Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Lash Article on Incorporating the Establishment Clause, Blasphemy & Religion Left to the States

For those who wish to see an originalist case for incorporating the Establishment Clause to apply to state and local governments, see Professor Kurt Lash's classic article here. You can also read a blog post that summarizes Lash's research here. It concludes:
If one takes an originalist approach to Fourteenth Amendment incorporation, the principle of non-establishment as a privilege or immunity of citizens of the United States emerged at the time of Reconstruction and was entrenched through the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Though the entire article and post are worth reading, I'm going to focus on the very interesting discussion of blasphemy laws in Lash's longer article. But first a quotation from Walter Berns' "Making Patriots" that I've oft-cited:
Liberty of conscience was widely accepted at the time of the Founding, but this did not prevent some jurists and legislatures from insisting, at least for a while (and given our principles it could be only for a while), that Christianity was part of the law, meaning the common law. So it had been in England, and so, it was assumed by some (but not Jefferson), it would continue to be in America. But there was no disagreement about the place of the common law. Indeed one of the first things done by the states after independence was to declare (here in the words of the New Jersey constitution of 1776) that “the common law of England, as well as so much of the statute law, as have been heretofore practiced in this Colony, shall remain in force, until they shall be altered by a future law of the Legislature; such parts only excepted, as are repugnant to the rights and privileges contained in this Charter [or constitution].”  
But if the “rights and privileges” contained in the various state charters or constitutions included the right of liberty of conscience, and if, in turn, this right required, in Madison’s words, “a perfect separation between ecclesiastical and civil matters,” what did it mean to say that Christianity was part of the common law? Very little, as it turned out; and it turned out as it had to turn out. Consider, for example, the case of blasphemy in America…. pp. 32-33.
Lash's article treats us to an analysis of the four classic known blasphemy prosecutions in post-founding America. (Starting on page 18/1101). A few points: Blasphemy was a "common law" crime and the prosecutions took place at the state level.  The four different prosecutions involve different states, different judges and different times. As Berns notes above, the common law exists at a level where a state statute can trump it. Though, judges back then looked up to the brooding omnipresence in the sky to "find" common law principles.

The first two prosecutions have dicta that could support "Christian nationalist" claims. They act as though it's presumed Christianity will be the religion of the state and the only religion about which the law would be concerned. It's with the second two cases where the judges start to turn blasphemy into an offense akin to a secular breach of the peace.

And in fact, Delaware v. Chandler, decided in 1837, has dicta that blatantly contradicts the Christian nation thesis. The case notes:
If in Delaware the people should adopt the Jewish or Mahometan religion, as they have an unquestionable right to do if they prefer it, this court is bound to notice it as their religion, and to respect it accordingly.
And:
It will be seen then that in our judgment by the constitution and laws of Delaware, the christian religion is a part of those laws, so far that blasphemy against it is punishable, while the people prefer it as their religion, and no longer. The moment they change it and adopt any other, as they may do, the new religion becomes in the same sense, a part of the law, for their courts are bound to yield it faith and credit, and respect it as their religion. Thus, while we punish the offence against society alone, we leave christianity to fight her own battles,...

44 comments:

Tom Van Dyke said...

"If in Delaware the people should adopt the Jewish or Mahometan religion, as they have an unquestionable right to do if they prefer it, this court is bound to notice it as their religion, and to respect it accordingly."


This is the part people today don't get. The Constitution had nothing to say about the states establishing churches if they wanted to.

Indeed, as long as there is no discrimination against individuals--as in Torcaso [where someone was barred from state office because he was an atheist], I don't see why they can't today.

Our Founding Truth said...

Torcaso was 1961. States could persecute atheists in 1792 all day long. It subverts public order and is immoral.

Jonathan Rowe said...

OFT: I'm glad John Adams was a founder and you weren't.

https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/137014-government-has-no-right-to-hurt-a-hair-on-the

Our Founding Truth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Our Founding Truth said...

That quote is from 1816, is only one of many founding fathers, was a rare and minority opinion, many disliked him, was arrogant, disrespectful, a jerk and a walking contradiction. He's a bad example

Jonathan Rowe said...

