The great idea of individual freedom is what the Founders of the USA intended the new nation to embody – not Christianity.
We have selected passages on this theme from an article by Rob Boston in Church and State, denying “10 myths” about the First Amendment and its implications:
Myth One: Separation of church and state isn’t found in the U.S. Constitution.
Separation of church and state came about in America because during the colonial period there often was no separation, and this violated fundamental liberties. The system the Religious Right favors – church-state union – was tried in many colonies and found wanting.
Throughout the article, the author ascribes the myths exclusively to the “Religious Right”. In our experience, Christians of both Right and Left repeat these same fallacies.
Virginia led the way. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison worked together to disestablish the Anglican Church and pass legislation that extended true religious freedom to all. Some years later, it was Jefferson who penned the metaphor of the First Amendment erecting a “wall of separation between church and state”. Jefferson’s metaphor resonated with the public and the courts. Thus, the phrase “separation of church and state” came into being as a short-hand way of describing the First Amendment’s religion clauses. As the eminent church-state scholar Leo Pfeffer once wrote, “[I]t was inevitable that some convenient term should come into existence to verbalize a principle so widely held by the American people.”
Key Founders backed the concept. Madison, known as the “Father of the Constitution” and a primary drafter of the Bill of Rights, used similar language. In Virginia, Madison noted that he and Jefferson had created the “total separation of the church from the state”. As president, Madison was a strict advocate of this principle. He vetoed legislation that would have given a church in Washington, D.C., a symbolic charter to care for the poor, and he vetoed legislation giving a federal land grant to a church. In both cases, Madison issued veto messages citing the First Amendment.
Myth Two: The United States was founded to be a Christian nation.
This claim is easily debunked by referring to the text of the U.S. Constitution. If an officially Christian nation had been the Founders’ intent, the Constitution would say that explicitly. It doesn’t. In fact, it says the opposite.
Religion is referred to twice in the Constitution. The First Amendment bars laws “respecting an establishment of religion” and prohibiting “the free exercise thereof.” The first portion of this statement, which scholars call the Establishment Clause, cuts strongly against the notion of an officially Christian nation.
The second reference is often overlooked but is very important. Article VI contains language stating that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” What the Founders did here was ban religious qualifications for federal office – that is, they made it illegal to require that a person hold certain religious beliefs as a qualification for public office. Article VI ensures that all people – Christians, Jews, Muslims, atheists, etc. – can hold office at the federal level. It is impossible to square this language with the “Christian nation” concept.
Many conservative pastors of the post-Revolution era were well aware of the secular nature of the Constitution. They knew that the document did not establish an officially Christian nation. This angered them and led to a round of pulpit attacks on the “godless” Constitution.
Myth Three: Separation of church and state was originally intended to merely bar the creation of a national church.
The text of the First Amendment goes way beyond simply banning a national church. The amendment prohibits all laws “respecting an establishment of religion”. James Madison, one of the chief drafters of the amendment, interpreted it broadly. Madison believed that tax funding of churches was unconstitutional and even concluded, later in his life, that official White House proclamations calling for days of prayer were a violation.
It is true that some colonies had official churches. But it’s worth noting that the religion enshrined in law varied from colony to colony. … This “multiplicity of sects,” as Thomas Jefferson called it, ensured an effective check on an officially established national church.
Myth Four: Most of the Founders were evangelical Christians and supported government promulgation of that mode of faith.
Evangelicalism did take hold in the colonies in the post-Revolutionary era, but it was never embraced by key Founders. Rather, they tended to align with a rival school that sought to merge certain ethical principles of Christianity with the tenets of the Enlightenment, which stressed the primacy of science and reason. …
Many Founders are identified as Deists, a theological school of thought that is less popular today. Deists believed in God but didn’t interpret the Bible in a literal fashion. They were skeptical of miraculous claims and sought to find a way to bring religion into alignment with the emerging scientific view of the world.
Yes, many Founders were Deists, but here a correction is needed. As theological terms, Deism means belief that a divine being made the universe but had nothing more to do with it; Theism. in contrast, means belief in a creator who continues to concern himself with human affairs.
Some of the signers of the Constitution did undoubtedly hold traditional Christian beliefs. But this does not mean they supported merging church and state.
Myth Five: Mottos like “In God We Trust” on currency and “Under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance are evidence that separation of church and state was never intended.
Both of these phrases are of much more recent origin than many people believe.
