Monday, August 31, 2009

Obama Calls on Religious Leaders to Help Sell Health Plan

I have posted here before about a movement among ministers and priests to boldly speak out about political issues. Such actions have been said to be against the so-called "separation of church and state" and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has threatened to withdraw tax-exempt status from any church that allows this. Various groups have from time to time taken up the cause against such free speech by religious leaders, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). And groups such as the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) have stepped up to support the free-speech rights of the religious leaders.

Now we learn about President Obama making conference calls to thousands of Christian and Jewish ministers, priests, and rabbis. The goal of the calls was to secure support for the proposed health-care bill. Our President wanted these religious leaders to help sell the bill to their flocks.

By so doing, is he not asking them to do the very type of activity that the ACLU would say is against the law? So far I have not seen news of the ACLU speaking out against the President's phone calls (but if I have missed that in the news, please comment and let me know about it).

Personally, I don't think religious leaders should be kept from speaking their minds about political issues that are tied to basic religious principles. That's part of their calling. But if it's wrong in one context (when the leaders might be supporting a conservative position) then it should be wrong in other contexts (where leaders support a liberal position). Or it should be OK in either case.

Read more here:

Obama appeals to rabbis to help pass health care reform

Sunday, August 30, 2009

ACLU Against Bible As Curriculum

In Idaho, a charter school is planning to use the Bible as part of its curriculum. It won't be a worshipful study, and the curriculum would include the Holy Bible, the Koran, and the teachings of Confucius and Greek philosophers. The Nampa Classical Academy is putting the plan on hold until a lawsuit filed by the ACLU is settled.

The ACLU often invokes "separation of church and state" in its arguments. That phrase came from Thomas Jefferson (as part of a private letter). I wonder if the ACLU stops to think about the fact that, as president (small "p") of the Washington, D.C. public school system, Jefferson approved the use of two primary reading sources: the Holy Bible and the Watts Hymnal. I believe in that instance Jefferson thought this OK because the students were not worshiping via those book, but were "merely" studying them.

So how is this charter school different? If even Jefferson, arguably the founder most likely to object to government's involvement in a variety of areas including religion, would encourage the use of the same Bible in the classroom, why then do we assume that the Constitution Jefferson was sworn to uphold would prohibit a similar use of the Bible today?

Read more here.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Religion in Public Schools - Dept. of Education Standards

A public school student in Texas was to give a book report. The 6th grader did the report on Psalm 23, but was stopped by the teacher. When the mother asked the teach why, she was told "it is not allowed."

And another student in California was surprised when the public school principal removed the cover of the student's notebook. What was the offense? The cover showed children praying in front of the American flag.

The examples are representative of a deep misunderstanding in our country about the meaning of the Constitution's First Amendment. It prohibits Congress from making a law establishing a national religion. However, some believe that a metaphor used by Thomas Jefferson, separation of church and state, describes the First Amendment's intent.

This not necessary. The Alliance Defense Fund points out that the U.S. Department of Education lists various activities that are allowed in public school, and the book report or notebook cover do not violate this list. The DOE's section that applies to the above examples says:

“Students may express their beliefs about religion in homework, artwork, and other written and oral assignments free from discrimination based on the religious content of their submissions. Such home and classroom work should be judged by ordinary academic standards of substance and relevance and against other legitimate pedagogical concerns identified by the school. Thus, if a teacher’s assignment involves writing a poem, the work of a student who submits a poem in the form of a prayer (for example, a psalm) should be judged on the basis of academic standards (such as literary quality) and neither penalized nor rewarded on account of its religious content.”

I'm not sure how much clearer it could be.

Read more here.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Belief in God Not PC in Ohio

In Aumsville, Ohio, there is controversy over the publication of the staff's team values on the city website. Americans United for Separation of Church and State is suing over one of the values: belief in God.

The claims by Americans United is that, even though the statement represents a leadership team's values, it represents the city's position. Claiming a "separation" argument is referring back to the First Amendment. But that only prohibits Congress from making a law respecting an establishment of religion. Some people feel that the 14th Amendment carries that down to the state level. Even if that is so (which is questionable in my view), no amendment that I know of carries the federal prohibition to the city level. And if it did, the prohibition would be against making a law, which this clearly does not.

Apparently the complaint is that the city leadership should not state any position on religion. One may feel that way, but there is no constitutional limit on such a thing.

As a reminder, here is information from a previous post about Ohio's Constitution (orig. in 1852):

"We, the people of the State of Ohio, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, to secure its blessings and promote our common welfare, do establish this Constitution."

Section 7:
"All men have a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own conscience... Religion, morality, and knowledge, however, being essential to good government, it shall be the duty of the General Assembly to pass suitable laws, to protect every religious denomination in the peaceable enjoyment of its own mode of public worship, and to encourage schools and the means of instruction."