Actually no. Even though you are right about Adams being a jerk, etc. (Adams admitted he was), I don't think his sentiment about persecution of atheists was at all an outlier.

Our Founding Truth said...

It was an outlier and both parties persecuted atheists. Your quote was from 1816.

"But while I assert the rights of religious liberty, I would not deny that the civil power has a right, in some cases, to interfere in matters of religion. It has a right to prohibit and punish gross immoralities and impieties; because the open practice of these is of evil example and detriment. For this reason, I heartily approve of our laws against drunkenness, profane swearing, blasphemy, and professed atheism."

-Landholder VII, Oliver Ellsworth, December 17, 1787, Framer of 1A, Ratified the Constitution,  U.S. Senator 1789-1796, Chief Justice 1796-1800, Author of the Judiciary Act of 1789.

Laws against atheism were already on the books.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Laws against atheism were already on the books.


You'll have to prove that one.

Even if true in some limited context [and please show your work], even before America there was a distinction between heretical beliefs and spreading those heretical beliefs, which like blasphemy, was seen as a threat to public order.


But I strongly doubt you can show us a case where anyone was prosecuted for merely disbelieving in God in their private conscience.

Our Founding Truth said...

Ellsworth says they're on the books.

"For this reason, I heartily approve of our laws against drunkenness, profane swearing, blasphemy, and professed atheism"



Prosecution is secondary. It also proves the 1A didn't include all the junk thats allowed today

Tom Van Dyke said...

You have to do better than that, Jim. Ellsworth's language could be imprecise.

You'll get a half-point if you can show "PROFESSING" atheism was illegal, as that could be seen--like blasphemy--as disturbing the peace. [Not as in "I don't believe in God" but as in "There is no God."]


You've tipped onto something possibly interesting, but your facts are not yet in order.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Hey OFT, go for it


ARTICLE
THE ORIGINAL MEANING OF THE ESTABLISHMENT
CLAUSE AND THE IMPOSSIBILITY OF ITS
INCORPORATION
Vincent Phillip Munoz


let's clean up your act


https://law.upenn.edu/journals/conlaw/articles/volume8/issue4/Munoz8U.Pa.J.Const.L.585(2006).pdf

Jonathan Rowe said...

It didn't sound to me like Washington was interested in persecuting atheists or any one on account of their religion.

"In a letter to his agent in Baltimore in 1784, asking him to acquire some indentured tradesmen with specific skills to work at Mount Vernon, Washington wrote that, “'f they are good workmen, they may be of Assia [sic], Africa, or Europe. They may be Mahometans [Muslims], Jews, Christian of any Sect—or they may be Atheists.' All he asked was that they do good work."

https://www.mountvernon.org/george-washington/religion/george-washington-and-religion/

Our Founding Truth said...

I never said anything about George Washington. Our old friend David Barton has a whole bunch of cases where courts ruled against atheists, universalists and others on his website...need to look at it.

Tom Van Dyke said...

one may not hide his argument in another website

you didn't even link


and even if you did, that's not the same as arguing the actual facts



bad show, Jim
if you have actual facts you should be happy to show them

Our Founding Truth said...

Ellsworth's words are precise. Atheists were excluded from public service by his state constitution, which he probably helped write. Atheists couldn't even be jurors. See McClure v State, 1829, Shaw v Moore, 1853.

Commonwealth v abner Kneeland, 1838 ruled against his appeal that "he claimed he did not deny a belief in god; he was a pantheist and only denied the belief in a God."

State courts handled bill of rights cases because the bill of rights only applied to the states. Atheists couldn't serve in court or be public servants.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Well, thank you for an actual fact in support of your argument. As I wrote

You'll get a half-point if you can show "PROFESSING" atheism was illegal, as that could be seen--like blasphemy--as disturbing the peace. [Not as in "I don't believe in God" but as in "There is no God."]


You've tipped onto something possibly interesting, but your facts are not yet in order.