“In God We Trust” is familiar to most Americans because it appears on U.S. currency. But early American money did not carry this phrase. The Fugio cent, a penny authorized by Congress in 1787 and reportedly designed by Benjamin Franklin, contained the mottos “Mind Your Business” and “We Are One” – a reference to the 13 colonies.
“In God We Trust” didn’t appear on coins until the Civil War, when it was authorized for use on some coins minted in the North. The use of the phrase was sporadic on currency and was not codified until the 1950s. Around the same time, the phrase was adopted as the national motto. (“E Pluribus Unum” had been serving as an unofficial motto until then.) Many scholars believe that the adoption of these religious phrases was a reaction to the fight against “godless communism” during the Cold War.
The Pledge of Allegiance was written in 1892 by Francis Bellamy, a minister and a socialist. Bellamy wrote the Pledge to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the voyage of Christopher Columbus. Bellamy’s Pledge, which did not include the phrase “under God,” appeared in a magazine called Youth’s Companion. After a lobbying campaign by the magazine … it was adopted for use in public schools as part of a daily flag-salute ritual. Congress added the words “under God” to the Pledge in 1954, again as a reaction to the fight against communism.
In short, the Founders had nothing to do with these religious mottos or their adoption.
Myth Six: Thanks to separation of church and state, kids can’t pray in public schools.
The U.S. Supreme Court in 1962 and 1963 banned programs of government-sponsored, compulsory prayer and Bible reading in public schools. The high court did not invalidate truly voluntary prayer and hasn’t done so since then. … Young people in public schools today may pray and read religious books in a non-disruptive way – but the choice is now theirs. No students can be compelled to take part in religious worship in a public school or singled out for refusing to do so. …
In addition, the Supreme Court has made it clear that public schools can teach about religion in an objective manner. Religion can be discussed in classes like history, art, literature and others. The Bible and other religious texts can even be read as part of a comparative religion course. As long as the approach has legitimate educational goals, public school officials will not get into trouble for teaching about religion. …
Myth Seven: Separation of church and state fosters secularism, which drains religion of its vitality.
Official government secularism is not the enemy of faith; it is the defender of it. A secular state is one that is neutral on matters of theology. An official policy of government neutrality toward religion is a positive thing for faith communities. …
The United States is a perfect example of how an official doctrine of secularism helps religion. In this country, the government long ago adopted a hands-off attitude toward religion. As a result, hundreds (if not thousands) of specific faith groups have sprung up on our shores. Religious groups remain vital, and most Americans claim a religious affiliation.
Other Western nations have either established churches or some form of government aid to religion. Ironically, it is in these nations where religion is withering away. It would seem that the official tie between church and state and the rejection of secularism as a legal principle sap faith of its vitality. In the end, religion becomes a mere creature of the state and a tool for promoting whatever policies government leaders decide are appropriate. This is not what people want, and they turn away from religion.
A thought, perhaps even a fact, that does not seem a happy one to us. If separation of church and state has actually encouraged religiosness and multiplied religions, it is not an unmitigated virtue of the Constituion after all. But it may be that freedom alone is responsible for the hundreds or thousands of churches in the US. And there is no consequence of freedom that can make it regrettable.
Myth Eight: Separation of church and state means that government must be hostile to religion.
In some countries, houses of worship are shuttered by government mandate, and religious people are persecuted. Nothing like that has occurred in the United States, which operates under the separation of church and state.
The separation principle contains two key parts: The government is to refrain from promoting, sponsoring or advocating for any faith. Yet at the same time, the government is required not to meddle in the internal affairs of religious groups or impose undue regulations and oversight on them. Church-state separation protects religion by placing it beyond the reach of government. …
Not quite “beyond the reach of government”. Government’s interfering hand has held out offerings:
Religious groups in America receive many benefits. They are wholly tax exempt and are often free from the regulatory oversight that is imposed on similarly situated secular groups. They are free to lobby and speak out on political issues. They often receive special exemptions and preferential treatment in secular law. Far from experiencing hostility, the place of religion in this nation where we separate church and state is in many ways exalted.
Myth Nine: Most religious leaders don’t support separation of church and state.
Some of the earliest proponents of separation of church and state were religious leaders. Roger Williams, a Puritan clergyman and the founder of Rhode Island, strongly advocated for separation during the colonial era. Years later, clerics like John Leland and Isaac Backus demanded separation as the best vehicle to protect the right of conscience for all.
