Ethics Articles

Articles: Church & State


>> = Important Articles; ** = Major Articles


>> Another War: David Limbaugh inside the a battle for Christianity (National Review Online, 031027)

>>Of Church and State (EFC, 031200)

>>Excluding God from Public Debate? (EFC, 031200)

**Jihad, American Style (, 060719)

Religion and politics (Washington Times, 001219)

Ending School Violence Instructions for Congress (010315)

The Wall’s Expansion Religion itself has become controversial in a way that it has never been throughout American history (National Review, 010522)

Muzzling the Holy (EFC, 020400)

How Jefferson’s Wall Redefined Church-State Law And Policy (Free Congress Foundation, 021111)

That Ten Commandments Case: What constitutes an establishment of religion? (NRO, 021216)

Pro-FBI: Partners in solutions and prevention (NRO, 021221)

“What Was I Thinking?” All creation sings…weird tunes (NRO, 021221)

Why “Under God”? (Free Congress Foundation , 030610)

Affronts and Provocations: Christians in America (NRO, 030825)

Saving The Ten Commandments (Free Congress Foundation, 030820)

Tolerating Christians: Where are the diversityphiles now? (NRO, 031223)

Newdow & Us: Much more than one case and two words (NRO, 040324)

Evolving Double Standards: Establishing a state-funded church of Darwin (NRO, 040401)

Dodging the issue (Washington Times, 040719)

Religious, and Right: Faith belongs in politics (National Review Online, 040730)

Myths, Lies, & Half-Truths: How Misreading the Bible Neutralizes Christians (WorldNetDaily, 041000)

Religion and the Founders: The Nation is out of step with the American people (National Review Online, 050307)

Be Careful What You Ask For: The High Price of Secularism (Christian Post, 050503)

Christian Morality and Public Law--Three Secular Arguments (Christian Post, 050505)

Christian Morality and Public Law--Three Secular Myths (Christian Post, 050505)

>>Christian Morality and Public Law--Five Theses (Christian Post, 050505)

Separation of Church and State? Really? (Christian Post, 050809)

Is the Pledge of Allegiance Unconstitutional? (Christian Post, 050915)

A Growing Cloud of Confusion—The Supreme Court on Religion (Christian Post, 051028)

Multiple Choices from the Founders (Christian Post, 051031)

County says ACLU prayer lawsuit is unnecessary (WorldNetDaily, 051102)

Group takes offensive with Nativity scenes: Counters removal from public square with call for displays nationwide (WorldNetDaily, 051103)





>> Another War: David Limbaugh inside the a battle for Christianity (National Review Online, 031027)


Q&A by Kathryn Jean Lopez


David Limbaugh, a lawyer and syndicated columnist, is the author of Persecution: How Liberals Are Waging War Against Christianity, which is his second book (his first was on the Clinton/Reno justice department). Limbaugh recently answered some of NRO’s questions about his new book.


Kathryn Jean Lopez: Isn’t a little much to say there’s a war against Christianity in the U.S? Especially when we are in an actual war against terrorism?


David Limbaugh: Well, I certainly don’t mean to diminish the actual war on terrorism. The “war” I describe in my book is, of course, a very different kind of war — more along the lines of the culture war. I believe I make a compelling case in my book that various groups are working to scrub away Christianity from the public square and to reduce religious liberty for Christians. Nothing in the Constitution limits our First Amendment freedoms of speech, religion, and association to our homes and churches. That is, we do not forfeit those freedoms when we enter government property, public schools, or the public square. The secularists’ efforts to confine Christian religious liberty to our homes and churches is a disturbing development.


Lopez: What’s the genesis of the book?


Limbaugh: I decided to write about this subject when I continued to see stories in the newspapers almost every other day reporting incidents of discrimination against and mistreatment of Christians. I concluded that the pervasiveness of the assaults was evidence of a systematic attack on Christianity in our culture that needed to be chronicled in comprehensive form in a book — and in the secular market.


Lopez: In what area are Christians most persistently persecuted?


Limbaugh: The attack against Christians is occurring in many areas, including public education, the universities, the public square, government property and institutions, the mainstream media, Hollywood, the courts, and even the private sector and in our churches. I would say that the majority of examples can be found in the public schools, though the public square is a close second. The humanists have been targeting our children for more than a century. As I reveal in Chapter Three, Charles F. Potter, who wrote Humanism: A New Religion, believed that the key to controlling the culture was to indoctrinate the children — in public schools. He wrote, “Education is thus a most powerful ally of Humanism, and every American public school is a school of Humanism. What can the theistic Sunday-schools, meeting for an hour once a week, and teaching only a fraction of the children, do to stem the tide of a five-day program of humanistic teaching?” In Chapters Three and Four I then proceed to document the inroads the humanists have made in controlling our public-school curriculum, which clearly impart anti-Christian values and endorse other values-based ideas, from Secular Humanism, to New Age to Native Spirituality and Islam. Those clamoring for a strict separation of church and state never raise a hand of objection to the government’s endorsement of this non-Christian, values-laden instruction.


Lopez: Is it just Christianity?


Limbaugh: Of course there is a bias against religion generically, but the overwhelming majority of discrimination in our culture is targeted at Christians and Christianity. The most likely reason is that Christianity is perceived as the majority religion and its absolute standards of right and wrong interfere with the advancement of the radical secularist agenda, the homosexual lobby, the feminist movement, and other politically correct nostrums.


Lopez: What is the most egregious example of persecution?


Limbaugh: I document hundreds if not thousands of cases of discrimination against Christians, backed up by almost 800 footnotes. It is difficult for me to choose the most egregious example because there are so many outrageous ones. Some are just plain silly — but not humorous because they are actual events in the real world. One that sticks out in my mind as an example of the utter extremism and disproportion of the secularists occurred with the Madison, Wisconsin Metro System. Each month this government entity placed a picture of some public figure on its bus pass. One month it used Martin Luther King Jr. and another, Elvis Presley, another the inventor of the Internet, Tim Berners-Lee (not Al Gore). But when it decided to use Mother Teresa the Freedom From Religion Foundation went ballistic, saying it was an impermissible intermingling of government and religion. “Religious figures,” said FFRF president Annie Laurie Gaylor, “do not belong on monthly passes of publicly owned transportation facilities.” Plus, according to Gaylor, the selection would be an “insult” to women’s rights, since she “campaigned stridently throughout her life at every opportunity against access to contraception, sterilization and abortion for anyone.”


Lopez: How is anti-Christian persecution playing out in the firestorm over Mel Gibson’s Passion?


Limbaugh: The anti-Christian influence is clearly seen in the controversy over Mel Gibson’s Passion. How ironic that when a man tries to stay true to the Biblical and sacred texts in relating the culminating events in the life of the most important man to have ever lived, he is castigated as an anti-Semite and his breathtaking film has difficulty finding a Hollywood producer. Yet when the culture produces plays that blasphemously depict Christ as a homosexual (Corpus Christi), or movies that show him as a sinner (The Last Temptation of Christ), or art that dips the crucifix into a vat of urine or spreads with cow dung images of the Virgin Mary, they are celebrated by the elites. The secularists utter not a word in protest of the offensive nature of these works, nor of the state’s endorsement of their anti-Christian themes.


Lopez: Is Christianity really being “excised” from public school?


Limbaugh: Yes, references to Christianity and to America’s Christian heritage have been deliberately excised from most public school textbooks. As I detail in Chapter Three, New York University psychology professor Paul Vitz conducted extensive research documenting the purging of religion — primarily the Christian religion — from public schools. He studied 60 social-studies texts used in some 87 percent of public schools and determined that the Christian influence on our culture was completely ignored. “There is not one story or article in all these books in which the central motivation or major content is connected to Judeo-Christian religion....None of the books covering grades one through four contains one word referring to any religious activity in contemporary American life,” wrote Vitz. In addition, as I demonstrate in Chapters One and Two, Christian freedom and speech are under assault. In the name of promoting freedom of religion through a strict enforcement of “separation of church and state” the schools are suppressing the free exercise rights of students. Voluntary student Christian religious expression is suppressed. There is nothing in the Constitution, by the way, that limits the freedom of religion (or speech) to the privacy of our homes and the churches. As I said, we do not forfeit our religious freedoms when we enter government property, public schools or the public square.


Lopez: How pernicious is K-12 anti-Christian persecution?


Limbaugh: The examples of anti-Christian discrimination in K-12 and the endorsement of opposing worldviews is so widespread that I devoted four chapters to it. And before the editing process began I had almost twice the material in this section, but had to cut it down to the make the book manageable. The examples are voluminous and reveal that the humanists have been largely successful in achieving their goal of taking over the public schools. From “comprehensive” sex education, to Western and Christian-trashing multiculturalism to history revisionism to death education, to the self-esteem movement, to undermining parental values, to New Age values to Fuzzy Math and Inventive Spelling — these “educational” ideas are just too bizarre to be justified on an academic basis. They have to be born of some ideological agenda. And the failure of public education can be traced directly to this nonsense. No amount of federal money is going to change this until parents wake up to the insanity that is pervading the schools.


Lopez: Do Christians know all of this is going on?


Limbaugh: Unfortunately, many Christians do not seem to be fully aware that they are under attack, which is the primary reason for this book. It is intended to be a clarion call to Christians, jolting them out of their complacency, alerting them — if they don’t already realize it — that they are the primary targets in a culture war. I believe the evidence I’ve adduced in the book is overwhelming. While my liberal critics on some of the talk shows have charged that my examples are merely anecdotal, I respond that examples, by themselves, or in small groups, are by definition anecdotal. But at some point — and we’ve greatly exceeded that point here — the sheer number and variety of the attacks constitutes evidence of a systematic and comprehensive, if not overtly conspiratorial, assault on Christianity and Christian freedom. I’m not some sensationalist or alarmist, suggesting that we’ve passed the point of no return or that we’ve lost all our religious freedoms. In fact, I parted company with many of my conservative Christian friends when I supported Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore until he violated the federal court order. I argued that he should work within the system, no matter how flawed or erroneous the higher courts’ decisions on the Establishment Clause. Some readers objected that the federal court’s order was itself unlawful and thus must be disobeyed. Well, we disagree with a lot of decisions the courts make, but unless we’re prepared for another revolution or full-blown anarchy I think we’ve got an obligation to obey the law. If I thought our entire library of Christian religious liberties had been eviscerated I too would be advocating drastic action. But we still have the liberty to worship as we choose in our churches and in private. The assault is primarily going on in the public sector. If we don’t stop it at this point, it will certainly continue and we will lose our liberties. But we’re not there yet — and we need to stop the bleeding, not by overreacting, but by standing up against the chilling, oppressive and intimidating nature of political correctness and the secular humanist forces in our culture.


Lopez: If there were medals to be awarded for bravery in this “war” who’d be the first you’d want to see get one?


Limbaugh: Part of the defense of the faith, both in the culture and the courts, requires the courage to stand up to the opposition. There are many people on the frontlines in this battle, such as all the Christian public-interest law firms fighting on a county-by-county basis throughout the United States to vindicate religious liberty. But if I had to choose one person who is standing up for the faith publicly, notwithstanding the endless assaults, it would be President George W. Bush. He has unapologetically declared his allegiance to Christ and his reliance on Him for guidance in governance. All Bush has to do is invoke the concepts of good and evil and he’s castigated as a simplistic Christian cowboy, intolerant and dangerous to society and to the world. But when he invokes God he incurs the wrath of the entire secular left, from Maureen Dowd (New York Times) to Barry Lynn. But he doesn’t back down. Attorney General John Ashcroft is a close second.


Lopez: Do you have a plan of action for Christians?


Limbaugh: I have no magical solution for these problems, other than to raise awareness and call Christians — and all other lovers of liberty — to action. Christians, contrary to popular myth, do not want to establish a theocracy. We don’t even necessarily want the government to endorse religion. I would say that the Establishment Clause certainly doesn’t require a complete divorce of government and religion. The very day after the first Congress in 1789 passed the First Amendment, it declared a national day of prayer and thanksgiving. Chief Justice Story later wrote that there was never any intention by the framers to prevent the government from endorsing, in some respects, the Christian religion. Though the Constitution doesn’t require the government to stay wholly out of religion, as a policy matter, in this pluralistic society, I have no problem with the government attempting to stay neutral on religion. But nature abhors a vacuum and so do the secularists. So the least we can ask for is fair play — no overt endorsement of Christianity, fine; but don’t endorse competing values either. The assault on Christianity is multifaceted and therefore requires a multifaceted response. We need to fight to restore Biblical theology and moral rectitude to our churches and church governing hierarchies. We need to fight for the hearts of people in our culture. We need to fight the education establishment by opposing its monopoly on education and its militant advancement of secular humanist values and purging of Christianity. This means that we should support the home school and school choice movements. We must continue to fight in the courts and to elect presidents who will appoint, and Senators who will confirm, constitutionalist judges. And we need to keep our voices heard in the media as well. And we must couch this battle primarily in terms of religious freedom. As Christians, in the legal arena, we simply want an equal seat at the table of religious liberty. But at the level of our culture, we must understand that our freedoms are an outgrowth of our Judeo-Christian traditions. Our Christian roots make clear that it is no accident that America is the freest and most prosperous nation in the history of the world — which is why the secularists have such a compelling interest to revise history and conceal the Christian influence. No matter how ingeniously crafted the Constitution was, the framers warned that it was made only for a moral and religious people. Which means that if we abandon our absolute standards of right and wrong — the Judeo Christian ethic — in the interest of modern day notions of tolerance and diversity, we’ll remove the foundation upon which our liberties are built. Maybe not immediately, but within a few generations or so, our liberties will eventually implode. As that time approaches, it will be too late for alarmism. So let’s get into the fight now, while there is still time.




>>Of Church and State (EFC, 031200)


Though churches do contribute to the political life of a nation, they must also understand their role in a democracy


The role of religious institutions in politics has become a significant sub-theme to the current public debate about the redefinition of marriage. It is not the political activity of individual believers that is in question, but the proper role of the institutional church. A recent poll reported that 67 percent of Canadians agree that “churches, or other houses of worship, should stay out of political matters.” This is not the first time churches and other religious organizations have been vocal—or challenged for being so. This raises the possibility that it is not the involvement of churches per se, but their stance on specific issues that prompts the negative reaction.


The “separation of church and state” is the phrase that is often invoked as an argument to thwart church engagement. The phrase is not an argument but a principle with a variety of interpretations, and it does not appear in our constitution.


Church and state have distinct roles that shouldn’t be confused. The state shouldn’t compel adherence to specific religious doctrine, and the Church shouldn’t pose as a political party. Yet both of these institutions are informed by some broader vision of life—or belief system. This provides a framework for understanding their respective roles and a grounding for the principles that shape their respective purposes. The question is which belief system will guide our politics? So while church and state can be separated, the same is not true of faith and politics.


Perhaps the public objection is not to the involvement of religious institutions, but to what some see as attempts by religious leaders to compel their politician adherents to vote in a certain way.


Churches and other religious organizations are the interpreters of their religious tradition and doctrines. Therefore it is appropriate for them to make pronouncements on the application of their belief system on issues just as political parties make pronouncements on the application of their political tradition to specific issues. Neither can compel a politician to vote yea or nay; they both can only threaten expulsion.


At issue for politicians is their understanding of the claims of their personal religious and philosophical convictions on their politics. Is their role to reflect the will of their constituents ascertained through polls and consultations, or to apply their judgment, and that of their party, to the issues as they arise between elections? Some will vote their conscience and let their constituents decide their fate in the next election. Others will view voting the will of their constituents but against their personal religious convictions as being consistent with their role as a politician. In both cases they may well understand their political tradition to be compatible with their religious beliefs.


When the religious convictions of politicians conflict with their political ideologies, they are likely to claim that they do not let their private convictions affect their political decisions. This may well be their political philosophy—the allowance of a separation between their private and public beliefs. If this is the conclusion of their belief system, then so be it. They should not, however, presume that this dualism is true of all others or impose this on their colleagues. Nor should they presume that this is a requirement for political life in Canada.


Churches have an important contribution to make in the political life of a nation. They must be clear in their understanding of their role in a democracy. They should not engage in partisan politics—choosing one party or candidate over another. They can comment on legislation and even lobby for or against a proposal. But they should not seek the election or defeat of a candidate or a party. Partisan activity is the stuff of political parties, political interest groups and citizens—not churches. Crossing this line compromises the independence and integrity of the Church. This does not render the Church mute. It should cause us to openly discuss the unique contribution of the Church to political life.


Bruce Clemenger is the president of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada.




>>Excluding God from Public Debate? (EFC, 031200)


Attempts to ban religious wisdom from public debate create a void that will be filled with other ideologies


What a difference a generation makes! Back in 1960, John F. Kennedy’s opponents argued that if he became president of the U.S., he would have to take his orders from the Vatican. Catholic officials never even attempted to give Kennedy orders, but the would-be president still had to go on live television before a roomful of Protestant ministers in Houston and assure them that his loyalty was to the American Constitution and not to the Pope.


Now we have Ottawa’s Roman Catholic archbishop, Marcel Gervais,  publicly warning Prime Minister Jean Chrétien that he has “lost his way,” and Calgary’s Bishop Fred Henry telling the Prime Minister he is in danger of damnation for opening the door to same-sex marriage. The Vatican has also weighed in to the debate, warning Catholic politicians around the world that giving approval to same-sex marriage would be “gravely immoral.”


Yet, despite the pressure, no one was surprised when the Prime Minister refused  to budge in his position on same-sex marriage.


“I am acting as a person responsible for the nation. The problem of my religion, I deal with it in other circumstances,” said the Prime Minister.


Like Wilfrid Laurier, Pierre Trudeau and other Catholic prime ministers before him, Chrétien believes in the separation of church and state, and is not overly awed by his church’s leaders.


Whatever faith Mr. Chrétien holds, his statement pithily sums up something a little more ominous than the simple separation of church and state. Today’s new secularism is a form of public atheism in which politicians feel free to openly declare that religion is a “problem.”


In modern democracies, with the exception of the United States under such presidents as George W. Bush, it has become a necessity and perhaps even a matter of pride for politicians to exclude all God talk from public affairs.


The on-line Infoplease dictionary defines secularism as “the view that public education and other matters of civil policy should be conducted without the introduction of a religious element.” That belief has become particularly strong in western Europe.


France’s president, Jacques Chirac, recently went so far as to say that secularism is the “cement” of the country’s social cohesion and “a duty . . . not just a right.” His statement came amid an angry public debate over the government’s right to prohibit public expressions of religious faith. Chirac suggested government should consider banning Muslims from wearing head scarves in schools and at work. Now a commission headed by a former cabinet minister who declares himself to be “profoundly secular” is charged with resolving the issue.


Believers of all faiths in Canada face their own battles. The best example of the threat to believers’ role in public affairs is the 1997 ruling by B.C.’s Supreme Court overturning the Surrey School Board’s decision to ban the use of three books about same-sex marriage in kindergarten and Grade 1. On the basis that the province’s School Act says “all schools must be conducted on strictly secular principles,” the court ruled the board’s decision was invalid  because it was influenced by at least one trustee of faith as well as submissions by believing parents. The court’s decision was later overturned by a higher court, but it was a warning of battles to come.


Iain Benson, a Vancouver lawyer and founder of the Ottawa-based Centre for Cultural Renewal, has written extensively on the Surrey decision and other examples of growing secularism.


He says, “This implicit atheism makes our legal decisions and political discourse superficial, inconsistent and increasingly unable to deal with the questions they must for civil society to flourish.”


At the very least, religious faiths represent thousands of years of human wisdom. If believers are correct, their beliefs are based on something even more powerful: divine wisdom. Banning such wisdom from public debate can only impoverish us as a nation.


