God and Man at Charlotte

by Bill O'Connell on September 9, 2012

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The Democratic National Convention of 2012 is over. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have been re-nominated by their party, but that is not news. What is news is what came to a head in writing and then publicly revising the party platform.

Few people pay much attention to party platforms. But what started out as a minor aside soon became a backlash and an embarrassment. The original Democrat party platform had all references to God removed as well as any support for Jerusalem as the rightful capital of Israel. When the news leaked there was a furor that the Democrat party was essentially Godless. Well, elections matter and for the purpose of getting Democrats reelected the party couldn’t let this become a campaign issue, more than it already had become; they had to fix it.

So they drafted the corrected language putting God and Jerusalem back in the platform, but they now had another problem. It had to be approved by the delegates not just by a majority but by a two-thirds majority. Uh-oh. So they held a voice vote and the only thing missing was an applause-o-meter to judge the response of the crowd. They tried three times and then, flummoxed that the vote to keep God out was getting louder, just declared that “in the opinion the chair” (don’t ask which chair) the new language was approved. Resounding boos followed. What’s going on here?

Separation of Church and State

It is something of a divide and conquer strategy of the left that we see going on here. Atheist groups are attacking every possible symbol of religion as offensive to them and basing their court cases on the concept of a separation of church and state.

The concept of a “wall of separation between church and state” was in a letter from President Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Connecticut Baptists. It is not in the Declaration of Independence and it is not in the Constitution. At the time of  the ratification of the Constitution there were in existence several state religions and the First Amendment prohibited the establishment of a national  religion. The purpose of the letter from the Danbury Baptists was that the state religion of Connecticut was Congregationalism and the Baptists felt their religious rights could be taken away at any time. It wasn’t until the 1850s that the last of the states removed state sponsored religion from their constitutions.

If alive today,would Jefferson applaud the removal of Christmas creches from the town square? Hardly.

It is no exaggeration to say that on Sundays in Washington during the administrations of Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809) and of James Madison (1809-1817) the state became the church. Within a year of his inauguration, Jefferson began attending church services in the House of Representatives. Madison followed Jefferson’s example, although unlike Jefferson, who rode on horseback to church in the Capitol, Madison came in a coach and four. Worship services in the House–a practice that continued until after the Civil War–were acceptable to Jefferson because they were nondiscriminatory and voluntary. Preachers of every Protestant denomination appeared. (Catholic priests began officiating in 1826.) As early as January 1806 a female evangelist, Dorothy Ripley, delivered a camp meeting-style exhortation in the House to Jefferson, Vice President Aaron Burr, and a “crowded audience.” Throughout his administration Jefferson permitted church services in executive branch buildings. The Gospel was also preached in the Supreme Court chambers. — Religion and the Founding of the American Republic

It was a strongly held belief of the Founders that our form of government could not exist without a strong religious faith backing it up.

The Founders held to this simple syllogism: morality is necessary for republican government; religion is necessary for morality; therefore, religion is necessary for republican government. “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity,” Washington wrote in his Farewell Address, “Religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that men claim the tribute of Patriotism who should labor to subvert these great Pillars of human happiness –these firmest props of the duties of Men and citizens.” – We Still Hold These Truths, Matthew Spalding

So from where are these attacks coming?


The Progressive Movement that began in the late nineteenth century and had its intellectual peak in the early twentieth century challenged the principles in the Declaration of Independence. The principles laid out in the Declaration of Independence were that we each had individual rights that could not be taken away nor given away, they were inalienable. The progressives believed that we did not have individual rights but we were first members of society and therefore our rights come from society, that is, from government. As we all know that which the government giveth, it can also taketh away. Therein lies the stark difference between conservatives who believe in individual liberty and the progressives who believe in the government deciding who has and has not liberty. The battle lines are drawn.

The First Amendment states with regard to religion, “Congress  shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” That’s pretty clear language. It speaks of Congress, not the states not being able to establish a religion and Congress cannot prohibit the free exercise of religion. So how did we get where we are with a ban on religion in the public square? Judicial activism.

In 1947 there was a Supreme Court case Emerson v Board of Education. The essence of the case was a suit brought by an individual who was opposed to public school transportation funds being used to transport children to both public and private schools. The plaintiff contended that reimbursement given for children attending private religious schools violated the constitutional prohibition against state support of religion, and the taking of taxpayers’ money to do so violated the constitution’s Due Process Clause. The only problem is that there is no constitutional prohibition against state support of religion. The prohibition is against the establishment of a national church or temple or whatever.