See the entire Ohio Constitution

Read more about the Ohio complaint here:

Group opposes city use of 'belief in God'

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Lawyer from Minnesota Speaks About True Meaning of Establishment Clause

As regular readers already know, this blog devotes a lot of words to trying to correct the mis-impression that "separation of church and state" somehow gives a clear guide to the complete meaning of the Constitution's Religion Clauses. It doesn't, and as originally penned that "harmless" little metaphor was not meant to provide that much interpretive clarity.

An attorney from Springfield, Minnesota, has been speaking out about this very issue. At least the way the article reported it, Attorney Wampler understands the true meaning of the First Amendment, where the Religion Clauses are found. He presentation to the Rotary Club was titled "One Nation Under God" and is recapped in the following article. I recommend you take the two minutes required to read it.

Springfield attorney attempts to interpret Constitution

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Founding Father Henry Marchant, Faithful Christian

Our founders are accused today of being mostly atheists and deists. Some were, but there were a small minority. We continue today by looking at Founder Henry Marchant. He was a member of the Continental Congress and a ratifier of the U.S. Constitution. In a letter to his daughter, Sarah, on September 9, 1777, he said:

Go on my Dear thus improving, and add daily one Virtue to another. And may God grant that his Grace may really affect your Heart with suitable Impressions of His Goodness. Remember that God made You, that God keeps you alive, and preserves you from all Harm, and gives You all the Powers and the Capacity whereby you are able to read of Him, and of Jesus Christ your Saviour and Redeemer, and to do every other needful Business of Life. And while you look around you and see the great Priveleges and Advantages you have above what other Children have, of learning to read and write, of being taught the meaning of the Great Truths of the Bible, you must remember not to be proud on that Account, but to bless God, and be thankful and endeavour in your turn to assist others with the knowledge you may gain.
Let us all be thankful to God for giving us such a Plenty of the Fruits of the Earth.

You can find the complete letter on the Library of Congress website. It is in the document:
Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 7 May 1, 1777 - September 18, 1777 --Henry Marchant to Nicholas and John Brown
(Just search for "Henry Marchant to Nicholas and John Brown" to find it)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Other Words from Francis Scott Key

Continuing a series of posts showing the religious beliefs of our Founding Fathers. This is to help answer the voices today who would say that our founders were mostly atheists and deists.

Today we look at Francis Scott Key. Certainly he is best known for writing our National Anthem, the Star Spangled Banner. He is not a member of the most specific group of Founders: those who signed the Declaration or Constitution, or who were a member of the Continental Congress or Constitutional Convention. But he was active during the war of 1812, and as author of our national anthem certainly has a place at the table of those who formed our early country's heritage.

From the book by Hugh A. Garland, The Life of John Randolph of Roanoke (New York: D. Appleton & Company, 1853), Vol. II, p. 104, from Francis Scott Key to John Randolph, we find the following:

...may I always hear that you are following the guidance of that blessed Spirit that will lead you into all truth, leaning on that Almighty arm that has been extended to deliver you, trusting only in the only Savior, and going on in your way to Him rejoicing.

No surprise, then, that the last stanza of his Star Spangled Banner has these words:

Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: 'In God is our trust.'

Monday, August 24, 2009

Student's Bible in School Tossed in Trash

In the year 2000, just as we entered a new millennium, parents of students in Willis, Texas, filed a federal lawsuit against the school. It says that a middle-school teacher saw two students carrying Bibles and pulled them from class. The teacher threatened to call the child welfare services, presumably because parents would let their children commit this horrible infraction. One of the students involved called her mother and said, "Mama, they took our Bibles and called them garbage and threw them in the garbage and then threatened to call Child Protective Services." The teacher is accused of saying, "We don't tolerate this garbage in school."

This is one of the worse cases of this type I have heard about. I saw friends go through a similar, but much more subtle incident in school. These things happen because of a profound misunderstanding of the meaning of the First Amendment, and a substitution of that document's words with "separation of church and state." That latter phrase can mean almost anything, which is one reason I feel it is so dangerous. Such a phrase could be (and has been) used to prevent a Bible showing its face in the hands of a public school student. (Many students have been prohibited from reading a Bible during their free time at school.)

This is an older example, but such misunderstandings continue today. Keeping in mind that the same Founders who wrote and ratified the First Amendment also authorized a printing of 20,000 Bibles for use in the public schools, it's hard to imagine how we got so completely turned around.

