Liberal Myth #4: The Seperation Between Church and State.

Yes, we’ve all heard it.  You can’t put the word “God” on money because of that “wall” that Jefferson wanted between Church and State.  Can’t have the Ten Commandments in a courthouse because of the “wall” between Church and State.  Their argument is that the United States of America is a secular institution.

It’s bunk.  Nowhere in the Constitution OR the Bill of Rights is there any mention of a “wall” between Church and State.  Nowhere is there any mention that the government of the nation or individual states should be secular.  It doesn’t exist.

To say that we are nation bound under a single religion is incorrect on many fronts.  To say we are a Christian nation may be correct (depending on what you define as Christian), but we are certainly not a Christian government.  In fact, it was the express intent of the Founding Fathers to make sure that a religion – ANY religion for that matter – did not dominate or usurp our system of governance.  To say that we are a nation founded on Christian principles is only partially correct – Christianity, in virtually all forms, relies on Judaism for every thing is has.  So the notion that we are a country with a singular religious viewpoint is not entirely correct.  But we are a religion founded on Judeo-Christian principles.

However, it is a MASSIVE contradiction, based on who the Founding Fathers were, and what the Founding Fathers believed to say that we are a secular nation, or that we should be a secular nation.  And, as will be detailed later, the architects of the nation were in full agreement with that particular concept.

The Role of Religion

If you ask you average frothing-at-the-mouth anti-religion type about what role religion should pay in government, you’ll probably get “France” as a response.  The laws in France are bent towards removing religion from the public sector, and relegating it to the individual.  If you’ll remember, not too long ago, France dictated that Muslim women must remove their head scarves and religious paraphernalia when they attend the public schools.  This, of course, sparked Muslim outrage.

France has a “secular” government, which is based in the principle that people have a right for “freedom from religion.”  Then again, Communist China and Communist Vietnam also believe the same thing.

However, secularism and humanism – in their most basic forms – are de facto religions in themselves.  Your basic religion, without the trappings, is the adherence to a stated set of beliefs.  Religions, even in their most loosely organized forms, require dogma to both distinguish themselves from other religions, and create a foundation by which people may ascribe to a set of beliefs.  Thus, even while atheists don’t consider themselves religious, they do in fact ascribe to a religion; a religion whereby no God or gods exist.

All religions require faith in the face of the unknown.  To those who do not believe in a single God or gods, their faith is that none exists.  To those who believe conversely, they take it on faith that whatever deity they choose to worship does actually exist.  Absence of evidence does not constitute absence of existence, as there are many things in this world that didn’t “exist” until they were later “discovered” (and thereby existed before anyone thought they existed).  So, secularism, atheism, and humanism are all religions whether they choose to accept or deny this role.

So, the underpinnings of secularism are based on a specific religious concept.  When incorporated into a government, it thereby becomes a state-sanctioned religion, and therefore a violation of the notion of “separation of Church and State” (which is bogus anyways).  However, and I’ll warn you of this up front, you will NEVER get any anti-religious zealot to accept or acknowledge any of what I just wrote.  They will deny it until the flesh flakes from their bones.

The Supreme Court

Of course, most liberals and atheists will cite Supreme Court rulings to bolster their arguments for a strict divide between Church and State.  Firstly, using the Supreme Court as a definitive source for the “intent” of the framers, when the Supreme Court periodically changes its collective mind from one generation to another is intellectually devoid of any substance.  There are many rulings that the Supreme Court makes that violate the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. I won’t even bother to go into how some of justices, these days, look to foreign laws in order to make their decisions (especially when their main job is to interpret laws within this country, and not apply laws from other nations).  It’s a poor rebuttal.  It’s an especially poor rebuttal when you consider the following quote:

Providence has given our people the choice of their rulers, and it is the duty, as well as privilege and interest, of a Christian nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers.

The above quote was written by John Jay, the first Chief Justice for the Supreme Court of the United States.

Oops!

The Founding Fathers (or “The House That Locke Built”)

Now, the next part is going to be long.  Secularists have a fundamental ignorance concerning the purpose of an enumerated Bill of Rights in the first place.  To prove this out, lets have a little history lesson first.

After the Constitution was drafted, guys like Madison felt that their work was done. Reading the Constitution, you begin to realize that there are NO enumerated individual rights.  This is because the framers felt that no more need to be said about individual freedoms. Of course, they never expected the sheer irrationality that goes on in this day and age.

Guys like Jefferson and Mason started to realize that maybe a laundry list of rights wasn’t such a bad idea. To quote Jefferson:

It had become an universal and almost uncontroverted position in the several States, that the purposes of society do not require a surrender of all our rights to our ordinary governors; that there are certain portions of right not necessary to enable them to carry on an effective government, and which experience has nevertheless proved they will be constantly encroaching on, if submitted to them; that there are also certain fences which experience has proved peculiarly efficacious against wrong, and rarely obstructive of right, which yet the governing powers have ever shown a disposition to weaken and remove. Of the first kind, for instance, is freedom of religion; of the second, trial by jury, habeas corpus laws, free presses.

Jefferson, Mason, and a few others of like mind feared the encroachment of the state into individual liberties.  Thus, the Bill of Rights was born.

The SOLE purpose for the Bill of Rights is to L-I-M-I-T government intrusion into individual liberties. It does not place the same restriction on individuals – period.  This road only goes one frickin’ way.  And in the case of the First Amendment, there is a very good reason for this unidirectional state. I’ll get to this later.

Now, guys like Jefferson believed that morality, and the morality of the citizenry in particular, was paramount for proper governance. On this, Jefferson wrote:

I never did, or countenanced, in public life, a single act inconsistent with the strictest good faith; having never believed there was one code of morality for a public, and another for a private man.

It is strangely absurd to suppose that a million of human beings, collected together, are not under the same moral laws which bind each of them separately.

[I consider] ethics, as well as religion, as supplements to law in the government of man.

