Friday, July 30, 2010

Can a Simply Word Harm Freedom of Religion?

During more recent references to the U.S. rights as spelled out in our Constitution, both President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton have been changing one word in a phrase that has previously been taken for granted. Instead referring to "freedom of religion" they have used the phrase "freedom of worship." It may be worth watching this development.

I have pointed out many time in this blog about the use of "separation of church and state" instead of the actual wording of our Constitution's First Amendment. The Amendment says Congress may not interfere with the free exercise of religion. The Founders debated the wording for quite a while and there were several drafts. They did not take words lightly.

I have spoken often about the misuse of the phrase "separation of church and state," which was used once by Thomas Jefferson in a letter describing one protection of the First Amendment. But in his letters to the Founders who were writing the Constitution (Jefferson was in France at the time) he used the phrase "freedom of religion" to say why the First Amendment was so necessary.

Does one little matter? Have you noticed how those who favor keeping abortion legal in almost all circumstances do not talk about killing a baby in the womb. The term "fetus" has come to be used for decades. Aborting a fetus has a somewhat different ring that terminating the life of a baby. But if a "pregnant couple" goes through a miscarriage, they never talk about losing a fetus. That same entity is considered a baby by the couple who wants it - but the person who does not want it calls it a fetus. In the Roe v. Wade decision, I can find no mention of the word "baby" but 20 or so of the word "fetus."

Religious people have expressed concern over the change from "religion" to "worship" in the speech of such high-level officials. Does it mean anything? Will it result in fewer rights for religious exercise? Time will tell.

Read more here:

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Is Praying in Public a Right? Keep an Eye On This Story.

According to news stories, a group of Christian school students were visiting Washington, D.C. on May 5, 2010. While they were in front of the U.S. Supreme Court building, the gathered in a circle to pray. An official told them what there were doing was illegal and they would have to move on. The children were from Arizona, a junior high school American History class at Wickenburg Christian Academy.

The Marshal of the Court said they will look into to the matter, and that "the Court does not have a policy prohibiting prayer." Well, one would hope not.

The Alliance Defense Fund is helping by representing the students' rights.

When our Founders wrote the Constitution, they were well aware of the desire of the people to have freedom of religion. That is a reason some of our earliest settlers came here. There was debate during the Constitutional Convention about whether we needed the Bill of Rights, because all those 10 amendments did was emphasize what the Constitution already said. Do we need to say that Congress can make no law prohibiting the free exercise of religion? "No," some said, because the Constitution gave Congress no rights in that area in the first place. Nevertheless, the amendment was added to clarify what Congress may not do. But does it matter that Congress supposedly may not make such a law if officials assume they have the right to push their own ideas of enforcement on helpless students?

DISCLAIMER: this story is not well filled out yet. Perhaps it was all a misunderstanding or is being reported incorrectly. We shall watch and see what develops. But the actions reported are not at all hard to believe, given other documented examples already mentioned in various posts on this blog.

Read the story here:
Students Ordered to Stop Praying Outside Supreme Court Building

Monday, July 26, 2010

Prayer Throughout Our History

Surely we have learned in history class about the significance of the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroads being joined with a Golden Spike ceremony, marking our first transcontinental railroad. This event, as with so many others, was marked by prayers of gratitude to God.

Before the final spikes were driven home, a prayer was offered. The transcript of the message sent at the time said:

At about half past 12, the telegraph sent the following message:

To everybody. Keep quiet. When the last spike is driven at Promontory Point [Summit], we will say "Done!" Don't break the circuit, but watch for the signals of the blows of the hammer. Almost ready. Hats off; prayer is being offered.

How interesting it is to contrast such events as this, which is documented on the official U.S. National Park Service website, with the efforts today to abolish our days of prayer, which happen in all states and federally once a year. Prayer in all situations is part of our history. It was a practice of our Founders, who wrote the very Constitution that lawsuits would have us believe prohibit such actions.

Read the conclusion of the Golden Spike event here:

Saturday, July 24, 2010

National Park Service Prayer Display

I have previously posted the prayer used by President Eisenhower before his inaugural in this entry:

I point out today that this prayer is currently on display at the National Park Service's website, here:

This is a display maintained by the Federal Government using tax dollars, and it is quite "religious looking." It is typeset very much like old hand-created editions of the Bible. While such displays might raise the eyebrows of some today who throw around the phrase "separation of church and state," there is no denying that such things are indeed part of our history. In this case, it is a rather attractive display.

