Wednesday, December 31, 2008

More from the Alabama Constitution: Echoes of Declaration of Independence

The Preamble to the Alabama Constitution is mentioned in an earlier post. The Preamble say in part: "We the people of the State of Alabama, invoking the favor and guidance of Almighty God, do ordain and establish the following Constitution . . ."

But in Section 1 the Alabama Constitution echoes Jefferson's words from our Declaration of Independence, recognizing that our right are not a "gift" from government, but rather are granted to all people by God.

Section 1
"That all men are equally free and independent; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Constitution of Colorado - Reverence for God

Constitution of Colorado, Preamble:

We, the people of Colorado, with profound reverence for the Supreme Ruler of the Universe, in order to form a more independent and perfect government; establish justice; insure tranquility; provide for the common defense; promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this constitution for the "State of Colorado".

See the entire Constitution of Colorado

Monday, December 29, 2008

Communion Service on Apollo 11

From page 487 of the book First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong, by James R. Hansen, we learn:

"They did eat a meal as scheduled, but not before Aldrin first reached into his Personal Preference Ket, or PPK, and pulled out two small packages given to him by his Presbyterian minister, Reverend Dean Woodruff, back in Houston. One package contained a vial of wine, the other a wafer. Pouring the wine into a small chalice that he also pulled from his kit, he prepared to take Holy communion.

"At 04:09:25:38 mission elapsed time, Buzz radioed, "Houston, this is the LM pilot speaking. I would like to request a few moments of silence. I would like to invite each person listening in, wherever or whoever he may be, to contemplate teh events of teh last few hours and to give thanks inhis own individual way." Then, with his mike off, Buzz read to himself froma small card on which he had written the portion of the Book of John (John 15:5) traditionally used in the Presbyterian communion ceremony.

"I am the vine, you are the branches,
He who abides in me, and I in him, will bear much fruit,
For apart from me, you can do nothing."

Get the book:
First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong

Sunday, December 28, 2008

California Constitution - Grateful to Almighty God

The following is the entire Preamble of the California Constitution:

"We, the People of the State of California, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, in order to secure and perpetuate its blessings, do establish this Constitution."

See the entire Constitution of California

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Arkansas Constitution - Grateful to Almighty God

More in the series of quotes from the constitutions of our states, in which they recognize the authority or blessings of God. This is the 4th quote and we're just finishing the A's!

The Arkansas Constitution's Preamble says: "We, the People of the State of Arkansas, grateful to Almighty God for the privilege of choosing our own form of government; for our civil and religious liberty; and desiring to perpetuate its blessings, and secure the same to our selves and posterity; do ordain and establish this Constitution."

See more of the Arkansas Constitution

Equal Access to School Facilities for Churches

It is established by law and in Supreme Court decisions that when a school opens its facilities to outside groups, it must not discriminate against religious groups seeking the same access. This seems only fair. If one knows the actions of the Founding Fathers, who wrote the First Amendment, it is quite obvious that such access should not be denied to churches. But that does not mean obtaining access will be a smooth path. Schools often challenge this right, thinking they are defending "separation of church and state" in some way. They somehow equate the words of the First Amendment ("Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion;") with disallowing church groups' use of a school outside of school hours.

Consider this post from the Alliance Defense Fund:
A Decade of Struggle and Perseverance Pays Off!

In the post they describe how, "For ten years, ADF Senior Legal Counsel Jordan Lorence has fought a legal battle against the City of New York to allow the Bronx Household of Faith to have the same access to public school facilities as other groups enjoy."

Ten years is a long time to fight for rights that are supposed to be yours. One purpose of this blog is to educate those who read it about the ways in which the Founders wrote and acted regarding religion and the government.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Arizona Constitution - Gratitude to God

The Preamble to the Constitution of Arizona says, "We the people of the State of Arizona, grateful to Almighty God for our liberties, do ordain this Constitution."

See the entire Arizona Constitution

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Apollo 8 Moon Trip and the Holy Bible (Christmas Eve, 1968)

On Christmas Eve, 1968, the space capsule on the Apollo 8 mission circled the moon. In a broadcast live from the capsule, the astronauts read the following:

(William Anders)
We are now approaching lunar sunrise and, for all the people back on Earth, the crew of Apollo 8 has a message that we would like to send to you.

