Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Jedediah Morse on Christianity and Government

Jedediah Morse is known as the "father of American geography." He authored several geography texts that were used in the early days of our country and was a contributor to Dobson's Encyclopedia. He said this about our government:

"To the kindly influence of Christianity we owe that degree of civil freedom, and political and social happiness which mankind now enjoys... Whenever the pillars of Christianity shall be overthrown, our present republican forms of government, and all the blessings which flow from them, must fall with them."

From: Wikipedia

Monday, April 28, 2008

Charter of Pennsylvania (1681)

The Charter of Pennsylvania, signed in 1681, said part of its goal was, "To reduce [meaning 'to civilize'] the savage natives by gentle and just manners to the Love of Civill societe and Christian religion."

From PHMC Doc Heritage

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Roots - Why Are We On This Contintent?

Sometimes it is useful to look at why something got started in the first place. King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella were the Spanish monarchs sponsoring Christopher Columbus' journey to discover the New World. In their eyes the main purpose of the voyage was:

"To bear the light of Christ west to the heathen undiscovered lands"

From Cecil Jane, translation & ed., The Voyages of Christopher Columbus, (London: Argonaut Press) 1930, p.146

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

George Washington - Patriots and Christianity

During the Revolutionary War, General George Washington (Commander and Chief') stated that:

"To the distinguished character of a Patriot, it should be our highest glory to add the more distinguished character of a Christian."

From William Johnson, George Washington, (Milford, MI: Mott Media, 1977) p. 112.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Alexis de Tocqueville

Alexis de Tocqueville was a noted French political commentator in the 1800's. After a trip to learn more about the United States he wrote:

"The Americans combine the notions of Christianity and of liberty so intimately in their minds that it is impossible to make them conceive the one without the other."

de Tocqueville, Alexis, The Republic of the United States and Its Political Institutions Reviewed and Examined, Henry Reeves translator, (Garden City, NY, A.S. Barnes & Co.) 1851, Vol. I p.335.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Jefferson Warns of the Judiciary

In the last half century the Supreme Court has been fairly active in limiting religious expression and recognition in the government sphere (at all levels). Thomas Jefferson, whose metaphor "separation of church and state" is often used by the Court, wrote a letter to William Jarvis on September 28, 1820. Jefferson stated:

"You seem... to consider the judges as the ultimate arbiters of all constitutional questions; a very dangerous doctrine indeed, and one which would place us under the deposition of an oligarchy."

As found in Jefferson's Letters, Wilson Whitman, ed. (Eau Claire, WI; E.M. Hale & Co.) 1900, p.338

Sunday, April 20, 2008

A Christian land governed by Christian perspectives

The Warren Court was not known for being friendly to religious recognition by government. However, Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren made the following observation when he was Governor of California:

"I believe no one can read the history of our country without realizing that the Good Book and the spirit of the Saviour have from the beginning been our guiding geniuses... Whether we look to the First Charter of Virginia... or to the Charter of New England... or to the Charter of Massachusetts Bay... the same objective is present; a Christian land governed by Christian perspectives."

(From Time magazine, February 15, 1954, p. 49)

Saturday, April 19, 2008

New England Primer - American's First Textbook

According to Wikipedia, "The New England Primer was first published between 1688 and 1690 by English printer Benjamin Harris, who had come to Boston in Massachusetts in 1686 to escape the brief Catholic ascendancy under James II. Based largely upon his earlier The Protestant Tutor, The New-England Primer was the first reading primer designed for the American Colonies. It became the most successful educational textbook published in colonial and the early days of United States history."

The Primer taught the ABC's using these examples:

A In Adam's fall we sinned all

B Heaven to find, the Bible mind

C Christ crucify'd for sinners dy'd

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Just How Much Will We Tolerate?

People who encourage removing any reference to religion from public life do so by pointing to Thomas Jefferson's metaphor "separation of church and state" and by relying on the First Amendment. Also, the 14th Amendment could be read to mean that the First Amendment applies to the states, not just the federal government.

The first five words of the First Amendment are, "Congress shall make no law..." (emphasis mine). Applied to the states, that would seem to mean that the state legislature shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise of religion. In other words, if we accept that the 14th Amendment really passes everything down to the states, that means neither the state nor federal governments may:
1) make a law establishing religion
2) prohibit the free exercise of religion

The 14th Amendment's purpose was to extend the Constitutional rights of the citizens down to the state level. In other words, a state may not remove a right that is granted by the U.S. Constitution. In my opinion, we all have a Constitutional right to freely exercise our religion.

