Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Daniel Webster on Religion's Importance to the Nation

"...our ancestors established their system of government on morality and religious sentiment. Moral habits they believed, cannot safely be trusted on any foundation other than religious principle, nor any government be secure which is not supported by moral habits... Let the religious element in man's nature be neglected, let him be influenced by no higher motives than low self interest, and subjected to no stronger restraint than the limits of civil authority and he becomes the creature of selfish passion and blind fanaticism... On the other hand, the cultivation of the religious sentiment represses licentiousness... inspires respect for law and order, and gives strength to the whole social fabric at the same time that it conducts the human soul upward to the Author of its being."

From The Rebirth of America by Robert Flood
(St Davids, PA: The Arthur S. DeMoss Foundation 1986)

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Chief Justice William Rehnquist on Separation of Church and State

Chief Justice William Rehnquist (1924-2005) has said:

It is impossible to build sound constitutional doctrine upon a mistaken understanding of Constitutional history... The establishment clause had been expressly freighted with Jefferson's misleading metaphor for nearly forty years...

There is simply no historical foundation for the proposition that the framers intended to build a wall of separation (between the Church and state) ... The recent court decisions are in no way based on either the language or intent of the framers...

Monday, January 28, 2008

Kansas Constitution (1858)

The Kansas Constitution said: "Religion, morality, and knowledge, however, being essential to good government, it shall be the duty of the legislature to make suitable provision...for the encouragement of schools and the means of instruction."

After passing the Northwest Ordinance, Congress later required that all territories becoming states must have Constitutions that were "not repugnant to the Northwest Ordinance." That is why the language of so many state constitutions contains phrases similar to the above. Notice the tie-in between schools and religion. Keep in mind that the Northwest Ordinance was passed by the same folks who approved the First Amendment.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Ohio Constitution (1802)

The Ohio Constitution said in Article VIII, Section 3: "Religion, morality, and knowledge being essentially necessary to the good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of instruction shall forever be encouraged by legislative provision."

This is in parallel with the Northwest Ordinance, one of our country's four founding documents. Notice that it says schools are necessary partly to promote religion. That's obviously not what is happening today, perhaps appropriately enough, but it shows what the founding fathers thought that the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment did NOT prohibit.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

New Jersey Constitution (1844)

The New Jersey Constitution declared: "We, the people of the State of New Jersey, 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 transmit the same unimpaired to succeeding generations, do ordain and establish this Constitution."

Friday, January 25, 2008

Jefferson's Actions Speak Louder than a Few of His Words

Of course Thomas Jefferson is now famous for a few words he once used in a letter to the Danbury Baptists ("wall of separation between church and state"). This is a much-discussed quote. Did he mean that religion must never associate with government and vice versa? Or did he mean to assure the Baptists that the new Federal Government had no power to create a national religion that might disadvantage the Baptists?

Let's leave that discussion to some of the other posts here and elsewhere and consider Jefferson's actual deeds.

Federal Actions:

On three separate occasions President Jefferson signed into law extensions of the land grant the federal government had given especially to promote education and proselytism among the Indians.

State Actions:

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.

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."

Other Actions

When Congress first authorized public schools for the nation's capitol, the first president of the Washington, D.C. School Board was Jefferson. He was the chief author of the first plan of public education adopted for the city of Washington. The first official report on file indicates that the Bible and the Watts Hymnal were the first, and in fact only, books in use for reading by the public school students.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

John Quincy Adams - 3 Quotes on the Bible and Christianity

(Note: references added below on July 11, 2008)

"It is no slight testimonial, both to the merit and worth of Christianity, that in all ages since its promulgation the great mass of those who have risen to eminence by their profound wisdom and integrity have recognized and reverenced Jesus of Nazareth as the Son of the living God."
Statement, quoted from Stephen Abbott Northrop, D.D. A Cloud of Witnesses (Portland, Oregon: American Heritage Ministries, 1987) p. introduction

"In what light soever we regard the Bible, whether with reference to revelation, to history, or to morality, it is an invaluable and inexhaustible mine of knowledge and virtue."
From William J. Federer, America's God and Country (Saint Louis, Missouri: Amerisearch, Inc., 1999) p. 19

"The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were.... the general principles of Christianity."

Thomas Jefferson, The Writings of Thomas Jefferson (Washington D. C.: The Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association, 1904), Vol. XIII, p. 292-294. In a letter from John Adams to Thomas Jefferson on June 28, 1813

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Alexander Hamilton on Liberty's Origin

"You would be convinced, that natural liberty is a gift of the beneficent Creator, to the whole human race; and that civil liberty is founded in that; and cannot be wrested from any people, without the most manifest violation of justice."

