You know, growing up, I had a much different mental picture of atheists. Being a child of the Cold War, my first awareness of atheists were the godless-commies who wanted to bomb us into oblivion. Later, I discovered American atheists. These were hard-core inflexible people who were so confident of their own knowledge and intellectual superiority that Pope John Paul II, Mother Teresa, and Billy Graham together couldn't soften their heart towards God.
My how things have changed. It is nothing new for atheists to file lawsuits to get any remotely religious symbol or artifact removed from any public place other than a church, synagogue, or mosque. But when did they become such mentally and emotionally unstable sissies? I have always found it narcissistic in the extreme that atheists can be so sure of their depth and breadth of knowledge that they can claim categorically that God does not exist, but at least I could respect the strength of their convictions. Now, not so much.
Case in point: The lawsuit they have filed to have the 9/11 cross removed from the the National September 11 Museum and Memorial. Again, this isn't surprising for them. I would have been more surprised if they hadn't sued to have it removed. Of course, they trot out the old and tired "separation of church and state" argument which we previously debunked in the blog post "Atheists Want to Starve Children!". I think they realize that their chance for success arguing the establishment clause is unlikely at best because they have added a new strategy. It is the "We are giant wusses!" strategy. Light years from the steely-eyed Russian soldiers or the maniacal crazed atheists of the '70s and '80s, today we have the kinder, gentler, metrosexual, sensitive atheists. In addition to their constitutional challenge, the American Atheists say the cross should removed because it hurts their feelings. According to the Washington Compost the lawsuit asserts:
"The presence of the cross would result in injury — emotional and even physical in the case of extreme anxiety — to atheists left feeling excluded from what should be a place of unity and healing."Yes devoted readers, you heard it here first. The very sight of the cross causes physical injury to atheists. I can hear them now... "It burns! It burns!" Wait... wrong group. That's Obama and the Democrats. Probably more like, "I am so depressed that I don't even have the energy to get in my Prius and drive to Starbucks for a pumpkin latte. I think I'll just lay around my eco-friendly condo in my North Face jammies, have a tofu burger, and listen to Alesana CDs. I may even have to call my doctor to up my meds."
Oh, the humanity...
Please remember to pray today for the family members of those who perished on 9/11 and for our country. Never Forget!
You can joke if you want, but this is not funny!ReplyDelete
Many atheists who see steal beams in the shape of a cross get diarrhoea. And those who don't experience crap running down their legs feel woozy and disoriented. You think that's funny? What if it happened to you? Or someone you love?
If the city of New York refuses to give in to atheist tantrums then the city should at least set up a kiosk that will sell visors to atheists so they can walk past the steal beam without feeling left out and possibly even suicidal.
You can laugh if you want but I promise that it will come back to bite you in the ass.
Sorry for being so insensitive to the colonically challenged atheists. But isn't there a philately shop right next to the National September 11 Museum?
I'm laughing hysterically! And will continue to do so. I never wanted human beings to suffer until this came up. May they suffer even more!Delete
Why some would direct their ire at folks like American Atheists who seek to uphold the Constitution, rather than those flouting it is not apparent. It is important to distinguish between "individual" and "government" speech about religion. 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.ReplyDelete
A word should be added about the common canard that this is all about people easily offended. We’re not talking about the freedom of individuals to say or do something others find offensive; each of us has that freedom. We’re talking about the government weighing in to promote religion. Under our Constitution, our government has no business doing that--REGARDLESS of whether anyone is offended. While this is primarily a constitutional point, it is one that conservatives--small government conservatives--should appreciate from a political standpoint as well. While the First Amendment thus constrains government from promoting (or opposing) religion without regard to whether anyone is offended, a court may address the issue only in a suit by someone with "standing" (sufficient personal stake in a matter) to bring suit; in order to show such standing, a litigant may allege he is offended or otherwise harmed by the government's failure to follow the law; the question whether someone has standing to sue is entirely separate from the question whether the government has violated the Constitution.
A reasoned and well thought-out argument Doug, but I have issues with a couple of your points. The establishment clause makes absolutely no mention of promotion. It specifically states "congress shall make no law". A cross displayed at a museum in no way comes close to congress making a law establishing religion.Delete
My second issue is that the National September 11 Museum is a private non-profit organization and thus is not bound by the first amendment to the constitution. If you argue that it is bound because it receives government funding, then you would have to remove artwork from museums all around the country.
Oh, and by the way Doug, if "ire" was the overriding tone you got from my post, your sense of humor doesn't mesh well with mine. As well as completely missing the point of the post. My post wasn't arguing the merits of their first amendment case. I was lampooning their argument claiming "emotional and physical injury" from simply having to view a cross.Delete
You know, you wouldn't think vampires would be atheists.
First of all let me welcome you to the SACSTW community. All opinions are welcome here, particularly ones as well-stated as yours. However, you are confusing "Freedom of Religion" with "Freedom from Religion". One is very real, and ironically enough, conferred on us from our Creator. The other exists only in the twisted thought processes of the secular progressive movement.
