Saturday, October 31, 2009

Benjamin Rush on the Bible in Public Schools

Benjamin Rush was a distinguished physician and a signer of the Declaration of Independence. He had rather, um, strong views on the use of the Holy Bible in public schools. The following is from a tract he published on the subject:

A Defense of the Use of the Bible in Public Schools
Benjamin Rush, signer of the Declaration of Independence.

Dear Sir:

It is now several months since I promised to give you my reasons for preferring the Bible as a schoolbook to all other compositions. Before I state my arguments, I shall assume the five following propositions:

I . That Christianity is the only true and perfect religion; and that in proportion as mankind adopt its principles and obey its precepts they will be wise and happy.

2. That a better knowledge of this religion is to be acquired by reading the Bible than in any other way.

3. That the Bible contains more knowledge necessary to man in his present state than any other book in the world.

4. That knowledge is most durable, and religious instruction most useful, when imparted in early life.

5. That the Bible, when not read in schools, is seldom read in any subsequent period of life.

My arguments in favor of the use of the Bible as a schoolbook are founded.

I. In the constitution of the human mind.
1. The memory is the first faculty which opens in the minds of children. Of how much consequence, then, must it be to impress it with the great truths of Christianity, before it is preoccupied with less interesting subjects.

2. There is a peculiar aptitude in the minds of children for religious knowledge. I have constantly found them, in the first six or seven years of their lives, more inquisitive upon religious subjects than upon any others. And an ingenious instructor of youth has informed me that he has found young children more capable of receiving just ideas upon the most difficult tenets of religion than upon the most simple branches of human knowledge. It would be strange if it were otherwise, for God creates all His means to suit His ends. There must, of course, be a fitness between the human mind and the truths which are essential to its happiness.

3. The influence of early impressions is very great upon subsequent life; and in a world where false prejudices do so much mischief, it would discover great weakness not to oppose them by such as are true. I grant that many men have rejected the impressions derived from the Bible; but how much soever these impressions may have been despised, I believe no man was ever early instructed in the truths of the Bible without having been made wiser or better by the early operation of these impressions upon his mind. Every just principle that is to be found in the writings of Voltaire is borrowed from the Bible; and the morality of Deists, which has been so much admired and praised where it has existed, has been, I believe, in most cases, the effect of habits produced by early instruction in the principles of Christianity.

4. We are subject, by a general law of our natures, to what is called habit. Now, if the study of the Scriptures be necessary to our happiness at any time of our life, the sooner we begin to read them, the more we shall probably be attached to them; for it is peculiar to all the acts of habit, to become easy, strong, and agreeable by repetition.

5. It is a law in our natures that we remember longest the knowledge we acquire by the greatest number of our senses. Now, a knowledge of the contents of the Bible is acquired in school by the aid of the eye and the ear, for children, after getting their lessons, read or repeat them to their instructors in an audible voice; of course, there is a presumption that this knowledge will be retained much longer than if it had been acquired in any other way.

6. The interesting events and characters recorded and described in the Old and New Testaments are calculated, above all others, to seize upon all the faculties of the mind of children. The understanding, the memory, the imagination, the passions, and the moral powers are all occasionally addressed by the various incidents which are contained in those divine books, insomuch that not to be delighted with them is to be devoid of every principle of pleasure that exists in a sound mind.

7. There is in man a native preference of truth to fiction. Lord Shaftesbury says that "truth is so congenial to our mind that we love even the shadow of it"; and Horace, in his rules for composing an epic poem, established the same law in our natures by advising that "fictions in poetry should resemble truth." Now, the Bible contains more truth than any other book in the world; so true is the testimony that it bears of God in His works of creation, providence, and redemption that it is called truth itself, by way of preeminence above other things that are acknowledged to be true. How forcibly are we struck with the evidence of truth in the history of the Jews, above what we discover in the history of other nations. Where do we find a hero or an historian record his own faults or vices except in the Old Testament? Indeed, my friend, from some accounts which I have read of the American Revolution, I begin to grown skeptical to all history except that which is contained in the Bible. Now, if this book be known to contain nothing but what is materially true, the mind will naturally acquire a love for it from this circumstance; and from this affection for the truths of the Bible, it will acquire a discernment of truth in other books, and a preference of it in all the transactions of life.

