Independence Day and Religious Freedom

We hope everyone is enjoying a wonderful Independence Day and recalling the freedoms on which our nation was founded and is still governed. So please take a few minutes to read the words that heralded the birth of our nation.

We also thought it would be appropriate to note the words of two of our greatest American thinkers and heroes, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. Jefferson, of course, authored our nation’s Declaration of Independence. Madison is often considered the father of the Constitution. We recall the words of both (below) at a time when members of the Texas State Board of Education threaten one of our most cherished and important freedoms by insisting that public schools promote one particular religious perspective over all others. Indeed, some board members, like Cynthia Dunbar, and other influential political activists, like David Barton, even insist that our government, laws and elected officials essentially be judged by religious tests. Jefferson and Madison strongly argued otherwise.

From Jefferson’s Virginia Act For Establishing Religious Freedom:

“(O)ur civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, more than our opinions in physics or geometry; that, therefore, the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him an incapacity of being called to the offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages to which in common with his fellow citizens he has a natural right; that it tends also to corrupt the principles of that very religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing, with a monopoly of worldly honors and emoluments, those who will externally profess and conform to it.”

“Be it therefore 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 burdened 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 opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in nowise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.”

The Virginia General Assembly passed Jefferson’s proposed religious freedom act in 1786, a year after Madison wrote Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments in opposition to a bill, introduced into the same body, to spend public dollars to support religious education. That bill failed to pass. Madison wrote:

“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? 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?”

“If ‘all men are by nature equally free and independent,’ all men are to be considered as entering into Society on equal conditions; as relinquishing no more, and therefore retaining no less, one than another, of their natural rights. Above all are they to be considered as retaining an ‘equal title to the free exercise of Religion according to the dictates of Conscience.’ Whilst we assert for ourselves a freedom to embrace, to profess and to observe the Religion which we believe to be of divine origin, we cannot deny an equal freedom to those whose minds have not yet yielded to the evidence which has convinced us. If this freedom be abused, it is an offence against God, not against man: To God, therefore, not to man, must an account of it be rendered.”

“Torrents of blood have been split in the old world, by vain attempts of the secular arm, to extinguish Religious disscord, by proscribing all difference in Religious opinion. Time has at length revealed the true remedy. Every relaxation of narrow and rigorous policy, wherever it has been tried, has been found to assauge the disease. The American Theatre has exhibited proofs that equal and compleat liberty, if it does not wholly eradicate it, sufficiently destroys its malignant influence on the health and prosperity of the State. If with the salutary effects of this system under our own eyes, we begin to contract the bounds of Religious freedom, we know no name that will too severely reproach our folly. At least let warning be taken at the first fruits of the threatened innovation.”

This article was posted in these categories: Cynthia Dunbar, David Barton, James Madison, religious freedom, Thomas Jefferson. Bookmark the permalink. Follow comments with the RSS feed for this post. Post a Comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.


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22 Comments

  1. Cytocop CT(ASCP)
    Posted July 9, 2010 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

    Gene wrote:
    “Apparently, Cycocop and David, did not read my July 5 commentary above: “President Obama’s Office of Faith-based Partnerships is unconstitutional.”

    Oh yes I DID read it. You just seem to have no trouble at all with anything that is unconstitutional. You only care about church and religion. Maybe that’s why you don’t care that the Office of Faith-Based Partnerships is “unconstitutional. ” You never write about the Office of Faith-Based Partnerships, you never complain about it, you never mention it. It’s as if the issue doesn’t exist. I believe it’s because you approve of the Office of Faith-Based Partnerships despite its being unconstitutional; otherwise, you’d be raising holy hell about it. Instead, you’re silent on it; and your silence is deafening.

  2. David
    Posted July 9, 2010 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    I agree with Gene.

  3. Posted July 9, 2010 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    As was made clear where I went to law school, Washburn University School of Law, by a professor in an Agency class one day, the Constitution means whatever the Supreme Court says it means. But, in clearly stated terms as to what it meant to the men who wrote Art. 6, Sec. 3., the word “religious” meant “religious,” just as the word “religion” in the First Amendment meant “religion,” not just church, which word is not in the Constitution. In a debate, words do matter. TFN lost the word debate by letting their opponents misstate what the Constitution says.

    As Glenn Archer once told me, “you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” Nonetheless, TFN does its cause and argument no favor by refusing to use the wording of the Constitution, which constitutional wording so eloquently covers the entire controversy as to what the Founding Fathers and the First Amendment actually meant. Well, they meant “religion,” not just “church.” And, no one on the TSBOE could have denied the truth of what the Constitution actually says, which is why TFN needed a Baylor debate coach. Of course, I am prejudiced in favor of Baylor and of my own research and book, which I do recommend for your reading pleasure. Thanks.