The text of that prayer is:

"Almighty God, as we stand here at this moment my future associates in the executive branch of government join me in beseeching that Thou will make full and complete our dedication to the service of the people in this throng, and their fellow citizens everywhere.

"Give us, we pray, the power to discern clearly right from wrong, and allow all our words and actions to be governed thereby, and by the laws of this land. Especially we pray that our concern shall be for all the people regardless of station, race, or calling.

"May cooperation be permitted and be the mutual aim of those who, under the concepts of our Constitution, hold to differing political faiths; so that all may work for the good of our beloved country and Thy glory. Amen."

Thursday, July 22, 2010

ADF Defends National Day of Prayer

The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) is in the news again. This time they brought a lawsuit against the National Day of Prayer, in Freedom From Religion Foundation v. Obama.

This particular annual recognition of our religious roots began in 1952. However, the tradition actually started even before our country was officially born and has been there throughout our history since our founding. In fact, all 50 states have also issued proclamations for a day of prayer.

The Continental Congress in 1775 called for such a day of prayer, which was recognized. But "Wait!" you say - that was before our Constitution was written. People objecting to the day of prayer now claim that it violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution. I suppose one could argue on either side of what the Establishment Clause means, but if we take the word of those who wrote it, there is no justification for the current lawsuit. The same Congress that debated and ratified the Constitution almost immediately called upon President Washington to declare a national day of prayer and fasting (which he did). After risking life and property in a tough war, and after countless hours of debate in crafting the words of the Constitution, are we to assume that one of their first acts violated our primary legal document? That's not an assumption I would make.

Read more about the case here:

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

No Free Speech at State Universities?

If you listen to what is going on around us in the USA you have probably heard that the so-called "separation of church and state" (which is an attempt to summarize the First Amendment's religion clauses) has been used to justify all manner of restrictions. What I have read about our Founders leads me to believe they would not approve of such restrictions in the name of the First Amendment.

And we often hear about how important it is to maintain free speech on campuses of our colleges and universities. We desire a free exchange of ideas, right?

So how can an instructor who teaches a class on Catholicism in a university's Religion Department be fired for teaching what the Catholic Church teaches about homosexuality? If happened to Kenneth Howell at the University of Illinois. He was teaching what I understand to be the Catholic Church's stance on sexuality. Suppose Mr. Howell were teaching a class like "21st-Century Treatment of Sexuality" and said that in that context it is assumed that homosexual unions are equal to heterosexual unions? Can anyone imagine that a state university would have fired him for that? I, for one, cannot.

The First Amendment prevents Congress from establishing a national religion, and it protect all our rights to freely exercise our religion. The man we quote when we raise the "separation" issue, Thomas Jefferson, was President of the United States when we began the practice of holding weekly church services in several federal buildings, including the chambers of Congress. Did he really want to keep all discussion of religion away from governmental institutions?

Read more below:

or here:

Sunday, July 18, 2010

More Commencement Censoring - Montana

Here we go again. A high school co-valedictorian's speech was censored before she gave it. Why was this done? Readers of this blog certainly can guess the answers. Her speech contained religious references.

The graduates were asked to speak about lessons they learned in high school. Her lessons had to do with applying her faith in real-life situations, and that was unacceptable to the school officials. Her speech was apparently censored solely based on this religious content. She was told she had to change it and she refused, so she was not allowed to speak to the class.

Perhaps you are thinking the officials had in mind something learned in school as content for this speech. Based on the changes they proposed, that was not the case. She was told to replace references to Christ with phrases like "sharing my faith" or "love of mankind." It is clear enough what the particular type of censorship was.

If a student had wanted to tell how she learned lessons about life because she had to balance her part-time job with school work and sports, would that have been censored? Or if a student went through a tough experience with a dying relative and learned to cope, would that have been censored? I'm sure not.

Once again we see an example where a (perhaps well-meaning) person believes it violates "separation of church and state" to utter the words God or Christ in a non-cursing context. I'm glad this student refused to change here speech, and I'm glad there is a group (the Rutherford Institute) willing to fight for her rights in the state's supreme court. We'll see how it turns out. Learn more about Rutherford from the book linked on the left.

Read more details by following the link below:

Friday, July 16, 2010

Abandoning the Concepts of Rights from Our Creator

If you watched much television in late June you may have seen the hearings for Elena Kagan as a nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court. There weren't too many surprises here. People expected President Obama to appoint a liberal person and she seems to have a record that would support that.