Read more at the Houston Chronicle:

Lawsuit claims students not allowed to carry Bibles

UPDATE: Based on information provided by "Lex" in the comments section of this post, it appears the parents requested that the lawsuit be dropped. They said they are trying to work on a policy on religious freedom with the school. The school maintains that the charges were false. Opinion: I hope charges were not made falsely (although that issue is not settled) because such an action does no one good. In my own experience, there is an "attitude" problem among some staff at some schools. You will find several other stories on this blog that are not in dispute. The experience of my friends' child, and experiences with my own child, show that at the very least our regional system had some teachers that showed "attitude" in their actions, which influenced or intimidated the kids. I don't believe such an attitude is always a reflection of school policy, but it may be a reflection in some circles of a certain worshipful attitude about "separation of church and state" in that phrase's most limiting sense.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Josiah Bartlett, Founder: Honors the Gospel of Jesus Christ

You remember the Founding Fathers, right? They are the group of folks that many today say were mostly atheists and deists. You've probably heard that they certainly were not Christians.

Josiah Bartlett was a Founding Father, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. He was also governor of New Hampshire. As governor he signed the following as part of a call for a public day of thanksgiving, asking the people of the state to:

...confess before God their aggravated transgressions and to implore His pardon and forgiveness through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ . . . [t]hat the knowledge of the Gospel of Jesus Christ may be made known to all nations, pure and undefiled religion universally prevail, and the earth be fill with the glory of the Lord.

See the document:
Proclamation for a Public Thanksgiving in New Hampshire

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Using City Funds for Church Day Care Center, Maryland

Here is an interesting case from the Baltimore Sun newspaper. A church is renewing facilities for its day care center. There is a bill being proposed to allow for lower-interest loans for this project. The bonds would carry no cost or risk to county taxpayers, under Maryland law. There is an objection based on "separation of church and state."

The church's case is that this facility is used by more non-members than members. It does not cost the government anything for operation and the church actually subsidizes its operation by about $30,000/year.

Separation of church and state is a metaphor meant to summarize the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, although it is much to vague to be instructive. That amendment prohibits the federal government from establishing an official religion (and some believe the 14th Amendment carries that prohibition to the state governments). But does helping this center serve the parents and children of the area really establish an official religion? And would a provision such as this be offered for a non-religious facility? If so, are funds not being withheld from the religious group as a form of discrimination based solely on religion?

It's an interesting question at least.

Read more at the Baltimore Sun.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Military Honor Guard Censorship

Military honor guardsman, Patrick Cubbage, often did his duty at funerals and presented the flag of our country to the family of a fallen soldier. This is a long-standing tradition in the larger military "family" and part of that tradition is that the presenter will say, "This flag is presented on behalf of a grateful nation and the United States Army as a token of appreciation for your loved one's honorable and faithful service." Depending on the religious preference of the family, he may also add, “God bless you and this family, and God bless the United States of America.” For doing this, Cubbage was fired.

The attitude that would fire Cubbage supposedly comes from the Establish Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It says, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion..."

So apparently, if one reads the Amendment, Cubbage was fired in 2003 because his words to a grieving family established by law a national religion. He's one powerful dude!

Read the original post on World Net Daily:
Petition posted to defend 'God Bless America!'

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Billboard Education about Religion and Government

Most of the space on this blog is devoted to the notion that in the "conventional wisdom" of today, we have been led to believe that religion may not be heard in the public square. Certainly, we are told, it may not be part of ANY government action, display, or meeting from the Federal level down to the level of local libraries.

A group in Hillsborough, Florida, is trying to educate the public via renting space on billboards. Mostly they are putting up simple messages, focusing on the words you have already seen in this blog - words of our founders and later government leaders uttered about the religious roots of our country. For example:

George Washington: Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail to the exclusion of religious principle.

U.S. Supreme Court: ...this is a Christian nation.

John Adams: Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people.

The group has been criticized because they used a quote attributed to George Washington (not the one shown above) that can not be verified. They have admitted it was a mistake to use that one, although they got it from a source,, that has hundreds of similar quotes by historic figures that ARE accurate and documented. Wallbuilders has confirmed that the Washington quote in question can not be verified. Most of the articles I have seen criticizing the billboard campaign focus on this one questionable quote as a reason to taint the entire campaign. To me it's more important where the group goes from here. I assume they will tighten their standards on authentication, in which case they could very well make a positive impact.

Read more on the group's website:

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Teen Challenge Not Allowed to Receive Federal Funding?

Teen Challenge Minnesota is a faith-based group that has done tremendous work with teens (and adults of all ages) to deal with chemical dependency and other destructive behaviors. Former U.S. Rep. Jim Ramstad had arranged for Federal funds of $235,000 (as part of a much larger bill) to be used for this group. On June 24, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State filed the complaint with Attorney General Eric Holder saying this money should be revoked because of the religious nature of the program.

