HISTORIC REVISIONISM: Hiding The Founders’ Religion In Government

Today, those who wage war against the Christian religion insist that our founders were Deists, that this nation was not founded on the Christian ideal and that the founders deliberately created a secular government.  But all of this is a lie!  The assertion that this nation was not founded by Christians who designed the governments they created on Christian ideals must be opposed as it is only in the Christian ideal that true security for individual rights and liberty lies.  History is very clear on this point: it is not a matter of opinion.  As for my part, I have and will continue to write to bring the truth of the historic record to those who seek it, but this post is intended to focus on teaching you where to find the religion of our founders in their governments at the time of ratification.  And I start by citing an authority far more qualified to comment on this subject than anyone alive today:

“The highest glory of the American Revolution was this; it connected in one indissoluble bond the principles of civil government with the principles of Christianity.

–John Quincy Adams, July 4, 1821

“Is it not that the Declaration of Independence first organized the social compact on the foundation of the Redeemer’s mission upon earth? That it laid the cornerstone of human government upon the first precepts of Christianity”?

–John Quincy Adams, [–1837, at the age of 69, when he delivered a Fourth of July speech at Newburyport, Massachusetts.]

OK, so who is John Quincy Adams?  He was just a kid when the American Revolution started (never mind that he started his life of service to this nation at age 13).  We need a higher authority than the word of a child, right?  OK, how about the word of one of the strongest leaders of the American Revolution:

“The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity. I will avow that I then believed, and now believe, that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God.

–John Adams

(Thomas Jefferson, The Writings of Thomas Jefferson (Washington D. C.: The Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association, 1904), Vol. XIII, p. 292-294. In a letter from John Adams to Thomas Jefferson on June 28, 1813.)

OK, so what.  These guys are talking about the Declaration, and the Declaration has nothing to do with the government – right?  Wrong!

“Before the formation of this Constitution…[t]his Declaration of Independence was received and ratified by all the States in the Union and has never been disannulled.”

–Samuel Adams

Oops, there are the two most important figures in starting the Revolution telling you this nation was founded by Christians and upon the general principles of Christianity.  What’s more, Sam Adams is asserting that the Declaration of Independence is actually the founding document of this nation – not the Constitution.  And he goes further: he says it carries the weight of law, the force of which is still in effect.

But how do I make the leap to asserting the Declaration carries the weight of law?  Easy: if the Declaration does not carry the weight of law, then by what authority was the Constitution written?  After all, the Constitution, itself, admits that the United States pre-existed its writing.  So what formed the United States?  The Declaration.  And where does the law enter into the Declaration?  Again, easy: the Declaration appeals to the authority of Natural Law – to God.  And there is the religion in the founding of this nation and our federal documents, and there is the reason the Progressives divorced the Constitution from the Declaration.  But wait, there’s more!

At the time of the ratification, a majority of the States had an official acknowledgment of God in their Constitutions.  Some ha official State religions, and others had requirements that anyone seeking political office had to first swear an oath affirming their belief in Jesus Christ.  If the founders intended a secular government, then why didn’t they forbid such restrictions in the States’ Constitutions?  Instead of doing that, they wrote the First Amendment, which specifically forbids Congress (and thus the Court) from doing so.  And there is more of the religion in our founding government that those who wage war on the Christian ideal claim never existed.

This link argues that the changes in the early State Constitutions ‘prove’ the founders wanted a secular government.

But that is a misunderstanding (or deliberate distortion) of the historic record.  Check this link out.  Many of our State Constitutions still have references to God in them.  What’s more, many of the States wrote these references long after the Constitution was ratified and the original Colonies had changed their Constitutions.  That contradicts the assertion the founders wanted a secular government.

The problem comes from a misunderstanding of what the founders intended the First Amendment to protect.  It also comes from ignorance of the arguments of the time.  The founders were looking to prevent the federal government from establishing a national religion.  The reason the early States amended their Constitutions was not to establish secular government, but to support this general acceptance of all ‘sects’ of the Christian religion.  If you doubt me, read history from that time period.  You will find that word a lot, ‘sect.’ At the time of our founding, it meant ‘denomination.’  Read this link, it will clearly demonstrate that the changes in the State constitutions had nothing to do with secular government.

So, to bring this post to a close: the founders said this nation was founded – by Christians – on the foundations of Christian principles and ideals.  The evidence is in the Declaration, the Constitution and especially the State Constitutions.  But it is also found throughout the documentation and practices of the early American governments – to include public education.  All of this is fact.  None of it is a matter of opinion.  So now, ask yourself, why is it so important to those waging war on Christians to convince you that this is all a lie?

[PONDER THIS: Those who will attack this post will make many unsupported assertions, or they will cite one or maybe two documents to “prove their case.’  When I challenge them to counter the overwhelming bulk of the citations I post, they will claim I am quoting the founders out of context.  But why do you never see these people cite the proper context to show I have it wrong?  Why do you not see them citing the founders saying they did not want religion in government?  The founders were not shy about asserting and explaining their opinion, so, if they believed that, why do you never see their words to that effect?  There is an answer to these questions... 😉 ]

42 responses to “HISTORIC REVISIONISM: Hiding The Founders’ Religion In Government

  1. Pingback: No Religion Here | The Rio Norte Line

  2. “The problem comes from a misunderstanding of what the founders intended the first amendment was meant to protect.”

    True, however, we all must realize, understand, and accept the fact this “misunderstanding” is the result of purposeful lies perpetrated upon our people in order to destroy liberty and subjugate “the people”.

    Originally, this “misunderstanding” was initiated by purposeful and knowing deceit, fraud, and lies.

