Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Media Bias - CBS & NY Times Distort Health Care Poll

Between June 12 and 16 the New York Times and CBS News did a poll showing the level of support for President Obama's health care plan. The results showed a very strong 72% support. That makes for a pretty good story, doesn't it?

But suppose support wasn't really that strong? And further suppose that your organizations also like the President's plan and want it to succeed? If you really wanted the poll to work out, what could you do? You could poll an unbalanced number of people who would tend to agree with Obama. And they did.

This poll sampled almost twice as many who voted for Obama as those who voted for McCain. That's one way to look for an imbalance. And the poll drastically undersampled Republicans and oversampled Independents based on voter registrations.

The charts are below. I think the pictures speak loudly. And you can read more detail on the CNS News Site

Monday, June 29, 2009

Media Bias - the Power of the Omiting Words

There are a lot of words in most news articles. But a news report obviously will choose excerpts from a speech for reporting purposes. The words chosen can make a big difference in the "slant" of the report.

Let's take one example from history and one from today. One historic quote that you can find on various atheist blogs is especially misleading. John Adams is quoted as saying, "This would be the best of all possible worlds if there were no religion in it." The whole quote is:

"Twenty times, in the course of my late reading, have I been on the point of breaking out, 'this would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it!!!!' But in this exclamation, I should have been as fanatical as Bryant or Cleverly. Without religion, this world would be something not fit to be mentioned in public company—I mean hell."

The meaning changes and you have more background when you see the whole quote.

Now consider a very recent quote by President Obama. He is no doubt sensitive to the resistance that the voters may have to a single-payer system (i.e. government system exclusive). The President gave a speech before the American Medical Association (AMA) about health care. In that speech he said these words:

"There Are Countries Where a Single-Payer System Works Pretty Well."

But the large news outlets apparently were not anxious to report those words. None used that sentence in their coverage. Three sources were the Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, and the New York times. Each used the sentences before and after the quote above but skipped over that one revealing part. One used the ellipses (...), and the other two broke the quoted portion with a few editorial words, and then continued, skipping over the words above.

Read more detailed coverage here:

Obama: ‘There Are Countries Where a Single-Payer System Works Pretty Well’

Sunday, June 28, 2009

America and the Ten Commandments

It seems hardly a month goes by that we don't see a news story about an attempt to remove a reference to religion from the public sphere. Lately there have been a few stories about removal of Ten Commandments monuments in a couple of states.

But our Founding Fathers often spoke of the Ten Commandments. They are inscribed on several buildings/monuments in Washington, D.C. So what happened? Partly, we turned a corner in 1947 when a Supreme Court Decision emphasized the phrase "separation of church and state" rather than the words actually found in the First Amendment. That phrase could mean many things, and indeed it has turned out that way in other court cases.

In 1983 President Ronald Reagan made a speech before the National Association of Evangelicals in Orlando, Florida. This speech came to be called the "Evil Empire" speech. In the speech Reagan "...defends America's Judeo-Christian traditions against the Soviet Union's totalitarian leadership and lack of religious faith, expressing his belief that these differences are at the heart of the fight between the two nations." (According to the University of Virginia's Miller Center of Public Affairs, linked below.)

Here are two quotes from that speech where President Reagan specifically references the Ten Commandments:

One recent survey by a Washington-based research council concluded that Americans were far more religious than the people of other nations; 95 percent of those surveyed expressed a belief in God and a huge majority believed the Ten Commandments had real meaning in their lives. And another study has found that an overwhelming majority of Americans disapprove of adultery, teenage sex, pornography, abortion, and hard drugs. And this same study showed a deep reverence for the importance of family ties and religious belief.
I know that you've been horrified, as have I, by the resurgence of some hate groups preaching bigotry and prejudice. Use the mighty voice of your pulpits and the powerful standing of your churches to denounce and isolate these hate groups in our midst. The commandment given us is clear and simple: "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself."

Read the entire speech at The Miller Center

Saturday, June 27, 2009

FDR: United Nations Should Enforce the 10th Commandment

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in his State of the Union address in 1943, discussed the United Nations. He talked about it being the largest military in the world (the combined military of all the nations being larger than any single enemy nation's military). The large force would help to prevent a nation from trying to take over another nation for selfish purposes. And the force behind that morality was specified by FDR: God's Tenth Commandment. What do you suppose the reaction would have been if a president said that in the last few decades? FDR said:

Today the United Nations are the mightiest military coalition in all history. They represent an overwhelming majority of the population of the world. Bound together in solemn agreement that they themselves will not commit acts of aggression or conquest against any of their neighbors, the United Nations can and must remain united for the maintenance of peace by preventing any attempt to rearm in Germany, in Japan, in Italy, or in any other Nation which seeks to violate the Tenth Commandment -- "Thou shalt not covet."

State of the Union Address (January 7, 1943)

Friday, June 26, 2009

Slavery and Religion

Many today seem to say that religious groups and church leaders may not speak out on various political policies because of so-called "separation of church and state" in the Constitution. There are already many examples on this site that show actions by our founders (the same ones who ratified the Constitution) that show an entirely different interpretation of the Constitution.

Consider the role that religion played in eliminating slavery. Even before our Revolutionary Way religious groups were pressuring the nation's leaders to do something about this. The disagreements over slavery almost doomed our Declaration of Independence and remained a controversy as the Constitution was written. The latter document contained compromises that were necessary to produce a single, unifying constitution to give our country it framework. However, the Constitution also contained the means to correct this: the amendment process.

The Library of Congress has much useful information about our history. Included in that collection is a fairly extensive page of historic tidbits called "Abolition, Anti-Slavery Movements, and the Rise of the Sectional Controversy."

In it we learn of the role of the Quakers:

Benjamin Lay, a Quaker who saw slavery as a "notorious sin," addresses this 1737 volume to those who "pretend to lay claim to the pure and holy Christian religion." Although some Quakers held slaves, no religious group was more outspoken against slavery from the seventeenth century until slavery's demise. Quaker petitions on behalf of the emancipation of African Americans flowed into colonial legislatures and later to the United States Congress.

