Home » Constitution, Culture, Religion » Separation of Church and State

Separation of Church and State

This is for ForTheKids (FTK) to discuss separation of church and state. An important topic IMO. I deleted her opening separation comment on the DCA Update II thread as well as responses because I wanted that thread to remain topical. Our blog software has no option for relocating comments. FTK has been so gracious to me on her blog when I go off topic I felt bad about it so here’s the venue. I’ll open it with links to a couple relevant articles I wrote last year, some verbatim quotes of relevant constitutional amendments, and some historical facts regarding use of the phrase by founders and the US Supreme Court:

List of Preambles to US State Constitutions

Self Evident Truths in State Constitution Preambles

This is all the constitution has to say on religion.

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

A wall of separation between church and state is a synthesis that doesn’t appear in the constitution. Thomas Jefferson coined the phrase “wall of separation” while president in a letter to the Danbury Baptists assuring them that the federal government would not establish a state church nor be biased in any way for or against Danbury Baptists. It wasn’t until 75 years later it came into legal parlance when the supreme court in 1878 used it in deciding Reynolds, where (of all things) the court defended marriage as institution between one man and one woman, holding against the “free exercise” claim of Mormons in Utah who wanted polygamy legalized. It was yet another 75 years before it was quoted a second time where in 1947 in Everson the USSC held that (of all things again) state funded transportation of children to and from parochial schools was constitutional. It was used by the USSC 23 more times after that until in 1970 the court backed away from it for setting a tone too hostile towards religion.

Moreover the 1st amendment didn’t apply to state governments until the 14th amendment was ratified in 1868 which included an extension of federal constitional rights to all citizens. Prior to the 14th amendment states weren’t forbidden from making laws regarding an establishment of religion. The relevant portion of the 14th:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

So you see, when Jefferson and a few other founders talked about a wall of separation they were only talking about a wall between federal government and churches. State governments could do whatever they wanted with laws regarding religion. I mention the 14th because it adds crucial context to the early use of the phrase Jefferson coined i.e.; it was only about federal laws at that time. None of them were arguing that state and local governments couldn’t do as they saw fit and this ties neatly back into the articles I wrote about preambles in state constitutions. States weren’t nearly as bashful about God and government as the federal government was in the early days.

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87 Responses to Separation of Church and State

  1. Bill of Rights
    Amendment I – 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.

    The concept of “separation of church and state” seems to have replaced the plain language of the first amendment, which states that congress shall make no law promoting or prohibiting the establishment and free exercise of religion.

    Separation of church and state has become a meme, its near-common understanding is the exclusion of the presence of religious practices or symbols from the public eye, even when their significance is historical or foundational.

    At the same time, freedom of speech receives the broadest possible interpretation, preventing exclusion of pornographic material from places such as computers at public libraries.

  2. I believe ‘separation of church and state’ is a term from a court decision borrowed from a letter T Jefferson wrote to the Anbury baptists (I think – Danbury, perhaps?). The 1st amendment says ‘Congress shall make no laws…’ establishing a state religion nor prohibiting free exercise of religion. The US Supreme Court has extended (by interpretation) ‘Congress‘ to mean any branch of any government within Federal jurisdiction and ‘establishment‘ to mean ‘endorsement’, especially if a 90% Christian town votes to use tax dollars to support a nativity scene on city property or if highway death memorials paid for by the state reflect the religion of the deceased (in FL the ACLU successfully sued the state to remove crosses and stars of David and replace them with white circles).

    I personally believe in a church which is seperate from the state but not subject to the state, especially in the citizenry’s minds and hearts. A robust church (meaning all persons of mostly like theological minds) is a great check on state power (ie, legal theft via taxation, legal murder via police power, etc), especially with the reformation view that no man is the ultimate law, no matter his pedigree.

    In my view, a truly Christian state would never establish Christianity under penalty of law because God gives us that choice and who are we to take it away from anyone?

  3. appolos

    You probably wrote the first comment before I added the section on the 14th amendment which effectively extended the prohibition against congress making laws regarding an establishment of religion to all state and local governments too. It’s still important to keep in mind that until 1868 it WAS just the federal government that was restricted. Morever, in historical context, requiring all the state governments to uphold the Bill of Rights was all about slavery in the South – the civil war had just ended. In rapid succession amendment 13 abolishsed slavery, 14 extended the bill of rights to all citizens, and the 15th gave the right to vote to all races (but interestingly not to all genders; women had to wait yet another 50 years to get the vote).

  4. Since Ron Paul wants the constitution to be respected and up held I think it would be relevant to urge everyone to support him.

    http://www.ronpaul.org/

    And why not give him a vote of support: http://www.micropoll.com/akira.....;mode=html

  5. 5

    I would like to point out , that when the state or federal government makes a law mandating the teaching of only a materialistic (atheistic) explanation of origins in science class they are clearly making a law respecting the establishment of religion. It is clear from the first admendment that the government should take a neutral posistion in the battle between ID and evolution.

  6. In my view, a truly Christian state would never establish Christianity under penalty of law because God gives us that choice and who are we to take it away from anyone?

    In other words, you knarly bogus fundie dude, you want to impose your Christian values on an unsuspecting society :-)

  7. Since Ron Paul wants the constitution to be respected and up held I think it would be relevant to urge everyone to support him.

    Ron Paul is cool but he seems to be missing the point that winning the War on Terror is integral to defending the Constitution.

    What’s the point of truth or beauty or knowledge when the anthrax bombs are popping all around you?

    I suspect those Albanians to whom we gave refuge would have managed to kill a passle of service people at Fort Dix under Jamie Gorelick’s surveillance standards.

    Of course she would have just blamed the guns.

  8. The reason I asked for opinions about the SOCAS is due to my personal belief that this is at the center of why many people so strongly reject ID. They honestly fear a Christian theocracy is being planned and carried out by certain groups, and the DI scares them senseless in this regard.

    For instance, I get the following reference to The Wedge on a regular basis:

    “Discovery Institute’s Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture seeks nothing less than the overthrow of materialism and its cultural legacies.

    Twenty Year Goals

    * To see intelligent design theory as the dominant perspective in science.

    * To see design theory application in specific fields, including molecular biology, biochemistry, paleontology, physics and cosmology in the natural sciences, psychology, ethics, politics, theology and philosophy in the humanities; to see its influence in the fine arts.

    * To see design theory permeate our religious, cultural, moral and political life. “

    Now, while I personally see nothing wrong with educating people about the down side of a materialist culture, how far does the DI plan on going with this agenda?

    For instance, I constantly hear about Ahmanson and his connection with Christian Reconstructionist Rushdoony. What’s up with that connection?

    RSR preaches the coming of a Christian theocracy almost daily. Here are a few of his latest entries in this regard.

    Is there a connection between the DI and Christian Reconstructionism? What is Ahmanson’s background and how does he influence the ID movement?

  9. A Christian Reconstructionist would support ID.

    A Jeffesonian who accepted the thesis he articulated in the Declaration of Indpendence would support ID.

    ID is a big tent.

    The ones with the sneaky agenda are the atheists, which is why they invariably distort our positions, hide their positions and seek to fight battles before unelected judges as opposed to legislatures.

  10. It’s too bad the freedom-from-religion crowd will need to tear down the memorial to the very man they quote in order to ensure their historical revision is complete.

    THOMAS JEFFERSON MEMORIAL STATUE CHAMBER INSCRIPTIONS

    Right around Tom’s head:

    I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.

    Even better quotes that blow away the revisionism are on the plaques around the statue.

  11. Simply put, “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of a religion or preventing the free exercise thereof…….” (the First Amendment) means that it simply limits the government of the United States from establishing one or another religion as the “official” religion. It says nothing concerning the various churches’ or religions’ positions or theologies or world-views.

    Corollary: If atheism is also considered a “theology” or a world-view equivalent to the world-view of any other established religion, than the government cannot legally, directly or indirectly, establish the atheistic world-view as a dominant world-view in the society. If the judges and politicians are biased in favor of atheism, (because they are themselves atheists, liberals or just plain confused about this), and if it turns out that atheism is overtaking the society anyway, than that would be illegal according to the correct interpretation of the First Amendment. (Consider if Christianity or Islam were indirectly taking over the courts, schools, universities, scientific organizations, etc., there would be a huge outcry.)

    Jefferson’s intent was to create a society where people would be free to believe in any decent or worthy world-view. Such freedom would be thus instrumental in a free, happy, just and dignified society. It is open to discussion whether Jefferson even considered atheism as a free choice equivalent to any decent & worthy religion. He certainly didn’t envision that “separation” should mean that atheistic world-view should become dominant, as it is seen by many people today.

    Another interesting point: Who decides what is a “religion” in the above legislated sense? Would satanism, wicca, paganism, or any other goofy “let me make one up” religion (like “spaghetti monsterism”) qualify?

  12. “Another interesting point: Who decides what is a “religion” in the above legislated sense? Would satanism, wicca, paganism, or any other goofy “let me make one up” religion (like “spaghetti monsterism”) qualify?”

    This is why I support the SOCAS. There are many religions and, as far as the public schools are concerned, we certainly don’t have the time or temperment to accept and teach each religion fairly (whatever that may mean).

    Truth be told, I wouldn’t want a “Christian” teaching my kids Christianity in the public schools because the term means different things to different people.

    I’d think that would be obvious to all, and if a person wants their child to receive a religious education, they’d choose the appropriate private school.

    But, OTOH, I agree that what we are often left with is a materialist viewpoint at the univerisity level, and I know of many students who have cast their religious beliefs to the wayside after a few years of college. So, I do think that changes should be made, and that is ~one~ of the reasons why I support ID.

    But, I certainly don’t want to ~force~ my religion on anyone. I just want students to give ample consideration to their faith rather than have it knocked down by supposed “intellectuals”.

    The problem is that evidence for the Christian faith is rarely discussed in church settings, and students go off to college knowing next to nothing about their religious beliefs. They become prime candidates for agnostic indoctrination, and some never look back or even realize that there is considerable evidence to examine that supports the Christian faith.

  13. Another point that really should be noted regarding the Constitution. Jefferson was not involved in either its writing or ratification.

