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The First Amendment Makes Rick Santorum Want To Vomit

Yesterday, Rick Santorum doubled-down on the previous comments he had made about separation of church and state, and specifically his statement several years ago that President Kennedy’s 1960 speech about the topic almost “made me throw up”:

Former senator Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) on Sunday defended a statement he made last October in which he said that he “almost threw up” when he read John F. Kennedy’s 1960 Houston address on the role of religion in public life.

The statement by Santorum marks the GOP contender’s latest defense of his long-held views on the separation of church and state, although in his Sunday appearance he doubled down on the colorful language he employed in his October speech at a New Hampshire college.

In remarks last year at the College of Saint Mary Magdalen in Warner, N.H., Santorum had told the crowd of J.F.K.’s famous 1960 address to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association, “Earlier in my political career, I had the opportunity to read the speech, and I almost threw up. You should read the speech.”

On Sunday, ABC’s George Stephanopoulos asked Santorum whether he stood by his statement last year, noting that Santorum’s rival, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney (R), delivered an address on religion during the 2008 campaign that garnered comparisons to Kennedy’s address.

Santorum defended his remarks, telling Stephanopoulos that “the first line, first substantive line in the speech, says, ‘I believe in America where the separation of church and state is absolute.'”

“I don’t believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute,” Santorum said. “The idea that the church can have no influence or no involvement in the operation of the state is absolutely antithetical to the objectives and vision of our country.”

He went on to note that the First Amendment “says the free exercise of religion — that means bringing everybody, people of faith and no faith, into the public square.”

“Kennedy for the first time articulated the vision saying, ‘No, faith is not allowed in the public square. I will keep it separate.’ Go on and read the speech. ‘I will have nothing to do with faith. I won’t consult with people of faith.’ It was an absolutist doctrine that was abhorrent at the time of 1960.”

Later in the interview, Stephanopoulos asked Santorum, “You think you wanted to throw up?”

“Well, yes, absolutely,” Santorum replied. “To say that people of faith have no role in the public square? You bet that makes you throw up. What kind of country do we live that says only people of non-faith can come into the public square and make their case? That makes me throw up.”

Video:

I wrote about Santorum’s previous comments about Kennedy’s speech last week, as well as similar comments made back in 2010 by Sarah Palin in her then recent book. As I noted at the time, both Santorum and Palin have a severe misunderstanding of the history of the creation of the United States, the Founders views on religion in politics, and what Kennedy was really saying in his speech.

On the first point, historian Joseph Ellis, who has written countless books about the Founders era has pointed out in the past that one of the truly revolutionary things about the creation of the United States was that, for the first time in the history of the Western world, a nation had been created that was wholly divorced from religious authority:

[T]hey created the first wholly secular state. Before the American Revolution it was broadly assumed that shared religious convictions were the primary basis for the common values that linked together the people of any political community, indeed the ideological glue that made any sense of community possible. By insisting on the complete separation of church and state, the founders successfully overturned this long-standing presumption.

The First Amendment, then, exists not only to protect religious institutions from excessive interference by the state, something which was very common in Europe where countries at the time were till identifies as either Catholic or Protestant and where, only a few centuries before, religious wars were commonplace. It exists to ensure that the state does not becomes just another arm of the Church, something which was also still quite common in the Europe from which the Founders originated. That’s what made it, and the idea of a wholly secular state, so revolutionary at the time. Conservatives like Santorum like to ignore this part of the First Amendment, or try to assert that it merely means that the state cannot establish an official church, but it is just as important to religious liberty that religions have no role in government as it is that governments have no role in religion. You really cannot have one without the other because, in the end, a government dominated by a particular religious sect will inevitable act in ways that harm rival sects, and a government that interferes excessively in religion will inevitably come to favor one sect over another.

More importantly, though, it’s obvious to anyone who has taken the time to read or listen to Kennedy’s September 1960 speech to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association, that Santorum is completely mis-representing what the future President was saying. At no point in the speech does Kennedy say, as Santorum alleges, that people of faith have no role in public sphere, or that they must remain quiet rather than speaking out on issues that concern them. It’s absurd to even suggest that this is something anyone believes now, or that they believed it back in 1960. After all, at the same time that Kennedy was making this speech the nation was witnessing the Civil Rights Movement sweep across the country led primarily by men of faith (Martin Luther King Jr. was a Reverend after all). Kennedy was surely not suggesting that Dr. King should shut up and sit down, and all you need to do to realize that is to actually read what he said:

I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute-where no Catholic prelate would tell the President (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishoners for whom to vote-where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference-and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him or the people who might elect him.

I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish-where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source-where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials-and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.

(….)

For while this year it may be a Catholic against whom the finger of suspicion is pointed, in other years it has been, and may someday be again, a Jew-or a Quaker-or a Unitarian-or a Baptist. It was Virginia’s harassment of Baptist preachers, for example, that helped lead to Jefferson’s statute of religious freedom. Today I may be the victim- -but tomorrow it may be you-until the whole fabric of our harmonious society is ripped at a time of great national peril.

Finally, I believe in an America where religious intolerance will someday end-where all men and all churches are treated as equal-where every man has the same right to attend or not attend the church of his choice-where there is no Catholic vote, no anti-Catholic vote, no bloc voting of any kind-and where Catholics, Protestants and Jews, at both the lay and pastoral level, will refrain from those attitudes of disdain and division which have so often marred their works in the past, and promote instead the American ideal of brotherhood.

What exactly is it about this message that almost made Rick Santorum vomit? Does he believe that politicians should take orders on how to vote from religious leaders? Does he believe that politicians should base their decisions on the rulings of religious bodies rather than their own conscience or what is best for the country? Does he disagree with the idea of eliminating religious intolerance? Instead of actually answering any of those questions yesterday, though, Santorum simply chose to lie about what it was the Kennedy said and continue with the tired old social conservative meme that religion is under attack in America, something that could not be further from the truth.

Moreover, if Kennedy’s speech in 1960 made Santorum personally ill, one wonders how he felt when Ronald Reagan said this to a Jewish group in 1984:

We in the United States, above all, must remember that lesson, for we were founded as a nation of openness to people of all beliefs. And so we must remain. Our very unity has been strengthened by our pluralism. We establish no religion in this country, we command no worship, we mandate no belief, nor will we ever. Church and state are, and must remain, separate. All are free to believe or not believe, all are free to practice a faith or not, and those who believe are free, and should be free, to speak of and act on their belief.