However, I found it a bit disturbing when a senator pressed her on the Declaration of Independence as an influence on her presumed future decisions. We are used to hearing such nominees duck many questions, and that is what she did here. Ms. Kagan did not affirm that the Declaration is a guideline for our system of government.

But our own United States Code says that the Declaration of Independence is one of the four documents that defined the organic law of the United States. And what is special about the Declaration? Simply that it states clearly that our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness do not come from the government, but rather are given to us by our Creator. If we ignore that guideline, then the government can take away those rights by simply passing a law.

I don't know about you, the reader, but I know that I would very much like our highest court to acknowledge that we have rights from God. Those are "above" the government. Read the posts in this blog and you will find ample acknowledgment by our Founders that they were grateful to God for our many blessings. The recognized this in writing and in oratory.

Read a little more about organic law here:

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Supreme Court Affirms Christian Roots In Our Laws

Most people know that the USA does not allow polygamy, and some even know that was because of a Supreme Court Case that disallowed the Mormon practice of having multiple wives for one husband. The case that established was the 1890 case of The Mormon Church v. The United States. It said, in part:

"The organization of our community for the spread and practice of polygamy is, in a measure, a return to barbarism. It is contrary to the spirit of Christianity and of the civilization, which Christianity has produced in the Western world. The question, therefore, is whether the promotion of such a nefarious system and practice, so repugnant to our laws and to our [Christian] civilization is to be allowed to continue by the sanction of 
our government."

But isn't is unconstitutional to use a Christian belief to control interpretation of our laws? That is a fairly common belief today. But consider the 1890 case of Davis v. Beeson. Here the court confirmed that outlawing bigamy and polygamy was constitutional because they were "crimes by the laws of all civilized and Christian nations."

Today the standard justification to explain why we don't allow polygamy is that it would be somewhat harmful to our society. But the court used the specific logic that Christian principles may come into play in such complex decisions.

Follow the two embedded links above to read the two cases cited.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Pledge of Allegiance is Unacceptable?

NOTE: This post is slightly off topic because it deals more with the issue of partiotism specifically than the First Amendment's religion clauses in particular.

In the story linked below we learn that a public high school, Arlington High School in Massachusetts, is not willing to do the Pledge of Allegiance. They also do not display the flag in the classrooms. One of the students was very upset about this and tried to petition the administration to start using the Pledge. That doesn't seem so illogical, especially given the amount of money that our federal government spends on education. One must assume most of the students (certainly their parents) are in this country by choice.

The student managed to get the school to display flags in the classrooms, but the Pledge is still not being used. One reason given by the administration is that they did not think the teachers would be willing to lead the Pledge. Interesting comment, because several teachers signed the petition to restore the Pledge. Also signing letter of support was Senator John Kerry, who is not usually considered a right-wing extremist.

One hesitation cited was the relgious implication of the phrase "under God" in the pledge. But most of the discussion (at least as found in the article) was about partiotism.

One teacher said, "Patriotism is a very personal thing for all of us, but I do not think it is in the school committee's best interest to mandate that any of our employees recite the pledge."

It's a good thing that teacher is not currently applying for citizenship in the USA. She would have to take the following oath (boldface added):

"I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God."

That language is considered by some to be antiquated (it originates from a centuries-old oath of Great Britain). The proposed new language, not yet accepted into law, would require the same level of discomfort from the teacher quoted above (boldface added):

"Solemnly, freely, and without mental reservation, I hereby renounce under oath all allegiance to any foreign state. My fidelity and allegiance from this day forward is to the United States of America. I pledge to support, honor, and be loyal to the United States, its Constitution, and its laws. Where and if lawfully required, I further commit myself to defend the Constitution and laws of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, either by military, noncombatant, or civilian service. This I do solemnly swear, so help me God."

But as native-born citizens, we apparently have a God-given right (or nature-given, or Mother Earth-given, or...) to not feel an allegiance to this country, or at least to not admit to it.

Read more by following the link below:

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Can a Small Piece of Tax Code Overrule the Constitution?

In the early 1950's then-Senator L.B. Johnson added an amendment to the tax code. It said that a religious organization may not use a substantial portion of its resources for political activities. That helps separate groups whose main purpose is lobbying or campaigning or is otherwise political from groups that truly have a religious purpose primarily.

But in recent years the ACLU and other groups have "turned in" churches to the IRS if their pastors spoke out about political issues. But does a pastor's free speech, even from the pulpit, constitute using a substantial portion of the church's resources?