    And while he was influential in the adoption of the Bill of Rights that was still largely Madison’s baby.

    But he was still influential and this is what he says about “freedom of religion”

    “The Constitutions of our several States vary more or less in some particulars. But there are certain principles in which all agree, and which all cherish as vitally essential to the protection of the life, liberty, property, and safety of the citizen: 1. Freedom of religion, restricted only from acts of trespass on that of others . . .
    –Thomas Jefferson to A. Coray, 1823. ME 15:489

  14. FTK: “The problem is that evidence for the Christian faith is rarely discussed in church settings, and students go off to college knowing next to nothing about their religious beliefs. They become prime candidates for agnostic indoctrination, and some never look back or even realize that there is considerable evidence to examine that supports the Christian faith.”

    Excellent point! Along those lines, you might find this of interest:

    http://www.tektonics.org/gk/indictment.html

  15. 15

    You’ve all probably heard these before, but I’m going to say them anyway:

    The first amendment is not the only thing the constitution says about religion:

    Article 6, section 3
    …no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

    And to AngryOldFatMan: A little more of Jefferson’s quote changes the meaning, at least a little.
    The quote came from a letter to Benjamin Rush. Jefferson was discussing the Philadelphia clergy’s opposition to his political candidacy.

    “They [the clergy] believe that any portion of power confided to me, will be exerted in opposition of their schemes. And they believe rightly: for I have sworn upon the alter of god eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man. But this is all they have to fear from me: and enough too in their opinion.”

  16. Wittegenstein

    Religious tests aren’t strictly required but neither are they prohibited from voluntary undertaking. Most public office holders required to swear or affirm an oath voluntarily add “So help me God” at the end.

    Moreover the history of the U.S. government including mention of God is everywhere. Look at just about any U.S. currency in circulation and you’ll find the phrase “In God We Trust” on it. If putting that on U.S. currency isn’t a policy statement I don’t know what is. It has been used on some coins since 1863 and on all coins since 1938. In 1956 Congress passed a law making “In God We Trust” the U.S. national motto. It has survived all constitutional challenges for 150 years.

    Another fine example of something passing all constitutional challenges regarding government and religion can be found in the military. The United States government has paid for and built thousands of chapels and hired tens of thousands of clergymen to provide religious ministry to members of the U.S. armed forces. This is blatant use of federal funds to support and promote religious belief. How can this be if there is a “separation of church and state”? Shouldn’t these chapels and clergy be funded by voluntary contributions if there is indeed this so called “impenetrable wall of separation between church and state”? That wall has more holes in it than Carter has Little Liver Pills.

  17. 17
    The Scubaredneck

    The following thread from April should offer some interesting insight into the current discussion:

    Teach Intelligent Design — No way! Teach the Bible — Sure, that’s okay.

    In brief, while I agree, in principle, that teaching Christianity (or any particular religion) in a public setting (especially when this teaching is designed to be evangelistic in nature) is a bad idea, the text of the Bible is so central to western civilization that it should indeed be taught from a literary perspective.

    The Scubaredneck

  18. Scubaredneck

    I’d modify that to say teaching from a literary and cultural perspective.

  19. Dave Scot said, in part:

    Another fine example of something passing all constitutional challenges regarding government and religion can be found in the military. The United States government has payed for and built thousands of chapels and hired tens of thousands of clergymen to provide religious ministry to members of the U.S. armed forces. This is blatant use of federal funds to support and promote religious belief. How can this be if there is a “separation of church and state”. Shouldn’t these chapels and clergy be funded by voluntary contributions if there is indeed this so called “impenetrable wall of separation between church and state”?

    Good point.

    Just for full disclosure, D.Scot,
    the ACLU and related sites like positiveatheism have been circulating the opinion that while they don’t like this apparent contradiction, they are in no real hurry to make hay out of it (well, some do) since they claim this is an exception to the general rule for a good reason:

    In the military you are likely to be far from home in most posting circumstances and even stateside you might have difficulty finding a church in the local area, especially if the base is outside a town or metro area. Nor would you have time to go shopping. Or attend every Sunday. So chaplains have to fill in both in war and peace.

    As to the comments about Danbury being an “extra legal” commentary from Jefferson that applies only at the Federal level, it is true and worth remembering that what is good for the goose applies to the sauce. Gun rights advocates also go outside the narrow words of the Second Amendment to bolster their position(s). For example, the Federalist Papers seem far more pro-gun in the commentary of SOME of the Founders than the actual Second Amendment. But interestingly for some reason this is almost never referenced in the hoopla over guns in those few cases (like Miller) that have made it all the way to the USSC, which unlike the broad definitions of “freedom of speech” (which defenders claim even bolsters the rights of NAMBLA), the result is a very NARROW reading of rights.

    The typical response from the ACLU is that certain rights are archaic and no longer apply to modern civilization (guns) while other amendments (like the first, and the related so-called separation Clause), cannot be commpared “across the board” to other rights and each must be looked at in the modern context.
    (e.g.–Thomas Jefferson lived over two centuries ago in an agrarian society, etc).

    Just an observation.

    –SWT
    Atlanta, GA

  20. 20
    The Scubaredneck

    Go ahead, Dave.

  21. From what I gather, everyone seems to be saying that they don’t support the establishment of a Christian theocracy. But, if a guy like Ahmanson has leanings toward reconstructionism and is lending financial support to the DI, how can we be sure how influential he is in how they conduct business?

    I’ve never seen anything remotely close to anyone from the DI suggesting any type of Christian reconstructionism, but the Wedge scares people half to death.

    I really believe that if more people were less worried about this type of outcome, we wouldn’t have such a fight on our hands.

    How can we assure the public that the ID movement is not part of a larger plan to build a Christian theocracy?

    I believe God gives us free will to choose whether we accept Him or not, and forcing someone through government policies to adhere to a certain theological position is completely counter productive and dangerous. But, I also believe we’ve gone too far the other direction and need to turn the tide a bit – through dialogue and education rather than manipulation.

    So what do I say to those who *sincerely* have these concerns???

  22. Re DaveScot’s comment: “The United States government has paid for and built thousands of chapels and hired tens of thousands of clergymen to provide religious ministry to members of the U.S. armed forces. This is blatant use of federal funds to support and promote religious belief. How can this be if there is a “separation of church and state”?”

    This has nothing to do with the separation of the Church & State or promoting religion. It reflects who is actually willing to serve and to die for his country. And if the state requires the soldiers to die for the sake of many, it should at least provide spiritual support and burials. So it’s not about promoting one religion, but rather about providing important services to the soldiers, without which they would refuse to fight.

    Or do you wish to leave the army and fighting only to atheists? The atheist supposedly doesn’t need any spiritual support. (I am sure they do need some psychological support anyway). I am not an expert on this, but I think, it is done in proportion of who is in the army – you have Jews and many other religions as well, including wicca, see

    http://www.religioustolerance.org/wic_usbk.htm

    I don’t think this is so simple as that, but, if a wiccan is willing to serve and die, why deny him his Solstice dancing if he wants it or needs it? (The real problem is probably with the cohesiveness of such religiously diverse units. I would refuse to fight with a satanist and the state better make sure it does not recruit any, or the whole army will fall apart.)

  23. 23
    The Scubaredneck

    FtK,

    Personally, I think that most of the “concerns” about the establishment of a Christian theocracy in the U.S. are either simply partison political hystrionics or the predictable result of uncritically listening to such. I ask anyone who claims to have this concern to share their basis for such. Typically, their response is based on something they heard some liberal pundit say, not anything they heard DI or the Bush admin say or do.

    In my mind, this makes this argument a classic Red Herring (a false argument inserted into a debate to serve as a powerful distraction) and ought to be treated as such. If folks today are really concerned about the establishment of a Christian theocracy, they should go back and study the founding documents (which haven’t been fairly treated in schools for years now). I guarantee, if they are genuinely concerned based on what they see today, the Mayflower Compact, the Declaration of Independance, and the Preamble to the Constitution will cause them to soil themselves. ;-)

    The Scubaredneck

  24. ftk

    How can we assure the public that the ID movement is not part of a larger plan to build a Christian theocracy?

    How can the public be assured that narratives about chance & necessity are not part of a larger plan to establish atheism as the dominant world-view?

    I think with people like Dennet and Dawkins being spokespersons for the other side, and 72% of the National Academy of Sciences members being confirmed positive atheists, this question is just as legitimate as yours.

    Scubaredneck

    FTK stated the goal of a Christian theocracy was drawn largely from the DI Wedge document. Given the DI did indeed author it and it essentially does claim a method of building religious influence in science, government, and culture I don’t think it’s an unfair or unwarranted concern.

    There can be no assurance that pundits on either side don’t have ulterior motives. My position is that should be beside the point. ID is true or not regardless of the motivation of proponents and the same holds true for chance & necessity. Motivation doesn’t establish what’s true or untrue. Evidence and the logical inferences that can be drawn from it do.

  25. Scubaredneck,

    A large majority of Americans believe public education is essential for varying reasons, but only a small number seem to see the benefit of public education driven by consumer choice. We’re Americans, by crackey, the master Capitalists, the market of the ages and yet we insist on a centralized, top heavy, mandatory (if too poor to pay private), cumbersome system which protects incompetence, disregards the notion of parents as clients and ties the hands of good teachers with bad students they cannot fire.

    Government funding of private schools, religious or secular, does not violate the 1st amendment if the parent has the choice where the funding is directed on behalf of their child.

    I’m with the vast majority who believe the public good is served by providing broad based funding for the education of each citizen. The public good is not served, however, when the curricula is publicly administered. US citizens are too diverse in their beliefs and publicly run education by necessity whitewashes any framework of belief to not offend all beliefs. So children must have winter festivals at school instead of Christmas pageants because the public system cannot offend minority beliefs.