In this case, the lawsuit filed by American Atheists names the States of New York and New Jersey, along with Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Christie. None of those entities/individuals are members of Congress, and as such are not bound by First Amendment establishment.
The Constitution of the State of New York comments on freedom of religion thusly in item 3 of its Bill of Rights:
"3. Freedom of worship; religious liberty"
The Constitution of the State of New Jersey is more wordy and more interesting. Line 3 of Article 1 Rights and Privileges reads as follows:
"3. No person shall be deprived of the inestimable privilege of worshipping Almighty God in a manner agreeable to the dictates of his own conscience; nor under any pretense be compelled to attend any place of worship contrary to his faith and judgement; nor shall any person be obliged to pay tithes, taxes, or other rates for building or repairing any church or churches, place or places of worship, or for the maintenance of any minister or ministry, contrary to what he believes to be right or has deliberately and voluntarily engaged to perform."
Tell me again how a cross at the 911 Memorial violates either of these two statements.
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.Delete
James 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 commonly expressed argument about prepositions leads nowhere. Freedom "of" religion encompasses each individual's freedom "to" exercise his or her religion and freedom "from" government established religion. There, all prepositions are fairly represented.
The 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.
Wake Forest University has published a short, objective Q&A primer on the current law of separation of church and state–as applied by the courts rather than as caricatured in the blogosphere. I commend it to you. http://tiny.cc/6nnnx
What a bunch of meaningless, pretentious blather. Bottom line, quit getting your knickers in a bunch over things you don't like to look at, and deal with life like an adult. Minority doesn't, and shouldn't rule.Delete
"the current law of separation of church and state- as applied by the courts rather than as caricatured in the blogosphere". Well done Doug, just the right amount of snark for SACSTW! Unfortunately, your arguments are somewhat less successful, and frankly irrelevant to the topic at hand.ReplyDelete
Let's just forget about the fact that your bedrock principle of the Constitution does not in fact appear in the Constitution at all for a few moments. Take your first point...In the same sentence as "We the People" comes the phrase "secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity". Hmm, I wonder what "Blessings of Liberty" meant?
Take a look a little farther back at the Declaration of Independence...."endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness". Sounds like the Blessings of Liberty to me. You might argue that we are talking about the Constitution not the Declaration, but since you brought up Madison let's see what he said about the two...."On the distinctive principles of the Government of the United States, the best guides are to be found in the Declaration of Independence, as the fundamental Act of Union of these States".
The Founders finish that first sentence of the Constitution with "do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. "Ordain" is quite an interesting choice of words, wouldn't you say?
to be continued....
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.Delete
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.
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.
Since the First Amendment applies solely to Congress, let's look at how the states handle this notion of completely secular government. Interestingly, the preambles of 48 states mention "a deity". Even more interestingly, they all mention the same deity! Although I admit when I read Massachusett's mention of "the Great Legislator of the universe", I figured they were talking about Teddy Kennedy. 48 is pretty convincing I'd say. Incidentally, New Hampshire and Virginia don't have a preamble to their state constitutions, I couldn't find any information on the other 7 states.ReplyDelete
Madison was certainly the architect of the Bill of Rights, and it is based on a number of other documents.
One of those is the Virginia Declaration of Rights authored by George Mason. Mason received assistance from Madison with item 16..."That religion, or the duty which we owe to our Creator and the manner of discharging it, can be directed by reason and conviction, not by force or violence: and therefore, all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; and that it is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian forbearance, love, and charity towards each other." Hardly sounds like the phrasing of a secularist.
I read the Wake Forest article and found it quite interesting, if almost completely irrelevant to the lawsuit filed by American Atheists. Only item 21 is marginally pertinent, as it discusses whether government supported galleries may include artwork with religious imagery. It states that is permissible, as long as the predominant purpose is historic or artistic. I would argue that the steel beam cross is in fact a historic artifact, rather than an example of religious artwork.
When it comes the the words and ideas of the Founders, I prefer to read them myself rather than rely on the tortured and perverted interpretations of them that have infiltrated our culture. Those words and ideas are readily available any number of places, I commend them to you.
HOWEVER, since you seem to hold interpretations of the Founders in higher regard than the Founders themselves, I'll leave you with one of my favorites. Of your precious "separation of church and state", the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist said this...."the wall of separation between church and state is a metaphor based upon bad history, a metaphor which has proved useless as a guide to judging. It should be frankly and explicitly abandoned. The greatest injury of the 'wall' notion is its mischievous diversion of judges from the actual intention of the drafters of the Bill of Rights".
While the First Amendment limited only the federal government, 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 courts naturally have looked to the Bill of Rights for the important rights thus protected by the 14th Amendment and have 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 understood that later amendments could extend the Bill of Rights' constraints to states.Delete
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 movement succeeded in disestablishing all state religions by the 1830s. 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).
