Vail Valley Voices: Religious revisionists fail to alter Constitution
Editor’s note: Henry Bornstein, a retired attorney who handled constitutional cases and studies the Constitution from a historical as well as legal perspective, uses letters in response to previous commentaries as a foil to help explain the place of religion in the U.S. Constitution. This is part 5.Majority rule is also why Article 1, Section 7, Paragraph 2, (referred to in Jim Taylor’s first letter) is in the U.S. Constitution and has been left unchallenged. It was and is simply not worth the time to oppose and the opposition would lose. Is Mr. Taylor suggesting that this paragraph was surreptitiously put in the Constitution in such a manner as to get it past the conventioneers such as Madison, Franklin, Hamilton and Washington, etc., without their knowledge so that a Christian nation was in fact created? Numerous religious revisionists have made this argument. Has any credible source with an unbiased knowledge of history and the law ever made this argument? Where is the proof? Thomas Jefferson:n “From the dissensions among Sects themselves arise necessarily a right of choosing and necessity of deliberating to which we will conform. But if we choose for ourselves, we must allow others to choose also, and so reciprocally, this establishes religious liberty.” –Notes on Religion, 1776. Papers 1:545 n “Religion is a subject on which I have ever been most scrupulously reserved. I have considered it as a matter between every man and his Maker in which no other, and far less the public, had a right to intermeddle.” –Jefferson to Richard Rush, 1813. n “I am for freedom of religion, and against all maneuvers to bring about a legal ascendency of one sect over another.” — Jefferson to Elbridge Gerry, 1799. ME 10:78. n “Believing … that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their Legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church and State.” — Jefferson to Danbury Baptists, 1802. ME 16:281. n “History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes.” — Jefferson to Alexander von Humboldt, 1813. ME 14:21. n “In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own.” — Jefferson to Horatio G. Spafford, 1814. ME 14:119. n “We have no right to prejudice another in his civil enjoyments because he is of another church.” — Notes on Religion, 1776. Papers 1:546. If the Supreme Court had declared in any case that as a matter of law, “The United States is a Christian nation,” would the entire country not know about it? Would there not be significant federal and state laws enacted to reflect this change? Would this not overrule hundreds if not thousands of existing cases and laws? Maybe if revisionists like Barton, Limbaugh, Hannity and Coulter, etc., actually studied American history and our related law and what the main founders said and wrote, they might understand this. Well, probably not. As further proof we are not a Christian nation: The pro-Christian forces tried to add the following phrase to Jefferson’s Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom: “Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion.” But according to Jefferson, the sectarians were beaten back “by a great majority.” The bill passed the Virginia Legislature in 1786. There were a small number of convention delegates who wanted language in the Constitution that made specific references and recognition of God, Jesus and Christian beliefs. All of these attempts were soundly rejected.”His argument done, his case made, Franklin asked that a prayer be said each succeeding day. The delegates, however, were curiously unmoved. ‘The convention except for three or four persons thought prayer unnecessary!’ Franklin noted gloomily.” — “American Gospel,” by Jon Meacham, P89-90.The delegates to the convention were all aware of Jefferson’s references to the “Creator” and “Devine Providence” in the Declaration of Independence, and to the “Great Governor of the World” in the Articles of Confederation. These references as well as all references to God, Jesus, Christ, Christianity, Providence, Creator, etc., were intentionally left out of the Constitution. This was not a mistake. These omissions, i.e., total neglect, were known to all. There are two distinct periods in which two separate attempts, themes or arguments or should I say attacks on the Constitution were previously made and are now being made. The first attempt runs from the time of the creation of the Constitution to the 1980s, if not a bit earlier. The second attempt began in the ’80s around the time Reagan was elected president, and since then, has been made on a continuing basis. The earlier attempt had a certain logic to it in that these people recognized and accepted the content of the Constitution and the intent of its drafters. The second attempt has no such logic. The second attempt is based on so called revisionist history, which is essentially made up with little or no factual basis. To deny that the Constitution is a godless, secular document does nothing but promote ignorance and distort history. The first period included numerous attempts by activist pro-Christian groups to change the Constitution (not to change history) from a godless secular document into a Christian document. Thankfully, they all failed miserably. My sources for many of these incidents and quotes are “The Godless Constitution,” by Isaac Kramnick and R. Laurence Moore, pp.22-25, 32-37 & 144 -149; The U.S. Department of Treasury Fact Sheet; Infidels.org/library; “The American Gospel,” by Jon Meacham; “The Summer of 1787,” by David O. Stewart. Here are but a few.Rev. Mason of New York, a Jefferson critic, said in 1793 that “from the Constitution of the United States, it is impossible to ascertain what God we worship or whether we own a God at all.” In 1811, Rev. Samuel Austin “singled out as its ‘one capital defect’ that the Constitution ‘is entirely disconnected from Christianity.’ The leading Presbyterian clergyman in Kentucky … worried in 1815 that … nowhere in the Constitution was ‘God the savior recognized.'” — “Godless Constitution,” P.144.The Civil War prompted numerous pro-Christian individuals and groups to try to change the Constitution to correct this absence of a Christian God and Jesus.