The "separation of church and state" argument is often used these days, even though it is not found in the U.S. Constitution. Those who use it say it represents the spirit of the First Amendment of the Constitution. Using the phrase that way would come as a surprise to the men who actually wrote and ratified the Amendment, because they often "earmarked" Federal money to go to religious groups or entities. In the eyes of the Founders, the First Amendment was intended to prevent the central government from establishing an official national religion (in addition to protecting the free exercise of religion).

The courts often get this wrong in today's conventional wisdom (at least, that is my opinion). However, the Supreme Court of the United States has ruled on a principle about the use of public school facilities. Religious groups are sometimes prevented from using the facilities. But the Court said that if facilities are generally available to other groups, the can not be treated differently for religious groups.

Now the Federal Government has thousands of so-called "earmarks" in some of the bills. These go for all manner of causes and construction. Are we to think that the funds may be used for such a diverse collection, only so long as no religion is involved? In other words, do we exclude a recipient solely on the basis of their religious mission? That does not seem like government neutrality; it seems more like discrimination.

Sometimes I compare actions of the Founding Fathers with similar situations today to show how wrong we are in interpreting the Constitution. In this particular case, there are examples on both side. It would not be hard to quote an example where the Founders were not in favor of allocating funds to a religious organization to do social work. However, in most cases the objection of the Founders to such use of funds would have applied to spending Federal money on the program in the first place, regardless of what organization was implementing it. Simply put, they had a very much more limited idea of the role of the Federal Government than we do today. As much as possible, they wanted the Federal Government to stay out of anything that could be handled at a state/local/personal level.

I found the story here:

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Robert Treat Paine. Founder and Man of God

This blog has presented proof of the Christian faith of many of our founders. This is in part to counter those voices who today say the founding fathers were mostly deists or atheists. One founder I have neglected until now is Robert Treat Paine.

He was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention and a signer of the Declaration of Independence. He also served as a Chaplain in the colonial army. He played an important role in the drafting of Massachusetts' constitution. Before his service in the Continental Congress he was a full-time clergyman. Not bad for an atheist/deist.

Learn more about Paine here.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Who Said, "Government Must Be Administered by the Holy Ghost"?

According to John Adams, government is not legitimate if not administered by the Holy Ghost. In a letter from John Adams to Benjamin Rush, December 21, 1809, we find this paragraph:

But my friend there is something very serious in this business. The Holy Ghost carries on the whole Christian system in this Earth. Not a baptism, not a marriage, not a Sacrament can be administered but by the Holy Ghost, who is transmitted from age to age by laying the hands of the Bishop on the heads of candidates for the Ministry. In the same manner as the Holy Ghost is transmitted from monarch to monarch by the holy oil in the vial at Rheims which was brought down from Heaven by a dove and by that other phial [vial] which I have seen in the Tower of London. There is no authority civil or religious: There can be no legitimate government but what is administered by this Holy Ghost. There can be no salvation without it. All without it is rebellion and perdition, or in more orthodox words damnation. Although this is all artifice and cunning in the secret original in the heart, yet they all believe it so sincerely that they would lie down their lives under the ax or the fiery fagots [wood used for burning individuals at the stake] for it. Alas, the poor weak ignorant dupe human nature. There is so much king craft, priest craft, gentlemen’s craft, people’s craft, doctors craft, lawyers craft, merchants craft, tradesmen’s craft, laborers craft and Devil’s craft in the world that it seems a desperate and impractical project to undeceive it.

Do you suppose we would find such language today in a letter between Congressmen or Senators?

Read the whole letter (and see an image of the actual manuscript) here.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Religious Passages Censored from Mother's Letters to Inmate

This is the USA, by golly! We have freedoms! We have freedom of speech and freedom of religion, right! Well, of course we understand that free speech doesn't include yelling "Fire!" in a crowded theater. And we understand that free religion doesn't include human sacrifice.

We also assume that we treat prisoners fairly, even though they gave up certain rights (i.e.freedom) by their crimes. But we provide Qur'ans, for example, to Islamic prisoners even though we captured them as part of a war on terror.

But maybe that's not as true in Rappahannock Regional Jail in northern Virginia. The Christian mother of an inmate has been sending him letters that include religious thoughts and quotes from the Bible. The prison classified the category of censorship as "Religious Material from Home." Censored material include passages from Proverbs, the Book of James and the Book of Matthew.

I read about this and wondered if there was a hidden reason for this that might make sense. However, I became more sure that the prison's actions are unreasonable when I learned that a very diverse collections of groups is protesting the prison's actions, including the Becket Fund, the Rutherford Institute, Prison Fellowship, the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy, the Friends Committee on National Legislation and the American Civil Liberties Union.

I'm afraid that this is yet another example where one of a right we don't really have is freedom of religion. That is not in keeping with the Constitution. There is a reason that the First rights addressed in the First Amendment (of the Bill of Rights) were religious rights.