The quotation by Rehnquist is interesting in that it comes from his dissent in Wallace v. Jaffree. For his claims regarding the intended scope of the First Amendment, Rehnquist recites the various revisions of the precursors of the First Amendment and the debates on those in the First Congress and then simply asserts that "[i]t seems indisputable from these glimpses of Madison's thinking, as reflected by actions on the floor of the House in 1789, that he saw the Amendment as designed to prohibit the establishment of a national religion, and perhaps to prevent discrimination among sects." Rehnquist's conclusions, though, hardly follow from the evidence he recites. Indeed, the opposite conclusion is more logical. During the discussion in the First Congress, some expressed a desire to focus the amendment on establishment of a national religion by law. Madison was generally comfortable with much of what others proposed, including that, and he actually made a motion to add the term "national" to a precursor of what later became the First Amendment. As it turns out, though, those versions were rejected, and broader phrasing was employed in the First Amendment as ultimately adopted. The explicit consideration and rejection of language focusing the amendment on establishment of a national religion suggests that the ultimately adopted version is not so focused. Not only does Rehnquist's conclusion not logically follow from the evidence he offers, but Madison, the very founder whose intent he purports to champion, repudiates Rehnquist's views in other documents Rehnquist simply ignores. See Madison's Detached Memoranda, a part of which I quoted earlier. In any event, it bears noting that Rehnquist's is a dissenting opinion of a single justice who failed to persuade even one of his colleagues to join him. Note too that in the sixty-plus years since the Everson decision, Rehnquist is the only justice to voice such views. The irony is that by offering such a full throated, yet obviously weak argument for the just-no-national-religion claim, Rehnquist effectively undercut it by making so plain the relative strength of the evidence and argument favoring the contrary view.
"Separation of church and state is a bedrock principle of our Constitution"ReplyDelete
Really? Where? I know the establishment clause, but can't seem to locate the separation clause.
"In the Constitution, the founders did not simply say in so many words"
Oh, I get it. As opposed to actually putting in words like they did the establishment clause. It's amazing when liberals try to and infer ideas from the constitution (or make the whole thing up like Roe v. Wade)the ideas they infer always seem to match their personal agendas.
Of course Doug, while The Crew and I are happy to debate constitutional issues with you. The atheists' constitutional argument was not even the point of the post. But we forgive you, The Crew and I have been known to go off on a tangent or two in our time.
And if the founding fathers were so against religion being part of government, how come the first Bible printed in English in the United States was printed by the US Congress in 1782?ReplyDelete
Or why did Jefferson help establish a church in ****drum roll please**** the Capitol building itself. A church he attended the eight years he was in office and commissioned the Marine Corps band to play the worship service.
That's just a couple of examples. There are plenty more. So if we are going to play mystical guessing games about the "true" intentions of the founding fathers, maybe looking at their ACTIONS might give us some clues.
Caution should be exercised in assessing the historical evidence, since some are motivated to make more of things than may be warranted or even stretch the truth about them. The commonly heard stories about religious ceremonies in the House chamber and Congress printing Bibles are illustrative. The Speaker of the House (not President Jefferson) did indeed announce in 1800 that the chaplains had proposed holding religious ceremonies in the House chamber on Sundays, the reason initially being that at the time there simply were no churches or other suitable buildings in all the Capitol. Such ceremonies were held and Jefferson attended some of them (though he did not take any part in authorizing or organizing them, including commissioning the Marine Corps band), and they continued for decades after churches had been built and thus the need to use the House chamber had passed. Contrary to many accounts, neither the Senate nor President Jefferson had a hand in the Speaker's decision. Not mentioned in some accounts as well is that the ceremonies often were as much social as religious in nature (at a time when Washington otherwise lacked much social life). Misinformation about the Congress-Bible story commonly is more pronounced. Congress did not, as is often repeated (particularly in the blogosphere), order, import, print, publish, or distribute any Bibles. Rather, at a time when the general reputation of local printers was such that they could hardly compete against British printers, Congress simply passed a resolution recommending a Philadelphia printer's recent edition of the Bible based on its chaplain's report of the satisfactory "care and accuracy" of his work. Chris Rodda does a good job setting these and other common misconceptions straight in Liars for Jesus: The Religious Right's Alternate Version of American History (2006) (available free on line http://www.liarsforjesus.com/); yeah, you have to get past the title, which puts off some, but it's worth it.Delete
As for looking at the actions of the founders, I already pointed out Madison's own plainly stated explanation of his understanding of the Constitution in this regard. During his presidency, Madison also 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. He pocket vetoed a third bill that would have exempted from import duties plates to print Bibles.
Lest there be any doubt on this score, note that shortly after the founding, President John Adams (a founder) signed, with the unanimous consent of the Senate (comprised in large measure of founders), the Treaty of Tripoli declaring, in pertinent part, “the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.” No need to resort to reading tea leaves to understand that. This is not an informal comment by an individual founder, but rather an official declaration of the most solemn sort by the United States government itself. Note that the Constitution provides that treaties, apart from the Constitution itself, are the highest law of the land. Separation of church and state is not a recent invention of the courts.