8. There is wonderful property in the memory which enables it in old age to recover the knowledge acquired in early life after it had been apparently forgotten for forty or fifty years. Of how much consequence, then, must it be to fill the mind with that species of knowledge in childhood and youth which, when recalled in the decline of life, will support the soul under the infirmities of age and smooth the avenues of approaching death. The Bible is the only book which is capable of affording this support to old age; and it is for this reason that we find it resorted to with so much diligence and pleasure by such old people as have read it in early life. I can recollect many instances of this kind in persons who discovered no special attachment to the Bible in the meridian of their days, who have, notwithstanding, spent the evening of life in reading no other book. The late Sir John Pringle, physician to the queen of Great Britain, after passing a long life in camps and at court, closed it by studying the Scriptures. So anxious was he to increase his knowledge in them that he wrote to Dr. Michaelis, a learned professor of divinity in Germany, for an explanation of a difficult text of Scripture a short time before his death.

II. My second argument in favor of the use of the Bible in schools is founded upon an implied command of God and upon the practice of several of the wisest nations of the world.

In the sixth chapter of Deuteronomy, we find the following words, which are directly to my purpose: "And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up."

It appears, moreover, from the history of the Jews, that they flourished as a nation in proportion as they honored and read the books of Moses, which contained the only revelation that God had made to the world. The law was not only neglected, but lost, during the general profligacy of manner which accompanied the long and wicked reign of Manasseh. But the discovery of it amid the rubbish of the temple by Josiah and its subsequent general use were followed by a return of national virtue and prosperity. We read further of the wonderful effects which the reading of the law by Ezra, after his return from his captivity in Babylon, had upon the Jews. They showed the sincerity of their repentance by their general reformation.

The learning of the Jews, for many years, consisted in a knowledge of the Scriptures. These were the textbooks of all the instruction that was given in the schools of their Prophets. It was by means of this general knowledge of their law that those Jews who wandered from Judea into other countries carried with them and propagated certain ideas of the true God among all the civilized nations upon the face of the earth. And it was from the attachment they retained to the Old Testament that they procured a translation of it into the Greek language, after they had lost the Hebrew tongue by their long absence from their native country. The utility of this translation, commonly called the Septuagint, in facilitating the progress of the Gospel is well known to all who are acquainted with the history of the first age of the Christian church.

But the benefits of an early and general acquaintance with the Bible were not confined to the Jewish nation; they have appeared in many countries in Europe since the Reformation. The industry and habits of order which distinguish many of the German nations are derived from their early instruction in the principles of Christianity by means of the Bible. In Scotland and in parts of New England, where the Bible has been long used as a schoolbook, the inhabitants are among the most enlightened in religions and science, the most strict in morals, and the most intelligent in human affairs of any people whose history has come to my knowledge upon the surface of the globe.

I wish to be excused from repeating here that if the Bible did not convey a single direction for the attainment of future happiness, it should be read in our schools in preference to all other books from its containing the greatest portion of that kind of knowledge which is calculated to produce private and public temporal happiness.

We err, not only in human affairs but in religion likewise, only because we do not "know the Scriptures" and obey their instructions. Immense truths, I believe, are concealed in them. The time, I have no doubt, will come when posterity will view and pity our ignorance of these truths as much as we do the ignorance sometimes manifested by the disciples of our Saviour, who knew nothing of the meaning of those plain passages in the Old Testament which were daily fulfilling before their eyes.