From "The Farmer Refuted," The Works of Alexander Hamilton, ed. John C. Hamilton, vol. 2, p. 61 (1850).

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Warren G. Harding on Scripture

"I have always believed in the inspiration of the Holy Scriptures, whereby they have become the expression to man of the Word and will of God."

Monday, January 21, 2008

Theodore Roosevelt on The Bible

A thorough knowledge of the Bible is worth more than a college education."

"To educate a man in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society."

"It is necessary for the welfare of the nation that men's lives be based on the principles of the Bible. No man, educated or uneducated, can afford to be ignorant of the Bible."

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Abraham Lincoln, National Day of Fasting

Abraham Lincoln made a proclamation appointing a National Fast Day, April 30, 1863:

"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."

Learn more on Wikipedia

Friday, January 18, 2008

Alexander Hamilton's Opinion of Christianity

The following is taken from Hamilton's 1802 letter to James Bayard, whom he helped to form the Christian Constitutional Society.

"I have carefully examined the evidences of the Christian religion, and if I was sitting as a juror upon its authenticity I would unhesitatingly give my verdict in its favor. I can prove its truth as clearly as any proposition ever submitted to the mind of man."

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Harry S. Truman on the Religious Foundations of Government

"The fundamental basis of this nation's law was given to Moses on the Mount. The fundamental basis of our Bill of Rights comes from the teaching we get from Exodus and St. Matthew, from Isaiah and St. Paul. I don't think we emphasize that enough these days. If we don't have the proper fundamental moral background, we will finally end up with a totalitarian government which does not believe in the right for anybody except the state."

Read more about Truman's words (including the quote) on the website of the National Archives

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Our National Anthem

On March 3, 1931, The Star Spangled Banner became our official National Anthem (36 U.S.C. Sec. 170). Congress approved Francis Scott Key's creation, which was written September 14, 1814, at the Battle of Fort McHenry during the War of 1812.

The anthem's fourth verse is (emphasis added):

O! thus be it ever when free men shall stand
Between their loved home and the war's desolation;
Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the Heav'n-rescued land
Praise the Pow'r that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just;
And this be our motto, "In God is our trust!"
And the star spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Remember the Year of the Bible?

On October 4, 1982, the U.S. Congress by a Joint Resolution of both the Senate and House of Representatives of the 97th Congress, declared 1983 the Year of the Bible.

But wait! What about the First Amendment's establishment clause? That clause prohibits Congress from establishing a religion. However, this resolution does not establish a law. It simply recognizes history.

Here is the text:

Whereas the Bible, the Word of God, has made a unique contribution in shaping the United States as a distinctive and blessed nation and people;

Whereas deeply held religious convictions springing from the Holy Scriptures led to the early settlement of our Nation;

Whereas Biblical teachings inspired concepts of civil government that are contained in our Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States;

Whereas many of our great national leaders-among them Presidents Washington, Jackson, Lincoln, and Wilson-paid tribute to the surpassing influence of the Bible in our country's development, as in the words of President Jackson that the Bible is "the rock on which our Republic rests";

Whereas the history of our Nation clearly illustrates the value of voluntarily applying the teachings of the Scriptures in the lives of individuals, families, and societies;

Whereas this Nation now faces great challenges that will test this Nation as it has never been tested before; and

Whereas that renewing our knowledge of and faith in God through Holy Scripture can strengthen us as a nation and a people: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the President is authorized and requested to designate 1983 as a national "Year of the Bible" in recognition of both the formative influence the Bible has been for our Nation, and our national need to study and apply the teachings of the Holy Scriptures.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Calvin Coolidge: Teaching the Bible

"The foundation of our society and our government rest so much on the teachings of the Bible that it would be difficult to support them if faith in these teachings would cease to be practically universal in our country."

Sunday, January 13, 2008

What You Hear, What You Don't Hear

Everyone knows Patrick Henry said, "Give me liberty or give me death." That's not the full quote, but it is catchy. One only has to look up the quote to find it in context; maybe. But these days some history books are leaving out some of the "offensive" words around it. Here is the full quote:

"Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death."

Friday, January 11, 2008

Justice Brewer and our Christian Roots

Justice David Joseph Brewer (1837-1910), Supreme Court Justice

"The American nation from its first settlement at Jamestown to this hour is based upon and permeated by the principles of the Bible."

