Saturday, January 29, 2011

Alexander Hamilton - Our Rights Come from the Divine

Alexander Hamilton was the first United States Secretary of Treasury, and was a signer of the U.S. Constitution. We hear it said often (just do a Google search) that our Founders were mostly atheists and that religious faith played no real part in our founding. That is easily argued against by perusing the writings of these men.

The University of Chicago has some fine web pages, including a series of Hamilton's writings. On the page covering Feb. 23, 1775, we find this quote:

The sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for, among old parchments, or musty records. They are written, as with a sun beam, in the whole volume of human nature, by the hand of the divinity itself; and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power.

Read more on the University's site:

Right of Revolution

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

No Christianity Allowed in Home Schooling

The New Hampshire Supreme Court just declared that a home-schooled child must now be sent to public schools. It did not start as an uncommon story. The child's parents are divorced. Custodial Mom was doing the home schooling, Dad preferred public school.

Often divorced parents don't agree on how children should be treated in any number of ways. It would not be too surprising to hear a judge side with the notion that a home-schooled kid was too sheltered, or did not get a quality education. In this case, though, the student was doing very well academically and all agreed she was happy and doing well socially.

No, this time the objection was that the mom was too "Christian" in her approach. The court said:

"It would be remarkable if a ten year old child who spends her school time with her mother and the vast majority of her other time with her mother would seriously consider adopting any other religious point of view. Amanda’s vigorous defense of her religious beliefs to the counselor suggests strongly that she has not had the opportunity to seriously consider any other point of view."

That statement assumes that the courts have the right to say the custodial parent does not have the right to teach her own religious beliefs to her child. Can someone point to the clause in the U.S. or New Hampshire constitution that gives the state the right to determine what is a proper religious upbringing (assuming no laws are being broken and no harm comes to the child). In fact, the U.S. Constitution specifically says it is not the government's business at all, which is expressed by saying that the government shall make no law prohibiting the free exercise of religion.

Read more below:

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Donations OK, but Not to Churches?

In Polk Country, Florida, the Sheriff's department is in the news. They are donating no-longer-needed basketball equipment to eight local churches. But the Atheists of  Florida are complaining because they say that government money is supporting churches.

The Sheriff's motive appears to have been directed at the best use of the equipment. They are particularly concerned with providing a place for teens to assemble productively - the "get them off the streets" in other words. This is a common goal of law enforcement and community groups. The equipment will be outside, rather than behind locked doors.

Suppose the department had donated the equipment to the parks department or to a non-religious community group. Would there have been a complaint then? I personally believe there would not have been the same reaction. Would it be OK if these tax-provided leftovers were donated to any group except a religious group? That seems like reverse discrimination to me. Once again the so-called "separation of church and state" was invoked by the group complaining. Is this action the same as a body of law establishing an official religion? That is what "separation of church and state" intended to address, if one stops to read the First Amendment of our Constitution.

Read more below:

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Do We Learn Both Sides of Our Country's Founding?

I learned in school about a few of our nation's religious roots. At that time public schools taught about the religious motivations of the Pilgrims, for example. But a lot of the religious underpinnings of our founding were not mentioned. That's probably appropriate, given the sheer amount of data that had to be covered to catch me up on all those years between Columbus and the 20th Century.

There is more to the story, and my reading in more recent years has been very educational. It filled out a lot of the color of our history. I have seen where our first Congress met. I stood in the room and had a sense of awe at the history that room held. Now that I know the Founders opened their first Congress with prayer and a Bible reading, it colors it in a bit more, not so much as a religious story, but to show the importance the Founders gave to their tasks. The work was too much for the minds of even these smart folks. They needed God's help.

Dr. William Bennett, former Secretary of Education, has written several books about the country and its history. One of his recent efforts is the American Patriot's Almanac. In the revised edition he added a section titled "Faith and the Founders." Here is a nice summary from that a paragraph in that chapter:

"The Founders or this country were mostly Christians. They drew deeply from the wellsprings of the Judeo-Christian tradition for the underlying philosophy of the republic. Histories that ignore this side of the American story leave out a crucial part. As the scholar Michael Novak has written in his book On Two Wings, 'a purely secular interpretation of the founding runs aground on massive evidence.'"

Read more in the book shown here. It is a good value.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Martin Luther King, Jr - Reverend

The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. was both on January 15, 1929, and this year his federal holiday falls on January 17. I think most schools talk about King; many cities have streets named for him, and we hear about him on television often, especially around this time of the year.

I have been casually observing the manner of addressing King within the media. He held a doctoral degree and a divinity degree. In manuals of style, the correct form of address for such a person would be "The Reverend Doctor..." However, the common form I hear is "Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr." His widow has declared that King was most proud of the title Reverend.

But in news stories he is not addressed the way he would have preferred. I found the following numbers when I did a search on Google for these various forms of his name, searching only in the "News" category:

"Dr. Martin Luther King" - 3,060 results
"Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King" - 2 results
"Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King" -  25 results
"Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King" - 279 results

It is almost certain appropriate to remember that "Reverend" should be attached to his name. In his public work he was outspoken about religious roots of his beliefs and teaching. Consider a famous event in his life, which his front porch was bombed while his family was at home. King rushed into the home to learn their fate and found them safe. There was a very angry mom of King supporters in his front yard, many with weapons. Reporters on the scene were being blocked from departing and had reason to fear for their safety.