    • Texas,

      True, but it started in the 1820’s — not the 1900’s. And it started with a man who wanted to secularize our schools (what a surprise).

      • Who was that ?

        • Don,

          Look up a man named Horace Mann, Secretary of the Massachusetts Board of Education in 1838. He was the first to advocate:

          — forced taxation to support public education (prior to this, the Church did the majority of the public education work in this country)

          — DE-emphasized Biblical doctrine in favor of a secular world view and the notion that man can perfect himself.

          — encouraged group think and collective identity and suppressed individuality and creativity

          — standardization of teacher training, textbooks, and the establishment of ‘accreditation.’

          In short, he was a pre0curser to John Dewey and the Progressive tyranny that now controls our children.

          • Thanks. Yes his name is familiar to me. It is fascinating how there is almost always a Precident in history. H Mann for Dewey and indeed Marx. Weishaupt for Marx….even Machiavelli.

            • Don,

              That is because the desire to control others is as old as mankind, which is also the most powerful condemnation and refutation of the notion that man can perfect himself. If he has made ZERO progress in all of recorded history, we have as much evidence that things will NOT change with the next elitist who claims to have the solution as we do that the sun will rise tomorrow 🙂

  3. First, let’s dispense with the “our founders were Deists” strawman. While some were deists (openly or otherwise), some (most perhaps) were Christian of one sort or another. There, done with that.

    Second, to the extent that many founders were Christian (and I have no doubt you can compile many quotations showing as much), it simply does not follow that they therefore created an inherently Christian government. It is entirely possible for thoroughly religious folk to found a government on the power of “We the people” rather than a deity and to keep that government separate from religion.

    That, indeed, is just what the founders did. In the Constitution, they (1) established a secular government on the power of “We the people” (not a deity), (2) accorded that government limited, enumerated powers, (3) said nothing to connect that government to god(s) or religion, (4) said nothing to give that government power over matters of god(s) or religion, and (5), indeed, said nothing substantive about god(s) or religion at all except in a provision precluding any religious test for public office. Given the norms of the day (by which governments generally were expressly grounded in some appeal to god(s)), the founders’ avoidance of any expression in the Constitution suggesting that the government is somehow based on any religious belief was quite a remarkable and plainly intentional choice. If the founders meant, as you argue, to establish the government on Christian principles, surely they would have found the words to say so. They had an opportunity to clarify the matter in amending the Constitution a few years later—and then said nothing about fusing the government with Christianity, but rather buttressed the separation of government and religion in the First Amendment, which affirmatively constrains the government from undertaking to establish religion or prohibit individuals from freely exercising their religions.

    Third, your appeal to the Declaration of Independence is unavailing. While some, including apparently you, draw meaning from the variously phrased references to god(s) in the Declaration (references that could mean any number of things, some at odds with the Christian idea of God) and try to connect that meaning to the Constitution, the effort is largely baseless. Important as the Declaration is in our history, it did not operate to bring about independence (that required winning a war), nor did it found a government, nor did it even create any law, and it certainly did not say or do anything that somehow dictated the meaning of a Constitution adopted twelve years later. The colonists issued the Declaration not to do any of that, but rather to politically explain and justify the move to independence that was already well underway. Nothing in the Constitution depends on anything said in the Declaration. Nor does anything said in the Declaration purport to limit or define the government later formed by the free people of the former colonies. Nor could it even if it purported to do so. Once independent, the people of the former colonies were free to choose whether to form a collective government at all and, if so, whatever form of government they deemed appropriate. They were not somehow limited by anything said in the Declaration. Sure, they could take its words as inspiration and guidance if, and to the extent, they chose–or they could not. They could have formed a theocracy if they wished–or, as they ultimately chose, a government founded on the power of the people (not a deity) and separated from religion. While we can and should revere the Declaration for its place in our history, it simply does not have the force of law–and does not control the meaning of the Constitution.

    Perhaps a useful way to illustrate my point is to note the well-established legal principle that a legislature cannot enact a law in one year that would bind a future legislature in later years to act or not act in particular ways. An analogous concept applies here. The people of the colonies in declaring their independence on July 4, 1776, did not and, indeed, could not bind the people of the future independent states, 12 years hence, to form a government at all, let alone one conforming to any particular prescription. The independent people of 1787 were free to form any sort of government they chose–and they chose to form a secular one predicated on the power of the people and not on the power of a deity.

    In the end, there is simply no basis for selecting one of various possible meanings of the Declaration’s political or philosophical statements, transporting that meaning to the Constitution, and giving it the effect of law. Perhaps the absence of any legal connection between the Declaration and the Constitution can best be shown by observing that the Declaration has never had the force of law as has our Constitution. While courts have occasionally noted the Declaration as an historical fact, they have never, not once in our entire history, supposed it to have the force of law as does the Constitution.

    Samuel Adams but restates the facts that the Declaration was ratified by the states before the formation of the Constitution and that it was never “disannulled.” There has, of course, never been any need or occasion to annul (which, I assume, is what he meant) the Declaration, and what effect such an act might have, I can only wonder. In any event, the Declaration, unannulled and in full glory, can have little more effect on the Constitution than I described.

    You ask if the Declaration does not carry the weight of law, by what authority was the Constitution written. You can’t be serious. The several states, having achieved independence by winning a war, formed the United States by entering into the Articles of Confederation and then the Constitution. Note that each independent state had the choice whether to join the United States, and if a state chose not to join, it would have remained an independent state. The Declaration was an important political step on the way to independence and ultimately creation of the United States. The Declaration, though, did not create a government, nor did it bind any of the states, once independence was achieved, to join in any collective government, let alone any particular type of government.

