Convention in 1786 (Delegate to Constitutional Convention, Signer of Constitution)
- Broom, Jacob - Writing to his son: "[D]on't forget to be a Christian. I have said much to you on this head and I hope an indelible impression is made. " (Delegate to Constitutional Convention, Signer of Constitution)
- Butler, Pierce - Member of the Episcopal Church (Delegate to Constitutional Convention, Signer of Constitution)
- Carroll, Daniel - A Catholic who studied under the Jesuits at the College of St. Omer in Flanders (one of two Roman Catholics to sign the Constitution) (Delegate to Constitutional Convention, Signer of Constitution)
- Clymer, George - Was both a Quaker and an Episcopalian (Signer of Declaration of Independence, Delegate to Constitutional Convention, Signer of Constitution)
- Davie, William Richardson - Member of the Presbyterian Church (Delegate to Constitutional Convention)
- Dayton, Jonathan - Member of the Episcopal Church (Delegate to Constitutional Convention, Signer of Constitution)
- Dickinson, John - From his will: "To my Creator I resign myself, humbly confiding in His goodness and in His mercy through Jesus Christ for the events of eternity." (Delegate to Constitutional Convention, Signer of Constitution)
- Ellsworth, Oliver - Studied in theology at Princeton University. Became a religious leader in Connecticut during his later years. (Delegate to Constitutional Convention)
- Few, William - Few was a devout Methodist and was known to donate generously to philanthropic causes. (Delegate to Constitutional Convention, Signer of Constitution)
- Fitzsimons, Thomas - Member of the Roman Catholic Church (Delegate to Constitutional Convention, Signer of Constitution)
- Franklin, Benjamin - Considered much more a Deist than a Christian. He was nonetheless a follower of the Bible, and said: "I have lived, sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth -- God Governs in the Affairs of Men, And if a Sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, Is it possible that an empire can rise without His aid?...Except the Lord build the house, They labor in vain who build it." (Delegate to Constitutional Convention, Signer of Constitution)
- Gilman, Nicholas - Gilman was a Congregationalist. (Delegate to Constitutional Convention, Signer of Constitution)
- Gorham, Nathaniel - A Congregationalist who helped write the Massachusett's Constitution, which required this in the oath for office: "...I believe the Christian religion, and have a firm persuasion of its truth." (Delegate to Constitutional Convention, Signer of Constitution)
- Hamilton, Alexander - Proposed formation of the Christian Constitutional Society to spread Christian government around the world. After the Constitutional Convention of 1787, he stated: "For my own part, I sincerely esteem it a system which without the finger of God, never could have been suggested and agreed upon by such a diversity of interests." - from Diffine, D.P., One Nation Under God - How Close a Separation? (Delegate to Constitutional Convention, Signer of Constitution)
- Houston, William Churchill - Member of the Presbyterian Church (Delegate to Constitutional Convention)
- Ingersoll, Jared - Member of the Presbyterian Church (Delegate to Constitutional Convention, Signer of Constitution)
- Johnson, William Samuel - Speaking as President of Columbia University to the first graduating class after the Revolutionary War: "Remember, too, that you are the redeemed of the Lord, that you are bought with a price, even the inestimable price of the precious blood of the Son of God." (Delegate to Constitutional Convention, Signer of Constitution)
- King, Rufus - Selected as manager of the American Bible Society. In a speech made before the Senate at the time Missouri was petitioning for statehood, he said: "I hold that all laws or compacts imposing any such condition [as involuntary servitude] upon any human being are absolutely void because contrary to the law of nature, which is the law of God." (Delegate to Constitutional Convention, Signer of Constitution)
- Langdon, John - Vice President of the American Bible Society (Delegate to Constitutional Convention, Signer of Constitution)
- Lansing, John - Member of the Dutch Reformed Church (Delegate to Constitutional Convention)