    The problem as I see it is religiously non-committal secular education is by virtue of withholding choice, making a choice (“If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice” – Rush, Free Will)

    The obvious solution (so it seems to me) to this conflict would be to allow parents to choose where the edu dollars allocated on behalf of their child get spent. Fraud would still be fraud and punishable under the law. Teachers would be afforded more control as they would enter into contractual agreements (through the school, or individually, however they see fit to set it up) with parents and clear expectations and consequences. No longer could a problem child/family ruin school for the decent children. No longer would incompetent teachers be rewarded for time served in the system. No longer would foolish new pedagogies such as ‘New Math’ be forced on an entire district of captive school children. No longer would disaffected parents be forced to fight years or decades long battles with school districts over science curricula.

    What kind of grand innovations have we missed because we choose centralized publicly run education last century? What will we see if we free our children from these institutions?

  26. 26
    The Scubaredneck

    DaveScot and FTK,

    There is a huge difference between “…a method of building religious influence in science, government, and culture…” and a theocracy. This difference was graphically illustrated when the Shaw of Iran was overthrown in favor of an Islamic gov’ment in the 1970′s. The former was influenced by Islam, the latter was (and continues to be) an Islamic theocracy. Indeed, our government was more strongly influenced by religion during the times when the aforementioned founding documents were written than anything anyone today seems to be proposing. IMHO, even given the modest proposals in the Wedge document, talk of establishing a theocracy is still at best a Red Herring, at worst, a gross misrepresentation (poisoning the well).

    Todd,

    I’m all for vouchers. I think they are a good idea and are likely very defensible constitutionally.

    The Scubaredneck

  27. 27

    DS – Where did you get the 72% figure for the NAS? I remember Degrasse-Tyson asking why a certain % of the NAS doesn’t believe from Beyond Belief but don’t remember what %.

  28. 28

    Marvin Olasky just addressed this on In Depth on C-Span 2′s Book TV. He stated that Ahmanson had been connected early on to Rushdooney a Christian Reconstructionist. But both he and Ahmanson rejected theocratic approaches to government. There is going to be a replay on May 12

  29. Here is the story on Ahmanson by a hostile reporter: Avenging angel of the religious right

    Ahmanson shuns luxury for a lifestyle of down-to-earth humility. As his wife of 17 years, Roberta Green Ahmanson, told me, he once gave up his seat on an airplane for a refund. And when he goes out for a spin in his neighborhood in Newport Beach, a posh coastal community 45 minutes south of Los Angeles, he drives a Prius, Toyota’s new, environment-friendly hybrid car. It’s a modest choice for a man who could afford an entire Hummer dealership, but nevertheless a considerable upgrade from his old Datsun pickup.

    . “Due to my association with Rushdoony, reporters have often assumed that I agree with him in all applications of the penalties of the Old Testament Law, particularly the stoning of homosexuals,” Ahmanson wrote. “My vision for homosexuals is life, not death, not death by stoning or any other form of execution, not a long, lingering, painful death from AIDS, not a violent death by assault, and not a tragic death by suicide. My understanding of Christianity is that we are all broken, in need of healing and restoration. So far as I can tell, the only hope for our healing is through faith in Jesus Christ and the power of his resurrection from the dead.”

    Roberta Ahmanson made pains to highlight her husband’s charitable side, stressing his donations to the Nature Conservancy, the evangelical humanitarian aid group World Vision, and the Orange County Rescue Mission, a Christian homeless shelter

    . “I may have had ‘a plan to change American society’ once,” he mused. “Now I’m just trying to be faithful with what I have.”

    I had the honor of having lunch with Ahmanson and others September 21, 2005.

  30. I’ve never seen anything remotely close to anyone from the DI suggesting any type of Christian reconstructionism, but the Wedge scares people half to death.

    Oh for Pete’s sake. 90 percent of Americans don’t know what “the Wedge” is and of the ones that do, only a fraction say it bothers them.

    And of the ones who say it bothers them, 90 percent are lying since they are the ones who are trying to use it to spread fears of a impending “theocracy.”

    How about we just return to how church related to state in Jefferson’s day. If that concerns you too much, how about FDR’s?

  31. Wittgenstein wrote:

    And to AngryOldFatMan: A little more of Jefferson’s quote changes the meaning, at least a little.
    The quote came from a letter to Benjamin Rush. Jefferson was discussing the Philadelphia clergy’s opposition to his political candidacy.

    “They [the clergy] believe that any portion of power confided to me, will be exerted in opposition of their schemes. And they believe rightly: for I have sworn upon the alter of god eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man. But this is all they have to fear from me: and enough too in their opinion.”

    Here’s the full letter you’re talking about.

    It still does not mutate “freedom of religion” into “freedom from religion”, nor does it magically transform “separation of Church and state” into “separation of God and state”.

    I’d like you can explain how one can swear on the altar of God to be hostile to tyranny over the mind of man while simultaneously thinking that a belief in God is tyrannical to man’s mind.

  32. latemodel

    I put a link to the survey of NAS scientists on the “Additional Descent” sidebar.

    Scubaredneck

    You know the old saying Give an inch and they’ll take a mile. The difference between religious influence in government, science, and culture and theocracy is one of degree not of kind. The concern is inflated but valid for anyone who doesn’t desire stronger Christian influence in the public sphere. The Wedge document escaping the confines of private pitches to small receptive audiences for fund raising purposes was a monumental blunder. It really poisoned the well. Read this and imagine you’re an outsider wanting to know what ID is all about. Would you think it’s about science or a conservative Christian political agenda? I’ll agree with you that a theocracy in the United States is hyperbole – about as likely as Iran making Judaism its state religion.

  33. 33
    The Scubaredneck

    Dave,

    Read the Mayflower Compact and then try to convince me that DI’s wildest strategies and hopes even come close to the language found therein. Given the fact that our government continues to re-affirm that we are “one nation, under God,” the modest aims of the DI seem entirely justified and even to be expected.

    The charges of theocracy are little more than hystrionics being spouted by folks who wish to remove all mention of God from the public square. These are the, in large part, same folks who have “sanitized” our kid’s history classes by removing references to things like the Mayflower Compact (the earliest American document of government), various sections of the Declaration of Independance, etc. The fact that the Wikipedia article seems to support certain notions about DI means little as Wikipedia has yet to distinguish itself as a reliable source of unbiased information (indeed, that would seem to run counter to its stated purpose).

    The Scubaredneck

  34. Scubaredneck wrote:

    “Personally, I think that most of the “concerns” about the establishment of a Christian theocracy in the U.S. are either simply partison political hystrionics or the predictable result of uncritically listening to such. I ask anyone who claims to have this concern to share their basis for such. Typically, their response is based on something they heard some liberal pundit say, not anything they heard DI or the Bush admin say or do.”

    Truth be told, I’ve only heard the liberal pundits version of what Ahmanson is all about, and have not been able to find anything damning written by him (still looking).

    But, as far as whether people are just making up allegations or not, I like to try to take people at their word. Some are deliberate scare mongers (RSR) and they are pretty easy to spot, but for others I do think they are legitimately concerned.

    I can think of two TE’s in particular who I know, and I trust them enough to believe that they do have true concerns about this issue. Granted, they’ve listened to one too many pundits, but there must be a way to ease this fear. They truly believe that the DI fellows are dishonest and interested only in pushing religion into the public schools or making a buck or two on their books.

    I think there would be much more support for ID if this fear were addressed more extensively.

    “In my mind, this makes this argument a classic Red Herring (a false argument inserted into a debate to serve as a powerful distraction) and ought to be treated as such.”

    Maybe so, but is this “false argument” distracting to the point of turning potential ID supporters away? And, could there be materialists out there who are not so much opposed to religion and science working hand in hand as they are fearful of an impending Christian reign of terror (in their opinion)?

    DaveScot wrote:
    “How can the public be assured that narratives about chance & necessity are not part of a larger plan to establish atheism as the dominant world-view? I think with people like Dennet and Dawkins being spokespersons for the other side, and 72% of the National Academy of Sciences members being confirmed positive atheists, this question is just as legitimate as yours.”

    Right, and of course this is a concern. But, I’m of the belief that a majority of those 72% aren’t hostile to religion…they merely aren’t interested. But, by framing this debate as US and THEM we seem to look over the fact that most of us, from both sides, fall somewhere in the middle. Perhaps we wouldn’t have such a problem working together on some of these issues if it wasn’t for the LOUD voices coming from of the leaders of the anti-religion and anti-atheism sectors….perhaps we need to work harder at ignoring them and trying to find ways to work together. But, then again, maybe that’s just wishful thinking on my part.

    “ID is true or not regardless of the motivation of proponents and the same holds true for chance & necessity. Motivation doesn’t establish what’s true or untrue. Evidence and the logical inferences that can be drawn from it do.”

    Very true, but I just wish that people weren’t so concerned about this theocracy issue. It’s seem to me that it stands in the way of them thinking clearly about the science.

    Todd,

    In theory, I think that the voucher idea is very interesting and could benefit our students. But, I also see a down side that worries me quite a bit.

    If students split off into different schools based on social, religious, or moral issues, might that lead to further divisions within our society? If atheist parents send their children to a particular school that teaches a naturalistic view of the world, that science is the only means of finding truth, and that belief in supernatural events is ignorant or insane, while Christian parents send their children to another school which warns them of the evils of atheism, teaches them about God and his word for us, and present the design factor in regard to our origins, how will those students treat each other outside of the classroom? Will there be less tolerance for various ideas and beliefs? Would we be pushing our students into a civil war?

    As Christians, shouldn’t we be living among those who are unbelievers? Isn’t that what Christ was all about? Letting your light shine and all that jazz?

    What good would come of secluding ourselves and our children? We should set an example, not hide ourselves away in fear of negative influence.

    The proof for our faith is there, and if our children are well educated in regard to the evidence that supports our faith, they’ll follow the truth…

  35. 35

    AngryOldFatman Said

    I’d like you can explain how one can swear on the altar of God to be hostile to tyranny over the mind of man while simultaneously thinking that a belief in God is tyrannical to man’s mind.