I believe that justice is instinct and innate, that the moral sense is as much a part of our constitution as that of feeling, seeing, or hearing; as a wise Creator must have seen to be necessary in an animal destined to live in society.

We are firmly convinced, and we act on that conviction, that with nations as with individuals, our interests soundly calculated will ever be found inseparable from our moral duties.

When we come to the moral principles on which the government is to be administered, we come to what is proper for all conditions of society. Liberty, truth, probity, honor, are declared to be the four cardinal principles of society. I believe that morality, compassion, generosity, are innate elements of the human constitution; that there exists a right independent of force.

John Adams wrote:

Let them revere nothing but religion, morality and liberty.

Statesmen, my dear Sir, may plan and speculate for liberty, but it is religion and morality alone, which can establish the principles upon which freedom can securely stand. The only foundation of a free Constitution is pure virtue, and if this cannot be inspired into our People in a greater Measure than they have it now, they may change their rulers and the forms of government, but they will not obtain a lasting liberty.

We have no government armed in power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Our Constitution was made only for a religious and moral people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other.

Benjamin Franklin wrote:

I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth, that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the Sacred Writings, that “except the Lord build the House, they labor in vain that build it.” I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without His concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better, than the Builders of Babel: We shall be divided by our partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall become a reproach and bye word down to future ages. And what is worse, mankind may hereafter from this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing governments by human wisdom and leave it to chance, war and conquest.

Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.

Madison:

If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place, oblige it to control itself.

Is there no virtue among us? If there be not, we are in a wretched situation. No theoretical checks-no form of government can render us secure. To suppose that any form of government will secure liberty or happiness without any virtue in the people.

In fact, if you read the writings of most of the Founding Fathers, you’ll find that they all believed in pretty much the same thing: that wise governance was a direct result of morality – both from the leaders, and ESPECIALLY the masses.  Consequently, while many of the same people mentioned were not devout, dogmatic Christians, they all expressed a belief in a singular God, and showed a preference for the Christian faith. Jefferson wrote extensively on the teachings and morality of Jesus Christ. Benjamin Franklin, while also not devout, was an advocate for the Christian faith as well.

This is because much of the Enlightenment period – where the basic principles of the country were developed – was a time where Reason and Judeo-Christian thought were intermingled. The heroes of the Founding Fathers were people like Newton and Locke.

So, they knew that morality was KEY in the preservation of a stable and just government. That’s because morality supported things like truthfulness and honor – something that the Founding Fathers recognized as the bedrock of a just society (regardless of what flaws that society may have). Where things like oaths of office, and contractual agreements were respected and upheld. Without a fundamental morality to buttress these principles, a representative republic could easily dissolve into anarchy or tyranny; the quotes I cited above allude to that very condition.

Make no mistake, the lack or religiosity in this nation is driving us towards either tyranny or reasonless anarchy.

Now, I mentioned John Locke – he is the key to all of this.  The most influential of our Founding Fathers are devotees to Locke’s philosophy and writings.  Madison was heavily influenced by him, as was Benjamin Franklin (Franklin even donated some of his writings by Locke to the Library Company of Philadelphia).  On Locke, Jefferson wrote:

I will put off till my return from America all of them except bacon, Locke, and Newton, whose pictures I will trouble you to have copied for me: and as I consider them as the three greatest men that have ever lived, without any exception, and as having laid the foundation of those superstructures which have been raise in the Physical and Moral sciences, I would wish to form them into a knot on the same canvas, that they may not be confounded at all with the herd of other great men. To do this I suppose we need only desire the copyist to draw the three busts in three ovals all contained in a larger oval in come such forms as this each bust to be the size of life. The large oval would I suppose be about between four and five feet. Perhaps you can suggest a better way.

(As a side note, Isaac Newton – the father of modern Calculus among other things – was a strong believer in the existence of a creator God.)

Locke, you see, based his principles of governance using Biblical concepts.  In fact, when you read Locke’s various trusties on civil government, you find his writings peppered with Biblical references.  For example, book II, chapter I in Of Civil Government reads:

Sect. 1. It having been shewn in the foregoing discourse,

1. That Adam had not, either by natural right of fatherhood, or by positive donation from God, any such authority over his children, or dominion over the world, as is pretended:

2. That if he had, his heirs, yet, had no right to it:

3. That if his heirs had, there being no law of nature nor positive law of God that determines which is the right heir in all cases that may arise, the right of succession, and consequently of bearing rule, could not have been certainly determined:

4. That if even that had been determined, yet the knowledge of which is the eldest line of Adam’s posterity,being so long since utterly lost, that in the races of mankind and families of the world, there remains not to one above another, the least pretence to be the eldest house, and to have the right of inheritance:

5. All these premises having, as I think, been clearly made out, it is impossible that the rulers now on earth should make any benefit, or derive any the least shadow of authority from that, which is held to be the fountain of all power, Adam’s private dominion and paternal jurisdiction: so that he that will not give just occasion to think that all government in the world is the product only of force and violence, and that men live together by no other rules but that of beasts, where the strongest carries it, and so lay a foundation for perpetual disorder and mischief, tumult, sedition and rebellion, (things that the followers of that hypothesis so loudly cry out against) must of necessity find out another rise of government, another original of political power, and another way of designing and knowing the persons that have it, than what Sir Robert Filmer hath taught us.

Locke is the strong thread that ties our Founding Fathers directly to Biblical principles, and that is through God’s initial creation of Man, and the relation of Man to God, and one man to another.  This is why nowadays, John Locke is rarely heard of in public debates over rights or religious matters.  That’s because people who want to sever any ties between a religion (or group of religions) and governance have a hard time doing this with John Locke being the driving force behind people like Jefferson.

Which brings us back to the “wall” that allegedly separates Church and State. First, no such statement exists in the Constitution, Declaration of Independence, or in the Bill of Rights. Where religion is mentioned, it is in the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights:

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

No where in there does it say that religion is expressly prohibited in government. No where does it say that a wall needs to exist between government and religion.  What is does say is that a religion cannot be formed by the state.  Secular government, as stated before, is a de facto religion, and does – in many cases – prohibit the free exercise of religion (as pointed out in the example of the French government).