In colonial Virginia and elsewhere, clergy from Baptist, Presbyterian and other traditions worked alongside Enlightenment thinkers like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison to secure church-state separation. These religious leaders knew that only separation could protect their faith and enable it to prosper.
In the modern era, many members of the clergy … [and] religious denominations are on record as officially supporting the concept.
Myth Ten: Separation of church and state stifles the public voice and presence of religion.
Anyone who believes this hasn’t been paying attention. The United States operates under separation of church and state, yet religious groups have a loud and robust public voice. They speak out – from the left, right and center – on any number of political issues. As tax-exempt entities, houses of worship are not permitted under federal law to endorse or oppose candidates for public office, but there is nothing to stop them from addressing issues. … Nor does separation of church and state result in what one foe of the principle called a “naked public square”. It’s true that government may not post or erect religious symbols, but private religious groups are often able to use public space to display them with their own money and on their own time. All that is required is that the government must treat all religious and secular groups equally; if access to public space is extended to one group, it must be extended to all.
To sum up: the Constitution does require the separation of church and state, even though the phrase itself does not appear in it.
Here is some interesting information about the 1775 Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms, which may not be well known. It comes from an article at Townhall by Chuck Norris:
Most everyone knows about America’s 1776 Declaration of Independence. But did you know that on July 6 a year earlier, Congress initiated a Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms?
It’s true. … On July 6, 1775, just a day after our Founding Fathers issued their Olive Branch Petition to King George III, Congress gave just reason for taking up arms against Great Britain. In the declaration, they wrote they would “die freemen rather than live slaves”. …
The lengthier name is A Declaration by the Representatives of the United Colonies of North-America, Now Met in Congress at Philadelphia, Setting Forth the Causes and Necessity of Their Taking Up Arms.
It was primarily the work of Thomas Jefferson and John Dickinson; the former penned the first draft, and the latter produced the final draft. …
Known as the “Penman of the Revolution,” Dickinson was referred to by Jefferson as being “among the first of the advocates for the rights of his country when assailed by Great Britain.” His name, Jefferson said, “will be consecrated in history as one of the great worthies of the revolution.”
Dickinson was a militia officer during the Revolution, a member of the Continental Congress from Pennsylvania and Delaware, a delegate to the Constitutional Convention, president of Delaware, and president of Pennsylvania. …
The Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms [asserts]:
The legislature of Great-Britain, stimulated by an inordinate passion for a power not only unjustifiable, but which they know to be peculiarly reprobated by the very constitution of that kingdom, and desperate of success in any mode of contest where regard should be had to truth, law, or right, have at length, deserting those, attempted to effect their cruel and impolitic purpose of enslaving these colonies by violence, and have thereby rendered it necessary for us to close with their last appeal from reason to arms.
Is it any surprise that when creating our Constitution, our founders would include as prominent the need for a free people to bear arms? The Second Amendment reads, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
Chuck Norris is a devout Christian, and his article includes passages about “the Creator” and the Ten Commandments. We have of course cut those out. But we like what we have quoted. The need for Americans to be armed is greater than ever now that a tyrannical and would-be totalitarian administration is hellbent on nudging the entire population of the US into lockstep obedience to its command.
The organizers of an important Conservative conference have banned an atheist organization from attending it and setting out its stall.
The Conservative Political Action Committee, the largest and oldest gathering of conservatives, is run by the American Conservative Union and will be held at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in Maryland’s National Harbor from March 6 to 8. Last year, the event brought together thousands of activists to listen to dozens of Republican leaders speak about everything from economics and foreign policy to social issues. The event has long been considered a required stop for Republican presidential hopefuls.
That and what follows we quote from CNN’s “belief blog”.
Organizers for the 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference will not allow American Atheists to have an exhibition booth …
The decision comes just hours after American Atheists, the outspoken organization that advocates for atheists nationwide, announced that it would have a booth at the event. David Silverman, president of American Atheists, tells CNN that a groundswell of opposition from high-ranking members of CPAC compelled the group to pull the invite.
Meghan Snyder, a spokeswoman for CPAC, said in a statement to CNN that “American Atheists misrepresented itself about their willingness to engage in positive dialogue and work together to promote limited government.”
“I’m surprised and I’m saddened,” Silverman said in response to the announcement. “I think this is a very disappointing turn of events. I was really looking forward to going … It is very obvious to me they were looking for a reason to say no,” Silverman added. “Christianity is bad for conservatism and they did not want that message out there.” …
Silverman said his group [had] planned to use the booth to bring conservative atheists “out of the closet” and said he was not worried about making the Christian right angry because “the Christian right should be threatened by us.”