    Thomas Jefferson said

    But a short time elapsed after the death of the great reformer [Jesus] of the Jewish religion, before his principles were departed from by those who professed to be his special servants, and perverted into an engine for enslaving mankind, and aggrandizing their oppressors in Church and State. (Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to Samuel Kercheval, 1810)

    I recognize that Jefferson was himself a religious man, but he was very suspicious of the mix of religion and government, if only because he feared the abuse of insincere or corrupted religion rather than religion in principle. We can argue all day about whether the constitution we ended up with guarantees any separation of church and state, but you are going to have a hard time supporting the idea that Jefferson would not have wanted it to. And he clearly wanted to protect even the non-believer:

    “Where the preamble [of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom] declares, that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed by inserting the words “Jesus Christ,” so that it should read, “A departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion;” the insertion was rejected by a great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mohammedan, the Hindoo and Infidel of every denomination.”

    His own proposed language for the new Virginia constitution was even more clearly secular:

    “All persons shall have full and free liberty of religious opinion; nor shall any be compelled to frequent or maintain any religious institution”

    And finally…

    “The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”

  36. This may be a bit of a hijack of the thread, and if so, I am sorry, but there is something I’ve never understand about the “debate” over evolution. All creationist arguments, including ID, at their heart, say “God created life”. Creationism is about the Origin of LIFE. Evolution is not. Evolution is about the Origin of SPECIES. i.e. Why is a dog a dog, cat a cat, a duck a duck, and how did they get those silly feet? As far as I’m aware, science has yet to come out with a repeatable theory on the origin of life.

    Every time I see the subject discussed, people are always talking past each other. It’s like the Ten Commandments issue. One side says “You’re trying to create a theocracy!” (As if a block of stone would do so) and the other side says “Our laws are based on this!” (When, in fact, only three of the ten are actually laws, at least in the USA.)

    I believe there is a great danger in comingling government with religion. One need only look at Sharia law in countries governed by muslims to see the danger. Would anyone want to live in a country where strict interpretation of Leviticus was law? I wouldn’t. But I doubt that’s what anyone has in mind, which leads to…

    The seperation came about not to protect atheism or science, but to protect the different interpretations of faith. The quakers had very different ideas of law and punishment than the puritans. The first amendment was put in to prevent the federalizing of one sect’s interpretation and imposing it on the others.

    Somewhere along the lines, atheism became the enemy of christianty, even more so than other religions. Why is atheism any different than Islam or Judaism?

  37. Wittgenstein,

    Nothing you’ve just posted answered my question, nor made the case that Jefferson advocated freedom from religion.

    You are conflating church with belief in God. They are not the same thing.

    You didn’t even address what Jefferson was so upset about when he wrote the phrase we’ve been talking about. I suspect you don’t know.

  38. 38

    Angry,
    What do you mean by freedom from religion? Do you think that Jefferson thought we were not free to be non-believers? Or do you just think that he didn’t believe we were to be free from religion in our government? If you think that I think he meant that there should be no religion or churches or belief in god, then no, obviously he didn’t believe that. I would think that in US history, only a few extreme radicals have ever suggested such a thing.

    When you refer to “the phrase we’ve been talking about,” I don’t know whether you mean the ‘wall of separation’ or the ‘alter of god’ quote. Which one do you mean, and what is it that you are obviously eager to say about what he really meant by it?

  39. Scubaredneck

    the modest aims of the DI seem entirely justified and even to be expected

    We’ve come a long way since the Mayflower which preceded the Revolutionary War by well over a century. I certainly don’t want puritanical mores imposed by gov’t edict and I’m certain that sentiment is shared by comfortable majority of my fellow citizens. The influence of religion in government and culture declined a lot since the 17th century colonial days. A lot of people don’t want to give back the freedom from religion ground they’ve gained. Maybe some ground, as in my case, but not a whole lot. As I said a theocracy is pure hyperbole but certainly not hyperbole is DI using ID to promote a conservative Christian religious agenda. When motives are rightly suspect the veracity of the scientific claims is sullied. Most people don’t have the knowledge or time to acquire the knowledge to evaluate the claims very well so they make their judgement of its veracity based upon the unscientific agenda that inspires the proponents. The science may be solid, or at least as solid as chance & necessity narratives, but they have no way of knowing that. All they know is what the great majority of scientists have believed about evolution for the last 100 years and what little they were taught and remember about evolution in K-12 biology. This is quite understandable. Why should they believe a small minority of scientists instead of the great majority when they don’t really understand the science but well understand an agenda of trying to promote religion in the public square where many if not most feel religion shouldn’t directly influence the government to begin with? I daresay very few people want someone like Kent Hovind or Jerry Falwell making public policy carrying the force of law based on Draconian old testament directives. While I strongly feel that new testament directives focused on charity and forgiveness are an exceedingly positive influence on society I’m just as strongly against the brutality found in the old testament. To me it seems like entirely different versions of deities inspired the two texts and the latter was created to correct the horrible deficiencies of the former and where the only reason there was a connection made between the two was to leverage the existing base of believers in the old testament.

  40. rockr

    So it’s not about promoting one religion, but rather about providing important services to the soldiers, without which they would refuse to fight.

    You’re so full of it I bet your eyes are brown. I was in the Marines for 4 years and I don’t recall knowing a single Marine that used the base chapel or talked to a chaplain. The idea that anyone would refuse to fight if there weren’t base chapels and chaplains is ludicrous.

  41. Excellent points, Fire. Thanks.

  42. Dave Scott—I’m with you on all that but will have to desist on this:

    While I strongly feel that new testament directives focused on charity and forgiveness are an exceedingly positive influence on society I’m just as strongly against the brutality found in the old testament. To me it seems like entirely different versions of deities inspired the two texts and the latter was created to correct the horrible deficiencies of the former and where the only reason there was a connection made between the two was to leverage the existing base of believers in the old testament.

    America was founded on Judeo-Christian philosophy where the Old Testament played a very strong role for which I recommend a look at this from David Gelernter. Some of the founders even wrote in Hebrew and Yale still bears Hebrew in its seal. Early America countenanced a great deal of religious disputation and diversity—much that would be classed as deep heresy by today’s cult watchers—and so it is in keeping with this tradition that no organized church dictates to the central government.

    The Torah was a nation founding contract, the New Testament (as also the Talmud) dealt more with life in the diaspora, and so it was not unexpected that our founders drew so heavily on the Old Testament.

    Today there is much ridicule of the Torah’s take on slavery (Exodus 21), but we should note that there is no provision for prison in the Torah (even though Israel is freed from Egypt where there were prisons aplenty – Genesis 39-40), and rather than extolling slavery the Torah sets limits including the fact that slaves must be released in the seventh year shemittah, and though this didn’t apply to noncitizens (such as prisoners of war), the Torah sets the pattern whereby citizenship was available to aliens willing to live in accord with the law. Today we reject all forms of indentured servitude, but one who has served time in any of America’s prisons (we’re mistaken if we think we get a private cell and protection from the beasts haunting the crowded corridors) might be interested in the Torah’s provisions.

    The New Testament cannot be understood apart from the Old—perhaps thinking it can be is a source of some of today’s touchy-feely, politically correct, multi-culti, criminal-coddling, effeminate attitudes. Just about every saying of Jesus is a quote from the Old Testament. Here, for example, is how he sums up the Old Testament (Matthew 22:37-40):

    Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

    He’s quoting, of course, Deuteronomy 6:5—“And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might [וְאָהַבְתָּ אֵת ה׳ אֱלֹהֶיךָ בְּכָל־לְבָבְךָ וּבְכָל־נַפְשְׁךָ וּבְכָל־מְאֹדֶךָ].” And also Leviticus 19:18—“… but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself [וְאָהַבְתָּ לְרֵעֲךָ כָּמוֹךָ] …”

    Just this morning there was a note in my box –

    Scribner, an Imprint of Simon and Schuster Publishers, has won the rights to publish Azure Editor-in-Chief David Hazony’s The Ten Commandments: A Blueprint for the Redemptive Society in 2009. The book examines the importance and meaning of the Ten Commandments, both for individuals seeking to live moral, socially engaged lives, and for a democratic nation looking to survive and thrive in a time of flux, moral relativism and political danger.

    I suggest that now more than ever we need strong input from both our Christian and Jewish spokesmen—particularly those who have sloughed off the materialism that so stifles us.

    It is ironic that Christendom should have had such a history of violence—drawing as it did on the Sermon on the Mount. Some in Christendom have apologized and sought to make amends, others are retreating to the same old error. What they need is some real down to earth Torah study. It would be good for them.

    Anyway y’all take care and have a great weekend!

  43. Hmm … am I on suspension? or is the machine just acting up? Don’t seem to be getting through.

  44. Dave Scott wrote that all the U. S. Constitution has to say on religion is that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

    The U. S. Constitution established a limited government with no powers except for those expressly granted. The Constitution grants the U. S. Government no authority or jurisdiction whatsoever over religion. No human authority, and especially no civil government authority, over religion is what separation of church and state is all about.

  45. Dave Scott wrote that “A wall of separation between church and state is a synthesis that doesn’t appear in the constitution.”

    ****

    Dear Dave:

    What is your concept of separation between church and state, the concept that you claim is not in the Constitution? Are you claiming that the Constitution gives the government authority over religion?

  46. Fred Flash,

    Christmas is an offical holiday of the United States of America, established by Congress, signed by the President and never challenged by the Supreme Court.

  47. H’mm:

    I think that DS raises important issues here, especially on the questions that tie to the Wedge document.

    1] Wedges, reason, ID and DI’s motives:

    I note though that in effect the DI’s Wedge is a countering strategy, relative to a powerful wave of evolutionary materialist thought that has long since pervaded powerful institutions starting with the Academy and Science, as well as the media and education, then also the Courts and increasingly legislatures.

    Arguably, that materialism has had seriously deleterious effects over the whole world across the past 100 years, and our Civilisation is in need of countering it, as DI argued in their Web Site circa 2003:

    Materialistic thinking dominated Western culture during the 20th century in large part because of the authority of science. The Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture seeks, therefore, to challenge materialism on specifically scientific grounds. Yet Center Fellows do more than critique theories that have materialistic implications. They have also pioneered alternative scientific theories and research methods that recognize the reality of design and the need for intelligent agency to explain it. This new research program — called “design theory” — is based upon recent developments in the information sciences and many new evidences of design. Design theory promises to revitalize many long-stagnant disciplines by recognizing mind, as well as matter, as a causal influence in the world. It also promises, by implication, to promote a more holistic view of reality and humanity, thus helping to reverse some of materialism’s destructive cultural consequences.