And even if it did, could an amendment to tax law nullify a provision of the Bill of Rights (free speech)? One would think not. Fortunately the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) has stepped in the defend the rights of pastors in such circumstances. But isn't it a shame that one needs a powerful group behind them to guarantee rights the Founders specified for us over 200 years ago?

Read more at the link below:

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Christian Founders: John Hart of New Jersey

Some may say that our Founders were not men of faith. But it is not too hard to see hundreds of examples that prove that belief wrong. Many are already shown on this blog.

John Hart was a signer of the Declaration of Independence from New Jersey. He is one of many of our Founders who lost everything because of their siding with the revolution. In his last will and testament he wrote:

...Thanks be given unto Almighty God therefore, and knowing that it is appointed for all men once to die and after that the judgment [Hebrews 9:27] . . . principally, I give and recommend my soul into the hands of Almighty God who gave it and my body to the earth to be buried in a decent and Christian like manner . . . to receive the same again at the general resurrection by the mighty power of God.

Quote found in the book "1776 Faith" by Phil Webster:

Book extract from Google Books

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

If Not The Year of Our Lord, Then What?

In New Haven, Connecticut, they have finally responded to a request from 1976, where a graduate noticed "In the year of our Lord" on the bottom of her diploma to help specify the date. According to a new account, the Superintendent of Schools saw to it that the phrase was removed from diplomas. Part of the justification for this action was the presumption that it violates the so-called "separation of church and state."

This seems a bit silly to me. The only reason we use the year 2010 today is that it was based on a system counting from the incarnation of Jesus Christ. You may have also seen "A.D." used after a year, which originated from the same counting system. That abbreviation stood for "Anni Domini Nostri Jesu Christi." Scholars believe the exact year chosen for the 0-base of this system is not quite accurate, but nonetheless the reason for now being 2010 is based on Jesus' life. Whether we use 2010 alone, in the year of our Lord 2010, or 2010 A.D., we are counting the same way

You may already know that the "separation" metaphor was used once by Thomas Jefferson to help explain the purpose of the First Amendment. I have pointed out in this blog many times that the metaphor does not, even in Jefferson's own words, properly explain what Jefferson thought was the purpose and value of the First Amendment of our Constitution. But perhaps more to this particular point, Jefferson went one step further by using the designation "in the year of our Lord Christ" when signing official documents as President of the United States. That document was signed several years after his letter where he used the "separation" metaphor.

Our Constitution Convention used "in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty seven." You can find the phrase in some of our state constitutions. Founder John Adams as President used the phrase when he declared a national day of prayer. And so it has gone throughout our history.

To base an argument for not using "year of our Lord" on Jefferson's metaphor is very loose.

Read more in the link below:

Sunday, July 4, 2010

John Adams on the Declaration of Indepence

As mentioned in the post yesterday, the Founders believed that future celebrations of the 4th of July would include a religious tone. These men believed our freedom was part of a divine providence. Consider the letter below from John Adams to his wife, Abigail:

Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, 3 July 1776

The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.

Read the whole letter here:

Saturday, July 3, 2010

July 4 - A Religious Holiday?

It is not generally know that for at least the first century and a half after our nation's founding, the 4th of July was celebrated as a religious holiday, or at least as one with serious religious overtones. Consider this speech given by John Quincy Adams in 1837.

An Oration Delivered Before the Inhabitants of the Town of Newburyport, at their request, on the Sixty-First Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence,
July 4th, 1837.
By John Quincy Adams.

Why is it, Friends and Fellow Citizens, that you are here assembled? Why is it, that, entering upon the sixty-second year of our national existence, you have honored with an invitation to address you from this place, a fellow citizen of a former age, bearing in the records of his memory, the warm and vivid affections which attached him, at the distance of a full half century, to your town, and to your forefathers, then the cherished associates of his youthful days? Why is it that, next to the birthday of the Savior of the World, your most joyous and most venerated festival returns on this day? – And why is it that, among the swarming myriads of our population, thousands and tens of thousands among us, abstaining, under the dictate of religious principle, from the commemoration of that birth-day of Him, who brought life and immortality to light, yet unite with all their brethren of this community, year after year, in celebrating this, the birth-day of the nation?

Is it not that, in the chain of human events, the birthday of the nation is indissolubly linked with the birthday of the Savior? That it forms a leading event in the progress of the gospel dispensation? Is it not that the Declaration of Independence first organized the social compact on the foundation of the Redeemer's mission upon earth? That it laid the corner stone of human government upon the first precepts of Christianity, and gave to the world the first irrevocable pledge of the fulfillment of the prophecies, announced directly from Heaven at the birth of the Savior and predicted by the greatest of the Hebrew prophets six hundred years before?