  4. David
    Posted July 8, 2010 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

    All I said was that it had to actually be challenged in court for it to be officially ruled unconstitutional. We can call it unconstitutional all day but if it doesn’t make it up the chain to the Supreme Court it’s not settled as such.

  5. Posted July 8, 2010 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

    Apparently, Cycocop and David, did not read my July 5 commentary above: “President Obama’s Office of Faith-based Partnerships is unconstitutional.”

    The obvious issue in understanding is terminology: the only words which have legal standing in a court of law are the words of the law, and the supreme law of the land contains the words which count, regardless of what anyone else says or has written. The word “church” is not in the Constitution. The word in the Constitution is “religion” because that is what the writers of the Constitution intended to say and to mean, and their grammar is perfect. The word “thereof” get its entire meaning from that to which it refers, and therefore the only meaning which can be taken from the wording in Art. 6. and the First Amendment is “religion,” the whole subject thereof. There is no debate as to what the Constitution says. The problem, as noted above, is some folks simply do not pay attention. Debates are about words. TFN lost.

    PS: I cut my “separationist” teeth on Church, State, and Freedom by Leo Pfeffer, Praise the Lord for Tax Exemption by Martin A. Larson, and The Establishment Clause by Leonard W. Levy, the best, in my humble opinion. So, I eventually added my own: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yb7SbUWw9dM . And, my next public lecture will be in Joplin, Missouri.

  6. David
    Posted July 7, 2010 at 8:32 pm | Permalink

    It isn’t constitutional. But, the way the game is played is that someone has to go after it and challenge its constitutionality. The problem is, the real public service, positive type program and the proselytizing, indoctrination type program are all tangled up together, so no one has had the will to challenge it.
    I don’t like it.
    Someone has to take the issue to court.

  7. Cytocop CT(ASCP)
    Posted July 7, 2010 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

    Note Gene himself wrote:
    “….and no law respecting an establishment of “religion,”

    and:
    “…..“religion,” the whole subject thereof which shall not be established by law or Congress or government at any level.”

    Yet, apparently Gene feels just fine that the Office of Faith-Based Partnerships has been diverting MILLIONS of TAX DOLLARS to religious institutions. MILLIONS that could have – and SHOULD HAVE – been used elsewhere.

    I’d like someone – anyone – to explain to me just HOW is the Office of Faith-Based Partnerships constitutional? And how does it not fly in the face of the above quotations?

    Where’s your righteous anger, Gene?? Let’s see you put YOUR much-vaunted debating skills to the test.

  8. David
    Posted July 7, 2010 at 1:17 am | Permalink

    Let’s say he’s telling the truth. He read one or two books every day, rain or shine, holiday or no, and functionally absorbed the material there-in enough to fit it into a general knowledge structure in his brain.
    That would make him crazy, wouldn’t it?
    Or some kind of “savant”? Who didn’t waste time with toilet paper and other such un-necessaries.
    Or he’s a machine from the future.

    Or, of course, he’s just not credible, but doesn’t think his listeners are very smart.

  9. James_Breck
    Posted July 6, 2010 at 9:21 pm | Permalink

    Barton’s “bona fides” are his claim that he’s read 25,000 books in his lifetime and we’re to believe he’s amassed a huge amount of historical knowledge from his reading. He made that claim 5 years ago. Barton is 56 years old and assuming he started doing serious reading when he was 15 that means he read 25,000 books in just 36 years. That works out to 694 books a year, or 1.90 books each day for those 45 years. That seems highly unlikely.

    Barton has become the history “expert on demand” on the Glenn Beck television show. It’s a shame with so many qualified historians in this country that Beck has chosen to go with a guy with cereal box qualifications.

  10. Posted July 6, 2010 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

    Of course, David Barton is not a schooled scholar in respect to his background in the areas of religion and history. But, regardless of how he distorts what the Constitution says, it is the truth that the words “church and state” are not in the Constitution, no matter how many times anyone used those words in other documents. Those words are not in the Constitution and are a distortion of what the Constitution commands in respect to religion and government in the USA: no religious test, i.e., the whole definition of “religious,” shall ever be required, and no law respecting an establishment of “religion,” the whole definition of “religion,” shall be made by Congress, or, as subsequently ruled by the Supreme Court, by government at any level.