    In short, the socio-cultural agenda that led DI to support the already existing ID research programme is legitimate in light of the previous materialist takeover of key institutions, and it is NECESSARILY significantly independent of the logical validity and empirical warrant for the science therein contained. In particular, unless the design inference is sound standing on its own, it is of no help to the DI in seeking to respond tot he claimed base for Evolutionary Materialism viewed as a socio-cultural agenda championed by powerful and articulate forces and advocates.

    We should therefore separate motives and reasons and associated supportive evidence, or we fall afoul of the ad hominem fallacy. [As my linked will show, I believe on significant evidence, that there is excellent reason to see that the design inference is solid. the now standard resort to ad hominems, strawmen and red herrings by Evo Mat advocates, is eloquent testimony that they too in their heart of hearts see that this is so. And, such a resort speaks eloquently of the ruthless commitment to an agenda on their part . . . ]

    2] On “Establishment”:

    I also think it may be useful to revisit and think again about a few ideas and original sources on the US Constitution, its precursor history and the results that have flowed therefrom across the world, once the American experiment in liberty and self-Government by a free people succeeded.

    Further to this, note that the original import of the relevant clause of Amdt 1 was that landeskirke would be a local not a federal matter. That is, the Federal-level state had no jurisdiction on establishment of churches as state churches, but was bound to protect freedom of conscience and expression where local established churches overstepped their proper limits — as has historically been a problem. (Nobody handles unbridled power well, including increasingly secularists, as recent bans on ID in Europe sadly reveal.)

    That is, the Amndt embraced in a republican context the substance of the settlement at Westphalia in 1648, whereby the local established church would be that of the relevant prince’s religious loyalties. But at the same time, there would be toleration of dissenters and freedom to express and propagate one’s views, including of course that of the media [i.e. the press].

    3] “References” to religion in the US Const:

    Of course we need to recognise that religious concepts and worldviews that have theistic elements in them are distinct from institutions that may or may not be based on those worldviews in part.

    In that context, we can see that there is more on religion in the US Constitution than may be immediately apparent to C20 or 21 readers unfamiliar with the reformation era concept of establishment of states by explicit or implicit covenant under God.

    For illustration [cf the linked above], look at the overall structure of the US COnstitution, in light of the 2nd paragraph of the US DOI and the many proclamations of the Continental Congress of days of fasting, penitence, prayer and thanksgiving surrounding the Revolutionary war:

    [Const] We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America . . . . [Main Body, Arts I - VII] . . . . Done in Convention by the Unanimous Consent of the States present the Seventeenth Day of September in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and Eighty seven and of the Independence of the United States of America the Twelfth. In Witness whereof We have hereunto subscribed our Names. . . . . [AMENDMENTS].

    “Blessings,” of course is not a general legal term, but as the Theology-trained Madison [he studied under Witherspoon] would have known, is a covenantal one.

    Indeed, it reflects the ideas recently summarised by the US Library of Congress [cf the above linked] in discussing the religious framework of the US Founding:

    The Continental- Confederation Congress, a legislative body that governed the United States from 1774 to 1789, contained an extraordinary number of deeply religious men . . . both the legislators and the public considered it appropriate for the national government to promote a nondenominational, nonpolemical Christianity . . . . Congress was guided by “covenant theology,” a Reformation doctrine especially dear to New England Puritans, which held that God bound himself in an agreement with a nation and its people . . . The first national government of the United States, was convinced that the “public prosperity” of a society depended on the vitality of its religion. Nothing less than a “spirit of universal reformation among all ranks and degrees of our citizens,” Congress declared to the American people, would “make us a holy, that so we may be a happy people.”

    A brief excerpt from the Congressional proclamation of penitence of May 1776 will suffice to show what “blessings of liberty” meant in America circa 1775 – 1787:

    In times of impending calamity and distress; when the liberties of America are imminently endangered by the secret machinations and open assaults of an insidious and vindictive administration, it becomes the indispensable duty of these hitherto free and happy colonies, with true penitence of heart, and the most reverent devotion, publickly to acknowledge the over ruling providence of God; to confess and deplore our offences against him; and to supplicate his interposition for averting the threatened danger, and prospering our strenuous efforts in the cause of freedom, virtue, and posterity.. . . Desirous, at the same time, to have people of all ranks and degrees duly impressed with a solemn sense of God’s superintending providence, and of their duty, devoutly to rely, in all their lawful enterprizes, on his aid and direction, Do earnestly recommend, that Friday, the Seventeenth day of May next, be observed by the said colonies as a day of humiliation, fasting, and prayer; that we may, with united hearts, confess and bewail our manifold sins and transgressions, and, by a sincere repentance and amendment of life, appease his righteous displeasure, and, through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ, obtain his pardon and forgiveness; humbly imploring his assistance to frustrate the cruel purposes of our unnatural enemies . . . That he would be graciously pleased to bless all his people in these colonies with health and plenty, and grant that a spirit of incorruptible patriotism, and of pure undefiled religion, may universally prevail; and this continent be speedily restored to the blessings of peace and liberty, and enabled to transmit them inviolate to the latest posterity.

    On the strength of much more like that, I think the whole frame of reference of the current debates needs to be seriously reassessed and a lot of one-sided historical and legal revisionism needs to be re-thought and, frankly, corrected.

    GEM of TKI

  48. Dear Jerry:

    Explain to me how making Christmas a holiday gives the government authority over religion?

    Fred Flash

  49. Dave Scott falsely claims that Thomas Jefferson coined the phrase “wall of separation.”

    Benjamin Franklin’s friend, the radical James Burgh, coined e phrase “wall of separation” in his writings prior to Jefferson’s.

    In Crito (1766, 1767. 2 Vols. Pp 92-3), Burgh proposed building “an impenetrable wall of separation between things sacred and civil”:

    “I will fairly tell you what will be the consequences of your setting up such a mixed-mungrel-spiritual-temporal-secular-ecclesiastical establishment. You will make the dispensers of religion despicable and odious to all men of sense, and will destroy the spirituality, in which consists the: whole value, of religion…”

    “Shew yourselves superior to all these follies and knaveries. Put into the hands of the people the clerical emoluments; and let them give them to whom they will; choosing their public teachers, and maintaining them decently, but moderately, as becomes their spiritual character. We have in our times a proof from the conduct of some among us, in respect of the appointment of their public administrators of religion, that such a scheme will answer all the necessary purposes, and prevent infinite corruption;–ecclesiastical corruption; the most odious of all corruption.”

    “Build an impenetrable wall of separation between things sacred and civil. Do not send a graceless officer, reeking from the anus of his trull, to the performance of a holy rite of religion, as a test for his holding the command of a regiment. To profane, in such a manner, a religion, which you pretend to reverence, is an impiety sufficient to bring down upon your heads, the roof of the sacred building you thus defile.”

  50. Dave Scott claims that Thomas Jefferson, in his famous letter to the Danbury Baptists, assuring the Baptists that the federal government would not establish a state church nor be biased in any way for or against Danbury Baptists.

    The Danbury Baptists had expressed no concern whatsoever, in their letter to President Jefferson, about the establishment of a national church. Their complaint was about the Connecticut Certificate Law of 1791.

    Presented below is an excerpt from the letter to Jefferson from the Danbury Baptists that Jefferson responded to.

    “our [Connecticut State] constitution of government is not specific. Our ancient [colonial] charter [for Connecticut] [from Charles the Second, in 1626]
    together with the law made coincident therewith, were adopted as the basis of our [Connecticut State] government, at the time of our [American] revolution [against England]; and such had been our [state] laws and usages, and such still are; that religion is considered as the first object of legislation; and therefore what religious privileges we enjoy (as a minor part of the state) we enjoy as favors granted, and not as inalienable rights; and these favors we receive at the expense of such degrading acknowledgements [required by the Connecticut Certificate Law of 1791] as are inconsistent with the rights of freemen. It is not to be wondered at therefore; if those who seek after power and gain under the pretense of government and
    religion should reproach their fellow men–should reproach their
    order magistrate, as a enemy of religion, law, and good order,
    because he will not, dare not, assume the prerogatives of Jehovah
    and make laws [refuse to issue executive religious proclamations] to govern the kingdom of Christ.”

  51. Fred Flash,

    “Explain to me how making Christmas a holiday gives the government authority over religion?”

    It doesn’t. I never said it did. It just indicates that establishing a Christian religious holiday as a national holiday was not a big thing and was consistent with what the country was about. Similarly the use of prayer and the display of the ten commandments and other religious sayings in public places and on money was never an issue. Thomas Jefferson attended religious services regularly in Congress throughout his presidency as did other presidents.

    The whole idea of separation of church and state is nonsense no matter how far back you can find someone using the phrase. The constitutional amendment was about preventing the establishing a state religion sponsored and supported by the federal government. At the same time some states did establish state religions so this was not thought to be against the constitution.

    After World War II no one had any problem with vets using their GI bill money in religious schools. I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of vets used the money to become ministers, priests and rabbis.

    The separation of church and state issue is bogus and made up in the 20th century primarily by Hugo Black and was mainly used to undercut tax monies being used to support Catholics for their schools. The source for this is Mark Levin, a constitutional lawyer and Jewish.

  52. Jerry wrote that establishing a Christian religious holiday as a national holiday was not a big thing.

    ***

    Dear Jerry:

    During the early years of the Republic, Christmas wasn’t a federal government holiday. It wasn’t until after 1865, the year our nation surrendered any claim to be a true Christian nation, that Christmas became a holiday established by federal law.

  53. Jerry said:

    …the use of prayer…in public places…was never an issue.

    Dear Jerry:

    Civil authority over prayer was an issue during the early years of the Republic. That’s why there was no opening prayer in Congress until the 1850′s. That’s also why the general policy in the common schools was no prayer, unless there was 100% agreement. One objection meant no prayer.

    That’s also why 20,000 of Jefferson’s supporters marched in the streets of Philadelphia in 1798 to express their anger over President John Adams’ issuance of a prayer/fast recommendation. John Adams blamed his defeat in the 1800 Presidential election on his religious recommendation.