But further, we err, not only in religion but in philosophy likewise, because we "do not know or believe the Scriptures." The sciences have been compared to a circle, of which religion composes a part. To understand any one of them perfectly, it is necessary to have some knowledge of them all. Bacon, Boyle, and Newton included the Scriptures in the inquiries to which their universal geniuses disposed them, and their philosophy was aided by their knowledge in them. A striking agreement has been lately discovered between the history of certain events recorded in the Bible and some of the operations and productions of nature, particularly those which are related in Whitehurst's observation on the deluge, in Smith's account of the origin of the variety of color in the human species, and in Bruce's travels. It remains yet to be shown how many other events related in the Bible accord with some late important discoveries in the principles of medicine. The events and the principles alluded to mutually establish the truth of each other.

I know it is said that the familiar use of the Bible in our schools has a tendency to lessen a due reverence for it. But this objection, by proving too much, proves nothing. If familiarity lessens respect for divine things, then all those precepts of our religion which enjoin the daily or weekly worship of the Deity are improper. The Bible was not intended to represent a Jewish ark; and it is an anti-Christian idea to suppose that it can be profaned by being carried into a schoolhouse, or by being handled by children.

It is also said that a great part of the Old Testament is no way interesting to mankind under the present dispensation of the Gospel. But I deny that any of the books of the Old Testament are not interesting to mankind under the Gospel dispensation. Most of the characters, events, and ceremonies mentioned in them are personal, providential, or instituted types of the Messiah, all of which have been, or remain yet, to be fulfilled by Him. It is from an ignorance or neglect of these types that we have so many Deists in Christendom, for so irreftagably do they prove the truth of Christianity that I am sure a young man who had been regularly instructed in their meaning could never doubt afterwards of the truth of any of its principles. If any obscurity appears in these principles, it is only, to use the words of the poet, because they are dark with excessive brightness.

I know there is an objection among many people to teaching children doctrines of any kind, because they are liable to be controverted. But let us not be wiser than our Maker. If moral precepts alone could have reformed mankind, the mission of the Son of God into our world would have been unnecessary. He came to promulgate a system of doctrines, as well as a system of morals. The perfect morality of the Gospel rests upon a doctrine which, though often controverted, has never been refuted; I mean the vicarious life and death of the Son of God. This sublime and ineffable doctrine delivers us from the absurd hypothesis of modern philosophers concerning the foundation of moral obligation, and fixes it upon the eternal and self-moving principle of LOVE. It concentrates a whole system of ethics in a single text of Scripture: "A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another, even as I have loved you." By withholding the knowledge of this doctrine from children, we deprive ourselves of the best means of awakening moral sensibility in their minds. We do more; we furnish an argument for withholding from them a knowledge of the morality of the Gospel likewise; for this, in many instances, is as supernatural, and therefore as liable to be controverted, as any of the doctrines or miracles which are mentioned in the New Testament. The miraculous conception of the Saviour of the world by a virgin is not more opposed to the ordinary course of natural events, nor is the doctrine of the atonement more above human reason, than those moral precepts which command us to love our enemies or to die for our friends.

I cannot but suspect that the present fashionable practice of rejecting the Bible from our schools has originated with Deists. And they discover great ingenuity in this new mode of attacking Christianity. If they proceed in it, they will do more in half a century in extirpating our religion than Bolingbroke or Voltaire could have effected in a thousand years.

But passing by all other considerations, and contemplating merely the political institutions of the United States, I lament that we waste so much time and money in punishing crimes and take so little pains to prevent them. We profess to be republicans, and yet we neglect the only means of establishing and perpetuating our republican forms of government; that is, the universal education of our youth in the principles of Christianity by means of the Bible; for this divine book, above all others, favors that equality among mankind, that respect for just laws, and all those sober and frugal virtues which constitute the soul of republicanism.

Perhaps an apology may be necessary for my having presumed to write upon a subject so much above my ordinary studies. My excuse for it is that I thought a single mite from a member of a profession which has been frequently charged with skepticism in religion might attract the notice of persons who had often overlooked the more ample contributions, upon this subject, of gentlemen in other professions.