Kneeland was indeed charged with blasphemy, just as I framed it. He was loud and rude and that's why they went after him. And as you know, that was the "the last time a court in the United States jailed a defendant for blasphemy." [1838].


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commonwealth_v._Kneeland


Our Founding Truth said...

The court still rejected his atheist appeal, but theologically,speaking, atheism is blasphemy. People in the 18th century America didn't publish atheism. It was secret as Franklin said, or else they would have been jailed.



There's no reason to deny atheism wouldn't have been persecuted in court.

Tom Van Dyke said...

You don't seem to get the distinction between preaching atheism and it being merely a personal belief. But you get your half-point.

Do you have anything besides Kneeland and People v Ruggles?

Our Founding Truth said...

"preaching atheism"

Lol. They would have been executed. For that reason, you don't have many. There is no distinction. If someone keeps their atheism, how is a court going to know?

Jonathan Rowe said...

"They would have been executed."

I think you may be confusing centuries. During the planting the Puritans did have capital laws and executed a few witches and Quakers. But post-America's late 18th Century founding, what evidence do we have?

Jefferson said that as a matter of natural right people have a right to declare there is no God or there are twenty gods.

His VA Statute, based on such, was passed so that people would be free to declare such without fear of penalty.

The FA as originally conceived applied to the federal govt only. But the idea was to get universal recognition of "the rights of conscience" based on natural right. Such did indeed give one an unalienable right to believe in atheism and speak his mind privately or publicly about such.

Our Founding Truth said...

Jefferson is irrelevant to this subject and his opinion contradicts the majority. Atheism was a capital offense or severe penalty in the states. Same with homosexuality. The ratifiers of the VA statute are more important than who drafted it and the ratifiers didn't allow atheism.

Our Founding Truth said...

You are taking liberties with the VA statute that are not based in fact.

"Well aware that Almighty God hath created the mind free; that all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burdens, or by civil incapacitations, tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and are a departure from the plan of the Holy Author of our religion, who being Lord both of body and mind, yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as was in his Almighty power to do; that the impious presumption of legislators and rulers, civil as well as ecclesiastical, who, being themselves but fallible and uninspired men, have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible, and as such endeavoring to impose them on others, hath established and maintained false religions over the greatest part of the world, and through all time; that to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves, is sinful and tyrannical."

He mentions false religions as if Christianity is true and the others false and he can't mean all religions are the same. Ecclesiastical means only Christian. TJ never said someone has the right to declare atheism or idolatry. He calls those religions false. The statute is all about forcing someone to pay for opinions he doesn't believe.



Jonathan Rowe said...

Your argument doesn't work. It's a statute; they don't get ratified. They get passed by legislatures. It's Jefferson's and Madison's baby and it's based on natural right, meaning something in principle that is discoverable by reason and applies to all governments everywhere.

As to who it covers and whether it's a Christian document:

"Where the preamble declares, that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed, by inserting the word "Jesus Christ," so that it should read, "a departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion;" the insertion was rejected by a great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan, the Hindoo, and Infidel of every denomination."

http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/documents/amendI_religions45.html

Our Founding Truth said...

The legislature passing it is ratifying it. It's the same thing as long as the representatives of the people approve it. A denomination is a religion; Atheism is not a religion, so it follows it's not included. Had they included atheism, it would have mever pasded.

Jonathan Rowe said...

"Ratification" is what is done with constitutions and amendments. Legislatures pass statutes.

"and Infidel of every denomination" I think includes atheism.

Our Founding Truth said...

Technicly you are right. However, It's more or less semantics. The AOC was ratified by the drafters who wrote. It didn't go through the normal ratification process.

As to TJ, atheism was not part of natural law, so it can't be part of that statute. Atheism is not part of reason; it rejects reason:

To John Adams Monticello, April 11, 1823DEAR SIR,

The wishes expressed, in your last favor, that I may continue in life and health until I become a Calvinist, at least in his exclamation of `_mon Dieu!_ jusque a quand'! would make me immortal. I can never join Calvin in addressing _his god._ He was indeed an Atheist, which I can never be; or rather his religion was Daemonism. If ever man worshipped a false god, he did."