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.

(Jim Lovell)
And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day. And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.

(Frank Borman)
And God said, Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.

And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas – and God bless all of you, all of you on the good Earth.

Christmas as a State Holiday

Yesterday's post was about the history of Christmas as a national holiday. However, some of our states had an official Christmas holiday before the 1870 federal declaration. Perhaps not surprisingly, the first three American States to declare Christmas a legal holiday were located in the South: Alabama in 1836; and Louisiana and Arkansas, both in 1838.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas as a National Holiday

This year is the 138th anniversary of Christmas a an official national holiday. It began in 1870 when Congress made Christmas a national holiday and President Grant signed it into law. This was not just a whim. The country was still very divided after the Civil War, and this nation holiday was a way to help bring the country together again.

Before the Civil War, the celebration of Christmas was somewhat a dividing factor, with the South being more likely than the North to celebrate it is a formal way. The South was defeated by the North in the war, and perhaps Congress and President Grant throught that formalizing the holiday was a gesture to the South.

Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas, which I would do even if Christmas were not a national holiday!

Read more:

Monday, December 22, 2008

Alaska Constitution - Grateful to God

Our 50 states' constitutions each has references to God. The Constitution of Alaska (1956) says in its preamble:

"We the people of Alaska, grateful to God and to those who founded our nation and pioneered this great land, in order to secure and transmit to succeeding generations our heritage of political, civil, and religious liberty within the Union of States, do ordain and establish this constitution for the State of Alaska."

See the whole constitution at the State of Alaska website

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Alabama Constitution, Guided by God

Our state constitutions all mention God. Now, of course, many claim that a mention of God by state government is unconstitutional. Seems like a conflict.

Let's start with Alabama:

Alabama Constitution from 1901. The Preamble say in part: "We the people of the State of Alabama, invoking the favor and guidance of Almighty God, do ordain and establish the following Constitution . . ."

See Wikipedia for more

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Benjamin Rush on Bibles in School

Benjamin Rush was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Rush was a leader in calling for free public education, and is also known as a leading proponent of opportunitiies for women in education.

Consider his definition of what education should contain:

"The only foundation for a useful education in a republic is to be laid in religion. Without this there can be no virtue, and without virtue there can be no liberty- - -"

Benjamin Rush, Essays, Literary, Moral, and Philosophical, Philadelphia: Thomas & William Bradford, 1806, Ch. 'Of the Mode of Education Proper in a Republic' pp. 57-73

Read more here:
Benjamin Rush

Or get a book on Benjamin Rush:

Friday, December 19, 2008

More from the Founders on Religion and Government

In today's common (mis)understanding of the First Amendment, we leave little room for support or recognition of religion at any level of government. But do we understand the intent of the First Amendment better that the people who wrote and administered it? Here is an opinion from Eugene W. Hickok:

"It would seem difficult to argue that the First Congress, which proposed the religion clauses of the First Amendment and which by reenacting the Norwest Ordinance extended religious freedom to the territories, acted unconstitutionally by promoting religion, morality, and knowledge in public education and setting aside land 'for the purpose of religion.'
Most significantly, Madison was a member of the committees that in fact set aside lands for purposes of religion... Given the actions of the First Congress as well as those of Madison, there must be an extremely strong presumption that those practices of Congress which directly promoted religion were not unconstitutional."

Learn more from this book:
The Bill of Rights (Original Meaning and Current Understanding), by Eugene W. Hickok, Center for Judicial Studies (U.S.), page 49-50.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

How Did the Founders Feel About Religion and Government?

Some of our Founders advised us that, in order to understand the Constitution, one needs to go back and look at the debates on the issue, the Founders' writings, and the Founders' actions. Here is an interesting quote from a recent book by John Witte, Jr.

" is rather clear that the First Congress had little compunction about confirming and continuing the Continental Congress's tradition of supporting chaplains, prayers, Thanksgiving Day proclarations, and religious education. And, in later sessions in the 1790's and 1800's, the Congress also continued the Continental Congress's practice of including religion clauses in its treaties, condoning the American edition of the Bible, funding chaplains in the military, and celebrating religious services officiated by congressional chaplains -- all with very little dissent or debate. The ease with which Congress passed such laws does give some guidance on what forms of religious support the First Congress might have condoned."