With great respect, I am, etc.

Benjamin Rush

As found in The millennial harbinger, Volume 1, by William Kimbrough Pendleton
See the Google Books excerpt

Thursday, October 29, 2009

President Andrew Jackson and the Bible

Andrew Jackson was our 7th President. He showed no shyness in his views on the Holy Bible:

"[The Bible] is the rock upon which our Republic rests."

From page 528 of Organized Sunday school work in America, 1908-1911: triennial, Volume 13, By International Sunday-School Association

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

William Jennings Bryan and the Bible

William Jennings Bryan was one of the most popular and respected orators in U.S. History. He was born in Illinois in 1860 and was the Democrat party's candidate for President in 1896, 1900, and 1908. He became Woodrow Wilson's Secretary of State. He said this about the Holy Bible:

"No matter from what standpoint we view it, or by what standard we measure it, the Bible merits the title 'The Book of Books.'"

As found on page 528 of Organized Sunday school work in America, 1908-1911: triennial ..., Volume 13, By International Sunday-School Association

Sunday, October 25, 2009

President Grant and the Bible

Ulysses S. Grant was our 18th President of The United States. He was a war hero from the Mexican War and the Civil War. He was born in Ohio in 1822. He said this about the Holy Bible:

"[The Bible is] the sheet anchor of our liberties."

From page 528 of Organized Sunday school work in America, 1908-1911: triennial, Volume 13, By International Sunday-School Association

Friday, October 23, 2009

Now Handel's Messiah Is Banned

I have written before about how some schools are banning Christmas concerts, or are banning music with any religious basis from any concert whatsoever (which would leave out most of J.S. Bach's work, for example). Now we hear of a performance of Handel's famous Messiah being blocked because the performance venue was proposed to be a public school this year. The performance has a 17-year tradition.

Details of the conflict are not totally clear, at least as reported on the webiste. But there was a protest from a group "advocating the separation of church and state" which probably had some influence on the decision. Given actions in the past by the ACLU, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and the Freedom from Religion Foundation, it is not hard to see how protests from such a group might give a school pause. Lawsuits are expensive for cash-strapped school districts.

But while many who attend the concert might have been there for faith-based reasons, many others may attend for musical reasons. According to Widipedia, "Messiah is Handel's most famous creation and is among the most popular works in Western choral literature." The source also points out that "...the work was conceived for secular theatre..."

Certainly it is well known. Its use in public is hardly restricted to religious services or celebrations. If you watch TV or movies and/or see commercials, you have almost certainly heard the main theme from the Hallelujah chorus. Is someone is happy about the whiteness of the wash, Hallelujah might play in the background. If someone is surprised by the exciting taste of their gum, Hallelujah! Even in adult scenes from some mainstream movies, some particularly satisfying sexual encounter might cause you to hear the theme.

But no matter. Performing this in a public school, even outside school hours, is now to be considered a Constitutional violation. Read the story below:

Popular 'Messiah' production may be on hold this year

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Day of Humiliation and Prayer, 1812

These days all kinds of people are "shy" about issues of religious statements in public. I believe most of this shyness comes because so many are afraid they will violate the so-called "separation of church and state" (a metaphor that is not adequate to describe the First Amendment, but is nevertheless used to do so). Yet few today are aware of the actions of our Founding Fathers that might give clearer insight into the Founders' opinion on what the First Amendment does and does not prohibit. Read carefully the wording of the proclamation below, made in 1812 by President James Madison. This is at a time when most of the men who wrote the Bill of Rights (and therefore the First Amendment) were still alive and probably active in public life.

Can you image that today we would have very many politicians not afraid of using phrases like:

  • ...with religious solemnity, as a day of public humiliation and prayer...
  • ...the several religious denominations and societies offer...their common vows and adorations to Almighty God...
  • ...that [God] would guide their public councils, animate their patriotism... 
Notice Madison refers to God as he talks to the "several religious denominations." He is being careful, apparently, so not single out one denomination as having favor, but he is also clear in his words that there is a God (with an upper-case "G").