The reason for this is that morality is driven by religion, and morality is essential for just governance.  Because religion is a set of stated beliefs that forms a person’s conscience.  Not only are people of conscience are the types of people you want in government in the first place, the people like Adams and Jefferson felt that they were essential for the electorate. 

Which is why politicians like Ted Kennedy, John Kerry and Nancy Pelosi are probably the LAST people that guys like Jefferson and Madison would want with their hands on the levers of power, mainly because they are more than willing to turn their backs on their religion – Roman Catholicism – so as to conform with modern (amoral) popular sentiment.  That’s because the modern politicians I noted above are Catholics in name only, and are either atheist socialists or secularists in their heart.  They use their religion’s denomination to get votes, and turn their backs on what they claim to believe.  Their hypocrisy is less a disregard for their religion, or the faults they see in their religion, but their willingness to be identified with a specific religion while openly opposing what it stands for or holds true.

Jefferson respected people who said what they meant, and meant what they said.  He was open and forthright in his disdain for the clergy, and what he considered to be the superstition that profoundly shaped much of the religious dogma.  His life and writings reflected this, and he lived as his conscience dictated – and that was his religion (of a sort). 

The Morality of America

First and foremost, guys like Jefferson and Madison believed that Liberty was a virtue, as alluded to by some of the quotes I previously identified.  Where does this notion come from?  It was forwarded by John Locke.

How?

Remember, Locke based much of his philosophy on Biblical principles.  Those who read the Bible, or have studied it deeply, know that the founding principles laid down in the Christian Bible and the Hebrew Torah can be located in Genesis.  And the main theme contained within Genesis points right back to the story of Creation.

Man is made in the image of God.

It is why Locke starts out some of his writings by identifying the relationship between God and Adam (the name of “Adam” is actually the world for “Man”).  Being made in the image of God defines certain rights, but also defines certain burdens.  Yet it is the bedrock for Mosaic Law (the laws handed down by Moses) and the teachings of Jesus.  The concept is such that we are all equal, because all men are made in the image of God, and to steal or oppress another man is to do the same thing to God; it is the ideal.  We humans may not do this so well in practice, but it is what we should aspire to.

And if you read on in the Bible, you’ll see how this is applied.  Consider the story of the Tower of Babel – a king wanting to dominate all men and bring them together under a single tower.  God confounds him.  Look at the story of Cain and Abel, where Cain slays his brother out of jealousy; the ultimate violation of basic human rights.  How about the words of the prophet Isaiah where he describes the New Jerusalem as a place where one man is able to reap the fruit of his own labors?  Or the Levitican Laws that prohibit murder, lying, stealing, and all of the basic principles today that we hold dear?  All of these support and underscore the main principle that all men are equal in the eyes of God, and the laws should reflect such equality.

Consider the axiomatic statement from Jesus Christ when he commanded, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  This is an extension of the main notion that all men are created in the Image of God, and are therefore equal to each other in the eyes of God.

Learned people – all of them raised in the Christian faith – like Jefferson, Adams, Madison, Mason, Franklin, and Washington all knew these concepts well.  The Declaration of Independence expressed them in the statement:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Without this underlying principle, everything the United States holds dear will be undone.

Locke was the one who did all the analytical work to prove all this out, and the Founding Fathers looked to Locke.  Locke looked to the Bible, and from there drew the morality that underscores our present-day civil rights.  You cannot have one without the other for very long.

Now, you don’t have to have a religion to keep these principles, but there is a long and identifiable thread that links the Founding Fathers, the morality of Liberty, to John Locke, and then to religious texts.  This also states why virtually all of the Founding Fathers felt that morality and virtue was essential for good governance.  Secularism cuts these ties, makes amoral (in the sense of that there is an absence of morality or a morally neutral stance) laws that will eventually contradict the intention of those who formed the government and the society we have today.  And, as a few like Benjamin Franklin pointed out, once this starts to happen, we sink into the cesspool of tyranny.

Religion is essential to America and the intent of the Founding Fathers.  Secularism would have been discouraged.

The Free Press

But hey, let’s take religion out of the argument.  There’s more to the First Amendment than religion.  Let’s look at Freedom of the Press, and the parallel that exists between it and freedom of religion.

Guys like Jefferson and Mason also saw a free and open press as being essential to our liberties. Not because of any altruistic motive, but because they saw the press as being the skeptical eye on government.  And through a free press, the opinions of voters and governors alike could be influenced.  In some ways, a free press is like an open, public conscience.  It has almost the exact same effect that religion does on people.  A free press influences decision-making.  A free press forms opinions.  A free press is capable of exposing and addressing wrongs within a society or governing body.  A free press – ideally – is supposed to keep people honest and honorable…unlike the slavish boot-licking they do today with Barack “The Nazarine” Obama.

On this, Jefferson wrote:

No government ought to be without censors, and where the press is free, no one ever will. If virtuous, it need not fear the fair operation of attack and defence. Nature has given to man no other means of sifting out the truth whether in religion, law or politics. I think it as honorable to the government neither to know nor notice its sycophants or censors, as it would be undignified and criminal to pamper the former and persecute the latter.

No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues to truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is the freedom of the press. It is, therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions.

Our liberty cannot be guarded but by the freedom of the press, nor that be limited without danger of losing it.

The only security of all is in a free press. The force of public opinion cannot be resisted when permitted freely to be expressed. The agitation it produces must be submitted to. It is necessary, to keep the waters pure.

The press is impotent when it abandons itself to falsehood.