Snyder said CPAC spoke to Silverman about his divisive and inappropriate language.
He pledged that he will attack the very idea that Christianity is an important element of conservatism. People of any faith tradition should not be attacked for their beliefs, especially at our conference. …
But yes, Ms Snyder, it is precisely beliefs that ought to be attacked. Continually. Forever.
The critical examination of ideas is the essential task of civilized humankind.
When [earlier] Snyder had confirmed to CNN that American Atheists would be at CPAC, she said in a statement that they were allowed to display at the confab because “conservatives have always stood for freedom of religion and freedom of expression.”
“The folks we have been working with stand for many of the same liberty-oriented policies and principles we stand for,” Snyder said. …
And so, she had thought, did American Atheists. But the decision to include them had outraged some conservatives.
Tony Perkins, president of the Christian conservative think-tank Family Research Council, expressed outrage at the decision, stating that the American Atheists did “not seek to add their voice to the chorus of freedom”. [He said] “CPAC’s mission is to be an umbrella for conservative organizations that advance liberty, traditional values and our national defense.”
Does the American Conservative Union really think the liberties and values they seek to preserve can be maintained when they partner with individuals and organizations that are undermining the understanding that our liberties come from God? Thomas Jefferson warned against such nonsense. If this is where the ACU is headed, they will have to pack up and put away the “C”‘ in CPAC!” …
The first “C” for “Conservative” we suppose is the one he meant. But why would it need to be packed away if atheists are allowed to have their say? Perhaps Perkins thinks it stands for “Christian”.
American Atheist is well known for its controversial billboards and media campaigns and is considered the in-your-face contingent in the world of atheist activists. The group’s members pride themselves as being the “Marines” of the atheist movement. …
In explaining why the group decided to join CPAC on Monday, Silverman cited a 2012 Pew Research study that found 20% of self-identified conservatives consider themselves religiously unaffiliated. While that does not mean they are atheists, Silverman believes learning more about atheism will make it more likely conservatives will choose to identify with those who believe there is no God.
Just as there are many closeted atheists in the church pews, I am extremely confident that there are many closeted atheists in the ranks of conservatives. This is really a serious outreach effort, and I am very pleased to be embarking on it.
The group has long targeted Republican lawmakers, although Silverman considers the organization nonpartisan.
In 2013, American Atheists launched a billboard campaign against three Republican politicians: former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum. All three Republicans have spoken at CPAC in the past.
On one billboard, Santorum is pictured to the left of a quote attributed to him. “Our civil laws have to comport with a higher law. God’s law,” the quote reads. Underneath the graphic is a tagline: “GO GODLESS INSTEAD.”
Comment on this affair comes from National Review, by Charles C. W. Cooke: :
Yesterday, in response to one of the many brouhahas that CPAC seems always to invite, Brent Bozell issued the following statement:
The invitation extended by the ACU, Al Cardenas and CPAC to American Atheists to have a booth is more than an attack on conservative principles. It is an attack on God Himself. American Atheists is an organization devoted to the hatred of God. How on earth could CPAC, or the ACU and its board of directors, and Al Cardenas condone such an atrocity?
So Brent Bozell thinks that issuing the invitation was an attack on conservative principles. More, it was “an attack on God Himself”. As such, it was a veritable “atrocity“!
The particular merits of the American Atheists group to one side, this is a rather astounding thing for Bozell to have said. In just 63 words, he confuses disbelief in God for “hatred” for God — a mistake that not only begs the question but is inherently absurd (one cannot very well hate what one does not believe is there); he condemns an entire conference on the basis of one participant — not a good look for a struggling movement, I’m afraid; and, most alarmingly perhaps, he insinuates that one cannot simultaneously be a conservative and an atheist. I reject this idea — and with force.
If atheism and conservatism are incompatible, then I am not a conservative. And nor, I am given to understand, are George Will, Charles Krauthammer, Anthony Daniels, Walter Olson, Heather Mac Donald, James Taranto, Allahpundit, or S. E. Cupp. There is no getting around this — no splitting the difference: I don’t believe there is a God. It’s not that I’m “not sure” or that I haven’t ever bothered to think about it; it’s that I actively think there isn’t a God — much as I think there are no fairies or unicorns or elves. The degree to which I’m confident in this view works on a scale, certainly: I’m much surer, for example, that the claims of particular religions are untrue and that there is no power intervening in the affairs of man than I am that there was no prime mover of any sort.
