Friday, November 29, 2013

Mount Vernon: GW's "Spurious Quotations"

From Mount Vernon here. The most notorious as it relates to America's founding political theology: "It is impossible to rightly govern a nation without God and the Bible."

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving from President Washington

By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation.

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor-- and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be-- That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks--for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation--for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war--for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed--for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted--for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions-- to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually--to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed--to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord--To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and us--and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Religious Freedom Must Extend to the Marketplace or it's Not Religious Freedom

Diversity makes Religious Freedom Essential
The new front in the Culture Wars isn't over prayer in schools or the definition of marriage. While those and other hot-button issues continue to consume media and social attention (and will for years to come), the most serious battles, according to a recent article in the progressive American Prospect, are now being waged in the arena of religious freedom. I believe the editors of The American Prospect are correct. Religious freedom is now the most important political fight being waged in the public square. And religious freedom is a subject on which our Founders had a lot to say.

For most of American history, those who generally embraced a Judeo-Christian moral framework enjoyed decisive majority status. This doesn't mean they all shared the exact same faith or were in agreement on every issue. Far from it. But it does mean that, for most of American history, there was a general sense of familiarity with and mutual respect for the religious underpinnings of our nation's politics and culture. Within that context, Christianity enjoyed somewhat of a seat of honor at the proverbial table. This isn't to suggest that most Americans were Bible-believing evangelicals, but most Americans did profess some measure of affiliation with a Christian church, denomination, or belief system - or at least a genuine (even if somewhat nominal) respect for Christianity.

All this began to change in the 20th century, particularly after the social upheaval of the 1960s and 70s. I'm aware of the cultural changes in the Roaring Twenties, but those changes were somewhat arrested by the Great Depression, World War II, and the renewed push in the 1950s for religious conservatism as evidenced, among other indicators, by the insertion of "under God" into the Pledge of Allegiance. The bottom line is that the United States stood firmly on a Judeo-Christian foundation heading into the 1960s. Since then, things have changed considerably. While I would never argue that the United States was "Christian" in any official or legal sense, there was a time when it generally favored Christianity. No more. We now live, for all intents and purposes, in a post-Christian America.

Much has been written in this blog over the specific nature of the personal and political views of the Founders when it comes to religion. We will probably never fully agree on questions concerning the true nature of the faith of men like Washington, Adams, Madison, Hamilton, and so forth, but the historical record is quite clear that all of our Founding Fathers believed in religious freedom. To the extent they differed on religious freedom, it was over what degree the government (at the state level) should favor religion and/or to what extent atheists or those without a religious belief should participate in public life. The consensus that emerged from the founding era is perhaps best represented by the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, which provided for the institutional separation of Church and State and affirmed an individual's freedom of conscience.

Recognizing that the United States was never officially Christian and the culture is rapidly transforming into a post-Christian reality, many Christians today have largely abandoned any desire to impose their religious beliefs on others through public policy, but they are nevertheless hoping (even demanding) that their freedom of conscience be respected by this new post-Christian society. I believe they are right to insist on this. In fact, I will count myself among them by saying we are right to demand this.

In a famous 2006 speech on the role of religion in public life, then-Senator Barack Obama declared: "[S]ecularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering into the public square." What President Obama said then (as a senator) is just as true for the marketplace as it is for the public square. People of faith should not be expected "to leave their religion at the door before entering" the marketplace or their place of work.

Should they be expected to perform the duties to which they agreed under the terms of their employment? Of course. But the difference between employment and slavery is that the employer owns the worker's labor (within mutually agreed-upon paramaters) not the worker himself or herself. Yet I see things happening today that challenge that social contract between employer and employee - and threaten to undermine the very idea of religious freedom in our society. There are many examples which I could cite. So this article isn't too long, I will confine myself to three:

  • Federal Insurance Mandates on Corporations - Forcing employers, such as Hobby Lobby, to provide insurance coverage that includes "morning after" or "week after" contraception which the owners consider to be abortion and therefore deeply repugnant to their religious beliefs concerning the sanctity of life
  • "Civil Rights" Laws on Small or Home-Based Businesses - While no business should be allowed to discriminate against someone solely on the basis of that person's race, gender, color, or sexual orientation, a distinction MUST be made between an event and a person. If a photographer hired by a school to do senior portraits refuses to photograph a gay senior, that's blatant discrimination against a person and should be disallowed. But if a wedding photographer refuses to take pictures of a same-sex wedding, that's "discriminating" against an event. There is a difference, and given the First Amendment's clear affirmation of a person's right to freely exercise his or her religion, such a difference should be respected in our society. We are seeing the erosion of religious freedom in America when it comes to people of faith who own businesses. 
  • Going After Employees or Contractors for Off-Duty Religious Expression - When Cisco and Bank of America terminated leadership consultant Frank Turek's contract with their respective organizations, it wasn't because of his performance on the job, but rather because Turek wrote a book (on his own time) against same-sex marriage. Turek is a Christian author. Cisco and Bank of America would've been justified to issue respective statements distancing themselves from Turek's religious beliefs AND would've been right to fire him had he been proselytizing Cisco or Bank of America employees to his religious views on marriage when he was supposed to be teaching them principles of teamwork, leadership, etc., but that's not what happened. He was fired for things he said and wrote outside of his duties with Cisco and Bank of America. If it's wrong for Cisco or Bank of America to discriminate against employees and contractors for their race, gender, or sexual orientation, it should also be wrong to discriminate against them for their religion. If you disagree with that statement, then it only serves to show how much trouble our nation is in when it comes to the freedom of religion and conscience.

If the American people want to leave behind their Judeo-Christian origins and become an even more secular society, that is their right. We can argue over what the consequences of that will be or whether the Founders would approve. I'll leave that for another article. For this blog post, I'm simply saying this: If the American people wish to become more secular, that's their right. But if we want to stay true to what it means to be the United States of America, we must do so with a high degree of sensitivity and respect for those men and women of faith who wish to practice their faith.

The Founders never believed that a person's faith should only be exercised in the home or in their place of worship. They believed in the free exercise of religion - one that reached into the public square and the marketplace. The day we, as a society, reject this idea and relegate religion solely to the home and place of worship is the day we reject the most important freedom we have - the freedom of belief and conscience. When we do that, our nation will no longer resemble anything the Founders gave us.

Throckmorton: "What’s behind David Barton’s war on Christian colleges?"

Read about it here. A taste:
Since evidence actually contradicts Barton’s accusations, why would he make them? Perhaps connecting the dots a bit, Barton also recently accused his Christian academic critics of being recruited by unnamed “secular guys” to critique his book The Jefferson Lies. Well that explains that. The reason Christian professors are coming out against his approach to history is because they have gone to the dark side, being recruited by shadowy “secular guys.” 
In fact, in the past couple of years, dozens of unrecruited Christian professors have raised public objections to many of Barton’s claims, historical and otherwise. For instance, Barton told Crossroads Church in Oklahoma City that there has been a “694 percent increase in violent crime since we took the Bible out of schools” in 1963. However, Barton failed to tell his audience that the post-1960s rise in crime peaked in the early 1990s. The crime rate has dropped dramatically since then. The murder rate now, for example, is about what it was before that Supreme Court case.

Marcotte: "5 Christian right delusions about history"

By Amanda Marcotte here. A taste:
Barton has convinced the right to believe in their fervent wish that the Founders were religious and even theocratic with quote-mining and outright lying. He likes to whip out this John Adams quote: “There is no authority, civil or religious — there can be no legitimate government — but what is administered by this Holy Ghost.” Problem? Adams was summarizing the opinion of his opponents; that wasn’t Adams’ view at all.

Friday, November 22, 2013

The "Other Guy" Assassinated 50 Years Ago Today

***I realize that this post doesn't have anything to do with America's founding, but in light of today's anniversary I think we can make an exception.  Cross-posted at my personal blog***
In the early afternoon hours of November 22, 1963, the Dallas Police Department received word that President John F. Kennedy had been shot. Details were sketchy, but early reports stated that the alleged gunman was a slender white male, in his mid-thirties, about 5'10' and 175 lbs (Oswald was 24 years old, 5'9'' and 150 lbs).
Responding to the call that afternoon was Officer J.D. Tippet, an 11-year veteran of the Dallas Police Department.  Tippet was also a U.S. Army veteran, a husband and a father of three children (at the time ages 14, 10 and 5).

