Friday, November 30, 2007

Political Endorsements by Christians

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 in Public Schools

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

Collegiate Times Article

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.

Collegiate Times

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Early Opinions About Christianity and Government

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."

Sunday, November 25, 2007

How Does the ACLU Fit In?

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

Jefferson and the Kaskaskian Indians

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

More "Signs" in Washington

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

Monumental Evidence

Washington Monument

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

What Can You Read at the Library of Congress?

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."

Evidence at the Foundation of Washington

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

Contributions of the Bible to Early America

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

More Actions and Words of Our Founders

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

More Uproar Over a Governor's Public Prayer

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

What Are Our Rights (and Limitations) Today?

Despite limitation placed on religious people, the Supreme Court has found only the following seven practices to be a violation of the establishment clause:

  1. State-directed and required on-premises religious training,
  2. State-directed and required prayer,
  3. State-directed and required Bible reading,
  4. State-directed and required posting of the Ten Commandments,
  5. State-directed and authorized "periods of silence" for meditation and voluntary prayer,
  6. State-directed and required teaching of scientific creationism,
  7. State-directed prayer by a clergyman at public school graduation ceremonies.
It has been said that "the Supreme Court reads the newspapers," which means that if people are upset about issues and are creating awareness of their opinions through litigation or other means, the justices will notice and it may affect their future decisions. The ACLU also reads the newspapers. According the book cited previously about the ACLU, they have in the past modified their policies because of fear of overwhelming public opposition.

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

Abraham Lincoln: Proclamation Appointing a National Fast Day

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

Governors Aren't Allowed to Pray, Are They?

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.

Woodrow Wilson and James Buchanan

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).

Woodrow Wilson

"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 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."

James Buchanan

"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."
Andrew Johnson

"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

Prayers in Jesus Name Before a Meeting

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

John F. Kennedy

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

Memphis Housing Authority Bans Worship Service

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

How Did Our Early Judiciary Feel About Religion?

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
State Supreme Courts
  • 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

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

Who Understood the 1st Amendment Better: James Madison or Justice Black?

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

History Taught in Schools - It's a Good Question

At the 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

Do VA Employees Lose Freedom of Speech Because of "Separation of Church and State"?

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

Quotes from Other Early Presidents

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."

John Adams

  • (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."
John Quincy Adams
  • 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."
James Buchanan
  • "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."
Alexander Hamilton
  • (see Signers of the Constitution post)
Andrew Jackson
  • "That Book (the Bible) is the rock on which our Republic rests."

Thomas Jefferson
  • "The Bible is the cornerstone of liberty...students' perusal of the sacred volume will make us better citizens, better fathers, and better husbands."