Resolution requesting the President of the United States to recommend a day of public humiliation and prayer.

It being a duty peculiarly incumbent in a time of public calamity and war, humbly and devoutly to acknowledge our dependence on Almighty God, and to implore his aid and protection:

Therefore, Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That a joint committee of both Houses wait on the President of the United States, and request that he recommend a day of public humiliation and prayer to be observed by the people of the United States, with religious solemnity, and the offering of fervent supplications to the Almighty God for the safety and welfare of these States, His blessing on their arms, and the speedy restoration of peace.

June 30, 1812

[Source: The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America (Boston: Charles C. Little and James Brown, 1845), Vol. II, p. 786]

A Proclamation.

By the President of the United States of America
Whereas the Congress of the United States, by a joint resolution of the two Houses have signified a request, that a day may be recommended, to be observed by the people of the United States, with religious solemnity, as a day of public humiliation and prayer: and

Whereas such a recommendation will enable the several religious denominations and societies so disposed, to offer, at one and the same time, their common vows and adorations to Almighty God, on the solemn occasion produced by the war, in which He has been pleased to permit the injustice of a foreign Power to involve these United States;

I do therefore recommend a convenient day to be set apart, for the devout purposes of rendering the Sovereign of the Universe, and the Benefactor of Mankind. The public homage due to His holy attributes; of acknowledging the transgressions which might justly provoke the manifestations of His divine displeasure; of seeking his merciful forgiveness, and His assistance in the great duties of repentance and amendment; and, especially, of offering fervent supplications, that, in the present season of calamity and war, He would take the American people under His peculiar care and protection; that He would guide their public councils, animate their patriotism, and bestow His blessing on their arms; that He would inspire all nations with a love of justice and of concord, and with a reverence for the unerring precept of our holy religion, to do to others as they would require that others should do to them; and, finally, that turning the hearts of our enemies from the violence and injustice which sway their councils against us, He would hasten a restoration of the blessings of peace.

Given at Washington, the 9th day of July, A. D. 1812

James Madison

[Source: James D. Richardson, A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents (Washington: Bureau of National Literature, 1897), Vol. II, p. 498]

As found at wallbuilders.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Is There Really Separation of Church and State?

Here is a good article about the evolution of our legal decisions, and discusses why we are all so familiar (out of proportion to our Founder's vision) with the phrase "separation of church and state."

Disestablishment of Religion

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Suppose Courts Expand the Free Exercise Clause?

The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment is the subject of many posts in this blog. It is one of two religion clauses in the Bill of Rights. Those two clauses say:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;"

Looking at the first half of that (which is informally called the Establishment Clause), a judge in 1947 in the Everson Decision said:

"The establishment of religion clause of the First Amendment means at least this: neither a state nor the federal government can set up a church [no argument here]; neither can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another. No tax in any amount, large or small, can be levied to support any religious activities or institutions whatever they may be called or whatever form they may adopt to teach or practice religion. In the words of Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect 'a wall of separation between church and state.'"

Many, including me, believe he read way more into the document than actually exists. The ACLU, in celebrating this decision, said it "gave new meaning" to the Establishment Clause." New meaning? Is that what courts are looking for?

Suppose just for fun that the courts expanded the Free Exercise clause the same way. That would mean that no laws could be passed that restrict a church in any way. So if your religion says you can have multiple spouses, the government may not interfere. Want to sacrifice a steer on the front lawn of your church? No problem. Want to have your chapel bells ringing 24 hours a day for the 12 days of Christmas? Noise ordinances shall not apply here.

Doesn't that seem fair?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Judges As Bullies

I have spoken many times about the way religious speech is suppressed today by officials at schools and elsewhere. If one reads the First Amendment, how could this be justified? The same Amendment that prohibits the Congress of the United States from establishing a national religion and guarantees BOTH freedom of religion and freedom of speech.