According to official police reports, along with reports issued by the Warren Commission, Tippet responded to a radio call to help set up a perimeter around the central Oak Cliff area, just outside where President Kennedy had been shot.  While in route to the area, Officer Tippet pulled alongside a pedestrian who resembled the vague description of the gunman that had been provided just minutes prior.  According to witness reports, Officer Tippet opened the door of his patrol car and exchanged words with the man.  Just seconds later, witnesses stated that the man suddenly drew a handgun and fired three shots at close range, all of which struck Officer Tippet in the chest.  The gunman then approached Officer Tippet, who had fallen from the first three shots, and fired a final round into his head.  Officer Tippet was dead before help arrived.

Shortly thereafter, responding Dallas police officers took a young man named Lee Harvey Oswald into custody.  It was reported that Mr. Oswald was "acting suspiciously" when approaching units arrived in the area.  After finding his gun and obtaining positive witness identification that he was indeed the shooter, Dallas Police arrested Lee Harvey Oswald for the murder of Officer J.D. Tippet.

It wasn't until later that police officers and Secret Service personnel were able to piece together the facts and conclude that Oswald was indeed the man who had assassinated President Kennedy. Had it not been for the quick response and thinking of Officer J.D. Tippet, who stopped Oswald just 20 minutes after having shot Kennedy, Oswald might have had the serious chance of fleeing from Dallas before being caught.

Kudos to a forgotten hero who gave his life but in the process caught one of the most notorious villains in American history.

Officer J.D. Tippet
Age: 39
Tour of Service: 11 years, 4 months

End of Watch: November 22, 1963 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Throckmorton: "David Barton’s Biblical Constitution: What If The Constitution Really Quoted The Bible?"

Here. A taste:
If the Constitution included such language, immigrants would have rights they don’t have now and there would no need for immigration reform. Rather, the Constitution invests Congress with the powers to make laws and establish policies (which could do what this verse suggests if the political process leads to that end). 
If the Constitution quoted Deuteronomy 17:15, the nation would need to discern somehow who God had chosen to be king. Also, in Deut. 17:20, the Bible notes that the chosen king’s descendants will rule a long time if the king follows God’s instructions. Clearly, our Constitution does not reflect those Bible verses. Furthermore, one does not need the Bible to see the reasonableness of requiring citizenship as a condition of political leadership.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

John Fea & Daniel Dreisbach

John tells us about it here. A taste:
On Friday night, following McKenzie's talk, the teachers were treated to a lecture by Daniel Dreisbach of American University. He discussed the ways the Founding Fathers used the Bible in their revolutionary-era discourse. Dreisbach made a compelling case that the Bible was very important to the founding generation as one of the sources (along with Whig political thought, Enlightenment thought, the classics, etc...) that influenced their political ideas. They quoted it, referenced it, and even appealed to its language without directly referencing it. Dreisbach did not dwell on whether or not the Founders used the Bible correctly (at one point he said that their constant appeal to the Book of Deuteronomy was "tortured"), but that was not his assignment.

Friday, November 15, 2013

America’s Moderate Liberalism: Rediscovering Montesquieu, Recovering Balance

By Paul O. Carrese here. A taste:
... But Montesquieu also argued that we are social beings, and naturally open to religious belief. We are shaped by culture and history, but philosophers and statesmen can push back. Thus he condemned slavery, harsh penal laws, religious persecution, and other forms of despotism. Montesquieu is neither a historicist liberal nor a Frenchified Lockean liberal. He embodies the moderate Enlightenment, and moderate liberalism.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Shain on Zuckert on Locke

Found here. A taste:
In Part Two, a section of three essays, we are introduced, although far more subtly, to another plank in the Straussian system of belief—that is, that anyone as clever as Locke could not possibly have been a believer in a different system of belief, one including a belief in God. The cornerstone to this contention rests on Zuckert’s insistence that Locke’s “‘official theory of revelation’ has many difficulties,” in particular, that “in order to verify any alleged revelation as a real revelation, reason must have rational knowledge of the existence of a revealing God…. But it is Locke’s view that reason is not in possession of such rational knowledge of the existence of a revealing God…. Since Locke lacks rational knowledge of a revealing God, he knows of no authentic revelation, including of course the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures.”