In this plea for the abolition of the slave trade, Anthony Benezet, a Quaker of French Huguenot descent, pointed out that if buyers did not demand slaves, the supply would end. "Without purchasers," he argued, "there would be no trade; and consequently every purchaser as he encourages the trade, becomes partaker in the guilt of it." He contended that guilt existed on both sides of the Atlantic. There are Africans, he alleged, "who will sell their own children, kindred, or neighbors." Benezet also used the biblical maxim, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," to justify ending slavery. Insisting that emancipation alone would not solve the problems of people of color, Benezet opened schools to prepare them for more productive lives.

Other speakers include Connecticut theologian Jonathan Edwards, born 1745, who the Library of Congress says:

"...echoes Benezet's use of the Golden Rule as well as the natural rights arguments of the Revolutionary era to justify the abolition of slavery. In this printed version of his 1791 sermon to a local anti-slavery group, he notes the progress toward abolition in the North and predicts that through vigilant efforts slavery would be extinguished in the next fifty years."

Then there is the famous abolitionist Sojourner Truth:

Abolitionist and women's rights advocate Sojourner Truth was enslaved in New York until she was an adult. Born Isabella Baumfree around the turn of the nineteenth century, her first language was Dutch. Owned by a series of masters, she was freed in 1827 by the New York Gradual Abolition Act and worked as a domestic. In 1843 she believed that she was called by God to travel around the nation--sojourn--and preach the truth of his word. Thus, she believed God gave her the name, Sojourner Truth. One of the ways that she supported her work was selling these calling cards.

We also see a tract published in 1959:

This abolitionist tract, distributed by the Sunday School Union, uses actual life stories about slave children separated from their parents or mistreated by their masters to excite the sympathy of free children. Vivid illustrations help to reinforce the message that black children should have the same rights as white children, and that holding humans as property is "a sin against God."

Read more at the Library of Congress:

Abolition, Anti-Slavery Movements, and the Rise of the Sectional Controversy

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Hurray! No More Griping About Religious Speech!

Do you remember the Presidency of George W. Bush? Many eyebrows were raised when people starting learning of his born-again faith during the campaign. When asked who his favorite philosopher was, he said it was Jesus Christ. And it was all downhill from there.

We heard of more shock and dismay when it was learned that President Bush actually held Bible studies daily with those of his staff who were so inclined (including - horrors - Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld). And the President would sometimes dishearten folks even more by attending prayer breakfasts.

Opponents were not silent during those days. There were many articles, blog posts, etc. fretting that he was too religious. What about separation of church and state? And so on. Those thoughts sprung up from the very start of his first term.

Now that we are past six months of President Obama's administration, those who count such things have noted that Obama has actually invoked Jesus and Christ in high-profile public speeches, something President Bush never actually did. So naturally we must be ready for an onslaught of worried and complaining articles and posts (and tweets) about this, right? No so much. But what about the really liberal blogs? Surely they... Not so much. Actually, not at all.

Many feel that President Obama's use of religious words are superficial and for political gain. Is it a belief of that nature that would explain the silence of the left? Or is it simply a case of not wanting to complain about the guy you worked so hard to elect? Or is it something else? What do you think?

Read more here:
Barack Obama invokes Jesus more than George W. Bush

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

OK, Now Let's Censor 7-Year-Old Kids from Religious Speech

In Oakley, California, an elementary school was preparing for a talent show. A second-grade student, Bette Ouellette, auditioned with her talent. She was displaying her sign-language skills by signing for the song "We Worship You." After her audition, school officials told her that she could not perform - her talent was fine but a Christian song is not acceptable.

I have written a great deal about people misinterpreting the First Amendment. But even most of those who misunderstand it might say something like "a school can not establish a religion." Surely a student choosing a Christian song is her personal choice, not an establishment the school created. To stop this student strictly on the basis of the religious nature of a song she is signing is showing a lack of tolerance for religion. Is that what is meant by the First Amendment's phrase "...shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion"?

And do not forget that the First Amendment also protects free speech. The very same ACLU that will fight to stop religious speech in the public sphere will fight every bit as hard to defend all manner of offensive speech. But is the music to a Christian song just a bit too offensive for the ACLU to accept?

Read the whole story here:

Sorry, no Christian talent allowed

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Media Bias, Different Reporting Depending on Who Is President

As mentioned before on this site, part of the reason there is such a misunderstanding of the First Amendment is that the press today are convinced of the premise of "separation of church and state" at the expense of the premise of "freedom of religion." But that is not the only issue where the press may have an unbalanced view. The press corps leans hard to the left in general. (See previous posts about voting tendencies of the Washington Press Corps, for example).

A new insight has been added to the web by Newsbusters. They point out how the coverage of the country's financial situation was quite negative when President Bush was in charge of a fairly strong economy, and has been "un-negative" or even positive now that President Obama is presiding over a very troubled economy.

Read the report here:
Comparison: Economic Reporting Under Bush, and Under Obama

And here is another example. In this case, it introduces the game "find the party" so you enjoy the news a little more. There is a marked tendency to show party affiliation when a scandal involves a Republican, but to make party affiliation much harder to spot when the scandal involves a Democrat. In this case the genesis of the article was a recently-reported affair by a Republican Senator. They compare that coverage to markedly different treatment when an earlier scandal involved a Democrat Governor.

See the article here:
He's No Eliot Spitzer; ABC, CBS and NBC All Brand John Ensign a 'Republican'

Monday, June 22, 2009

Media Bias - ABC and the White House

I have developed a second track for this blog called "Media Bias." Even though the thrust of the blog is primarily the Constitution, specifically the First Amendment, I believe that the way the media presents that issue is slanted and contributes to furthering the misunderstanding the public has about the First Amendment.

Many eyebrows were raised this week when it was learned that ABC News was essentially turning over its programming on June 24 to the White House. The news will be anchored from within the White House, and there will be a "town hall" meeting from there discussing the President's health care plan. In my memory this is unprecedented. Even more interesting is the fact that ABC is not only refusing to broadcast an opposing (i.e. Republican) point of view, they will not even accept paid advertising that presents a different point of view.