Bob Harvey is the religion editor of the Ottawa Citizen.




**Jihad, American Style (, 060719)


by Elwood McQuaid


The saying “Nero fiddled [around] while Rome burned” may overdramatize an historical event; nevertheless, it makes a point that should not be lost on this generation of Christians. A war is on—one aimed at us. And many evangelicals are fiddling while the foundations of our faith are being blown out from under us.


Statistics tell the story for this country. Eighty percent of Americans claim some association with Christianity. In fact, we are told that probably 95 percent celebrate Christmas. And though you may argue about the depth, genuineness, and core beliefs of segments of the “Christian” community, the fact remains that sentiments at the grass roots are decidedly pro-Christian. The same, unfortunately, cannot be said for much of the media, the left-wing political establishment, or the rabidly anti-Christian minorities sounding off in virtually every public forum.


This truth came to mind when the predictable assault was launched during the Easter commemoration of the resurrection. Major networks aired a succession of programs that claimed to debunk the credibility of the foundational, biblical essence of the Christian faith. They relegated the Gospel accounts to the fictional rantings of men bent on inventing a means to capitalize on the hopes of gullible followers in order to promote their own agenda.


Not that we have not come to expect these annual excursions in denial. But as I remember it, years ago the crusade to deny Christ’s physical resurrection was generally led by liberal theologians and preachers. They spun theories of the disciples hallucinating or wishing Christ arose to the point that they believed their own “delusions.” But, for the most part, these promoters of neoagnosticism, or functional atheism, were confined to their own circles of devotees and failed to shake the foundations of the faithful.


What has developed in recent years, however, has a different cast to it—one that, by its very nature, is agenda-driven and acerbically malicious beyond what we’ve ever seen. For all practical purposes, it is a jihadist-type war to destroy the Christian faith, with an emphasis on slaying evangelical Christianity in particular and replacing the traditional Judeo-Christian social order with an anything-goes, pagan, secular society.


When the prestigious National Geographic Society this spring hawked its spurious “revelations” challenging historic Christian beliefs, its sensationalized trailer for the Gospel of Judas “documentary” claimed that this “biblical text” would “challenge our deepest beliefs” and “could create a crisis of faith.” It did nothing of the sort, of course, but the tone of the promotion and program illustrates how deeply the lines are drawn in this ever-intensifying war between the secular and sacred.


Playing Politics


Awhile ago I watched a TV show where media talking heads were supposed to tackle a question about religious beliefs during an hour-long discussion. The issue was, “Should religion be in (A) the church, (B) the synagogue, or (C) the voting booth?”


The question seemed rather rhetorical; and the answers, tiresomely predictable. Those who lean to the left consistently warn of the imminent danger of evangelicals taking their beliefs into the voting booth.


In an article titled “The Media’s War on the ‘War on Christians’ Conference,” columnist Don Feder wrote:


Evangelicals have been described as “a clear and present danger to religious liberty in American” (former Labor Secretary Robert Reich), determined to “Christianize all aspects of American life” (the ADL’s Abraham Foxman), “moral retards” and “an ugly, violent lot” (City University of New York Professor Timothy Shortell), possessed of “the same kind of fundamentalist impulse that we see in Saudi Arabia” (Al Gore), and responsible for moving America “each day closer to a theocracy where a narrow and hateful brand of Christian fundamentalism will rule” (a full-page ad in The New York Times, signed by Jane Fonda, Ed Asner and other Hollywood savants).1


The strategic word in this litany of vituperation is theocracy - the idea that evangelicals have a unified, conspiratorial plan to elect an ultrafundamentalist, apartheid-type government to rule over every aspect of the lives of hapless Americans caught in their clutches.


The fact that these “intellectuals” publicly make this absurd accusation would be embarrassing were it not for their motives. Certainly, evangelical Christians take their convictions and values into the voting booth. We “render . . . to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” (Mt. 22:21). It is what citizens in democratic societies are expected to do. And it would compound the absurdity to assert that liberals, feminists, gays, abortionists, neoconservatives, Republicans, Democrats, and Independents do not do likewise. Free people have both the right and obligation to vote their conscience.


By maligning a single segment of the population and attempting to deny it participation in government is to conspire to create a system controlled by anti-Christian forces. And those forces, unfortunately, are committed to a minority-driven intolerance that brooks no opposition from the vast majority, whom they see as obstacles on the road to their particular vision of a ruleless, secular nirvana.


An even more unsettling manifestation of this crusade involves the forces that are casting evangelicals as subversive, conspiratorial members of lobbies that jeopardize the security of America. Two prominent American international relations and political science professors have released an inflammatory work, “The Israel Lobby,” accusing Israel of so strongly manipulating U.S. policies that America has become a virtual puppet of Israeli interests, to its own detriment. Stephen Walt, academic dean at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and John Mearsheimer, from the University of Chicago, assert, “The combination of unwavering support for Israel and the related effort to spread ‘democracy’ throughout the region has inflamed Arab and Islamic opinion and jeopardized not only US security but that of much of the rest of the world.” 2


And who are the members of this “Israel Lobby” that pulls the strings and puts the world on the chopping block of Arab and Islamic hatred? They are a “loose coalition of individuals and organizations who actively work to steer US foreign policy in a pro-Israel direction.” 3 In her Jerusalem Post column on the subject, Caroline Glick wrote:

Members of the Lobby include most US media outlets; Jewish American organizations generally and AIPAC [American Israel Public Affairs Committee] and the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish American organizations in particular; pro-Israel evangelical Christians [emphasis ours]. . .” 4

Lumping pro-Israel, conservative Christians with conspiracies is reminiscent of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which slanders Jews by doing the same thing. Evangelicals have been compared to the Taliban, Osama bin Laden’s terrorist cadre, the Nazis, and on and on it goes. And the fact that these baseless, slanderous accusations are on the rise portends what the future will hold for evangelicals.


Scrapping the ‘Majority Rules’ Connection


The mind-boggling attacks on Christian commemorations are emblematic signs of the times. Consider the animus of secularists toward Christmas—and the astonishing success of a handful of radical minority groups in intimidating the majority of Americans. Wrote Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer:

School districts in New Jersey and Florida ban Christmas carols. The mayor of Somerville, Mass., apologizes for “mistakenly” referring to the town’s “holiday party” as a “Christmas party.” The Broward and Fashion malls in South Florida put up a Hanukah menorah but no nativity scene. The manager of one of the malls explains: Hanukah commemorates a battle and not a religious event, though he hastens to add, “I don’t really know a lot about it.” He does not. Hanukah commemorates a miracle, and there is no event more “religious” than a miracle. The attempts to de-Christianize Christmas are as absurd as they are relentless. The United States today is the most tolerant and diverse society in history. It celebrates all faiths with an open heart and open-mindedness that, compared to even the most advanced countries in Europe, are unique.” 4

TV commentator Bill O’Reilly was right when he said there is an anti-Christian bias in this country, and it is more on display at Christmas than any other time. It is also well documented that the bias is spilling over into other arenas of American life.


“Other battle zones,” wrote Don Feder, “include Ten Commandments monuments, God in the pledge of allegiance, stigmatizing the Boy Scouts, advances in the culture of death, and attempts to impose homosexual marriage by judicial fiat.” 5


To be sure, these symptoms may seem superficial on the surface. But at the core, they reveal the battle taking place for the survival of all that we value.


The Freedom Elixir


An elixir is a substance thought capable of prolonging life indefinitely: a cure-all. In present context, the “elixir” is the idea that the freedoms lavished on us in the Western democracies, particularly in America, are inherently bestowed in perpetuity. That is to say, as it has been, so it will ever be; there are no threats of change blowing in the wind. The viewpoint reminds me of the end-times attitude of those so satisfied with their personal status quos that they renounce those who speak of the Lord’s coming by saying,


“Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation” (2 Pet. 3:4).


Unquestionably, we are the most materially blessed society in the history of the world. For that reason, it may just be that our unprecedented affluence is creating an indifference to what is happening in the wider world around us.


Why is it so difficult to convince Christians that we are, in fact, in a terrorist-driven war of jihad that is killing people, mostly Christians, the world over? And why is the horror of the 9/11 attack so rapidly becoming all but forgotten by all too many? And why do we put up with those who tell us we should blame ourselves for so aggrieving Muslim fanatics that they were driven to strike back. That actually, we are the aggressors, not the victims.


A big part of the problem is that we internalize our freedom and prosperity to the extent that we have become insulated from some of the harsh realities of the real world. We have become self-immunized against feeling a personal obligation to actually participate in the conflict. For even if we indulge feelings of passivism toward military combat, we must recognize and respond to the fact that behind every attack leveled against us—social, political, terrorist, or whatever—there is a spiritual battle being waged that is as old as the Fall of Man. Therefore, no true Christian can afford to fiddle while we are engaged in such an immense conflict.


Whether you are a pastor, parishioner, Bible teacher, or student, you must learn what the issues are for yourself, your country, your world, and your brothers and sisters in the faith the world over.


Perhaps some of the last words to a church from the last book in the New Testament are most appropriate: “Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain” (Rev. 3:2)




Religion and politics (Washington Times, 001219)


Even before his latest book dropped on their heads, Stephen Carter must have been a source of great frustration for some of his distinguished colleagues up there at the Yale Law School. It isn’t just his out-of-step views, which are not at all the sort of positions tenure-hungry academics would dare to express at any university faculty club. More annoying by far is the popularity his expression of those views has won him with much of the American public.


A number of Mr. Carter’s books, including “The Culture of Disbelief” and “Civility,” have been widely purchased by the great unwashed. Worse yet, they’ve been respectfully discussed in the media, which apparently didn’t get the message that such commentary, especially when it comes from an openly evangelical Christian, is supposed to be politely ignored.


Now, in his new book, “God’s Name in Vain: The Wrongs and Rights of Religion in Politics,” Mr. Carter argues that not only does religion have a place in the public arena, but that attempts to scour it out in the name of the Constitution are as unconstitutional as most other forms of state censorship. It’s just the sort of work, in other words, which People for the American Way and the rest of the secular thought police would presumably like to have banned.


How does Mr. Carter get away with it? How — the author confesses sometimes to wondering himself — does a committed Christian manage to publish such provocations and still stay on the faculty of such an elite and aggressively secular institution as Yale?


One reason, to be sure, is that Stephen Carter is a serious intellectual who writes with style and crackle. Another reason is that he’s black. And finally, even in the stifling conformity of academia, a few contrarians have traditionally been allowed to take precarious root. “One of Yale’s virtues is that it has a place for somebody like me,” Mr. Carter writes. “But not a lot of space.”


Yale and other institutions, he notes tartly, “try to recruit with an eye to what they like to call diversity.” They have lots of statistics showing how many students are black, or come from Idaho, or receive financial aid. But they never list the religions represented, even though, “If one truly wants diversity, it might be useful to look for people who are truly different —and religion . . . is one of the forces that can make us so.”


He is not an ideologue, but Mr. Carter writes from a conservative perspective as well as a Christian one. He observes that the press, which clucks so loudly over the religious right, never notices the religious left, which has been active in politics for much longer.


When abortion-rights groups first filed suit against the Catholic Church in 1980, seeking to have the Church’s tax-exempt status revoked because of its alleged political activity on behalf of pro-life candidates, it must have come as a surprise to many of the bishops. Nobody had objected, after all, when they were protesting school segregation or the testing of nuclear weapons.


Once such official suppression starts, on the left or on the right, it can readily spin out of control. When the abortion-rights lawsuit was filed, Mr. Carter reports, “many black clergy were terrified.” Abortion wasn’t their issue, but they had traditionally been deeply involved in politics, and they saw only too clearly how the legal harassment of one church would lead to the harassment of others.


In this book, Mr. Carter makes two important and closely linked points about the relationship of religion to politics. First, having religious voices raised over political issues is healthy for a democracy, and ought to be encouraged rather than stifled. But while politics may benefit from such religious infusions, religion itself is always at risk of being diminished by politics.


This conclusion leads Mr. Carter to argue simultaneously that while government, in the form of the Internal Revenue Service, shouldn’t have the power it now clearly has to penalize religions for what is preached from their pulpits, the endorsement of candidates by religious leaders is also inappropriate. This is so not for public policy reasons, but because such activity can be corrosive to the faith which sponsors it.


In other words, however necessary politics may be to society, it can also be toxic to religion. Mr. Carter recalls Paul Weyrich’s despairing 1999 announcement that “we probably have lost the culture war,” and that Christian conservatives would be better-advised to retreat from the culture, and to insulate their families from it, than to fight to change it.


This is not a new development. In the 17th century, Roger Williams depicted the world of religious belief as a walled garden surrounded by the wilderness of everyday life. But he recognized that the wall, far from being impregnable, is constantly breached.


The relationship of religion in politics has of course been much discussed, with more sanctimony than sincerity, in the national political campaign that has just concluded. In retrospect, it’s a pity that Mr. Carter’s new book didn’t arrive a few months earlier. It might have raised the level of the dialogue.




Ending School Violence Instructions for Congress (010315)


By Dennis Teti, associate professor of Government at Regent University’s Northern Virginia/DC Graduate Center


Violence in our nation’s schools has been growing since the Columbine High School killings two years ago. The recent shooting at Santana High School in Santee, California, has been followed by copycat acts and threats of violence around the country.


In 1999 the House of Representatives, revulsed by Columbine, amended its juvenile justice reform bill to include the Ten Commandments Defense Act (TCDA). 45 Democrats joined 203 Republicans to support TCDA, but the measure disappeared in the swamp of Senate politics.


Since the current violence began in Santee, Congress doesn’t know what to do. Here’s a suggestion: Revive and enact the Ten Commandments Defense Act. Now it will have the support of a president who has said that students must learn the difference between right and wrong.


TCDA is a simple bill designed to protect federalism against judicial encroachment. First, it would recognize the powers of states and localities to display the Ten Commandments in schools and other government owned buildings. Second, it would recognize the right of individuals to practice their religious faith by prayer or other expression on government owned property so long as the rights of others are not interfered with. Third, it would instruct federal statutory courts to decide cases according to this law.


TCDA was originally aimed at a rather silly 1980 Supreme Court ruling that overturned a Kentucky requirement posting the Decalogue in public schools. The unconstitutional defect of these displays, said the 5 to 4 majority, was that they might “induce the schoolchildren to read, meditate upon, perhaps to venerate and obey, the Commandments.” This is “not a permissible state objective.”


The measure was also intended to forestall a new decision striking down student-led prayer at sports events, a holding which was actually handed down last June by a 6 to 3 majority, in Santa Fe Independent School District v. Roe.


Opponents ridicule the notion that there is any connection between school violence and bans on official Ten Commandments displays. Indeed it would be silly to pretend that teenagers don’t know murder is a crime merely because they are not allowed to see the Commandment “thou shalt not kill.”


Teenagers who harm others are old enough to bear responsibility for their own acts. Yet the same liberals who deny any impact which firm moral instructions might have on the young seem to blame everything else in youth culture for students who run amok. The Columbine killers, who didn’t share the school’s sports enthusiasms, were called “freaks”; the alleged Santee High School shooter was small and called “scrawny.” What is the common theme here? Victimization and lack of self-esteem — the liberal claim that the social environment makes killers out of young people who don’t “fit in.”


The one change in school culture that would focus attention on the wrong of violence — fostering the Ten Commandments — is vociferously opposed by liberals. Still, is there is no connection between judicial decisions driving religion out of schools and student violence entering them?


Until 1947 the policy laid down by the American Founders was usually followed, according to which government should support religious belief on a nonpreferential basis. The Founders’ most official statement of their policy is contained in the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, drafted by a committee including Thomas Jefferson. Under the ordinance, which is one of our nation’s organic laws, the federal government ruled the Northwest Territories until they became states. Article III declares that education and religion are intertwined: “Religion, morality, and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.” To this day many state constitutions include similar language. The Founders saw no conflict in Article I: “No person, demeaning himself in a peaceable and orderly manner, shall ever be molested on account of his mode of worship, or religious sentiments…” The law meant that religious faith is the buttress of religious freedom.


Of course in practice the policy of nonpreferential support has not always been easy to carry out, but communities across the country have generally found ways of accommodating differing religious demands. It’s not too much to say that, far from creating religious conflict, the very need for balancing differences in each community was among the most invaluable civic benefits of the Founders’ policy. The process of accommodation forces diverse religious traditions to learn more about each other and to become tolerant without sacrificing religious and moral commitment.


In 1947 the Supreme Court radically departed from the Founders’ religious policy by erecting a so-called “wall of separation” between religion and public order. In Everson v. Board of Education, the Court pronounced — falsely — that according to the Founders, government was supposed to be “neutral” not only among “groups of religious believers” but between religious groups and groups of “non-believers” — in short, between religion and non-religion. In Lincoln’s words, this is like trying to find some tertium quid between a living and a dead man. And even as Lincoln showed that in practice the idea of official neutrality between pro-slavery and anti-slavery views hid a “covert zeal for slavery,” the liberal position of official “neutrality” regarding religious belief and nonbelief conceals a covert zeal for irreligion.


There is no other way to explain why the Supreme Court — led by the ACLU and other lawyer interest groups — has systematically driven every recognition of religion out of government schools, from classroom prayer and Bible-reading exercises to clergy-led invocations at graduations and any other display that libertarian lawyers might interpret as favoring belief in God. One federal judge has ordered monitors to patrol Alabama school halls to snitch on anyone found praying in the unhallowed precincts.


George Washington’s Farewell Address represented the general opinion on morality and religion of the same Founders who wrote religious liberty into the First Amendment. Political prosperity, by which he meant the safety and happiness of the people, cannot be obtained by those who won’t obey the rules of morality. “[W]here is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths, which are the instruments of investigation in Courts of Justice?” he asked. Inculcating morals (“values clarification” in current jargon) without religion is useless: “Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that National morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.” For the Founders and the Constitution of freedom they gave us, the equation is simple: no security without morality; no morality without religion. Over more than a century and a half when that equation governed, students killing students at random was unimaginable. Student crime rarely went beyond sneaking smokes in the school bathroom.


Ronald Reagan used to make liberals roll their eyes by saying that the answers to some social problems are simple. Teen emotions run high, as every parent knows. The young need as much assistance as society can give them, individually and communally, in order to learn and practice self-discipline. When schools scowl at religion by excluding it from official acknowledgment, they also frown on morality. However unintentionally, they teach students that moral behavior is a “choice,” a subjective or private issue unlike, for instance, modern biology, the knowledge of which is objectively true and can’t rationally be disbelieved.


The claim is simply not credible that to teach students that murder violates “the laws of nature and of nature’s God” establishes a state religion. It’s far more credible to expect some troubled teenagers, barred from learning that God and reason forbid killing, to contemplate and carry out murder.


How can posting the Ten Commandments in schools begin to restore a culture in which the basic moral injunctions on which our liberty and safety are premised are given official notice? Displaying the Tables of the Law does nothing in itself, but it can stimulate a much needed discussion among inquisitive students, teachers, and officials: why these rules? What is their source? Why must they be followed? Don’t they conflict with my freedom? The first small step in creating a healthier moral climate can start here. The Ten Commandments Defense Act doesn’t require states and communities to display them, but the Act would allow and encourage them to do so without judicial interference. Congress should enact it before more Columbines and Santanas raise the teen death toll.




The Wall’s Expansion Religion itself has become controversial in a way that it has never been throughout American history (National Review, 010522)


By Stanley Kurtz, fellow, the Hudson Institute.