At the same time that our Constitution prohibits state establishment of religion, it protects the free exercise of all religions. And walking this fine line requires government to be strictly neutral. And government should not make it more difficult for Christians, Jews, Muslims, or other believing people to practice their faith. And that’s why, when the Connecticut Supreme Court struck down a statute — and you may not have heard about this; it was a statute protecting employees who observed the Sabbath. Well, our administration is now urging the United States Supreme Court to overturn the Connecticut Court decision. This is what I mean by freedom of religion, and that’s what we feel the Constitution intends.

(h/t to Ron Chusid for the link to this speech)

That’s not much different from what President Kennedy had said some twenty-four years before, and there’s really nothing radical about either President’s statement either. Unless you happen to be someone on the extreme wing of your party on this issue like Rick Santorum is and you’re engaged in what has actually been a decades long crusade to radically re-write American history:

The assertion over the past 30 years that the United States was created as a Christian nation, out of a Christian consensus, is factually and flatly false. No mention of God let alone Jesus—either explicit or euphemistic—appears in the Constitution, from the opening preamble to the final words of the 27th amendment, and in the Declaration of Independence, wherein it’s stated that people are endowed with unalienable rights, the word “Creator” wasn’t Thomas Jefferson just being lyrical. It was a semantic compromise arrived at among Jefferson, who believed in a God but had little use for organized religion, and who admired Jesus as a moral visionary but not as God’s Son; John Adams, who dismissed Judeo-Christianity’s contention of a Holy Trinity; and Benjamin Franklin, who publicly averred that the more arguments for God he heard, the greater his doubt grew. Thomas Paine, whose words rallied American revolutionists more than anyone’s except Jefferson’s, openly mocked Christianity: “What is it the New Testament teaches us? To believe that the Almighty committed debauchery with a woman engaged to be married. The belief of this debauchery is called faith.” Abraham Lincoln, who defined the American idea more profoundly than anyone since Jefferson, had to explain his lack of faith in his 1846 campaign for Congress, allowing in his wry fashion that if other people wanted to be Christians, it was OK with him. Lincoln’s speech is a matter of record as are Adams’ letters and Paine’s writings, and Jefferson authored a book about Jesus that can be ordered from Amazon. In the face of such widespread and accessible documentation, the insistence on a national Christian identity is Orwellian.

Another word for it would be a lie. Santourm, like Palin before him, is lying not just about what President Kennedy actually said on that September day in 1960 but also about the very history of the United States and the role of religion in public life. Don’t the Ten Commandments say something about not bearing false witness?

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Moosebreath says:

    The concept of separation of church and state also harkens back to the formation of the colonies. Many of the colonies (especially the Northern ones) were explicitly formed by people looking to get away from the established religion of where they came from, be they Puritans (Massachusetts), Catholics (Maryland), Quakers (Pennsylvania, which was later filled by Amish and Mennonites trying to escape from established churches in Germany) all trying to escape from the Church of England, or the first settlers of Connecticut and Rhode Island seeking to escape from Puritan Massachusetts.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  2. Hey Norm says:

    I applaud you for calling a mis-representation a mis-representation. I’d call it a lie. Tomato potato.

    “…both Santorum and Palin have a severe misunderstanding of the history of the creation of the United States, the Founders views on religion in politics, and what Kennedy was really saying in his speech…”

    Much of the media, as they are wont to do, are simply repeating what Santorum said without questioning the content. This NYTimes story doesn’t mention the fact that Santorums reading is flat out wrong.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/27/us/politics/santorum-makes-case-for-religion-in-public-sphere.html?_r=1
    Last month one of the editors of the Times caused a big stink when he asked if journalists should be “truth vigilantes”. I’d settle for some solid journalism for a change.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  3. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Funny post. When I saw the title I had a vision of Linda Blair’s character from “The Exorcist” projectile vomiting across the room.

    Then I read the quotes from Santorum. Pretty clear he was speaking emotionally but nonetheless figuratively and not literally grab the toilet and barf like you do after downing a fifth of vodka. Also pretty clear he wasn’t saying that the First Amendment makes him want to vomit, either projectile style or otherwise.

    Look, Santorum is a die hard Catholic. He’s a religious guy. In recent years his wife had a sick kid who’s not going to last and that’s pushed his religiosity to 11. The left’s intolerance of organized religion rubs him the wrong way. It pushes his buttons. Makes him a bit crazy. Causes him to spout angry rhetoric. Sometimes to let his emotions get the better of his best judgment. Sometimes to be a tad bit irrational. Sometimes to let his mouth write checks which the absolute 100% truth squad would not be able to cash. Does that sound familiar? Sound like anyone else you know…..??

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  4. Ron Beasley says:

    @Moosebreath: Not quite true of the Puritans – they were actually run out of England after their unpopular theocracy there fell and the monarchy returned.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  5. sam says:

    I’ve said this elsewhere, but I don’t think Santorum would have had any problem with Robert Drinan being kicked out of the public square.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  6. Moosebreath says:

    Ron,

    First, I am not sure why you think your comment contradicts my point. Can you clarify?

    That said, I think your timing is wrong. The Puritans came to Massachusetts circa 1630, well before Cromwell took power in the 1650’s.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  7. Hey Norm says:

    “…The left’s intolerance of organized religion…”

    I would say the left is overly tolerant of organized religion. The problem is that zealots want to press their religion on the rest of us.
    The Catholic Churches issue with contraception was not about everyones religious liberty…they had zero concern for employees who may have held a different religious view…it was about their liberty to press their religion on others.

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  8. legion says:

    @Tsar Nicholas:

    Makes him a bit crazy. Causes him to spout angry rhetoric. Sometimes to let his emotions get the better of his best judgment. Sometimes to be a tad bit irrational. Sometimes to let his mouth write checks which the absolute 100% truth squad would not be able to cash. Does that sound familiar? Sound like anyone else you know…..??

    It sounds like someone who has no business running for President.

    Also,

    The left’s intolerance of organized religion rubs him the wrong way.

    Wrong. There are plenty of liberals who are also devoutly religious, and your generalization here is insultingly incorrect. What Santorum wants to do is make _his_ religion _pre-eminent_, and that’s what the left is intolerant of.

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  9. Brummagem Joe says:

    @Ron Beasley:

    Not quite true of the Puritans – they were actually run out of England after their unpopular theocracy there fell and the monarchy returned.

