Followers of this blog have seen some of this earlier, but this is a copy of information that is being placed in the hands of as many history teachers as possible…
American culture and the U. S. Constitution have been under attack for many decades. As Thomas Jefferson warned, the courts have twisted words and squeezed meanings to fit their own prejudices in these attacks. One reason the opponents have achieved so much success lies at the feet of the US public school systems. Whether unknowingly or insidiously, there have been omissions and obfuscations of historical records for generations. Sadly, when shown the truth, some educators timidly cover their eyes, ears and mouths. There are only three alternatives to this reaction. They fear consequences, refuse to believe it because of their own training, or they are participants in the attacks.
To illustrate the point, a brief display of omitted records should suffice. Two areas of the above mentioned attack are the denial of the significance of spiritual influence in the founding of our country and the obfuscated constitutional interpretation of the “wall of separation between church and state”. It may be bold to opine, but a very miniscule number of American history teachers have ever exposed their students to the following records:
One real time and unbiased opinion of spiritual influence in our country’s founding was recorded by the Frenchman, Alexis de Tocqueville. Tocqueville was a political scientist, historian and diplomat who spent nine months during 1831 on an analytical tour of the United States. From that experience he later completed an extensive literary work titled, Democracy in America. Following is a condensation of his analysis of spiritual influence in a country that had so quickly taken its place among the long established nations:
“On my arrival in the United States, the religious aspect of the country was the first thing that struck my attention; and the longer I stayed there, the more I perceived the great political consequences resulting from this new state of things… The sects which exist in the United States are innumerable… Each sect adores the Deity in its own peculiar manner; but all sects preach the same moral law in the name of God…. Moreover, all the sects of the United States are comprised within the great unity of Christianity, and Christian morality is everywhere the same… I do not know whether all the Americans have a sincere faith in their religion… But am certain that they hold it to be indispensable to the maintenance of republican institutions. This opinion is not peculiar to a class of citizens, or a party, but to the whole nation and to every rank of society.”
Some forty four years prior to the arrival of Tocqueville, eighty one year old Benjamin Franklin stood to speak to the Constitutional Convention that had convened in an attempt to prevent the collapse of their union which had been floundering under an agreement called the Articles of Confederation. The men had believed that the task would require an effort of two weeks or so, but the Articles were beyond adjustment and a different system of government was the only solution. They eventually labored six days a week for more than three months. At one point, as contentions arose and debates were heated, the respected Franklin addressed the president of the convention to bring a motion to the floor:
The small progress we have made after 4 or five weeks close attendance & continual reasonings with each other-our different sentiments on almost every question, several of the last producing as many noes as ays, is methinks a melancholy proof of the imperfection of the Human Understanding. We indeed seem to feel our own want of political wisdom, since we have been running about in search of it. We have gone back to ancient history for models of Government, and examined the different forms of those Republics which having been formed with the seeds of their own dissolution now no longer exist. And we have viewed Modern States all round Europe, but find none of their Constitutions suitable to our circumstances.
In this situation of this Assembly, groping as it were in the dark to find political truth, and scarce able to distinguish it when presented to us, how has it happened, Sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of lights to illuminate our understandings? In the beginning of the Contest with G. Britain, when we were sensible of danger we had daily prayer in this room for the divine protection.- Our prayers, Sir, were heard, & they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a superintending providence in our favor. To that kind providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity. And have we now forgotten that powerful friend? or do we imagine that we no longer need his assistance? I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth- that God Governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings, that ‘except the Lord build the House they labour in vain that build it’. I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better, than the Builders of Babel: We shall be divided by our little partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall become a reproach and bye word down to future ages. And what is worse, mankind may hereafter from this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing Governments by Human wisdom and leave it to chance, war and conquest.
