We hear a lot these days about how our government should be following God’s laws. We also hear from the same quarters on how this is a Christian nation.
Today, in the clever Madison Avenue style packaging, we are introduced to the smooth marketing title of the Jesus Revolution against Secularization. No matter how you title it, it is an attempt to have America become a Theocracy and establish a religion.
Let us recall what the Father of the Constitution said about the establishment clause in the 1st Amendment to the Constitution. James Madison not of Madison Avenue but of the Age of Reason would have railed against the notion of having Christianity be named the declared religion of our land and he would have been appalled but not surprised at these strange turning of events.
The following extensive quote comes from Madison in his “Memorial and Remonstrance.” This occurred in 1785, when Madison was heavily involved in Virginia politics. Jefferson was at the time working on the passage of legislation regarding religious freedom. This particular writing occurred in opposition to a bill that would have given support to established churches in their attempt to establish a provision for teachers of Christian religion. He spoke against the bill.
He stated the following: Because we hold it for a fundamental and unalienable truth, “that religion, or the duty when we owe to the Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason not by force or violence.”(From the Declaration of Rights)
The religion, then, of every man, must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man; and it is the right of every man to exercise it, as these may dictate. This right is, in its nature, an unalienable right. It is unalienable; because the opinions of men depending only on the evidence contemplated by their own minds, cannot follow the dictates of other men. It is unalienable, also, because what is here a right towards other men, is a duty towards the Creator. It is the duty of every man to render to the Creator such Homage, and such only, as he believes to be acceptable to him. ………….We maintain, therefore, that , in matters of religion, no man’s right is abridged by the institution of civil society; and that religion is wholly exempted from its cognizance…….
Because if religion be exempt from the authority of the society at large, still less can it be subject to that of the legislative body. ………
Because it is proper to take alarm, at the first experiment on our liberties. We hold this prudent jealousy, to be the first duty of citizens, and one of the noblest characteristics of the late revolution. The freemen of America did not wait until usurped power had strengthened itself by exercise, and entangled the question in precedents. They saw all the consequences in the principle, and they avoided the consequences by denying the principle. We revere the lesson too much, soon to forget it. Who does not see that the same authority WHICH CAN ESTABLISH CHRISTIANITY IN EXCLUSION OF ALL OTHER RELIGIONS, MAY ESTABLISH, WITH THE SAME EASE, ANY PARTICULAR SECT OF CHRISTIANS, IN EXCLUSION OF ALL OTHER SECTS.”
Recent events have placed the danger to the establishment clause, front and center into the public consciousness. Under Justice Rehnquist the question of permitting government aid to religion has arisen. In 1985, the Chief Justice stated, that is the “well accepted meaning of the establishment clause is that it merely prohibited the establishment of a national religion. He went on to say, “The Establishment Clause did not require government neutrality between religion and irreligion, nor did it prohibit the government from providing non-discriminatory aid to religion.”
Justice Rehnquist misses the true meaning of the founders. Hamilton once said, ” For why declare that things should not be done which there is no power to do so? Why, for instance, should it be said that the liberty of the press shall not be restrained, when no power is given by which restrictions may be imposed.” James Wilson, and Edmund Randolph made statements saying the same thing. Madison also said that Congress was powerless to enact laws on the subject of religion.
Madison’s original language for the first amendment is revealing. “No ones civil rights should be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established, nor shall the full and equal of conscience be in any manner, or on any pretext, infringed.”
Jefferson in his first inaugural address spoke eloquently regarding religion. “And let us reflect that, having banished from our land that religious intolerance under which mankind so long bled and suffered, we have yet gained little if we countenance a political intolerance as despotic, as wicked, and capable as bitter and bloody persecutions.”
They, the founders of our country well understood why government should leave religion to be voluntary and not forced by the state.
In recent times especially in the George W. Presidency we saw faith based initiatives that crossed the line in having government become involved in religion.
We see states enter into the fray with intelligent design being encouraged as being part of course curriculum. We have seen former Governor Huckabee sound more and more like a candidate for president who would probably insist on following God’s laws instead of the Constitution. Whether or not it is the topic of stem -cell research or marriage the soundings of religious demands are becoming more of a constant refrain from the Republican Party.
Religious intolerance is on the rise. Town Hall city council meetings are now including prayer. The question comes to mind which religion’s biblical laws are we to use if these self appointed moral leaders would have it their way?
President George W. Bush spoke about a religious crusade between Christians and Muslims. If we do not watch out, we may have our own crusade to see if the Supreme Court and Congress can keep out of what should be personal and voluntary, ones religious beliefs or lack of belief in religion.