Now consider the case of the football coach whose team prays before a game. The coach would kneel and and bow his head during these student-led prayers. However, the U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia just decided that he may not do so. (They did not specify if he is supposed to leave the room, stand at attention, or what during these prayers.)

This coach's board of education had a policy banning staff from joining student-led prayers. The 3rd Circuit is saying that law is constitutionally acceptable. The opinions from the Court made it clear that the core issue was the coach seeming to endorse a religion by bowing his head and/or kneeling. The board's lawyer said that a school's staff must not appear to endorse religion in any way. As a Christian, I bow my head during others' prayers out of respect either for God or for the other people's religious beliefs. To me it is a natural act, and it has been treated that way through most of our country's history.

This story is a remarkably good example of what drives many (usually conservative) politicians to talk about the need to curb judicial activism. Courts at all levels are not supposed to extend laws. There are supposed to interpret them and make sure they are constitutional. It is a very, very long reach to say that the First Amendment was ever intended to limit recognition of religion. If so, how then could we have a NATIONAL holiday of Christmas? If so how could the U.S. Constitution not count Sunday during time-sensitive specifications for things like the President's timeframe for signing laws?

As I pointed out above it can be said that (even with the 14th Amendment) it is only the U.S. Congress and state legislatures that are prohibited from making laws about religion. That argument would say that a school board is not constrained in the same way. I would have no problem with that logic if it were used evenly on both sides of this subject. But the carry-down logic is usually extended to all levels of government in order to purge religion recognition and practice from county and city board, schools, and almost any institution that is associated with a government body.

I suppose my biggest objection is that our Courts so often focus so much on the establishment clause of the First Amendment that they trample on the free exercise clause. Both clauses are part of the same sentence.

First Amendment Religion Clauses:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion [establishment clause], or prohibiting the free exercise thereof [free exercise clause]...

The full story is here:
MSNBC News Story

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

President John Adams - Day of Fasting and Prayer

Our second president, John Adams, proclaimed a National day of fasting and prayer in 1798 (note that this was after the First Amendment was adopted). His proclamation said that the 9th day of May that year would be a day of solemn humiliation, fasting, and prayer that the people of the US would "offer their devout addresses to the Father of Mercies agreeably to those forms or methods which they have severally adopted as the most suitable and becoming; that all religious congregations do, with the deepest humility, acknowledge before God the manifold sins and transgressions with which we are justly chargeable as individuals and as a nation, beseeching Him at the same time, of His infinite grace, through the Redeemer of the World, freely to remit all our offenses, and to incline us by His Holy Spirit to that sincere repentance and reformation which may afford us reason to hope for his inestimable favor and heavenly benediction; that it be made the subject of particular and earnest supplication that our country may be protected from all the dangers which threaten it; that our civil and religious privileges may be preserved inviolate and perpetuated to the latest generations; that our public councils and magistrates may be especially enlightened and directed at this critical period; that the American people may be united in those bonds of amity and mutual confidence and inspired with that vigor and fortitude by which they have in times past been so highly distinguished and by which they have obtained such invaluable advantages; that the health of the inhabitants of our land may be preserved, and their agriculture, commerce, fisheries, arts, and manufactures be blessed and prospered; that the principles of genuine piety and sound morality may influence the minds and govern the lives of every description of our citizens and that the blessings of peace, freedom, and pure religion may be speedily extended to all the nations of the earth.

"And finally, I recommend that on the said day the duties of humiliation and prayer be accompanied by fervent thanksgiving to the Bestower of Every Good Gift, not only for His having hitherto protected and preserved the people of these United States in the independent enjoyment of their religious and civil freedom, but also for having prospered them in a wonderful progress of population, and for conferring on them many and great favors conducive to the happiness and prosperity of a nation."

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

House Judiciary Committee, 1854

In 1854, the House Judiciary Committee declared:

"Religion must be considered as the foundation on which the whole structure rests. In this age there can be no substitute for Christianity; the great conservative element on which we must rely for the purity and permanence of free institutions."

Saturday, April 12, 2008

More on Harvard and Christ

According to this research:

"...But it wasn't until I was well into my college experience that I learned the truth about the Harvard seal and the motto emblazoned upon it. Yes, the motto did contain the word veritas. But on the official official university seal veritas didn't stand alone. It was joined to three other Latin words: christo et ecclesiae. The whole motto translated into English read: 'Truth . . . for Christ and the church.'

"This official motto, adopted by the university in 1692, was consistent with Harvard's original vision for its educational purpose. Among the 'Rules and Precepts' of 1646 was the following:

"Let every Student be plainly instructed, and earnestly pressed to consider well, the maine end of his life and studies is, to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life (John 17:3) and therefore to lay Christ in the bottome, as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and Learning. And seeing the Lord only giveth wisedome, Let every one seriously set himself by prayer in secret to seeke it of him (Prov. 2:3)."