    Not really. The restoration of Charles II was largely engineered by the puritan upper classes on the basis of amnesty for all except those that had signed Charles I death warrant and many of them subsequently became leading member of his court. The American plantations took place during persecutions of puritans during the reign of Charles I.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  10. de stijl says:

    Kennedy for the first time articulated the vision saying, ‘No, faith is not allowed in the public square. I will keep it separate.’ Go on and read the speech. ‘I will have nothing to do with faith. I won’t consult with people of faith.’ It was an absolutist doctrine that was abhorrent at the time of 1960.

    Technically, Santorum may not be lying. He truly believes heart-and-soul in what he is saying. The quote above is his honest takeaway from Kennedy’s speech. He even tells people to go read the speech in the belief that his assessment is correct and will be validated.

    I can grudgingly accept politicians lying to goose their campaigns.

    What Santorum is doing is much, much worse and infinitely chilling in a Presidential candidate: he believes his lies.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 1

  11. John Burgess says:

    @Moosebreath: Those Catholics who came to Maryland–below the Mason-Dixon Line–weren’t exactly Northerners, even if they had to don Yankee garb in the Civil War. They certainly were fleeing oppression, though…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  12. Brummagem Joe says:

    @Tsar Nicholas:

    The left’s intolerance of organized religion rubs him the wrong way.

    Another fantasy from one of our resident fantasists.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 2

  13. Gulliver says:

    Santorum and others misunderstand what the founding fathers intended when it comes to religion coming into the public square. So goes the claim. Backed up with much fanfare and even an accusation that Santorum lied. And not a single quote from the founding fathers to back up the assertion that Santorum is lying in his assertion that religion was never meant to be kept out of the public square.

    Why don’t you cite some sources from the founding fathers? Actually, in order to make the claim that Santorum is wrong, you need to show that the majority view among the founders was this idea of an “absolute” separation between church and state.

    But, of course, you can’t. So you rely – as usual – on your “consensus’ interpretation of what you claim to be their views.

    You can’t quote them because there are few statements – if any – from the founders that back up your point of view. Your view is purely a reconstructionist perspective. I wll absolutely guarantee you that for any quote you might offer from the founders there are a dozen which back up Santorum. Easily

    So, who, exacty is lying here. It is you.

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  14. Gulliver says:

    BTW Reagan disputes your claims in the very seech that you quote. Talk about ignoring the obvious.

    All are free to believe or not believe, all are free to practice a faith or not, and those who believe are free, and should be free, to speak of and act on their belief.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

  15. @Gulliver:

    How exactly does that dispute anything I’ve said?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  16. DRS says:

    @Gulliver:

    I wll absolutely guarantee you that for any quote you might offer from the founders there are a dozen which back up Santorum. Easily

    Okay. Prove it. Assume there’s one quote and then find 12 to refute it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  17. @Gulliver:

    I have included a number of such quotes in this post, which I will direct you to rather than reproducing the entire thing here.

    In the meantime, I look forward to your support for this statement:

    I wll absolutely guarantee you that for any quote you might offer from the founders there are a dozen which back up Santorum. Easily

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  18. PD Shaw says:

    Abraham Lincoln, who defined the American idea more profoundly than anyone since Jefferson, had to explain his lack of faith in his 1846 campaign for Congress, allowing in his wry fashion that if other people wanted to be Christians, it was OK with him. Lincoln’s speech is a matter of record

    Not quite. In an 1846 campaign bill to defend against charges made by his political opponent, a Methoidist preacher, Lincoln admitted he was not a member of a Church, not necessarily uncommon in the frontier. He denied the rumors that he was a “scoffer,” or had ever denied “the truth of the scriptures” or had insulted anyone’s religious belief. There is no speech where Lincoln says he lacked faith. And the campaign bill agrees that if he was a “scoffer,” people shouldn’t vote for him.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  19. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Gulliver:

    You can’t quote them because there are few statements – if any – from the founders that back up your point of view.

    Thomas Jefferson.

    “I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their 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.

    Idiot.

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  20. Once again, this is all explained by understanding that Santorum’s primary goal is to “save” this country from the heresy of Americanism:

    Coined in the nineteenth century, in Roman Catholic use the term Americanism referred to a group of related heresies which were defined as the endorsement of the separation of church and state. It was thought that these doctrines were held by and taught by many members of the Catholic hierarchy in the United States in the 1890s. Catholic leaders in the U.S. denied they held these views.[1]

    The Americanist heresy is characterized as an insistence upon individual initiative which the Vatican judged to be incompatible with what was considered to be a fundamental principle of Catholicism: obedience to authority. Moreover, the conservatives were anti-republicans who distrusted and disliked the democratic ideas that were dominant in America.[2][unreliable source?]

    Pope Leo XIII wrote against these ideas in his encyclical (Testem Benevolentiae Nostrae) to Cardinal James Gibbons. In 1898 Leo XIII lamented an America where church and state are “dissevered and divorced,” and wrote of his preference for a closer relationship between the Catholic Church and the State, along European lines[3].

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  21. anjin-san says:

    that means bringing everybody, people of faith and no faith, into the public square

    Of course. Just don’t try to use government to impose your religious beliefs on others, or claim that this county has a special alignment with any religion.

    I am more that a little tired of the endless whining by Santorum, Perry, and their fanboys about the imagined persecution of “people of faith”. If they want to tell themselves that they are the unique apple of God’s eye, they should do it outside of the public square. My faith tells me God values all life equally.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

  22. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: I forgot to add the link.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  23. Hey Norm says:

    I’m not clear why Santorum wants a bunch of child raping homosexuals in velvet robes and pointy hats to have a role in governing the Nation.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2

  24. WR says:

    @Tsar Nicholas: The Catholic church? Is that still around?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2

  25. David says:

    @Hey Norm: Can we make that child raping pedophiles instead?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  26. legion says:

    @David: Seconded. Indeed, if I recall my Abnormal Psych class, a significant majority of diagnosed/convicted pedophiles self-identify as heterosexual.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  27. Hey Norm says:

    @ David..
    Yes, a thousand times, yes.
    I apologize.

    “…I’m not clear why Santorum wants a bunch of child raping pedophiles in velvet robes and pointy hats to have a role in governing the Nation…”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  28. Hey Norm says:

    Interesting take on Santorum’s Theoconservatism by Sullivan:
    http://andrewsullivan.thedailybeast.com/2012/02/the-nausea-of-santorum.html

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  29. anjin-san says:

    people of faith and no faith

    Another troubling aspect of Santorum’s thinking. In our society, why do we need to call this out? Who decides what makes one a “person of faith?” Going to a church Santorum approves of? Are my spiritual beliefs invalid because I do not believe a book written long ago by church clerics to advance their own agenda represents the will of God?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  30. Gulliver says:

    @ Mataconis

    How does that dispute..?