    Fourth, you point to the fact that at the time of the founding most states had an official religion and ask if the founders intended a secular government, why did they not forbid the states from doing so. This question reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of the founders’ separation of church and state in the Constitution. While some founders, e.g., Madison, may have preferred that states be precluded from having official religions, other founders preferred to leave the states free to decide such matters for themselves; the founders undertook in the Constitution to limit only the federal government in this regard.

    It is instructive to recall that the Constitution’s separation of church and state reflected, at the federal level, a “disestablishment” political movement then sweeping the country. That political movement succeeded in disestablishing all state religions by the 1830s. Jefferson looked favorably on this movement, stating in his letter to the Danbury Baptists that “[a]dhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience [i.e., the First Amendment], I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.” It is worth noting, as well, that this disestablishment movement was linked to another movement, the Great Awakening. The people of the time saw the trend to separation of church and state as a boon, not a burden, to religion.

    It was not until the adoption of the 14th Amendment, though, that the Constitution constrained states not to deny various individual rights, including as the Supreme Court later decided the freedom of religion protected under the First Amendment. While the founders drafted the First Amendment to constrain the federal government, they certainly understood that later amendments could extend such constraints to state and local governments.

    • Doug,

      I HAVE posted quotes from about half of and could do so for all but 2 of the signers of the Declaration showing they held Christian beliefs. So your ignorance does not serve you very well.

      Second, the notion of “we the people” comes DIRECTLY from the early church, something that the puritans and pilgrims were both trying to re-capture.

      Third, it IS the Christian ideal that allows individual rights and liberty, as well as toleration. You simply do not find these aspects in any other government in history where this is not true.

      So let’s do this: let’s get you to find words from the founders telling us they intended a secular government. Until you do that, then those founders who said that you could not call yourself a patriot if you attack the Christian religion have the last word and you stand DEFEATED!

      Oh, BTW: that was — at least — Washington and 2 Suporeme Court justices who said you could not attack Christianity and be called patriot. Many more said there is no liberty without Christianity.

      So, we are waiting the clear and unambiguous quotes you will now post. And failing to do so, we accept your surrender on this argument.

      • First, I think you misunderstand my “strawman” point. As I do not predicate my view, as you suppose, on an assertion that “our founders were Deists,” I dispensed with that strawman argument by noting that some were but most weren’t. I thus largely conceded rather than contested your Deist-Christian point—since it ultimately doesn’t matter. You seem quite anxious to unload lots of quotations by individual founders professing their religiosity. Have at it if you must; my response will remain the same.

        Second, as for the concept of founding a government on the power of “We the people” being a Christian concept, you need to explain what you mean and how you come to that conclusion.

        Third, to claim that “the Christian ideal,” whatever that is, “allows individual rights and liberty, as well as toleration,” with the aim, I gather, of somehow claiming those concepts as “Christian” is a bit much. It is one thing to recognize that these various concepts were developed in a Western culture largely dominated by Christianity. It is quite another to suppose that these concepts are themselves somehow part of or inherent in the Christian religion. One need only observe that these concepts were not developed until the period 14 centuries or so after Christ, during the Renaissance and Protestant Reformation; they did not simply spring forth from Christianity itself.

        Further, it is yet another thing to suppose that any government developed in a Christian culture is “therefore” necessarily “Christian” in the sense that it must conduct itself in keeping with the Christian religion and must itself promote Christianity or somehow acknowledge the “rightness” of Christianity. As I noted earlier, it is entirely possible for thoroughly religious folk (particularly, you might add, of the Christian sort) to establish a government on the power of the people and not god(s) and keep that government separate from religion. As I further noted, in the Constitution the founders did just that.

        Take note that I have not “attack[ed] Christianity,” as you seem to suggest. If anything, I have acknowledged that Christianity dominated the culture that produced the Constitution and its separation of church and state; that is more praise than attack.

        So let’s do this: You respond to the extensive comment I’ve already offered. Don’t wait for me to offer you some sort of quotations you seemingly have in mind. Just respond to what I’ve already said. And let’s drop this silly notion we’re playing some game where I may “surrender” and you may “defeat” me. We’re discussing law and history, not playing a child’s game. If you really, really want to do that, go ahead—without me.

        • Doug,

          1 — tell me who these Deists among the founders were.

          2 — The fact that you do not understand that Christianity gave rise to the notion of equality of individual rights, and thus, the notion of a free and self-governing citizen shows me that your primary problem is you do not understand Christian doctrine. NONE of the previous republics/democracies held the notion of equality in the same sense as Christians. They believed in elitism, and that rights come from the State. To them, the State was the supreme power. THIS NATION changed that. God is the source of our rights, and God is the Supreme power. Every Christian is then charged to conduct himself/herself according to God’s law. THIS IS THE VERY SPIRIT OF THE DECLARATION, and it is decidedly CHRISTIAN in philosophy.

          3 — to answer this one simply, YOU ARE WRONG! Your ignorance of Christianity, especially the early Church, is crippling your ability to hold your ground here. It is also why you cannot win on this point. The things you claim were developed in the 14th Century and thus, are not Christian based directly trace their origins to Christianity and were there the whole time — preserved, by the monks, in the monasteries. It was the reformation which truly brought them back to the forefront of civil government.

          4 — You do not understand what I mean by this nation being Christian because the people were Christian. This nation’s world view, and that of the majority of her people, has been Christian in nature since the Pilgrims and Puritans landed here. It was that Christian world view that drove the development of our civil government. And in this sense, this nation WAS founded on Christianity. You need to learn history from the people who made it and not those secular humanist text books. they lie, the men who kept their diaries and wrote their letters to each other do not.