However, I don’t hear the left-wing loonies call for a wall between the free press and state.  Nor do I hear a call to keep a free press from forming public opinion, or getting the free press out of government.  Nor does anyone want a state-sanctioned “free” press as our media organ (which, technically, is the function of National Public Radio and the Public Broadcasting System).  Nor do I see any prohibition or harassment from reading free press material in schools, or in the public forum.

The same amendment that protects religion also protects a free press, and places basically the same restrictions for government on both.  The government cannot abridge the press, nor can they abridge religion. 

Socialists and Revisionists

The reason why there is such a hue and cry against religion in this country is for a few of reasons.  First, because modern socialists see things like Christianity as being the major impediment for overturning what little of the intent of the Founders that’s left in our government, and establishing another Soviet-style tyranny.  Second, because people don’t want to feel guilty for being obvious creeps, and an establish set of moral codes makes it hard not to feel guilty.  Third: there is an overactive, out of control anti-establishment hysteria that has been growing for the last sixty years, and it is fed by an angry, mindless populism based mainly on envy and arrogance.  Fourth: when you can reshape morality on a whim, you can do whatever in the hell you want, and be justified in doing so.  The last suits most politicians just fine.

Another reason is because socialist infiltrators have not been as successful in warping religion as they have the press, and our educational establishments.

So, why am I singling-out socialists as villains in matters pertaining to government and religion (as well as just about everything else)?  Well, because it was Karl Marx who was a big proponent of making government completely secular.  It was Karl Marx, in his paper On The Jewish Question that said:

Nevertheless, North America is pre-eminently the country of religiosity, as Beaumont, Tocqueville, and the Englishman Hamilton unanimously assure us.

Marx also cites other authors (including Bauer, for whom the paper was aimed) in his arguments:

In the United States there is neither a state religion nor a religion declared to be that of the majority, nor the predominance of one cult over another. The state stands aloof from all cults.

Indeed, there are some North American states where “the constitution does not impose any religious belief or religious practice as a condition of political rights.

Nevertheless, “in the United States people do not believe that a man without religion could be an honest man.”

The last quote affirms what many of the Founding Fathers have written about morality and governance.  Marx then goes on to say:

The political emancipation of the Jew, the Christian, and, in general, of religious man, is the emancipation of the state from Judaism, from Christianity, from religion in general. In its own form, in the manner characteristic of its nature, the state as a state emancipates itself from religion by emancipating itself from the state religion – that is to say, by the state as a state not professing any religion, but, on the contrary, asserting itself as a state. The political emancipation from religion is not a religious emancipation that has been carried through to completion and is free from contradiction, because political emancipation is not a form of human emancipation which has been carried through to completion and is free from contradiction.

And here you have the groundwork for a secular – or “atheist” – government free from all religiosity.  Hence, the socialist drive to implement a secular government, when their lord and master (Karl Marx) clearly identifies the historic attitude of previous generations of Americans when it came to matters of the state and religion.

In Summation

Whether you follow the thread from the Bill of Rights, to the Founding Fathers, to John Locke, and then to the Bible or simply look at the writings of the Founding Fathers themselves when it came to virtue in government, you cannot get past the fact that the government of the United States of America relies heavily on religion.  Or you can look to the writings of those who advocate secular government to see how, in the past, America was a nation of religious people who felt that people without religious sentiment should not be elected to office.  Either way you slice it, religion is as essential to the United States as is a free and unobstructed press.

The Bill of Rights prevents government from making its own religion, but does not expressly state that religion MUST be removed from government.  By looking at the intent of the founders, it is very clear why this is.  Secularism was – in no way, shape, or form – EVER expected to be the rule by which government functioned.

So, in summation:   they’re wrong.

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4 Responses to Liberal Myth #4: The Seperation Between Church and State.

  1. Doug Indeap says:

    The phrase “separation of church and state” is but a metaphor to describe the underlying principle of the First Amendment and the no-religious-test clause of the Constitution. That the phrase does not appear in the text of the Constitution assumes much importance, it seems, only to those who may have once labored under the misimpression it was there and later learned they were mistaken. To those familiar with the Constitution, the absence of the metaphor commonly used to describe one of its principles is no more consequential than the absence of other phrases (e.g., Bill of Rights, separation of powers, checks and balances, fair trial, religious liberty) used to describe other undoubted Constitutional principles.

    Some try to pass off the Supreme Court’s decision in Everson v. Board of Education as simply a misreading of Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists–as if that is the only basis of the Court’s decision. Instructive as that letter is, it played but a small part in the Court’s decision. Perhaps even more than Jefferson, James Madison influenced the Court’s view. Madison, who had a central role in drafting the Constitution and the First Amendment, confirmed that he understood them to “[s]trongly guard[] . . . the separation between Religion and Government.” Madison, Detached Memoranda (~1820). He made plain, too, that they guarded against more than just laws creating state sponsored churches or imposing a state religion. Mindful that even as new principles are proclaimed, old habits die hard and citizens and politicians could tend to entangle government and religion (e.g., “the appointment of chaplains to the two houses of Congress” and “for the army and navy” and “[r]eligious proclamations by the Executive recommending thanksgivings and fasts”), he considered the question whether these actions were “consistent with the Constitution, and with the pure principle of religious freedom” and responded: “In strictness the answer on both points must be in the negative. The Constitution of the United States forbids everything like an establishment of a national religion.”

    As secularism refers to the idea of keeping government and religion separate, it is oxymoronic to term secularism itself a religion. Doing so would seem to render the very concept of secularism an impossibility–since keeping government and (real) religion separate would itself be deemed a religion in which the government is somehow joined. I’m picturing a dog chasing its tail. Or a collision of matter and anti-matter.

    While many founders were Christian of one sort or another, care should be taken not to make too much of the founders’ individual religious beliefs. Given the republican nature of our government, it is only natural and expected that the laws enacted by our government–in both the founders’ time and today–largely reflect Christianity’s dominant influence in our society. That said, there is no reason to suppose that Christianity or theism is an inherent aspect of our government. Indeed, any such claim is antithetical to the constitutional principle of separation of religion and state.