By 1947 the Supreme Court consisted of seven appointees of Franklin D. Roosevelt, a progressive, and two appointees of Harry Truman, another progressive. It is safe to say there was not a conservative voice on the court and yet the decision was 5-4. Emerson, the plaintiff, lost his argument because the transportation reimbursement was offered to all, regardless of religion or other private school affiliation or no affiliation. That should have ended it without any judicial activism. But here is where the Court created new law from the bench.

“The ‘establishment of religion’ clause of the First Amendment means at least this: Neither a state nor the Federal Government can set up a church. Neither can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions or prefer one religion over another. Neither can force nor influence a person to go to or to remain away from church against his will or force him to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion. No person can be punished for entertaining or professing religious beliefs or disbeliefs, for church attendance or non-attendance. No tax in any amount, large or small, can be levied to support any religious activities or institutions, whatever they may be called, or whatever form they may adopt to teach or practice religion. Neither a state nor the Federal Government can, openly or secretly, participate in the affairs of any religious organizations or groups and vice versa. In the words of Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect ‘a wall of separation between Church and State.’” 330 U.S. 1, 15-16.

This violates the clear language of the First, Ninth, and Tenth Amendments. It is absurd to say, The ‘establishment of religion’ clause of the First Amendment means at least this: Neither a state nor the Federal Government can set up a church,” when at the time of writing and continuing until the mid-nineteenth century state constitution did permit the establishment of state religions. This is the progressives concept of a “living, breathing” Constitution in action. Ignore what is in the original, and have nine unelected, life appointed judges usurp the function of Congress and write new laws that suit their point of view.

Attack on the First Amendment

The latest attack on the First Amendment comes from the Obama administration demand that Catholic organizations provide contraceptives to their employees in violation of the First Amendment. This is not state law. This is Congress passing a law that prohibits the free exercise of Catholicism by the Catholic Church and its affiliate organizations. But the Democrats won’t back down, and they themed their entire DNC convention around abortion and contraception and their bogus War on Women.

Finishing Off God

Since Woodrow Wilson the progressives have been arguing against individual rights but they keep running into the Declaration of Independence which spells it out that our individual rights come from God and they can’t be taken away or given away. Hmmm…what if there were no such thing as God? How can you be given rights from something or someone who doesn’t exist? Eureka! Finally a solution.

So start a full-scale guerrilla war against religion. Have your Hollywood and Main Stream Media mock all things religious. How uncool! How unhip! Then have the public schools indoctrinate millions of children for a century starting with the education “reforms” of John Dewey with the progressive way. Have the law schools teach judicial activism so that the Constitution can be re-written from the bench rather than debated in Congress. Have the atheist troops attack any public display of religion as highly offensive to them and drive religion underground. (I don’t believe in the Magic Kingdom, but I do not get highly offended by the site of a Disney commercial; I am not Jewish but the Star of David commands my respect not horror). Once religion can only be practiced behind closed doors in whispered tones, like in the good old days of Nazi Germany, then the final assault on the Declaration of Independence can begin. No God; therefore no individual rights; bow now before the altar of government. The Democrats let slip a preview in Charlotte this past week before they caught themselves realizing it was too soon for the final assault. But be patient, the day will come. Unless they are stopped in their tracks. Remember Charlotte.


That’s my opinion; I’d like to know yours. Please comment below.

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  • DougIndeap

    Separation of church and
    state is a bedrock principle of our Constitution much like the principles of
    separation of powers and checks and balances. In the Constitution, the founders
    did not simply say in so many words that there should be separation of powers
    and checks and balances; rather, they actually separated the powers of
    government among three branches and established checks and balances. Similarly,
    they did not merely say there should be separation of church and state; rather,
    they actually separated them by (1) establishing a secular government on the
    power of “We the people” (not a deity), (2) saying nothing to connect
    that government to god(s) or religion, (3) saying nothing to give that
    government power over matters of god(s) or religion, and (4), indeed, saying
    nothing substantive about god(s) or religion at all except in a provision
    precluding any religious test for public office. Given the norms of the day, the founders’
    avoidance of any expression in the Constitution suggesting that the government
    is somehow based on any religious belief was quite a remarkable and plainly
    intentional choice. They later
    buttressed this separation of government and religion with the First Amendment,
    which constrains the government from undertaking to establish religion or
    prohibit individuals from freely exercising their religions. The basic
    principle, thus, rests on much more than just the First Amendment.