  54. Jerry wrote:

    … the display of the ten commandments in public places was never an issue.

    Dear Jerry:

    It apparently was an issue, dude. I challenge you to show us evidence that the federal government, during the early years of the Republic, ever recommended or suggested that the people obey the following commandments:

    “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me.
    You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.

    You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.

    You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.

    Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy. For six days you shall labour and do all your work. But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and consecrated it.”

    The 1810 Post Office law rejected the commandment regarding keeping the Sabbath holy. The law required the U. S. Mail to be transported on Sunday and the post offices to be opened.

    According to U. S. Representative Samuel Griffin (Virginia), a proposal to post the Ten Commandments in Federal Courthouses was proposed by Jonathan Grout of Massachusetts in 1789. It was rejected. Grout was supposedly labeled a fool by Roger Sherman.

  55. Jerry wrote:
    “…the display of … religious sayings in public places and on money was never an issue.”

    Dear Jerry:
    I challenge you to show us some evidence that the federal government, during the early years of the Republic, displayed religious sayings in public places and on money.

    The federal government didn’t do those sorts of things until the founders were all dead and the American people allowed the government to assume advisory authority over the things that are God’s.

    FYI, a statue depicting Roger Williams holding a book, on which was inscribed the Baptist name for “Separation of Church and State”, would have been seen by visitors to the Capitol Building during the 1820’s.

  56. Jerry wrote:

    “Thomas Jefferson attended religious services regularly in Congress throughout his presidency as did other presidents.”

    Dear Jerry:

    So what, dude? Atheist lectures were held in the Capitol Building during the early years of the Republic. One lecture was given by the famous infidel Robert Owen. It was attended by the President and the Vice President.

    Robert Owen was also granted permission to set up an exhibit in the White House. Christianity, in the eyes of the early federal government, was apparently no better than atheism, in the eyes of the law.

  57. Jerry wrote:

    “The whole idea of separation of church and state is nonsense no matter how far back you can find someone using the phrase.

    Dear Jerry:

    Just what do you mean by the phrase “separation of church and state?”

  58. Jerry wrote:

    “The constitutional amendment was about preventing the establishing of a state religion sponsored and supported by the federal government.”

    Dear Jerry:

    What words in the First Amendment do you construe to mean that it “was about preventing the establishing of a state religion sponsored and supported by the federal government?” I don’t see the words “preventing”, “establishing”, “state”, “sponsored”, “supported”, “federal” or “ government” in the First Amendment.

  59. Jerry wrote:

    “At the same time [the First Amendment was adopted] some states did establish state religions.”

    Dear Jerry:

    What exactly do you mean by “state religions?”

  60. Jerry wrote:

    “After World War II no one had any problem with vets using their GI bill money in religious schools.”

    Dear Jerry:

    Explain to us how that constitutes civil power over religion.

  61. Jerry wrote:

    “The separation of church and state
    issue is bogus…”

    Dear Jerry:

    Explain to us why Separation of Church and State is counterfeit or fake.

  62. Jerry wrote:

    “The separation of church and state issue was made up in the 20th century…”

    Dear Jerry:

    What exactly is separation of church and and state? I have the sense that you may attach a different meaning to the phrase than I do.

  63. Fred

    First, start by carefully reviewing and responding on the substance of the evidence here, which through the Library of Congress, comes from the acts of the Founding era Continental Congress. (NB: It includes facsimile reproductions of relevant Congressional proclamations.)

    Note especially the proclamations of days of fasting and prayer by said congress, and the substance of such, especially that of May 1776, just before the US DOI was issued.

    (You may find it wise to review the book facsimile from the Harvard Library courtesy the estate of the late, notable Senator Charles Sumner, here.)

    Observe as well, the summary made by the LOC, e.g.:

    The Continental- Confederation Congress, a legislative body that governed the United States from 1774 to 1789, contained an extraordinary number of deeply religious men . . . both the legislators and the public considered it appropriate for the national government to promote a nondenominational, nonpolemical Christianity . . . . Congress was guided by “covenant theology,” a Reformation doctrine especially dear to New England Puritans, which held that God bound himself in an agreement with a nation and its people . . . The first national government of the United States, was convinced that the “public prosperity” of a society depended on the vitality of its religion. Nothing less than a “spirit of universal reformation among all ranks and degrees of our citizens,” Congress declared to the American people, would “make us a holy, that so we may be a happy people.”

    You may then wish to examine the background to that, say starting with a summary of some of the evidence with onward links here.

    Then come back on your polemical talking points, in light of a more balanced understanding of the relevant context, historical and current.

    Ability to discuss with understanding the relevant parts of Duplessis-Mornay’s work, the Dutch DOI of 1581 under William the Silent, that of Samuel Rutherford, as well as Locke properly placed in the historical trend of thought, Hooker’s Ecclesiastical Polity while you are at it, and of course that of Blackstone and behind all of that to address Justinian’s synthesis, Corpus Juris Civilis, will be an asset.

    En passant, the import of the Trinity Decision on the point will be relevant, as will the remarks of the last of the great Calvinist statesmen, Abraham Kuyper, in his Princeton lectures in the 1890′s.

    GEM of TKI

  64. kairosfocus wrote:

    “…start by carefully reviewing and responding on the substance of the evidence here, which through the Library of Congress, comes from the acts of the Founding era Continental Congress.”

    Dear Kario:

    I assume the issue on the table is the meaning of the Constitution as it regards the relationship of religion to the government of the United States. In other words, you believe I should start my attempt to discern the meaning of the words of the Constitution by carefully reviewing the evidence presented in the Library of Congress exhibit.

    Please explain to me why I shouldn’t just rely on the well-established common law rules of construction to determine the meaning of the words of the Constitution. Isn’t that the way the lawmakers intended it to be interpreted?

  65. Kario wrote:

    Note especially the proclamations of days of fasting and prayer by said congress, and the substance of such, especially that of May 1776, just
    before the US DOI was issued.

    Dear Kario:

    The American people didn’t adopt government proclamations of days of fasting and prayer (or laws over the Kingdom of Christ, as the Baptists put it) as their constitution of government. Instead, they adopted the U. S. Constitution, which granted the government no authority or jurisdiction whatsoever over religious fasting or prayer, or any other duty owed to the Creator.

  66. Kario wrote:

    “You may find it wise to review the book facsimile from the Harvard Library courtesy the estate of the late, notable Senator Charles Sumner.”

    Dear Kario:

    I am quite familiar with the work by Sumner. However, it wasn’t adopted by the American people as a framework of civil government. The U. S. Constitution of 1787 was adopted for that purpose.

  67. Kario wrote:
    “Observe as well, the summary made by the LOC, e.g.:

    The Continental- Confederation Congress, a legislative body that governed the United States from 1774 to 1789, contained an extraordinary number of deeply religious men…”

    Dear Kario:

    Please explain to me why the religious opinions and beliefs of the members of the Continental Congress should be substituted for the words of the Constitution and the common law rules of construction?

  68. Kairosfocus wrote:

    “. . . both the legislators and the public considered it appropriate for the national government to promote a nondenominational, nonpolemical Christianity .”

    Dear Kairo:

    Show us where the U. S. Constitution grants the government authority to promote Christianity.

    PS: The people’s attitude regarding government promotion of Christianity underwent a dramatic shift from 1775 to 1787.

  69. Fred

    I have given you more than sufficient information to follow up for yourself.

    I need make no further comment to you until you show evidence of serious interaction with it. Indeed, unfortunately, you don’t seem to have understood where I excerpted and cited the US LOC display statement [using blockquotes to show what I was citing not stating myself], as I also linked. That statement comes with abundant historical source materials, some of it facsimiles of originals, even of manuscripts. (The book I linked gives more, vastly more. Warning: very fat PDF, about 36 MB.)

    So far, sadly, you are just repeating tired-out talking points — especially the same sort of strawmen you have been setting up and knocking over in addressing Jerry above.

    That’s not good enough.

    I note, for the sake of onlookers at least, that the force of the overall actual evidence — and as the LOC aptly summarised — is that the US Constitution arises in and expresses the second covenant (of government under God towards justice etc) of a nation established under God [as is envisioned in say the DOI of 1776, the first covenant being nationhood under God], in the ambit of the general Judaeo-Christian framework — as would be expected in what was then known as Christendom. I have given enough names and links for you or an interested onlooker to trace the chain of ideas and events for yourself.

    You may also find the specific statements of the Northwest Ordinance, and the comments on it in the LOC materials helpful in clarifying some of the issues you seem to have as well over “promotion” of Christian belief and associated virtues and values [as opposed to the establishment of a Federal level National Church of the United States, as there was and to some extent still is a National Church of the United Kingdom*].

    GEM of TKI

    * I understand that at the time of the Constitution’s coming into force, there were nine state-level established churches. The relevant Bill of Rights amendments allowed for that, and insisted that the right of religious dissent and activities associated therewith — expression, publication, association — be protected. I further gather that the 14th Amdt [?] in the post-Civil War era, in effect extended disestablishment to the individual states, at least as it has been interpreted.

  70. Kairosfocus wrote:

    “I have given you more than sufficient information to follow up for yourself. ”

    Dear Kairo:

    I am quite familiar with all of the evidence you cited. I am also knowledgeable of the common law rules of construction, which exclude almost all of it from consideration as we endeavor to interpret the meaning of the words of the Constitution.

  71. Kairosfocus wrote:

    “That statement comes with abundant historical source materials, some of it facsimiles of originals, even of manuscripts. (The book I linked gives more, vastly more. Warning: very fat PDF, about 36 MB.)”

    Dear Kairo:

    What statement are you referring to my dear friend?

  72. Kairosfocus wrote:

    “You may also find the specific statements of the Northwest Ordinance, and the comments on it in the LOC materials helpful in clarifying some of the issues you seem to have as well over “promotion” of Christian belief and associated virtues and values [as opposed to the establishment of a Federal level National Church of the United States, as there was and to some extent still is a National Church of the United Kingdom*].”

    Dear Kairo:

    What issues, dude?