          SO let’s do this: POST THE FOUNDERS’ WORDS TELLING US THEY WANTED A SECULAR GOVERNMENT!

          Until you do that, YOU STAND REFUTED — and by the founders themselves, no less.

          • 1. Oh for crying out loud, claim each and every founder as a devout Christian if you like. I don’t care; I certainly don’t have the interest or patience to quibble with you about the religious beliefs of this or that founder. My point, which you have so far repeatedly ducked and which does not depend on whether particular founders were deists or Christians, remains the same. Capiche?

            2. and 3. Hmm, you didn’t really offer much of an explanation—just arm waving and assertions. At any rate, if, as you assert, Christianity lays claim to the ideas of “We the people,” individual rights, liberty, toleration, freedom, self-government, and the like, such that any government incorporating such basic features is, by your reckoning, therefore “Christian,” then I suppose anyone accepting that the term is that malleable could go along with your characterization. I think, though, that by doing so, you’ve stretched that term beyond what most would recognize as “Christian” in the common sense. Certainly, characterization of that sort based on those features would not justify also claiming that a government must as a matter of law in its conduct toe the Christian line.

            4. Perhaps we’ve stumbled on to common ground. I agree with your overarching thesis that the founders would not establish a government that is inherently at odds with their religious convictions, which were largely Christian in nature. Moreover, given the republican nature of our government, I think it is only natural and expected that the laws enacted by our government–in both the founders’ time and today–largely reflect Christianity’s dominant influence in our society.
            That said, there is no reason to suppose that Christianity or theism is an inherent aspect of our constitutional government. Indeed, any such claim is antithetical to the constitutional principle against government establishment of religion. By founding a secular government and assuring it would remain separate, in some measure at least, from religion, the founders basically established government neutrality in matters of religion, allowing individuals to freely choose and exercise their religions and thus allowing Christianity (and other religions) to flourish or founder as they will. As noted above, it is to be expected that the values and views of the people, shaped in part by their religions, will be reflected in the laws adopted by their government. There is nothing in the Constitution that requires or calls for this; it is simply a natural outgrowth of the people’s expression of political will in a republican government. To the extent that the people’s values and views change over time, it is to be expected that those changes will come to be reflected in the laws adopted by their government. There is nothing in the Constitution to prevent this; indeed, just the opposite–the Constitution establishes a government designed to be responsive to the political will of the people. It is conceivable, therefore, that if Christianity’s influence in our society wanes relative to other influences, that may lead to changes in our laws. Nothing in the Constitution would prevent that–and moreover the establishment clause would preclude Christians from using the government to somehow “lock in” (aka establish) Christianity in an effort to stave off such an eventuality.

            5. As for your repeated challenge to offer the founders’ words saying they wanted a secular government, I—again—refer you to my first comment above, which describes how they did just that in the Constitution. I’m ever so tempted to tell you that until you respond to each and every aspect of the Constitution noted in my comment, YOU STAND REFUTED, but I’ll not indulge in such child’s play.

            While you at it, though, note too that shortly after ratifying the Constitution and the first set of amendments, the founders had a third opportunity to clarify their intent: In 1797, President John Adams (a founder) signed, with the unanimous consent of the Senate (comprised in large measure of founders), the Treaty of Tripoli declaring, in pertinent part, “the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.” There are some words for you; no need to resort to reading tea leaves to understand them. Note too that this is not just an informal comment by an individual founder (of the sort that seems to much impress you), but rather an official declaration of the most solemn sort by the United States government itself (when it was comprised largely of founders)—in a treaty, which the Constitution provides is, apart from the Constitution itself, the highest law of the land.

            • Doug,

              So now you cannot tell us which founders were Deists, and you claim it does not matter anyway? Let me ask you something: how can it NOT matter to this issue? If the men who framed this nation were Christian or at least believed in the God of the Bible, how is it you can argue they would have created a government totally devoid of His influence? So it is not that I am missing anything, it is that YOU are the one ducking the importance of this connection. In effect, you are TRYING to tell us that Obama and Hillary — were they to remake the government — would do so as a Christian theocracy. It is an irrational assertion.

              2 — Once again, you do not know or understand Christianity. Moses was told to have the people elect representatives, and that he would be the judge, but God would be the King. The early Church, after Christ corrected the state of disrepair designing men (i.e. the Pharisees) had done to God’s original plan, the early Church returned to this model. They elected representatives, but God (in the figure of Christ) became the head of government, the King. The dark ages saw more designing men seek to destroy this understanding until the reformation reclaimed it. THAT is why the Pilgrims and Puritans moved to America: so they could construct a nation that lived under God’s rule. And THIS is the understanding the founders held when they constructed our government. Now, to demand I explain all that history to you in these comments is the true fallacy as it is unreasonable in the extreme. But it does not mean I am wrong; only that you do not know history as well or as correctly as you seem to assume.

              4 — Once again, you do not understand Christianity. The Christian does EVERYTHING for the Kingdom and Glory of God — EVERYTHING! To claim they would then create a secular government is to claim they are actually infidels (non-believers). Our founders may have jailed you for making such an assertion. Adams was very clear here: this nation’s government was designed for a religious people. The founders were almost unanimous in their assertion that Christianity was THE religion, and that anyone who attacks the principles and foundations of Christianity is NOT a patriot. Even Jefferson agreed with this in principle. The reason other religions were allowed to flourish is that tolerance — NOT acceptance — but tolerance is a Christian ideal. And it is not the Constitution that calls for any of this, IT IS THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE that does that. You cannot divorce the two and understand what our founders created. In fact, they were divorced so that what the founders created could be destroyed.