    In assessing the nature of our government, the religiosity of the various founders, while informative, is largely beside the point. Whatever their religions, they drafted a Constitution that plainly establishes a secular government on the power of the people (not a deity) and says nothing substantive of god(s) or religion except in the First Amendment where the point is to confirm that each person enjoys religious liberty and that the government is not to take steps to establish religion and another provision precluding any religious test for public office. This is entirely consistent with the fact that some founders professed their religiosity and even their desire that Christianity remain the dominant religious influence in American society. Why? Because religious people who would like to see their religion flourish in society may well believe that separating religion and government will serve that end and, thus, in founding a government they may well intend to keep it separate from religion. It is entirely possible for thoroughly religious folk to found a secular government and keep it separate from religion. That, indeed, is just what the founders did.

    While some draw meaning from the reference to “Nature’s God” and “Creator” in the Declaration of Independence and try to connect that meaning to the Constitution, the effort, I think, is baseless. Apart from the fact that these references could mean any number of things (some at odds with the Christian idea of God), there is no “legal” connection or effect between the two documents. Important as the Declaration is in our history, it did not operate to bring about independence, nor did it found a government. The colonists issued the Declaration not to effect their independence, but rather to explain and justify the move to independence that was already well underway. Nothing in the Constitution depends on anything said in the Declaration. Nor does anything said in the Declaration purport to limit or define the government later formed by the free people of the former colonies; nor could it even if it purported to do so. Once independent, the people of the former colonies could choose whatever form of government they deemed appropriate. They were not somehow limited by anything said in the Declaration. Sure, they could take it as inspiration and guidance if, and to the extent, they chose–or they could not. They could have formed a theocracy if they wished–or, as they ultimately chose, a secular government founded on the power of the people.

    It is important, as you note, to distinguish “individual” from “government” speech on religion. The First Amendment protects the right of individuals to exercise their religions–publicly and privately. You seem to discount, though, that it also and constrains the government not to promote or otherwise take steps toward establishment of religion. As government can only act through the individuals comprising its ranks, when those individuals are performing their official duties (e.g., public school teachers instructing students in class), they effectively are the government and thus should conduct themselves in accordance with the First Amendment’s constraints on government. When acting in their individual capacities, they are free to exercise their religions as they please. If their right to free exercise of religion extended even to their discharge of their official responsibilities, however, the First Amendment constraints on government establishment of religion would be eviscerated. While figuring out whether someone is speaking for the government may sometimes be difficult, making the distinction is critical.

    The First Amendment embodies the simple, just idea that each of us should be free to exercise his or her religious views without expecting that the government will endorse or promote those views and without fearing that the government will endorse or promote the religious views of others. By keeping government and religion separate, the establishment clause serves to protect the freedom of all to exercise their religion. Reasonable people may differ, of course, on how these principles should be applied in particular situations, but the principles are hardly to be doubted. Moreover, they are good, sound principles that should be nurtured and defended, not attacked. Efforts to undercut our secular government by somehow merging or infusing it with religion should be resisted by every patriot.

    Wake Forest University recently published a short, objective Q&A primer on the current law of separation of church and state–as applied by the courts rather than as caricatured in the blogosphere. I commend it to you. http://tiny.cc/6nnnx

  2. unknownconservative says:

    Ok…where do I start with this?

    First and foremost, if you want to be verbose, start your own blog.

    While many founders were Christian of one sort or another, care should be taken not to make too much of the founders’ individual religious beliefs. Given the republican nature of our government, it is only natural and expected that the laws enacted by our government–in both the founders’ time and today–largely reflect Christianity’s dominant influence in our society. That said, there is no reason to suppose that Christianity or theism is an inherent aspect of our government. Indeed, any such claim is antithetical to the constitutional principle of separation of religion and state.

    Once more: much of what went into both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution is drawn directly from the Bible. This is further reinforced by the fact that Locke was not only one of the most influential thinkers that inspired people like Adams, Madison, Jefferson, and Washington (and if you do a little research you’ll find that all of these men were inspired or heavily influenced by either Locke’s writings directly, or by mentors who were heavily influenced by Locke). Locke was so influential among the Founding Fathers that Jefferson often had to respond to allegations of plagiarism when he used now the phrase in the Declaration of Independence that noted that our rights were inalienable, and that we have the right to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. This virtually mirrored Locke’s “Concerning the True Original Extent and End of Civil Government.”

    Locke, of course, is the one who, though his numerous writings, ties the inalienable nature of our rights to our relationship with God.

    As far as the extend of Christianity’s influence into our founding documents, it should also be noted that nearly half of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were either educated or trained in a seminary, or held a seminary degree. Virtually all of them, including the ever mum Madison, would have defined themselves as Christian, and believing in the Christian God.

    And as I believe it was Jefferson that pointed out that a man cannot allow himself to be governed by two moral codes: one public, the other private. Thus, while this is a not a Christian nation, it is based on Judeo-Christian principles, drawn from Judeo-Christian foundations, and is so intertwined with that type of thinking that it cannot be decanted or separated without irreparable harm to this nation.

    You’re wrong.

    It is entirely possible for thoroughly religious folk to found a secular government and keep it separate from religion. That, indeed, is just what the founders did.

    First, no they didn’t. No where in any of the founding documents is there expressed a need for a secular government. Period. This is a fabrication that people like you make up out of whole cloth. And for every quote you dredge up that you think proves your point, I can dredge up three others that prove mine.

    Second, the Soviet state was a secular institution imposed on a populace that was almost exclusively Russian Orthodox. There were horribly few atheist components within the Russian Empire during the time of the Russian Revolution.

    What happened after that was a systematic dismantling of the Russian Orthodox Church, persecutions of the Jews, and other forms of religious persecution that makes the Crusades look like a stroll down a country lane.

    Consequently, the communists of Vietnam have set up what is essentially a secular form of government. It controls and regulates what any given religion can preach, espouse, and when people can gather.