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Three Co-Equal Branches

When I was in high school civics class I learned that we have three co-equal branches of government: legislative, executive, and judicial. If you have read many of the posts in this forum you might have detected that I get frustrated with some of the actions courts have taken.

Even if you share that point of view with me, I don't think we should blame the courts exclusively. Jefferson feared that the courts would tend to gradually take more and more power. But the Constitution did not give final authority to the courts. Even if the Supreme Court overturns a law, Congress can also specify that certain areas are not subject to the Court's power.

But a recent (off-topic) example is equally frustrating. In my opinion, the campaign finance reform bill that was passed not so long ago is not Constitutional. You may disagree, but let's assume that I am correct for the moment. The first step was for Congress. They could have recognized the problem and not passed the law in the first place, or modified it so it would not conflict. The second step was the President, who (I think) was not in favor of the bill. He could have vetoed it, but decided to leave it to the courts to decide the issue. It seems to me that was "passing the buck." It's not just up to the Supreme Court. Congress, the President, and all nine Supreme Court justices are sworn to uphold the Constitution. If Congress or the President have doubts about Constitutionality, they have a responsibility to act.

If one looks at all the 5/4 decision passed down by the Supreme Court it is clear how fragile some of these decisions have been. It would only take a change of one Justice for the balance to swing, and gradually the legal balance would start to swing the other way. If the three branches were laying the proper foundation, I believe it would create more stability.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Does the U.S. Constitution Make Special Provisions for Christians???

Yes, it's true. The U.S. Constitution actually does have a specific provision based on the Christian faith. It is the section that defines a relative time frame during which the President must act on a bill.

Constitution of the United States, Article I, Section 7, Paragraph 2:
"If any bill shall not be returned by the President within ten Days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him..."

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The New England Confederation (1643)

Often when our country's origins are discussed the argument is made that we were founded on some kind of secular humanist or theistic philosophy.

The New England Confederation of May 19, 1643 said that the bond among its signers was the desire to "...advance the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ and to enjoy the liberties of the Gospel in purity with peace."

Read more here:

Sunday, January 6, 2008

North Carolina Constitution

North Carolina's constitution, Article XXXII stated: "That no person who shall deny the being of God, or the truth of the Protestant religion, or the divine authority of the Old or New Testaments, or who shall hold religious principles incompatible with the freedom and safety of the State, shall be capable of holding any office or place of trust or prifit in the civil department within this State."

This particular provision was in force until 1876. Clearly the First Amendment did not automatically prohibit this type of restriction. No state would do such a thing today, but the point is that the First Amendment did not venture here.

Friday, January 4, 2008

No King but King Jesus

The Committees of Correspondence in Boston, 1774, penned a rallying cry for independence that was later used during the Revolutionary War:

"No King but King Jesus!"

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Treaty to End the Revolutionary War

In 1783 our Continental Congress ratified the treaty to end our war with Great Britain. The treaty started with these words:

"In the name of the Most Holy and Undivided Trinity. It having pleased the Divine Providence to dispose the hearts of the most serene and most potent Prince George the Third, by the Grace of God, King of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, Defender of the Faith... and of the United States of America, to forget all past misunderstandings and differences..."

(Keep in mind that the Continental Congress who approved the first 10 words above is the same group who ratified the First Amendment of our Constitution.)

Read the whole treaty here:

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Abraham Lincoln on God

Abraham Lincoln: "It is the duty of nations, as well as men, to earn their dependence on the overruling power of God; to confess their sins and transgressions; and to recognize the sublime truth announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven through by history that those nations only are blessed whose god is the Lord."

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Hillsdale College - Imprimis

Hillsdale College in Michigan publishes a wonderful monthly newsletter that I have quoted from on this blog:

Imprimis from Hillsdale College

(The previous use of Imprimis on this blog is the article Danger of a Metaphor.)

One interesting thing about Hillsdale College is that they do not accept federal or state taxpayer subsidies for any of its operations. Why would a college turn down "free" money? Probably for some of the same reasons that our country's founders were suspicious of too much power in the federal government. With the "free" money would come restrictions, regulations, etc. that could affect the way an entity might like to do business.

Many of our federal programs are not authorized by the Constitution. It is interesting to me how many people are quick to point out that the the Constitution does not mention Christ in saying that our government should not touch religion (including recognizing it). However, it is very rare to hear anyone question all that the federal government does because those actions not being mentioned in the Constitution. The 10th Amendment is very clear that the federal government has ONLY those powers specifically noted in the Constitution.