Jonathan Rowe said...

It's a non-sequitur, man. It does not follow. Atheists have their unalienable rights of conscience by virtue of being human beings.

The question of whether God is a necessary part of the natural law equation is a different one. America's founders included God as the author of nature, discoverable by reason.

Our Founding Truth said...

U can believe that all u want, but you are wrong. Just as Ellsworth said, atheists don't have rights.


"But while I assert the rights of religious liberty, I would not deny that the civil power has a right, in some cases, to interfere in matters of religion. It has a right to prohibit and punish gross immoralities and impieties; because the open practice of these is of evil example and detriment. For this reason, I heartily approve of our laws against drunkenness, profane swearing, blasphemy, and professed atheism."

-Landholder VII, Oliver Ellsworth, December 17, 1787, Framer of 1A, Ratified the Constitution,  U.S. Senator 1789-1796, Chief Justice 1796-1800, Author of the Judiciary Act of 1789.

Our Founding Truth said...

It doesn't matter, but Ellsworth is a higher authority on religion than TJ is. Ellsworth framed and ratified the 1A.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Check the date: 1787. It was the unamended Constitution, not the Bill of Rights (First Amendment) being discussed.

Jefferson's VA document was one of natural rights, that are discovered through reason. People's individual opinions are irrelevant. The doctrine teaches atheists have unalienable rights too, regardless of O. Ellsworth's subjective wishes.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Ellsworth: "It has a right to prohibit and punish gross immoralities and impieties; because the open practice of these is of evil example and detriment. For this reason, I heartily approve of our laws against drunkenness, profane swearing, blasphemy, and professed atheism."


Using your own witness to refute you. Again, the sum and context of his remarks refers to the threat to public order. Private belief--the natural right of conscience recognized throughout the Founding--is not at issue here.

https://www.nationalreview.com/2018/12/founders-protected-religious-freedom-first-amendment-natural-rights/

Our Founding Truth said...

I don't believe you guys understand biblical natural law. It's not just reason. The word cannot be separated from right reason. And you both do it. Calvin, Locke and all the founding fathers always connected natural law with the word, which is Christ.


"But there is a better way of proceeding, one that takes as its starting point the central role that the moral theorizing of Thomas Aquinas plays in the natural law tradition. If any moral theory is a theory of natural law, it is Aquinas's. (Every introductory ethics anthology that includes material on natural law theory includes material by or about Aquinas; every encyclopedia article on natural law thought refers to Aquinas.)[Aquinas took his natural law from Romans 2:14-15 because he quoted it]...
If Aquinas's view is paradigmatic of the natural law position, and these two theses — that from the God's-eye point of view, it is law through its place in the scheme of divine providence, and from the human's-eye point of view, it constitutes a set of naturally binding and knowable precepts of practical reason — are the basic features of the natural law as Aquinas understands it, then it follows that paradigmatic natural law theory is incompatible with several views in metaphysics and moral philosophy. On the side of metaphysics, it is clear that the natural law view is incompatible with atheism: one cannot have a theory of divine providence without a divine being. It is also clear that the paradigmatic natural law view rules out a deism on which there is a divine being but that divine being has no interest in human matters. Nor can one be an agnostic while affirming the paradigmatic natural law view: for agnosticism is the refusal to commit either to God's existence or nonexistence, whereas the paradigmatic natural law view involves a commitment to God's existence."
https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/natural-law-ethics/

In fact, immorality in the mind was punished, not just when it was public:

Commonwealth v. Sharpless, 1815

Judge Duncan delivering the opinion, addressed these arguments, stating that many things occurring in private have a public effect and are therefore punishable:

The defendants have been convicted, upon their own confession, of conduct indicative of great moral depravity. . . . This court is ... invested with power to punish not only open violations of decency and morality, but also whatever secretly tends to undermine the principles of society. . .. Whatever tends to the destruction of morality, in general, may be punished criminally. Crimes are public offenses, not because they are perpetrated publicly, but because their effect is to injure the public. Burglary, though done in secret, is a public offense; and secretly destroying fences is indictable. Hence, it follows, that an offense may be punishable, if in its nature and by its example, it tends to the corruption of morals; although it be not committed in public.