    **********************************

    Kairosfocus wrote:

    “I understand that at the time of the Constitution’s coming into force, there were nine state-level established churches.”

    Dear Kairos:

    What’s your definition of a state-level established church?

  73. Onlookers:

    Sadly, Fred’s pattern continues.

    For instance, he has not even bothered to follow up and even briefly respond to relevant links in a given identified comment which he has already cited himself, and is here supposing or suggesting that what an established church is — after the Treaty of Westphalia of 1648 and the relevant preceding history, as well as that of England in the reformation era and down to in fact our own times — a matter of personal interpretation!

    As to his bald assertions that attitudes and understandings of the process of Government formation changed nationally radically between 1775/6 and 1787, I will simply leave that to perusal of the already linked Library of Congress display site; noting too that the linked facsimile of the B F Morris book bequeathed to Harvard by Sen Charles Sumner is also relevant and quite detailed. (I found its discussion of the context of the Constitution, Ch XII, p. 246 ff, interesting.)

    Relative to interpretation of documents composed at a given locus in history, the contemporary documents and commentary by witnesses should suffice to show that it is the contemporary one-sided secularist revisionist interpretations that are the distorted ones.

    So, sadly, it is plain that we are clearly dealing with the classic fallacy of the closed mind, with hints of selective hyper-skepticism as was long since exposed and refuted by the well-known professor Simon Greenleaf, late of Harvard Law School.

    In short, the evasive nature of the objections being made underscores the force of the point on the merits of fact and logic. In short, the LOC’s classic statement as already excerpted and linked at No 63 supra, stands:

    The Continental- Confederation Congress, a legislative body that governed the United States from 1774 to 1789, contained an extraordinary number of deeply religious men . . . both the legislators and the public considered it appropriate for the national government to promote a nondenominational, nonpolemical Christianity . . . . Congress was guided by “covenant theology,” a Reformation doctrine especially dear to New England Puritans, which held that God bound himself in an agreement with a nation and its people . . . The first national government of the United States, was convinced that the “public prosperity” of a society depended on the vitality of its religion. Nothing less than a “spirit of universal reformation among all ranks and degrees of our citizens,” Congress declared to the American people, would “make us a holy, that so we may be a happy people.” [Cf substantiating details by following the link and onward links.]

    Fred’s evasive response relative to the merits of fact and logic — by one who claims to be familiar with the relevant evidence — is therefore utterly telling.

    GEM of TKI

  74. Kairo wrote:

    “[Fred] has not even bothered to follow up and even briefly respond to relevant links in a given identified comment which he has already cited himself …”

    Dear Kairo:

    You have a bad habit of citing evidence without making it clear what you are trying to prove.

  75. Onlookers:

    I first note that I have already several times cited the US Library of Congress’ apt summary on the role and importance of the covenantal understanding of nationhood and government under God in the American founding era; most recently in 73 [with the link].

    It should be clear from that link and the onward evidence cited — as well as from the highly informative and abundantly detailed discussion and evidence in Mr Morris’ book [also linked in 63] and also my own notes and citations [again linked in 63] — that this Judaeo-Christian, Biblically based understanding of nationhood, justice/rights and government played a vital role in the American founding era, thus in the spreading of modern democratic self-government by a free people across the world. I cite it yet again:

    The Continental- Confederation Congress, a legislative body that governed the United States from 1774 to 1789, contained an extraordinary number of deeply religious men . . . both the legislators and the public considered it appropriate for the national government to promote a nondenominational, nonpolemical Christianity . . . . Congress was guided by “covenant theology,” a Reformation doctrine especially dear to New England Puritans, which held that God bound himself in an agreement with a nation and its people . . . The first national government of the United States, was convinced that the “public prosperity” of a society depended on the vitality of its religion. Nothing less than a “spirit of universal reformation among all ranks and degrees of our citizens,” Congress declared to the American people, would “make us a holy, that so we may be a happy people.”

    In short, on the evidence, the US founders and their work reflect the positive impact of the Judaeo-Christian worldview and value system on the rise of modern liberty. They sought to avert the deleterious impact of Institutional establishment of any one sect as a church of the USA, while basing their institution of new Gov’t on the underlying principles and commonalities of what C S Lewis would come to call Mere Christianity, as are to be found in say the 2nd paragraph of the US DOI.

    They by and large succeeded, and became a vital link in the contribution of the Judaeo-Christian worldview and associated values to the emergence and strength of modern liberty. That is, they did secure in material measure the Blessings of liberty — note the use of a covenantal word often found in the many calls to prayer, penitence and thanksgiving in the revolutionary era by the founding Continental Congress [which of course relates to the covenant of nationhood under God] — to themselves and increasingly so, to their posterity; though many a liberation struggle lay in the future, as is inevitable in such matters.

    Thus also, the modern, secularist historical revisionism often reflected in the distorted use of Jefferson’s “wall of separation,” is ill-founded.

    But, through suppression of highly material evidence and silencing of the other side of the debates, the perception has been created that the US founding had nothing to do with the flow of Judaeo-Christian influences as summarised. Indeed, many argue, assert or simply assume that this tradition is the inevitable and mortal enemy of liberty, often tossing around smear-words like “theocracy.”

    But in fact — just as the US DOI of 1776 warns in its famous 2nd paragraph [by using the term "self-evident"] — it is the secularist revisionism that ends up in many self-contradictory and potentially or actually tyrannical absurdities in theory of rights, policy, law, court rulings, and of course in fact on the ground as well. This is unsurprising, for, it can be seriously argued that the modern agenda of secularists tends to create a de facto establishment of the quasi-”antichurch” of evolutionary materialism and associated secular humanism. And, abundant history shows that such institutional establishment tends to tyranny, just as the Founders sought to avert.

    Recently discussed declarations by Mr Dawkins in and around the Crystal Clear Atheism conference and the associated Guardian interview make this all too painfully plain. And the associated declarations of the Minister of Education in Sweden underscore just where that leads: tyranny.

    On the main theme of this blog [and as the case of the Minister of Ed of Sweden's declaration sadly illustrates], one damaging effect of the growing quasi-establishment of the antichurch of evolutionary materialist secular humanism is that there is a suppression of a legitimate and evidentially well-supported [cf. my always linked] emergent research programme, Design Theory. Indeed, as the movie Expelled documents, this abusive suppression has reached proportions of now almost routine censorship, slander, career-busting, abuse of power and emergent tyranny in the relevant institutions of science and education.

    Had Mr Flash simply consulted and responded to the LOC summary and its underpinning evidence [as well as the other linked materials], the above would have been abundantly clear.

    GEM of TKI

    PS: Fred, I think there is a Kairo here at UD, who is not me.

  76. Kairo wrote:

    “[Fred] is here supposing or suggesting that what an established church is — after the Treaty of Westphalia of 1648 and the relevant preceding history, as well as that of England in the reformation era and down to in fact our own times — a matter of personal interpretation!”

    Dear Kairo:

    I wanted to know what exactly and precisely you meant by the phrase “state-level established churches” before deciding if I agreed with your claim, or rather your understanding that,“at the time of the Constitution’s coming into force, there were nine state-level established churches.”

    However, since you can’t, or won’t, even tell me what you meant by the phrase, I am forced to conclude that you have no idea what you’re talking about when it comes to the relationship of religion to the state governments at the time the U. S. Constitution was adopted.

    BTW, why are you such a ardent advocate of civil authority over religion? Didn’t the Lord Jesus Christ call for separation of the things that are God’s from the matters over which Caesar had legitimate jurisdiction?

  77. Kairo wrote:

    “As to his bald assertions that attitudes and understandings of the process of Government formation changed nationally radically between 1775/6 and 1787, I will simply leave that to perusal of the already linked Library of Congress display site; noting too that the linked facsimile of the B F Morris book bequeathed to Harvard by Sen Charles Sumner is also relevant and quite detailed. (I found its discussion of the context of the Constitution, Ch XII, p. 246 ff, interesting.) “

    Dear Kario:

    A good way to see the change, from 1775 to 1787, in the people’s attitude toward the mixing of religion with civil government is by comparing the religion provisions of the colonial charters and the laws made under those charters, as of the commencement of the revolution in 1775, to the state constitutions and laws on the same subject, as of the close of the founding era, 1793.

  78. Kairos wrote:

    “Relative to interpretation of documents composed at a given locus in history, the contemporary documents and commentary by witnesses should suffice to show that it is the contemporary one-sided secularist revisionist interpretations that are the distorted ones.”

    Dear Kairos:

    What particular contemporary one-sided secularist revisionist interpretations do you object to?

  79. Kairos wrote:

    “The Continental- Confederation Congress, a legislative body that governed the United States from 1774 to 1789, contained an extraordinary number of deeply religious men . . . both the legislators and the public considered it appropriate for the national government to promote a nondenominational, nonpolemical Christianity . . . . Congress was guided by “covenant theology,” a Reformation doctrine especially dear to New England Puritans, which held that God bound himself in an agreement with a nation and its people . . . The first national government of the United States, was convinced that the “public prosperity” of a society depended on the vitality of its religion. Nothing less than a “spirit of universal reformation among all ranks and degrees of our citizens,” Congress declared to the American people, would “make us a holy, that so we may be a happy people.” [Cf substantiating details by following the link and onward links.]”

    Dear Kairos:

    So what, dude? The U. S. Constitution of 1787 granted the government “not a shadow of a right to intermeddle in religion.” What does that say about the deeply religious men who wrote and voted for its adoption?

    Show us the words in Constitution that suggest that, at the time of its adoption, the national legislators and the American people considered it appropriate for the national government to promote a nondenominational, nonpolemical Christianity.

    Show us the words of the Constitution that indicate it was an agreement between God and the United States.

    Show us where the Constitution says anything that could be construed to mean that its makers were guided by “covenant theology?”

    Show us where the Constitution says that the public prosperity of a society depends on the vitality of its religion?

  80. Kairos wrote:

    “…I have cited the US Library of Congress’ summary on the role and importance of the covenantal understanding of nationhood and government under God in the American founding era.”