    Use of the words “church and state,” as if those words are in the Constitution, is a position which deserved and deserves to get rejected. A smart debater would have promptly destroyed that argument. TFN did not, and TFN failed to convince its opposition on the State Board of Education. It is the same approach to argumentation made in Professor Lakoff’s “Don’t Think of an Elephant.” Has no one in this discussion read that book either? Apparently no one at TFN has. Of course, the word “church” is not in the Constitution. The word in the Constitution is “religion” and no grammarian will allow you to distort the meaning of “thereof” in the Free Exercise Clause into an “elephant” or a “church.” The word “thereof” means “religion,” and that is the word used in the Constitution. The wording in the Constitution is grammatically correct, in both Art. 6 and in the First Amendment. There is no grammatical misunderstanding of what the Constitution says in respect to religion and government: “no test” and “no law.” TFN needs a Baylor debate coach! And, apparently, so do some of you? The word “church” is not in the Constitution, which is the supreme law, not what someone else says. Thanks for reading. I have no problem debating this issue. I have been preaching the same lecture for years, every chance I get.

    PS: I cut my “separationist” teeth on Church, State, and Freedom by Leo Pfeffer, Praise the Lord for Tax Exemption by Martin A. Larson, and The Establishment Clause by Leonard W. Levy, the best, in my humble opinion. So, I eventually added my own: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yb7SbUWw9dM . And, my next public lecture will be in Joplin, Missouri.

  11. James_Breck
    Posted July 6, 2010 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

    And don’t forget the Bill of Rights did not come about becausethe framers of the Constitution thought it necessary. On the contrary; Madison especially thought it was not needed. But when the delegates to the convention went home to sell the Constitution to their various constuiencies the Bill of Rights was demanded by the people. And so it came about.

    All this hooey about a “Christian Nation” in the 18th Century America is such nonsense. In fact in 1776 just 17% of Americans went to church on a regular basis and just 24% claimed any specific religious belief. Of cause you won’t hear that from historian David Barton, they must not have taught that where he got his masters in history. Oh wait! He doesn’t have one! Nor does he have an undergraduate degree in history! Go figure!

  12. David
    Posted July 5, 2010 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

    jdg, yes, we know, but the words “church and state” are NOT in the actual Constitution.

    Gene is adamant about this.

    Also, James Madison:

    “The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe in blood for centuries.”
    -1803 letter objecting use of gov. land for churches

    John Adams:

    “. . . Thirteen governments [of the original states] thus founded on the natural authority of the people alone, without a pretence of miracle or mystery, and which are destined to spread over the northern part of that whole quarter of the globe, are a great point gained in favor of the rights of mankind.”

    Thomas Jefferson:

    “Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced an inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth.”
    – “Notes on Virginia”

    and back to James Madison:

    “Experience witnesseth that ecclesiastical establishments, instead of maintaining the purity and efficacy of religion, have had a contrary operation. 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.”
    – “A Memorial and Remonstrance”, 1785

  13. jdg
    Posted July 5, 2010 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

    Gene
    “Jefferson’s “church and state” words are not in the Constitution and their continued use distorts the constitutional argument, which simple distortion is a part of why TFN lost the debate to folks like Cynthia Dunbar and David Barton.”……

    We lost because these people (Dunbar, McLeroy… etc) used a religious bias in their interpretations of the US constitution, not because of any facts. No, we are not a Christian Nation. Yes, their is a separation of church and state clause (read jefferson’s letters) If you ask any expert, which David Barton is not, they will agree with me on this.

    “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, prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between church and State.
    –Thomas Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptist
    January 1, 1802–

  14. David
    Posted July 5, 2010 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    Pretty good Charles, except it ain’t “round hyere”, it’s “rown heyuh”.

  15. Charles
    Posted July 5, 2010 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    James Madison wrote:

    “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? 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?”

    I know the responses the uneducated evangelical and fundamentalist country people in my neck of the woods and how they would respond to that statement from our 4th President:

    1) Hit ain’t so. There’s a lot more of us than there ever will be of them others. So, whatever we says goes.

    2) That other religion’ll never take root. The first two or three that comes in here and tries to start it up will be burned out the first night.

    3) We bleeves in thuh ruluh the majority ’round hyere.

    Now, that Item Number 3 above is important. I want TFN and all you other people there in Texas to understand this and understand it clearly. We will use Baskin-Robbins Ice-Cream Shop as our tool to reach an understanding on this. We have 100 people who want to buy ice-cream at the shop. All 31 flavors are available to all customers. A poll of the 100 shows that 53 percent want chocolate, and the majority rules. Well, among reasonable people that 53 percent could get their chocolate and the other 47 percent could buy whatever flavor they like. However, the actual concept of majority rule herebaouts would require that all 100 people buy chocolate—even if their favorite flavor is available, for sale, and they have the money to pay for it. Everyone must be of the same accord to maintain the system. Any sort of dissent is decried as what the Soviet government used to describe as “Anti-Soviet Behavior,” which was by definition something only obviously insane people do.