Judge Yeates, also delivered a statement:

Although every immoral act, such as lying, etc., is not indict able, yet where the offense charged is destructive of morality in general ... it is punishable at common law. The destruction of morality renders the power of the government invalid. . . . The corruption of the public mind, in general, and debauching the manners of youth, in particular, by lewd and obscene pictures exhibited to view, must necessarily be attended with the most injurious consequences.. . . No man is permitted to corrupt the morals of the people; secret poison cannot be thus disseminated.

All the founding fathers believed the principles in the above rulings because all immorality violates natural law as well as the common law. Rejecting the creator's existence is not part of His own natural law.


Tom Van Dyke said...

Jim, it's a shame you're so intent on being right that you are blind to your own errors.

There is an argument to be made per Commonwealth v. Sharpless, 1815: Up until Lawrence v. Texas, 2003, it was enforceable judicial theory that governments could legislate morality, or against obscenity. But on the whole, that horse is long out of the barn, never to return.

As for natural law, you haven't been paying attention. At least per the Founding era,


Dutch Protestant jurist Hugo Grotius declared, in his De Iure Belli ac Pacis (1625):

"What we have been saying would have a degree of validity even if we should concede that which cannot be conceded without the utmost wickedness, that there is no God."

Or as the great Scholastic Fernando Suarez put it:

"...even though God did not exist, or did not make use of His reason, or did not judge rightly of things, if there is in man such a dictate of right reason to guide him, it would have had the same nature of law as it now has."


Natural law is self-enforcing, and is not the same thing as the Mosaic covenant ["I am the Lord your God," etc.].

http://americancreation.blogspot.com/2009/04/primer-on-natural-law.html

Our Founding Truth said...

Using Grotuis hurts your cause and neither of u have quoted other ff's supporting your interpretation. In fact, since Grotius changed his views, he's disqualified. He hurts your cause:

"Why are there natural laws? Do they exist in virtue of the nature of things or for some other reason? These are the questions lurking behind the issue of source. Grotius changed his mind on how they should be answered. In the DIP he declares that “What God has shown to be His Will, that is law. This axiom points directly to the cause of law, and is rightly laid down as the primary principle” (Chap. II). Here Grotius announces a thesis about the relation between normativity and the divine being which is commonly known as “voluntarist”: by an act of volition, God determines the full and exact content of all normative categories—justice, goodness and so forth. Voluntarism was a well-established tradition of natural law theories; the DIP belongs firmly in that tradition. In later works, however, Grotius departs from it. For example, in theDe summa potestatum, he declares that normativity of any kind “arises from the nature of the action itself, so that it is right per se to worship God and it is right per se not to lie” (Opera Omnia Theologica, vol. III, p. 187). A much more famous expression of non-voluntarism appears in the “Prolegomena” to the DIB. In the first few sections of the “Prolegomena,” Grotius lays the groundwork for his natural law theory. Then, in section eleven, he writes that “What we have been saying would have a degree of validity even if we should concede [etiamsi daremus] that which cannot be conceded without the utmost wickedness, that there is no God, or that the affairs of men are of no concern to him.” Instead of emerging from or being otherwise dependent on God, the fundamental principles of ethics, politics and law obtain in virtue of nature...
The problem of explaining why we should obey the laws of nature—or indeed, why we should obey any set of norms—is one of the most enduring in philosophy; it would be rash to suppose that a solution can be found in Grotius. One inadequacy of his account is inspired by Richelieu: while Grotius tries to separate and equalize our rational, social and self-interested motives for action, one may question whether they are in fact distinct and equal. If it can be shown that one is more fundamental than the others—that, say, self-interest is our first and most basic reason for action—then our reason for obeying the laws of nature and being moral will be very different from what Grotius argued. (For additional discussion, see Korsgaard (1996), 7, 21–22 and 28–30.)"