Friday, April 11, 2008

Our Universities in More Recent Years

Charles Malik is a former President of the United Nations General Assembly. He once had a conversation with the then U.S. Secretary of State, Cyrus Vance. Malik was asked to opine about what is wrong with the United States. He said, "You have taken Jesus Christ our of your universities."

I'm sure most of us do not want today's universities to turn into seminaries. However, neither do many of us want them to avoid Christ as an inappropriate subject, or to teach things contrary to Christian principles.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Princeton University and Christ

Jonathan Dickson, who was the first President of Princeton University, said: "Cursed be all learning that is contrary to the cross of Christ."

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Columbia University and Christ

One of the reasons its founders said that Columbia University was created was, "To teach and encourage students to know God in Jesus Christ and to love and serve Him... with a perfect and willing mind."

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Harvard and Christ

The founders of Harvard directed its students to "...know God and Jesus Christ ... as the only foundation for all sound knowledge and learning."

Monday, April 7, 2008

Our University System

According to CBN University Master Plan (Virginia Beach, VA: Regent University, 1983), page 4:

Out of the first one hundred nineteen colleges and universities founded in the United States, one hundred and four of them were created for the purpose of teaching their students about the Creator and his creations.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Thomas Jefferson - Not the Separationist We Hear About Today

Thomas Jefferson's seemingly innocent metaphor "separation of church and state" has been used many times to justify keeping government from doing virtually anything regarding religion. This has been addressed elsewhere on this site, but consider another example:

When Washington D. C. became the national capital in 1800, Congress voted that the Capitol building would also serve as a church building. President Jefferson chose to attend church each Sunday at the Capitol and even provided the service with paid government musicians to assist in its worship. Jefferson also began similar Christian services in his own Executive Branch, both at the Treasury Building and at the War Office.

Friday, April 4, 2008

New York Supreme Court, 1811 - Ties Christianity with Civil Government

The NY case of People vs. Ruggles was about a man tried and convicted for publicly saying:

"Jesus Christ was a bas- - - -"

and also that his mother must be a w----" He was sentenced to 3 months in jail and fined $500. Think what that amount was worth in 1811 dollars. This case affirmed the original judgment after the case was appealed.

James Kent, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of New York, rendered this opinion in the case:

"...Whatever strikes at the root of Christianity tends manifestly to the dissolution of civil government... (such offenses are) punishable at common law... The people of this state, in common with the people of this country, profess the general doctrines of Christianity, as the rule of their faith and practice, and to scandalize the author of these doctrines is not only ... impious, but ... is a gross violation of decency and good order....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 [other religions]...

Though the Constitution has discarded religious establishments, it does not forbid judicial cognizance of those offenses against religion and morality which have no reference to any such establishment.

The [Constitutional] declaration... never meant to withdraw religion... from all consideration and notice of the law. To construe it as breaking down the common law barriers against licentious, wanton, and impious attacks upon Christianity itself would be an enormous perversion of its meaning... Christianity in its enlarged sense, as a religion revealed and taught in the Bible, is part and parcel of the law of the land.... judgment affirmed"

Thursday, April 3, 2008

The Sci-Fi Community Chimes In

Even secular historians such as H.G. Wells (known best for his novels) observed that the U.S. Constitution is:

"indubitably Christian."

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Vidal v. Girard's Executors (1844)

In Vidal v. Girard's Executors, the U.S. Supreme Court declared:

"Why may not the Bible, and especially the New Testament, without note or comment, be read and taught as a divine revelation in the college - its general precepts expounded, its evidences explained, and its glorious principles of morality inculcated? What is there to prevent a work, not sectarian, upon the general evidences of Christianity, from being read and taught in the college by lay-teachers? ...[W]here can the purest principles of morality be learned so clearly or so perfectly as from the New Testament? Where are benevolence, the love of truth, sobriety, and industry, so powerfully and irresistibly inculcated as in the sacred volume?"

Here the Court recognizes the value and importance of the Bible. This is one of countless statements from our early days that show the general feeling about the Bible that existed within the U.S. The decision recognizes the logical value of learning fundamental ethical principles from the Bible, which was obvious to most of the populous at the time.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

President William Henry Harrison on Christianity

The 9th U.S. President, William Henry Harrison, said this during his Inaugural Address March 4, 1841:

"I deem the present occasion sufficiently important and solemn to justify me in expressing to my fellow citizens a profound reverence for the Christian religion, and a thorough conviction that sound morals, religious liberty, and a just sense of religious responsibility are essentially connected with all true and lasting happiness."