A change of fundamental importance has occurred in this country, and we have yet to come to grips with it. Religion itself — at least organized traditional religion — has become controversial in a way that it has never been throughout the whole of American history. With all their concern that no single religion be established by the state, the Founders never imagined a situation in which organized religion as such would be feared or repudiated by large numbers of citizens as a source of oppression. Yet today that is what we face. The divide between the secular and the religious is now far more culturally and politically significant than the differences between any particular religions. And the division between church-going Americans and those who intentionally avoid or abjure organized religion has everything to do with our politics. Certainly that division was one of the crucial fault-lines in the last presidential election.


So it is not surprising to see that President Bush and Attorney General Ashcroft are now being criticized for engaging in Bible study at work and invoking faith in their speeches. While most of the critics concede that Bush and Ashcroft are within their constitutional rights to pray at work or to invoke religion in public address, they fear the symbolism. They fear that the non-religious will feel left out of a country in which the leaders take their Christianity both seriously — and for granted. Yet the trouble is, the divide between the traditionally religious and the assertively secular in this country has sharpened to the point where each side has reason to fear the other.


Certainly during his confirmation battle, defenders of John Ashcroft were right to fear that the very fact of his faith was being held against him. The specter of religious conservatism has long been one of the Left’s favorite tools for scaring voters away from Republicans. Now that traditional religious morality has become an almost reflexive object of hatred among much of the secular elite, the religious have every bit as much cause to fear being “left out” as anyone else — probably more.


Right-thinking liberals once used to shake their heads at Ronald Reagan’s daring to call the Soviets an “evil empire.” How old-fashioned and fanatical in a relativist world to think of anything as “evil.” But the fact is, even for seculars, the notion of evil hasn’t really gone away. Conservatives — religious conservatives, above all — are the new evil, at least to the many for whom Leftist political ideologies fulfill the role once taken by religion. And this is precisely what the founders could not have imagined — the rise of mass secular ideologies that function as de facto religions.


In an earlier piece on President Bush’s faith-based initiative, I pointed to an unforeseen consequence of this cultural change. As the federal government expanded in modern times, it began to fund “secular” organizations governed by the quasi-religious ideology of the Left. Religious conservatives have rightly come to feel left out by this turn of events. The simultaneous rise of big-government and quasi-religious but technically “secular” leftist advocacy groups eligible for government subsidy has actually served to circumvent the establishment clause. In a sense, the American state is already perilously close to having established certain secular ideologies, simply because the government can systematically aid them, to the exclusion of other more obviously religious organizations.


This is not simply a question of political advantage. The problem is that a profound cultural change has frustrated the principled intentions of the Founders that no cultural ideology be supported by the state to the exclusion of others. The concerns of liberals and conservatives alike about the dangers posed by some aspects of the president’s faith-based initiative to the separation of church and state are by no means entirely misplaced. But opposing the president’s faith-based initiative will nonetheless leave intact the underlying inequality that brought the initiative about to begin with — the government’s implicit endorsement, through its largesse, of the new secular ideologies at the expense of the traditionally religious.


But if the faith-based conundrum will be difficult to solve to the satisfaction of all, that is all the more reason to take care that the traditionally religious not be pushed further out of the public square. Few if any of the critics of President Bush or Attorney General Ashcroft call their prayers or public invocations unconstitutional. But if symbolism is what this debate is about, then the time has come to make a symbolic statement about the respected place that traditionally religious citizens must have in this country. In ways that we still have not understood or acknowledged, the new secular ideologies have been given an unfair advantage by our inability to see their hidden religious character. It’s high time that these seculars learned to practice the fairness and tolerance they have long demanded of others.




Muzzling the Holy (EFC, 020400)


The recent no-faith ban at national services has many worried. But Christian unity will be needed to fend off a secularist culture


You know that religion is in serious trouble in Canada when the head of the Anglican Church protests its muzzling by government.


In a New Year’s Day sermon at the Anglican Cathedral in Ottawa, Archbishop Michael Peers warned that Canada is dangerously close to eliminating all mention of religion in public life.




How Jefferson’s Wall Redefined Church-State Law And Policy (Free Congress Foundation, 021111)


By Daniel L. Dreisbach


When asked what the Constitution says about religion, many Americans respond that it built a “wall of separation” between church and state.


Does the Constitution, in fact, require this?


What is the source of the “wall of separation” metaphor? More important, does it matter that this “wall” has become so influential in American law and policy?


Two hundred years ago, in January 1802, President Thomas Jefferson penned a missive to the Baptist Association of Danbury, Connecticut. The Baptists had written the president congratulating him on his election to the “chief Magistracy in the United States” and celebrating his lifelong devotion to religious liberty.


In a carefully crafted reply, Jefferson endorsed the persecuted Baptists’ aspirations for religious liberty. The First Amendment, he wrote, denied Congress the authority to establish a religion or prohibit its free exercise, “thus building,” in Jefferson’s words, “a wall of separation between Church and State.”


Jefferson’s metaphor would have slipped into obscurity had it not been “rediscovered” by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1947. Asked to interpret the First Amendment’s prohibition on laws “respecting an establishment of religion,” the justices declared: “In the words of Jefferson, [the First Amendment]


“erect[ed] ‘a wall of separation’ . . . [that] must be kept high and impregnable. We could not approve the slightest breach.”


This landmark ruling laid the legal foundations for the systematic removal of religion from American public life. The “wall” metaphor, in particular, provided the rationale for judicial decisions censoring religious expression in schools, stripping public spaces of the Ten Commandments, and excluding faith communities from full participation in civic life.


In my new book, Thomas Jefferson and the Wall of Separation Between Church and State, I contend that the “wall” metaphor dangerously misrepresents constitutional principles in at least two important ways:


First, Jefferson’s trope emphasizes separation between church and state, unlike the First Amendment, which speaks in terms of the nonestablishment and free exercise of religion. Jefferson’s Baptist correspondents, who agitated for disestablishment but not for separation, were apparently discomfited by the figurative phrase. They, like many Americans, feared that the erection of a “wall” would separate religious influences from public life and policy.


Second, a wall is a bilateral barrier that inhibits the activities of both the civil government and religion, unlike the First Amendment, which imposes restrictions on government only. Therefore, the “wall” unavoidably restricts religion’s ability to influence public life, thus exceeding the limitations imposed by the Constitution.


Herein lies the danger of this metaphor.


The “high and impregnable” wall constructed by the modern Court inhibits religion’s ability to inform the public ethic, deprives religious citizens of the civil liberty to participate in politics armed with ideas informed by their spiritual values, and infringes the right of religious communities and institutions to extend their ministries into the public square. Jefferson’s figurative barrier has been used to silence the religious voice in the marketplace of ideas and to segregate faith communities behind a restrictive wall.


I do not argue for a union of church and state. Rather, I believe religion and religious perspectives must be able to compete in the public square on the same terms as their secular counterparts. This is what the Constitution requires; but a high wall, by its very nature, does not permit it.


Sadly, the Supreme Court’s high wall has become an instrument of intolerance and censorship. We must reconsider the propriety of its continued use in law and public policy.


Daniel L. Dreisbach is a professor at American University and the author of Thomas Jefferson and the Wall of Separation Between Church and State (New York University Press, 2002).




That Ten Commandments Case: What constitutes an establishment of religion? (NRO, 021216)


In November 18, Federal Judge Myron Thompson, a distinguished graduate of the Yale Law School presiding for the district court of the United States in the middle district of Alabama, ruled that Chief Justice Roy S. Moore of the Alabama supreme court had 30 days to remove the 3’ x 3’ x 4’ monument of the Ten Commandments from the back end of the towering rotunda in the Alabama state courthouse.


The issue, Judge Thompson wrote, comes down to this: If Chief Justice Moore is correct in his definition of religion, in his assertion that the rights of Americans are endowed in us by the God of Judaism and Christianity, and in exercising his right to call attention to the sovereignty of God even in his capacity as chief justice of the Alabama supreme court — then the Supreme Court of the United States may well have been incorrect in several of its key rulings on religion during the past 60 years.


It is not implausible that the Supreme Court has gotten at least partially off-track in its rulings on religion. The Court has brought forth many strained arguments that seem more and more to dissatisfy the justices themselves.


On the other hand, some think that any recognition by the Court of a special role for the God of Judaism and Christianity in this nation’s understanding of civil and political rights represents an “establishment” of that religion. Judge Thompson concurs in this view.


But to complicate this conventional view, Chief Justice Moore pointed out in open court that the Virginia Declaration of Rights, Madison’s “Remonstrance,” and the Virginia Act for Establishing Religious Freedom do appeal to a particular concept of God, with a fairly narrow range of characteristics. This God is almighty, and created the mind free. Further, He wishes to be worshiped by men and women who do so freely, under no duress or coercion, and solely according to the light of their own conscience. Any abuse of the right to religious liberty will have to be answered directly to Him in judgment, for it is an abuse against Him, not solely against humans. To worship Him, but solely as conscience directs, is a duty owed to Him as Creator and Judge. This duty owed Him grounds a personal responsibility and, therefore, an inalienable right. In creating our minds both duty-bound and yet free, in other words, the Creator endowed us with certain rights, among them the right to religious liberty.


It is a matter of inference whether any other God except the God of Judaism and Christianity fits the required range of characteristics. Undoubtedly, from the founding generation until about 50 years ago, American institutions and courts supposed that this God was the God of the Jewish and Christian Bible, to whom the Founders usually referred as “Creator,” “Judge,” “Providence,” and “Divine Governor of the universe.”


Judge Thompson explains this historical fact by asserting that such usage may have been fitting when the most American citizens were Christians or Jews. Nowadays, however, that inference goes too far, because we see more clearly that rights are endowed also in Muslims, Buddhists, atheists, and indeed all humans. (Of course, the Founders expressly affirmed this universality too; and it is implicit in the doctrine of “natural rights.”) Among the many such religions, furthermore, Supreme Court precedents show that the federal government ought not to show favoritism.


On this basis, Judge Thompson asserts that Justice Roy Moore, in installing his small block of marble in the supreme-court building in Montgomery, is establishing a religion over all citizens of Alabama, or at least over those who come into eye contact with it. Therefore, this particular representation of the Ten Commandments has to go somewhere else.


Yet before we agree with Judge Thompson, it might be useful to make three important distinctions. On the outside wall of the federal courthouse in Montgomery is a much larger statue of Artemis, described in the Court’s brochure as the Greek goddess of justice. No one asserts that that statue represents an establishment of religion. Perhaps that is because no one still believes that Artemis is a real goddess. In any case, the mere stone embodiment of her image obliges no one’s conscience.


But then, in similar fashion, Justice Moore’s mere stone embodiment of a portion of a page from the Book of Exodus, in the form of an abbreviated version of the Ten Commandments, also puts no obligation upon the conscience of anyone who chooses not to accept that text as authoritative.


It seems significant, secondly, that the text chosen by Chief Justice Moore is from the Jewish Testament, not the New (or Christian) Testament. That makes it less sectarian and broader. Furthermore, even if one does not take the Ten Commandments literally, as a gift by the Almighty to Moses, one may take them as a symbol for that higher law (“of Nature and Nature’s God”) reached by reason itself. Such a higher law has traditionally been seen (by Americans from Founding Father James Wilson of Pennsylvania through Martin Luther King Jr.) as infusing all man-made law, on the one hand, and upholding a standard beyond the power of states or nations to alter or abrogate, on the other. Only such a law is a sure foundation for our rights against the changing tempests of political fortune.


Third, Chief Justice Moore’s statue stands at least 90 feet distant, maybe more, from the front entrance of the Alabama state courthouse, all the way across the rotunda at the opposite wall. It is impossible at that distance even to make out what it is, let alone what is written upon it. No one is obliged to approach the small marble block close enough to be able to make out the words.


The small block of marble is low (at four feet), and hardly more bulky around (three feet square) than any of the towering pillars of the rotunda, which rise some 30 feet above it. It seems very small against the large wall of flowing water behind it. The marble stands at the far side of the building where the restrooms are placed, men to the right, ladies to the left. Coming out from them, one cannot make out the words on the block — they are too small; one must approach to about eight feet or closer. To read it, therefore, one must make an effort.


All the texts upon its sides (three on each face) are either already familiar or readily recognizable as classics of U.S. or Alabama law, or quotations from major American Founders. In the sense that Americans are expected to venerate the law, an air of veneration is present, but rather in the form of a history lesson on the American link between religion and law. The four dominant texts come from the U.S. code or the Alabama code.


Judge Thompson writes more than once in his opinion about the sense of the sacred, of piety, almost of prayer generated by the monument. But the rotunda itself with its magnificent upward sweep and vast marble empty space generates that awe and reverence even without the small statue; it is one of the loveliest courthouse spaces to be seen in this country, and has been cited in architectural awards. It forces upon the entrant a certain silence and veneration, even before one can possibly succeed in finding and approaching the small block of marble that is currently in dispute. The sense of the sacred will not be diminished by the removal, if it ever occurs (after appeal), of that small block. The statue is dwarfed by its surroundings.


Still, the main point in this case is the unique character of the Jewish and Christian God. The God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Jesus is unlike any other God known to the ancient religions of Greece, Rome, or the Middle East, or any other religion known to our Founders. Uniquely, this God wishes to be worshiped in spirit and truth, in whatsoever manner conscience directs, without coercion of any sort. This God reads hearts. He is satisfied only with purity of conscience and conviction. Those who belong to any other religion or tradition, or who count themselves among agnostics or atheists, are thereby given by this God equal freedom. They, too, must follow their conscience. This God wishes to be worshiped by men and women who are free, not under duress.


In this way, His sovereignty guarantees religious liberty for all; arising from His sovereignty, the rights He endows cannot be abrogated by a tyrannical majority among the people, or by the actions of the state in any of its branches. This conception of religious liberty is spelled out directly in the Virginia Declaration of Rights, in Madison’s “Remonstrance,” and in the Virginia Act for Establishing Religious Freedom. For example, the Declaration of Rights affirms:


That religion, or the duty which we owe to our Creator and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence; and therefore, all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; and that it is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian forbearance, love, and charity towards each other.


There lies the classic American definition of religion and the foundation for religious liberty. To this definition, some make one or more objections. For instance, some point out that Christians (and Jews) have not always respected this principle, and thus try to discredit its Jewish and Christian origins. But human failure is no argument against the principle; human weakness is measured by it.


Second, one can say (as Judge Thompson does, quoting from Stephen Carter in a footnote) that among Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and others there have been examples of generations of “tolerance.” But tolerance is a different (and less profound) concept than the right to religious liberty. Tolerance may arise merely from a temporary lack of power to enforce conformity. The right to religious liberty obliges us to learn tolerance; tolerance alone does not invoke a natural right.


Rather, the concept of religious liberty depends upon a particular conception of God, a particular conception of the human person, and a particular conception of liberty. Reaching these particular conceptions took Jews and Christians many centuries. They had to be learned through failure and sin and error, and at great cost. But they were eventually learned.


A scholar who today can easily point to texts in the American tradition for definitions of these new concepts would face a steep burden in trying to locate analogous texts in other traditions. Rightly did the authors of Federalist 14 call attention to their own originality, even as they exerted themselves to pay due respect to the opinions of past ages.


For this reason, calling the attention of the public to the Judeo-Christian conception of God’s sovereignty, which grounds the principle of religious liberty, is not necessarily the same as “establishing” the Jewish or Christian religions.


In the first place, this conception is by its very nature a public conception, not a private one, and has historically been invoked in the practice of existing public institutions, such as the several states and the federal government, in countless forms. The public life of our nation has been and is still remarkably religious, as is visible on public occasions such as the inaugural speeches of presidents, the swearing-in of judges, Thanksgiving Day, Independence Day, Memorial Day, and others. The notion that the foundation of our rights lies in God’s work has been officially deployed in many congressional and presidential decrees and proclamations, which recommend religious observances such as fasting, prayers, thanksgiving, and imploring pardon for the nation’s sins.


In the second place, the principle of religious liberty (as witnessed to in all the relevant founding documents and in the public practices of the founding era) requires two courses of action: First, one must enunciate the principle clearly, understand it fully, and express it publicly for public guidance, as the early Declarations did. Second, one must not coerce the conscience nor obstruct the free exercise of religion of any. No one can impose upon any American citizen belief in or the worship of the Jewish or Christian God, or any other God.


The specifically American principle of religious liberty in and of itself demands that each person must be allowed to follow his or her own conscience. Each person’s decision about how (if at all) to worship God is inalienable, for it belongs to each alone in his or her own conscience, and to no one else. Everyone must be free in conscience and free in public exercise to accept, or to reject, the Judeo-Christian God. So runs the Jewish and Christian conception of God, conscience, and liberty.


Even if unbelievers choose not to recognize this conception, but rather to concentrate upon abuses of the principle committed by Christians or others, this particular conception guarantees their freedom of conscience. It is also precious for believers, who are obliged by it to grant to all others exactly the same right to religious liberty that they claim for themselves.


This was exactly the point made by Chief Justice Moore in his oral testimony at the trial. He said again and again that he stood for two things, both of them derived from the Virginia Declaration of Rights, Madison’s “Remonstrance,” and the Virginia Act for Establishing Religious Freedom. First, human rights are guaranteed by the sovereignty of God, with the result that any abuse of them will have to be answered for before God in Judgment (as Madison pointed out). Second, he neither intended to nor could demand that others share these beliefs, since that would violate the principle of religious liberty itself.


Chief Justice Moore recognized that in historical fact, our rights are endowed in us by our Creator, as the fundamental law of the United States asserts and the Constitution of Alabama reiterates. But he did not want to coerce anyone to share in the same form of worship or belief as he does (or the Founders did). He wished “to recur to fundamental principles,” by calling attention again to the Founders’ beliefs about the grounding of our rights.


In Moore’s eyes, it is the special virtue of the Jewish and Christian conception of God that it allows us to make a twofold claim: to recognize in public the beliefs on which our rights are founded, and to refuse to mandate for others that they must hold the same beliefs. He is free to exercise his duty as chief justice in calling attention to the moral foundation of our rights, without by the same deed trying to force Jewish or Christian belief upon Muslims, Buddhists, atheists, agnostics, or anyone else.


As Justice Moore sees it, the principle of religious liberty enunciated in our great founding documents does exactly no more and no less. It calls attention to the moral foundation of our rights in our inalienable duty to our Creator, and in the same formulation declares the fundamental liberty of all consciences to choose the form and manner of fulfilling that duty.


Justice Moore asserts that he is doing what the Virginia Assembly did in the Virginia Declaration of Rights and the Virginia Act for Establishing Religious Freedom, and what Madison did in his “Remonstrance.” He cites George Washington’s Proclamation of General Thanksgiving (October 3, 1789), in which, in response to a request from both Houses of Congress, Washington notes that “It is the duty of all Nations [note: not only individuals] to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor...” If both houses of Congress and the president of the United States could go so far in 1789, why is it forbidden by the Constitution for a mere chief justice of the supreme court of Alabama to do even less?


The chief justice also likes to cite Abraham Lincoln’s beautiful Decree of August 12, 1861, which also followed upon a resolution of both Houses of Congress: Recognizing that “it is fit and becoming in all people, at all times, to acknowledge and revere the Supreme Government of God,” Lincoln proclaimed a National Fast Day to ask the favor of Almighty God. If all this was not an establishment of religion in 1861, why does doing far less barely a century and a half later constitute attempting to “establish” a religion? Clearly, the meaning of “establish” has now swollen far beyond its historic meaning.