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Forster: David Barton’s Traveling Medicine Show

By Greg Forster here. A taste:
Uh-huh. Given Barton’s history of outrageous fabrication, I wouldn’t bet the ranch on that “actual number.” In fact, it’s noteworthy that in National Review’s coverage of the story, the quotations most effusively praising Barton come from anonymous sources; the quotes from named sources mostly complain about the incumbent and lament that we need a real conservative. I can’t help but wonder why those sources felt the need to stay anonymous. If it turned out that the massive grassroots groundswell for David Barton consisted mostly of the same old David Barton Traveling Medicine Show hyping itself, my world would not exactly be turned upside-down.

Rodda: The Lies Used by Jay Sekulow to Defend an Oath Against Lying: An Open Letter to the Superintendent of the Air Force Academy

Writing at Huffpo here. A taste:
Optionally adding the words "so help me God" is, of course, anyone's right. These words, however, should not be a part of the official oath, where they inevitably lead to situations in which cadets are forced or coerced to say them. Therefore, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) has demanded that the words be removed. This, of course, has cause a media firestorm, and even proposed legislation to prevent the oath from being changed. 
The defenders of "so help me God" are claiming that things like this were the intent of the founders and have deep historical roots, and, as expected are using quite a few lies about American history to support this claim -- ironically lying to defend an oath in which cadets swear not to ... um ... lie.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Those Bloody Papists?: Why, Even the Term "Roman" Catholic Was an English Insult

Bloody Papists!
An interesting tidbit I ran across the other day—”Roman” Catholic was a term spread by the English in the 1600s as a pejorative. The church’s name is the Catholic Church, “catholic” of course meaning “universal.”  The English “Protestants” wanted to claim the word “catholic” for themselves, though as we know it didn’t really stick.
The "Four Marks of the Church" that appear in the revision of the Nicene Creed of 381 CE are that the Church is
Well, after Henry VIII takes over the Catholic Church in 1536, it's hardly "one" or "catholic" anymore--unless Henry's is true and the "Roman" one is the fake.  In fact, the Anglican Church's "Thirty-Nine Articles" makes exactly that claim, calling its doctrine "catholic" over 200 times while distinguishing itself from the "Romish" church 27 times.
Which is where all of Protestantism went in its theological claims---"Rome" and its "Papism" is the fake, and Protestantism is the "true religion"---a phrase used countless times by the American founding generation to refer to themselves as opposed to Catholicism.  So whenever you read the term "true religion" in the Founders' documents, now you know what they mean.
Although it may previously have appeared elsewhere sporadically, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia*, "Roman" Catholic came into its now common use in the English-speaking world as a result of the Anglican schism, of circa 1600s British politics.
Who knew?  I bet not even 1 Catholic in 100, let alone everybody else these days.  Stupid bloody papists. They don't even know when they're being insulted!
*"A study of these and other early examples in their context shows plainly enough that the qualification "Romish Catholic" or "Roman Catholic" was introduced by Protestant divines who highly resented the Roman claim to anymonopoly of the term Catholic. In Germany, Luther had omitted the word Catholic from the Creed, but this was not the case in England. Even men of such Calvinistic leanings as Philpot (he was burned under Mary in 1555), and John Foxe the martyrologist, not to speak of churchmen like Newel and Fulke, insisted on the right of the Reformers to call themselves Catholics and professed to regard their own as the only true Catholic Church. Thus Philpot represents himself as answering his Catholic examiner: "I am, master doctor, of the unfeigned Catholic Church and will live and die therein, and if you can prove your Church to be the True Catholic Church, I will be one of the same" (Philpot, "Works", Parker Soc., p. 132). 
It would be easy to quote many similar passages. The term "Romish Catholic" or "Roman Catholic" undoubtedly originated with the Protestant divines who shared this feeling and who were unwilling to concede the name Catholic to their opponents without qualification. Indeed the writer Crowley, just mentioned, does not hesitate throughout a long tract to use the term "Protestant Catholics" the name which he applies to his antagonists. Thus he says "We Protestant Catholiques are not departed from the true Catholique religion" (p. 33) and he refers more than once to "Our Protestant Catholique Church." (p. 74)
On the other hand the evidence seems to show that the Catholics of the reign of Elizabeth and James I were by no 
means willing to admit any other designation for themselves than the unqualified name Catholic."