    Seriously? Reagan affirms the protected right – supported by conservatives – to freely speak about religious beliefs. This means, according to the First Amendment, we have this right in every aspect of our lives, including the public and political aspects. Unless, of course, you think that ” freely speak of” should be appended by “unless you hold public office?” That caveat would be ridiculous. The idea that you have free speech about your religious beliefs but you should be castigated into giving up those rights when you are elected to be a leader, or are seeking election, is completely contrary to the whole definition of a “right.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 12

  31. Gulliver says:

    @ DRS

    Ok prove it.

    Do your own research. They are readily available.

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  32. @Gulliver:

    First, Reagan’s quote does not contradict anything Kennedy said in his 1960 speech.

    Second, Reagan’s quote does not support the perverted view of history that informs Santorum’s view of the First Amendment.

    Third, Reagan’s quote does not support in any way what Santorum said.

    I’m eagerly awaiting your plethora of quotes from the Founders supporting your position.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  33. Gulliver says:

    @ OzarkHillbilly

    Wow, you “found” the famous quote by Jefferson that all of you hang your entire hat on for the idea of”separation of church and state ” This of course means that you have proved Mataconis’ claim that the founding fathers intended an “absolute separation between church and state.”

    I am impressed beyond measure.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 13

  34. legion says:

    @Gulliver: And yet you have been unable to produce even a single one of your “dozen” pro-theocracy quotes.

    Further, to back up what Doug said, Reagan’s speech affirms something you and Santorum share in deliberately misunderstanding. Namely, that there is an enormous difference between “speak(ing) of” religion and imposing the doctrines of one particular sect of one particular religion on all citizens. You lose, sir.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  35. anjin-san says:

    Do your own research. They are readily available.

    In other words, you can’t support your own arguments. Run along Skippy…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  36. Gulliver says:

    @ Mataconis

    I have included a number of such quotes in this post, which I will direct you to rather than reproducing the entire thing here.

    In the meantime, I look forward to your support for this statement:

    I wll absolutely guarantee you that for any quote you might offer from the founders there are a dozen which back up Santorum. Easily

    First, the article you refer me to references only two founding fathers – John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. Of these two, you somewhat correctly state that Jefferson did not believe in a Creator who was involved in the affairs of men (he actually went back and forth on this throughout his writings). On the other hand, you claim Adams as a supportive example because he “signed a treaty which stated…” I’m sorry but the fact that he signed a treaty is not direct evidence that the treaty represented his personal beliefs. You’re an attorney, you know better than that.

    Please see quotes from Adams below along with the multitude of others which stand in direct contradiction of your take on the role the founding fathers thought religion should play in Government.

    JOHN ADAMS

    “Suppose a nation in some distant Region should take the Bible for their only law Book, and every member should regulate his conduct by the precepts there exhibited! Every member would be obliged in conscience, to temperance, frugality, and industry; to justice, kindness, and charity towards his fellow men; and to piety, love, and reverence toward Almighty God … What a Eutopia, what a Paradise would this region be.”
    –Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, Vol. III, p. 9.

    “The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity. I will avow that I then believed, and now believe, that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God.”
    –Adams wrote this on June 28, 1813, in a letter to Thomas Jefferson.

    We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion . . . Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
    -In speech to the Military 1798

    PATRICK HENRY

    “It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ. For this very reason peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of worship here.”
    –The Trumpet Voice of Freedom: Patrick Henry of Virginia, p. iii.

    THOMAS JEFFERSON

    “God who gave us life gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the Gift of God?
    –Notes on the State of Virginia, Query XVIII, p. 237.

    JOHN HANCOCK

    “Resistance to tyranny becomes the Christian and social duty of each individual. … Continue steadfast and, with a proper sense of your dependence on God, nobly defend those rights which heaven gave, and no man ought to take from us.”
    –History of the United States of America, Vol. II, p. 229.

    SAMUEL ADAMS

    “And as it is our duty to extend our wishes to the happiness of the great family of man, I conceive that we cannot better express ourselves than by humbly supplicating the Supreme Ruler of the world that the rod of tyrants may be broken to pieces, and the oppressed made free again;…”
    As Governor of Massachusetts, Proclamation of a Day of Fast, March 20, 1797.

    JOHN WITHERSPOON

    What follows from this? That he is the best friend to American liberty, who is most sincere and active in promoting true and undefiled religion, and who sets himself with the greatest firmness to bear down profanity and immorality of every kind.

    Whoever is an avowed enemy of God, I scruple not to call him an enemy of his country.”

    JAMES WILSON (Signer of the Constitution)

    Human law must rest its authority ultimately upon the authority of that law which is divine. . . . Far from being rivals or enemies, religion and law are twin sisters, friends, and mutual assistants.

    Mataconis, I can go on and on with this, but I think its pretty clear that even with the limited examples I have given here, my 7 trumps your one Jefferson. Particularly when you’re making a spurious claim that Jefferson was representative of the intent of the founding fathers as a group.

    Truly, you have no position to stand on other than the imaginations of your “consensus” opinion.

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  37. Kristin says:

    So Santorum wants Religion to be at the Government debate table but the Government absent from the Religious debate table. Very hypocritical!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  38. @Gulliver:

    There’s also a reference to statements made by the 10th President of the United States, John Tyler. Not a Founding Father per se, but a member of their generation.

    Additionally, I refer you to George Washington’s letter to a Hebrew Congregation in Rhode Island in 1790:

    The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy: a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.

    Additionally, the quotes you set forth provide no support at all for the contention that former Senator Santorum, and presumably you, makes that America is an explicitly a “Christian Nation,” whatever the heck that’s supposed to mean. In fact, it’s blindingly obvious that the Founders created a nation that was meant to be completely neutral on the subject of religion and in which people were free to believe what they wanted, or to reject the idea of a God as utter folly if they chose to do so.