Many of our Founders, perhaps most so Thomas Jefferson, were wary of the courts gradually taking on too much power. Today our legislators seem to be allowing the Supreme Court to be the final word, and I suspect most of our population believes that to be the way it was intended. But if the three branches of government are equal, how can one have the final word?

We also live in a "celebrity" culture. A sign of this from several years ago was the TV show The People's Court, and now we have Judge Judy et al. Judges have a lot of power, and some of them abuse it.

One judge in Texas showed how bullying can be used to enforce the law, as he saw it. Here is what he said about possible prayer being offered at a school graduation:

"And make no mistake, the court is going to have a United States marshal in attendance at the graduation. If any student offends this court, that student will be summarily arrested and will face up to six months incarceration in the Galveston County Jail for contempt of court. Anyone who thinks I'm kidding about this better think again. ...

"Anyone who violates these orders, no kidding, is going to wish that he or she had died as a child when this court gets through with it."

In this case the state legislature did step in to create a law that guarantees students may do the following:

  • express their religious viewpoints in class assignments
  • organize religious groups and activities
  • express their religious viewpoints at graduation and non-graduation events (such as football games).
Given our Constitutional right to free speech and freedom of religion, why on Earth should such a law have to be passed in the USA?

Read more here:

How to treat a bully

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Victory, for Now, for Freedeom to Pray Before Meetings in California

There have been several posts here lately about controversy arising over some city councils that wish to open meetings with prayer. No one else is being compelled to pray along, and the prayer is not required by law. It is simply the decision of the council to do so.

Here are a couple such posts within the past 4-5 weeks:

Prayer Regulations in Tracy, California

City Council in New Richland Hills, TX, In Trouble for Praying

A new story came through about Lodi, California. They, too, were debating this issue and finally decided that the prayers were appropriate and would continue. The apparently decided that the First Amendment's prohibition against Congress establishing a national religion did not apply to a city council deciding on their own to pray before a meeting in a manner with which they are comfortable.

Read the story below:

Victory for Jesus Prayers -- Lodi CA Votes 5-0 to Allow Prayer Before Council Meetings

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Free Speech or No Speech?

The state of Washington is back in the news regarding displays at the capitol around Christmas. There was a "fight" about this in 2007, which went to court. Now the state is banning displays altogether until it comes up with formal guidelines. Those guidelines will probably not allow displays inside the capitol.

The capitol is a public building and is often thought of as the logical where free speech would occur. If a display is not attacking anyone, which their original "holiday" displays did not, there would not seem to be a controversy. But that is not my main point.

Mostly I am concerned that people wanting no Christmas recognition at the capitol use the Establishment Clause as their justification, and naturally refer to it as upholding "separation of church and state." That metaphor does not fully describe the First Amendment, even though many try to use it for that purpose.

The First Amendment's Establishment Clause says simple that Congress may not establish a national religion by law. Clearly the Founders did not want to force people to worship based on a government law. Having to walk by a Christmas display is hardly being forced to worship. And the same Amendment protects free speech, which many Washington residents feel is being threatened here.

In a country that celebrates Christmas as a national holiday, and even has an official Capitol Christmas Tree ceremony each year near the White House, how has this become such a controversy?

Read more at website

Friday, October 9, 2009

Pledge Of Allegiance "Miranda Warning"

We all know (I hope) that the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees our rights to free speech and freedom of religion. It also guarantees that the Federal Government will not make a national religion to which others will be forced to adhere. All public school students should be taught the basics of the Constitution and American government. Immigrants who obtain citizenship have to learn about such things.

We have all heard how people being arrested have to be read their rights ("Miranda" warning). Since the Constitution does not say that the justice system will appoint you a lawyer if you can not afford one, maybe it makes sense to tell people that. I have a little more trouble understanding how the Miranda warning apparently assumes that people might say something to a law officer and that the words will be kept secret, but that's a topic for a different blog.