    As I’ve also illustrated, France has a secular government. In fact, France is proud they have a secular government. They also tell people when they can be religious, and when they cannot.

    Any religion is a defined set of beliefs placed into dogmatic form. Anyone who tries to deny this is fooling themselves. Secularism is a religion. It tries to dominate the actions of men as a means of regulating equity for all. It is a religion that is hostile to all other religions, and in the end will either destroy or suppress them much as Islam dries to destroy or suppress Judaism and/or Christianity.

    Human history is not on your side, son.

    While some draw meaning from the reference to “Nature’s God” and “Creator” in the Declaration of Independence and try to connect that meaning to the Constitution, the effort, I think, is baseless. Apart from the fact that these references could mean any number of things (some at odds with the Christian idea of God), there is no “legal” connection or effect between the two documents.

    Yeah, no more than a thesis statement has any “legal” connection to the rest of a report. Seriously, are you high?

    What in the hell do you think the Bill of Rights were for? To guarantee that the principles laid out in the Declaration of Independence were both established, and set into stone so that future generations could live as the conscience of the Founding Fathers dictated.

    As far as the reference to Nature’s God or Creator, not only were these literary phrases, but the term Nature’s God was used to marry the Judeo-Christian creator God to the concept of Natural Law. Seeing that it is the Judeo-Christian notion that since God made the world, and Nature within, that God’s law is Natural Law.

    This is further bolstered by the fact that nearly all of the Founding Fathers, in both official and private writings explicitly names and called upon the Judeo-Christian God more times than I can count. Washington did it as president, so did Jefferson, Adams, Madison, and so on. So what you’re essentially saying is that the people who literally risked their lives in a Revolution – on which the odds of success were stacked against them – went out of their way to omit any references to the Judeo-Christian God in the founding documents of this country, only to completely ignore such sentiments once they secured a political office in that new government.

    Call me crazy, but is someone risks their family, life, and property – literally all they have – for their principles and ideals, they are highly unlikely to throw those things under the bus just to secure political office. As much as people would like to place modern sentiment into the Founding Fathers, they were people who strongly believed in their cause, strongly believed in the oaths they took, and had moral character that we can scarcely comprehend in this overly legalistic and amoral day and age. Of all the presidents and congressmen from that age until now, the Founding Fathers were the least likely to undermine the principles by which this nation was forged. So the obvious rebuttal that they caved to popular sentiment or were seduced by political sentiments is totally absurd.

    Nowhere in either history or any of the founding documents do I see any references to Valhalla, Buddhism, the Greek Pantheon of gods, Osiris and his buds, or Confucian philosophy. However, given enough time and the blatant revisionism I see going on here, and before long we’ll find that all of the Founding Fathers were ardent followers of H. P. Lovecraft, and therefore set up the Constitution to bring about the awakening of He That Sleeps…

    It is important, as you note, to distinguish “individual” from “government” speech on religion. The First Amendment protects the right of individuals to exercise their religions–publicly and privately. You seem to discount, though, that it also and constrains the government not to promote or otherwise take steps toward establishment of religion. As government can only act through the individuals comprising its ranks, when those individuals are performing their official duties (e.g., public school teachers instructing students in class), they effectively are the government and thus should conduct themselves in accordance with the First Amendment’s constraints on government. When acting in their individual capacities, they are free to exercise their religions as they please. If their right to free exercise of religion extended even to their discharge of their official responsibilities, however, the First Amendment constraints on government establishment of religion would be eviscerated. While figuring out whether someone is speaking for the government may sometimes be difficult, making the distinction is critical.

    This is probably the most idiotic of what you’ve written thus far.

    While a government cannot act without individuals comprising their ranks, there is NOTHING in any of the founding documents, or in any of the writings of the Founding Fathers that say that once a person becomes a part of the government, their religious opinions become null and void. There is nothing that says they must divorce themselves from their religion. In fact, everything that exists only points to the contrary.

    What you’re advocating is that the government should regulate the religious beliefs and speech of people within its ranks, and is a direct violation of the Bill of Rights. If that’s the case, we need to remove ministers from the military (because people in the Army / Navy / Air Force / Marines are public employees virtually 24 x 7), we need to eliminate allowing he use of public facilities for religious worship (in fact, the use of things like schools public facilities for religious gatherings and worship has been a long-standing tradition in this nation), remove any objects from civil servants while they are on the clock like cross necklaces, prohibit the teaching of any religious philosophy in our public institutions (like universities), and eliminate the congressional prayer that is offered when Congress convenes for session.

    The fact is that Madison – the most restrictive of the Founding Fathers when it came to religion – had no issue allowing Congress to institute the office of a minister, and allowing for a Congressional prayer. He also signed legislation that used public funds for Bible distributions. In fact, virtually all of the Founding Fathers that subsequently went into the public sector allowed the use of public funds for overt “religious” uses.

    In short, the very thing that you describe as being prescribed by the Bill of Rights is also a violation of the Bill of Rights, and it is revisionist. The people who forged this country into existence saw it as an open marketplace of thoughts and ideas. Documents like the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights are the framework by which that open marketplace remains truly open. And while no one wants a teacher evangelizing to young children captive in a classroom, it is also a direct violation of the principles on which this country was founded to prevent people from identifying what religious beliefs they hold, or even explaining to a young child what it is that they believe.

    As Jefferson pointed out, you cannot be two people: a public person and a private person. A person cannot follow two distinct moral codes: one public, and one private. What you claim is in direct contradiction of what Jefferson believed.

    As for further rebuttal, I’ve since completely picked-apart your arguments and illustrated the absurdity of what you espouse. The rest of this nonsense is no longer worth my time or effort.

    Try picking up a history book some time, and save the mindless propaganda for those more easily impressed.