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/grotius/#NatLaw

Grotuis wrote, “Now the Law of Nature is so unalterable, that it cannot be changed even by God himself. For although the power of God is infinite, yet there are some things, to which it does not extend.”

Do you know why he believed this?
 

Our Founding Truth said...

Grotius isn't a viable source anymore for natural law. I hadn't known he distorted the the thousand year tradition before him, while the ff's rejected his later view. Aquinas is superior to him.

Jonathan Rowe said...

OFT: I understand Dr. Frazer teaches a course on Aquinas, or at least it's part of a his curriculum. Perhaps you should enroll.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Blogger Our Founding Truth said...
Grotius isn't a viable source anymore for natural law. I hadn't known he distorted the the thousand year tradition before him, while the ff's rejected his later view. Aquinas is superior to him.


I used Grotius because the Founders used Grotius, because he was a Protestant. Of course Aquinas is superior, as is the Jesuit Francisco Suarez. But you didn't go around quoting Catholics.

But the problem here is that you are getting into abstract philosophical fine points that don't affect the discussion--this is the problem when you go googling in search of being right instead of searching to increase your understanding of the topic.


The least you could have done was read the link I provided. Murray Rothbard himself was an atheist who still accepted natural law, which is a natural order that is constant and immutable. All Grotius was saying is that God Himself cannot change it because that order IS via God himself.

For instance, God cannot be illogical.

Our Founding Truth said...

Grotius contradicted himself as the link says. I quoted Aquinas because he is one of the earliest ones that had it correct from Romans 2:14-15, not because he was or was not Catholic.

The ff's only used the earlier Grotius; the later Grotius left God out of the equation. You know yourself, the ff's believed James Wilson's interpretation, which is reason and revelation cannot be separated. The national law you are referring to is not of the founding, in the DOI.

You guys are the ones who believe the natural law of the ff's was disconnected from God and you're using Grotius to support it, thereby claiming atheism is a right granted under natural law.





Tom Van Dyke said...

Freedom of conscience is part of the natural law, yes, and is necessary because of the Protestant Reformation, where everybody believes all sorts of shit and you can't kill them all.

This is not Aquinas or Calvin for that matter, but admittedly a later innovation in natural law theory, again, necessitated by the Reformation and the bloody 'wars of faith' of the 16th and 17th centuries.

It never occured to Aquinas, writing in the 1200s, that there could be a multiplicity of religious truths, or at least competing truths. Calvin himself believed that he was spearheading a "reformation" of the universal church, not founding an essentially new sect if not a new religion.


You misunderstand James Wilson--reason and revelation flow from the same "adorable source" but are not the same thing.

"The law of nature and the law of revelation are both Divine: they flow, though in different channels, from the same adorable source. It is indeed preposterous to separate them from each other."


The truths of reason and revelation are each perfect in their own way and in their own spheres but flow in separate channels. This is classic Aquinas, that faith is not in conflict with philosophy, truth cannot contradict truth, and that the truths of reason are also divine in origin. This is what Wilson means by their inseparability.

This is in opposition to fideism and fundamentalism, which hold that only the truths found in scripture [revelation] are valid. The natural law says that all truths issue from God and are true because they are true, not because God says so. [See the 'Euthyphro' problem in Plato.]


Franklin:

"Revelation had indeed no weight with me, as such, but I entertained an opinion, that, though certain actions might not be bad, because they were forbidden by it, or good, because it commanded them; yet probably these actions might be forbidden because they were bad for us, or commanded because they were beneficial to us, in their own natures, all the circumstances of things considered."

Italics are Franklin's. This is natural law in a nutshell.

Our Founding Truth said...


"It never occured to Aquinas, writing in the 1200s, that there could be a multiplicity of religious truths, or at least competing truths. Calvin himself believed that he was spearheading a "reformation" of the universal church, not founding an essentially new sect if not a new religion."

Instead:

"This for Thomas finally is the natural law (lex naturalis): a sharing from within (or participation) of the Eternal Law, but not
, Thomas insists, something otherwise different from that first and highest law in the mind of God: “the natural law is nothing else than the rational creature’s participation of the eternal law.”

