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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Some thoughts about atheism, separation of Church and State and unalienable rights

Posted by Gary on January 5, 2012

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” (Declaration of Independence)

imageLike it or not, atheists must acknowledge that the founding fathers of our country declared in our great Declaration of Independence that our self-evident right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness comes from the Creator.

How can government speak of these rights, uphold them and promote them without reference to the Creator? How can this be done without violating the so called separation of Church and State?

Further, seeing that this founding document declares that these rights come from the Creator do atheists forfeit a claim to these rights? If our fathers said they come from the Creator and atheists deny the existence of the Creator can they claim the rights attributed to His existence? Does their personal choice to deny God’s existence carry more weight than the corporate declaration of the founders that there is a Creator and our rights come from Him?

To show the extent of the folly we live under, how can public schools rightly teach our children about our unalienable rights? Would they not have to make reference to the Creator? Wouldn’t this require a discussion in our schools that includes God? What if a student asks who the Creator is?

Lastly, isn’t it interesting that amongst the signers of the Declaration of Independence was a pastor, John Witherspoon? Have you ever been to the Capitol? Can you walk through that building and leave believing that our forefathers intended that God not be recognized in public and political life?

Today’s atheists and advocates of separation of Church and State are revisionists of history, they have had to lie about and distort history to accomplish what they have in our day. But try as they may, there is the Creator in the Declaration and our three-fold American rights are inexorably linked to Him.

Atheists love to be logical so let’s be logical. Our fathers have declared that our rights are from the Creator, no Creator, no rights. Let the teeth gnashing begin.

Comments

6 Responses to “Some thoughts about atheism, separation of Church and State and unalienable rights”
  1. Bill K. says:

    Your only error is that you assume public schools are teaching about unalienable rights. They are not. In fact, most public schools hardly put any effort at all in teaching history and when they do its liberal revisionist history about MLK, Rosa Parks, protests, human righs of the sixties. They never go back to the founding of the country.

    Of course, this is deliberate. Its deceitfully presented as “our focus is on science and math to compete in the new world market.” In actuality, its ignoring the true history of this country…and they know they must supress true history to acheive their liberal agenda.

  2. Doug Indeap says:

    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.

    While the religious views of various founders are subjects of some uncertainty and controversy, it is safe to say that many founders were Christian of one sort or another and held views such as you note regarding religion. In assessing the nature of our government, though, care should be taken to distinguish between society and government and not to make too much of various founders’ individual religious beliefs. Their individual beliefs, while informative, are largely beside the point. Whatever their religions, they drafted a Constitution that establishes a secular government and separates it from religion as noted earlier. This is entirely consistent with the fact that some founders professed their religiosity and even their desire that Christianity remain the dominant religious influence in American society. Why? Because religious people who would like to see their religion flourish in society may well believe that separating religion and government will serve that end and, thus, in founding a government they may well intend to keep it separate from religion. It is entirely possible for thoroughly religious folk to found a secular government and keep it separate from religion. That, indeed, is just what the founders did.

    While some draw meaning from the reference to “Nature’s God” and “Creator” in the Declaration of Independence and try to connect that meaning to the Constitution, the effort is baseless. Apart from the fact that these references could mean any number of things (some at odds with the Christian idea of God), there simply is no “legal” connection or effect between the two documents. Important as the Declaration is in our history, it did not operate to bring about independence, nor did it found a government. The colonists issued the Declaration not to effect their independence, but rather to 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 free people of the former colonies could choose whatever form of government they deemed appropriate. They were not somehow limited by anything said in the Declaration. Sure, they could take it 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 secular government founded on the power of the people, not a deity.

  3. Bill K. says:

    Doug,
    Neither is there any legal document referring to separation of church and state. The Constitution says that goverment shall not ESTABLISH ONE religion over another. It does not completely seperate religion from government.

    Far to many Americans believe the Constitution says “separation of chuch and state” when the only reference using that pharse is a letter Thomas Jefferson wrote to the Danberry Baptist (not a legal document). If you review American history properly, you will find it was the U.S. Government (much under the monetary and political influence of Rome and Popish tyranny) that wanted to have more religious control over the people. It was the Danberry Baptists who wrote to Jefferson pleading for total and absolute freedom from the government to practice their religion. Jefferson replied with a PERSONAL letter where he indicated the need for “separation of church and state,” BUT, Jefferson spoke of it as protection for the religious from the government…not the other way around.

  4. Doug Indeap says:

    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.

    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 and subsequent cases as simply a misreading of Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists–as if that were the only basis of the Court’s decision. 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.”

    The notion Jefferson’s letter can be discounted as pertaining solely to the free exercise of religion and not to the establishment of religion is but wishful thinking. The very reason the Danbury Baptists feared their free exercise of religion might be compromised was Connecticut’s established Congregationalism. Jefferson (1) “contemplated with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their [i.e., the federal] legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church & State” and (2), while acknowledging that he lacked any authority to change state law, expressed his support for the then growing disestablishment movement, saying that “[a]dhering 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 . . . .” The entire letter, thus, concerned the ills of government establishment of religion, and Jefferson spoke of the First Amendment’s constraint on federal laws respecting an establishment of religion in the same breath he noted the Amendment thus built a wall of separation. Moreover, as Jefferson well understood in writing the letter, the primary purpose of the First Amendment religion clauses is not to protect churches or government (as you seem to suppose), but rather to protect individuals’ religious freedom. The free-exercise clause does this directly by constraining the government from prohibiting individuals from freely exercising their religions. The establishment clause does this indirectly by constraining government from promoting or otherwise taking steps to establish any religion, thus assuring that individuals are free to exercise their religions without fearing the government will favor the religions of others and thus disfavor theirs. There is no reason to suppose, thus, that when Jefferson wrote of his metaphorical wall of separation between church and state, he had in mind only the free exercise clause and not the establishment clause.

    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.

  5. bill k says:

    Enjoying the conversation…but simply don’t have the time to indulge. I think you will be suprised at what you find at http://www.wallbuilders.com/

  6. Dawn says:

    I appreciate the discussion, in particular Doug Indeap’s thorough analysis and insightful input. I am researching this idea of separation of church and state. I come from a point of view that the First Amendment provided for religious protection FROM government interference and not the other way around. Doug’s comments have given me a lot to chew on, and it will take some time to process.

    I am disturbed by the recent mandate imposed by HHS requiring all employers including religious organizations to provide contraceptive coverage. This seems to infringe on religious liberty and rights of conscience. Actually, it doesn’t make sense on any level to me. As a woman, I have never expected anyone else to pay for my use of contraception (and spoke out against including it in insurance programs when a state bill was proposed). Access and availability of low cost contraception are not huge problems in today’s society. And it’s no one’s responsibility but my own to make sure I don’t get pregnant. Though I am not Catholic, I am a Christian and I can’t justify the government’s mandate from a religious freedom perspective.

    Thoughts?

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