Vail Valley Voices: Churchy history is ignorant
Vail, CO, Colorado
What influence, in fact, have ecclesiastical establishments had on society? In some instances, they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of the civil authority. In many instances, they have been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny.
In no instance have they been the guardians of the liberties of the people: “A just government, instituted to secure and perpetuate it, needs them not.” (President James Madison, “A Memorial and Remonstrance,” 1785)
In my response to Stephen Dziekan’s recent letter, “Wise up,” which was his response to Arthur Ridman’s letter (Aug. 8), I state that Mr. Ridman was correct.
Based upon the expressed language of the U.S. Constitution and its amendments, you are historically and legally incorrect.
The First Amendment states, in part: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. …”
At the time the First Amendment was adopted, it only applied to the federal government, not the states. Any reference to God, Christianity and/or Christ in their respective constitutions (12 of 13) is irrelevant.
Irrespective of the claims of extremists such as David Barton, John Eidsmoe, James Dobson, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, Tim LaHaye, Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Dick Gustafson, etc., the U.S. is not a “Christian nation,” and the concept of the separation of church and state is not a myth.
We are, by majority, a nation of Christians. But under the U.S. Constitution, we are not a Christian nation.
“The ‘Establishment Clause’ (of the first half) of the First Amendment prohibits the establishment by the Congress of a national religion or the preference of one religion over another or nonreligion over religion or religion over nonreligion. This is clearly ‘freedom from.’ Under what is referred to as the ‘incorporation doctrine.'” This clause was incorporated into the 14th Amendment Due Process clause and applied to the States in 1947 (Everson v Board of Education, 330 US 1).
The “Free Exercise” clause (the second half) was first applied to the states in 1940 (Cantwell v Connecticut, 310 US 296). There are numerous other cases upholding these two principles.
As I stated in my prior commentaries in much greater depth, the concept of the separation of church and state goes back in history long before the U.S. ever existed. I believe the following quote by Jesus appears in three of the four Gospels (Matthew, John and Luke) in one version or another: “Render onto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and onto God the things that are God’s.” It appears that Jesus understood this concept.
Mr. Dziekan’s next claim is that “our inalienable rights came down to us from God.” There is no reference in the U.S. Constitution to “inalienable rights,” let alone that such rights came from God. The U.S. Constitution is the “supreme law of the land,” from which all of our federal laws, in theory, are derived.
I have made this statement before and I will make it again, until someone shows me language in the Constitution that proves me wrong: The U.S. Constitution is a secular, godless document!
There is no reference or mention whatsoever of God, Christ, the Creator, the Lord, the Almighty or Christianity or any other religion in the Constitution. (Please do not be a simpleton and point out the use of “Lord” in the date as proof of anything.)
These omissions were not mistakes or something simply forgotten. These were intentional actions by the drafters of the Constitution, all of which were accepted by each of the ratifying colonies. Each of these issues was discussed and argued over during the Constitutional Convention and during the ratification process. There are numerous books written by recognized historians, excluding biased and bigoted writers such as David Barton, etc. I recommend to Mr. Dziekan “The Summer of 1987,” by David O Stewart, and “Ratification,” by Pauline Maier.
The only reference to religion in the Constitution appears in Article VI in the last sentence of paragraph 3: “… but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”
If anything, this is an intentional antireligion action. If you read any legitimate history, this clause was one of the most argued over during the Constitutional Convention and during the states’ ratification process.
Many people wanted this clause eliminated and replaced with a clause permitting only true Christians to be allowed to hold office. For the first 150 to 160 years of our country’s history, “true Christians” did not include Catholics in most of the states. The only other reference to religion appears in the First Amendment quoted above.
The reference to “inalienable rights” (“unalienable”) appears in the Declaration of Independence, which was written before the Constitution or the U.S. ever existed. In fact, when it was written, no one would or could have known if a United States or its constitution would ever come to exist.
The Declaration of Independence is not the law of the land. It does not create any form of government. And it is not referred to in the Constitution.
If you look up inalienable (rights) in a dictionary, the word is defined as “that which cannot be taken away or transferred.” There is no mention of God as the source or what inalienable rights are. Are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness the only inalienable rights we have? The 14th Amendment states additional rights, with no reference to a creator endowing them.
The words Mr. Dziekan may be referring to actually state in part: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
It was Jefferson, not “their creator,” who stated where these rights came from. I do believe that these “rights” do not appear in any Bible (Old or New Testament) or in any purported words from God given to Jefferson when he wrote this.
Maybe God did speak directly to Jefferson, as he apparently did/does to Rick Perry and Michelle Bachmann. But I doubt it, as Jefferson never claimed this. Maybe Mr. Dziekan can show where, how or when these “rights came down to us from God.”
By the way, Jefferson was a Deist,