On the Wall

Where in the Constitution is separation of church and state? There is no such thing … I mean it just doesn’t exist in America for a purpose, because we are a Christian nation.” – Christine O’Donnell

Although Christine O’Donnell said these words, she is not the lone voice regarding this matter. Her quote represents an example of the Tea Party’s affinity for revisionist history made to accommodate both political and religious ideologies.

First, these ideological zealots are correct – “separation of church and state” is not directly in the Constitution; however US Supreme Court, through its Constitutional powers, first applied the phrase in Reynolds vs. United States (98 US 154, 1878) and mentioned the phrase over 20 times ever since.

Secondly, since we hear Tea Party candidates frequently proclaiming the intent of our Founding Fathers, I thought it was time to research this group. Some were public about their religion while others were private. The vast majority were Protestant and Episcopalians, with the remaining being Roman Catholic, Unitarians, Dutch Reformed, Congregationalists, and even a variety of skeptics. Since many regard James Madison as the Father of the US Constitution, I set out to discover his view of the First Amendment, thus include some of his quotes below.

“Because we hold it for a fundamental and undeniable truth, “that religion or the duty which we owe to our Creator and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence.”

“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 men, is a duty towards the Creator.”

“Religion be exempt from the authority of the Society at large, still less can it be subject to that of the Legislative Body.”

“Whilst we assert for ourselves a freedom to embrace, to profess and to observe the Religion which we believe to be of divine origin, we cannot deny an equal freedom to those whose minds have not yet yielded to the evidence which has convinced us.”

“Are the Quakers and Mennonites the only sects who think a compulsive support of their Religions unnecessary and unwarrantable? can their piety alone be entrusted with the care of public worship? Ought their Religions to be endowed above all others with extraordinary privileges by which proselytes may be enticed from all others? We think too favorably of the justice and good sense of these denominations to believe that they either covet pre-eminences over their fellow citizens or that they will be seduced by them from the common opposition to the measure.”

“Because finally, “the equal right of every citizen to the free exercise of his Religion according to the dictates of conscience” is held by the same tenure with all our other rights.”

Let us not forget these Thomas Jefferson words in the Declaration of Independence: “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. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

Let us not forget that James Madison wrote these words in 1785, four years before our new nation submitted the Constitution to the states for ratification.

Let us also not forget that at the time of the Constitution’s ratification, several states had state-established churches.

Let us not forget that the US Supreme Court (in Reynolds) quoted Jefferson’s letter for the Danbury Baptist, who the state jailed for illegal preaching that was against the state-sponsored religion.

Let us not forget that In God We Trust first appeared on coins in 1864 as the country faced rebuilding from the Civil War; and the phrase didn’t appear on paper currency until 1957.

Let us not forget that Congress adopted In God We Trust as our country’s official motto in 1956.

Let us not forget that One nation under God was first used in our Pledge of Allegiance in 1948 and officially added in 1954.

Let us not forget that the 1950s marked a time when the world faced growing concerns about Communism.

Let us not forget that in this election season and beyond, that history can help us protect us from revisionists who seek to force their values on everyone.

On Building a New Ark

Answers in Genesis (AIG) is a Christian-based organization with a vision to serve as a catalyst to bring reformation by reclaiming the foundations of our faith which are found in the Bible, thus  proclaiming the absolute truth and authority of the Bible with boldness.

In May 2008, their $27 million Creation Museum opened in northern Kentucky across from Cincinnati to promote their understanding of creation and a young earth (less than 10,000 years old). A few months ago, AIG announced plans to build (near the museum) Ark Encounter, a $170+ million, 800-acre theme park based on the story of Noah.

In November, the Kentucky Department of Tourism tentatively approved $43 million dollars in tax incentives pending further analysis. Shortly thereafter, Governor Steve Broshear (D) announced his support for the incentives in the name of jobs for Kentuckians.

AIG does not hide its intent to intent to evangelize its message. In the spirit of getting money from wages and various consumer expenditures, the state of Kentucky is willing to put public money into an organization who promotes a defined religious dogma.

The Lexington Herald-Leader supported the state’s incentives by stating the following:

If a church or a religious organization sought the same incentives for the same purpose, there would be clear reason to object on constitutional grounds. Ark Encounters is a private company seeking to make a profit off of a biblical theme. (3 Dec 2010)

I do not live in Kentucky, so I won’t complain. Nor will I attend Ark Encounter or the Creation Museum simply because they are against my theology and my science. However, I can ask questions.

  • Would the citizens of Kentucky and its state government officials financially support other Christian groups to develop their ventures?
  • Would the citizens of Kentucky and its state government officials financially support a non-Christian religious organization wanting to build a tourist attraction?