Read more on the story here:

Jail officials censored mother's letters over religious content

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Words Have Power - to Enlighten or Confuse

I have spoken up many times on this blog about media bias (overwhelmingly toward the left). I believe that slanted reporting, either due to ignorance or deliberate attempts to taint the coverage, is partly responsible for the general misunderstanding about "separation of church and state." Consider the statistics below. The results are shown for three search phrases in the Google News site. Each was search surrounded by quotes to eliminate other arrangements of the words or incomplete phrases in the results. One phrase is the commonly-used "separation..." metaphor, which is "assumed" to describe the First Amendment's statements on religion. Another phrase is "Establishment Clause" - the generally-used phrase used to describe the first of the two religion clauses in the First Amendment. The other phrase, "Establishment of Religion," is taken from the actual words of the Amendment: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion." I purposely left out the words "Congress" and "law," which would make the results even more restricted for this phrase. But the essence of the meaning has to do with an establishment of religion.

These results are not totally under the control of news services. Many times they are quoting individuals or groups who use the particular language. But shouldn't full reporting of the First Amendment show its words more often than that? Couldn't the reporter/editor enlighten us with the words the founders wrote? I'm not sure all of our citizens are even learning that in school, much less remembering it later.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Prayer at Meetings in Chesapeake, VA Challenged

In the town of Chesapeake, Virginia, the city council has a tradition of starting its meetings with prayer. However, as in many other towns, the Wisconsin-based "Freedom from Religion Foundation" is making a legal case against the practice.

Such a claim by the Foundation is not in keeping with our country's history and it is not against the Constitution or Bill of Rights. The First Amendment of the Bill of Rights prohibits Congress from making a law establishing a national religion. Some people think the 14th Amendment carries that prohibition down to the state level (and some disagree with that point). Even if we accept that premise, does a town council praying before a meeting hold anything like the burden of a state law that might establish one religion for the entire state?

Many towns decide not to fight this type of action because it is costly. Fortunately for Chasapeake, the Alliance Defense Fund has offered to defend them for no charge. (The Freedom from Religion Foundation usually makes the same offer to an atheist or other objecting party in a town.) So the town is able to fight the objection.

Read more on the OneNews website:

Christian attorneys defend public prayer

Thursday, August 13, 2009

IRS Passes on Taking a Church to Court

A pastor in Warroad, Minnesota, joined many other pastors in 2008 who decided that the IRS keeping them from speaking about politics in church was not right. So Gus Booth decided he would preach as he thought he should and challenge the IRS if it came to that.

The preachers joining this cause have the support of the Alliance Defense Fund, a group of lawyers who defend against freedom of religion/speech issues (among other things). The movement started in earnest on September 28, 2008 when 31 preachers participated in Pulpit Freedom Sunday.

The IRS notified the Warroad church that they would be investigating. But recently it has suspended the investigation. The IRS did not reveal why they are dropping their investigation, but Pastor Booth said he was disappointed. He wanted to bring the issue to the courts to help clarify law and IRS interpretation.

It's easy to understand the pastor's feelings. On the other hand, the issue is not closed. The IRS retains the right to open the investigation again. While my personal opinion is that the pastor is within his rights, I have zero confidence that the courts, especially the lower courts, would agree with my "legal opinion." (No, I'm not a lawyer or anything even close.)

However, the First Amendment says that Congress may not make a law prohibiting either free exercise of religion or free speech. It's hard for me to see how the IRS can censor speech with the threat of withdrawing tax-exempt status from a church that is primarily a house of worship, even if the pastor delves into politics now and then. Their primary purpose clearly is not as a political entity.

Read more about the Warroad story:

Warroad pastor's IRS case closed, for now

And read more about Pulpit Freedom Sunday on the Alliance Defense Fund site:

ADF prepared to defend churches against possible IRS free speech investigations

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Chaplain of Our House of Representatives

Even before our country was our country (before the Constitution) we had official prayers in the federal arena given by paid chaplains. One of the first acts of the Congress after ratifying the U.S. Constitution was to appoint paid chaplains.

In July, 2009, there was a guest chaplain in Congress named Jonathan Falwell. He wrote of his experience and the "separation of church and state" follow-ups in the World Net Daily blog. While this won't be new information to regular visitors to the blog you are now reading, he pointed to acts in history, including some by Mr. Separation of Church and State Thomas Jefferson, that would curl the hair of separationists today. Of course, those whose hair would curl may believe that today we understand the Founders' intentions must better than the Founders did.