Curiously, Judge Thompson refuses to define the central word in his decision — the word religion. Yet, in fact, a powerful definition was entered into the historical record by the Virginia Declaration of Rights and the Virginia Act for Establishing Religious Freedom, as well as from Madison’s “Remonstrance,” viz., “religion, or the duties we owe to our Creator and the manner of discharging those duties.” The transcript of the trial also contains the definition of religion in Noah Webster’s Dictionary of 1828, another favorite of Chief Justice Moore, which firmly records the term’s usage over the period of the founding — and ties it, incidentally, to the Commandments of God.


There is a feeling widespread in the land that starting about 60 years ago, the Supreme Court took a half-truth about the meaning of “establishment” and carried it by torturous logic to conclusions quite open to ridicule. Against the whole of its prior tradition, and the tradition of American public life, the Court has come to seem radically anti-religious, particularly anti-Jewish and anti-Christian. The Court shifted its focus from the constitutional term “religious liberty” to the much more recent polemical slogan “separation of church and state.”


We should not want the Court to be pro-Jewish or pro-Christian. But we must insist that it show reverence for the moral foundations of the principle of religious liberty, and these foundations have been well-located in Jewish and Christian conceptions by the classic documents brought to our attention again by Chief Justice Moore. It is not necessary to embrace these particular conceptions. Unavoidably, however, anyone wishing “to recur to fundamental principles” will have to measure rival conceptions by those historically agreed to at the Founding.


Chief Justice Moore is not an alumnus of Harvard Law School or Yale Law School, and is neither of an elite and famous family nor of a high-status background. But he is a profound believer in the principle of religious liberty, and an unusually thoughtful student of the origins and sources of that principle. He is a serious believer in the God written of with palpable reverence by our nation’s Founders and later forebears.


Nonetheless, the chief justice wants in a more modern manner to respect the full religious liberty of many new citizens who are of different faiths and traditions. For them, too, he underlines the originality of our Founders in the matter of religious liberty. Ours is a precious conceptual heritage, not yet embodied in all cultures of this planet. It needs to be set forth publicly so that all new immigrants might come easily to learn of it, even as they develop equivalent conceptions from the materials of their own traditions.


Someone might counter that yes, of course, Chief Justice Moore is correct about the history of our conception of religious liberty, as expressed in the Virginia documents, among others. But he went further than that. He holds that that conception is true. And he is actually giving witness to the sovereignty of God, not merely saying that our ancestors once did. Isn’t that going too far? Well, how does his official action differ from the official exercise of religion shown by Washington in his Proclamation of 1789 and Lincoln in his Decree of 1861?


The beauty of our forebears’ conception of religious liberty is that it can be held as a truth by most Americans, respected by all, commended to newcomers as a model, yet never forced it upon the conscience of anyone. That is precisely what the principle of religious liberty demands: Cherish it, teach it, but do not force it upon anyone. And that is what Chief Justice Moore believes that his silent monument does — sits there as a teacher, coercing no one.


Is it reasonable to call that an establishment of religion? When all the relevant distinctions have been made, it is difficult to see how it can be.


Chief Justice Moore has rendered a brave and invaluable service to our entire nation by bringing this richly interwoven fabric of conceptions, so delicately knit together at our nation’s Founding, to the notice of the courts. The pattern is far more complex than the Court in recent decades has taken into its cognizance. In this, he has fulfilled the highest duties of his office.


— Michael Novak, winner of the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion in 1994, was an expert witness for the defense in Glassroth v. Moore. His latest book is On Two Wings: Humble Faith and Common Sense at the American Founding.




Pro-FBI: Partners in solutions and prevention (NRO, 021221)


By Joseph Loconte


Tired of partisan opposition in Congress, President Bush has issued executive orders to strengthen the role of religious organizations caring for the needy. He’s now accused of making an end-run around Congress and the Constitution. In reality, the president is taking advantage of a growing consensus that a purely secular public square is not possible — or desirable.


The president’s orders call for the “equal treatment” of faith-based charities competing for public funding, while insisting that no government money be used for religious activities, such as Bible studies or evangelism. “Government has no business endorsing a religious creed,” Bush said at a White House conference in Philadelphia. “Yet government can and should support social services provided by religious people.”


Critics say the plan violates the separation of church and state. They’re stuck in the bad old days of official hostility to religion: In a string of recent rulings, the U.S. Supreme Court has begun to restore fairness in the treatment of faith-based organizations by government. The Bush White House correctly sees a new legal relationship emerging.


In Mitchell v. Helms, the Court ruled that government-funded computers could go to Catholic parochial schools, as long as they were made available to public and other private schools. In the Good News Club v. Milford, the Court said that if public schools create an open forum, they can’t exclude clubs because of their religious speech, even speech considered evangelistic. And in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, the majority ruled that poor parents could use publicly funded vouchers at the school of their choice — public, private, or religious.


The Court’s logic is long overdue, especially given the massive expansion of social services in recent decades. When government makes funds or facilities generally available, it can’t exclude religious institutions that are serving a secular purpose. Call it the principle of equal treatment; it’s precisely the argument being made by the White House.


The president’s executive orders also allow groups receiving federal money to consider faith commitment in hiring decisions. Why shouldn’t they? Religious institutions must not be forced to compromise their beliefs for every new job applicant. The First Amendment means nothing if it can’t protect an organization’s right to live out its deepest moral convictions consistent with the public good.


Nevertheless, opponents claim the president’s agenda would “turn back the clock on civil rights.” They’re worried about social workers, especially homosexuals, denied jobs because of theology. It was this employment discrimination argument that ultimately sidelined faith-based legislation in the Senate.


It’s the critics, however, who want to undo more than 35 years of civil-rights guarantees. The 1964 Civil Rights Act, with its sweeping anti-discrimination laws, carved out exceptions for churches, synagogues and other religious groups on the hiring issue. The Supreme Court unanimously upheld these exemptions in a 1987 ruling, and Congress has repeatedly extended them. Most Americans know the difference between the Motel 6 and Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity.


The debate in Washington has been strangely removed from the Good Samaritans actually ministering to the nation’s poor. Based on research I recently conducted for the University of Pennsylvania on organizations assisting at-risk children, it seems that close church-state cooperation is already the norm in many urban areas.


Philadelphia’s Amachi program, for example, gets government support to mobilize church volunteers helping the children of prison inmates. The president rightly singled out the program for praise: Last year more than 500 mentors from 42 area churches were matched with needy kids, a group almost completely ignored by secular programs. “What’s missing in the lives of many of these children is the development of a value system,” says Alan Appel, director inmate services at the Philadelphia Correction Center. “So the fact that these mentors come from a faith-based values system is terrific.”


Most Americans agree. A Pew Research Center survey released earlier this year found that even among secular people and those with weak ties to religion, a majority believes that America would be better off if religion’s influence were on the rise. And this after a year of religious scandal and faith-based terrorism.


There are dangers, of course, when church and state collaborate. But sound laws and common sense can guide these partnerships, and the needs of America’s most-vulnerable groups demand we try.


— Joseph Loconte, author of Seducing the Samaritan: How Government Contracts Are Reshaping Social Services, is the William E. Simon fellow in religion and a free society at the Heritage Foundation.




“What Was I Thinking?” All creation sings…weird tunes (NRO, 021221)


The holiday that increasingly dare not speak its name is upon us. Employees of the Gap are advised not to speak the word “Christmas” to customers. Happy Holidays is the acceptable terminology. The ACLU threatens lawsuits against schools that display Christmas trees, causing principles to quake like long-ago shepherds hearing angel voices. Christian symbols are banned from New York schools, while those associated with Islam and Judaism are allowed. This is all undertaken in the name of tolerance; suggestions that America is being methodically scrubbed of Christian influence are dismissed as the excretions of rancid imaginations.


Meanwhile, the BBC airs a story in which most aspects of the Christmas story are brought into question; Mary’s pregnancy, for example, is said to have been compliments of a maliciously horny Roman soldier, not a visitation from the Holy Spirit. Planned Parenthood tells us that Jesus would have favored the extermination of human life in the womb, while green activists advise the Nazarene would under no circumstances drive an SUV. As if to pile on, in West Virginia a man is arrested for raping (we assume no consent) a sheep used in a funeral home’s nativity scene.


And so the very thought of Jesus still stirs the pot — 2,000 or so years after a most-humble birth, modest blue-collar professional life, and without leaving behind any personal writings, conquered cities, or a tombstone. No matter what your religious beliefs, or lack thereof, this is an impressive achievement. By some interpretations it supports belief in Divinity; by others it proves the human race is at least partly insane, and perhaps largely insane. For my part, I’ve always believed a little craziness is a very good thing. It tends to inoculate one against total madness.


In any event, Christmas is here and the 80 percent or so of Americans who claim some connection to the religion will participate in the celebratory ritual. More than the usual number may be asking themselves “What Would Jesus Do?” as they wonder whether to buy a Lexus or a Mercedes, or for that matter buy anything at all. It might also be worth wondering “What Is Jesus Thinking?” if indeed he is keeping track of the aforementioned developments, perhaps for use on Judgment Day.


One can reasonably assume the Good Lord spends much time shaking his head and wondering aloud, “What will they come up with next?” Consider the SUV issue. Would he or wouldn’t he? Let us turn to the evidence at hand.


As it is written, Jesus did most of his traveling by foot, though he occasionally took an ass to town, which was nearly as good as it got back then. He didn’t own the ass, of course — it was borrowed. One assumes a contemporary Jesus would behave much in the same way, though these days instead of walking from town to town to spread the Message, he’d walk from television studio to television studio. When a vehicle was taken it would be borrowed, and it’s quite doubtful he’d do the driving, for that would require a license, which would mean a trip to the Division of Motor Vehicles. Descending into Hell once was surely enough. It is most important to note that Jesus would not think himself holy for puttering about in a borrowed Honda instead of in an Explorer, which, of course, would put him very much as odds with those who prophesy in his name regarding transportation issues.


Being hijacked by the abortion industry is probably not going over well either. Christ’s own mother, for one thing, would have been a likely candidate for abortion, at least by Planned Parenthood’s standards. She found herself mysteriously pregnant, by some accounts at age 13. If we take the BBC’s version of events — that she was raped by a soldier — the case becomes a virtual slam-dunk.


Besides that, Jesus taught that God knew every hair upon every head, knit life together in the womb, and that death was introduced to the world by the Father of Lies. When he contemplated Lazarus’s demise, he wept. He shed tears of blood prior to his own execution. He was a lover, not a killer, and deeply involved in the healing business, taking care of blind men, lepers, and those stricken by profound mental delusions. To suggest he’d embrace the PP agenda, with its fanatical support of even late-stage abortion, is a stretch of supernatural proportions. Which isn’t to say the idea won’t be accepted in some quarters and indeed used to raise funds.


Jesus, it should be remembered, has been regularly hijacked over the years, whether in the cause of regaining lost territories from religious and/or political rivals, parting the skulls of various dissidents, and in our time endorsing a wide selection of sexual practices up to and perhaps including the aforementioned bonking of the thespian sheep. “He’s with us” is the usual battle cry, which is an easier way to go than “we’re with him.”


So has it been, so will it always be. All of which might make one wonder if the Good Lord might occasionally wonder “Why on Earth did I bother?” That’s a tough question, to be sure, though one that is at the very heart of Christmas.


— Dave Shiflett is coauthor of Christianity on Trial.




Why “Under God”? (Free Congress Foundation , 030610)


We continually read how the ACLU, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, and similar groups, want “under God” taken out of the Pledge of Allegiance, the Ten Commandments removed from Court Room walls, prayer out of schools, and teachers fired for wearing a crosses on their necklaces.


They state they simply want our government to be neutral in regards to “religion.” But just what is “religion”?


Random House Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language defines “religion” as: “a set of beliefs.” The word “belief” is defined as: “opinions, convictions - thoughts upon which one bases their actions.”


So as long as a person is doing “actions,” there are thoughts that precede those actions - and that collection of thoughts is the person’s “set of beliefs” or “religion.”


As long as the government is doing “actions,” the government has thoughts that precede those actions - and that collection of thoughts is the government’s belief system or “religion.”


So there can never be a separation of “religion” and government - as long as the government is doing “actions” there are thoughts or beliefs underlying those actions.


The ACLU is not trying to be “religion” neutral, but, in fact, they are trying to promote their own belief system or religion.


Whereas our founders had a deity-based belief system, (“All men are endowed by their CREATOR,” “So Help Me God,” “In God We Trust,” “One Nation Under God”...), the ACLU is trying to establish a “non-deity” based state religion.


But why is it important for a free nation to believe in God?


I have identified three obvious reasons:




The first reason is RIGHTS.


The founders believed that rights came from God and it was the government’s job to protect these rights.


The Declaration states “that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights...That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men”


Their views were echoed by President John F. Kennedy in his Inaugural Address, 1961: “The rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God.”


But if there is no God, then where do the rights come from except from the “generosity of the State.” The State, then, becomes the new god. And what the State giveth, the State can taketh awayeth.


Instead of the government existing for the citizens’ benefit, the citizens must now exist for the government’s benefit. This was espoused by the German philosopher Hegel, who influenced Karl Marx and Hitler. Hegel did not believe in the existence of God. He thought the closest anyone could come to attaining “eternal life” was to create a government that would continue after their death. This is what Communism has taught - that citizens exist for the benefit of the State.


This is a significant switch from our founders’ belief that rights come from God and it is the government’s job is to protect those rights.




The second reason is ACCOUNTABILITY.


Daniel Webster, who was the U.S. Secretary of State for three Presidents, was once asked what the greatest thought was that ever passed through his mind. He replied “My accountability to God.”


The President ends his oath with “So Help Me God” (Executive Branch); Congressmen and Senators end their oaths with “So Help Me God” (Legislative Branch); and the courts of law had witnesses swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth - “So Help Me God” (Judicial Branch).


Why did our founders acknowledge God in all three branches of government?


The idea of an oath was to call a higher power to hold you accountable to perform what you said you would perform.


For example - the framers of our government knew that politicians and witnesses would have the opportunity to do dirty, backroom deals and twist the truth for their own benefit and never get caught. They thought, though, that if a politician or witness believed God existed and was watching him, it would cause that person to hesitate when presented with the temptation to do wrong.


They would have a conscience. They would think “even if I get away with this unscrupulous action in this life, I will still have to be held accountable in the next.” So, hopefully, that politician or witness would be kept honest by the thought of having to someday give an account to God.


But if that same person did not believe in God and in a future state of rewards and punishments, then when they were presented with the temptation to do wrong and not get caught, they would give in. In fact, if there is no God, and this life is all there is, then that person would be a fool not to take advantage of the selfish opportunity.


This is what President Reagan meant when he said in 1984: “Without God there is no virtue because there is no prompting of the conscience.”


William Linn, the first Chaplain of the U.S. House of Representatives, elected unanimously on May 1, 1789, stated: “Let my neighbor once persuade himself that there is no God, and he will soon pick my pocket, and break not only my leg but my neck. If there be no God, there is no law, no future account; government then is the ordinance of man only, and we cannot be subject for conscience sake.”


Indeed, from Bill Clinton to Enron, we have seen where this new morality will take our country. The less internal moral code we have as a nation results in the government passing more external legal code - and each new law takes away another little piece of our freedom.




The third reason is EQUALITY.


All citizens being equal before God was the basis for the concept of equality before the law and each person having an equal vote in elections.


Harry S Truman stated in his Inaugural Address “We believe that all men are created equal, because they are created in the image of God.”


But the logic follows, if there is no God - then men are not only not “created,” they are not “equal.” As Darwin espoused, some are more evolved than others.


This leads to frightful consequences, as seen in the 1856 Dred Scott Case, which stated that slaves “had for more than a century before been regarded as beings of an inferior far inferior, that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect; and that the negro might justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery for his benefit.”


In the years prior to World War II, Margaret Sanger founded Planned Parenthood and hired Nazi Party member Ernst Rudin as her advisor. In her book “Pivot of Civilization” (1922), she called for “The elimination of ‘human weeds’...overrunning the human garden;.for the cessation of ‘charity’ because it prolonged the lives of the unfit; for the segregation of ‘morons, misfits, and the maladjusted’; and for the sterilization of genetically inferior races.”


She influenced Hitler to consider the German, or “Aryan,” race as “ubermenschen,” supermen, being more advanced in the supposed progress of human evolution. This resulted in the twisted conclusion that all other races, and in particular the Jewish race, were less evolved and inferior, and needed to be eliminated from the so-called “human gene pool.”


Yes, there are frightful consequences if our country chooses to disregard President Harry S Truman’s statement: “We believe that all men are created equal because we are created in the image of God.”




Justice William O. Douglas, in the United States Supreme Court case of Zorach v. Clauson (1952), delivered the Court’s decision, stating: “We are a religious people and our institutions presuppose a Supreme Being.”


“Our institutions presuppose a Supreme Being” - our rights coming from God, we are accountable to God, and we are equal because we are made in the image of God.


No one can sum it better than former President Ronald Reagan, who, on August 23, 1984, in Dallas, Texas, stated: “Without God there is a coarsening of the society; without God democracy will not and cannot long endure....America needs God more than God needs America. If we ever forget that we are One Nation Under God, then we will be a Nation gone under.”


William J. Federer is a best-selling author and nationally known speaker. He resides in St. Louis with his wife and four children. He is a U.S. Congressional Candidate for Missouri’s 3rd District.




Affronts and Provocations: Christians in America (NRO, 030825)


You have to excuse me. I’m a new American, not yet quite up to speed on national attitudes and approaches to things like, oh, Constitutional jurisprudence. Any time one of these church-state controversies blows up, I read the arguments pro and con, scratch my head a bit, then pull out my handy Cato Institute pocket edition of the U.S. Constitution, and try to figure out what all the fuss is about.


In that noble document, I read the following:


Article VI: “ religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”


A bit further on I read this:


Amendment I: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...”


Far as I can see, that’s pretty much it. I mean, that’s all the U.S. Constitution has to say on the topic of religion.


Well, as I said, these things come up in the news once or twice a year, and each time it happens I pull out my Constitution, read those clauses, and ask myself, about whatever situation has come up: “Is a religious Test being required as a Qualification to some Office or public Trust under the United States?” Then I ask myself: “Is there any indication, sign, hint, or smidgeon of evidence here that Congress is attempting to make a law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof?” And guess what, gentle reader: In every case, in every single blessed case to which I have applied these tests, the answers have come up plain as eggs: No, and No.


So it has been with this flap over Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore and his Ten Commandments monument. SCOAL, like its big brother SCOTUS, has nine justices altogether. The other eight have overruled Chief Justice Moore on the monument, a 4-foot-high, 5,280-pound slab of granite with the Commandments clearly inscribed on it, set in the lobby of the State Supreme Court building here. They say the monument has to go. Alabama’s attorney general Bill Pryor says so, too, though with regret, and some words of support for Moore. Pryor is up for a federal judgeship. He’s having trouble getting confirmed because he’s a conservative and a Christian, and Senate Democrats hate conservatives and hate Christians. Apparently in no mood to make things even worse for himself, Pryor has said that while he personally can’t see anything wrong with “Roy’s Rock,” this is not a proper occasion for civil disobedience; and that even if it were, a chief justice is not the proper person to take the lead in such things.


Like other church-state stories, this one sailed easily through my pocket-Constitution test. Nobody has suggested that Roy Moore is lobbying Congress to pass a law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; nor does it seem that he demands those state officers under his control to recite the Nicene Creed as a condition of getting or keeping their jobs. Case closed. That slab of granite in the lobby? What about it? What harm is it doing?


Let’s see what Roy Moore’s opponents have to say, as to why they think the rock is illegal. Judge Myron H. Thompson of the Federal District Court, who has been presiding over the case, said that Roy’s Rock is “nothing less than an obtrusive year-round religious display.” So it is; but obtrusive year-round religious displays in state courthouses are prohibited in the Constitution... where? Martin Redish, whom the New York Times describes as “a Northwestern University law professor,” extruded the following: “It’s quite clear that the Ten Commandments are being used as a clear message of governmental support for a religious institution.” Which institution would that be, Prof? The Church of Moses?