These days we have controversy over the Pledge of Allegiance because it contains the G-word (God). Now it seems that Americans United for the Separation of Church and State (AU) wants students to be given a Miranda-type warning that they do not have to say the pledge if they don't want to.

To me, this is both silly and a form of reverse discrimination. If you are warned about saying "under God" as part of the Pledge, it sets religious statements apart. It is almost hard to understand why AU is chasing this policy. Their website says the following to summarize their stance on religion in public schools:

Public schools serve children from a variety of religious and philosophical backgrounds. The classroom is an inappropriate place for school-sponsored worship. School officials should not prescribe prayers or teach religious doctrines, such as creationism, in the classroom.

Saying "under God" in the pledge is not particular to one religion. It is not worship in any sense of the word that I know. It is not a prayer or a religious doctrine.

Read more on USA Today

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Patrick Henry on Role of Government and Constitution

Many, many of the posts on this blog in the keyword topic "Discrimination Examples" are about the use of the Constitution's First Amendment to shut off religious speech in certain venues, to tear down religious displays, etc. But if one reads even minimally about the formation of our country, one quickly learns that the Founders meant to keep all power out of the hands of the Federal Government except those powers that were necessary for a centralized authority to perform. Otherwise, the states or the people were to have the power.

Consider the words of one of our most famous Founding Fathers, Patrick Henry:

“The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government- lest it come to dominate our lives and interests."

Read more here:

The Hill: Constitution Day; Why We Celebrate

Monday, October 5, 2009

What Is "Government"?

An interesting article on the website discusses the issue of people in government office who happen to be religious figures as well. As you might expect, the metaphor "separation of church and state" came up. Here is a snippet from the article:

"Separation of church and state is one of the central tenets of America government, supported by a long legal history going all the way back to the origins of the Constitution.

"Generally speaking, the government cannot establish a state religion, provide aid to religious institutions or infringe upon the rights of citizens to practice their own personal faith. Several Supreme Court rulings also have stated the government cannot, even tacitly, endorse religious activity."

Even in the short summary of judicial and Constitutional opinion, the "may not's" are applied appropriately to "government." If one looks at the First Amendment, the same is crystal clear: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;" The limitation is clearly directed to Congress, the government body as a whole, doing what Congress does - make laws. I honestly don't know how one can read the First Amendment and assume that it would limit a religious person from serving in virtually any public office. Look in this blog at the quotes from our first President, or from some of our early Justices, who were outspokenly religious. Were they being unconstitutional?

I fear that bringing up "separation of church and state" in this article fuels the belief by some that religious people should be kept from important offices and from speaking out on political issues. The article does not go there at all (it is not trying to raise a ruckus as far as I can tell), but given the actual words of the Constitution and the actual direction of decisions of the courts, why raise that point at all?

The article mentions possible conflict of interest that may arise if a judge, for example, has a member of his congregation before him in court. But surely this is a possibility for any judge. Unless the judge is a hermit, some acquaintance/associate/congregant/lodge-member/etc. may in fact show up in court. Recusal exists for such cases and is used regularly, so no need is present to limit who serves in those positions based on their faith.

Read the whole article here:
Officials seek balance in religion, work

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Political Speech in Pulpit OK if It Is Liberal

During the last election season some members of the clergy, in combination with some public issue groups, decided to push the envelope created by some government regulators and speak out about some moral/political issues, even from the pulpit. Regular readers of this blog know that I don't think we should limit religious leaders from speaking about moral issues that happen to be political - no matter whether they speak from a liberal side or a conservative side. But the IRS would threaten churches that did so by saying they would lose tax-exempt status. You may have seen stories in the mainstream media about ministers speaking out in the last election. You may have read that the ACLU and/or Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU) raised complaints.

But have you seen stories or complaints lately about this issue? A large movement in a similar mode took place this past labor day, but I don't recall seeing stories on the nightly news, and I don't recall hearing "separation of church and state" thrown about.