              5 — And again, they did not reject Christianity and embrace secularism in the Constitution. They declared God and God’s law to be universal and eternal in the Declaration. The Constitution reflects the best means they could devise to preserve and protect God’s law in civil government. Again, this is why you cannot divorce the two documents. It is also the reason why our Constitution no longer protects us: because it does not work for secular people — just as Adams said.

              Now, the REAL reason you cannot quote one founder saying what you claim they intended is obvious. You cannot be cause they did not say that. You are merely trying to impose your desires onto the actual historic record.

              As for the Treaty of Tripoli: give up. You are snatching at smoke. That Treaty was groveling with Muslims to stop killing our people. And it was referring to the Christian Theocracies of Europe. We were not ans have never been a Theocracy. THERE is a straw man for you. You are trying to make an equivocation and it fails because you do not understand history. Adams is the on of the very men who asserted that anyone who decried the Christian faith was no Patriot. So your understanding makes him a liar, but mine does not. Reason dictates you are wrong again.

          • Joe,

            From what you say, I gather that you have reduced your analysis of these issues of law and history to a simple syllogism:

            1. Everything Christians do is, well, “Christian.” (As you put it in your comments: “The Christian does EVERYTHING for the Kingdom and Glory of God—EVERYTHING!”)
            2. The founders were Christians. (As you put it in your post: “this nation was founded by Christians.”)
            3. Therefore, the government established by the founders necessarily is “Christian.” (As you put it, negatively, in your comments: “To claim they would then create a secular government is to claim they are actually infidels (non-believers).” In other words, Christians cannot create anything but a Christian government, otherwise they’re not Christians.)

            Wow! It’s all so simple. I see now why you place so much importance on claiming as many individual founders as possible to be in the Christian camp and why you have so fastidiously compiled quotations that, you think, evidence the adherence of particular founders to Christianity. For you, everything follows from their status as Christians.

            It must be a mind bender to encounter someone like me who pops the bubble on your major premise and observes, as I did in my first comment, that “[i]t is entirely possible for thoroughly religious folk to found a government on the power of “We the people” rather than a deity and to keep that government separate from religion.” In your world, I gather that is simply not true.

            It also bent your mind that I could care less about your minor premise. Indeed, it seemingly took until your final comment to wrap your mind around that concept and, even then, you could but question how can it NOT matter whether the founders were deists or Christians. (For the answer to that, I refer you to my take on (i.e., rejection of) your major premise.)

            Your enchantment with your simple syllogism explains your disinterest in the actual features of the Constitution exhibiting its separation of church and state and your casual dismissal of the plain and authoritative declaration in the Treaty of Tripoli. That separation and that declaration simply cannot be true, by your reckoning, otherwise the founders would be infidels and, of course, they were not. No matter that John Adams, that undoubted Christian, was well aware of the treaty’s declaration (since his Secretary of War voiced objections to it) and Adams nonetheless signed the treaty with a notation that, with the advice and consent of the Senate, he had considered and ratified the treaty and “every clause and article thereof.” It should not go unnoticed that, in doing so, Adams himself refutes the first and third points of your syllogism.

            I gather that the usefulness of our discussion is largely at an end. I appreciate you explaining your thoughts and thus satisfying my curiosity about your thinking.

          • Joe,

            You might look up the definition of that term, rather than bandy it about meaninglessly.

            • Deist: a person who does not believe God takes an active role in the events of man.

              This means Franklin was NOT a Deist — and neither was Jefferson. If you would go find and read the lines that come AFTER the words on the Jefferson monument — HIS WORDS — you will find that Jefferson said he feared a “supernatural correction” of our sins in connection to the founders’ failure to end slavery. Clearly, Jefferson believed in God and a God who intervenes in human events.

              At the time of the Declaration and the Convention and the ratification, NONE of the most famous and influential leaders were Deists.

              So maybe YOU should go look up the definition of the word, and then apply it to what the founders actually said they believed?

              Doug — and I say this kindly — I just want you to question what your law schools taught you and start reading the founders — not the history books. You will find people very different from who you currently think they are.

          • Actually, I was thinking of the term “strawman” since your dismissal of my comment merely by characterizing it as such seemed so off. I gather, upon reflection, that you think I have not accurately or fairly summarized the logic of your argument and have somehow presented it as something that can be readily refuted. And here, I thought I had finally made sense of what you have been saying. Is that syllogism (perhaps worded more to your liking) the thrust of your argument? If not, perhaps you can explain how your argument differs.

            • No, Doug,

              I think you have such a poor understanding of Christianity and of what our founding fathers believed as to not be able to evaluate their words properly. I also think you have such a self-centered world view that you cannot learn to see them in their proper light. In short: you cannot help BUT impose your perspective onto everything you consider.

              Also, while you at least seem aware of the rules of logic, you do not seem to have a mastery of them. At least, not according to the rules I was taught (and my logic teachers were all ‘intellectually honest’ liberals). If you had such a command of logic, you might see that my argument is perfectly consistent. It’s just that we are dealing with so much it is hard for most to keep it all in mind at one time long enough to see how everything fits together. It’s OK, it took me years to learn, myself — and I was trying to do so. Those who do not care or have only a superficial interest should not be expected to get it — especially if the logic they have been taught is law logic.

              “Law logic — an artificial system of reasoning, exclusively used in courts of justice, but good for nothing anywhere else.”
              –John Quincy Adams

              I chalk most of this up to the effects of postmodernism and the way we are all schooled. I say this because I was much the same way as you seem, and for the same reasons. It’s just that I — for whatever reasons — chose to read and reason for myself. And when I did, I read what the men actually wrote — as well as about their lives (so I could get an insight into who they were). That’s when I realized my teachers and professors were either ignorant of the truth or had lied to me. Maybe someday you will come to the same realization. Until then, you will keep to this mistaken view of who our founders were and what their hopes and intentions for this nation were.

            • Doug,

              Here is a place for you to start — IF you truly want to understand. Read the work Madison did for the Virginia declaration of Rights and Constitution. They are intricately linked to the nations Declaration and Constitution, and show that ours were meant to remain tied, just as Virginia’s were.

              In his words, you will find an assertion that to be and remain a free and self-governing people, that people must be of a certain temperament or mind. Now, Madison does not FULLY explain what he means here — because it is so much a part of the culture as to be assumed. Think about it: there are many things in our culture that go unexplained yet are assumed. So it was with Madison in his time, and so it is a mistake to impose our understanding of the language and culture unto his words. Doing so fundamentally changes them.

              That Madison was referring to the necessity for a people to be moral, and for religion to establish morality can and is found elsewhere in his work — even unto the time of his death. But we also find it in the work John Adams did for the Massachusetts Constitution, where he more forcefully asserts the conviction that freedom and morality (religion) are interdependent. We find this assertion throughout the founding fathers’ words. And when you look — even at Madison — you will also find that they assert this necessity imparts a DUTY to government to provide for that religion (not establish it, but support and encourage it).

              So the question then becomes, do we HONESTLY believe that these men — who all assert there is no way to maintain a free and self-governing society without religion — would then divorce the two? Anyone who claims that this is what they actually intended makes a mockery out of the entire Revolution (not to mention commits a heresy of reason). It would be akin to reading everything the Progressives have EVER written and then declaring that they fully embraced the founders’ original intent. Everything the Progressives have done has been done to undo what the founders did, and their words say so. Well, the founders said what they meant and meant what they said: we just have to ‘try’ to understand them according to their language and time.

          • Joe,

            I’ve read a bit of the founders’ words too—enough to see that while, as you note, they were largely Christians and many thought morality necessary to self-government and generally considered religion necessary or at least important to foster morality among the people, they endeavored to avoid the divisiveness that would have overtaken the new government in a religiously pluralistic society if that government was up for grabs to whichever religion could capture it. For that reason at least, they undertook to establish a government and keep it largely separate from religion.

            You keep beating the drum that the founders were, for the most part anyway, Christians and, based on that premise, you revert to your simple syllogism and pose the question: “So the question then becomes, do we HONESTLY believe that these men — who all assert there is no way to maintain a free and self-governing society without religion — would then divorce the two?” Familiar as you are with logic, it should be apparent to you that you’ve indulged in a classic fallacy—begging the question.

            As I have pointed out, with explanation and evidence, these men, who said everything you’ve quoted, did indeed establish a government on the power of the people, not a deity, and arrange to keep that government separate from religion. There is no conflict, as you suppose, between that and their opinions as you’ve quoted. The people of that time regarded separation of church and state as a boon, not a burden, to religion. This sentiment was recorded by a famous observer of the American experiment: “On my arrival in the United States the religious aspect of the country was the first thing that struck my attention. . . . I questioned the members of all the different sects. . . . I found that they differed upon matters of detail alone, and that they all attributed the peaceful dominion of religion in their country mainly to the separation of church and state. I do not hesitate to affirm that during my stay in America, I did not meet a single individual, of the clergy or the laity, who was not of the same opinion on this point.” Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America (1835).

            • Doug,

              The founders were ore devout Christians than the majority who call themselves by His name today. They knew and understood that Scripture teaches that CHrist’s followers were told to make disciples of the nations. This does not mean they were to keep their lamp under a basket. They were to shine before men. This means they were to glorify God through their personal example — how they lived. So, to tell the world that they then DELIBERATELY set up a secular government is to assert that these faithful people deliberately committed heresy. You see, a secular govt. is — by definition — antichrist. So it is absurd on its face to claim the founders intended our govt. to be secular, and it IS because they were faithful Christians.

              What you see as a battle to avoid fights over different religions is really an attempt to avoid fights over what they called sects. That means, they did not want the nation fighting over different denominations of Christianity. And even then, they did not want the FEDERAL govt. from doing this. They left the States with the authority to declare official religions. So REASON negates you at every turn of your argument. You simply want to reject God and God’s law.

              BTW: our founders allowed the Bible as an authority in Courts of Law. A strange thing for people to do if they did not want religion in govt.

    • Doug,

      Joe is not saying the Founders Created an inherently Christian Government. Saying so seems to me to be another “Straw Man” argument.

      He is merely pointing out that the inspiration was Judeo-Christian principles, including the notion of Free Will. That Natural Law takes its inspiration through Locke and the Founding Generation from a grounding in Biblical principles.

      And as such a Secular government was certainly not their goal…..any more than a Theocracy was.

      • Don,

        He doesn’t and likely will never understand this, mostly because he has no understanding of the Christian ethic.

        However, I would offer a mild correction to you. The founders most certainly DID think they were creating an inherently Christian government — in the sense that it could only function if run by a Christian people. Adams said so — very forcefully, I might add. And several other founders said the same — some even going so far as to assert that this made it a civic DUTY to elect Christians to office (and only Christians).

        The point I do not understand is why this seems to threaten people like Doug so much. If he thinks Christians are such a threat, why does he treat them so harshly? Do you think he would do that to a devout Muslim, especially face-to-face? The answer to that question should be telling — to an intellectually honest person. But to the dishonest person… 😉

      • Joe,

        I thought perhaps, as noted in point 4 of my Jan. 5 comment, Joe and I had found common ground along the lines you suggest. He seems to think otherwise though.

        I’m not sure what you have mind when you speak of a “Secular government” and suggest that was not the founders’ goal. When I use the term “secular,” I mean it simply in the common sense, particularly as applied to government, of the concept of being separate from, not connected with, or neutral toward religion. I think that is much what the founders had in mind for the federal government. They did not, of course, use the term “secular” to describe that concept, as that term did not come into common use until many decades after the founding.

        • Doug,

          I have a dictionary from the founders’ time, and it defines secular as:

          “Living in the world; not ascribed to any religious ideology but belonging to the State.”

          As this is the founders’ understanding of secular, and because they clearly and forcefully rejected the idea that there is no God and we belong to the State, I reject the notion that the founders wanted a “secular” government — by your definition or any other. In fact, one very prominent leaders clearly said he would rather this nation controlled by Islam before they saw it run by what they called ‘infidels’ (atheists). And though he was one man, he was one of the most influential at the time, Benjamin Rush.

          But here’s what i do not understand: even if you reject religion, why would you object to the Christian ethic? If a person claims to be Christian and tries to force something on you against your will, you can use the Scripture to admonish them. They are not allowed to do that unless you are harming others. This applies to the majority of things that people attack as being proof that Christianity is bad, such as the Crusades and the events in Salem. Those were done by men claiming Christ but not following Him. Unlike Muslims who, when they kill, ARE following the teaching of Muhammad. In truth, the ONLY safe repository of worldly rights and liberty resides within a society operating on the Christian ideal.

  4. With any law including and especially the constitution its important to try to understand who this law is giving rights to and whose rights it is restricting.

    Here we are concerned with 3 different groups:

    1) the federal government
    2) the states
    3) the individual people

    The first amendment was intended to restrict the federal governments powers and protect the powers of the states and individuals. Specifically the establishment clause was to protect the states rights to keep their established religions and the free exercise clause was to protect the people.

    A key word in the establishment clause was the word “respecting.”
    “Congress shall pass no law respecting the establishment of religion.” Notice that if the framers just wanted to prevent congress from establishing a religion it could have said “congress shall not establish a national religion.” However if that is what it said then congress may have been able to disestablish the state’s established religions. Thus to make sure the established state religions would be protected they included the term “respecting.” Thus this clause was to protect the states right to establish a religion and limited the federal government from messing with it in any way.

    The supreme court seems aware of this. Clarence Thomas specifically brings this up when he argues that to apply the establishment clause against the states through the 14th amendment turns the first amendment on its head.

    He agrees that the free exercise clause should be applied but not the establishment clause. I don’t think the other justices necessarily disagree with the history he mentions. See Elk Grove school district v Newdow.
    http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/02-1624.ZC2.html

    Sorry this reply covers allot of ground and i tried to keep it short. If you have questions feel free to ask.

    • As noted in my first comment, the Constitution separates church and state more fundamentally than stated in the First Amendment.

      With respect to the First Amendment, while some, including Justice Thomas, posit that the establishment clause aimed only to protect the states’ rights with respect to religion, others have noted that while some founders may have had that in mind, some founders also meant it to foster the rights of individuals by freeing them, at the federal level anyway, of government sponsored or promoted religion. Note that a disestablishment political movement was then underway, the general aim of which was to achieve the same sort of thing at the state level. That movement succeeded in ending the state established religions by 1833.

      Even if Thomas were correct that the founders intended the establishment clause only as a federal-state structural measure and not an individual rights measure, it is widely recognized that by 1868, when the 14th Amendment was ratified, the First Amendment religion clauses were understood to separate church and state in order to protect individuals’ religious freedom. The free-exercise clause does this directly by constraining the government from prohibiting individuals from freely exercising their religions. The establishment clause does this indirectly by constraining government from promoting or otherwise taking steps to establish any religion, thus assuring that individuals are free to exercise their religions without fearing the government will favor the religions of others and thus disfavor theirs. To the extent that the 14th Amendment extended the First Amendment’s protections of individual rights to the states (as the Supreme Court held in Everson), it logically is that understanding of the First Amendment that the 14th Amendment incorporates.

      • If the Constitution separates Church and State, please post the wording for us so we can verify it. You can’t, which is why you use the word “fundamentally:” because you need it to create a wholefully made-up idea that the founders not only did not hold but specifically rejected. The Congressional records on the debate over the 1st Amendment PROVE you are wrong.

        The ‘disestablishment’ movement you speak about is NOT what you claim it to be. Again, the CONGRESSIONAL RECORD contradicts you. The founders were seeking to make sure there would be no Federally mandated religion, and the States followed in THIS understanding. They did NOT mean to establish a religionless government. Washington makes this brutally clear in his farewell speech. SO do many of the framers, the early Congressional records, the early Court records, early historians, and all the same from later times — right up to the rise of the Progressive movement and the advent of historic revisionism (BTW: there is a causal link there, Doug).

        Again, I can quote the founders, Congressional records, Courts, historians where they assert the direct opposite of what you claim the founders intended. So unless and until you post there words saying they wanted religion our of government, YOU STAND REFUTED!

        • I’m well acquainted with the passages in the Annals of Congress pertaining to the First Amendment. If you’d like to discuss them, have at it.

          I’m not sure what you think I claim the disestablishment movement to have been. In discussing whether the First Amendment establishment clause was intended only as a federal-state structural measure, I merely noted (factually), as the framers would have been aware, the disestablishment movement then underway, which addressed the role of religion in the several individual states.

          • OK, good. If you are “well acquainted” with them, then where are the quotes telling us the founders wanted no religious influences in government??? 🙂

            And while you are at it, please tell those reading along what “sects” means? It was a word that came up A LOT in those debates. And it makes it clear what they were originally trying to do. The wording we have now reflects what they thought was the best way to word their intent, but that intent did NOT change. If it had, the Constitution would NOT have been ratified.

            [in case Doug fails to tell you, to the founders, ‘sect’ meant denomination. Until the end, the founders were looking for a way to prohibit the federal government from enforcing a particular denomination of Christianity. THAT is what they 1st Amendment is all about, and THAT is why the States later changed their constitutions: not to secularize government, but to make sure no branch of the Christian faith was persecuted. This is why Doug is being VERY selective in the information he presents to support his argument. If he presented you with the full record, you would dismiss him as wrong.]

      • “With respect to the First Amendment, while some, including Justice Thomas, posit that the establishment clause aimed only to protect the states’ rights with respect to religion, others have noted that while some founders may have had that in mind, some founders also meant it to foster the rights of individuals by freeing them, at the federal level anyway, of government sponsored or promoted religion. Note that a disestablishment political movement was then underway, the general aim of which was to achieve the same sort of thing at the state level. That movement succeeded in ending the state established religions by 1833.”

        I have no doubt that the intentions of the framers were varied.

        The free exercise and establishment clauses use different words and so we should understand they are after different things.. The establishment clause basically means that the federal government should butt out of the business of establishing or disestablishing religion all together. Not establishing one that the states or individuals had to follow nor disestablishing religions that the states already had. The fact that there was already a movement to disestablish state religions is even more evidence that that the word “respecting” was intended as a states right versus the federal government. The free exercise clause meant that the federal government should not infringe peoples individual rights to exercise.

        But I would note that the last sentence I quote from you might be something liberal judges would strongly disagree with. Yes by any normal understanding of the words “established religion” by 1833 there were no longer any laws on the books “establishing a religion.” Unfortunately the normal understanding of what it means “to establish a religion” has been broadened beyond recognition to mean that not only can a state or federal government “establish a religion” but they need to basically outlaw religion from any event that the government is even remotely involved with.

        But honestly I am not that interested in what the framers thought, as I really don’t care that much to be honest. I think too many people idolize them.

        • True,

          To the extent you aren’t interested in what the framers thought, it may not matter to you, but just so you’ll know: Madison confirmed not only that he understood the Constitution and First Amendment to “[s]trongly guard[] . . . the separation between Religion and Government,” he also made plain that they guarded against more than just laws creating state sponsored churches or imposing a state religion. Mindful that even as new principles are proclaimed, old habits die hard and citizens and politicians could tend to entangle government and religion (e.g., “the appointment of chaplains to the two houses of Congress” and “for the army and navy” and “[r]eligious proclamations by the Executive recommending thanksgivings and fasts”), he considered the question whether these actions were “consistent with the Constitution, and with the pure principle of religious freedom” and responded: “In strictness the answer on both points must be in the negative. The Constitution of the United States forbids everything like an establishment of a national religion.” Madison, Detached Memoranda (~1820).

          • Doug,

            Madison was a devout Christian with strong Calvinist sympathies. Do you understand what this means? THIS is where “context” comes into play.

            Take the words you quoted. To Madison, the Constitution may have prevented the appointing of any form of minister by the COngress, but he would have NEVER said that this meant the federal government must kick religion out of the public circle. One cannot quote a passage defending pure religious freedom and then claim he meant for there to be NO religion at all. That is a contradiction and it reflects a gross misunderstanding of the man and the sentiments of the times. In short, you are reading more into Madison than he intended.

        • Trueandreasonable,

          While I agree with you — too many idolize the founders — I do not. I revere the PRINCIPLES AND IDEALS they asserted and by which they tried to arrange our nation. Those principles and ideals are as the founders said: self evident and eternal. So, to dismiss their words and the product of their efforts is no light thing. At least, not in my opinion, anyway. To dismiss them is to invite the return of tyranny — as we are seeing all around us.

    • trueandreasonable,

      Nope, you are just re-stating what I have been trying to explain to Doug, but which he seems intent on refusing to accept in favor of his own desire. 🙂

      • Joe,

        Ahhh…. So Doug is *Neck-deep-dug-in-the-Do-Do* of “Living-Constitutionalism”.

        Idolizing the Icons of Post-Moderism no doubt.

        • Don,

          The Constitution’s separation of church and state rests on the expressed intent of the founders and does not depend, in the least, on the concept of a living Constitution.

          • Doug,

            Then it does not exist as it is understood today. The founders sought to BROADEN religious liberty, not destroy it. And as Jefferson said, if I have no right to exercise it, then I do not have that right. This would apply to religion: if I cannot exercise it in the public square, I do not have the right to religion/conscience.

            In short: the founders did not have the same idea of separation as you assert — and Jefferson was explaining this in the letter from which this phrase comes. Therefore, Don is correct: you are asserting a “living document” doctrine because you are defending the right to amend it simply by changing the definition or interpretation of words instead of amending it as you should.

    • True,

      When you say… “Thus this clause was to protect the states right to establish a religion and limited the federal government from messing with it in any way. “………. You mean ‘states right to establish a religion ( or Religions)’ right ? In other words words the right of the State to recognize the establishment of new religions not in extant at the time of Ratification, unencumbered by the Federal Government.

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