  16. Posted July 5, 2010 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    For the record:

    Thomas Jefferson’s Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom was introduced into the Virginia legislative process in 1779, where it laid until after James Madison’s 1785 Memorial and Remonstrance against Religion Assessments (taxes) was distributed throughout Virginia. Jefferson was in France from 1784 through 1789 and was not personally involved. It was Madison’s widely read statement and protest, which inspired the Virginia legislature to resurrect Jefferson’s bill in December 1785, which Governor Patrick Henry signed into law in January, 1786, as the Virginia Statute of Religious Liberty.

    Subsequently, it was Founding Father James Madison, an actual member of the 1787 Constitutional Convention, who was also actually in the First Congress and, as a member of a joint six-member Senate-House conference committee which drafted the wording of the First Amendment, was personally responsible for the words in the First Amendment, which, along with the Bill of Rights, was proposed in Congress on September 25, 1789. Thomas Jefferson and his daughters arrived back in Norfolk, Virginia, on November 23, 1789.

    Thomas Jefferson was not personally involved in drafting the Constitution or First Amendment. James Madison was personally involved in drafting both documents, and it is his wording which prevails in the Constitution and First Amendment, that is, it is “religion,” the whole subject thereof which shall not be established by law or Congress or government at any level. As Madison wrote in his Memorial and Remonstrance, “Strongly guarded as is the separation between Religion and Government in the Constitution of the United States, the danger of encroachment by Ecclesiastical Bodies may be illustrated by precedents already furnished in their short history,” W&MQ 3:555.

    Jefferson’s “church and state” words are not in the Constitution and their continued use distorts the constitutional argument, which simple distortion is a part of why TFN lost the debate to folks like Cynthia Dunbar and David Barton. TFN did not overcome the simple retort: “the words ‘church and state’ are not in the Constitution.” Of course, those words are not in the Constitution. It is the entire subject of “religion” which is constitutionally not to be established by coercive government. President Obama’s Office of Faith-based Partnerships is unconstitutional. TFN should have brought Baylor’s debate coaches into its strategy session.

  17. forkboy1965
    Posted July 5, 2010 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    Great comment Charles. I’ve been accusing the religious right of being the American Taliban for years. They clearly have more in common with the Taliban than anyone or anything else. They are sick, sick people.

  18. David
    Posted July 5, 2010 at 8:31 am | Permalink

    Here’s a great quote from the Coffee Party on Facebook.

    “Educate and inform the whole mass of the people…They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.” — Thomas Jefferson (April 13, 1743 – July 4, 1826)

    btw, check out the Coffee Party, they’re getting a little head of steam these days.

  19. Charles
    Posted July 4, 2010 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

    Then again. I think Frank has the right idea. You are not going to change their minds. Therefore, our job is to convince those who have not fallen into the fruitcake oven, lock arms with them, and simply move beyond them. Time and culture move forward and leave various aspects of itself in the waste can of history. Give a listen to Frank:

  20. Charles
    Posted July 4, 2010 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    They won’t listen.

    They are cooked through to the center on what they believe. They are, in my estimation, totally committed to the replacement of the 1776 and 1787 government of the United States with a totalitarian religious dictatorship presided over by so-called “Bible-Believing” Christians like James Dobson.

    If or when that day comes, I can guarantee you one thing. It will not be a government of Jesus or God come to ease the human suffering on this Earth. Like all others governments in this world, it will be a government of fallable men and women, and that government will express the best and worst in the human heart. With these people, so caught up in their sense of personal perfection and self-righteousness (and so damning of even other Christians who oppose them), I expect it will be predominantly the worst of the human heart that will be poured out upon our land. They will define much that is evil as good. Much that really is good, they will define as evil. It will be the iron-handed and cruel rule of the Taliban brought to Texas, Kansas, Oregon, Maine, Florida, Illinois—-and even your own hometown.

    There is still time to stop them. There is still time to prevent them from boarding up your church and locking the doors so none may enter. But time is growing short. A dark shadow that would make Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and Madison weep is slowly descending over this land. When it does, Satan and his key advisor (Rousas Rushdoony) will be laughing their butts off as the blood drains out of your children.

  21. Posted July 4, 2010 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    Right on, TFN!

  22. David
    Posted July 4, 2010 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    Happy Fourth of July!!!!
    In your face, Cynthia Dunbar!!!!

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