I therefore beg leave to move-that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the Clergy of this City be requested to officiate in that Service-“ (The Avalon Project, Lillian Goldman Library, Yale Law School)
About two months later the world’s first written constitution was completed. After ratification by the states, George Washington was elected president, and his first inaugural address included these words (underscoring added):
“… it would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official act my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the universe, who presides in the councils of nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that His benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the people of the United States a Government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes, and may enable every instrument employed in its administration to execute with success the functions allotted to his charge. In tendering this homage to the Great Author of every public and private good, I assure myself that it expresses your sentiments not less than my own, nor those of my fellow- citizens at large less than either. No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than those of the United States. Every step by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency… “ (The Avalon Project)
In Thomas Jefferson’s first inaugural address we see his opinion:
(Our country is) “… enlightened by a benign religion, professed, indeed, and practiced in various forms, yet all of them inculcating honesty, truth, temperance, gratitude, and the love of man; acknowledging and adoring an overruling Providence, which by all its dispensations proves that it delights in the happiness of man here and his greater happiness hereafter…” (The Avalon Project)
In the close of Jefferson’s second inaugural address he professes:
“I shall need, too, the favor of that Being in whose hands we are, who led our forefathers, as Israel of old, from their native land, and planted them in a country flowing with all the necessaries and comforts of life; who has covered our infancy with his providence, and our riper years with his wisdom and power; and to whose goodness I ask you to join with me in supplications, that he will so enlighten the minds of your servants, guide their councils, and prosper their measures, that whatsoever they do, shall result in your good, and shall secure to you the peace, friendship, and approbation of all nations.” (The Avalon Project)
Having addressed the spiritual influence in our founding, consider now the fallacy of the current interpretation of that “wall of separation between church and state”. Because of the current worship of that expression, some folks believe it is found in the US Constitution. It is not. The only mention of religion in the original document is that no religious test can be required to hold federal office.
Subsequent to ratification of the original constitution, Amendment I specifically denied Congress the power to establish a national religion. The term “national religion” was universally understood by those who wrote and ratified the original US Constitution. The people of those days were aware that various central governments (kings and parliaments) had historically required all people to support specific religions by financial contributions and participation. Because this and other information has been withheld from students for many generations, when challenged in a court of law, we now meekly acquiesce to the claim that a nativity scene in a public place is tantamount to a law passed by the US Congress.
That “separation” thing actually came from a letter Pres. Jefferson wrote in response to the Baptist Association of Danbury, Conn. When pressed on the subject, the attackers will claim Jefferson’s intellectual stature in constitutional comprehension validates their position. However, they never offer a more complete examination of the exchange of letters. The Baptists, who were under religious oppression by their state legislature, had written to Jefferson (underscoring added):
“Sir, we are sensible that the President of the United States is not the National Legislator and also sensible that the national government cannot destroy the laws of each State, but our hopes are strong that the sentiment of our beloved President, which have had such genial effect already, like the radiant beams of the sun, will shine and prevail through all these States…” (Wall Builders)
To which Jefferson replied (parenthetical expressions added):
“I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act (Amendment I) of the whole American people which declared that their legislature (Congress) would ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof’ thus building a wall of separation between Church and State (the federal government). Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights… I reciprocate your kind prayers for the protection and blessing of the common Father and Creator of man…” (The Avalon Project)
It must be emphasized that the Baptists did not appeal for constitutional enforcement by the president, the attorney general or the SCOTUS. Nor did any of those entities consider it to be within their constitutional authority. At that time, everyone knew the First Amendment restriction applied, as plain English clearly states, only to acts of the US Congress.
About a decade later, as intended by the framers of the US Constitution, the people of Connecticut were able to correct the matter through their votes for state legislators.
For further confirmation of Jefferson’s opinion that any form of religious expression is beyond federal control, we note his second inaugural address (underscoring added):
“In matters of religion, I have considered that its free exercise is placed by the constitution independent of the powers of the general government. I have therefore undertaken, on no occasion, to prescribe the religious exercises suited to it; but have left them, as the constitution found them, under the direction and discipline of state or church authorities.” (The Avalon Project)
President Jefferson not only made specific the denial of federal authority expressed in Amendment I, he reaffirmed the restrictions which are placed upon the federal government by Amendments IX and X regarding the rights of the people.
Over 150 years were required for the SCOTUS to invent the current “separation” interpretation. If we are to accept and proclaim that view as the “law of the land”, we have a problem. We are forced to accuse Presidents Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison and Monroe, as well as the Congresses and SCOTUS of their day, of being incapable of understanding the document they had ratified and exercised.
If this information, and much more that is available, had been presented to history students over the last two hundred years, our current understanding of the relationship between church and state would probably be quite different.
Two prescient statements:
“A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong gives it a superficial appearance of being right.” Thomas Paine
“If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of society, it expects what never was and never will be.” Thomas Jefferson