Perhaps my readers can think back to the 8 years of President George W. Bush. Can anyone recall and of the three networks turning over so much broadcast to present the President's side of the issue? ABC says there will be both points of view represented at the town hall portion, but keep in mind the venue: the White House. That's a tremendous "home court advantage" for the President. How do you suppose the press would have reacted if President Bush has suggested debating Senator Kerry in 2004 from within the White House?

So what do we conclude? Could it be that ABC is biased on this issue? Some inference could be made from the following two charts. The first shows the positive vs. negative coverage ABC has given to the President's health plan. The second shows the balance of the political contributions made in the last election by ABC News staff.

The Chief of Staff of the Republican National Committee, Ken McKay, sent the following protest to ABC News. It did not sway ABC's position.

Dear Mr. Westin:

As the national debate on health care reform intensifies, I am deeply concerned and disappointed with ABC's astonishing decision to exclude opposing voices on this critical issue on June 24, 2009. Next Wednesday, ABC News will air a primetime health care reform “town hall” at the White House with President Barack Obama. In addition, according to an ABC News report, GOOD MORNING AMERICA, WORLD NEWS, NIGHTLINE and ABC’s web news “will all feature special programming on the president’s health care agenda.” This does not include the promotion, over the next 9 days, the president’s health care agenda will receive on ABC News programming.

Today, the Republican National Committee requested an opportunity to add our Party's views to those of the President's to ensure that all sides of the health care reform debate are presented. Our request was rejected. I believe that the President should have the ability to speak directly to the America people. However, I find it outrageous that ABC would prohibit our Party's opposing thoughts and ideas from this national debate, which affects millions of ABC viewers.

In the absence of opposition, I am concerned this event will become a glorified infomercial to promote the Democrat agenda. If that is the case, this primetime infomercial should be paid for out of the DNC coffers. President Obama does not hold a monopoly on health care reform ideas or on free airtime. The President has stated time and time again that he wants a bipartisan debate. Therefore, the Republican Party should be included in this primetime event, or the DNC should pay for your airtime.

Ken McKay, Republican National Committee
Chief of Staff

Sunday, June 21, 2009

When Did We Stop Considering Ourselves a Judeo-Christian Nation?

In April of this year President Obama went on an overseas trip and made a speech in which he declared that the United States does not consider itself a Christian nation. Let me say that phrase has been seen in a different format sometimes, where it is said that we are a Judeo-Christian nation. The phrase in either form in usually meant to say we have roots based in faith and the Bible, not that we have an official national religion.

This has been addressed in previous posts, including this one:

USA a Muslim Nation, Jewish Nation, or Christian Nation?

It was also addressed in Congress shortly after that. The video below is of a statement on the House floor by Congressman Forbes:

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Perspective on the Office of President

The United States Constitution begins with the words,"We the people..."

We seem to have lost some respect for the high office of President. Perhaps it started with President Clinton's seeming lack of respect for the office itself. I'm not talking Monica-gate, but even the casual dress code, pizza in the Oval Office, etc. Perhaps it's because of the incredible amount of news available today, allowing us to see things we never would have seen in administrations a couple decades ago.

And we seem to be putting too much faith in the President. No President can solve all our problems. No President can fix a failing economy alone - it takes the help of Congress at the very least. No President can suddenly decide we should have world peace and achieve that goal.

President Calvin Coolidge said, "It is a great advantage to a president, and a major source of safety to the country, for him to know that he is not a great man." Good advice, indeed. I fear our current President may be at risk of taking himself too seriously. It is always important that, even as Leader of the Free World, he is an employee of the people of the United States.

Certainly I want a President to respect the "office" itself. In other words, he needs to remember that he is working for the people, those who voted for him, those who voted against him, and those who chose not to vote. He needs to show respect for the other office holders around him, no matter what party they belong to. He needs to remember that we don't have a king any more.

During the time I gifted to President Obama as the so-called Honeymoon Period, I was not "looking for trouble." Yet I was distracted by a couple incidents where his words were uncomfortable to my image of a President's attitude.

The White House has often been called the "people's house." That's certainly how I think of it. The words below (emphasis added) are different from that concept.

During the White House Cinco de Mayo festivities, President Obama referred to the way they "...do things at my house." (Meaning the White House)

Then in a different discussion he talked about entertainment available to the President: "Now, movies I've been doing OK [with] because it turns out we got this nice theater on the ground floor of my house …"

And consider ABC News. In their promo for the White House health care special they did, they used the phrase, "We're going into his house."

Also, the President chose to return a gift given to the USA by the United Kingdom. It was a bust of Winston Churchill. That act took the British by surprise, and they even suggested he want to just store it so it would be available to future administrations. He returned it anyway. Pardon me, but that bust was the people's, not his personal property.

Clearly the media has lost perspective on the office of President. We have well-known media figures talking about a thrill going up their leg when they see Obama; we hear a journalist say he is "like a god;" we see tough interviewers giving him mere silly questions or slam-dunk items.

We recently watched the "election" in Iran. As we got close to the election, and Iran's current leader seemed to be lagging, I heard several news outlets speculate that President Obama's speech in Cairo might just have made the difference to sway that election so the current leader would be ousted. That's unfair to any President. No matter how gifted a speaker he may be, it is unrealistically optimistic to think that a President in office only a few months could unravel the mess that exists in Iran.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Benevolent Societies in the Early USA

The following is from the Library of Congress web article called "Faith of our Forefathers." In this section, we learn about the importance of benevolent societies in our early history. Note that some of the societies, even as they worked to convert people to Christianity, thought that they were "doing the work of patriotism no less than Christianity."

This is very much in keeping with the words President Washington used in his farewell address, excerpted below from the LOC article:

The first president advised his fellow citizens that "Religion and morality" were the "great Pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of Men and citizens." "National morality," he added, could not exist "in exclusion of religious principle." "Virtue or morality," he concluded, as the products of religion, were "a necessary spring of popular government."

