Monday, January 24, 2005

Those American Values

The claim to have the key to the exclusive right to define or establish America's moral values is the most constitutionally absurd statement a theolotician can make.

This Republic can insist on and enforce no set of moral values other than those which are woven into the Declaration of Independence, Constitution and the attending documents such as the Bill of Rights. The establishment documents of the nation are aside from and above the purview of any or all religions practiced by its citizens in the manner the Founders evolved as their intentions, putting that principle into our written Constitution with its Bill of Rights.

The true American values---the values that so ably unite and support our noble cause---are those constitutional ideals which have carried us most successfully to this time. These truths and values arise from the new concept that "the people" give to themselves the right to certain liberties and rights which are not to be infringed by their government. They do this because they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights. Among these values are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. From them arise freedom of expression, freedom of the press, the right to peaceful assembly, the right to face ones accuser, the right to dissent, and many other important, authentic American values including egalitarianism which also are central to the genus of our origins as a republic.

The Constitution was framed after more that 150 years of the European colonization North America. Those 150 years witnessed an oppressive repeat of the religious atrocities, failings and prejudices that were the bane and curse of old Europe. Religion and civic freedom were at serious loggerheads in the New World.

What the Framers were able to do in the new federation was to construct a document that built on the Enlightenment and classic liberal thinking. While value of these freedoms and values may have arisen out of the milieu and influence of centuries of various religious practices, these freedoms are not identical with any one tradition or dogma. Eclectic, they chose from the best and filtered out the worst of human beliefs.

Under the Constitution the church has no power to dictate to government. The church cannot insist that the government abide by its religious mores and precepts, or co-opt the civil government's powers of enforcement to mandate its beliefs and concepts of morals as the standard for us all.

Our Constitution was ratified by "we the people" of the independent states. The Constitution is "the supreme law of the land" (Article 6., Section 2.), our laws are not based in the Declaration of Independence. The Declaration of Independence has no legal standing in any American court of law, it is, however, a very important, timely preparatory document giving us a sense of the Founders and their construct which led to the subsequent ratification of the Constitution. The Founders studied the failures of extant religious enthusiasms in their variant forms, having already tasted the moral corruption of religious intolerance and the dominant nature of religious hierarchy.

The Founders would have no church, prophet or Pope supercede or make subservient the rights and powers of government given to "the people" in order to maintain a civil society where those practicing religion cannot use the coercive powers of government to enforce or maintain particular religious notions, creeds or precepts over and against another.

Separation is clear in their written articles comprising the Constitution itself: "Church" is not a term they used in our Constitution. Their constitutional principle is "separation between religion and government" (James Madison, William and Mary Quarterly, 3:555). The principle, as delineated in the Constitution, addresses "religion," not the term "church." No "religious" test shall be required as a test for public office (Article 6). "Religion" shall not be established by law, Congress or government at any level, nor by a "church" or any religious organization. Nor shall Congress favor a religion.

The First Amendment limits the authority of Congress as relates to religion. There is no governmental, constitutional power whatsoever over the realm of "religion." At the time of ratification no state ratified any such authority for our civil government.

The free exercise of religion was not stated in any founding document to be under the control or dictates of the United States government, and likewise the religions and churchly powers were not to limit or direct the ability of this new civic government to maintain its police powers and system of governance, which are by design, well outside the theater of religious practices-except as to those religious practices that might be so physically aggressive or seditious as to endanger or enslave the populous. In America it must be clearly understood religion is not above the law.

Those who are ignorant of or disrespectful of our history and traditions--who would now declare the country a "Christian" nation and impose a set of moral values they prescribe--are endangering our rights and national values. While we may acknowledge their fears and misgivings about the quality of the march of our American experiment, what they would impose upon as us dogma would be fatal to our cherished liberties and spell an end to our noble Republic.

Those who currently use religious enthusiasm and harsh homilies entreating the nation to return to the dank and dangerous religiously run world of the "old Europe' with its sectarian bitterness and wars. These revisionists are simply wrong in their attempts. The Founding Fathers were greater in their insights and abilities to establish a lasting democratic republic than the vast majority of present leadership, which cannot speak this truth or hold to the Founding Fathers' high standards. We are being compelled by a band of know-nothings who would squander and desecrate the great principles of our revolutionary freedoms in order to cater to a powerful group of religionists-who being hostile to the principles of the Founders are reckless and dangerous in their abandonment of the very heart of the Declaration of Independence and the majesty of the Constitution: the strict separation of the powers of religion/church and state.

Certainly the Founders wanted to protect government from being hijacked by the religious. Read again, as for the first time, Thomas Jefferson's quotes on this topic. Let the church be the church and let the government be the government.


LINK provided to set of Quotes by Thomas Jefferson: http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/jefferson/quotations/jeff1650.htm