There are many ties to the Bible, including Christianity. In fact, there are 16 references to Christ or Christianity. He quotes from the Bible several times, including the examples below. Does this fit with the image we find in the modern press and some history books, that the U.S. was founded as a secular nation?

By the signature of the Preliminary Articles of Peace, on the 30th of November 1782, their warfare was accomplished, and the Spirit of the Lord, with a voice reaching to the latest of future ages, might have exclaimed, like the sublime prophet of Israel, – Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God [Isaiah 40:1].

This was indeed a great and solemn event. The sublimest of the prophets of antiquity with the voice of inspiration had exclaimed, "Who hath heard such a thing? Who hath seen such things? Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day? Or shall a nation be born at once?" [Isaiah 66:8].

In the common intercourse of social life, the birth-day of individuals is often held as a yearly festive day by themselves, and their immediate relatives; yet, as early as the age of Solomon, that wisest of men told the people of Jerusalem, that, as a good name was better than precious ointment, so the day of death was better than the day of one's birth [Ecclesiastes 7:1].

In the corrupted currents of this world, not only is the race not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong [Ecclesiastes 9:11], but the heart is often wrung with anguish at the sight of the just man that perisheth in his righteousness, and of the wicked man that perisheth in his righteousness, and of the wicked man that prolongeth his life in his wickedness [Ecclesiastes 7:15].

Why is it that six hundred years before the birth of the Redeemer, the sublimest of prophets, with lips touched by the hallowed fire from the hand of God, spake and said, – "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound?" [Isaiah 61:1]

And why is it, that, at the first dawn of the fulfillment of this prophecy, – at the birth-day of the Savior in the lowest condition of human existence, – the angle of the Lord came in a flood of supernatural light upon the shepherds, witnesses of the scene and said, – Fear not, for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people? Why is it, that there was suddenly with that angle, a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, – Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, – good will toward men? [Luke 2:9, 10, 13, 14]

It is generally admitted by Christians of all denominations, that the fulfillment of this prophecy commenced at the birth of the Redeemer, six hundred years after it was promulgated. That it did so commence was expressly affirmed by Jesus himself, who, on his appearance in his missionary character at Nazareth, we are told by the gospel of Luke, went into the synagogue on the Sabbath-day, and stood up to read. And there was delivered to him the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when he had opened the book, he found this very passage which I have cited. "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the broken hearted; to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound! And he closed the book, and gave it again to the minister, and sat down" [Luke 4:17, 18, 20, 21].

Yes, from that day forth shall the nations of the earth hereafter say, with the prophet, – "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace!" [Isaiah 52:7]

From that day forth shall they exclaim, Sing, O heavens, and be joyful, O earth; and break forth into singing, O mountains! for the Lord hath comforted his people, and will have mercy upon his afflicted" [Isaiah 49:13, 24-25].

From that day forth, to the question, – "Shall the prey be taken from the mighty, or the lawful captive be delivered?" – shall be returned the answer of the prophet, – "But thus saith the Lord, – Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken away, and the prey of the terrible shall be delivered; for I will contend with him that contends with thee, and I will save thy children." – "From that day forth, shall they say, commenced the opening of the last seal of prophetic felicity to the race of man upon earth, when the Lord God shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people; and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more" [Isaiah 2: 4].

Read the entire speech here:

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Rutherford B. Hayes Prays for Wisdom

 Rutherford B. Hayes was the 19th President of the United States. He was apparently a smart man. Here is a little background from the White House website:

Born in Ohio in 1822, Hayes was educated at Kenyon College and Harvard Law School. After five years of law practice in Lower Sandusky, he moved to Cincinnati, where he flourished as a young Whig lawyer. He fought in the Civil War, was wounded in action, and rose to the rank of brevet major general.

But he was also smart enough to know that he did not have all the answers to life's challenges. In a letter during some difficult considerations about bringing the country to a better place in the wake of the Civil War, he said the following:

We do not want a united North nor a united South. We want a united country. And if the great trust shall devolve upon me, I fervently pray that the Divine Being, who holds the destinies of the nations in his hands, will give me wisdom to perform its duties so as to promote the truest and best interests of the whole country.

So despite his Harvard degree he needed to consult our Creator. This has been and still is part of our country's history.

Read more here: