Vail Daily letter: Christian perspective
Vail, CO, Colorado
In reply to Henry Bornstein’s letter on Dec. 27 concerning me, let me start by saying this. In the editor’s note it says Bornstein is a retired attorney who handled constitutional cases and studies the Constitution from a historical as well as a legal perspective. It does not say he does from a Christian perspective. You cannot understand the Constitution if you don’t understand its Christian foundation.
This particular letter in question is about an act passed in 1885 to prevent railroads from hiring cheap Chinese labors, but it was written in a very broad sense.
The Holy Trinity Church was accused of violating this law by hiring an English minister. According to the letter of the law, the church did violate it.
However, the court said, “It is a familiar rule that a thing may be within the letter of the statute and yet not within the statute, because not within its spirit, nor within the intention of its makers.” The court went on to say that absurd results can follow when giving broad meaning to the words.
The court gave some examples of what it meant. In the State v. Clark case 1860, a man tore down his neighbor’s fence, a clear violation of the law. The neighbor sued the man. The court said the law was broken. However, the fence was on that man’s land. The intent of the law was not broken. The man won the case.
In the U.S. v. Kirby case 1868: There was a law no one can interfere with the delivery of the mail or the mail carrier. A mail carrier was interfered with while engaged in carrying the mail. He sued and lost. Why? The letter of the law was clearly violated. However, the mail carrier was wanted for murder and it was a sheriff that interfered with his delivery of the mail.
Part of the decision of this court in U.S. v. Kirby was “All laws should receive a sensible construction. … The reason of the law in such cases should prevail over its letter.”
Bornstein wants us to believe this case of Holy Trinity Church is only about the letter of the law and not about the intent of the law. In fact, he said, “There was no other issue whatsoever, including whether or not this is a Christian nation or whether or not Christian laws or principles apply.” This was a civil issue: Was the statute in question violated?
Bornstein has made it clear that he believes he knows more about this case than the justices who gave their opinion.
The justices totally disagree with Bornstein’s opinion and did think it was about intent and whether or not this was a Christian nation and Christian laws and principles.
The court said, “But beyond all these matters no purpose of action against religion can be imputed to any legislation, state or nation because this is a religious people. This is historically true. From the discovery of this continent to the present hour, there is a single voice making this affirmation.”
The court cited the commission to Columbus from Ferdinand and Isabella, by the grace of God.
The colonial grant to Sir Walter Raleigh in 1584 authorized him to enact statutes to govern the colony that they be not against the true Christian faith now professed in the Church of England.
The 1st Charter of Virginia by King James I in 1606 included propagating the Christian religion.
The court mentioned the Mayflower bringing the Christian faith to America and other colonial charters mentioning the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The court then said, “Coming nearer to the present time, the Declaration of Independence recognizes the presence of the Divine in human affairs in these worlds” and then quotes part of the Declaration of Independence.
The court then talks about the constitutions of various states. Such as Article 36 and 37 of Maryland, 1867, “that as it is the duty of every man to worship God in such manner as he thinks most acceptable to him, all persons are equally entitled to protection in their religious liberty.”
The Constitution then talks of things like no one is forced to support any place of worship or be molested for his beliefs unless those beliefs disturb the good order, peace or safety of the state and other things. The Constitution then says, “Provided he believes in the existence of God and that under His dispensation, such persons will be held morally accountable for his acts, and be rewarded or punished therefore, either in this world or the world to come. That no religious test ought ever to be required as a qualification for any office of profit or thrust in this state other than a declaration of belief in the existence of God, nor shall the legislature prescribe any other oath of office than the oath prescribed by this constitution.”
The court quotes the Constitution of Mississippi 1832: “No person who denies the being of a God, or a future state of rewards and punishments, shall hold any office in the civil department of this state.”
The court also cites Article 22 of the Delaware Constitution 1776, which required all offices, besides an oath of allegiance, to make and describe the following declaration: “I, A.B., do profess faith in God the Father, and in Jesus Christ His only Son, and in the Holy Ghost, one God blessed for evermore; and I acknowledge the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be given by divine inspiration.”
The court cites Updegraph v. Commonwealth 1824, that decided, “Christianity, general Christianity, is and always has been, a part of the common law of Pennsylvania; … not Christianity with an established church, and tithes, and spiritual courts; but Christianity with liberty of conscience to all men.”
The court then gives numerous examples of Christian-affected matters in the general society and then says, “These and many other matters which might be noticed, add a volume of unofficial declarations to the mass of organic utterances that this is a Christian nation. In the face of all these, shall it be believed that a Congress of the U.S. intended to make it a misdemeanor for a church of this country to contract for the services of a Christian minister residing in another nation?”
The court then offers a situation in which it asks, if the same Congress that passed the 1885 law had offered a bill that said if a Catholic, Episcopal or Baptist church or Jewish synagogue had made a similar contract, it should be adjudged unlawful and void, and the church was made subject to prosecution and punishment, whether it can be believed that it would have received a minute of approving thought or a single vote. Yet it is contended that such was in effect the meaning of this statute. Bornstein thinks that is the meaning of the statute.
The court then said, “It is a case where there was presented a definite evil, in view of which the Legislature used general terms with the purpose of reaching all phases of the evil, and thereafter, unexpectedly, it is developed that the general language thus employed is broad enough to reach cases and acts which the whole history and life of country affirm could not have been intentionally legislated against. It is the duty of the courts, under those circumstances, to say that, however broad the language of the statute may be, the act, although within the letter, is not within the intention of the Legislature, and therefore cannot be within the stature.”
The reason I have been writing these letters to show that Christianity is the foundation of our country is simple. Psalms 11:3: “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?”
Jedediah Morse, a founding father and called the father of American geography, said this in 1799: “To the kindly influence of Christianity we owe that degree of civil freedom and political social happiness which mankind now enjoys. In proportion, as the genuine effects of Christianity are diminished in the nation – in the same proportion will the people of that nation recede from the blessings of genuine freedom? I hold this to be a truth confirmed by experience and it follows that all efforts made to destroy the foundations of our holy religion ultimately tend to the subversion also of our political freedom and happiness. Whenever the pillars of Christianity shall be overthrown, our present republican forms of government, and all the blessings which flow from them must fall with them.”