Now you may, of course, say that the Ten Commandments monument will give offense to someone or other. I can’t fathom why anyone — other than dedicated polytheists, idolaters, blasphemers, and so on — should take exception to the Ten Commandments per se, but given the petroleum-vapor flammability of American sensibilities in this day and age, when “you people” is considered to be an insult of staggering audacity, and telling a woman she is pretty is more or less equivalent in law to stomping on her face with cleated golf shoes, I feel sure there are indeed people who will take offense at the Decalogue. So what? There is no Constitutional right to be preserved from offense, even when passing through a government building.


I myself, for example, take grave offense when I walk into the passport office on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue and see all the signs directing me here or there in English and Spanish. Don’t you have to be a citizen to get a passport? And is not a citizen either native-born or naturalized? And if native-born, has the citizen not attended American schools, with instruction in English? Or if naturalized, has he not been tested for English proficiency as part of the naturalization process? Who, then, are these passport applicants who need directions in Spanish? No one can tell me, and I am severely offended thereby, though I believe that I shall probably survive the offense with mind and body intact. This is not a trivial example, either. The underlying issue here is far graver, of far greater moment to the life and future of our country than anything happening in Roy Moore’s courthouse. Perhaps I should get the ACLU on the case. Ha ha ha ha ha!


What is really going on down in Montgomery is, of course, another battle in the bitter, hate-filled (never thought I’d find use for a lefty phrase like that — watch out for “mean-spirited”) war against Christianity. One of the principal features of American life, which jumped out at me at once when I came to live here, and which I have observed with fascination ever since, is the seething, foam-flecked detestation that large sections of U.S. society feel towards Christians and their faith.


You see this all the time. You saw it in the John Ashcroft nomination hearings, when an op-ed piece in USA Today — written by the paper’s former Supreme Court reporter — asked incredulously: “Can a deeply religious person be attorney general?” (A mere 40 years ago the sub-editor would have inserted an “ir-” in front of “religious,” for fear that otherwise the question would make no sense to readers.) You see it in the endless stalling of approval for Christian nominees by Democratic senators. (If I were George W. Bush, my next nominee for a federal judgeship would be the most passionately devout Hindu, Buddhist, Zoroastrian, or Muslim I could find. Then I’d sit back in front of the TV and watch Chuck Schumer’s head cave in.) And you see it in the horizon-to-horizon buffalo stampede beneath which is trampled to death any elementary-school teacher temerarious enough to ask her pupils to say a prayer for the country in time of crisis.


A lot of this is just naked snobbery. Some more of it is Jewish anti-Christianism. (All right, all right, I know we’re not supposed to talk about this, but isn’t it true? Lots of Jewish Americans are brought up to associate Christianity with pogroms, discrimination, and the atrocities of the Crusaders. Naturally they’re anti-Christian.) Some of it is special-interest opportunism: pro-abortion and homosexualist zealots, for instance, see devout Christians as enemies to be defeated and humiliated whenever an opportunity arises. Some small part of it, I will grudgingly allow, may be actual principled belief in the idea, as wrong-headed as it seems to me, that U.S. law absolutely forbids any association whatsoever, in any shape or form at all, between government and religion, that latter term defined as broadly as it possibly can be.


I should like to make a modest suggestion. I think I am the right person to make it, belonging to neither of the fiercely interested parties. I am a Christian, and therefore obviously not one of the Christ-hating party. On the other hand, I am not a fundamentalist or an evangelical. In fact when I say anything in my columns about religion, I generally manage to tick those people off, and bring down on myself a hailstorm of scathing, scornful, or pitying e-mails. (Let me tell you, you have not plumbed the full depths of the phrase “holier than thou” until you have written about your own observances on a conservative website.) You could say I am reasonably impartial on this one. So here’s my suggestion.


Huge numbers of Americans are Christians who take their religion very seriously indeed. A Gallup poll last December found 46 percent of us describing ourselves as evangelical or born-again Christians. That a lot of Americans, very nearly half. A lot of really good citizens, too. I mean, though I don’t have numbers on this, it seems to me a pretty solid bet that any index of personal or social dysfunction you care to name — crime, delinquency, teen pregnancy, drug addiction, AIDS infection — is way lower among that 46 percent than it is among the other 54 percent.


The United States of America in this year of Our Lord 2003 is, I venture to observe, not so abundantly endowed with patriotism, good citizenship, self-restraint, marital fidelity, teen chastity, the spirit of communal self-help, and willingness to educate one’s own children, that we can scoff and sneer at a group that embodies those virtues in far higher concentrations than can be found among, say, law professors, or Hollywood megastars, or U.S. senators.


So here is my suggestion to Judge Myron H. Thompson, Northwestern’s Professor Pointyhead, Chuck Schumer, the ACLU, and all the rest of the Christ-purgers: Leave Christians alone. They are your fellow citizens — and, as citizens, better than average. Stop insulting them. Show a little respect. Stop enraging them. Stop picking on them.


I am generally cautious about finding malign motives in the actions of thoughtful, respectable people. The more of these church-state kafuffles I read about, however — and it came to mind in the recent noise about “gay marriage,” too — the more I get the feeling that a lot of the driving energy behind modern liberalism is the desire to affront and provoke Christians. If I am right about this, I’d like to ask liberals: Why do you want to do this to your fellow Americans? Why the affronts? Why the provocations? Is there really some issue here so momentous that it is worth your creating all this rancor and division? What actual harm is Roy’s Rock doing to any American? What, actually, is your point?


As I started out by saying, I am no authority on jurisprudence. It may be, for all I know — I really can’t see it, but it may be — that there really are sound Constitutional grounds for your never-ending campaigns to scrub every last jot and title of religion from our public places. But just take a look at our country.


There is a war on: People who hate America are working day and night to destroy us. Just a few months ago they murdered 3,000 of us, and brought down two of our noblest buildings. Manufacturing jobs are long gone, and middle-class paper-shuffling jobs are following them fast. Public-sector unions are pillaging our state treasuries to fund their 50-90 programs (retire at 50 on 90 percent of your salary). Meanwhile, trial lawyers are chewing their way like termites through the private sector. We have 13 million illegal immigrants scoffing at our laws and helping themselves to the welfare provisions that citizens have spent their lifetimes funding through taxes. Two million of us are currently in jail, and the one-eighth of our population that is black supplies one-half of those inmates. Our education systems are collapsing under absurd demands that “no child be left behind” — everyone must be above average! — and hundreds of thousands of citizens have fled those systems in disgust to school their kids at home. Our universities are in the hands of nihilist ideologues who hate their own nation, culture and ancestors. The political system has seized up, impossible-to-cut spending programs crashing head on into impossible-to-raise tax rates. Drop a cigarette butt into some power generator in Cleveland and you can shut down the northeastern U.S.A. for a day. A North Korean nuke has been smuggled across the Mexican border and hidden in a filing cabinet on the 102nd floor of the Sears Tower. (I made that up, but if it hasn’t actually happened yet, it won’t be long.)


And action to deal with all these problems is massively hindered by the fact that we can’t even talk about them in public for fear of being branded with one of the half-dozen modern equivalents of the scarlet letter — “racist,” “nativist,” “elitist,” “profiler,” and the rest of the idiot schoolmarmish cant we hear from the guardians of our public virtue.


In short, we are going to hell in a hand basket here, and all you liberals can think of is to jab your finger in the eyes of 46 percent of your fellow citizens over some footling dubious point of Constitutional law? Just ask yourselves — please, please, ask yourselves: Is Roy’s Rock really a proper target for my zeal, my energy, my passion, my money? Is my reaction to it in any kind of proportion to any harm it might conceivably do?


One hundred and forty years ago, one of the giants of British politics was the social reformer and big-L Liberal William Ewart Gladstone. The mathematician Augustus De Morgan caused some mild hilarity in London by pointing out that the great man’s name was an anagram of “WILT TEAR DOWN ALL IMAGES?” Is that — tearing down all images — actually the program of modern American liberalism? Does it not occur to you liberals, not even for a passing instant, that by purging all sacred images, references, and words from our public life, you are leaving us with nothing but a cold temple presided over by the Goddess of Reason — that counterfeit deity who, as history has proved time and time and time again, inspires no affection, retains no loyalties, soothes no grief, justifies no sacrifice, gives no comfort, extends no charity, displays no pity, and offers no hope, except to the tiny cliques of fanatical ideologues who tend her cold blue flame.




Saving The Ten Commandments (Free Congress Foundation, 030820)


A large number of Americans were plunged into darkness last week. When the power was restored, the lights could be flicked on again, and things could go back to normal.


But how much of our country is in a spiritual blackout?


After all, this is a country in which posting the Ten Commandments in a government building ignites a political controversy. A powerful lobby hell-bent on bringing about a secular America will fight any action that pays homage to our Judeo-Christian heritage.


How can “Thou Shalt Not Kill” be viewed as signifying the onset of a state religion? Or “Honor Thy Mother and Father?” There is hope. Many Americans are willing to fight the secular lobby’s intention to impose a spiritual blackout throughout all of America’s government buildings.


No doubt, many of the secularists are motivated by a misplaced idealism that demonstrates a faulty understanding of our country’s founding. They do not understand the intentions of the founding fathers. The secular lobby and their allies in education and the news media have promoted flawed ideas.


Particularly notable for his courage in challenging this secular lobby is Roy Moore, the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, who has placed a monument that lists the Ten Commandments in the state’s judicial building.


When challenged to remove it, Chief Justice Moore stands his ground, even if it means risking a $5,000 a day fine imposed on the state by a U.S. District Judge. While the state would initially be assessed a fine, eventually it could lead to the Marshals removing the monument.


It is Chief Justice Moore’s historically accurate contention that the Ten Commandments represent the guiding principles that have shaped American law. In the view of the court, the monument erected by Chief Justice Moore represents an unconstitutional endorsement of religion by government. Fortunately, Chief Justice Moore is intent on taking his case all the way to the Supreme Court if need be.


In other good news, the United States House of Representatives demonstrated common sense by voting 260-161 last month in favor of an amendment to the Commerce, Justice, State and the Judiciary appropriations bill sponsored by Rep. John Hostettler (R-IN). The bill would prevent federal funds from being used to enforce the decision. However, the Senate still has to vote on its version of the appropriations bill. When it does, the House and Senate versions will have to be reconciled in conference committee.


Our hearts and prayers should go out to Chief Justice Moore as he continues his valiant fight to acknowledge the Judeo-Christian principles that have guided our country so well for over two centuries.


It is important to make sure that our Senators be made to realize that millions of everyday Americans still want our local, state, and Federal governments to acknowledge the values that they use as the touchstone to live their lives.


After all, it’s bad enough when the electricity is turned off for a few hours. Think about what condition our country would be in without having the Ten Commandments to illuminate our lives during the last two centuries. What if the secular lobby triumphs repeatedly and we spend the next fifty years or more in an ever-increasing spiritual blackout?


It’s a pretty scary thought.


Paul M. Weyrich is Chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation




Tolerating Christians: Where are the diversityphiles now? (NRO, 031223)


Christmas is the perfect time to plead for tolerance...of Christians.


I ask this not as a Christian, but as a deist. All of that said, I feel enormous sympathy for Christians experiencing yet another Christmas with diminishing religious significance and growing hostility to Christian symbols and teachings.


As National Review’s Jay Nordlinger discovered, several internal corporate calendars list “Memorial Day,” “Labor Day,” and simply “December 25.” San Diego’s “Christmas on the Prado” festival is now “December Nights.”


The cheerful “Merry Christmas” somehow has become unfit for polite company, much like calling blacks “colored” or women “little ladies.” The blandly contemporary phrase “Happy Holidays” is like an extra-strength version of “Have a nice weekend.” It neither offends nor expresses very much.


“Merry Christmas” is certainly an unlikely epithet. Christmas, after all, does not involve tossing virgins into volcanoes or burning witches at shopping malls. The season still features gestures of love, generosity and fellowship, indulgence in food and spirits, warm moments with close friends and family around fireplaces and, for the devout, prayers and midnight mass. Is that so wrong?


Christians are asked to accept plenty these days.


The airwaves frequently feature such biblically challenging fare as the barely clad, scarcely talented Britney Spears playing tonsil hockey with the aging Madonna on the August 28 MTV Video Awards.


Hip TV-sitcom characters routinely sleep around and even reproduce outside marriage.


The flamboyant style council on NBC’s Queer Eye for the Straight Guy liberates heterosexual males from their clodhopping ways, even as they bolster gay stereotypes in a manner that will annoy homosexuals tomorrow just as Amos & Andy irritates blacks today.


Secular teachings, such as evolution, are firmly ensconced in government school curricula. Conversely, judges often expel religion from public campuses, such as when the Ninth Circuit Court ruled unconstitutional the words “under God” in classroom recitations of the Pledge of Allegiance.


“I visited our local public school in Westchester County, New York, several years ago for a meeting in its library,” Caroline Hemphill of the John M. Olin Foundation tells me. “It was mid-summer, so no books were checked out. The Christmas section had Frosty, Rudolph, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa books, but not one on Jesus as the reason for the season, even from a secular, informative point of view.”


Remember the Sabbath day? It’s not so holy, what with all the enterprises that conduct business on Sundays.


Christians have dealt with this and more for years — if not with smiles, then at least through politely clenched teeth.


Reciprocity is in order. Non-believers, of course, should resist efforts to force anyone to embrace religious rituals or tenets, Christian or otherwise.


But who, exactly, is harmed by a Nativity scene in a public park? Would it jeopardize the Republic to call the 65-foot Engelmann Spruce on Capitol Hill the “Congressional Christmas Tree” rather than the “2003 Capitol Holiday Tree?” Since New York City’s schools specifically permit Hanukkah Menorahs (note, they’re not “Holiday Menorahs”) and Muslim Stars and Crescents, would anyone outside the ACLU suffer convulsions if a home-made manger appeared, say, on a schoolhouse lawn during the Yuletide?


“There is a concerted effort to remove the religious significance of Christmas,” says Brian Burch of the Thomas More Law Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan. “Christians find themselves being marginalized when members of other faiths are allowed to express themselves.” The legal advocacy group is suing Gotham’s school system to demand that Christian symbols be treated equally with Jewish and Muslim icons.


Meanwhile, can we please drop the tepid, bloodless “Happy Holidays” and greet each other once again with “Merry Christmas,” as most of us did as kids without sustaining permanent damage? Saying “Happy Hanukkah” will honor those of us who celebrate that tradition.


Along these lines, the Alabama Supreme Court’s controversial Ten Commandments statue did not hector visitors into repenting for their sins, nor did it make them drop to their knees in prayer. It need not have been removed. Those fragile souls who quaked at the sight of the Ten Commandments simply could have shielded their eyes as they walked past the supposedly offensive slab of marble.


Christians endure plenty year round that must drive them bonkers. We of little faith owe it to these fellow citizens to turn the other cheek and tolerate what they hold dear.


— Deroy Murdock is a columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service and a Senior Fellow with the Atlas Economic Research Foundation in Fairfax, Virginia.




Newdow & Us: Much more than one case and two words (NRO, 040324)


I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.


In 2002, in the case of Newdow v. Elk Grove Unified School District, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the phrase “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance violates the First Amendment. Those who object to “under God” say the two words turn the pledge into an unconstitutional religious statement.


Today the Supreme Court hears oral arguments on the matter. The case is almost surely destined to enter the history textbooks, especially if it becomes a hot-button issue in this year’s national elections.


The pledge is the customary way of honoring the nation in public schools. It is mandated by law as part of the school program in many states, including California. Public schools started adopting the pledge in 1892, following a campaign on the part of Francis Bellamy, Baptist minister, member of the National Education Association, and the prominent editor of The Youth’s Companion. It is an artifact of the era’s ardent patriotism as well as part of a conscious turn-of-the-century effort to Americanize immigrant children.


Liberal legend has it that “under God”‘s inclusion is simply a function of mid-century McCarthyism — the two words were added by Congress in 1954. But, as James Piereson has observed, the phrase “under God” — introduced by George Washington and reiterated by Abraham Lincoln in the Gettysburg Address — has been in the nation’s public vocabulary since the Founding.


What does the pledge do? It establishes a common political purpose and collective aspiration. It affirms the principle of “liberty and justice for all” citizens. The pledge celebrates a specific political philosophy: the republic of which the flag is a symbol. “Under God” injects the element of providence — and turns the oath into something of a public prayer.


The pledge is one of the nation’s few civic universals. It states in elegant but clear language — in very few words — some public principles that a large number of Americans, especially children, would have a hard time articulating on their own.


Still, for many secularists, God in the pledge suggests a state-imposed religion, an exclusionary one dictated by Christian conservatives. As they see it, proscription would be a victory over repressive cultural forces.


The litigant, Michael Newdow, and his allies — notably the American Civil Liberties Union — are convinced that yanking divine benefaction from the operative American creed is a progressive step toward restoring the purity of the pledge.


Sacramento-based Newdow is a shrewd lawyer and atheist who likes to use press conferences and talk shows as courtrooms. Newdow himself will argue the case before the Court on behalf of his nine-year-old daughter. A plaintiff in other federal cases, he has challenged the 2000 inaugural prayer and the presence of chaplains in Congress.


Meanwhile, for many traditionalists, expunging God from the creed is sacrilege. They say it is a determined and fateful break with the essence of the nation’s Founding. The Court hearing has been preceded by days of Capitol Hill anti-religion rallies and prayer vigils.


Many people on both sides of the matter, religious and not, consider this Newdow campaign absurd and dangerous. Yet the arguments follow 40 years of secularist litigation designed to excise God from public life. The logic of the appeals court is consistent and compatible with numerous federal rulings. In substance and spirit, the Ninth Circuit follows decades of highly restrictive decisions on religion in the nation’s schools. Bearing that in mind, in some ways, no matter the ruling in this case, the damage is already done. One or another faction is likely to contest the results, and demagogues will have a field day. Ugly and long-lasting civic repercussions may ensue from the Newdow case, of the kind that change the course of history.


— Gilbert T. Sewall is the director of the American Textbook Council in New York City.




Evolving Double Standards: Establishing a state-funded church of Darwin (NRO, 040401)


The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) is on the front lines of the battle to keep religion out of the nation’s science classrooms. A group whose self-described mission is “Defending the Teaching of Evolution in the Public Schools,” the NCSE routinely condemns anyone who wants to teach faith-based criticisms of evolutionary theory for trying to unconstitutionally mix church and state.


But in an ironic twist, it now turns out that the NCSE itself is using federal tax dollars to insert religion into biology classrooms. Earlier this year, the NCSE and the University of California Museum of Paleontology unveiled a website for teachers entitled “Understanding Evolution.” Funded in part by a nearly half-million-dollar federal grant, the website encourages teachers to use religion to promote evolution. Apparently the NCSE thinks mixing science and religion is okay after all — as long as religion is used to support evolution.


The purpose of the “Understanding Evolution” website is to instruct teachers in how they should teach evolution, and the federal government (through the National Science Foundation) came up with $450,000 for the project. As might be expected, the science presented on the website is rather lopsided. Although there are vigorous arguments among biologists about many aspects of neo-Darwinism, teachers aren’t informed about those scientific debates, ignoring guidance from the U.S. Congress in 2001 that “where topics are taught that may generate controversy (such as biological evolution), the curriculum should help students to understand the full range of scientific views that exist.”