  3. Doug Indeap says:

    You note the influence of Christianity on the thinking of some influential in the founding of our government. From that you seem to want it both ways: You say that “this is a not a Christian nation (sic),” but also that “it is based on Judeo-Christian principles” and then circle back to conclude that it “is so intertwined with that type of thinking that it cannot be decanted or separated without irreparable harm to this nation.” Whatever all that means and how it differs, if at all, from my point (i.e., while it is natural that Christianity influences the laws enacted by our republican government, that is not to say that Christianity is inherent in the nature of our government) is not apparent.

    You continue to object to describing our government as secular, yet fail to address that the nature of our government (i.e., established by a Constitution founded on the power of the people (not a deity) that says nothing substantive of god(s) or religion except in the First Amendment where the point is to confirm that each person enjoys religious liberty and that the government is not to take steps to establish religion and another provision precluding any religious test for public office) is secular, as that term is commonly defined. In noting that our government is secular, I’m not offering a contention for argument, so much as observing a fact.

    You again insist on calling secularism a religion, yet fail to address that that contradicts the very definition of the term. Maybe it means something different to you than others; if so, explain your terms. Why it is important to you to label secularism a religion warrants explanation as well. What’s the point?

    In response to the indisputable fact that the Declaration of Independence could not and did not limit or define the government later formed by the free people of the former colonies in the Constitution, you do little but fume in disbelief that religious folk would fight to form a government separate from religion. But given the ways of the times, the omission of anything substantive of god(s) in the Constitution can hardly be but intentional.

    With respect to the distinction between “individual” and “government” speech on religion, I said nothing to the effect that “once a person becomes a part of the government, their religious opinions become null and void.” To the contrary, I affirmed that the First Amendment continues to protect their “individual” rights in this regard. While speaking and acting for the government, though, they must abide by the First Amendment’s limits on government. If you fail or refuse to recognize that distinction, you will be unable to understand how the establishment and free exercise clauses work.

    Finally, take note that repetition with even more condescension adds no weight to your arguments.

  4. unknownconservative says:

    You note the influence of Christianity on the thinking of some influential in the founding of our government. From that you seem to want it both ways: You say that “this is a not a Christian nation (sic),” but also that “it is based on Judeo-Christian principles” and then circle back to conclude that it “is so intertwined with that type of thinking that it cannot be decanted or separated without irreparable harm to this nation.” Whatever all that means and how it differs, if at all, from my point (i.e., while it is natural that Christianity influences the laws enacted by our republican government, that is not to say that Christianity is inherent in the nature of our government) is not apparent.

    It can’t be a strictly Christian government if Jewish principles are also in play. That’s why people who follow Christ are called “Christians” and the people who strictly follow the Law of Moses are called “Jews.” While they have a common root, they are two different and distinct religions.

    Get it? Or do I need to go back and explain the books Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Exodus?

    You’re sitting there all hung-up on the trappings of religion, thinking that any religious principles applied to a government therefore makes it a theocracy, which is patently untrue. The fact that we are all equal in the eyes of the Law comes from the fact that we are all made in the image of the Creator (God), a principle taken directly from the Book of Genesis. This the reason why Rutherford was able to argue for a constitutionally-limited monarchy, and why Locke’s writings on government start with the defining of how Adam relates to God, his environment, to Eve, and to his children.

    It didn’t come from the Koran, or the Egyptian Book of the Dead. No one plucked these ideas out of the air, or pulled them from the writings of Plato. It came from the Bible – an overtly religious book.

    But you won’t see a huge discussion in the writings of Locke as they relate to government concerning things like when people should be baptized, whether the God of the Bible is a triune God, whether his nature to Man is personal or impersonal, whether good works or Faith alone are the keys to entering Heaven, or even if Jesus Christ was divine or simply a mortal. The main reason for this: they had nothing to do with the workings of governance. These are liturgical matters, and completely outside the scope of what people like Locke and Rutherford were summarizing.

    So, if I say the principles of this country are not only Biblical in nature, but based on a Judeo-Christian ethic, it is both truthful and accurate.

    If I say this is not a Christian nation it is also truthful and accurate.

    And if I say that our government is not a secular institution it is also truthful and accurate, as a secular government is devoid of all religious trappings (which it clearly isn’t).

    You continue to object to describing our government as secular, yet fail to address that the nature of our government (i.e., established by a Constitution founded on the power of the people (not a deity) that says nothing substantive of god(s) or religion except in the First Amendment where the point is to confirm that each person enjoys religious liberty and that the government is not to take steps to establish religion and another provision precluding any religious test for public office) is secular, as that term is commonly defined. In noting that our government is secular, I’m not offering a contention for argument, so much as observing a fact.

    Secularism assumes the absence of religious influence. I have been quite specific all along that this nation was founded on specific religious principles, and our laws founded on moral precepts. I’ve pointed out where the founding principles by which this nation was founded come directly from Biblical sources. In fact, if you dig deeper than John Locke, you’ll find the source of his philosophy concerning governance coming directly from the writings of one notable Presbyterian minister and his historic work Lex Rex.

    Our government is also not founded on the “power of the people,” but exists by the consent of the governed – there is a difference. The notion that the government exists by the power of the governed is pure fantasy. This is also the reason why in the preamble of the Constitution says that the government being established is to “secure the Blessings of Liberty.” A blessing is essentially a gift given by someone or something else. One does not bless themselves. The Blessings of Liberty are given the people by a higher power, namely God.

    Where you get the notion of government being a “secular” institution, when it has printed money that cites the name of God, when the founding documents of said government cite the name of the Creator, and was founded by a bunch of Christians that make modern-day fundamentalists look like virtual libertines is beyond me. You can call your error a statement of fact if that makes you feel better about being wrong, but in the end you are still just…well…wrong.

    Then again, if you ignore the writings of the Founding Fathers, and all of the key writings they relied upon, then I guess you could call yourself “correct.”

    You again insist on calling secularism a religion, yet fail to address that that contradicts the very definition of the term. Maybe it means something different to you than others; if so, explain your terms. Why it is important to you to label secularism a religion warrants explanation as well. What’s the point?