King walked onto the porch and said, in part:

"Don’t get your weapons. If you have weapons, take them home. He who lives by the sword will perish by the sword. Remember that is what Jesus said. We are not advocating violence. We want to love our enemies. I want you to love our enemies. Be good to them. This is what we must live by. We must meet hate with love.’”

When the crowd of several hundred was silent, he continued, “I did not start this boycott. I was asked by you to serve as your spokesman. I want it to be known the length and breadth of this land that if I am stopped, this movement will not stop. If I am stopped, our work will not stop. For what we are doing is right. What we are doing is just. And God is with us.”

(As presented on Rhapsody of Books)

So this year, let's remember that he was not JUST Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He was Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Cross Declared Unconstitutional

The Mount Soledad Cross is back in the news again. The cross belongs to the American Legion and was erected 57 years ago as a war memorial. Part of the complaint in this case is that it exists on government land.

The First Amendment addresses religion and government, and prohibits the government from establishing a national religion to which citizens must adhere. Allowing the Legion to maintain this cross is hardly the same as establishing an official religion.

The complaint was brought by the ACLU on behalf of Jewish war veterans. And now the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has found the cross to be unconstitutional.

Certainly I sympathize with Jewish veterans who might feel "left out" when the see the cross. But a symbol erected by a private organization is not required to be all inclusive. And I can see that, if the Legion wishes a religious recognition, it would be difficult to do so without leaving out some group or other.

The Ninth Circuit decision in this case seems to ignore a U.S. Supreme Court decision in favor of a different cross in the Mojave National Preserve. And it also seems to dramatically expand the meaning of the First Amendment.

Read more below:

And read this informative insight from the Heritage Foundation:

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Harry Truman - Too Religious to Be a President?

It seems as though a public official can't be deemed as too religious and have a hope of being elected. Or they might at least expect some kind of "religious zealot" theme in articles against them. After all, we have separation of church and state, right?

Did you know that President Truman said a daily prayer? Would it make citizens or the press uneasy if they learned that our current President said a prayer every day?

We have seen school systems forced to remove prayer as a daily routine. What if the students said the same prayer that Truman used? The very idea of students saying a common prayer would not be accepted today, and in our current society I'm not sure I would want students being lead in prayer by their teacher. But what part of the Truman prayer would be objectionable? What part of this would we not want to teach our young folk to believe?

Daily Prayer of President Harry S. Truman:

"Oh! Almighty and Everylasting God, Creator of heaven, earth and the universe, help me to be, to think, to act what is right, because it is right. Make me truthful, honest and honorable in all things. Make me intellectually honest for the sake of right and honor and without thought of reward to me. Give me the ability to be charitable, forgiving and patient with my fellowmen -- help me to understand their motives and their shortcomings -- even as Thou understandest mine! Amen, amen, amen."

As found in the American Patriot's Almanac, by William J. Bennett and John T.E. Cobb, revised edition.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Should Public School Choirs Sing Christmas Music at Christmas?

I have written before about various public school "holiday" concerts where the music directors were forced to not include any Christmas music. The justification is generally a misconception of the so-called "separation of church and state."  The below has a good discussion of this issue. It is written from the perspectives of school personnel who actually have to deal with the issue.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Boca Raton: Menorah, Yes - Nativity, No

Sometimes it is easy to understand the logic city officials use to say that no religious displays are permitted on city property. As I have pointed out several times previously, such a prohibition is not required by the Constitution, but some claim that it is.

But in Boca Raton, Florida, it is harder to understand the officials' logic. The do allow religious displays, but do not allow a nativity scene. The officials say that they are giving Christians an equal voice by having displays of Christmas trees and snowflakes. Those are secular symbols, and are displayed in non-Christian environments. Walk around Toyko, for example, and you will see such symbols everywhere. There is no intent to recognize the divinity of Christ; it is simply part of the commercial Christmas buying season. One could use Frosty the Snowman on a similar basis. On the other hand, a Menorah is a religious symbol with Biblical roots.

Read more at the link below:

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Now the Federal Reserve Bans Christmas

A bank in Perkins, Oklahoma, found out the hard way. They had some quotes appropriate for the Christmas season (assuming you think Christmas is somehow related to Christianity) within the bank and on their website. But the Federal Reserve said that is against its rules. Those sayings might be in conflict with their Regulation B, which can disallow things on this basis: "...the use of words, symbols, models and other forms of communication ... express, imply or suggest a discriminatory preference or policy of exclusion."

Is the bank allowed to close on Christmas if they would otherwise be open on that day of the week? Would not that be a "policy of exclusion"? For that matter, if Christmas day fell on a Wednesday this year would the Fed's offices be open?

I have talked in the past about the "war on Christmas" and received comments that there is no such thing. Read the last several posts on this blog and see what you think. Perhaps this particular incident is not a war on Christmas, but one has to wonder whether the Fed would have cracked down similarly if the bank used phrases that recognized a Muslim holiday during the appropriate dates.

Read more here:

Feds Force Okla. Bank To Remove Crosses, Bible Verse