The section on benevolent organization is below:

Benevolent societies were a new and conspicuous feature of the American landscape during the first half of the 19th century. Voluntary, ecumenical organizations devoted originally to the salvation of souls, but in due course to the eradication of every kind of social ill, the benevolent societies were formed by the pooling of resources of evangelicalism's legions. The benevolent societies were the direct result of the extraordinary energies generated by the evangelical movement, specifically, by the "activism" resulting from conversion. "The evidence of God's grace," the Presbyterian evangelist, Charles G. Finney insisted, "was a person's benevolence toward others."

The earliest and most important of the benevolent societies focused their efforts on the conversion of sinners to the new birth or to the creation of conditions (sobriety sought by temperance societies) in which conversions could occur. The six largest societies in 1826-27 (based on their operating budgets) were all directly concerned with conversion: the American Education Society, the American Board of Foreign Missions, the American Bible Society, the American Sunday-School Union, the American Tract Society and the American Home Missionary Society.

Three of these groups subsidized evangelical ministers, one specialized in evangelical education and two supplied evangelical literature that the other four used. In seeking to convert the American people, the benevolent societies were consciously trying to create, simultaneously, a moral and virtuous citizenry on which republican government was thought to depend. They proudly asserted that they were "doing the work of patriotism no less than Christianity."

Read the entire article in context here.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Lawyer Works to Restore Christmas in Schools

In Missouri, an attorney named Dee Wampler is working to bring back a recognition of "Christmas" in the public schools. He began to be interested in this cause when Springfield changed its "Christmas Vacation" to "Winter Break."

I believe that is important to recognize that we have a diverse population in this country, and that not everyone is Christian. However, there is no doubt that Christmas has been recognized in this country at all levels of government starting before the United States became the United States. It is a very important part of our history. Remember the story of George Washington and the troops at Valley Forge over Christmas (depicted in the photo here)? Christmas is still an official U.S. holiday. All government offices are closed on Christmas. Why, then is it inappropriate to recognize that the reason things shut down on December 25 is that we are recognizing the birth of Christ? (Whether or not Dec. 25 is the actual date, is suffices as an anniversary to celebrate the birth of Jesus.)

The article points out that there has never been a judgment saying you can't recognize Christmas. It also (wisely, I believe) suggests that citizens work through their school board to restore logic to the school calendar.

Read the entire article here:
Lawyer fights for 'Christmas' in schools

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Religion and the Bill of Rights

The title of the post is the same as the sub-title of one section of the Library of Congress web article, "Faith of our Forefathers." In that section we find an explanation of the relationship between religious feeling at the time of the Constitution and the formulation of the Bill of Rights.

Among other things, the article mentions the thoughts of James Madison, main wordsmith of the Constitution:

In notes for his speech, June 8, 1789, introducing the bill of rights, Madison indicated that a "national" religion was what he wanted to prevent and it is clear that most Americans joined him in considering that the major goal was to forestall any possibility that the federal government could act as several Colonies had done by choosing one religion and making it an official "national" religion that enjoyed exclusive financial and legal support.

Notice the word "exclusive" in the last sentence. The First Amendment did not seem to prohibit federal government support of religion, but did not allow the federal government to choose only one to support. In the days of the Constitution, according to other writings of the founding fathers found on this blog, the concern was among Christian religions or sects. The Amendment did not prohibit support of religion in general, as can be seen by a great many actions of the very founders who wrote the First Amendment.

The opinion I just stated is in direct conflict with Justice Black in the 1947 Everson decision. However, one can not help but notice that Black's new insight means that the courts, Congress, and Presidents in the preceding 150 years were too dense to see that insight. The ACLU said the Everson gave "new meaning" to the First Amendment; in that one statement I find myself agreeing with the ACLU. But giving new meaning to laws is not the job of the courts.

Read the whole article by following the link above.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Graduation Censorship: Student Prohibitted from Thanking Jesus

Another case of graduation censorship has cropped up, this time at University of California Los Angeles (UCLA). The student is Christina Popa, who wanted to include these words in her graduation speech: "I want to thank my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ." Other students will be permitted to have their speeches read aloud, but Christina's will be read only if she omits the reference to Jesus Christ. The professor who told her this said, “If you prefer, Christina, I can read none of what you wrote. I am very sorry that this is a problem for you.” The professor further said, “UCLA is a public university where the doctrine of separation of church and state is observed…”

Separation of church and state? Surely she is referring to the First Amendment's Establish Clause, which says, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion;..." UCLA is not Congress. It is not even the state's Congress. Reading a speech of a student's own words is hardly creating a law. How could an educated person think that reading the speech would be unconstitutional?

The professor also mentioned that the speech could be read if the writer thanked "God" in general, but not Jesus Christ specifically. And speeches with no reference to a god could be read. So this speech is being censored based solely on religious content.

What a sad lesson this is to learn as one graduates from college. At some point in history U.S. colleges were bastions of free speech and diversity of opinion. This seems to be less true each year. Foreign dictators are welcome to speak at college assemblies, but military recruiters may not come on campus to talk to students. (That is especially ironic considering the federal government provides a great deal of money to most schools, and considering that keeping them off campus is actually breaking federal law.)

Read the graduation story here:
U.S. University Prohibits Thanking Jesus At Graduation

Monday, June 15, 2009

But Is He MY President?

I was somewhat surprised last night to see a car with a bumper sticker that said, "He's Not My President!" Frankly, I didn't expect to see that in this administration for a variety of reasons. Then I realized the sticker was an old one, presumably put in place during the Bush 43 Presidency. That was no surprise.

Let me say that I did not vote for President Obama. His policies as stated during the campaign were too far from the Constitution's authorizations. However, he is my president as much as he is the president of anyone who voted for him. Our government can not be formed in such a way that everyone is pleased, so many of us will live with disappointment. (With a little luck, those same people will be more satisfied with the administration next time around.)