    Dear Kairos:

    The U. S. Constitution wasn’t written or adopted with the understanding that it would be interpreted according to the Library of Congress’ summary of the role and importance of the covenantal understanding of nationhood and government under God in the American founding era.

    It was written to be interpreted according to the well-established common law rules of construction laid down prior to 1787 by Blackstone, Rutherforth and Coke.

  81. Kairos wrote:

    “…the US founder..and their work reflect the…impact of the Judaeo-Christian worldview…”

    Dear Kairos:

    The view that religion was totally exempt from the cognizance of civil government was apparently the view of most American Christians in 1788. That’s why they established a national government with no power whatsoever over religion.

  82. Onlookers:

    Mr Flash has failed to even correct his problem of mistaking a citation with copious supporting evidence from the US Library of Congress, as a statement from me. And that, AFTER I have specifically called attention to and then corrected his mistake.

    That should suffice to show the depth of the problem at work here, especially the want of basic ability to evaluate and objectively address evidence — as opposed to endlessly regurgitating what I have to call tired out talking points.

    Sad.

    Until/unless I see evidence of serious engagement of evidence and of the historical dynamics expressed in that evidence, there is nothing more to say, other than that serious onlookers can easily enough follow up evidence for themselves.

    Just go to post 63 and follow up. [Remember, link no 2 is to a 36 MB file. Link no 3 shows what my own summary of the case looks like.]

    GEM of TKI

  83. Kairos wrote:

    “They sought to avert the deleterious impact of… [the] establishment of any one sect as a church of the USA…”

    Dear Kairos:

    There is nothing in the U. S. Constitution to indicate that the will of the lawmakers was to prohibit the establishment of any one sect while permitting the legal establishment of Christianity.

    The withholding of the rights of conscience from the trust granted to our national political rulers indicates that the view of most Americans in 1878 was that religion should be wholly exempt from the authority of civil government.

  84. Dave Scott wrote:

    “…trough suppression of highly material evidence and silencing of the other side of the debates, the perception has been created that the US founding had nothing to do with the flow of Judaeo-Christian influences.

    Dear Dave Scott:

    I don’t see any Jewish principles in the U. S. Constitution. The only “Christian” principle I see in the document is the liberal Christian view that “the civil magistrate has no power over things purely sacred”, as distinguished from the fraudulent Calvinistic “nursing fathers” view of the relationship of religion and government.

  85. Dave Scott wrote:

    “…the 1st amendment didn’t apply to state governments until the 14th amendment was ratified…”

    Dear Dave:

    No court ever ruled that the 1st amendment didn’t apply to state governments until the 14th amendment was ratified.

    The Constitution says that, “The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government.” It could be argued that the Republican form of government required that religion be exempt from the authority of the government.

  86. Dave Scott wrote:

    “Prior to the 14th amendment states weren’t forbidden from making laws regarding an establishment of religion.”

    Dear Dave:

    You need to read the State Constitutions in effect prior to the
    14th Amendment.

    For example, the Ohio Constitution of 1851 said “No person shall be compelled to attend, erect, or support any place of worship, or maintain any form of worship, against his consent; and no preference shall be given, by law, to any religious society; nor shall any interference with the rights of conscience be permitted. No religious test shall be required, as a qualification for office, nor shall any person be incompetent to be a witness on account of his religious belief…”

    The prohibition against any interference with the rights of conscience was rather broad don’t you think? James Madison’s view of the rights of conscience precluded even the exercise of recommendatory authority over religion by civil government.

  87. Onlookers:

    Let’s try one last experiment. Namely, correction of a few of the more blatant errors that so sadly but tellingly occur on FF’s part, and see if that can lead anywhere positive:

    1] FF,76: why are you such a ardent advocate of civil authority over religion?

    No-one in this thread (apart from FF’s ever so handy strawman) said or advocated such! Nor, has anyone save FF’s strawmen, advocated that the US Constitution gives the Fed Govt control over religion or established one or more sects [or all denominations collectively] of Christianity as the National Religion of the USA.

    What the LOC summary, B F Morris or my own notes, etc. and supportive evidence, etc, as linked in 63 etc, provides is the historical context for properly understanding how the Judaeo-Christian tradition with roots in the OT [Jewish] and the NT [Christian] — especially as elucidated through the liberation struggles that came out of the Reformation era — materially shaped the political theory and praxis and historical and socio-cultural matrix that were the context for the US Constitution of 1787, and much of the subsequent history.

    2] FF, 76: Didn’t the Lord Jesus Christ call for separation of the things that are God’s from the matters over which Caesar had legitimate jurisdiction?

    In fact,the relevant passage speaks of rendering to Caesar the things that belong to Caesar, and to God those things that belong to God.

    In context, the issue is that Caesar is — as Rom 13:1 – 7 highlights — God’s servant to do us good by upholding justice. So, his jurisdiction is not set by himself but by God his Lord and Creator — and for which he will in the end account. Government is under God (whether or not Caesar acknowledges it; for God is our Creator and Lord, cf. here Ac 17:24 ff etc] and Caesar is accountable before both God and the people for justice.

    And as the reformation thinkers from Duplessis-Mornay on saw, lower magistrates were also God’s servants with the same mandate, so if Caesar turns tyrant, such have a duty of interposition [conjointly with the people] to defend the victims from their would-be oppressor. This is the basic vindication of the Dutch DOI 1581, the English Glorious Revolution of 1688, and of course the US DOI of 1776. (Thankfully, in our time, the General Election is an institutionalised framework for such interposition without having to fight.)

    Had FF simply read my linked notes and followed them up, he would have seen all this and more.

    3] FF, 79: Show us where the Constitution says anything that could be construed to mean that its makers were guided by “covenant theology?”

    Of course, one needs not explicitly say something is so for it to be so; thus, the relevance of the evidence cited by LOC, by B F Morris, and even myself — evidence FF refuses to address on the substance and the merits.

    Had FF read even just my notes [or just no 47 supra], he would have observed this excerpt that lays out the overall structure of the US Constitution as one grand overall statement — a very typical style of C18 – 19 legal documents:

    [Const] We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America . . . . [Main Body, Arts I - VII] . . . . Done in Convention by the Unanimous Consent of the States present the Seventeenth Day of September in the Year of our Lord [cf Rom 1: 1 - 5] one thousand seven hundred and Eighty seven and of the Independence of the United States of America the Twelfth. In Witness whereof We have hereunto subscribed our Names. . . . . [AMENDMENTS].

    BTW, Morris has an interesting discussion of the latter highlighted statement, on the import of the parallel dating. On the main point, in 47, I went on to note:

    “Blessings,” of course is not a general legal term, but as the Theology-trained Madison [he studied under Witherspoon] would have known, is a covenantal one.

    Indeed, it reflects the ideas recently summarised by the US Library of Congress [cf the above linked] in discussing the religious framework of the US Founding [cite follows] . . . .

    A brief excerpt from the Congressional proclamation of penitence of May 1776 will suffice to show what “blessings of liberty” meant in America circa 1775 – 1787 [cite follows, cf. 47]

    Of course, there is actually a large set of these Congressional proclamations and similar documents, of which the LOC collection gives a good cross section across the full founding era [as does B F Morris]. The notion that there was a decisive rejection of the spirit of 1776 by 1787 is without historical foundation.

    That also brings up the next gross error:

    4] FF, 80: The U. S. Constitution wasn’t written or adopted with the understanding that it would be interpreted according to the Library of Congress’ summary of the role and importance of the covenantal understanding of nationhood and government under God in the American founding era.

    Q: Who said it was? ANS: no-one, save the ever-handy strawman FF hopes to knock over.

    What the LOC summary does, is to accurately reflect and sum up the body of evidence cited as can be examined by simply following the link in 63 to the relevant page. In turn, that makes crystal clear just what “Blessings of Liberty” under “OUR Lord” meant, circa 1776 – 1789 in the USA — as a part of what was then generally known as Christendom.

    5] FF, 83: There is nothing in the U. S. Constitution to indicate that the will of the lawmakers was to prohibit the establishment of any one sect while permitting the legal establishment of Christianity.

    Strawman, again.

    Amdt 1 is of course a prohibition on the setting up of a Federal level Church of the USA, but especially when tied to the reservation of un-delegated powers to the states and people, it reflects the Westphalia principle of 1648, of accepting local establishment of churches but protecting the rights of dissenters. Morris has an interesting discussion on this matter, though he does not explicitly address that crucial 1648 settlement

    We are not talking of the legal establishment of Christianity, but of the impact of the Covenantal understanding of nationhood and Government under God — as point 3 just above outlines.

    Many more similar gross errors are in FF’s declamations above, but I think that astute readers can see enough to make up their minds by this point.

    6] Blackstone.

    Instead of further belabouring point by point, it is worth closing off by excerpting a classic remark by Blackstone, which sets the 1776 DOI and 1787 Constitution in the context of legal thought shaped by the Judaeo-Christian heritage:

    Man, considered as a creature, must necessarily be subject to the laws of his creator, for he is entirely a dependent being . . . consequently, as man depends absolutely upon his maker for every thing, it is necessary that he should in all points conform to his maker’s will. This will of his maker is called the law of nature. For as God, when he created matter, and endued it with a principle of mobility, established certain rules for the perpetual direction of that motion; so, when he created man, and endued him with freewill to conduct himself in all parts of life, he laid down certain immutable laws of human nature, whereby that freewill is in some degree regulated and restrained, and gave him also the faculty of reason to discover the purport of those laws . . . These are the eternal, immutable laws of good and evil, to which the creator himself in all his dispensations conforms; and which he has enabled human reason to discover, so far as they are necessary for the conduct of human actions. Such among others are these principles: that we should live honestly [NB: cf. Exod. 20:15 - 16], should hurt nobody [NB: cf. Rom 13:8 - 10], and should render to every one his due [NB: cf. Rom 13:6 - 7 & Exod. 20:15]; to which three general precepts Justinian[1: a Juris praecepta sunt hace, honeste vivere. alterum non laedere, suum cuique tribuere. Inst, 1. 1. 3] has reduced the whole doctrine of law

    THAT is the plainly Judaeo-Christian context for applying Blackstone’s principles of Common Law interpretation.

    GEM of TKI

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