Rrrreally, Mr Cooke?
But, when it comes down to it, I don’t believe in any of those propositions.
Am I to be excommunicated from the Right?
One of the problems we have when thinking about atheism in the modern era is that the word has been hijacked and turned into a political position when it is no such thing. The Oxford English Dictionary defines an “atheist” as someone who exhibits “disbelief in, or denial of, the existence of a god.” That’s me right there — and that really is the extent of it.
Okay, you can have a booth at any conference we ever organize.
Or have we spoken too soon? Repeat what you were mumbling, please?
No, I don’t dislike anyone who does believe that there is a God; no, with a few obvious exceptions, I am not angry at the religious; and no, I do not believe the devout to be in any way worse or less intelligent than myself. Insofar as the question inspires irritation in me at all it is largely reserved for the sneering, smarmy, and incomprehensibly self-satisfied New Atheist movement, which has turned the worthwhile writings of some extremely smart people into an organized means by which a cabal of semi-educated twentysomethings might berate the vast majority of the human population and then congratulate one another as to how clever they are.
What New Atheist movement? If it exists, we want to join it. What is incomprehensible about it? What suggests that “it” is self-satisifed? What worthwhile writings would those be? Who are these beraters? And are they not – in that they are atheists – cleverer than “the vast majority of the human population”?
Which is to say that, philosophically speaking, I couldn’t really care less … and practically speaking I am actually pretty warm toward religion — at least as it is practiced in America. True or false, American religion plays a vital and welcome role in civil society, has provided a number of indispensable insights into the human condition, acts as a remarkably effective and necessary check on the ambitions of government and central social-planners, is worthy of respect and measured inquiry on the Burkean grounds that it has endured for this long and been adopted by so many, and has been instrumental in making the United States what it is today.…
We would dispute almost every one of those propositions, especially that religion is “worthy of respect” – though of “measured inquiry”, yes, it is worthy, and should be subjected to it mercilessly.
We like most of what he goes on to say next. And he provides some interesting information:
None of this, however, excuses the manner in which conservatives often treat atheists such as myself. George H. W. Bush, who was more usually reticent on such topics, is reported to have said that he didn’t “know that atheists should be regarded as citizens, nor should they be regarded as patriotic[because] this is one nation under God”.
Whether Bush ever uttered these words or not, this sentiment has been expressed by others elsewhere. It is a significant mistake. What “this nation” is, in fact, is one nation under the Constitution — a document that precedes the “under God” reference in the Gettysburg Address by more than seven decades and the inclusion of the phrase in the Pledge of Allegiance by 165 years. (“In God We Trust,” too, was a modern addition, replacing “E Pluribus Unum” as the national motto in 1956 after 174 years.)
Indeed, given the troubled waters into which American religious liberty has of late been pushed, it strikes me that conservatives ought to be courting atheists — not shunning them. I will happily take to the barricades for religious conscience rights, not least because my own security as a heretic is bound up with that of those who differ from me, and because a truly free country seeks to leave alone as many people as possible — however eccentric I might find their views or they might find mine. In my experience at least, it is Progressivism and not conservatism that is eternally hostile to variation and to individual belief, and, while we are constantly told that the opposite is the case, it is those [leftists] who pride themselves on being secular who seem more likely and more keen to abridge my liberties than those who pride themselves on being religious. That I do not share the convictions of the religious by no means implies that I wish for the state to reach into their lives. Nevertheless, religious conservatives will find themselves without many friends if they allow figures such as Mr. Bozell to shoo away the few atheists who are sympathetic to their broader cause.
As it happens, not only do I reject the claim that the two positions are antagonistic, but I’d venture that much of what informs my atheism informs my conservatism also. I am possessed of a latent skepticism of pretty much everything, a hostility toward the notion that one should believe things because they are a nice idea, a fear of holistic philosophies, a dislike of authority and of dogma, a strong belief in the Enlightenment as interpreted and experienced by the British and not the French, and a rather tenacious refusal to join groups.
Yes, a conservative should logically be skeptical of ideology as such. And impatient with the irrational. And religions are among the most irrational of ideologies.
