Monday, May 21, 2007


Theocratic Crusades Against The Constitution and Freedom of Religion

By BibleBelted and ThomasPaine

You really have to give our beloved Theocrats credit. When they decide to take the wrong side in an argument they don't go half way. When they decide to rewrite history they don't only go half way. Not only do they recast Founding Fathers such as James Madison and Thomas Jefferson as proponents of a Christian Republic. They also embrace the losing side of the church-state argument as it took lace in the late 18th and early 19th Centuries.

James Madison Defeats Patrick Henry

"While it is certainly true that John Adams and Patrick Henry were in favor of established faiths in their respective states of Massachusetts's and Virginia, the truth of the matter is that in the long run their argument, the idea of established churches in the various colonies, was already a losing proposition by the end of the 18th Century. More reasonable ideas, ( i.e. the Separation of Church and State and the disestablishment of state churches) had already been argued by the likes of Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and George Mason even before the Framers met in Philadelphia to rewrite the woefully inadequate Articles of Confederation.

Patrick Henry, for the record, clearly came down on the establishment side. In 1784 he introduced the "Bill Establishing a Provision for Teaches of the Christian Religion." This, as one might expect is a provision that contemporary Theocrats would find quite enjoyable. in that it required all people in the State of Virginia to "pay a moderate tax or contribution annually for the support of the Christian Religion, or of some Christian Church, denomination, or communion of Christians, or some form of Christian worship." [1]

In some ways it was more tolerant than what he Puritans had established in the 17th Century in that it allowed the citizens to select which denomination they would support, but James Madison still found the provision dangerous and obnoxious. Madison fought the bill via procedural maneuvers until 1875 when he Virginia House of Delegates introduced another bill. This bill was even more serious, more repressive, in that it would have made the Episcopal Church the official Church of the State of Virginia. At this point Madison rove himself a shrewd politician. Madison threw is support behind the establishment bill because a) he knew that the people of Virginia were not in favor of establishing the Episcopal Church and b) he considered Henry's bill more dangerous. Madison knew what he was doing. Within two years the establishment bill was repealed. During this time Madison penned the Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments.[2] In addition, Madison, also helped Patrick Henry in a successful attempt to become the governor of Virginia, a move on Madison's part which removed the eloquent Henry from a speaking position on the floor of the House of Delegates.
The Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom

Nor was Madison finished. Having defeated the Henry Bill Madison then resurrected Thomas Jefferson's "Bill for Religious Freedom." Originating from 1777, the bill declared that "No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever." Now Known as the "Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, the measure passed the Virginia House of Delegates in January 1786. [3] Not an especially long Bill, it reads as follows:

"Whereas Almighty God hath created the mind free; that all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burthens, or by civil incapacitation's, tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and are a departure from the plan of the Holy author of our religion, who being Lord both of body and mind, yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as it was in his Almighty power to do; that the impious presumption of legislators and rulers, civil as well as ecclesiastical, who being themselves but fallible and uninspired men, have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible, and as such endeavouring to impose them on others, hath established and maintained false religions over the greatest part of the world, and through all time; that to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves, is sinful and tyrannical; that even the forcing him to support this or that teacher of his own religious persuasion, is depriving him of the comfortable liberty of giving his contributions to the particular pastor, whose morals he would make his pattern, and whose powers he feels most persuasive to righteousness, and is withdrawing from the ministry those temporary rewards, which proceeding from an approbation of their personal conduct, are an additional incitement to earnest and unremitting labours for the instruction of mankind; that our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry; that therefore the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him an incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages to which in common with his fellow-citizens he has a natural right; that it tends only to corrupt the principles of that religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing with a monopoly of worldly honours and emoluments, those who will externally profess and conform to it; that though indeed these are criminal who do not withstand such temptation, yet neither are those innocent who lay the bait in their way; that to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion, and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency, is a dangerous fallacy, which at once destroys all religious liberty, because he being of course judge of that tendency will make his opinions the rule of judgment, and approve or condemn the sentiments of others only as they shall square with or differ from his own; that it is time enough for the rightful purposes of civil government, for its officers to interfere when principles break out into overt acts against peace and good order; and finally, that truth is great and will prevail if left to herself, that she is the proper and sufficient antagonist to error, and has nothing to fear from the conflict, unless by human interposition disarmed of her natural weapons, free argument and debate, errors ceasing to be dangerous when it is permitted freely to contradict them: "Be it enacted by the General Assembly, That no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish enlarge, or affect their civil capacities. "And though we well know that this assembly elected by the people for the ordinary purposes of legislation only, have no power to restrain the acts of succeeding assemblies, constituted with powers equal to our own, and that therefore to declare this act to be irrevocable would be of no effect in law; yet we are free to declare, and do declare, that the rights hereby asserted are of the natural rights of mankind, and that if any act shall be hereafter passed to repeal the present, or to narrow its operation, such act shall be an infringement of natural right." [4]