I'm sure this frustration is not a new thing in our nation's history, except perhaps for its expression via bumper stickers. But it's important to respect and be thankful for the structure our Founding Fathers gave us. The more I study the Constitution, the more I marvel at the intelligence and inspiration that went into it. As I reread it I can't find anywhere that says the elected President is only President for those who voted for him.

Healthy opposition is a good thing, but we should not step over a line. (I fear I do so from time to time, but I'm working on getting better about that.) If I'm going to "preach" on this blog about respecting the Constitution, I need to hold myself to the same standard when it comes to accepting elections that don't go just my way.

In a sense, that's what I often talk about here. For example, if you don't think a prayer should be part of a graduation ceremony, then express your opinion through the right channels. Don't bend the Constitution to your preferences by saying such a prayer is unconstitutional. Accept what the Constitution actually says and means, and work within the system.

It's kind of the same principle, isn't it? What do you think?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Endorsement = Establishment? 10 Commandments Must Go!

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceable to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

That's it. That is the entire First Amendment. The underlined portion contains two phrases called the religion clauses. The first of the two is called the “Establishment Clause,” and the second is called the “Free Exercise” Clause.

Looking at the Establishment Clause, one could argue that it means Congress may not make a law that affects any other (i.e. "state") laws about religion, which many of our colonies had at the time of the First Amendment. James Madison said, "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."

Madison in a "generic" description used the same word as the Amendment itself used: establish. But now we see yet another news story where some interpolation has taken place. It seems that if the government seems to be "endorsing" religion, that is unconstitutional. That must be a surprise to the members of the First Congress, who wrote the First Amendment. After all, they asked the President to declare a national day of fasting and prayer, allowed and attended Christian worship services in the U.S. Capitol building, and did many other things that might appear to "endorse" religion.

But a federal appeals court in Denver, Colorado, said that Oklahoma's Haskell County violated the Constitution by displaying a Ten Commandments monument outside their courthouse. There whole story and a video can be found here:
Appeals court says Ten Commandments monument endorses religion

Perhaps the court wishes to rename the "Establishment Clause" to be the "Endorsement Clause." But even if it did, then we would have, "Congress shall make no law respecting an endorsement of religion;" Let's even extend that to include state, so states shall make no law respecting an endorsement of religion. Does erecting a 10 Commandments monument equate to making a state LAW?

Did we forget the words of President John Adams (our 6th president), who said the following about the importance of the Ten Commandments to American law and government: "The law given from Sinai was a civil and municipal as well as a moral and religious code; it contained many statutes . . . of universal application-laws essential to the existence of men in society, and most of which have been enacted by every nation which ever professed any code of laws." AND, "We are basing the hope of mankind in our ability to govern ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God."

Or the words of the 25th President of the United States, William McKinley? In his first Inaugural address (1897) he said: "In obedience to the will of the people, and in their presence, by the authority vested in me by this oath, I assume the arduous and responsible duties of President of the United States, relying upon the support of my countrymen and invoking the guidance of Almighty God. Our faith teaches that there is no safer reliance than upon the God of our fathers, who has so singularly favored the American people in every national trial, and who will not forsake us so long as we obey His commandments and walk humbly in His footsteps."

Or the words found in U.S. House Resolution 888: "Whereas images of the Ten Commandments are found in many Federal buildings across Washington, DC, including in bronze in the floor of the National Archives; in a bronze statue of Moses in the Main Reading Room of the Library of Congress; in numerous locations at the U.S. Supreme Court, including in the frieze above the Justices, the oak door at the rear of the Chamber, the gable apex, and in dozens of locations on the bronze latticework surrounding the Supreme Court Bar seating;"

The Constitution is not intended to remove the influence of religious morality from government. Indeed, many of our laws are based on moral principles. Where should the morality originate? From the best-selling author this month? From Oprah? Or Dr. Phil? Or ____ (name your favorite TV preacher here). If our Founders expected to create a lasting and successful nation, would they not have wanted laws based on principles that have some foundation? I think so - what do you think?

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Congress Says "Repent of Your Sins!"

The Library of Congress exhibit Faith of Our Forefathers has a section describing religious faith and actions present in the Congress of the Confederation before the Revolutionary War and up to the time of the Constitution's ratification. In it we discover that the Congress actually relied on religious faith and encouraged the population to confess their sins and repent! Can you imagine Congress today doing so? Would there be laughter?

From the Library of Congress article:

Religion and the Congress of the Confederation, 1774-1789

The Continental-Confederation Congress, a legislative body that also exercised executive power, governed the United States from 1774 to 1789 and left an impressive list of accomplishments, not the least of which was winning the war with Great Britain, the greatest military power of the age. Congress, as it was always called, contained an extraordinary number of deeply religious men, some of whom -- John Dickinson, Elias Boudinot and Charles Thomson, for example -- retired from public life to write religious tracts and commentaries and publish new translations of the Bible.

The amount of energy that Congress invested in encouraging the practice of religion throughout the new nation exceeded that expended by any subsequent American national government.

Congress appointed chaplains to minister to itself and to the armed forces; it sponsored the publication of a Bible; it imposed Christian morality on the armed forces; and it granted public lands to promote Christianity among the Indians. Most conspicuous were the national days of thanksgiving and of "humiliation, fasting and prayer" that Congress proclaimed at least twice a year throughout the war. These proclamations were always accompanied by sermonettes in which Congress urged the American populace to confess and repent its sins as a way of moving God to grant national prosperity.

Scholars have recognized that Congress was guided by "covenant theology," a Reformation doctrine especially dear to New England Puritans, which held that God had bound himself in an agreement with a nation and its people, stipulating that they "should be prosperous or afflicted, according as their general Obedience or Disobedience thereto appears." Wars and revolutions were, accordingly, considered afflictions, as divine punishments for sin, from which a nation could rescue itself by repentance and reformation. Year in and year out, therefore, Congress urged its fellow citizens to repent "of their manifold sins" and strive that "pure undefiled religion, may universally prevail."

The Continental-Confederation Congress, the first national government of the United States, was convinced that the "public prosperity" of a society depended on the vitality of its religion. Nothing less than a "spirit of universal reformation among all ranks and degrees of our citizens," Congress declared to the American people on March 19, 1782, would "make us a holy, that so we may be a happy, people."

Read more on this page:

Faith of Our Forefathers

Friday, June 12, 2009

Religion Supported by the Early Federal Government

The information below is from the Library of Congress exhibit Faith of Our Forefathers. It speaks for itself it denying those who tell us today that the Founders intended the government to stay far away from religion (on the other side of a high wall). The era described here is the time the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were both fresh in everyone's memory. Surely they understood better what those founding documents meant than did some judges and justices who contradicted these practices and attitudes some 150 years later.

Religion and the Federal Government

In response to widespread sentiment that, to survive, the United States needed a stronger federal government, a convention met in Philadelphia in the summer of 1787 and on Sept. 17, 1787, adopted the Constitution of the United States. Aside from Article VI, which prohibited religious tests for federal office holders, the Constitution said little about religion. Its reserve troubled those Americans who wanted the new instrument of government to give faith a larger role and those who feared that it would do so. This latter group, worried that the Constitution did not prohibit the kind of state-supported religion that had flourished in some Colonies, exerted so much pressure on the members of the First Federal Congress that they adopted in September 1789 the First Amendment to the Constitution, which, when ratified by the required number of states in December 1791, forbade Congress to make any law "respecting an establishment of religion."

The first two Presidents of the United States were patrons of religion -- Washington was an Episcopal vestryman and Adams described himself as "a church going animal." Both offered strong rhetorical support for religion. In his Farewell Address (September 1796) Washington called religion, as the source of morality, "a necessary spring of popular government," while Adams claimed that statesmen "may plan and speculate for Liberty, but it is Religion and Morality alone, which can establish the Principles upon which Freedom can securely stand."

Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, the third and fourth presidents, are generally considered less hospitable to religion than their predecessors, but evidence shows that, while in office, both offered religion powerful symbolic support. During his two administrations (1801-1809), Jefferson was a "most regular attendant" at church services in the House of Representatives at which, surviving records show, evangelical Christianity was forcefully preached. Madison followed Jefferson's example, although unlike Jefferson, who road on horseback to church in the Capitol, Madison came in a coach and four. Jefferson permitted church services to be conducted by various denominations in government buildings, such as the Treasury and the War Department. During his administration, the Gospel was also preached in the Supreme Court chambers. It is, in fact, accurate to say that on Sundays in Washington during the Jefferson and Madison administrations the state became the church.

Recently, scholars have contended that Jefferson adopted a more positive view of Christianity in the 1790s as a result of reading Joseph Priestly's arguments that many of the miraculous features of Christianity to which Jefferson objected were not authentic, having been added at a later time by a self-interested priesthood. Whatever the reason, after becoming president in 1801, Jefferson began making statements about the social value of Christianity.

Read more on this page:

Faith of Our Forefathers

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Religion's Role in the American Revolution

The Library of Congress exhibit Faith of Our Forefathers can teach us a great deal about our own history. It certainly filled in some gaps in my knowledge. We learned in school that the Boston Tea Party was the beginning, and that the party was all about taxation without representation. But what I did NOT learn about was the influence of religion in this movement. Is it good that the USA become its own Country? If religious leaders had kept quiet then, as many people say our religious leaders should do today, would the USA have become independent? Would we prefer that course had taken place?

From the Library of Congress article:

Religion and the American Revolution

"A debate about the role of religion in the American Revolution began while the war between Britain and the Colonies still raged. Opponents of the Revolution, the Tories, claimed that "republican sectaries," specifically, Presbyterians and Congregationalists, had caused the conflict. In the 1960s, a scholar argued that evangelical Christians, converted during the Great Awakening, were responsible for the war. Although neither of these views has been widely accepted, there can be no doubt that religion played a major role in the Revolution by offering, through the sermons, pamphlets and actions of the American clergy, a moral sanction for opposition to the British, an assurance to the average American that opposition to the mother country was justified in the sight of God."

Read more on this page:

Faith of Our Forefathers

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Was Deism a Strong Influence in Early America?

In Library of Congress' online exhibit Faith of Our Forefathers, we have learned that faith was important in our early history. But many people still believe that most of our Founding Fathers were not Christians, but rather were Deists. I have seen it stated in countless blogs and articles that most of our Founders were Deists. In fact, this very recent blog post says exactly that:

Most of the Founding Fathers and Early Presidents Were Deists and Freemasons, Not Christians

Is that so? The Library of Congress information says "No."

"Deism made its appearance in the 18th century. It was a religious movement, promoted by certain English and continental thinkers, that attracted a following in Europe toward the end of the 17th century and gained a small but influential number of adherents in America in the late 18th century. Deism rejected the orthodox Christian view of Christ, often viewing him as nothing more that a "sublime" teacher of morality.

"Deism and some strains of "liberal religion," which stressed morality and questioned the divinity of Christ, found advocates among upper class Americans, conspicuous among whom were Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Ben Franklin, but supporters of these views were never more than "a minority within a minority" and were submerged by evangelicalism in the 19th century."

Read more on this page:

Faith of Our Forefathers

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Religion Rose Sharply in the United States of the 1700's

The following is from an article published on the website of the United States Library of Congress called "Faith of Our Forefathers." It should put to rest the belief by many today that religion was fading out by the 1700's. When I went to elementary school (probably not so true today), I was taught that the early settlers were quite religious and came here for religious freedom. But not much was said about religious activities after that time, so one could infer that it had faded.

Religion in 18th Century America

Recently, scholars have changed their opinion about the condition of religion in 18th century America. Against what had become a prevailing view that 18th century Americans had not perpetuated the first settlers' passionate commitment to their faith, scholars now stress the high level of religious energy in the Colonies after 1700. According to one expert, religion was in the "ascension rather than the declension"; another sees a "rising vitality in religious life" from 1700 onward; a third finds religion in many parts of the Colonies in the 18th century in a state of "feverish growth."