    Thomas Jefferson put it best, I think:

    The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg. If it be said, his testimony in a court of justice cannot be relied on, reject it then, and be the stigma on him. Constraint may make him worse by making him a hypocrite, but it will never make him a truer man. It may fix him obstinately in his errors, but will not cure them. Reason and free enquiry are the only effectual agents against error. Give a loose to them, they will support the true religion, by bringing every false one to their tribunal, to the test of their investigation. They are the natural enemies of error, and of error only. Had not the Roman government permitted free enquiry, Christianity could never have been introduced. Had not free enquiry been indulged, at the aera of the reformation, the corruptions of Christianity could not have been purged away. If it be restrained now, the present corruptions will be protected, and new ones encouraged. Was the government to prescribe to us our medicine and diet, our bodies would be in such keeping as our souls are now. Thus in France the emetic was once forbidden as a medicine, and the potatoe as an article of food.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  39. PD Shaw says:

    @Gulliver: Here is a link to a Library of Congress presentation that discusses how the founders did not believe in an absolute seperation. Link.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  40. Ben Wolf says:

    QUOTE FIGHT!!!

    I cannot conceive otherwise than that He, the Infinite Father, expects or requires no worship or praise from us, but that He is even infinitely above it. — Benjamin Franklin, from Articles of Belief and Acts of Religion, Nov. 20, 1728

    I wish it (Christianity) were more productive of good works … I mean real good works … not holy-day keeping, sermon-hearing … or making long prayers, filled with flatteries and compliments despised by wise men, and much less capable of pleasing the Deity.— Benjamin Franklin, Works, Vol. VII, p. 75

    If we look back into history for the character of the present sects in Christianity, we shall find few that have not in their turns been persecutors, and complainers of persecution. The primitive Christians thought persecution extremely wrong in the Pagans, but practiced it on one another. The first Protestants of the Church of England blamed persecution in the Romish Church, but practiced it upon the Puritans. They found it wrong in Bishops, but fell into the practice themselves both there (England) and in New England.— Benjamin Franklin

    The clergy…believe that any portion of power confided to me [as President] will be exerted in opposition to their schemes. And they believe rightly: for I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man. But this is all they have to fear from me: and enough, too, in their opinion. —Thomas Jefferson to Benjamin Rush, 1800.

    In every country and every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot … they have perverted the purest religion ever preached to man into mystery and jargon, unintelligible to all mankind, and therefore the safer engine for their purpose. — Thomas Jefferson, to Horatio Spafford, March 17, 1814

    Is uniformity attainable? Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced an inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth. — Thomas Jefferson, from “Notes on Virginia”

    Shake off all the fears of servile prejudices, under which weak minds are servilely crouched. Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call on her tribunal for every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear. — Thomas Jefferson, letter to Peter Carr, Aug. 10, 1787

    It is too late in the day for men of sincerity to pretend they believe in the Platonic mysticisms that three are one, and one is three; and yet that the one is not three, and the three are not one. But this constitutes the craft, the power and the profit of the priests. — Thomas Jefferson to John Adams, 1803

    But a short time elapsed after the death of the great reformer of the Jewish religion, before his principles were departed from by those who professed to be his special servants, and perverted into an engine for enslaving mankind, and aggrandizing their oppressors in Church and State. — Thomas Jefferson to S. Kercheval, 1810

    History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance, of which their political as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purpose. — Thomas Jefferson to Baron von Humboldt, 1813

    On the dogmas of religion, as distinguished from moral principles, all mankind, from the beginning of the world to this day, have been quarreling, fighting, burning and torturing one another, for abstractions unintelligible to themselves and to all others, and absolutely beyond the comprehension of the human mind. — Thomas Jefferson to Carey, 1816

    What influence, in fact, have ecclesiastical establishments had on society? In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of the civil authority; on many instances they have been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny; in no instance have they been the guardians of the liberties of the people. Rulers who wish to subvert the public liberty may have found an established clergy convenient auxiliaries. A just government, instituted to secure and perpetuate it, needs them not. — James Madison, “A Memorial and Remonstrance”, 1785

    Experience witnesseth that ecclesiastical establishments, instead of maintaining the purity and efficacy of religion, have had a contrary operation. During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What has been its fruits? More or less, in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution. — James Madison, “A Memorial and Remonstrance”, 1785

    As I understand the Christian religion, it was, and is, a revelation. But how has it happened that millions of fables, tales, legends, have been blended with both Jewish and Christian revelation that have made them the most bloody religion that ever existed?” — John Adams, letter to F.A. Van der Kamp, Dec. 27, 1816

    I almost shudder at the thought of alluding to the most fatal example of the abuses of grief which the history of mankind has preserved–the Cross. Consider what calamities that engine of grief has produced! — John Adams, letter to Thomas Jefferson

    What havoc has been made of books through every century of the Christian era? Where are fifty gospels, condemned as spurious by the bull of Pope Gelasius? Where are the forty wagon-loads of Hebrew manuscripts burned in France, by order of another pope, because suspected of heresy? Remember the ‘index expurgatorius’, the inquisition, the stake, the axe, the halter and the guillotine. — John Adams, letter to John Taylor

    The priesthood have, in all ancient nations, nearly monopolized learning. And ever since the Reformation, when or where has existed a Protestant or dissenting sect who would tolerate A FREE INQUIRY? The blackest billingsgate, the most ungentlemanly insolence, the most yahooish brutality, is patiently endured, countenanced, propagated, and applauded. But touch a solemn truth in collision with a dogma of a sect, though capable of the clearest proof, and you will find you have disturbed a nest, and the hornets will swarm about your eyes and hand, and fly into your face and eyes. — John Adams, letter to John Taylor

    @ Gulliver: You owe us 196 quotes in support of Dominionism.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  41. @PD Shaw:

    Except it doesn’t really say that, and they put an Amendment in the Constitution that accomplished it anyway.

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  42. Gulliver says:

    @ Mataconis

    Additionally, the quotes you set forth provide no support at all for the contention that former Senator Santorum, and presumably you, makes that America is an explicitly a “Christian Nation,”

    Look, I really honestly am not trying to be rude here but the question that immediately rises to my mind is “Are you blind?”

    I re-submit excerpts from my above quotes (and those I offered are a very limited ample of the available quotes):

    PATRICK HENRY

    “It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

    JOHN ADAMS

    “The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity.”

    JEFFERSON

    “God who gave us life gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the Gift of God?

    JAMES WILSON

    Human law must rest its authority ultimately upon the authority of that law which is divine. . . . Far from being rivals or enemies, religion and law are twin sisters

    How do you even remotely reconcile the above statements with some notion that the founding fathers did not base our Declaration of Independence and Constitution (laws) on Judeo-Christian values, morals, and precepts?