Read his post here:

A great honor, by Jonathan Falwell

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

John Witherspoon, the Sermon that Helped American Independence

The Founding Father John Witherspoon was a long-standing member of the Continental Congress almost continuously from 1776 to 1782. He served on more committees than any other member of that Congress (over 100). He was one of the most noted evangelicals of his day and a signer of the Declaration of Independence.

In 2006 the Wall Street Journal had an interesting piece on Witherspoon titled "The Forgotten Fouder." In it we learn that Witherspoon's preaching had a strong influence on the drive for separation from Great Britain:

In May 1776, when the colonies teetered on the edge of war with England, he preached a sermon titled "Dominion of Providence over the Passions of Men." The church historian William Warren Sweet called it "one of the most influential pulpit utterances during the whole course of the war." Arguing that "There is not a single instance in history, in which civil liberty was lost, and religious liberty preserved entire," Witherspoon articulated a link between spiritual and temporal liberty in a way that that spoke vividly to the passions of the moment. In July 1776, when the question of succession was hotly debated and one delegate argued that the country was not yet "ripe" for independence, Witherspoon shot back: "In my judgement the country is not only ripe for the measure, but in danger of becoming rotten for the want of it."

An interesting bit of trivia: Witherspoon was a president of Princeton University. The school's motto was, "Cursed be all learning that is contrary to the cross of Christ."

Monday, August 10, 2009

Benjamin Rush, Founder, Supporter of Religion in Education

Benjamin Rush is one of our foremost founders. He is one of the signers of Declaration of Independence (and was also founder and manager of the Philadelphia Bible Society).

He is given credit for being one of the most important men in creating the Sunday School movement in America. He also believed that public school must have a strong religious/moral component.

The following is from the book "Death of Character" by James Davison Hunter:

As Benjamin Rush insisted in his own plan for education in Pennsylvania in 1786, "religioun is the foundation of virtue; virtue is the foundation of liberty; liberty is the object of all republican governments; therefore, a republican education should promote religion as well as virtue and liberty.

The book goes on to discuss how other states also considered religion necessary to public education:

Such a position was reinforced by statutes within various state constitutions. Massachusetts's constitution, ratified in 1789 [Ed: the same year the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights were ratified], called for the "support and maintenance of public Protestant teachers of piety, religion, and morality"; this was reaffirmed by the state legislature in 1827. The New Hampshire constitution, framed in 1784, provided state support for "public protestant teachers of piety, religion, and morality" on the ground that "morality and piety, rightly grounded on evangelical principles, will give the best and greatest security to government. ... In all schools everywhere, piety and good character remained the requirements for teachers.

See more in the Google Books excerpt.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

How Many Members of Congress Today Have Written a Bible Translation?

Here is another chapter in the coverage of our "non-religious" founders. Charles Thomson was a signer of the Declaration of Independence and Secretary of the Continental Congress. He wrote first American translation of the Greek Suptuagint, known as Thomson's Bible.

Read a little about the Thomson Bible here:

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Benjamin Franklin Suggests Prayer for Constitutional Convention

Many today downplay the religion of the Founding Fathers. Benjamin Franklin is a frequent example that is used. Certainly Franklin was not what most would call Christian, but he did show faith in God.

During the debates about the Declaration of Independence the representatives prayed regularly. But after several weeks at the Constitutional Convention, Ben Franklin pointed out that they had not yet prayed. He expressed the concern that their lack of prayer was responsible for the lack of progress that frustrated them all.

The following is from the Franklin Institute:

On June 28, 1787, Franklin made a formal motion for prayers at the Constitutional Convention. The text of the motion itself reads:

I therefore beg leave to move, That henceforth Prayers, imploring the Assistance of Heaven and its Blessing on our Deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to Business, and that one or more of the Clergy of this city be requested to officiate in that Service.

Read the entire transcript here:

Friday, August 7, 2009

Is the Pledge of Allegiance Unconstitutional?

This blog has pointed out several times that the First Amendment is not meant to keep religion out of government. There is an interesting discussion of this very point this year because of a strongly-approved bill from Congress that would add the phrase "In God We Trust" and the Pledge of Allegiance to the building known as the Capitol Visitors Center. Some feel this is establishing a national religion. (The Pledge is objectionable to them because of its phrase "under God.")

Our founders did not see to find such ideas accurate, at least based on their early actions. It's probably safe to assume that the same men who debated and ratified the Constitution understood it more clearly than we do today.

In this blog's post titled "In God We Trust - Banned at U.S. Capitol?" I have discussed the issue. After all, the First Amendment prohibits from making a LAW establishing a national religion. Carving these words in the building is hardly making a law.

American Conservative Daily has a post that has some interesting discussion on the same issue. Read more here.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

U.W. Madison Discriminates Against Catholic Group

Sometimes the issue of "separation of church and state" get a bit confused in today's world. While there no such phrase in our Constitution, one interpretation of it can be an accurate description of one intent of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution: the federal government may not establish a national religion. There are some who think that is the extent of the meaning, which I have spoken about many times on this venue.