Religion and the American Constitutional Experiment: Essential Rights and Liberties
By John Witte
Published by Westview Press, 2005

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Build Schools to Teach Religion?

Yesterday's post had this quote within, taken from John Adams' proclamation for a national day of prayer:

"That [God] would smile on our colleges, academies, schools, and seminaries of learning, and make them nurseries of sound science, morals, and religion;"

Does that sound radical? Not so much in the eyes of the Founding Fathers. The same Congress that ratified the First Amendment wrote the Northwest Ordinance. According to the United States Code, the Northwest Ordinance is one of the four principle documents on which our nation was founded (Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation, Constitution, and Northwest Ordinance). It says, “Religion, morality, and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall be forever encouraged and established in the Northwest Territory.” [note: it says that religion is one necessity for which schools must be established.]

Congress later required that all territories becoming states must have Constitutions which were “not repugnant to the Northwest Ordinance.”


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."

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."

The Mississippi constitution 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."

Is this a violation of "separation of church and state"? Since that phrase is a quote from Jefferson, consider how he believed the state-funded University of Virginia should be run. 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."

Jefferson and many of our Founders believed that religion was important as a practical matter. They thought that our society could not govern itself unless our people had a belief in God (who gives us our rights) and an afterlife of rewards and punishments. In other words, citizens would behave better if they thought there was a God who notices what we do and cares about it.

Surely many of our early citizens and Founders wanted to be good evangelicals. That was their faith mission. But they also had a "secular" reason for wanting our people to be moral, and to have our schools teach about religion - that would help to create and sustain a better nation.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

President John Adams - National Day of Prayer

Several Presidents declared national days of fasting and prayer. For March 6, 1799, President John Adams said the following in his Proclamation of a National Day of Humiliation, Fasting, and Prayer:

"No truth is more clearly taught in the Volume of Inspiration...than that a deep sense and a due acknowledgment of the growing providence of a Supreme Being and of the accountableness of men to Him as the searcher of hearts and righteous distributor of rewards and punishments are conducive equally to the happiness and rectitude of individuals and to the well-being of communities."
"As, moreover, the most precious interestes of the people of the United States are still held in jeopardy by the hostile designs and insidious acts of a foreign nation, as well as by the dissemination among them of those preinciples, subversive to the foundations of all religious, moral, and social obligations, that have produced incalculable mischief and misery inother countries;"
"That He would smile on our colleges, academies, schools, and seminaries of learning, and make them nurseries of sound science, morals, and religion;"

From The Ten Commandments & Their Influence on American Law, by William J. Federer

See more from Google Book Excerpts

Monday, December 15, 2008

Taft: Christianity Is the Hope of Modern Civilization

In 1908 William Howard Taft said:

"Now no man can study the movement of modern civilization from an impartial standpoint and not realize that Christianity, and the spread of Christianity, are the only basis for hope of modern civilization in the growth of popular self-government."

Such thoughts are often discouraged today. But if a person believed this, whether or not he was a public figure or even a President, would he not want to share that prescription for success with those who would listen? Taft did not say here that Christianity is the only hope for salvation of one's soul; he said it is the road to success for modern civilization.

The complete context can be found at the Authentic History Center.

Friday, December 12, 2008

U.S. Coast Guard Resumes Christmas Tradition

Since 2000 (off and on) the Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw has delivered Christmas trees to needy folks. This tradition actually hearkens back to the Rouse Simmons, a ship that started the tradition in 1896. This Coast Guard is the nation's oldest continuous sea-going service, having been formed in 1790. They have a proud tradition of serving the nation during times of peace as well as war. The USCG saves around 5,000-6,000 lives a year and saves millions of dollars of property. Delivering Christmas trees is not part of their official mission, but it is an appropriate support to provide for our Christmas National Holiday.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

James McHenry on the Importance of the Bible to Government

James McHenry (as in Fort McHenry) was a signer of the U.S. constitution and helped to ratify the Bill of Rights. Surely he understood what the meaning of the First Amendment was. In 1813 he said:

"Public 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...can alone secure to society, order and peace, and to our courts of justice and constitutions of government... Without the Bible, we increase penal laws."