But the strangest part of the website, by far, is the section that encourages educators to use religion to endorse evolution. Teachers are told that nearly all religious people, theologians, and scientists who hold religious beliefs endorse modern evolutionary theory, and that indeed such a view “actually enriches their faith.” In fact, teachers are directed to statements by a variety of religious groups giving their theological endorsement of evolution.


For example, educators can read a statement from the United Church of Christ that “modern evolutionary theory... is in no way at odds with our belief in a Creator God, or in the revelation and presence of that God in Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.” Needless to say, statements from thoughtful religious groups and scholars who critique Darwinism because of its claim that the development of life was an unguided process are not included. Nor is there any indication of the fact that, according to opinion surveys, the vast majority of Americans continues to be skeptical of Darwin’s theory of unguided evolution.


This effort to use religion to endorse evolution is part of a larger public-relations strategy devised by the NCSE to defuse skepticism of neo-Darwinism. On its own website, the group advises inviting ministers to testify in favor of evolution before school boards, and it has created a Sunday-school curriculum to promote evolution in the churches. The NCSE even has a “Faith Network Director” who claims that “Darwin’s theory of evolution... has, for those open to the possibilities, expanded our notions of God.”


Eugenie Scott, the group’s executive director, is an original signer of something called the Humanist Manifesto III, which proclaims that “humans are... the result of unguided evolutionary change” and celebrates “the inevitability and finality of death.” Although a non-believer herself, Scott apparently understands the political utility of religion.


Of course, as a private group, the NCSE has every right to use religion to promote its pro-Darwin agenda, whether or not it is sincere. But what about using government funds to do so?


Taxpayers might wonder why it’s the government’s business to tell them what their religious beliefs about evolution should or shouldn’t be. Presumably this government grant was supposed to be spent on science, not on convincing people that evolution comports with “the revelation and presence of...God in Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.” Where’s the ACLU when you really need it? It’s difficult to see how the website’s presentation of religion even comes close to following Supreme Court precedents on the establishment clause of the First Amendment.


One wonders whether those at the NCSE appreciate the irony of their situation. All over the country they have tried to prevent the teaching of scientific criticisms of evolutionary theory as an unconstitutional establishment of religion. But here they spend tax money to promote evolution, explicitly invoking religion, and that’s supposed to be okay.


It seems the Darwinists have overseen the evolution of a new species of religion-science crossbreed: one that fits their agenda.


— John West is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute and an Associate Professor of Political Science at Seattle Pacific University.




Dodging the issue (Washington Times, 040719)


By Pat Boone


The Supreme Court, less Antonin Scalia, that conservative beacon of wisdom who recused himself earlier, ruled June 14 that a liberal lower court’s decree was in error when they gave one Michael Newdow, atheist and noncustodial parent of a 9-year-old daughter, a legal right that could have stopped her school (and all schoolchildren everywhere) from reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, essentially maintaining the phrse “under God” therein violated the Constitution’s “ban upon the establishment of a national religion.”


It was the right ruling for the wrong reason.


Turns out the court ruled in support of the Pledge not because Mr. Newdow was unable to prove leaving “under God” violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment (which it should have) but because Mr. Newdow did not have a right to sue as he is not the legal custodian of his daughter. What nonsense. This should have been a landmark case in which the court defended our historic constitutional rights.


As background, know the girl’s mother, who has custodial rights and regularly attends church, has no objection to her daughter reciting the Pledge including “under God.” For that matter, nearly 90 percent of Americans, according to an Associated Press poll, want “under God” to remain just as it is in our Pledge. But it’s clear —with compliance of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeal’s zealots, one selfish atheist who claimed he was offended by two words in our Pledge of Allegiance, came very close to thumbing his nose at the vast majority of Americans.


For their arguments, Mr. Newdow and some of the 9th Court quoted the First Amendment as if Congress had, in 1954, somehow mandated the saying of the Pledge, and thereby “established religion.” I applaud Alan Keyes, who brilliantly pointed out there is no law “respecting the establishment of religion” because the First Amendment itself expressly forbids it. Congress cannot make any laws about religion.


And neither, certainly, should liberal, activist judges.


Here’s the danger: The recent Supreme Court ruling is hardly better than a BandAid. Take it to the bank, this fight is not over. Someone better fit than Mr. Newdow will come along to make this outrageous claim of so-called “separation of church and state” as regards our beloved Pledge —and we’ll be no further along than now in dismissing it as the tripe it is.


This case should have been ruled upon for its merits alone, not for a technicality. But because it wasn’t, because the door was left ajar, it won’t be long before another God-hating, America-bashing kook will walk through it, trying to stomp all over our rich American traditions.


It’s ironic, too ... as I told Mr. Newdow himself (and he agreed), atheism itself is a “religion.” Atheism is a faith system built on the premise there is no God —which can’t be proven. Theism, however, of any description, is based on the premise there is a Creator God —and the evidence abounds everywhere. All our Founding Fathers, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and James Monroe, and later Abraham Lincoln, acknowledged this.


And all the 50 U.S. states acknowledge God within the framework of their own state constitutions. For example: Idaho’s 1899 constitution says, “We, the people of the state of Idaho, grateful to Almighty God ...”; South Carolina’s in 1778: “We, the people of the State of South Carolina, grateful to God ... “; and Massachusetts’ in 1780: “We the people of Massachusetts, acknowledging ... the goodness of the Great Legislator of the Universe ... .”


Get the picture? Our Founding Fathers, the ones who wrote our Constitution and maintained our liberties, were never ashamed to acknowledge our dependence upon God. In fact, they fought for the right.


So what are we doing? If embittered atheists like Madelyn Murray O’Hare and Michael Newdow or another of their ilk have their way, we’ll not only lose “under God” in our Pledge of Allegiance, but school kids will be forced to stop memorizing Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, which ends with the famous —”this nation, under God, shall not perish from the Earth.” And that’s not all; we’ll have to remove “endowed by our Creator” from Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence. Will we stand for this, fellow Americans? Shall we just meekly lie down and let a few keep hammering away, trying to impose their will on us?


Let’s seriously pray and petition our Supreme Court that we remain true to our Founding Fathers and origins, and gratefully remain one nation seeking Divine Intervention. When this issue arises again — and it will — let us speak clearly: America is one nation “under God,” and we intend to keep it that way.


Pat Boone, popular singer and performer, also is national spokesman for the 60 Plus Association, a seniors advocacy group based in Arlington, Va.




Religious, and Right: Faith belongs in politics (National Review Online, 040730)


Boston, Mass. — In his speech at the Democratic Convention, Ron Reagan complained that, in the case of embryonic-stem-cell research, “the theology of the few” was dictating policy. This echoes a sentiment expressed by John Kerry earlier, when he explained how he could believe life begins at conception but still be pro-choice. “I can’t take my Catholic belief, my article of faith, and legislate it on a Protestant or a Jew or an atheist.” Both those on the left and libertarian right suggest that it’s O.K. for religious conservatives to have their beliefs, but that they shouldn’t “impose” their theology on others. This is frightening, the argument goes, because we have freedom of religion here in America and no one should be compelled to adopt the religious beliefs of someone else.


But it is perfectly appropriate to force one’s religious beliefs on others.


Let’s say a Senator A opposes the Iraq war on practical grounds. He thinks it’s a distraction from fighting al Qaeda that erodes our credibility overseas. He votes no on the war. Senator B also opposes the war. He’s a Catholic and has read up on just-war theory and concluded that this war is immoral because it was preemptive and could have been avoided through peaceful means. He votes no, too.


They both voted no — and yet one did so for reasons practical, and the other for reasons moral and theological. Is one an appropriate vote and the other not? Slice it further. Let’s say Senator C also voted against the war and, like Senator B, did so primarily for moral reasons. But in his case, Senator C read no Catholic just war theory; instead, he came to view it as immoral after seeing Fahrenheit 9/11. So Senators B and C both voted against for moral reasons: in one case, from having seen a secular movie, and in the other, from having read a religious document.


Are we really saying that only Senators A and C, the ones who didn’t draw upon religion, used legitimate thought processes?


What people really mean when they say so-and-so is imposing his religious beliefs on me is that they don’t happen to agree with those beliefs. Because most of these big issues are decided democratically, it is by definition impossible to impose one’s religious views on someone else. Actually, strike that: It’s impossible to impose one’s religious views any more than we impose any other kind of views. The candidate who wins 51 percent gets to impose his views on all those people who voted for the candidate who got 49 percent.


The Founding Fathers were quite clear that, while they wanted separation of church and state, they also wanted religion to play a major role in shaping political morality. In his farewell address, George Washington said, “Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”


The Left and Right have both followed the advice of the Founding Fathers at different points in history. Abolitionism and the civil-rights movement — two moral highpoints of our history — were driven by people attempting to impose their religious views on others. So is the right-to-life movement.


There is, however, a problem with the way some religious conservatives approach the political sphere. The problem is not dogmatism, but laziness. Someone who rests the argument for a certain position entirely on the fact that his religion told him to is not really attempting to persuade. Even if one is motivated by faith, one still has to convince others using secular, or at least broad-gauge, moral arguments. It is fine for someone to oppose gay marriage because Leviticus frowns on homosexuality. It’s neither appropriate nor smart to say Leviticus calls homosexuality an abomination and so you should too. That is demanding that other people accept your religion. Some religious conservatives forget to persuade because they live in a political cloister, speaking mostly with others who agree with them, and for whom Leviticus is an effective shorthand. One of the reasons the Founding Fathers thought religion important to a functioning democracy is that it would tamp down passions and ensure that people would listen to each other. Religious conservatives need to understand that part of the Founding Fathers’ wisdom, too.


So, Senator Kerry, it’s appropriate for religious conservatives to try to impose their religious views. As for those who merely assert religious dogma, you shouldn’t worry — since they’re likely to lose.


— Steven Waldman is the editor in chief and co-founder of Beliefnet.




Myths, Lies, & Half-Truths: How Misreading the Bible Neutralizes Christians (WorldNetDaily, 041000)


In Gary DeMar’s newest book, “Myths, Lies, & Half-Truths” readers will explore in detail the 15 most deadly lies accepted by far too many Christians and Christian leaders.


Why does this happen? Because we misread the Bible in many ways. Gary DeMar addresses these prominent misconceptions:


* Jesus didn’t get mixed up in politics

* You can’t impose your morality on other people

* There’s a separation between church and state

* It’s never right to resist authority

* We’re living in the last days

* Christians should remain neutral

* Christians should just ‘preach the gospel’

* It’s not right to judge what people do.

* Politics is dirty

* Religion and politics do not mix

* Our citizenship is in heaven

* God’s kingdom is not of this world.


These and many more objections are studied, evaluated, and answered in this succinctly written new book. Understanding what God’s Word says about these often-recited but rarely examined challenges to Christian activism will determine the future of Christianity in America and around the world.




Religion and the Founders: The Nation is out of step with the American people (National Review Online, 050307)


If one were looking for an example of how desperately out of touch the Left is with mainstream American culture, it would be difficult to find a better example than the February 21 issue of The Nation. That issue features an article by Brooke Allen entitled “Our Godless Constitution,” which attempts to prove that “[o]ur nation was founded not on Christian principles, but on Enlightenment ones.” What a strange distinction! It certainly would have been foreign to the Founders, who thought the moral precepts of Christian faith indispensable to the survival of the infant republic. And it’s a distinction that remains foreign to the vast majority of Americans today.


Why, one wonders, does Allen even bother to raise this argument? Why now, after the Left has so manifestly marginalized itself on moral and religious issues? For one thing, like most everything The Nation publishes, her article accuses President Bush of lying — indeed, of lying on an Orwellian scale. But it’s remarkable how uninterested she is in proving the point. She offers not one shred of evidence of the president’s actually saying what she accuses him of saying. Not one quote. And even if she were to find some example of Bush’s asserting that the United States was founded on Christian and not Enlightenment principles, she would have to provide evidence that Bush himself disbelieved the statement. Otherwise Bush wouldn’t be lying, he would merely be expressing his historical judgment. That judgment may or may not be wrong, but that possibility doesn’t make it a lie. Lying means saying something other than what you yourself think. It means intentional deceit.


Honest mistakes are not lies. Allen makes plenty of mistakes herself, but it would be unfair to call her a liar.


To take an example: In her litany of statements that intend to prove that “the Founding Fathers were not religious men,” she cites one line from a letter written by John Adams. According to Allen, “As an old man, [Adams] observed, ‘Twenty times in the course of my late reading have I been upon the point of breaking out, “This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it!”‘“ Pretty damning evidence, right? Well, no: Allen neglects to include the next two sentences from Adams: “But in this exclamati[on] I should have been as fanatical as Bryant or Cleverly. Without Religion, this World would be Something not fit to be mentioned in polite Company, I mean Hell.”


Allen commits plenty of other errors in her argument, but we’ll confine ourselves to looking at just a few.


She asserts that “[i]n the Declaration of Independence, [God] gets two brief nods.” Not true. As every schoolboy knows, the Declaration mentions God four times: “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God,” “endowed by their Creator,” “Supreme Judge of the world,” and “divine Providence.” Equally problematic is her dismissive description of these invocations as “brief nods.” (In fact, if you exclude the long list of grievances against George III, the Declaration on average invokes the name of God just about once every paragraph.) More important than its frequency is the indispensability of divine sovereignty to the document’s overarching natural-law argument. The source of human rights, according to the Declaration, is not located in mutual human consent but rather in the creative activity of God.


Allen declares that “in the eighty-five essays that make up The Federalist, God is only mentioned twice (both times by Madison, who uses the word, as Gore Vidal has remarked, in the “only Heaven knows” sense).” Not true. The specific word “God” occurs twice, but neither time in Vidal’s sense. In Federalist #18, Madison uses the term in reference to Apollo; in #43, he echoes the Declaration by invoking the “transcendent law of nature and of nature’s God.” Yet The Federalist employs other terms for God. John Jay mentions the blessings of “Providence” three times in Federalist #2. In Federalist #37, meanwhile, Madison twice takes note of the “Almighty,” whose finger “has been so frequently and signally extended to our relief in the critical stages of the revolution.” Incidentally, a God who personally intervenes in the course of human affairs is not consistent with the Deist account of God. Such a God was known to the Hebrew prophets and the Christian apostles, but not to the philosophes who imagined a cold and distant watchmaker deity.


Allen claims that “our Constitution makes no mention whatever of God.” Not true. The Constitution does invoke the name of the Lord in the enactment clause of Article VII: “done in Convention by the Unanimous Consent of the States present the Seventeenth Day of September in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and Eighty seven.” Allen no doubt writes this off as a mere formality. But if we are to take seriously her claim that the “omission” of references to God in the Constitution is “too obvious to have been anything but deliberate,” perhaps we need to take a second look at the text. A close reading reveals that the Constitution mentions only one other specific date. Article I, Section 9 allowed the importation of bonded slaves until “the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight” — a date that excludes the words “of our Lord.” Given that she (incorrectly) thinks the “omission” of references to God was too obvious to have been anything but deliberate, surely she would agree that the omission of the phrase “year of our Lord” was likewise too obvious to have been anything but deliberate. And if it was indeed deliberate, wouldn’t this omission imply the ungodliness — or, to use a word not much in fashion at The Nation, the sinfulness — of chattel slavery?


Indeed, the fact that the Founders referred to God more frequently in the Declaration than in the Constitution is in itself further evidence of their belief in the compatibility of Enlightenment and Christian principles. The Founders learned from both classical statesmanship and Christian theology that the moral virtue of prudence involves first identifying the good to be achieved, and then formulating the means to achieve it. The Declaration, with its lapidary presentation of natural rights endowed by the Creator, identifies the good to be achieved. The Constitution in turn formulates the means for achieving this divinely appointed end. In this way the Founders rendered unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and unto God what is God’s.


The list of Allen’s errors goes on. Allen portrays James Madison as making a blistering indictment of Christianity, when in fact Madison was disparaging nations that maintained an established institutional church. She contends that George Washington only occasionally mentioned the Almighty in public addresses, when in fact Washington’s official (and private) writings are littered with scores of references to “Providence.” She quotes a few lines from Benjamin Franklin, implying that they represent the mature reflections of a senior Framer, when in fact Franklin wrote the words in 1722, more than 60 years before the Constitutional Convention. She claims that “in modern-day parlance” Thomas Jefferson was “a secular humanist” — indeed, “not a Christian at all.” It’s a strange claim, especially since, not three sentences before, she quotes Jefferson’s letter to Charles Thomson, in which Jefferson adamantly insists, “I am a real Christian, that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus” (emphasis Jefferson’s). Presumably Jefferson was privy to the content of his own beliefs, but Allen seems to think she knows better.


There are other serious lapses, both of omission and commission, but it’s beside our purposes to catalogue them here. What absolutely must be addressed is the fundamental chasm that Allen sees between Christianity and the Enlightenment.


Every single one of the Founders believed that, at the level of both individual morality and public policy, the demands of reason and of revelation powerfully reinforce one another. They understood that with respect to the ultimate questions — the creation of the universe, the purpose of human existence, and the hope of life after death — faith and philosophy might differ. In the practical world they inhabited, however, the Founders believed that both Socrates and Jesus enjoined their followers to accord all persons truth, justice, and charity.


Indeed, the Founders saw the cultivation of religious sentiment as the ultimate safeguard of American liberty. They knew that liberty could only prosper among moral citizens, whose practice of self-government in their private lives was a necessary prerequisite for its exercise in public. They believed that even if it were possible for certain individuals to behave morally without believing in God, on the whole an entire citizenry could not long keep its moral bearings without the guidance of religious faith.


This conviction permeates their public and private writings. George Washington placed it at the heart of his Farewell Address, in which he advised the nation that of “all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism, who should labour to subvert these great Pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of Men & citizens.” Indeed, he continued, “reason and experience both forbid us to expect that National morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”


Thomas Jefferson shared this sentiment entirely, as when he famously wondered whether “the liberties of a nation [can] be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but by his wrath?” John Adams likewise held the opinion that republican government required religious practice, as when he wrote as president: “We have no government armed with power of contending with human passions unbridled by morality or religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution is made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”


Such thinking runs throughout the whole of American political life, from Washington to Lincoln to Roosevelt to Reagan, and up to the present day. It is a tradition from which President Bush has not deviated.


Bush does not doubt that the religious principles of Protestants, Catholics, and Jews have nurtured and maintained our constitutional democracy. He doesn’t see an intractable opposition between Enlightenment and Christian principles. Rather, he perceives an innate affinity, a belief in which he is joined by the overwhelming majority of Americans. And until Brooke Allen, The Nation, and the cultural Left make their peace with that fact, they will remain on the fringes of our national politics, isolated and confused.


— Michael Novak is the winner of the 1994 Templeton Prize for progress in religion and the George Frederick Jewett Scholar in Religion, Philosophy, and Public Policy at the American Enterprise Institute. Novak’s own website is Christopher Levenick is the W.H. Brady Doctoral Fellow at AEI and a doctoral candidate at the University of Chicago.




Be Careful What You Ask For: The High Price of Secularism (Christian Post, 050503)


“By the middle of the twentieth century, the idea of separation between church and state had become an almost irresistible American dogma,” explains constitutional scholar Philip Hamburger. A law professor at the University of Chicago, Hamburger had traced the victory of church-state separationism over the founder’s intentions in the First Amendment.


His book, Separation of Church and State, published by Harvard University Press, is a massive study of American history and constitutional interpretation. His book should change the terms of the debate on questions of church and state--but don’t count on it.


Why are so many Americans afraid of this issue? Americans are rightly outraged at the action of a Federal District Court judge in ordering that Alabama’s Ten Commandments monument be removed from its state Judicial Building. But that outrage will be wasted unless concerned citizens look at the root of the problem.