- Livingston, William - Said, "I believe the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, without any foreign comments or human explanations... I believe that he who feareth God and worketh righteousness will be accepted of Him..." (Delegate to Constitutional Convention, Signer of Constitution)
- Madison, James - Member of the Episcopal Church. He said, "The belief in a God, all powerful, wise, and good, [is] essential to the moral order of the world, and to the happiness of man." (Signer of Declaration of Independence, Delegate to Constitutional Convention, Signer of Constitution)
- Martin, Alexander - Member of the Presbyterian and Episcopal Churches (Delegate to Constitutional Convention)
- Martin, Luther - He described himself as being devoted to: "The sacred truths of the Christian religion." (Delegate to Constitutional Convention)
- Mason, George - Called the 'Father of the Bill of Rights' because he insisted they be written to clarify what the federal government was not allowed to do. He also said "The laws of nature are the laws of God, whose authority can be superseded by no power on earth." (Delegate to Constitutional Convention)
- McHenry, James - President of the first Bible Society in Baltimore. In soliciting funds for distribution of Bibles, he wrote: "...Consider also, the rich do not possess aught more precious than their Bible, and that the poor cnnot be presented by the rich with anything of greater value." (Delegate to Constitutional Convention, Signer of Constitution)
- Mercer, John Francis - An Episcopalian who said, "Civil and religious liberty are inseparably interwoven..." (Delegate to Constitutional Convention)
- Mifflin, Thomas - Known as both a Quaker and a Lutheran (Delegate to Constitutional Convention, Signer of Constitution)
- Morris, Gouverneur - [T]he most important of all lessons [from the Scriptures] is the denunciation of ruin to every State that rejects the precepts of religion (Delegate to Constitutional Convention, Signer of Constitution)
- Morris, Robert - Member of the Episcopal Church (Signer of Declaration of Independence, Delegate to Constitutional Convention, Signer of Constitution)
- Paterson, William - Supreme Court Justice and a signer of the Constitution, declared that `Religion and morality ... [are] necessary to good government, good order, and good laws'; (Delegate to Constitutional Convention, Signer of Constitution)
- Pierce, William Leigh - Member of the Episcopal Church (Delegate to Constitutional Convention)
- Pinckney, Charles Cotesworth - President of the Charleston Bible Society; Vice President of the American Bible Society (Delegate to Constitutional Convention, Signer of Constitution)
- Randolph, Edmund Jennings - Member of the Episcopal Church (Delegate to Constitutional Convention)
- Rutledge, John - Member of the Episcopal Church (Delegate to Constitutional Convention, Signer of Constitution)
- Sherman, Roger - (Signer of all 4 of our founding documents). When asked by his church, White Haven Congregational, to help revise the wording of their creed: "I believe that there is one only living and true God, existing in three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, the same in substance, equal in power and glory. That the Scriptures of the old and new testaments are a revelation from God and a complete rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy Him." (Delegate to Constitutional Convention, Signer of Constitution)
- Spaight, Richard Dobbs - Member of the Episcopal Church (Delegate to Constitutional Convention, Signer of Constitution)
- Strong, Caleb - Vice President of the American Bible Society (Delegate to Constitutional Convention)
- Washington, George - Member of the Episcopal Church. In his prayer at Valley Forge he said, "Almighty and eternal Lord God, the great Creator of heaven and earth, and the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; look down from heaven in pity and compassion upon me Thy servant, who humbly prorate myself before Thee." (Delegate to Constitutional Convention, Signer of Constitution)
- Wilson, James - Wilson was an Episcopalian and a Presbyterian. Supreme Court Justice. He declared that "Human law must rest its authority ultimately upon the authority of that law which is Divine ... Far from being rivals or enemies, religion and law are twin sisters, friends, and mutual assistants" (Delegate to Constitutional Convention, Signer of Constitution)
- Yates, Robert - Member of the Dutch Reformed Church (Delegate to Constitutional Convention)
Labels: Christian Roots of the U.S.