That of course raises the obvious question. Why would Jefferson and Madison want to disestablish the Episcopal Church in Virginia? The answer is obvious. The Church of England, the Episcopal Church, had become tyrannical. In 1705 the Virgina Assembly decreed that if any "person brought up in the Christian religion denies the being of God, or the Trinity, or asserts there are more Gods than one, or denies the Christian religion to be true, or the scriptures to be of divine authority, he is punishable on the first offense by incapacity to hold any office or employment ecclesiastical, civil, or military."[5] There were additional punishments for a second offense. A father could lose guardianship of his son, said son being removed from the father's custody and placed with individuals who were more devout in their belief.

Of course you can hear the modern day Theocrats crying out that Thomas Jefferson was not a Framer of the Constitution, that he was in Paris during the summer of 1787 when the new Constitution was being drafted, but that argument falls flat on at least two counts. First, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison were in constant correspondence on this and many other issues. Second, Jefferson and Madison were like minded on the issue. Both firmly believed in the disestablishment of state churches. Indeed, Jefferson believed that disestablishment, the separation of church and state, was the means by which one protected freedom of religion. At the same time one can almost hear Theocrats of every stripe crying out that that the Statute uses the words Almighty God and Holy Author. Indeed it does. But our indefatigable Theocrats use the same argument about the Declaration of Independence. And in both cases their arguments are irrelevant. You must have to remember that Thomas Jefferson was not a Christian in the sense that many modern day Americans would understand the term. Thomas Jefferson was a deist, and as such he did not believe that Christ was divine. Rather, he believed that God had created and wound up the universe as if it were a great, watch or clock, and then sat back to watch the universe play out according to nature's rules and forces. As for Jesus:

"But he produced his little book...the Life and Morals of Jesus, printed for his own use and for a few family members and friends. He continued to to to pin down his religious beliefs. He became convinced that early Christianity most closely resembled;ed Unitarians of the early 19th Century and fund that his concept of God most closely resembled theirs. After stripping away the accretions of time since the first century, he found a simple and moral Jesus." [6]

Translated into modern English. he stripped out the virgin birth, the miracles, the resurrection and ascension, to reflect his belief in a fully human Jesus.

As for Jefferson's Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom, it went on to become the model for the First Amendment Religion Claus in Federal Constitution

The Enigma of John Adams: Unitarian and Establishmentarian Not What Our Theocrats Would Find Acceptable

"Adams was raised a Congregationalist, but ultimately rejected many fundamental doctrines of conventional Christianity, such as the Trinity and the divinity of Jesus, becoming a Unitarian. In his youth, Adams' father urged him to become a minister, but Adams refused, considering the practice of law to be a more noble calling. Although he once referred to himself as a "church going animal," Adams' view of religion overall was rather ambivalent: He recognized the abuses, large and small, that religious belief lends itself to, but he also believed that religion could be a force for good in individual lives and in society at large. His extensive reading (especially in the classics), led him to believe that this view applied not only to Christianity, but to all religions. "Adams was aware of (and wary of) the risks, such as persecution of minorities and the temptation to wage holy wars, that an established religion poses. Nonetheless, he believed that religion, by uniting and morally guiding the people, had a role in public life. " [7]