See the Google Books excerpt for Three Secular Reasons Why America Should Be Under God, by William J. Federer. Or buy this book here

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

In Maryland, Belief in Afterlife a Requirement for Office

In a manner similar to yesterday's post, the Maryland Constitution (1851) requires that potential office holders make:

"A declaration of belief in the Christian religion; and if the party shall profess to be a Jew the declaration shall be of his belief in a future state of rewards and punishments."

As noted in the book The Federal and State Constitutions, Colonial Charters, and Other Organic Laws of the United States, by Benjamin Perley Poore, published by the Government Printing Office, 1878. See Google Books excerpt...

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Pennsylvania Supreme Court - Faith and Following the Law

There are many writings by the Founders regarding the importance of the population having faith and living an honorable life. Here is a similar statement from a court decision:

"Laws cannot be administered in any civilized government unless the people are taught to revere the sanctity of an oath, and look to a future state of rewards and punishments for the deeds of this life.

"Pennsylvania Supreme Court, 1817, commonwealth v. Wolf, 3 Serg.& R. 48, 50"

From Three Secular Reasons Why America Should Be Under God by William J. Federer

Monday, December 8, 2008

President Taft on Equality and Christianity

William Howard Taft was our 27th President. He spoke before a missionary conference (which in itself might create controversy today). He said:

"The spirit of Christianity is pure democracy. It is equality of man before God - the equality of man before the law, which is, as I understand it, the most God-like manifestation that man has been able to make."

Read more in the Google Books excerpt

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Seattle Atheists Speak Out

On Thursday, Dec. 4, I posted a story and opinion about a display at the Washington state capitol building. It was put up by the Freedom from Religion Foundation and had some rather negative words to say about believers. In a press release yesterday, the Seattle Atheists said they disagree with the tone and content of the FFRF's message. Even though I still disagree with the whole concept that government has some kind of "equal time" obligation to meet during the Christmas season (because religion is an integral part of our history and national tradition, and this is an official national holiday), I thank the Seattle Atheists for speaking out against the hostile message posted by FFRF.

Here is the story:

Seattle Atheists statement regarding FFRF sign

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Capitol Visitor Center - Not Telling the Whole Story

The recently-opened Capitol Visitor Center is in the news for a variety of reasons. This tribute to government management (4 years behind schedule, 10-15 times over budget) is truly an impressive creation, which some powerful displays on our Capitol and the country's history.

However, it seems the designers were either afraid to tell of our country's religious heritage or intentionally left it out for reasons of their own. Senator Jim DeMint is particularly critical of these omissions. He points out that the display left out "In God We Trust" (which is our national motto - that seems significant) and the Pledge of Allegiance.

Looking other posts from this forum, you can see some of the importance religion had in our country's history. It is not necessary to turn the CVC into a monument to religion, but currently it is leaving out a significant part of the overall perspective.

Here is the story (from the Senate's website):

"The Capitol Visitor Center is designed to tell the history and purpose of our nation's Capitol, but it fails to appropriately honor our religious heritage that has been critical to America’s success," said Senator DeMint. "While the Architect of the Capitol has pledged to include some references to faith, more needs to be done. You cannot accurately tell the history of America or its Capitol by ignoring the religious heritage of our Founders and the generations since who relied on their faith for strength and guidance. The millions of visitors that will visit the CVC each year should get a true portrayal of the motivations and inspirations of those who have served in Congress since its establishment.

"The current CVC displays are left-leaning and in some cases distort our true history. Exhibits portray the federal government as the fulfillment of human ambition and the answer to all of society’s problems. This is a clear departure from acknowledging that Americans’ rights ‘are endowed by their Creator’ and stem from ‘a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence.’ Instead, the CVC’s most prominent display proclaims faith not in God, but in government. Visitors will enter reading a large engraving that states, ‘We have built no temple but the Capitol. We consult no common oracle but the Constitution.’ This is an intentional misrepresentation of our nation’s real history, and an offensive refusal to honor America's God-given blessings. As George Washington stated clearly in his first inaugural address:

it would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official Act, my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the Universe, who presides in the Councils of Nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that his benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the People of the United States, a Government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes: and may enable every instrument employed in its administration to execute with success, the functions allotted to his charge.’
"The fundamental principles of the freedom we enjoy in this country stem from our Founding Fathers’ beliefs in a higher power, beliefs put forth in the Declaration of Independence and manifest throughout our Constitution," said Senator DeMint. "If we cease to acknowledge this fact, we may cease to enjoy some of the freedoms we take for granted. We must not censor historical references to God for the sake of political correctness. And we must truthfully represent the limited form of government the Constitution lays out so that our ‘government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.’ So help us God."