Figures on church attendance and church formation support these opinions. It is estimated that between 1700 and 1740, 75 percent to 80 percent of the population attended churches, which were being built at a headlong pace. Anglican churches increased from 111 in 1700 to 406 in 1780; Baptist from 33 to 457; Congregationalist from 146 to 749; German and Dutch Reformed from 26 to 327; Lutheran from 7 to 240; and Presbyterian from 28 to 475.

Deism made its appearance in the 18th century. It was a religious movement, promoted by certain English and continental thinkers, that attracted a following in Europe toward the end of the 17th century and gained a small but influential number of adherents in America in the late 18th century. Deism rejected the orthodox Christian view of Christ, often viewing him as nothing more that a "sublime" teacher of morality.

Deism and some strains of "liberal religion," which stressed morality and questioned the divinity of Christ, found advocates among upper class Americans, conspicuous among whom were Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Ben Franklin, but supporters of these views were never more than "a minority within a minority" and were submerged by evangelicalism in the 19th century.

Read the entire article here.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Jewish Settlers in Colonial America

We often hear about the Christian roots of America, and for good reason. There was a very strong Christian influence starting with Columbus. Sometimes we hear about a Judeo-Christian tradition in our history. People could assume that the term relates to the fact that the Holy Bible contains both the Old Testament of Jewish history and law as well as the New Testament of Jesus' teachings and commission.

But it is important to realize that even by the time of the Revolutionary War there were thriving Jewish communities here. Many, if not all, of the Jewish settlers came here for the same reasons the Christian settlers came: for religious liberty. Even though some of our states had official Christian religions at the time the Constitution was written, there was a diversity of religions here, including Jewish.

The following is an excerpt from Library of Congress article titled "Faith of Our Forefathers."

Jews Find a Refuge in 17th Century America

The first Jews who settled in British North America were fleeing a possible pogrom in Brazil. For some decades, Jews had flourished in Dutch-held areas of Brazil, but a Portuguese conquest of the area in 1654 confronted them with the prospect of the introduction of the Inquisition, which had recently burned a Brazilian Jew at the stake (1647). A shipload of 23 Jewish refugees from Dutch Brazil arrived in New Amsterdam (soon to become New York) in 1654 and by the next year had established religious services in the city. By the time of the Declaration of Independence, they had established several thriving synagogues.

Read the entire article here.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Early Congress & States: Religion Necessary for Public Prosperity

The U.S. Library of Congress is a treasure trove of information about American History. In their online exhibit Faith of Our Forefathers, they show us that faith was important in our early history. According to the Library, both the Federal and the State governments at the time believed that religion is good for the public prosperity of the United States of America.

"The Continental-Confederation Congress, the first national government of the United States, was convinced that the "public prosperity" of a society depended on the vitality of its religion. Nothing less than a "spirit of universal reformation among all ranks and degrees of our citizens," Congress declared to the American people on March 19, 1782, would "make us a holy, that so we may be a happy, people."

"That religion was necessary for "public prosperity" was an opinion that found expression not only in Congress but in the state legislatures of the new American republic as well. The connection between religion and the public welfare seemed so obvious to the public at large that it was articulated by its representatives at every level of government."

Read more on this page:

Faith of Our Forefathers

Saturday, June 6, 2009

President Reagan's D-Day 40th Anniversary Speech

On June 6, 1984, President Ronald Reagan gave a speech commemorating the 40th anniversary of the D-Day invasion. He was in France, on the site of the invasion.

President Reagan was not afraid to invoke the name of God. He was not ashamed of our past. In his speech he said:

"It was the deep knowledge -- and pray God we have not lost it -- that there is a profound, moral difference between the use of force for liberation and the use of force for conquest. You were here to liberate, not to conquer, and so you and those others did not doubt your cause. And you were right not to doubt."

And he recalled the words of Col. Wolverton to his parachute troops as he asked them to kneel in prayer with him:

"Do not bow your heads, but look up so you can see God and ask His blessing in what we're about to do."

Reagan recalled General Ridgway's faith:

"Also that night, General Matthew Ridgway on his cot, listening in the darkness for the promise God made to Joshua: 'I will not fail thee nor forsake thee.'"

Read Reagan's entire speech here:

President Reagan's D-Day 40th anniversary speech

See also this previous post:

President Franklin D. Roosevelt - D-Day Prayer

Friday, June 5, 2009

Media Bias, MSNBC Confirms Liberal Ideology

I have a series on this blog that deals with media bias. As I have shown before, popular news sources lean strongly in the liberal direction, which might explain why "separation of church and state" is understood that way it is today. Conservative opinion is more likely to look to the original intent of the Constitution, while liberal opinion seems more content with the recent courts' interpretation of the Constitution (at odds with the intention of the Founding Fathers).

MSNBC President Phil Griffin recently did an interview and discussed how the network has evolved into its current version. In so doing, he also admitted that his network is liberal in orientation:

"But it was more organic than a conscious strategy to go left,' Griffin concludes. 'A vision of smart progressives just began to emerge ...'"

More of that interview is found here:

Newsbusters Website

Below is a new graph showing how various news sources lean on search results for the terms "ultraliberal" and "ultraconservative." As you can see, many news sources seem to feel the need to apply ultraconservative more often than ultraliberal. If that were justified, then we would have to believe that the political world has more extreme conservative voices than extreme liberal voices, or that they are quoted more often (and labeled more often). And yet, elections don't seem to show the same leaning, so where are all these untraconservative voters who outnumber the ultraliberal voters? And why is there such a long list of supporters of liberal organizations like moveon.org?

As a test of the valididty of the conclusions I made I have include two admittedly conservative sources in the graph: Rush Limbaugh's site and the Townhall.com site. Those show opposite tendencies, which would seem to say that Townhall.com is on the opposite site of the political fence than MSNBC. An interesting side note is that the Washington Times is almost perfectly balanced, as it was in one of my previous graphs.