And yet there were moments when Adams openly condemned the Christian Religion for its intolerance. At the age of eighty Adams, as a delegate in a state convention designed to revise the Constitution of Massachusetts, found at the center of a debase over an amendment which would have guaranteed complete and religious freedom for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. According to Adams, who believed that all were equal in the eyes of God, it was only logical to give the people the right to worship God as they saw fit. This included people of the Jewish faith. In a letter to Mordecai Noah, a New York editor, Adams wrote:

"I have had occasion to be acquainted with several gentlemen of your nation and to transact business with some of them, whom I found to be men of good liberal minds, as much as honor, probity, generosity, and good breeding as any I have known in any sear of religion or philosophy. "I wish your nation to be admitted to all privileges of citizens in every country in the world. This country has done much, I wish it may do more, and annual every narrow idea in religion, government, and commerce." [8]

Jefferson, of course could not have been more pleased, rejoicing in his friend's effort on behalf of the "advance of liberalism." Regrettably, the measure failed to pass, and Adams, in a letter to Jefferson maintained that he (Adams) had "Boggled and blundered more than a young fellow just rising to speak at the bar." That said, Adams complained privately that he regretted the "the intolerance of Christians" [9] On a somewhat separate note that both Adams and Jefferson had no qualms about using the word liberal. Despite what the far right would tell us today the Founders were often among the most liberal individuals of their day, the word liberal being used proudly, not as an attack phrase to denigrate political opponents ion smear campaigns. In other words, this country is based on liberal ideals, not theocratic delusions. As for Adams, while the above example may paint him as the epitome of an enlightened free thinker, it should also be remembered that he believed in state established churches, and that his idea of an established church looked suspiciously more like his own brand of Unitarianism than it did mainstream Christianity.

The upshot to all of this is that in addition to recasting the Framers into fanatical, Christian Theocrats, the religious fanatics of our time are also presenting the losing argument of established state religion as the winning arguments. They not only present a distorted picture of the free thinking founders such as Jefferson, Madison, Paine, and others, who they would recast as obsessive religious fanatics; they don't have have an accurate picture of those whose names they would use to further the cause of theocracy and established religion.

In some cases they take early statements by Madison and present those statements of the mature James Madison. They maintain that early in his career, Madison supported the ideas of state supported Chaplains and the punishment of Sabbath breakers. Or they point out that at another point in his career, Madison supported the idea of an established Anglican Church. But what they fail to point out is that these were early attitudes which Madison outgrew and eventually recognized such beliefs as tyrannical and would ultimately evolve into a fully evolved separatist. In a similar vein Madison also declared days of prayer and fasting, but here again, in his mature years, Madison believed that such measures were unconstitutional [10]

In his Detached Memoranda, Madison specifically takes these issues to task. In many ways it is almost as if he foresaw the danger that future theocrats might pose to the freedom and the republic:

"The Constitution of the U. S. forbids everything like an establishment of a national religion. The law appointing Chaplains establishes a religious worship for the national representatives, to be performed by Ministers of religion, elected by a majority of them; and these are to be paid out of the national taxes. Does not this involve the principle of a national establishment, applicable to a provision for a religious worship for the Constituent as well as of the representative Body, approved by the majority, and conducted by Ministers of religion paid by the entire nation. "The establishment of the chaplainship to Congs is a palpable violation of equal rights, as well as of Constitutional principles: The tenets of the chaplains elected [by the majority] shut the door of worship agst the members whose creeds & consciences forbid a participation in that of the majority. To say nothing of other sects, this is the case with that of Roman Catholics & Quakers who have always had members in one or both of the Legislative branches. Could a Catholic clergyman ever hope to be appointed a Chaplain? To say that his religious principles are obnoxious or that his sect is small, is to lift the evil at once and exhibit in its naked deformity the doctrine that religious truth is to be tested by numbers. or that the major sects have a right to govern the minor. "If Religion consist in voluntary acts of individuals, singly, or voluntarily associated, and it be proper that public functionaries, as well as their Constituents shd discharge their religious duties, let them like their Constituents, do so at their own expence. How small a contribution from each member of Congs wd suffice for the purpose? How just wd it be in its principle? How noble in its exemplary sacrifice to the genius of the Constitution; and the divine right of conscience? Why should the expence of a religious worship be allowed for the Legislature, be paid by the public, more than that for the Ex. or Judiciary branch of the Govt "Were the establishment to be tried by its fruits, are not the daily devotions conducted by these legal Ecclesiastics, already degenerating into a scanty attendance, and a tiresome formality? "Rather than let this step beyond the landmarks of power have the effect of a legitimate precedent, it will be better to apply to it the legal aphorism de minimis non curat lex: or to class it cum "maculis quas aut incuria fudit, aut humana parum cavit natura." "Better also to disarm in the same way, the precedent of Chaplainships for the army and navy, than erect them into a political authority in matters of religion. The object of this establishment is seducing; the motive to it is laudable. But is it not safer to adhere to a right principle, and trust to its consequences, than confide in the reasoning however specious in favor of a wrong one." [11]*
In closing, Part II one additional thought must be expressed. When the Radical Theocractic Right presents "facts" claiming to support the idea that our Framers wanted to establish a Christian Republic they are in fact playing loose and free with the facts. All too often they take statements out of context, or relay--as in the case of Madison--u[upon statements which do not reflect the vast majority of other letters or documents which do not support the Christian Republic point of view. In short they have engaged in the worst kind of prevarication. They have incorporated just enough truth into their big lie to make their arguments resonate with the American people. As mentioned above, their tactics and rhetoric reveal either an ignorance about the history of our Secular Republic and Church/State Separation, or a willingness to tell whatever combination of truth, half truths, and outright prevarication to promote their very repressive and very Anti-American Agenda.


[1] From: Why the Religious Right is Wrong About Separation of Church and State
Pages 58-60
By Robert Boston
Published by Prometheus Books
Copyright 1993 by Robert Boston

[2] From: WE THE PEOPLE: Religious Freedom Page

[3 ] From: Why the Religious Right is Wrong About Separation of Church and State
Pages 60-61
By Robert Boston
Published by Prometheus Books.
Copyright 1993 Robert Boston

[4] From: Project for Global Democracy and Human Rights
From: Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom

[5] From: Thomas Jefferson, A Strange Case of Mistaken Identity
Page 174
By: A;f J. Mapp Junior
Published by Madison Books
Copyright 1997 by Alf J. Mapp Junior

[6] From Thomas Jefferson: A Life
Page 555
By: Willard Sterne Randall
Published by Henry Hold and Company
Copyright 1993 by Willard Sterne Randall

[7] From: The Religious Affiliation of Second President John Adams
Created 13:November 2005 / Last updated 20 November 2005

[8] From: John Adams
Pages 631-632
By; David McCullough
Published by Simon and Schuster
Copyright 2001 by David McCullough

[9]] Ibid
Pages 631-632

[10] From: Why the Religious Right is Wrong About Separation of Church and State
Pages 71-710]
By; Robert Boston
Published by Prometheus Books
Copyright 1993 by Robert Boston

[11] From: The Founders Constitution
Amendment I (Religion)
James Madison Detached Memoranda
Copyright 1987 University of Chicago
Published 2000

*Authors Note by Bible Belted
The "misspellings" in this particular quote are not misspellings at all. They are abbreviations and notations used by James Madison in the original document.

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