Friday, December 5, 2008

National Christmas Tree

Yesterday I posted about some of the controversy over having Christmas recognitions at state building. Many forget that such things have been (and are still) a tradition. While I was in the military I had the pleasure of taking part in the lighting of the official National Christmas tree several times, and our county's seat of power also lights an official White House Christmas tree each year. Here is an article about the former:

Bush Lights Tree in His Last Year in Office

Our Constitution forbids any law that would establish an official national religion that all citizens would be forced to worship. However, based on writings and actions of the Founding Fathers who were around at the time of the Contitution's writing, we are completely free to recognize Christmas each year.

This is recognized in House Resolution 888:

Whereas in 1870, the Federal government made Christmas (a recognition of the birth of Christ, an event described by the U.S. Supreme Court as `acknowledged in the Western World for 20 centuries, and in this country by the people, the Executive Branch, Congress, and the courts for 2 centuries') and Thanksgiving as official holidays;

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Freedom to Taunt - for Some, Anyway

In the Capitol building for the state of Washington, there has been some controversy about whether to allow certain seasonal displays. Last year a local realtor had to sue to obtain permission to display a Nativity Scene, and he won the case. So this year there is a Nativity Scene at the state's capitol.

In order to avoid further legal action, I suspect, the state allowed the Freedom from Religion Foundation to put up a display, this one "featuring" atheism. But the FFRF were not content to put up a non-religious display (snow men, etc.). They chose to put up a display that redicules Christianity. There display says:

"At this season of the Winter Solstice, may reason prevail. There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell.

"There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds."

I suppose this all falls under free speech, but it seems the whole purpose of displays during this time of the year is to recognize the celebrations that most of the population is enjoying and to recognize a NATIONAL HOLIDAY. I have yet to see a Christmas display on public property that directly and deliberately taunted those who are not Christian. The Nativity Scene in Washington does not have a sign that says "If you don't believe in Christ you are foolish and you are going to Hell."

It seems to me that the state has the right to prohibit seasonal displays that are putting down those for whom the season was originally sanctioned in the government's schedule. Some states (and cities) may have patriotic displays of some kind around July 4th. For example, you may see a larger flag than usual flying above the state house. So would the grounds also allow a sign that says "America stinks!" or something of similar sentiment? Would it not be reasonable to disallow a secular display that is intent on making fun of those who believe in God?

Read the news story at the links below:

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

President William Harrison on Equality

In the March 4, 1841 anaugural address of President William Henry Harrison we find these words:

"Believing that so far as power is concerned the Beneficent Creator has made no distinction amongst men; that all are upon an equality."

Read the whole address at the Miller Center of Public Affairs (University of Virginia)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Speaker Robert Winthrop on Religion and Our Society

Robert Winthrop, U.S. Speaker of the House in 1849, stated:

All societies of men must be governed in some way or other. The less they may have of stringent State Government, the more they must have of individual self-government. The less they rely on public law or physical force, the more they must rely on private moral restraint. Men, in a word, must necessarily be controlled, either by a power within them, or by a power without them; either by the Word of God, or by the strong arm of man; either by the Bible, or by the bayonet. It may do for other countries and other governments to talk about the State supporting religion. Here, under our own free institutions, it is Religion which must support the State.

See wikiquote for more

Monday, December 1, 2008

Religion and General Morality, William Linn

William Linn was a Dutch Reformed minister in New York. He came to be elected unanimously to the post of the first Chaplain of the United States House. In 1789 he said the following (presumably in response to a statement from Jefferson about tolerance of others' religious beliefs):

"Let my neighbor once persuade himself that there is no God, and he will soon pick my pocket, and break not only my leg but my neck. If there be no God, there is no law, no future account; government then is the ordinance of man only, and we cannot be subject for conscience sake."

See Gary Scott Smith's book Faith and the Presidency: From George Washington to George W. Bush