The problem is not just this isolated order from a federal court. Rather, the problem is the fact that a doctrine of strict separation between church and state has now become so imbedded in the nation’s courts, that this decision is just one of many outrages that twist and reverse the intention of the Constitution’s framers. The simple elegance of the First Amendment’s actual language has been replaced with a secular vision that finds a violation of the Constitution whenever religious symbolism or religious language enter the public square. The shorthand for this vision is Thomas Jefferson’s image of “a wall of separation between church and state.”


Most evangelicals, frustrated and distressed by this trend, are unaware of how American Protestants fueled the fire of the separationist vision. Hamburger forces us to look at our own history--even the history of the Southern Baptist Convention--and face the reality.


Having suffered persecution, Baptists cherish the ideal of religious liberty. E. Y. Mullins, perhaps the most influential Baptist theologian of the twentieth century, described the Baptist ideal as “a free church in a free state.” But the central ideal of religious liberty has sometimes conflicted with other concerns.


Hamburger points to the 1947 U. S. Supreme Court decision in the case Everson v. Board of Education as the turning point in church-state relations. In that case, Justice Hugo Black’s majority opinion cited Jefferson’s “wall of separation” as its rationale and standard in interpreting the First Amendment. Thereafter, the Court handed down decisions outlawing, for example, organized school prayer and religious displays on government property. The expanding logic of those cases led to the showdown in Montgomery.


But Hamburger also recounts how American Protestants fueled this fire. A powerful anti-Catholic tendency drove many Protestants--including leading Southern Baptists--to call for state and federal courts to guard Jefferson’s “wall.” These non-Catholics feared the power of the Roman Catholic Church, opposed their parochial schools, and accused American Catholics of having divided loyalties between the nation and their Church. They promoted a doctrine of strict separationism as a way of ensuring that Roman Catholic power would not grow or spread.


With the support of major non-Catholic denominations, leading American churchmen established groups such as “Protestants and Others United for the Separation of Church and State,” to oppose the Catholic threat. That organization, now known as Americans United for Separation of Church and State, was one of the groups that sued for the removal of Alabama’s Ten Commandments monument.


Baptist pastors in Alabama are rightly outraged now, but in 1947 the Birmingham [Baptist] Pastors Conference resolved, “to approach the Federal Council of Churches in America and all Protestant denominations, the Jews, the Masons, and other groups, looking for the formation of a national organization to combat every attempt to invalidate the American Bill of Rights and its corollary, the separation of church and state.”


Look carefully: The Baptist pastors of Birmingham, Alabama called for a united front to include the liberal Federal Council of Churches and Masons in order to demand a doctrine of strict separation. The “others” in Protestants and Others United for Separation of Church and State would shock most Southern Baptists today.


Southern Baptists also established a Committee on Public Relations [later the Committee on Public Affairs] to cooperate with the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs in Washington in defense of strict separation. Joseph M. Dawson, former pastor of First Baptist Church, Waco, Texas, served as the committee’s first executive director, and then later served as the founding director of Protestants United. Hamburger comments that Dawson’s move to the Protestants United position in 1947 was because “Dawson and his theologically liberal allies had a more secular vision of separation than many of their fellow Southern Baptists, and they increasingly had reason to fear that a future majority in the Southern Baptist Convention might try to prevent [what became the Baptist Joint Committee] from litigating for some of the broader implications of separation.”


That majority coalesced in the 1970’s, of course, and the conservative resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention led to a decisive break with the Baptist Joint Committee and its agenda. In fact, issues related to the church-state divide framed many of the debates between convention conservatives and the liberal faction.


By then, however, evangelical Christians no longer operated at the center of a churched culture. Even in the “Bible Belt,” signs of a secular shift were undeniable. By the last quarter of the twentieth century, evangelical Christians were far more concerned with the threat of secularism than of Catholicism. Evangelicals observed Catholic parochial schools and founded their own Christian schools as an alternative to the increasingly secularized public schools. Evangelicals, along with Catholics, now felt the effect of laws and court decisions hostile to religious expression. As our grandmothers would have reminded us, the sauce good for the goose is good for the gander.


With federal courts now outlawing school prayer, Bible reading, and nativity scenes in the town square, Hamburger notes, “Many relatively traditional Protestants felt stunned, leading them slowly to reconsider separation.” Hamburger continues: “They had sought their familiar Protestant separation and now suddenly found themselves confronted with a secular version, which threatened the nonsectarian religiosity of America’s public institutions. It was an experience they would feel even more profoundly in the wake of later Supreme Court cases and that would gradually bring many Protestants to recognize that they faced a greater threat from secularism and separation than from Catholicism.”


Contested issues at the intersection of church and state are rarely easy to resolve, even under the best of circumstances. But the courts’ increasing aggression to free expression on grounds of strict separation will, if left unchecked, lead to a virtually secular America. The empty space in Alabama’s Judicial Building is a powerful symbol of secularism’s ambition to oppose all public support for religious expression--especially Christian expression.


Under the present doctrine of strict separation, the government is not neutral toward religious expression and religious speech, but increasingly hostile. The debacle in Montgomery offers convincing proof. Even a monument to the Ten Commandments is just too much for the federal courts--too much of a threat to the secular vision.


America’s Christians must learn to resist this vision by every means available. We must work and pray that the federal courts will regain constitutional sanity. We must educate the American people to the reality of our situation and crisis.


Of course, as Philip Hamburger reminds us, we had also better start educating ourselves about how we arrived at this impasse, and not repeat the mistakes of the past. Those who once demanded an absolute “wall” of separation got more than they asked for.


[Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on September 2, 2003.]




R. Albert Mohler, Jr. is president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.




Christian Morality and Public Law--Three Secular Arguments (Christian Post, 050505)


What should be the relationship between Christian morality and public law? This is a quintessentially modern question. In other eras of Christian history, or even the history of Western civilization, to ask what should be the relationship between Christian morality and public law would have been incomprehensible. Most people would have understood morality and law to be either one and the same thing, or else they would have seen public law merely as a tangible structure and definition of Christian morality. Throughout most of Christian history and the history of Western nations, law and morality were conceived as being on parallel tracks, indispensable to one another. Public laws were simply the codification of a moral worldview.


Now we live in a day in which that understanding is completely changed. With the advent of modernity--and now the postmodern age--the view that public law is or ought to be predicated on Christian morals is no longer taken for granted. Not only is that idea questioned--it is even rejected out of hand. There are many in Western societies who are now absolutely convinced that there should be in fact no relationship whatsoever between Christian morality and public law. For these, it is just as axiomatic that public law should be essentially secular, as it was once axiomatic to believe that it must be essentially Christian.


That ideology, properly known as secularism, suggests that there is an oughtness to the secularization of the public space, that the culture indeed ought to be established on purely secular terms without any reference at all to a theistic reality or a theistic accountability. Secularism as an ideology has never been well-accepted in America at the popular level. It has, however, become rather pervasive at the level of the cultural and intellectual elites, a necessary component in the elite class’s struggle to advance their own norms and values system. The persons who sit on federal judiciaries and hold positions of symbolic importance and cultural influence tend to hold this secular worldview, at least with a tenacity and in percentages far beyond that of the general public.


And what do these people say about the intersection of Christian morality and public law? For the secularist who believes that America’s public space should be essentially and irreducibly secular, that question is easy. There should be no relationship at all. Public law should not be dependent on Christian morality, and Christian morality should have no influence on public law. Indeed, laws should never be determined or even shaped by any institution or idea that is self-consciously tied to Christian morality--or even un-selfconsciously derivative of Christian morality.


Let me offer three examples of those who hold to such a position. First is Robert Reich, the former Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration. A former faculty member at Harvard University, Reich is a thoughtful person to whom we are indebted for many insightful writings. Recently, Reich has written a new book entitled, Reason: Why Liberals Will Win the Battle for America. In this book he identifies the opposition--those who hold the worldview which should be countered and defeated--as the “radcons,” a short compound for “radical conservatives.” The individual who stands as a symbol of the “radcons” is William Bennett, former Secretary of Education and drug czar. The “radcons” believe that morality must be based upon some larger worldview. Christianity should be recognized and respected as the worldview that gave shape to Western Civilization, they argue.


So what should be done with the “radcons?” Reich said this: “It is perfectly fine for radcons to declare strong personal convictions about sex and marriage, convictions often based on sincere religious beliefs. But it is something quite different, it is quite another thing to insist that others must share these same convictions. As I have said, the liberal tradition has wisely drawn a sharp boundary between religion and government. We’ve got to stop the radcons before they impose their narrow-minded agenda any further.”


And then this, as he parodies the “radcon” understanding of descent down a slippery moral slope: “Here is a real slippery slope that does concern me. Once we allow radcons or anyone else to decide how we should conduct our private sex lives, where would it end? If we accept the idea that one religion’s view of proper morality should be the law of the land, how do we decide whose religious views should prevail?” Robert Reich is one example of a person who believes Christian morality should have no voice in the public square.


A second example is Robert Audi, professor of philosophy at the University of Nebraska and the nation’s most noted advocate of a pure secular space in terms of public policy. Audi offers three principles for what he calls “civic virtue in a liberal democracy.” The first of these he calls the principle of secular rationale. He writes: “This is a rationale that has as a prima facie obligation not to advocate or support any law or public policy that restricts human conduct unless one has and is willing to offer adequate secular reasons for its advocacy or support.” Secular reasons, that is, must be the sole point of advocacy. “There must be,” he says, “a secular rationale that is understood to be a secular reason.” The only acceptable rationale is “roughly one whose normative force, that is, its status as a prima facie justificatory element does not depend on the existence of God, or on denying it, or on theological considerations, or on the pronouncements of a person or institution as a religious authority.” In other words, any reason given for adopting any public policy must be irreducibly secular, manifestly secular, entirely secular, with no reference whatsoever to the existence or non-existence of any God.


Second, Audi suggests a principle of secular motivation. He explains: “One has an obligation to abstain from advocacy or support of a law or public policy that restricts human conduct unless one is motivated by a normatively adequate secular reason whose sufficiency of motivation here implies that some set of secular reasons is motivationally sufficient, roughly in the same sense that (a) this set of reasons explains one’s actions, and (b) one would act on it even if other things remained equal or one’s other reasons were eliminated.”


In other words, any religious motivation is ruled out of bounds. Not only must a person advocating a public policy position have a purely secular rationale, but his advocacy must be secularly motivated as well. It is not enough to offer secular arguments for a position, if one’s real reason for holding it is a belief in God.


Finally, Audi offers the principle of ecclesiastical neutrality. He says, “Churches committed to being institutional citizens in such a society have an obligation to abstain from supporting candidates for public office or pressing for laws or public policies that restrict human conduct.” In other words, churches may do whatever churches wish to do, so long as they do not endorse political candidates (a restriction with which most of us would be quite satisfied) or “press for laws or public policies that restrict human conduct.” That is more troubling, for most of us would insist that Christians must, as Christians, advocate laws which restrict human conduct in some ways. Most laws do.


A final example is law professor Kathleen Sullivan. Following the same mentality, she said, “The correct baseline theory is not unfettered religious liberty, but rather religious liberty insofar as it is consistent with the establishment of the secular, moral order.” That is a fascinating statement, one which amounts to a redefinition of religious liberty. The baseline, she says, is not unfettered religious liberty; those God-believers should be granted religious liberty only so long as their liberty does not interfere with the establishment of a secular moral order.


I bring these three witnesses because I believe they are being honest. Reich, Audi, and Sullivan call for a public space that is purely and completely secular. Not only must the shape and content of the arguments in the public square be secular, but the very motivation for making an argument at all must be entirely secular--as Audi puts it, “without reference to whether or not there is even a God who exists.” Any argument based on any premise which might be considered “religious” is categorically excluded. The honesty of these positions is helpful, for it sets the issues squarely--and thus demonstrates immediately the implausibility of such proposals.


Tomorrow: Three Myths of Secularism




R. Albert Mohler, Jr. is president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.




Christian Morality and Public Law--Three Secular Myths (Christian Post, 050505)


[This is Part Two of a three-part series.]


Secularism rests on three myths. The first is the myth of the secular state. Secularism is not a positive construct. By its very nature, something is secular only when it denies the existence of God. Here is where Professor Audi’s definition begins to break down. One cannot be genuinely secular and be indifferent to the existence of God, because if God did exist, that would bring immediate demands upon society--obligations and prohibitions which society would not be able simply to ignore without admitting that it is only tacitly or operationally secular. A truly secular state must altogether deny the existence of God. In other words, this is a call for an absolutely secular state--the existence of which is a myth. Why? Because states must deal with fundamental questions. They must deal with questions concerning life and death, questions about human identity, ultimate questions about existence and meaning in the universe. But the moment a state begins to deal with those fundamental questions, it ceases to be secular, especially the way Robert Audi defines it even at the motivational level. When states begin to effect laws and codify some morality, there is no way that can be purely secular. For any question that addresses itself to the meaning of life and death, for example, must be considered in terms much larger than secular theory will allow. There is no truly secular state.


Second is the myth of a secular argument. No argument is truly irreducibly secular. For anyone who wants to make an argument about anything beyond procedure will have to deal with questions of meaning, morality, and value--questions that are larger than any individual human frame of reference. On issues like those, there are no arguments that are genuinely secular. As a matter of fact, listen carefully to those who most seek to advocate purely secular arguments. On questions of meaning and morality, their arguments are themselves just as essentially religious as the “religious” arguments they reject. They may believe their claims are not religious, but they end up being religious precisely because they are anti-religious. Moreover, they attempt to set up their own version of God--their own idea of what is the ultimate good--in order to determine value.


Third is the myth of secular motivation. Motivation is an inherently complex issue, because none of us is fully aware of our own motivation. This is the problem with the circular reasoning of Robert Audi’s principle of secular motivation. Audi expects people to disregard their beliefs about God in thinking about public policy, to decide what they would believe about a certain issue if they did not already believe in God. But a human being can never know what he would believe if he were not motivated by what centrally motivates him. How can a person know that he would continue to advocate the same position if he no longer believed in God, or if belief in God were simply bracketed from the equation? Audi’s position is simply unrealistic. No human being will ever know himself so well that he can separate himself from his own motivations, even those who allow themselves the conceit of believing they are driven by a purely secular motivation. Furthermore, to move the focus of the national conversation from the objective content of an argument to its subjective motivation is to be no longer engaged in public policy discussions, but rather in some kind of communal therapy session.


There is no genuinely secular state, no secular argument, and no secular motivation, even among those who consider themselves secular. There is no neutrality. On questions as ultimate as the existence or non-existence of God, or the binding or non-binding character of His dictates and commands, or the objectivity or subjectivity of morality, or the absoluteness or non-absoluteness of truth, there are no mediating positions. There is no neutrality.


Insofar as the law deals with what is most important, it must deal with ultimate issues like these. The law certainly deals with some issues of mere procedure and with policies that are not inherently freighted with moral importance. Yet on these issues, we do not have intense public, civic controversies. America is not now in danger of being divided in two over parking policies in the nation’s capital, but over the institution of marriage. Passions are not running high over how certain procedures in the tax code could be rewritten, but on questions of normative sexuality. The nation is not in ferment over questions about the federal budget, but over whether a human embryo is deserving of protection recognized as bearing the dignity of life.


To argue over issues like these is to argue at a level far above a secular plane. It is to argue at the level of moral ultimacy--some from one perspective, some from another, but none from a genuinely secular perspective. Therefore, if we accept the argument that Christian moral arguments are forbidden entry into the public space, we have decided not only to violate the clear intention of our Constitutional framers, not only to reject the inherited civilization that has brought us to this point, not only to redefine what it means to be a liberal democracy, but we have actually privileged one form of religious discourse over another. That is, we have privileged irreligious religious discourse over self-consciously religious discourse.


Furthermore, how can society deal with ultimate issues if the only people who are genuinely allowed into the discussion are those who believe there is nothing more ultimate than our own existence, our own communal negotiation of moral questions? If ever we reach such a point, we will have become a civilization not even remotely like the one established by our founders.


In every one of Robert Audi’s principles [ed. note: see yesterday’s commentary], his precise concern is with laws that restrict human conduct. That is the heart of the issue. There is a libertarian philosophy behind this, a basic idea of the liberty of human conduct. Audi’s suggestion is that any limitation on human conduct must be justified. This is the “justificatory principle” now discussed in law schools, which states that any restriction on human conduct must be socially mandated by the political process on purely secular grounds. But here again, there is a serious problem. Where can we find an adequate rationale for restricting human conduct on purely secular grounds?


Most people would agree that murder, for example, is inherently wrong. But why? Once the issue is pressed hard enough, the purely secular theorist has very little ground for argumentation. The question “why” eventually presses the secular argument back to its irreducibly and essentially unsecular form. Why is murder wrong? Some might try to fashion an answer to this question on the grounds of pragmatism. Not only William James and John Dewey, but also Stanley Fish, Richard Rorty, and others, have argued that all issues of ultimacy must be adjudicated on pragmatic grounds. However, the problem is that human life, in terms of its inherent dignity, is very difficult to define in purely pragmatic terms.


For instance, when does human life begin? As Christians, we have a principled, axiomatic answer to that question. But how does a putatively secular theorist fashion an answer to that question? His first instinct, of course, will be to let science step in and adjudicate the issue. But science cannot answer that question, because in order to say when human life begins, there must be some definition of what human life is, and that definition is precisely what science cannot offer. Because of that, there is no consensus among secularists about the definition of human life. There is an entire spectrum among them about what human life should be, how it should be defined, when it begins, and when it is worthy of protection. There are secularists who hold that life begins at conception, and there are other secularists like Peter Singer who would argue that even infanticide should not be considered immoral. After all, a woman’s right to choose is inviolable, and life, Singer says, is not worthy of protection until the human being has attained the ability to relate and use language.


Singer’s conclusions may be distasteful--at least for now--to the secular aesthetic, but according to a purely secular rationale, can we really say he is wrong? He may be embarrassing according to secular politics, but according to a purely secular moral evaluation, he cannot be said to be wrong. This inevitable moral fog is the fatal problem faced by those who try to approach ultimate questions with a purely secular worldview.


Tomorrow: Five Theses Regarding Christian Morality and Public Law




R. Albert Mohler, Jr. is president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.




>>Christian Morality and Public Law--Five Theses (Christian Post, 050505)


[This is Part Three of a three-part series.]


Even though the law must deal with ultimate issues, the argument is still being made that Christian morality ought to be shut out of the public discourse. As Christians, we must face the fact that we enter a public square which many expect to be purely secular. So what should we do? I offer five theses for understanding the relationship of Christian morality to public law.


First, a liberal democracy must allow all participants in the debate to speak and argue from whatever worldview or convictions they possess. A liberal democracy should say yes to the entry of all citizens into the public conversation. Those citizens will come from many different backgrounds, and they will represent many different worldviews, some more religious and some less, some more secular and some less, some more Christian and some less. But all should be allowed equal access to the conversation. This is a principle that lies at the very heart of a deliberative democracy. Each citizen must be allowed to speak from his deepest convictions, and to identify those convictions without fear of prejudice or of being eliminated from the public debate.


Second, citizens participating in public debate over law and public policy should declare the convictional basis for their arguments. This is where intellectual honesty enters the national conversation. When I debate these issues in the public square, I try to find some way to make clear that I am speaking as a convictional Christian, and that I come to my conclusions by following a certain train of argument that begins at A and ends at B. It is not always possible to articulate such a moral argument comprehensively, but one should at least be honest about the basis for the argument and, insofar as one knows himself, about its motivation as well.