The AFL/CIO unions sponsor events in houses of worship to bring their opinions around for discussion with congregation members. The AFL/CIO has traditionally been liberal in its policies and political support. Could that have something to do with the fact that no one seemed to mind this series of events? Where is the ACLU? Where is AU? Where is the mainstream media?

Conservative blogger Michael Malkin has a well-formed post about this, which also explains the union program in more detail.

Union politicking at the pulpit

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Complaint Because Country Commissioners Hold Meeting in Church

I'm sure to the County Commissioners in Collin County, Texas, the idea seemed simple and harmless enough. The often hold meetings in different locations in order to encourage attendance by a variety of residents. Recently they decided to hold the meeting at the First Baptist Church in Melissa. A resident complains that doing so violates the separation of church and state.

So let's go back a couple hundred years. The phrase "separation of church and state" comes from a letter of Thomas Jefferson. It is not part of the Constitution's First Amendment, but Jefferson used it to explain one of the protections the Amendment offers. He did not mean that a government body could not use a church as a meeting place.

The First Amendment actually says that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;" The country was wary that the government might try to establish a national religion and force everyone to follow it. They were afraid that the then-existing state religions in half a dozen or so of our states were at risk. So they ratified the First Amendment, which kept the government from disrupting religion(s).

But the same men who wrote and ratified the Amendment had a different notion from that of the man who complained about this meeting in a church. Our Founders allowed prayer in school; they paid for Christian missionaries to proselytize to the Indians; they commissioned a 20,000 book printing of the Holy Bible for use in schools; and they allowed and participated in regular Christian worship services in several of the official buildings in Washington, D.C., including the House chamber.

The complaint today in Texas seems to be that the commission could hold a meeting in almost any building as long as it wasn't a church building. If you move the meeting place around to get out to where the people are, why would you not pick the best venue, the one likely to be familiar to the locals? And if you are going to allow meetings almost anywhere, but say a church is off limits, how can you base that on the First Amendment?

Read the story here (follow a link on that page to see local reaction to the story as well):

Commissioners meet at Baptist church

Read more background here:

Friday, October 2, 2009

The Mainstream Media Has Lost the Public Trust... Big Time

Regular readers of this blog know that I sometimes post on a secondary topic: media bias in favor of the Democrat/liberal stance. Now I am starting to wonder if that topic holds any interest for most people. Not that it isn't an interesting topic, but perhaps most people already assume that and don't need convincing.

The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press released a study in October, 2008 (just prior to the most recent Presidential election) with some interesting results. Apparently, at least at that point in time, the population could see the bias fairly clearly. The survey asked which, if any, candidate the readers thought the media wanted win. The conclusion was, "Voters overwhelmingly believe that the media wants Barack Obama to win the presidential election." Below is a chart of the results:

Read the whole story here.

And learn even more here:

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Double Standard of Faith-Based Initiatives

During the last President's term, there was much consternation in the press about President Bush's faith-based initiatives. President Obama has continued the program virtually unchanged, but the media seems to have forgotten they ever had a problem with such a program. Pew Charitable Trusts did a study and found that there has been about seven times as much coverage as the program under President than there has been under President Obama. But far beyond that, Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU) also notes that, "the office has become a major hub of political outreach."

Now, I have posted before in this blog that I am not against an office of faith-based initiatives and I still feel that way. The reason I am posting about this is that the imbalance in the media has become more obvious. They should have as much need to fret now as they did in the last eight years. One could argue that it is less newsworthy now that it is not so new. Fair enough. But when a candidate talked about change; when his campaign was strongly supported by groups like AU, who are on a hair trigger about such things; and when The Nation magazine complains that this administration's rendition "is plagued by a lack of transparency and accountability and has seemingly already been exploited as a tool for rewarding religious constituencies with government jobs" -- when all that is true one would expect more of an uproar. One would be disappointed.

Read the whole article here:

Faith-Based Double Standards