Occasionally, I’m asked why I “believe there is no God,” which is a reasonable question in a vacuum but which nonetheless rather seems to invert the traditional order of things. After all, that’s not typically how we make our inquiries on the right, is it? Instead, we ask what evidence there is that something is true. …
A great deal of the friction between atheists and conservatives seems to derive from a reasonable question. “If you don’t consider that human beings are entitled to ‘God given’ liberties,” I am often asked, “don’t you believe that the unalienable rights that you spend your days defending are merely the product of ancient legal accidents or of the one-time whims of transient majorities?” Well, no, not really. As far as I can see, the American settlement can thrive perfectly well within my worldview. God or no God, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence are all built upon centuries of English law, human experience, and British and European philosophy, and the natural-law case for them stands nicely on its own.
And he then turns to Thomas Jefferson, who penned the Declaration, and, far from “warning against undermining the understanding that our liberties come from God” as Tony Perkins claims …
… rejected revealed religion because revealed religion suggests a violation of the laws of nature. For revelation or any miracle to occur, the laws of nature would necessarily be broken. Jefferson did not accept this violation of natural laws. He attributed to God only such qualities as reason suggested.
Which, as the quoted passage goes on to explain, are none:
“Of the nature of this being,” Jefferson wrote to John Adams in 1817, “we know nothing.”
Logically then, not even its existence, though Jefferson is not recorded as ever having said so.
This is from the Washington Post:
A group of atheists unveiled a monument to their non-belief in God … to sit alongside a granite slab that lists the Ten Commandments in front of the Bradford County [Florida] courthouse.
As a small group of protesters blasted Christian country music and waved “Honk for Jesus” signs, the atheists celebrated what they believe is the first atheist monument allowed on government property in the United States. …
American Atheists sued to try to have the stone slab with the Ten Commandments removed from the courthouse lawn in this rural, conservative town in northern Florida. Their demand was not met, but they were told they could erect their own monument in “what is described as a free–speech zone”.
It ‘s not just a monument, however:
“When you look at this monument, the first thing you will notice is that it has a function. . . we selected to place this monument in the form of a bench,” said David Silverman, president of American Atheists. …
The event – on Saturday June 29, 3013 – made a small stir:
About 200 people attended the unveiling. Most were supportive, although there were protesters, including a group from the Florida League of the South that had signs that said, “Yankees Go Home.” …
After the 1,500-pound granite bench was unveiled, people rushed to have their pictures taken on it. The bench bears quotes from Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and Madalyn Murray O’Hair, the founder of American Atheists. It also has a list of Old Testament punishments for violating the Ten Commandments, including death and stoning.
The event did not pass entirely without drama. A Christian “jumped atop the peak of the monument and shouted his thanks to the atheists for giving him a platform to declare that Jesus is real.” [He isn’t – ed.] But “atheists shouted at him, and he stepped down after about a minute”. …
The atheists said they expected protesters.
“There always are,” said Rick Wingrove, director of a Washington, D.C., area office of American Atheists. “We protest their events, they protests our events. As long as everybody’s cordial and let people speak. This is our day, not theirs. We’re fine with them being here.”
Could we now have a monument to non-belief in socialism in the grounds of the White House?
In support of the Second Amendment:
Alexander Hamilton: “The best we can hope for concerning the people at large is that they be properly armed,” adding later, “If the representatives of the people betray their constituents, there is then no recourse left but in the exertion of that original right of self-defense which is paramount to all positive forms of government.”
James Madison: “(The Constitution preserves) the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation … (where) the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms.”
Thomas Jefferson: “What country can preserve its liberties if its rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms.”
George Mason, author of the Virginia Bill of Rights, which inspired our Constitution’s Bill of Rights, said, “To disarm the people – that was the best and most effectual way to enslave them.”
Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey: “Certainly, one of the chief guarantees of freedom under any government, no matter how popular and respected, is the right of the citizen to keep and bear arms. … The right of the citizen to bear arms is just one guarantee against arbitrary government, one more safeguard against the tyranny which now appears remote in America but which historically has proven to be always possible.”
We took these quotations from an article by Walter Williams. In addition he reminds us:
Notice that the people who support gun control are the very people who want to control and dictate our lives.
And arbitrary government no longer “appears remote in America” under the Obama regime.
John Adams said:
The government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.
Thomas Paine said:
The study of theology, as it stands in Christian churches, is the study of nothing; it is founded on nothing; it rests on nothing; it proceeds by no authorities; it has no data; it can demonstrate nothing and admits of no conclusion.
The Bible: a history of wickedness that has served to corrupt and brutalise mankind.
The Christian system of religion is an outrage on common sense.