    Also, you make a point about your quoting of early forefathers – rather than founders – in support of your position. I distinctly stayed away from those quotes and – truly – were I to include quotes from Washington, John Jay (First Supreme Court Justice), Noah Webster, and many other early Presidents / Politicians, it weakens your position even more drastically.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 8

  43. Ben Wolf says:

    Oh yes,

    The bell ringing for church, we went thither immediately, and with hearts full of gratitude, returned sincere thanks to God for the mercies we had received: were I a Roman Catholic, perhaps I should on this occasion vow to build a chapel to some saint, but as I am not, if I were to vow at all, it should be to build a light-house. — Benjamin Franklin in a letter to his wife on 17 July 1757.

    All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian, or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit. —Thomas Paine in “The Age of Reason.”

    @ Gulliver: That brings your total quotation debt to 220. Get to work.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  44. Gulliver says:

    @ Ben Wolf

    Wow.. Lots and lots of quotes from one man to try and make a point that he represented the personal views of the founders and forefathers.

    Hmmmm, what’s wrong with this picture…?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 6

  45. Gulliver,

    How many more general, non-specific quotes are you going to throw at me?

    There’s really only one that matters:


    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof

    What you and the defeated-by-16-points former Senator from Pennsylvania cannot accept are the reality of the words, which mean that you cannot have the Christianist Theocracy you so obviously desire.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  46. Brummagem Joe says:

    This is la la land….what are the establishment and free exercise clauses. And most of the leading founding fathers were unquestionably rationalists no matter what they may have occasionally said in political speeches or documents to satisfy their more simple followers.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  47. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Gulliver:

    Wow, you “found” the famous quote by Jefferson that all of you hang your entire hat on for the idea of”separation of church and state ” This of course means that you have proved Mataconis’ claim that the founding fathers intended an “absolute separation between church and state.”

    I am impressed beyond measure.

    No Gulliver, I did not “find” anything. What I did do is prove the absolute utter indiocy of anyone who would say,

    You can’t quote them because there are few statements – if any – from the founders that back up your point of view.

    (my em)

    and I did it in less than 30 seconds. If you were even half as intelligent as you think you are, it would have taken me more like 5 minutes.

    I say again: Idiot.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  48. Ben Wolf says:

    As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion,—as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen,—and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries. —Treaty of Tripoli, negotiated by President Adams and unanimously ratified by the Senate

    @ Gulliver: Find me a legal document stating the United States was founded upon Christianity, because I have one that says it wasn’t. Actually, find me twelve.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  49. PD Shaw says:

    @Doug Mataconis: I know you are aware that the First Amendment only applied to the federal government for the first four score or so years.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  50. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Ben Wolf:

    QUOTE FIGHT!!!

    Line of the day.

    Heehee, Heeheehahaha.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  51. PD Shaw says:

    @Ben Wolf: All I’ve read Gulliver assert is that the founders didn’t believe in an absolute seperation of church and state. I think that’s true. The friction of ideas and new people have led to changing notions. I don’t believe the U.S. Supreme Court has ever endorsed the “absolute seperation of church and state” notion, its not workable; they are just concerned about establishment and religious liberty.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  52. PD,

    Yes, then we had something called the 14th Amendment

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  53. anjin-san says:

    I think we can summarize Gulliver’s position, and move on. In a nutshell – “I’ve read the words of the founding fathers, I simply don’t understand them.”

    Can we talk about music, or cars, or hot chicks now?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  54. Ben Wolf says:

    @PD Shaw: Gulliver has also asserted that the Constitution and Declaration of Independence were divinely inspired by Jesus, his dad and their undead uncle, and that we can’t deny this. I beg to differ with him/her.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  55. Gulliver says:

    @ Ben Wolff

    “Find me a legal document stating the United States was founded upon Christianity, because I have one that says it wasn’t. ”

    Of course, all of you are completely correct. The words “endowed by their Creator” really referenced the leftover tuna sandwich that Franklin allowed to spoil on the windowsill. How could I possibly have thought that the document referenced the Christian God of the Bible.

    Someday, if I try really hard, maybe I can be as intellectual as all of you. Until then, wow. You guys just overpowered me with reason and overwhelming examples in support of your position.

    My lame parting shot is not even mine – I had to steal it from Patrick Henry:

    “It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ. For this very reason peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of worship here.”

    You guys just rock…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 8

  56. JohnMcC says:

    From the Treaty with the Bey of Tripoli, signed by George Washington and ratified, of course, by a Senate chock full of ‘Founders’ of whom the ‘President of the Senate’ was John Adams:

    As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion, — as it has in itself no character of emnity against the Laws, Religion or Tranquility of Musselmen…

    It was negotiated by a protoge of Jefferson’s named Joel Barlow who was appointed by Washington.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  57. Brummagem Joe says:

    @PD Shaw:

    I don’t believe the U.S. Supreme Court has ever endorsed the “absolute seperation of church and state” notion, its not workable; they are just concerned about establishment and religious liberty.

    In 1878, the Supreme Court was first called to interpret the extent of the Free Exercise Clause in Reynolds v. United States, as related to the prosecution of polygamy under federal law. The Supreme Court upheld Reynolds’ conviction for bigamy, deciding that to do otherwise would provide constitutional protection for a gamut of religious beliefs, including those as extreme as human sacrifice. The Court said (at page 162): “Congress cannot pass a law for the government of the Territory which shall prohibit the free exercise of religion. The first amendment to the Constitution expressly forbids such legislation.” Of federal territorial laws, the Court said: “Laws are made for the government of actions, and while they cannot interfere with mere religious beliefs and opinions, they may with practices.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  58. Brummagem Joe says:

    @Gulliver:

    My lame parting shot is not even mine – I had to steal it from Patrick Henry:

    Having been proved full of it the giant of Lilliput departs

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  59. JohnMcC says:

    @Ben Wolf: My dear Mr Wolf, I see I was late to the dance with that wonderful preamble to the 1796 Treaty. Well done, sir.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  60. Ben Wolf says:

    @Gulliver: The Declaration of Independence is not a legal document in any sense binding upon the United States. I guess you didn’t know that.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  61. @Gulliver:

    There are two problems here:
    1. Your interpretation of many of these quotes runs afoul of an undistributed middle fallacy. If someone says that Christians like ham sandwhiches, that does not mean that everyone who eats ham sandwhiches must be Christian, nor does it mean ham sandwhiches are Christian Ham Sandwhiches.
    2. Many of the states at the time had religious tests for public office. Therefore when we see said public officials making relgious pronouncements, one must wonder whether these are sincere statements of their beliefs, or political pandering. Certainly Jefferson and Franklin in particular seemed to have been far more religious in their public personas than they were in their private writings.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  62. anjin-san says:

    The words “endowed by their Creator”

    Mean just that. Not “endowed by the Christian God.”