Despite such confusion, some of the cases that come before courts are still baffling, especially in view of fairly clear guidance from recent Supreme Court decisions. Just last year a court instructed the University of Wisconsin, Madison, to stop discriminating against the Roman Catholic Federation. The U has many diverse, officially-recognized student groups on campus, but they denied such status to the RCF because it is a religious group. The Supreme Court has already established the (logical) principle that if a school supports activities on campus it may not exclude a group solely on the basis of religion.

In this story, a Federal judge has ordered the U not to discriminate against the RCF while the case winds its way through the courts. Until that order, the school was not recognizing the group because the group was in violation of a school "non-discrimination policy." Yet enforcement of this policy flies in the face of the principle of freedom of association, which court have established as part of the liberty we possess as a basic right. In addition, the First Amendment clearly says government may not interfere with freedom of religion.

Read more about the case here:

ADF Website

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Charles Carroll, Founding Father and Faithful Christian

Because several voices today are proclaiming that most of our Founding Fathers were not Christian or even very religions, I am posting information about various of these historic figures to show a little about their faith. Today we're digging a little deeper into the words of Charles Carroll. He was a signer of the Declaration of Independence, was selected as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention, a framer of the Bill of Rights, and a United States Senator. Previously I have posted these words of Carroll:

"Without morals a republic cannot subsist any length of time; they therefore who are decrying the Christian religion, whose morality is so sublime and pure...are undermining the solid foundation of morals, the best security for the duration of free governments."

But now let's look at words Carroll wrote near the end of his long life:

"On the mercy of my Redeemer I rely for salvation and on His merits, not on the works I have done in obedience to His precepts."
(From an autograph letter written by Charles Carroll to Charles W. Wharton, Esq., September 27, 1825. The letter is kept by

"Grateful to Almighty God for the blessings which, through Jesus Christ Our Lord, He had conferred on my beloved country in her emancipation and on myself in permitting me, under circumstances of mercy, to live to the age of 89 years, and to survive the fiftieth year of independence, adopted by Congress on the 4th of July 1776, which I originally subscribed on the 2d day of August of the same year and of which I am now the last surviving signer."
(Lewis A. Leonard, Life of Charles Carroll of Carrollton (New York: Moffit, Yard & Co, 1918), pp. 256-257.)

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

"Founding Fathers" Banned from History Textbooks

Well, it's not as bad as it sounds, but in my opinion it's bad nevertheless. Major publishers of textbooks are looking into making the language completely gender neutral.

When I was in school we learned that in cases of unknown gender the male version was to be used. So you might say "A student should use his time wisely" if speaking of a student who could be male or female. I suppose that is unfair in a way, but it results in more compact language and simpler structure. Some improperly use the plural version: "A student should use their time wisely" would be silly, and could be handled easily enough with "Students should use their time wisely."

So the word "caveman" would be replace with "cave dweller" for example. That's logical enough, because in the case of those folks we know there were both men and women.

Many Christian denominations are doing similar work on the Bible. References to Him (God) are replaced with "God." So "God so loved the world that He have His only begotten Son" would become "God so loved the world that God gave God's only begotten Son." That sounds a bit awkward to me, but I can get over it because God is presented in the Bible as neither male nor female in ultimate makeup, and God is, after all, a special case.

But sometimes we know full well the gender of the subject(s). Jesus was a man. It would be cumbersome to replace "Jesus said to his disciples..." with "Jesus said to Jesus' disciples..." He was God's only son, and we know that, so we don't need to say God's only child.

In the case of the Founders of our nation, we are generally talking about men. That is not to deny the role many women played, but usually the phrase is intended to mean the people who wrote/signed the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and other documents; and people who were the most active leaders in our early history. All those people were men. "Founding Fathers" does not seem like a potentially confusing phrase regarding gender. Like it or not, that is our history.

If you wish to speak of a future President of the United States, then using gender neutral language makes sense. Even though every POTUS so far has been male, we expect that a woman will someday change that.

But in history, when gender WAS exclusive in certain contexts, it is less effective to use gender neutral language. Just as we should know that our history included slavery, we should know that our nation's foundations were written by men.

See the Fox Nation report below:
Gender Neutral Language

Monday, August 3, 2009

Religious Group in Detroit Faces Objections from Americans United

The Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries (DRMM) is a valuable social ministry that has been helping people for more than a century. If you can name a social ill common to most large cities, this group is probably already helping people out of the mire. While they are a faith-driven group, they do not discriminate based on religion, do not preach to those getting aid, and do not have any requirements of their beneficiaries "except that they become good citizens and productive members of the community." They receive funds from various sources, including government funds for specific social purposes.