    To the extent
    that some nonetheless would like confirmation–in those very words–of the
    founders’ intent to separate government and religion, Madison and Jefferson
    supplied it. Some try to pass off
    the Supreme Court’s decision in Everson v. Board of Education as simply a
    misreading of Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists–as if that were the
    only basis of the Court’s decision (in which the Court unanimously understood
    the Constitution to separate government and religion). Instructive as that
    letter is, it played but a small part in the Court’s decision. Perhaps even
    more than Jefferson, James Madison influenced the Court’s view. Madison, who
    had a central role in drafting the Constitution and the First Amendment,
    confirmed that he understood them to “[s]trongly guard[] . . . the separation
    between Religion and Government.” Madison, Detached Memoranda (~1820). He made
    plain, too, that they guarded against more than just laws creating state
    sponsored churches or imposing a state religion. Mindful that even as new
    principles are proclaimed, old habits die hard and citizens and politicians
    could tend to entangle government and religion (e.g., “the appointment of
    chaplains to the two houses of Congress” and “for the army and navy” and
    “[r]eligious proclamations by the Executive recommending thanksgivings and
    fasts”), he considered the question whether these actions were “consistent with
    the Constitution, and with the pure principle of religious freedom” and
    responded: “In strictness the answer on both points must be in the negative.
    The Constitution of the United States forbids everything like an establishment
    of a national religion.”

    While the First Amendment undoubtedly was intended to preclude the
    government from establishing a national religion as you note, that was hardly
    the limit of its intended scope. The first Congress debated and rejected just
    such a narrow provision (“no religion shall be established by law, nor shall the
    equal rights of conscience be infringed”) and ultimately chose the more broadly
    phrased prohibition now found in the Amendment. During his presidency, Madison
    vetoed two bills, neither of which would form a national religion or compel
    observance of any religion, on the ground that they were contrary to the
    establishment clause. While some in Congress expressed surprise that the
    Constitution prohibited Congress from incorporating a church in the town of
    Alexandria in the District of Columbia or granting land to a church in the
    Mississippi Territory, Congress upheld both vetoes. In keeping with the
    Amendment’s terms and legislative history and other evidence, the courts have
    wisely interpreted it to restrict the government from taking steps that could
    establish religion de facto as well as de jure. Were the Amendment interpreted
    merely to preclude government from enacting a statute formally establishing a
    state church, the intent of the Amendment could easily be circumvented by
    government doing all sorts of things to promote this or that religion–stopping
    just short of cutting a ribbon to open its new church.

    Contrary to your supposition,
    the Supreme Court has recognized that the First Amendment limited only the
    federal government, and the Court did not draw on the concept of a living
    Constitution to extend the Amendment’s limits to the states. Rather, the Court observed that the
    Constitution was later amended to protect from infringement by states the
    privileges and immunities of citizenship, due process, and equal protection of
    the laws. The Court naturally looked to
    the Bill of Rights for the important rights thus protected by the 14th
    Amendment and ruled that it effectively extends the First Amendment’s
    guarantees vis a vis the federal government to the states. While the founders drafted the First
    Amendment to constrain the federal government, they certainly understood that
    later amendments could extend the Bill of Rights’ constraints to state governments.

    It is instructive to recall that the Constitution’s
    separation of church and state reflected, at the federal level, a
    “disestablishment” political movement then sweeping the country. That
    political movement succeeded in disestablishing all state religions by the
    1830s. (Side note: A political reaction to that movement gave us the term
    “antidisestablishmentarianism,” which amused some of us as kids.) It
    is worth noting, as well, that this disestablishment movement largely coincided
    with another movement, the Great Awakening. The people of the time saw
    separation of church and state as a boon, not a burden, to religion.

    This sentiment was recorded by a famous observer of the American experiment:
    “On my arrival in the United States the religious aspect of the country
    was the first thing that struck my attention. . . . I questioned the members of
    all the different sects. . . . I found that they differed upon matters of
    detail alone, and that they all attributed the peaceful dominion of religion in
    their country mainly to the separation of church and state. I do not hesitate
    to affirm that during my stay in America, I did not meet a single individual,
    of the clergy or the laity, who was not of the same opinion on this
    point.” Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America (1835).