The Church was resolved to have a New Testament, and out of the loads of rubbish that were presented it voted four to be Gospels, and others to be Epistles, as we now find them arranged.
This is the rubbish called Revealed Religion!
Thomas Jefferson said:
I do not find in orthodox Christianity one redeeming feature.
Religions are all alike – founded upon fables and mythologies.
History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes.
In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own.
Christianity is the most perverted system that ever shone on man.
George Washington said:
Religious controversies are always productive of more acrimony and irreconcilable hatreds than those which spring from any other cause. I had hoped that liberal and enlightened thought would have reconciled the Christians so that their religious fights would not endanger the peace of Society.
James Madison said:
During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What has been its fruits? More or less, in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry, and persecution.
In no instance have the churches been guardians of the liberties of the people.
Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise.
Benjamin Franklin said:
I have found Christian dogma unintelligible. Early in life, I absented myself from Christian assemblies.
Theodore Roosevelt said:
To discriminate against a thoroughly upright citizen because he belongs to some particular church, or because, like Abraham Lincoln, he has not avowed his allegiance to any church, is an outrage against that liberty of conscience which is one of the foundations of American life.
Was the Republic of the United States created as a Christian nation?
Warren Throckmorton, in a Townhall article here, asks a question more precisely focused but essentially the same: “Did the first amendment create a Christian nation?”
His answer is no. He explains:
Most states had established Christian denominations in the years before the passage of the Constitution but two states did not, Rhode Island and Virginia. Virginia, the home of Madison and Jefferson, is the most relevant to what would become the First Amendment. In 1786, Madison succeeded in shepherding religious freedom protections through the Virginia legislature that in his words, “have in this country extinguished forever the ambitious hope of making laws for the human mind.”
Unfortunately not forever. “Hate crimes” are laws for the human mind. And they are entirely unnecessary. Those who commit them are either committing a crime, in which case they should be prosecuted regardless of what emotion accompanied it, or they did not, in which case the law should disregard them, hate though they might.
Still, what Madison did achieve was great and lasting – at least until now.
The law that gave Madison his ebullient hope was the Virginia Act for Establishing Religious Freedom, which reads in part:
“Be it enacted by the General Assembly, That no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.”
According to Thomas Jefferson, who had no small hand in the matter,some Virginia legislators wanted to direct the act toward Christianity by inserting Jesus Christ into a section of the Preamble. Jefferson’s account makes clear the extent of the freedom of expression which the Virginia legislature affirmed:
“The bill for establishing religious freedom, the principles of which had, to a certain degree, been enacted before, I had drawn in all the latitude of reason and right. It still met with opposition; but, with some mutilations in the preamble, it was finally passed; and a singular proposition proved that its protection of opinion was meant to be universal. Where the preamble declares, that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed, by inserting the word “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 Mahometan [Islam], the Hindoo [Hinduism], and Infidel of every denomination.”
So Jefferson allowed a “holy author of our religion” to haunt the law, but managed to exclude naming it Jesus Christ. It seems most of the legislators had some notion that “Jew, Gentile, Christian, Mahometan and Hindoo ” all shared a belief in such a being. If so, they were mistaken of course. And whether Jefferson himself believed in it no one can be certain.
Jefferson and Madison sought to get the state out of the business of “making laws for the human mind.” In so doing … Madison and Jefferson moved Virginia, and later the nation away from a national religion. …
Virginia moved away from having one of the most solidly established churches all the way to join little Rhode Island on the side of full religious liberty and the separation of church and state.
Madison followed up his success in Virginia with a proposed amendment to the Constitution in 1789 covering religious expression:
“The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established, nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience be in any manner, or on any pretext, infringed.”
Through debate, Madison’s language was modified to the current First Amendment – “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Madison’s work in Virginia and his original proposal make clear that freedom of religious expression is an individual right and not meant for adherents of a particular religion, namely Christianity. …
The First Amendment forbids federal laws which interfere with a citizen’s free expression of religion and the Fourteenth Amendment extends the prohibition to the states.
Madison argued that Christianity itself supported the broad tolerance he was enshrining. Whether he was using the argument purely to achieve his end, or sincerely believed that Christianity was as tolerant as he was painting it, remains unknowable. The point is, it worked. He persuaded the people he needed to persuade.