    Have you actually read my post?

    Seriously? Have you? I mean, for cripes sake, I frickin’ defined what a religion is already. I guess I’ll have to repeat it for you.

    All religions are a set of beliefs based that follow a certain doctrine. Secularism, and even atheism have a set of fundamental beliefs that adhere to a doctrine. Atheists have a belief that no God or gods exist, which in itself is a belief founded on faith. Absence of proof does not define the absence of the Divine. There are LOTS of things that exist in this Universe of ours outside of our present knowledge and comprehension. Just because we don’t know about them, or cannot comprehend their existence does not mean they don’t exist. At one time, antibiotics didn’t “exist” because we didn’t know about them. They didn’t just magically show up on a screwed-up Petri dish.

    If you think that a religion has to have at least one deity to qualify, or some transcendent afterlife, then you are pretty ignorant to myriad number of beliefs both past and present. And frankly, I don’t have the time or inclination to school you. So if you want more information, try reading a few books on the subject.

    In response to the indisputable fact that the Declaration of Independence could not and did not limit or define the government later formed by the free people of the former colonies in the Constitution, you do little but fume in disbelief that religious folk would fight to form a government separate from religion. But given the ways of the times, the omission of anything substantive of god(s) in the Constitution can hardly be but intentional.

    Oh this is just plain idiotic.

    Yeah. The same guys who wrote the Declaration of Independence just threw everything they believed overboard, despite risking their lives for their principles, and drafted something right out of left field. For kicks and giggles.

    Yeah, that’s it.

    (I hope the sarcasm wasn’t lost on anyone.)

    The Declaration of Independence was a set of stated principles. The Constitution organizes and defines the working of government. Both of them had deep roots in the Constitution for the Commonwealth of Virginia. Both Madison and Jefferson worked on that document. In fact, George Mason also put his hand in to their Declaration of Rights, one of which (and ironically, the part that defines religious freedom) states:

    That religion, or the duty which we owe to our Creator and the manner of discharging it, can be directed by reason and conviction, not by force or violence; and therefore, all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion…

    Just so you know, capitalized “Creator” means “God.” Not Zeus, Jupiter, or Kali.

    No one with a brain denies any of this. In fact, most mainstream historians will tell you that the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Virginia, and it associated bill of enumerated rights was the foundation for the Constitution, Declaration of Independence, and the Bill of Rights.

    In short: they all had the same source, penned pretty much by the same group of people.

    Read a history book, for cripes sake.

    With respect to the distinction between “individual” and “government” speech on religion, I said nothing to the effect that “once a person becomes a part of the government, their religious opinions become null and void.” To the contrary, I affirmed that the First Amendment continues to protect their “individual” rights in this regard. While speaking and acting for the government, though, they must abide by the First Amendment’s limits on government. If you fail or refuse to recognize that distinction, you will be unable to understand how the establishment and free exercise clauses work.

    This is just plain idiotic. Seriously – are you actually reading the crap you’re posting here?

    If someone is speaking or acting on behalf of the government, there is nothing in the Bill of Rights that states that they cannot espouse their personal religious views. Nothing. Nada. In fact, this nation has a long and distinguished history of elected representatives being sent to Congress and/or the White House who were elected because of their religious views. We have a long history in this nation – going all the way back to George Washington – of elected representatives invoking and stating their religious viewpoints as an official part of their office. That is unless you’re now going to tell me that our elected representatives aren’t extensions of the government?

    I mean, I wouldn’t put it past you at this point.

    Or maybe that the guys who wrote and signed-off on all of this alleged “secularist government” stuff suddenly got amnesia?

    The whole point and purpose of First Amendment was to protect both religious and political speech / expression, mainly because both often got you jailed in other nations. I know that some people these days think it is there so that they can look at free p0rn on the Internet, but in the days of the Founding Fathers coming out in support of the Roman Catholic Church or speaking ill of King George meant you ran afoul of the authorities. The First Amendment protections were there to make sure that dialog was open and free, regardless of where you work, or what you did for a living…and that includes civil service.

    An individual is an individual regardless of whether they work as a bureaucrat, or an office secretary. And the government cannot impede on their religious freedoms. Period.

    Save the convoluted word games for the easily impressed and duped.

    Finally, take note that repetition with even more condescension adds no weight to your arguments.

    Repetition? You mean like claiming that the government of the United States is a secular institution, when it clearly isn’t? You mean that kind of repetition?

    It would help if some of the stuff you’re using to argue your point wasn’t a) based on delusional fantasy, b) devoid of credible historical justification, and c) completely idiotic.

    Sorry, but I call ’em like I see ’em.

    While you may take issue with my condescension as adding no weight to my arguments, the lack of proof – historical or otherwise – undercuts and nullifies basically all of your statements. Just because you suppose that religious people could create a secular government does not mean that the nation founded by people like Jefferson, Madison, et al is a truly secular government – it isn’t. Their writings show that it isn’t. The constant references to a monotheistic God in the foundational documents also proves that it isn’t secular. And the people who inspired the Founding Fathers with concepts and principles pulled right out of the Book of Genesis kinda makes a point that it is not a secular government.

    While we are not a Christian nation, we are also not secular. Cripes, when I can cite Karl Marx’s observations (Mr. Religion-Is-The Opiate-Of-The-Masses) that the United States of America isn’t a secular government it should be a big frickin’ indicator – one with big, blinking neon lights – that this is not a secular nation.

    My snide, backhanded rebuttals may not add weight to my arguments, but frankly you have no argument at all. All you have is essentially, ‘cuz I sez so.” This may sound reasonable to you, but to the rest of us…notsomuch. So, unless you’ve got a stash of Jefferson’s super-secret writings unknown to the rest of the world, or Madison on videotape renouncing everything he claimed to believe, you’ve got a bit of an uphill battle winning this debate. My suggestion is that the next comment you post offers something more, or I will not post it to the site.

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