-
Summa I-II, Q. 91, a. 2.
[3] As understood by Thomas, this revelation was received through the patriarchs and prophets of the Chosen People of Israel and culminated in the self-revelation of God in Jesus Christ and the subsequent revelations to his Apostles.
http://www.nlnrac.org/classical/aquinas#_edn10

All the same with the ff's.

Jonathan Rowe said...

“the natural law is nothing else than the rational creature’s participation of the eternal law.”

Emphasis on the term RATIONAL. Yes, America's Founders believed in a theistic natural law. As John Adams described it:

"To him who believes in the Existence and Attributes physical and moral of a God, there can be no obscurity or perplexity in defining the Law of Nature to be his wise benign and all powerful Will, discovered by Reason."

– John Adams to Thomas Boylston Adams, March 19, 1794. Adams Papers (microfilm), reel 377, Library of Congress. Seen in James H. Hutson’s, “The Founders on Religion,” p. 132.

Our Founding Truth said...

 Yes, America's Founders believed in a Christian natural law. As John Adams described it:

The Christian religion is, above all the religions that ever..existed. One great advantage of the Christian Religion is that it brings the great principle of the Law of nature and nations—Love your neighbor as yourself, and do to others as you would that others should do to you—to the knowledge, belief, and veneration of the whole people.

--John Adams, 26 july 1796. Aug 14, 1796.
The Wisdom of John Adams.



Our Founding Truth said...

Adams pigeon holes Christianity as the law of nature "to the knowledge, belief, and veneration of the whole people."

Adams says the people venerate, and believe, and have the knowledge, that natural law is from Christianity and no other is mentioned because the people knew only Christianity was the source of natural law from Romans 2:14-15.

You are misreading the quote you posted because it's written to an evangelical, making the context Christian.

More proof of the false coloring you put on the quote and isolating it, is, the deist god or the gods of Greece or rome or of the indians, has no god with natural law implanted in them to specifically "Love your neighbor as yourself, and do to others as you would that others should do to you—to the knowledge, belief, and veneration of the whole people.



Jonathan Rowe said...

I misread nothing. This is Gary North's understanding of Adams' quotation:

In this, they were not fundamentally different in principle from Robespierre, who established a formal civic religion of nature and reason in the midst of the Terror in 1794. De-Christianization was morally debilitating, Robespierre concluded; it had to be followed by the establishment of a new civic religion.48 He knew that men needed to believe in God’s sanctions in order to keep them obedient. Talmon calls this impulse “cosmic pragmatism.”49 The major figures among the Framers were wiser men than Robespierre, and more influenced by traditional Christianity, but they were Enlightenment men to the core. Their veneer and their constituencies were different from those of the French Revolutionaries, but not their theology. Their religion was civic religion. The difference is, they saw civic religion as a decentralized, individual matter rather than as a state affair; it was to aid the national government but not be part of the national government. John Adams, a theological unitarian, wrote in his autobiography, presumably for himself and not the electorate:

"One great advantage of the Christian religion is that it brings the great principle of the law of nature and nations, Love your neighbour as yourself, and do to others as you would that others should do to you, to the knowledge, belief and veneration of the whole people. Children, servants, women and men are all professors in the science of public as well as private morality. No other institution for education, no kind of political discipline, could diffuse this kind of necessary information, so universally among all ranks and descriptions of citizens. The duties and rights of the man and the citizen are thus taught, from early infancy to every creature. The sanctions of a future life are thus added to the observance of civil and political as well as domestic and private duties. Prudence, justice, temperance and fortitude, are thus taught to be the means and conditions of future as well as present happiness."50

Not a word about the atonement; not a word about the sacraments: the entire passage is geared to the requirements for public morality. The churches are viewed as effective educational institutions; no other institution could accomplish this task more effectively. Hence, Christianity is a good thing socially. The whole perspective is civic. pp. 27-32.


http://jonrowe.blogspot.com/2008/12/jerusalem-or-mythological-rome-thats.html