    Constitution, including particularly the First Amendment, embodies the simple,
    just idea that each of us should be free to exercise his or her religious views
    without expecting that the government will endorse or promote those views and
    without fearing that the government will endorse or promote the religious views
    of others. By keeping government and religion separate, the establishment
    clause serves to protect the freedom of all to exercise their religion.
    Reasonable people may differ, of course, on how these principles should be
    applied in particular situations, but the principles are hardly to be doubted.
    Moreover, they are good, sound principles that should be nurtured and defended,
    not attacked. Efforts to undercut our secular government by somehow merging or
    infusing it with religion should be resisted by every patriot.

    • http://libertyslifeline.com William O’Connell

      Nowhere in the Constitution will you find the term “separation of church and state.” You also turn federalism (ninth and tenth amendments) on its head by applying the establishment clause to the states when at the time the Constitution was ratified several states did have state religions. That was the whole point of the Danbury Baptists letter to Jefferson. Letter written by presidents are not law. Laws are made by Congress, and sadly by activist unelected Supreme Court justices. The First Amendment could not be any clearer “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion.” It says nothing about the states. The ninth and tenth amendments make that point clear that if it is not in the Constitution, it is left to the states or the people. In the Declaration of Independence God is mentioned four times, so to say our government is secular is a myth. As Lincoln said the Constitution is a frame of silver around an apple of gold, with the apple being the Declaration of Independence. The two documents are inextricably linked.

      Atheists are free to go about believing there is no God, and I will fight for their right to do so, but they do not have the right to say I cannot express my religion publicly or privately. As the First Amendment also states regarding religion, “Congress shall pass no law…prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

      • dougindeap

        That the phrase “separation of church and state” does not appear in the text of the Constitution assumes much importance, it seems, to some who may have once labored under the misimpression it was there and, upon learning they were mistaken, reckon they’ve discovered a smoking gun solving a Constitutional mystery. To those familiar with the Constitution, the absence of the metaphor commonly used to name one of its principles is no more consequential than the absence of other phrases (e.g., Bill of Rights, separation of powers, checks and balances, fair trial, religious liberty) used to describe other undoubted Constitutional principles.

        While some also draw meaning from the references to “Nature’s God” and “Creator” in the Declaration of Independence (references that could mean any number of things, some at odds with the Christian idea of God) and try to connect that meaning to the Constitution, the effort is largely baseless. Important as the Declaration is in our history, it did not operate to bring about independence (that required winning a war), nor did it found a government, nor did it even create any law, and it certainly did not say or do anything that somehow dictated the meaning of a Constitution adopted twelve years later. The colonists issued the Declaration not to do any of that, but rather to politically explain and justify the move to independence that was already well underway. Nothing in the Constitution depends on anything said in the Declaration. Nor does anything said in the Declaration purport to limit or define the government later formed by the free people of the former colonies. Nor could it even if it purported to do so. Once independent, the people of the former colonies were free to choose whether to form a collective government at all and, if so, whatever form of government they deemed appropriate. They were not somehow limited by anything said in the Declaration. Sure, they could take its words as inspiration and guidance if, and to the extent, they chose–or they could not. They could have formed a theocracy if they wished–or, as they ultimately chose, a government founded on the power of the people (not a deity) and separated from religion.

        What is all this rhetoric about atheism? Separation of church and state is not an atheist concept. It is important to distinguish between the “public square” and “government” and between “individual” and “government” speech about religion. The constitutional principle of separation of church and state does not purge religion from the public square–far from it. Indeed, the First Amendment’s “free exercise” clause assures that each individual is free to exercise and express his or her religious views–publicly as well as privately. The Amendment constrains only the government not to promote or otherwise take steps toward establishment of religion. As government can only act through the individuals comprising its ranks, when those individuals are performing their official duties, they effectively are the government and thus should conduct themselves in accordance with the First Amendment’s constraints on government. When acting in their individual capacities, they are free to exercise their religions as they please. If their right to free exercise of religion extended even to their discharge of their official responsibilities, however, the First Amendment constraints on government establishment of religion would be eviscerated. While figuring out whether someone is speaking for the government in any particular circumstance may sometimes be difficult, making the distinction is critical.

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