He put it this way – explaining to the Virginia Assembly why they should not vote funds for teachers of Christianity:
“The establishment proposed by the Bill is not requisite for the support of the Christian Religion. To say that it is, is a contradiction to the Christian Religion itself, for every page of it disavows a dependence on the powers of this world: it is a contradiction to fact; for it is known that this Religion both existed and flourished, not only without the support of human laws, but in spite of every opposition from them, and not only during the period of miraculous aid, but long after it had been left to its own evidence and the ordinary care of Providence.”
With that he must have have sounded like a true believer, which he needed the Assembly to be convinced he was.
If he really was as firm a believer as he sounded then, it is all the more remarkable that he worked and pleaded so persistently and skillfully for the greatest possible tolerance of all religious belief and (by implication) none. Or to put it another way: either he was an extraordinarily broad-minded Christian, or he was an extraordinarily persuasive non-believer. It matters not which, since he achieved the end which did matter and continues to matter – the absence of a national religion.
But now the freedom of conscience and belief that Madison bequeathed to the nation is under threat from “the Mahometan”. Muslims whose freedom of religion he ensured, are exploiting the tolerance he enshrined, in order to destroy it.
Just as happy events and the implementation of good ideas can bring unforeseen bad consequences, so dreadful events and the implementation of bad ideas can result in unexpected good.
Obama’s presidency and a Democratic majority in Congress have brought changes for the worse to America. But they have woken Americans up, reminding them of what their country has been and should be, and rousing many who had never yet felt a need to think about the way the country was governed, to an understanding of what is being taken away from them, and the value of what they had. They join and swell the Tea Party movement. They want to recall or know more about the origins and history of the United States. In the long run that means many more informed and aware citizens will be casting their votes for leaders who truly represent their interests and preserve their hard-won freedom. It would mean that the electorate will likely not make the same mistake again, not in a generation or two anyway, of empowering the enemies of the Constitution – such as Obama, Pelosi, Reid, and others of that kidney.
There’s a story in the Washington Post today that encourages the hope of such a reaction. It’s about hundreds of people gathering to watch “Revolutionary City” re-enactments in the historic area of Duke of Gloucester Street, Williamsburg, Virginia.
Here’s a part of it:
Amid the history buffs and parents with young children wandering along the crushed shell paths of Virginia’s restored colonial city [Williamsburg], some noticeably angrier and more politically minded tourists can often be found.
They stand in the crowd listening closely as the costumed actors relive dramatic moments in the founding of our country. They clap loudly when an actor portraying Patrick Henry delivers his “Give me liberty or give me death” speech. They cheer and hoot when Gen. George Washington surveys the troops behind the original 18th-century courthouse. And they shout out about the tyranny of our current government during scenes depicting the nation’s struggle for freedom from Britain.
“General, when is it appropriate to resort to arms to fight for our liberty?” asked a tourist on a recent weekday during “A Conversation with George Washington,” a hugely popular dialogue between actor and audience in the shaded backyard of Charlton’s Coffeehouse.
Standing on a simple wooden stage before a crowd of about 100, the man portraying Washington replied: “Only when all peaceful remedies have been exhausted. Or if we are forced to do so in our own self-defense.”
The tourist, a self-described conservative activist named Ismael Nieves from Elmer, N.J., nodded thoughtfully. Afterward, he said this was his fifth visit to Colonial Williamsburg.
“We live in a very dangerous time,” Nieves said. “People are looking for leadership, looking for what to do. They’re looking to Washington, Jefferson, Madison.”
“I want to get to know our Founding Fathers,” he added. “I think we’ve forgotten them. It’s like we’ve almost erased them from history.”
It’s a common point of view among tea party activists. They say their unhappiness with Washington reflects how far the federal government has strayed, through taxation and regulation, from the Founders’ intentions. …
The executives who oversee Williamsburg said they have noticed the influx of tea partiers, and have also noted a rise in the number of guests who ply the costumed actors for advice about how to rebel against 21st-century politicians. (The actors do their best to provide 18th-century answers.)
“If people . . . can recognize that subjects such as war and taxation, religion and race, were really at the heart of the situation in the 18th century, and there is some connection between what was going on then and what’s going on now, that’s all to the good,” said Colin Campbell, president and chairman of Colonial Williamsburg. “What happened in the 18th century here required engagement, and what’s required to preserve democracy in the 21st century is engagement. That is really our message.” …
If enough voters come to feel the same way, the Obama presidency will not have been an unmitigated disaster after all.
The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.
It is incumbent on every generation to pay its own debts as it goes. A principle which if acted on would save one-half the wars of the world.
I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.
My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government.
The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.
The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.
(Thanks to Neil Reinhardt)