    Trying to talk about the ideas of the founding fathers with wingnuts is about a rewarding as discussing string theory with my cat…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  63. David M says:

    @Ben Wolf:

    Gulliver Mitt Romney has also asserted that the Constitution and Declaration of Independence were divinely inspired by Jesus, his dad and their undead uncle

    FIFY

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  64. PD Shaw says:

    @Stormy Dragon: “Many of the states at the time had religious tests for public office.”

    Bingo, and thus the range of discussion on the national stage is quite narrow. It has Washington declaring days of thanks, and Jefferson rejecting them, but still using religious worship services in government buildings to communicate the importance of religious virtue in republican government.

    To know what the founders thought about the relationship between church and state prior to the 14th Amendment, we have to look at the state level. Which is not to argue for religious tests in office or the use of public education to indoctrinate the population against Romanism.

    Certainly Jefferson and Franklin in particular seemed to have been far more religious in their public personas than they were in their private writings.

    There appears to be a concern across several generations here that republicanism will fail without a moral compass, it will degenerate into pure self-interest and destruction, probably following a line from Plato. Thus, I think even the most skeptical tended to believe religious values have a public importance beyond their person. I don’t think this is purely hypocrisy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  65. Brummagem Joe says:

    @PD Shaw:

    Thus, I think even the most skeptical tended to believe religious values have a public importance beyond their person.

    Or they like many present day politicians were willing to pander to religionists. A much more likely possibility.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  66. Brummagem Joe says:

    @PD Shaw:

    I know you are aware that the First Amendment only applied to the federal government for the first four score or so years.

    So why was the supreme court citing it in 1878?

    The Court said (at page 162): “Congress cannot pass a law for the government of the Territory which shall prohibit the free exercise of religion. The first amendment to the Constitution expressly forbids such legislation.”

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  67. An Interested Party says:

    Sound like anyone else you know…..??

    Yeah, the person who typed this question…

    Those Catholics who came to Maryland–below the Mason-Dixon Line–weren’t exactly Northerners, even if they had to don Yankee garb in the Civil War.

    Call them whatever you like, they fought on the right side…

    By the way, for those who don’t mind some mingling of religion and government, I guess they wouldn’t mind if the religion was Islam? Or is that mingling only reserved for Christianity?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  68. PD Shaw says:

    @Brummagem Joe: The first amendment initially only governed federal government. The 1878 Supreme Court case involved a federal law, not a state law. In fact, Lincoln signed the anti-bigamy law after reading the Book of Mormon. The SCOTUS ruled that the federal government had not violated the First Amendment in banning bigamy.

    The First Amendment was made applicable to the states by a Supreme Court ruling in 1947. Prior to that, the extent to which the states were bound by the Bill of Rights due to the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment (1868) was disputed.

    That is to say, even after the 1830s when Massachusetts still had a state religion, it was conceivably possible for them to have continued to have one until 1947. The reality has been that politics requires coalition building and such efforts were doomed to fail in time.

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  69. PD Shaw says:

    Bad link, it was intended to go to Everson v. Board of Education.

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  70. Carson says:

    For a thoughtful, timely, and succinct essay on this and other subjects, go to albertmohler.com – Santorum Predicament

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  71. MBunge says:

    @Brummagem Joe: “Or they like many present day politicians were willing to pander to religionists.”

    “Religionists”?

    Mike

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  72. jukeboxgrad says:

    gulliver:

    My lame parting shot is not even mine – I had to steal it from Patrick Henry:

    “It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ. For this very reason peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of worship here.”

    That quote is not just “lame.” It’s phony. See here and here.

    Certain Christians have a known track record of inventing and spreading phony quotes (link). Google this…

    david barton phony quotes

    … for more about that.

    You are, either intentionally or not, participating in that effort. So all your quotes should be considered suspect until you provide reliable citations.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  73. matt says:

    @Ben Wolf: Damned you as I was scrolling through the messages I thought I was going to have a chance to quote that one :(

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  74. anjin-san says:

    @ jukeboxgrad

    So Gulliver is full of it?

    Wow. Never saw that coming.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  75. ernieyeball says:

    So Ricky Dink would hurl for Jesus? Looks like he’s too late!

    http://www.newsmutiny.com/pages/World/JesusBarf.htm

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  76. Brummagem Joe says:

    @PD Shaw:

    The First Amendment was made applicable to the states by a Supreme Court ruling in 1947. Prior to that, the extent to which the states were bound by the Bill of Rights due to the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment (1868) was disputed.

    Disputed maybe but hardly a dead letter. And as you now say applicable. So what’s the relevance of all these attempts to read the minds of the founding fathers?

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  77. Brummagem Joe says:

    @MBunge:

    “Religionists”?

    What word would you prefer?

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  78. Rob in CT says:

    I thought it odd that Patrick Henry would’ve used the word “religionists.” It didn’t sound right at all.

    Heh.

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  79. PD Shaw says:

    @jukeboxgrad: I agree that a lot of quotes are made up. The Steve Erickson story about Lincoln giving a speech in 1846 about his lack of faith appears to be made up.

    If your writing an article for a publication about how your opponents make up history, wouldn’t you be more careful? I really can’t find what 1846 speech he’s talking about, and it would have been completely out of character for Lincoln to say he was a non-believer. That’s why people write prize-winning books trying to figure out what he believed.

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  80. PD Shaw says:

    I don’t know what Patrick Henry said or didn’t. I do know that he was an ardent supporter of maintaining the established church of Virginia, gave speeches about the importance of Christianity to Republican virtue, and his opponent, James Madison’s most effective critique was that establishment is not Christian. (Notice that the link, to an atheist site, recognizes that Madison got Henry elected governor to neutralize him on establishment)

    I would simply say some of the founding generation believed as Patrick Henry, some believed as James Madison, and the split was probably pretty even, but varied from state to state.

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  81. Brummagem Joe says:

    @PD Shaw:

    I would simply say some of the founding generation believed as Patrick Henry, some believed as James Madison, and the split was probably pretty even, but varied from state to state.

    There’s also the question of relative importance. Patrick Henry wasn’t quite in the same league as Madison, Franklin or Jefferson.

