U.S. History – False Claims

Claim #1: The Constitution Doesn’t Include the Words, “Separation of Church and State!

Of course you are correct that the words “separation of church and state” do not appear in the Constitution. But that is unfortunately just a red herring. Thomas Jefferson coined the metaphor “separation of church and state” in his 1802 address to the Danbury Baptist Convention in order to explain the essential intent of the Founding Fathers in writing the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise clause contained in the 1st Amendment. He said:

“Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his god, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state.” ( Jefferson ’s letter is stored on line at the Library of Congress)

Claim #2: Activist Courts Have Reinterpreted the Constitution Contrary to the Intent of Our Founding Fathers.

I don’t understand your claim, ” … activist courts began incorporating …. various aspects of the amendments into the 14th Amendment.” I see nothing in the 14th Amendment that discusses religion or religious beliefs. On the other hand, the 1st Amendment is quite clear that the Founding Fathers intended to keep government neutral with regard to religion and religious beliefs. The Supreme Court, in Lemon vs Kurtzman, 1971, was far from being activist when it articulated a standard that, in practice, had been followed since the Constitution was ratified. The Lemon decision containing the points below seems eminently supported by the writings of both Jefferson and Madison and consistent with the Establishment and Free Exercise clauses as written.

1. A statue or public policy must have a secular legislative purpose
2. The principal effect of the statue or policy must neither advance nor inhibit religion
3. The statue or policy must not foster excessive government entanglement with religion.

While I do agree that one has a right to his own opinion, it is also true that does not have a right to his own “facts”.  Like it or not, the “facts” in evidence are that Supreme Court’s  interpretation above is the law of the land and it must be respected accordingly.

Claim #3: The Establishment Clause was Meant Only to Prevent the Establishment of a State Religion and Nothing More.

Of course I do not agree with you that the intent of the Establishment clause was only to prevent a the creation of a state religion. Madison’s Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments, addressed to the Virginia General Assembly, June 20, 1785 clearly sets forth his philosophy about the relationship between government and religion. The Establishment clause says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” I think one can quite legitimately argue that the word “establishment” here is a noun and not a verb. The word “establishment” is used to mean “a religious establishment” i.e. any one of the many religious beliefs in the same way as we might use the term “business establishments” to mean one of many places of business. Madison’s Memorial and Remonstrances clearly supports this interpretation . In it, Madison wrote, “Who does not see …… that the same authority which can force a citizen to contribute three pence only of his property for the support of any one establishment, may force him to conform to any other establishment in all cases whatsoever?”  He also said, “The number, the industry, and the Priesthood, & the devotion of the people have been manifestly increased by the total separation of the Church from the State.”

Claim #4: The Declaration of Independence Says, “We are endowed by our Creator….” which is proof that the Founding Fathers did not intend to create a secular government. 

The phrase you quote, “We were endowed by our Creator (Yahweh), the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, with certain unalienable rights.” does not appear in the Constitution as you claim. First, the Preamble of the Declaration of Independence identifies the “Creator” as “natures God” a clear reference to the deist’s god and not the theist’s god.  Hence there is no mention of the god of Abraham (Yahweh) and his progeny that you cite above.  Second, the claim that humans are endowed by God with certain unalienable rights is clearly a refutation of the “divine right of Kings” which had been historically claimed as justification for nobility’s unchecked authority throughout Europe.  Third, I won’t argue that that many of the philosophies expressed in the Declaration were, in various ways, incorporated into the U. S Constitution but the Declaration of Independence has no legal authority itself in U.S. law.  Finally, the great majority of Founding Fathers believed in a god but many of the more prominent of the Founding Fathers were either Deists or Unitarians and not Christians at all. That however should make little difference if we respect that it was their intent to allow each individual the right to choose and practice his own religious beliefs without interference from the government.

Claim #5:  Atheists and Secularists 

You are concerned with what you call the secularization of American. There is no question that religious attitudes in this country are changing. The latest polls reported in Christianity Today indicate that Christians, as a percentage, will probably drop below 50% in 2006 … the lowest in our history. But those who are seeking other avenues for their spiritual needs must be free do to so. We cannot create laws that say you cannot leave the Christian fold so I can understand your lament but I don’t see that it is relevant to the church-state issues.

You said I am “advocating that our Founders were establishing an atheistic, humanistic, agnostic or irreligious country and constitution.” You need to read what I have said more carefully because I have said no such thing. Advocating that the our Founders intended to keep the government neutral about religion is not the same thing as saying that they intended to keep American culture neutral about religion. The Founders wanted every citizen to have the freedom to seek his own religious beliefs absent of and free from the tyranny of government. That is the preservation of religious freedom in America. Consider these two quotes of Madison and Jefferson:

“Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other sects?”– James Madison, A Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments, addressed to the Virginia General Assembly, June 20, 1785.

“…an amendment was proposed by inserting the words, ‘Jesus Christ…the holy author of our religion,’ which 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 the Mahometan (Mohammedan), the Hindoo (Hindu) and the Infidel of every denomination.’ ” — Thomas Jefferson, Autobiography, 1821

These two men were intent on preserving religious freedom and that includes the freedom for a citizen to be an atheist, agnostic, Deist, Hindu, Protestant, Catholic, Jew or you name it. By [preventing government from having a say about our religious beliefs we in fact insure that our culture will be free to practice religion.

Incidentally, the Constitution contains none of the following words, God, Christianity, the Ten Commandments (or Decalogue) or Jesus Christ. The word “religion” appears only once (Establishment Clause) and the word “religious” appears twice (Free Exercise Clause and Article 6) . The Constitution is a secular document because it includes no religious language nor does it commit any citizen to any religious belief.

In the same paragraph I refer to above you claim, “The anonymous author goes into Washington’s personal diaries, his prayer records, his church attendance, his addresses, and on and on. The author establishes beyond a doubt that the Father of our Country [Washington] was a devout believer and Christian”. Goodness gracious, there is nothing in the Forsaken Roots paper that gives us any evidence that the anonymous author has done any such thing. Show me any citations of authority that the author used. You cannot! If you had taken the time to read my critique, you would have seen that I do add these important citations for the reader to check out for himself.

Frankly, Washington’s religious beliefs are unimportant and irrelevant to our understanding of the Constitution. All of the Founding Fathers were religious men but they knew their right to the freedom of religious expression would be at risk unless the government was prevented from enacting any laws or policies related to religion of religious beliefs. What you and the anonymous author want everyone to believe is that the Founding Fathers intended to establish a Christian Theocracy and it just ain’t so and neither of you has presented even a shred of evidence to support such a ridiculous notion. And if that is not what you are advocating, then I do not understand how you define the relationship between religion and government.

I think that religion does and can provide people with very productive life experiences. I admire you for overcoming certain personal struggles and if your religious beliefs have been the primary source of the strength you needed, then I certainly want to defend your right to practice those religious beliefs as you see fit. I care not if you and I share the same religious belief and I would defend your right to believe as you will. You and I will have greater certainty that we can follow our hearts and find spiritual fulfillment if we insure that our government cannot tamper with our freedom of religious expression. That was the intent of our Founding Fathers too.