For further comparisions, see the other articles below:

Thursday, June 4, 2009

USA a Muslim Nation, Jewish Nation, or Christian Nation?

President Obama just declared in an interview that "if you actually took the number of Muslim Americans, we'd be one of the largest Muslim countries in the world." The same President earlier said, "We do not consider ourselves a Christian nation." (More here.)

The blog you are now viewing has shown in many posts how much of our heritage is Christian, and even more is Judeo-Christian. Why, then, would the President make both those statements? Is he pandering to Muslims in this country and other countries? Is he not concerned with slighting other religions that are a much larger part of our current demographics and history? It would be easy to understand why he might want to avoid religious comparisons altogether and not attach any religion to our country. But why would he disconnect our largest religion and attach one that is about 0.6% of the size of the Christian citizenry? See the figures below and draw your own conclusions.

We have around 1,349,000 Muslims in the country according to the best estimates available. The top Muslim countries in the world are:

We are THE largest Jewish nation in the world, at around 5,914,000
Jews. The top 10 are:

We are THE largest Christian nation in the world, with around 224,457,000 Christians. The top 10 are:

Or perhaps you would like to see the USA populations from those 3 graphs in one place for better perspective. Looking at the breakdown below, would you say it's logical or reasonable to call the USA a Muslim nation?

The numbers above come from three different sources because I could not find a central source for all of them. However, even allowing for a huge difference in methodology among the three sites, the point would be just as clear.


Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Tear Down that Cross!

A case is now winding through the courts concerning a cross that is on public land. The VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) erected the cross in 1934 as a memorial for veterans of World War I. The VFW had owned the land but had transferred it to the government.

As other court cases found it wrong to have a cross on government land (based in part on the new-found meaning in the First Amendment that started several decades ago), in 2002 the U.S. Congress directed that one acre of the land (containing the cross) be transferred back the VFW in exchange for 5 acres of land of equal market value. But the 9th Circuit Court (the same one that said in a different case that the Pledge of Allegiance is unconstitutional) ruled this land transfer unconstitutional.

During this controversy, the cross had been covered in a plywood box so it would not offend anyone's constitutional rights. The 9th Circuit said the cross would have to be torn down, and the case is now in the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court. The Liberty Legal Institute filed a friend of the court brief representing the interests of the VFW, which said in part, "It is bad enough to say that the veterans’ memorial is unconstitutional, but it is outrageous to say that the government cannot give the monument back to the people who spilled their blood and put it there in the first place."


  • The Bill of Rights does have an Establishment Clause, which says "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion;"
  • The Bill of Rights has a Free Exercise clause, which is the second half of the sentence above and says Congress shall make no law prohibiting the free exercise of religion
  • The Bill of Rights protects free speech
Given all that, how well does the 9th Circuit's decision uphold the entire Bill of Rights? If the VFW had erected a statue showing a soldier, we assume the ACLU would not have sued. So the cross is being removed solely because it is a religious icon (one that is also used at Arlington National Cemetery - when will the lawsuit about that government land commence?). Many of the cases brought against religious expression mixed with the government, including this one, a worry is expressed that an appearance of religious endorsement is a problem. But what kind of appearance is created by tearing down a cross that has been in place for 75 years? Or temporarily, what message does it send to have the cross covered in plywood (see image above)? Does that seem like freedom of religion and freedom of speech?

See a video showing the cross, then and now, on this page:


The ACLU description of the case is here:


The VFW is being helped by the American Center for Law and Justice, whose statement is here:


More opinion here:

American Spectator

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Media Bias or A Universal Media Mindset

In previous posts I have pointed out a marked slant to the left or right in search results on various sites on the Web. A search for "left-wing" vs. "right-wing" on CNN will return a very different balance of results compared to the Washington Times, for example. The premise was that using the description "left-wing" might imply that someone was looking at the world from the conservative side, and using "right-wing" might mean you are looking from the liberal side. Those posts are:

In doing further tests I ran across an interesting anomaly. This time I was comparing "conservative base" vs. "liberal base." We heard a lot of talk during the last election campaign about a candidate satisfying his base with certain statements and this seemed like an interesting test. What I found was different in nature from my previous tests. For this new one, both liberal and conservative sources had many more "hits" for "conservative base."

So why is this one different? My only theory so far is that the media is somewhat self-driven. In the case of Rush Limbaugh, for example, who is a very conservative radio host, even his results are extremely weighted to the term "conservative base." Other sources that have shown themselves as liberal weight the same way. Because the majority of news sources are liberal, as shown in previous posts, there seems to be an almost accusatory tone in the phrase "conservative base," as though this is some dark entity that must have its unreasonable desires satisfied by the Republican candidate.

But surely there is a liberal base as well, to which the Democratic candidate must answer. Both parties have people on the extreme end of their spectrum. And both parties have people who are more moderate. Didn't candidate Obama have to satisfy the liberal base? Is there even a liberal base? Of course there is. But the media in general seem to have focused on one side and almost ignored the other side. Why didn't we hear how candidate Obama's statement about "x" was to satisfy his liberal base? Why did we mostly hear how candidate McCain has to say this or that to satisfy his conservative base? I think to some extent the media creates its own truth. What do you think?

Monday, June 1, 2009

Couple Threatened with Fines for Holding Bible Study in Home

In San Diego, California, a Pastor and his wife had been holding Bible studies in their home regularly. But on Good Friday an official from their County came to their home and told them they were breaking the law because they were holding a religious assembly. If they wished to continue they would have to pay thousands of dollars to obtain a permit. Later they received a written warning telling them to stop the meetings.

Since, as I have shown many times in this venue, the Founding Fathers who wrote our Constitution were seriously concerned with protecting "freedom of religion," a phrase often used in their discussions.

But the County stated it in such a way as to make it sound like the reason the meetings are illegal is that they are religious in nature. So what about a weekly quilting meeting, or scrapbooking meeting? How about a handful of kids who regularly meet to play video games? We assume those activities would not be cited, and we might also assume that the County is singling out religion.

Read more on the story from Foxnews

NEW: See post by Chuck Norris