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  82. mattb says:

    @PD Shaw:

    I would simply say some of the founding generation believed as Patrick Henry, some believed as James Madison, and the split was probably pretty even, but varied from state to state.

    This is really the core of it. There was no single religious profile of the Founding Fathers. There were Christians of a variety of sects, Deists, and even the occasional agnostic and atheist.

    A minority supported making this a Christian government, but for each of them you can find another founding father who rejected a “hard” integration of Church and State. Take for example some of Franklin’s (a deist, but not a Christian) final words on faith:

    I see no harm, however, in [Christianity] being believed, if that belief has the good consequences, as probably it has, of making [Jesus’] doctrines more respected and more observed; especially as I do not perceive that the Supreme takes it amiss, by distinguishing the unbelievers in his government of the world with any peculiar marks of his displeasure.

    That last sentence is particularly important as Franklin notes that (a) non-Christians are already involved in governing, and (b) that the divine see’s no problem with this.

    Ultimately, I find it somewhat ironic that the likes of Gulliver who currently have their panties in a knot about JKF’s speech would probably have been the same ones who got their panties in a knot back in the 60’s about the Pope ruling over the White House.

    Likewise these are the same type of people who, just a few years ago, got so upset about the idea of consulting foreign law to help in the crafting of US legal decisions.

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  83. MBunge says:

    @Brummagem Joe: “What word would you prefer?”

    Something that doesn’t feel like it was spit out in disgust?

    Mike

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  84. MBunge says:

    @mattb: “This is really the core of it. There was no single religious profile of the Founding Fathers. There were Christians of a variety of sects, Deists, and even the occasional agnostic and atheist.”

    But for all of that, the Founders grew up and existed in a world that was far more steeped in religion than what we have today. They were in no way equivalent to today’s secularists. The fact that the U.S. went over 150 years with school prayer and the 1st Amendment peacefully co-existing is some of the evidence for that.

    Mike

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  85. Brummagem Joe says:

    @MBunge:

    Something that doesn’t feel like it was spit out in disgust?

    I have no problems with religionists per se, after all I’m married to one. It’s only when they start attempting to impose their agenda on the rest of us and inventing all kinds of suspect precedents for so doing.

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  86. mattb says:

    @Brummagem Joe: Trying to rank the Founders in terms of importance seems to me to be a problematic task for a variety of reasons. Even among the “first stringers” trying to sort them out is rather subjective, especially as the entire founding took place over a long time. And we know that at different times the founders levels of direct and indirect influence waxed and waned.

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  87. Brummagem Joe says:

    @mattb:

    Even among the “first stringers” trying to sort them out is rather subjective,

    It might be difficult sorting out the first stringers but separating the first and second stringers isn’t that hard and Henry was definitely in the back row whereas the three I mentioned were all unquestionably in the first rank both at the time and viewed through the longer view of history because of the size of their intellectual contribution.

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  88. mattb says:

    @MBunge:

    They were in no way equivalent to today’s secularists. The fact that the U.S. went over 150 years with school prayer and the 1st Amendment peacefully co-existing is some of the evidence for that.

    Completely correct. Times, culture, and population changes. We went nearly a century with Slavery, and nearly 150 years without women having the vote, and more than 150 with some degree of institutionalize segregation. No one is suggesting that we should go back to those times.

    But beyond that, pretending that this was somehow a minority of whiners (or liberals) ruining things for everyone ignores the history an pragmatics around these decisions.

    On the topic of school prayer, it’s important to historicize this in two ways.

    One is to remember that, generally speaking, the country transitioned from religious based schooling to public schooling beginning during the second half of the nineteenth century and moving into the twentieth.

    Two, is that there have always been challenges to living in a multi-faith (even when its just denominations of the same faith) environment. By the late 1800’s you begin to see the beginnings of challenges to a single mode of religious worship/definition of Christianity (see 1890 when Catholics in Wisconsin getting a court ruling against the reading of the King James Version of the bible which they saw as being too tied to a single faith system – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edgerton_Bible_Case )

    That sets up the eventual problem — the choice of either meeting the needs of all faiths represented in the populace or choosing to stop mandating the practice.

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  89. mattb says:

    @Brummagem Joe:

    Henry was definitely in the back row

    Perhaps in terms of writings. But as to the real political effect he had on the overall process — for example his role in leading Virginia’s opposition to the Constitution which, in turn, lead to the bill of rights — it seems a bit of a stretch to suggest he’s a back row FF.

    In that respect, one could argue he had far more direct influence on the overall process than say Thomas Paine.

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  90. Brummagem Joe says:

    @mattb:

    I guess this is something we’ll have to disagree on.

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  91. mattb says:

    @Brummagem Joe: Which is cool.

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  92. tyndon clusters says:

    The difference between the founding fathers and gulliver/santorum/modern christian zealots is simple:
    when the founders had a chance to create a national religion and christian state they didn’t.
    If santorum or gulliver were given the chance to do so they would.

    End of debate. End of story.No need for quotes.

    Gulliver and santorum are fringe christian wack jobs…who would create in America, the western version of sharia law in a muslim theocracy

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  93. Richard Callicott says:

    @Hey Norm: The current popular thought in America that conservative religious groups are out of step with the times regarding mandatory funding of birth control is really an issue of declining values in America. Birth control is a well-established Church doctrine (See http://www.catholic.com/tracts/birth-control) and because the Catholic Church has not lowered its standard of biblical teaching does not mean it is out of step with popular thought, but rather popular thought is out of step with Church doctrine; regardless of who or what group practices birth control within and outside the various religious institutions.
    These doctrines are further protected by the US Constitutions, Bill of Rights. There simply should be no such mandate to force funding of birth control, nor any argument supporting the mandate. Today, it may be infringement on religious liberties, tomorrow on free speech; in which case we may not have the opportunity to discuss such differences.

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  94. An Interested Party says:

    The current popular thought in America that conservative religious groups are out of step with the times regarding mandatory funding of birth control is really an issue of declining values in America.

    Ahh, so the use of birth control is a sign of declining values? Pardon me if I don’t take such a view seriously, as it is probably only held by religious and supposedly moral zealots…

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  95. WR says:

    @An Interested Party: Fortunately, you don’t need birth control if your sexual act of choice is raping young boys, so the church is okay on moral grounds.

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  96. An Interested Party says:

    @WR: While some might take your comment as a cheap shot, it is interesting that the Catholic bishops seemed to have exhibited far more weeping and gnashing of teeth about a government mandate concerning birth control than they did over the sexual abuse against children committed by priests and others in their Church…

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