Regular readers can probably guess what's coming next. Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU) has gone on the record saying that this group is religious and should not receive government money. The same point is raised for other faith-based initiatives that the federal government funds.

This may seem logical at first. After all, the federal government is not allowed to establish a religion, right? That IS correct. But clearly this religious group is not and was not founded by the government, so the government did not establish it. Paying them for services rendered is not establishing a religion.

It's just as important to look at it from the other perspective. If the government is doling out money to various groups for social services, and they withhold money for a group solely because it has a religious basis, isn't that religious discrimination?

Suppose I am giving out money to various contractors for work, but I reject a black man solely because he is black. Isn't that clearly discrimination?

The Constitution certainly could have said that no appropriations could be used for any religious purpose if that was its intent. Even that statement would have been a restriction on the federal government and would not have prevented state/local governments from doing so. But in any case that is not what is written.

There is enough social trouble to go around, one can hope that any group with a proven track record would be allowed to help. Read more here.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Oliver Wolcot, Founding Father

We hear that our Founding Fathers were not religious people. There are many examples to refute that statement on this blog. Here is another example, from a lesser-know Founder, Oliver Wolcot. He was a signer of the Declaration of Independence and Governor of Connecticut. This example is found at the Library of Congress, Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume: 3 January 1, 1776 - May 15, 1776, Oliver Wolcott to Laura Wolcott, April 10, 1776.

God give us Strength to travel the upward Road. May the divine Redeemer conduct us to that Seat of Bliss which he himself has prepared for his Freinds; at the Approach of which every Sorrow shall Vanish from the human heart, and endless scenes of Glory Open upon the enraptured Eye. There our Love to God and each other will grow stronger, and our Pleasures never be damp'd by the Fear of future Separation. How indifferent will it then be to us wheither We obtained Felicity by travailing the thorny or the agreable Paths of Life, wheither We arrived at our Rest by passing thro the envied and unfragrant Road of Greatness or Sustained Hardship and unmeritted Reproach in our Journey; Gods Providence and Support thro the perilous perplexing Labyrinths of human Life, will then forever excite our Astonishment and Love. May a Happiness be granted to those I most tenderly Love which shall continue and increase thro an endless Existence. Your Cares and Burdens must be Many and great, but put your Trust in that God who has hitherto supported you and me, he will not fail to take Care of those who put their Trust in him.
As to News inclose you a Paper in which the latest most material Resolves of Congress are inserted. The Tea now in the Country will undouptedly in a Very few days (by Resolve of Congress) be permitted to be consumed. The general Complexion of Affairs gives little ground to expect an Accomenedation with Great Britain on former Terms. Nothing as I hear of has happened of Consequence since my last in the Southern Colonies. There is a great Ardor amongst the People this Way in support of American Rights. The low Torys under the Mark of Patriotism are converting every Measure to perplex the Whig Interest. They are sensible that Things must soon make an absolute Crisis and they are now making their last Struggles, but they will be ineffectual. It is most evident that this Land is under the Protection of the Almighty, and that We shall be Saved, not by our Wisdom nor by our might, but by the Lord of Host who is wonderfull in Councill and Almighty in all his Operations.

Visit the Library of Congress to research more about our country's history.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Elias Boudinot, President of Congress, Bill of Rights Framer

Elias Boudinot, President of Congress, Bill of Rights Framer, founder of the American Bible Society. That puts him under the definition of a Founding Father. You may have heard from various sources that our Founders were mostly deists and atheists and that almost none were actually Christian. Do you suppose Elias is to be included in that description?

He wrote "The Age Of Revelation: Or The Age Of Reason Shown To Be An Age Of Infidelity" (1801). In it he said,

May that God, who delighteth in the meek and humble temper, which trembleth at his word, lead you to the cross of Christ; and there, by his holy spirit, direct you into all truth. May he instruct you in his holy work, which is able to make you wise unto salvation. Let that word abide in you richly -- become your daily companion, under every circumstance of life; "the man of your council, a lamp to your paths, and a light to your feet."
In short, were you to ask me to recommend the most valuable book in the world, I should fix on the Bible as the most instructive, both to the wise and ignorant. Were you to ask me for one, affording the most rational and pleasing entertainment to the inquiring mind, I should repeat it is the Bible; and should you renew the inquiry, for the best philosophy, or the most interesting history, I should still urge you to look into your Bible. I would make it, in short, the Alpha and Omega of knowledge; and be assured, that it is for want of understanding the scriptures, both of the Old and New Testament, that so little value is set upon them by the world at large. The time, however, is not far off, when they will command a very different reception among the sons of men.

See the excerpt in Google Books