On Opinions in the Shorts: Vol. 40

On the Loud Mouths
The other day while at my car dealer, Glenn Beck was on the customer lounge’s tube. I watched a little bit and wondered – Why does anyone watch this buffoon? Even worse, what companies are paying advertising time and what is their target audience?

Here are a few reasons why Kathleen Parker and David Brooks are two of my favorite columnists: They are intelligent, they make sense, and both the left and the right don’t like them. Here’s a recent Parker column about the way the White House is handling the loud mouths.

On What Politicians Do
House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) is the representative from an adjacent district to me. Being in the Cincinnati metro area, Mr. Boehner is a frequent news item. I’ve made my share of criticisms of him, and this Cincinnati Enquirer article confirms my thoughts – John Boehner’s main priority is his party – not his country or his constituents.

It’s sad to say, but he aims his time and effort to his party, his political action group, and his special interests. Even worse, his chief lieutenant (Eric Cantor, R-VA) is following Boehner’s lead and Speaker Pelosi (D-CA) and her #2 (Steny Hoyer, D-MD) are do the same thing. Here’s the evidence.

On an OchoCinco Deed
I may be a Bengal fan, but I’m not a fan of Chad OchoCinco. On the other hand, I commend the way he stepped up and got the job done to achieve a sellout – thus last week’s game was shown on local television. With his help, 1200 tickets were given away. Good job Chad.

On Church and State
The wall between church and state has been getting weaker the past 20 years or so. Plus, the case on the Supreme Court docket may continue the trend. Nonetheless, here’s an interesting dialogue between a Republican and a Democrat in the biweekly column: “Common Ground” in USA Today.

On the BCS
Upper division college football is the only sport without a legit national champion. I’m not a fan of the Bowl Championship Series (BCS), so the creations by the Global Sports Fraternity team is priceless. I posted their episode of a BCS meeting earlier this week (click here) before the second episode (shown below). Again – priceless!

Pulpit Free Sunday: It was only the Start

The Facts

  • The First Amendment states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
  • The First Amendment clearly allows churches to exist, and allows people to attend the church of their choice.
  • Although not in the First Amendment, Thomas Jefferson wrote “separation of church and state” in a paper.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court first used the phrase in 1878 (Reynolds v. United States, 98 U.S. 145 U.S)
  • In 1954, Congress added Section 501(c)(3) to the tax code to prohibit intervention in political campaigns by tax-exempt organizations.
  • Section 501(c)(3) only limits a pastor’s political involvement from the pulpit, but not as a citizen.
  • Churches may be politically involved at the expense of losing their tax exemption.
  • Courts have upheld 501(c)(3).
  • The Pew Research Center shows two-thirds of us oppose church involvement in partisan politics
  • The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) challenges the IRS about pastors endorsing candidates from the pulpit.
  • Congressman Walter Jones (R-NC) introduces HR 2275 seeking to repeal 501(c)(3).
  • On Sunday, Sept. 28, 2008, approximately 30 pastors (supported by the ADF) challenge the IRS by endorsing a candidate from the pulpit.
  • The next day, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State file complaints to the IRS about the sermons.
  • To this date, the IRS has yet to react.

Thoughts
When faced with a choice, the ADF clearly wants both political involvement and tax-exempt status. They challenge the definition of religious activity in the same way they challenge defining science in the evolution-creation debate. Without an agreed upon definition, how can a resolution occur when there is a disagreement about the actual question.

The Pulpit Freedom pastors knowingly and willingly violated a standard with a known consequence in hopes of overturning 501(c)(3). Given current congressional composition, HB 2275 has little-to-no hope; therefore the ADF is promoted the action so they challenge the anticipated IRS reaction in the courts. Since the IRS has yet to react, the ADF awaits with its claws poised for attack. After all, the once clearly-defined wall separating church and state has been eroded over the past 20 years.

Repealing 501(c)(3) and losing their tax-exempt status would financially impact congregations and their outreach missions; but I don’t think that will happen.

On the other hand, repealing 501(c)(3) while maintaining tax-exempt status allows congregations to play political football with its membership. This would work within a homogeneous church, but such a church is seldom the case. Politics from the pulpit only divides congregations because church members are from a wide range of experiences, backgrounds, and political beliefs that come together in their faith journey.

ADF’s senior legal counsel writes, “Government has no business being in the pulpits of America.” So I ask, does church have business being in America’s government?

This is not a conflict between church and state, but rather a tactic by those seeking to force their societal ideology through political clout. After all, the religious right knows what is best for all of us.

Links
IRS Information

Newsweek Opinion

Fox News (see comments too)

Opposing Vews

Wikipedia Church and State