Third, a liberal democracy must accept limits on secular discourse even as it recognizes limits on religious discourse. Of course there are limits on religious discourse. We cannot, for example, take the church covenant of any particular church and make it municipal or national law. The First Amendment to the Constitution disallows the government from establishing a religion. We cannot codify something immediately into law simply because some authority or another says it; there is a deliberative, democratic process in this nation, and there are limits upon the imposition of a religious worldview. But even as we all accept that there are limits upon religious discourse in a liberal, deliberative democracy, we must also recognize that there are limits upon secular discourse. Most importantly, secular discourse does not have the right to eliminate Christian discourse.


Fourth, a liberal democracy must acknowledge the commingling of religious and secular arguments, religious and secular motivations, and religious and secular outcomes. This commingling takes place because we as Christians will argue from a normative moral basis and about moral content, but we will also make arguments about social effects, about the likely outcome of making one moral decision over against another. Even as we base our policy arguments in the moral norms of God’s Word, there are also political and social implications to be considered and included in the discussion.


Fifth, a liberal democracy must acknowledge and respect the rights of all citizens, including its self-consciously religious citizens. One would think such a statement would be unnecessary, since the First Amendment to the Constitution specifically protects religious expression. But as Robert Audi and Kathleen Sullivan understand it, that amendment only protects religious expression insofar as it does not interfere with a purely secular political state. In other words, religious people may talk among themselves about how they would structure society, but they are not free to air those ideas outside the walls of their churches. Christians and their religious, moral arguments ought to be excluded from the national conversation. That idea, however, cannot possibly be reconciled with the founding vision of America, nor with the language of the Constitution, nor with how human beings actually think, act, and speak.


Speaking from Christian conviction, I would finally suggest two principles for our consideration that come directly from the Word of God and from the command of Jesus. In the greatest commandment, we are told to love the Lord our God with all our heart, all our soul, and all our mind. The second is like it: We are to love our neighbor as ourselves. A Christian’s motivation for entering the public square and advocating public policy is love of neighbor. Our concern in political, moral, social, and cultural engagement is not simply to impose Christianity--as if the mere imposition of a Christian moral code would be sufficient. Rather, our concern is love for our neighbor. We are motivated by love for other human beings, believing that health and welfare and happiness and commonweal are dependent on society’s being ordered in such a way that the Creator’s intentions for human relationships are honored and upheld--and that will inevitably require restrictions on human conduct. Only when the Creator’s intentions for human society are upheld will His desire for human happiness also be realized among us.


As Christians, we understand the law of the harvest--as we sow, so shall we reap--and thus we must make arguments about action and consequence that deal not only with demographic and economic and cultural realities, but with issues far more important than any considered in the secular world. Love of neighbor means we are compelled out of concern for our fellow citizens to see the law and public policy rightly ordered in such a way that maximum human happiness will be achieved.




R. Albert Mohler, Jr. is president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.




Separation of Church and State? Really? (Christian Post, 050809)


Without exception, every government and form of the state in every part of the world derives its existence and standing from God! The apostle Paul is exceedingly clear in Romans 13: 1—”The authorities [read ‘governments universally’] that exist have been established by God.”


How ironical, then, is the claim, especially in the democracies of the world, that so much work should be put into seeking a separation of the church and state! Is it “One nation under God” for the citizens of the United States of America or must we reinterpret the prohibition clause in the USA’s Constitution, as some have falsely and carelessly done, to mean that this nation must separate church and state?


All governments of all nations have their power and authority under divine appointment from above, not even by divine permission. As Robert Haldane (in his classical Romans Commentary around A.D. 1816) asserted in his comments on Romans 13, “…it is God in his providence who confers powers on every man who holds it. No tyrant ever seized power until God gave it to him.” In that sense, then, all rulers are “God’s servants” or his “ministers.”


But also mark this well: God is never saddled or handicapped by an empire of tyrants, or of those who downright oppose him and reject his sovereignty. If and when God chooses to overthrow an evil regime, he is never at a loss for alternatives to take their places. After God has used the wicked to overthrow the wicked, he will do as he wishes in accordance often with what the populace of that nation deserves. What a sober reminder this is to a nation like ours that has been so blessed by God in our two-plus century history.


All of this is straightforward biblical teaching. But where confusion has abounded in recent years in this country is in the alleged area of “the separation of church and state.”


Our founding fathers gave no grounds for the false division that has been introduced by our activistic courts and judges under the banner of “separation of church and state!” No such concept is found in our nation’s Constitution or in our Bill of Rights—not even something close to such an idea!


Instead, the founders only wanted to make sure that America did not provide for the establishment of a nationally favored state religion such as was known from the United Kingdom or parts of Scandinavia. They only argued that Congress shall make no laws providing for the establishment of a national religion. This is known as the establishment clause, but it has been yanked from its context and transformed as a claim for a “state-sanctioned atheism.”


Well, what did the founders believe? Ask George Washington, our first president. He warned: It is impossible to account for the creation of the universe without the agency of a Supreme Being, and it is impossible to govern the universe without the aid of a Supreme Being.


No less sure was John Adams, the second president of these United States: Statesmen may plan and speculate for liberty, but it is Religion and Morality alone which can establish the Principles upon which Freedom can securely stand.


 John Quincy Adams, our sixth president, said: The highest glory of the American Revolution was this: it connected one indissoluble bond, the principles of civil government with the principles of Christianity.


But despite citations like these, which can be multiplied one after another, many flee to the First Amendment and pretend that there is a “WALL of separation between the church and the state erected there. But the First Amendment does not mention a “wall;” nor does it make any mention of the “church” or the “state!” Instead, it says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof….”


Where did this “wall of separation” come from, then?


It came from Thomas Jefferson’s private letter to the Danbury, Connecticut Baptists, who feared the newly formed government would swallow up their freedom to worship. Jefferson wrote back to the Baptist Association on January 1, 1802 that there was no need to fear the government, for a “wall of separation between the church and the state had been erected.” Jefferson’s words had nothing to do with the Constitution, written in 1787 when Jefferson was actually out of the country. Neither did it have anything to do with the Bill of Rights passed in 1789, when he was also out of the country. Jefferson’s language actually came from Roger Williams, the man who settled the Baptist Church in Rhode Island. Williams was anxious to protect the Church from Federal intrusion, rather than worrying about the Church intruding on the Federal Government. In this very same letter, Jefferson ends by requesting prayer for himself as he promises to pray for them—an odd way to conclude if the point was to ensure a God-free state!!


Today, some have taken this metaphor and turned it around, mainly against Christians, to limit believers’ influence on government and to keep their concepts out of public life. Why do some fight so vehemently to keep every reference to God out of our Pledge of Allegiance and to keep any and all references to God out of all public life? Usually these are the very ones who contest so strongly for everyone else’s freedom—except for the God-fearing citizens! But this is not what our founders had intended, nor is it what God has intended his men and women should be, as light and salt in this world.


Believers refuse to be intimidated by such baseless rhetoric and by some alleged “wall” that hopes to insulate and isolate us from taking our Lord into the public square. But we will participate in the public forum with a freedom of conscience that comes from a Christian and biblical point of view.


Accordingly, if we are forced ultimately one day to choose if we will obey men or God (Acts 4: 19), we must do as Peter and John of old did: obey God. We will act as the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court advised: “The metaphor of a wall of separation is bad history and worse law. It has made a positive chaos out of court rulings. It should be explicitly abandoned!”


 Rise up, O men and women of God. It’s time we called our fellow citizens to a full accountability of the historical, legislative and theological facts that impact the real life of each government. This nation, like all nations, desperately needs the input of the presence of God, the power of his Word, and the involvement of unintimidated believing citizens who will act with conscience before a holy God and with benevolence towards our fellow human beings.


[Editor’s Note: This article appeared in the Fall 2004 edition of Contact magazine, a publication of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. It is reprinted with permission from the seminary.]




WALTER C. KAISER, JR., Ph.D., President and Colman M. Mockler Distinguished Professor of Old Testament, is an internationally known scholar and preacher. He has authored more than thirty books, including “Toward an Old Testament Theology”, “A History of Israel”, “Revive Us Again”, “An Introduction to Biblical Hermeneutics”, “The Old Testament Documents: Are They Reliable and Relevant?” and “Preaching and Teaching From the Old Testament”. He served as National President of the Evangelical Theological Society, and for 25 years served on the faculty at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Deerfield, IL), where he was also Chairman of the Old Testament Department, Academic Dean, and Sr. Vice President of Distance Education. His ecclesial standing is with the Evangelical Free Church in America.




Is the Pledge of Allegiance Unconstitutional? (Christian Post, 050915)


A federal judge in Sacramento ruled Wednesday that it is unconstitutional to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools. U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton ruled that the pledge’s reference to one nation “under God” violates the right of children in the public schools to be “free from a coercive requirement to affirm God.”


Once again, the driving force behind this case is Michael Newdow, an attorney and medical doctor who won a similar decision at the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2002. That court ruled that Newdow, an atheist, had successfully made his case that requiring his daughter to recite the pledge of allegiance with the words “under God” violated his own first amendment freedoms. In essence, the California-based appeals court ruled that the mere presence of the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance constituted an establishment of religion by the government.


The 2002 decision sent shockwaves across the country, but that decision was set aside last year by the U.S. Supreme Court. Nevertheless, the nation’s High Court dismissed the case after ruling that Newdow lacked standing because he did not have custody of his daughter at the time the suit was filed. Given the Supreme Court’s decision not to rule on the actual merits of Newdow’s argument, the stage was set for a second round of litigation.


Newdow, the Energizer bunny of secular litigation, filed the current case on behalf of three unnamed parents who have children in the California public schools. Judge Karlton ruled that the unnamed families do have standing and are thus entitled to sue.


In the judge’s thirty-page opinion, he identifies the first two parents as “Jan and Pat Doe,” who are described as residents of Sacramento County who have a seventh grader in the Elk Grove United School District. The third plaintiff, identified as “Jan Roe,” is the father of a third grade student enrolled in the Sacramento area public schools.


The judge’s decision also includes a fascinating description of the plaintiffs and their children. The seventh grade son of Jan and Pat Doe is described as “an atheist who denies the existence of God.” The parents are described in identical terms. According to the judge’s findings, “They contend that Doe child has been forced to experience the recitation of the Pledge that has been led by public school teachers in class and at public assemblies. Plaintiff Doe child has suffered harassment by other students due to Doe child’s refusal to participate in the Pledge.”


The Roe child is identified as a third grade student who is “a pantheist, who denies the existence of a personal God.” The judge’s decision states: “She has been forced to experience the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in her classes and has been led by her teachers in her class and at assemblies in reciting the Pledge.” A pantheist in the third grade?


The parents also allege that they individually have been “made to feel like a ‘political outsider’ due to the ‘government’s embrace of (Christian) monotheism in the Pledge of Allegiance.’” Further, “The parents contend that they are deeply involved in the education of their children, and that they have attempted to participate in school matters, but once their atheism becomes known, it interferes with their ability to ‘fit in’ and ‘affect changes within the political climate of parent-teacher associations [and] school board meetings.’”


Newdow also “alleges that he is an atheist who denies the existence of any god.” Furthermore, “Newdow avers that his child is forced to experience teacher-led recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance every morning, even though he has requested the principal of his child’s school and the [school district] that the practice be discontinued.”


Judge Karlton cited the 2002 decision by the Ninth Circuit and reiterated its ruling that the schools’ pledge policy “impermissibly coerces a religious act.” Accordingly, he ruled that the schools’ policy must be changed and announced that he would soon issue a stay ordering that the practice of reciting the pledge be halted in affected schools.


Clearly, this case will soon make its way back to the Supreme Court. Given the circumstances, it is unlikely that the High Court will be able to dismiss the case on the technicality of standing. In all likelihood, the Court will decide finally to rule on the constitutionality of the Pledge with the words “under God” as inserted by Congress in 1954.


How will the Supreme Court rule? That answer is anything but certain. Given the High Court’s recent pattern of rulings in church-state cases, observers are left with no definitive guide that would predict how it might rule in this case. If anything, the Court’s rulings on the public display of the Ten Commandments in its last term did nothing but add to the confusion.


Interestingly, Judge Karlton expressed relief that, given his deference to the Ninth Circuit’s previous ruling, he did not have to consider the Supreme Court’s most recent decisions. He expressed his thinking in a footnote: “This court will be less than candid if it did not acknowledge that it is relieved that, by virtue of the disposition above, it need not attempt to apply the Supreme Court’s recently articulated distinction between those governmental activities which endorse religion and are thus prohibited, and those which acknowledge the Nation’s asserted religious heritage, and thus are permitted.” In other words, the judge confessed that he really did not know what the Supreme Court meant to say. He’s in good company.


Without doubt, the Court has demonstrated an increasing hostility toward the public display of any theistic belief. In the Ten Commandments decisions--with a collection of opinions amounting to a mass of confusion--the justices indicated an inclination towards an increasingly subjective test. In essence, the outcome of any future case concerning the Pledge will have everything to do with the composition of the Court and the proclivities of the individual justices.


What does all this mean? Christians should be careful to think clearly about the Pledge of Allegiance and the current controversy. Secularists like Michael Newdow represent the hard edge of ideological attacks upon all expressions of theistic belief in the public arena. The truth is that the courts have allowed and driven a constriction of religious liberty such that any public reference or acknowledgment of the beliefs common to vast millions of Americans is now considered to represent an unconstitutional establishment of religion by the government.


In recent years this has meant the eradication of prayers at public events such as graduation ceremonies and football games, and the removal of monuments and emblems from government property and vehicles.


All this puts believing Christians in a difficult position. After all, the Court has ruled that symbols and references to a divine being are allowable only insofar as those references point to no specific deity. Beyond this, the courts have ruled that the only permissible reference to deity is a reference that so reduces the definition of deity that it appears difficult for all but the most ardent atheists to object.


Because of this, Christians must not defend the presence of the word “under God” in the Pledge as a direct reference to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob--the Triune God whom Christians worship as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. At best, the presence of this language in the Pledge and similar expressions on the nation’s currency represent an acknowledgement of a power higher than the State itself and the nation’s dependency upon that power for its safety and well being. Nevertheless, a decision from the Supreme Court that would require the removal of “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance would represent a disastrous imposition of official secularism as the nation’s public commitment.


Michael Newdow and company will not be satisfied until the United States government is not only secular, but secularist. That’s the real agenda behind his lawsuits and what is really at stake in any future rulings. To accept his argument at face value, one would have to believe that the United States of America has functioned as a theocracy of sorts for the last half century. A little sanity would go a long way in this case.




R. Albert Mohler, Jr. is president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.




A Growing Cloud of Confusion—The Supreme Court on Religion (Christian Post, 051028)


Over the past half century, the U. S. Supreme Court has accomplished a feat America’s founders would surely have found to be inconceivable--they have created a perverse cloud of confusion over the question of religious liberty and the place of religious language and symbols in the public square.


Indeed, the confusion is now so pervasive that a consistent understanding of the Court’s directives is practically impossible. In just a few short decades, the Court has decided that organized prayer must be removed from the public school classrooms, that religious symbolism must be removed from official seals and emblems, and that all references to a deity must be reduced to a merely ceremonial meaning if they are to be allowed. On the other hand, the federal courts have allowed for the military to pay chaplains, for the words “under God” to remain in the Pledge of Allegiance (at least so far), and for both houses of Congress to employ chaplains and to begin each session with prayer.


The Court’s decisions amount to a form of judicial sophistry. Take, for example, the question of nativity displays on public land. The Court allows that such displays may be allowable, but only if the Christmas scene is surrounded by the commercial paraphernalia of the season. In other words, the Christ child is allowed only insofar as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus, and Frosty the Snowman are also present. But in its last session, the nation’s High Court pushed its jurisprudence on these questions into even greater depths of confusion. This time, the issue was the public posting of the Ten Commandments.


Dealing with two separate cases, one from Kentucky and one from Texas, the Supreme Court came to two different conclusions. In two 5-4 decisions, with Justice Stephen Breyer casting the decisive fifth vote in both cases, the Court decided that a Kentucky display of the Ten Commandments was unconstitutional, even as it allowed a display of the same text on the grounds of the Texas Capitol. In other words, a majority of one vote found that the display of the Ten Commandments in McCreary County, Kentucky violated the Constitution, while the display of the Decalogue in Texas was permissible. Confused?


Professor Stephen B. Presser of Northwestern University’s School of Law argues that “for sheer incoherence nothing beats the Court’s ‘establishment clause’ jurisprudence.” The First Amendment famously includes two different clauses concerning religion. The positive clause assures that citizens are guaranteed the free exercise of religion. The second, known most commonly as the “establishment clause,” reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion . . . .”


That’s all.


How did the Court transform itself into the source of such confusion? Presser, who holds the Raoul Berger Chair in Legal History at Northwestern, explains that the federal courts should have avoided this confusion by avoiding the cases altogether. “One might have thought, indeed, that because the establishment clause only prohibits acts of Congress, and not of the state or local authorities, the Supreme Court has no business telling state and local governments what to do with matters of religion. And, if one thought that, one would be correct, since the First Amendment was passed, in 1791, to prevent the federal government from interfering with the three state-established churches (in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Virginia) and with the many states which then imposed some kind of religious test for service in their legislatures or for exercise of the franchise.”


So why did the Court enter this dangerous and apparently unconstitutional terrain? The simple answer is: “Because they wanted to.” The justices who pioneered the role of the Supreme Court in adjudicating such cases found their opening in a controversial application of the Fourteenth Amendment. That amendment reads: “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” As Professor Presser explains, the Court simply declared that the Fourteenth Amendment “somehow changed the meaning of the First Amendment so that ‘Congress’ ought to be interpreted as meaning ‘Any state or local governmental official.’”


At this point we come face to face with the infamous “incorporation” doctrine that has become the avenue for a vast expansion of federal power and influence. Writing in the October 2005 issue of The American Spectator, Professor Presser explains that this doctrine was an act of “judicial legerdemain,” through which the Court simply dictated “that certain fundamental prohibitions against the federal government in the first ten Amendments to the Constitution should also be extended to prohibit acts of state and local government.” This, he declares, “is one of the great constitutional usurpations of the modern era, but [it] now goes virtually unchallenged.”


The Fourteenth Amendment was intended to provide no such opening for a vast expansion of federal power. Instead, it was, as Presser explains, “originally designed to ensure that the contract and property rights of the newly freed slaves were not abridged.” So good, so far. Nevertheless, “the Supreme Court no longer feels itself bound by that history, and for many years the Fourteenth Amendment has been used by the Court as a tool to dictate what the states can and cannot do in matters of education, religion, abortion, gender, and a whole host of other areas completely unrelated to the original purposes of that provision.”


This crucial chapter in American constitutional history is of tremendous importance. Most Americans remain blissfully unaware of the process whereby the federal government, through its judicial branch, now claims the right and power to determine issues that were never understood by the founders to be within its purview.


The incorporation doctrine has not gone without criticism. As Presser indicates, Attorney General Edwin Meese did publicly attack the doctrine, only to experience a vitriolic assault. When it comes to the Court’s decisions on matters of religion, this leaves the field wide open to those who would argue for the most thoroughly secular shape for America’s public life.


In its last term, the Supreme Court “had an opportunity to resolve the status of the Decalogue in American public life,” Presser explains, “but, alas, only sowed further confusion.”


Presser provides a brilliant and concise summary of the two decisions: “When the smoke cleared on the two Ten Commandments cases, the Court had held that the Commandments had to be removed from Kentucky courtrooms, but it was perfectly permissible for them to exist on a monolith outside the Texas legislature. There are nine members of the Supreme Court, and both of these cases were decided by five to four majorities. In each case, Justices Stevens, Souter, O’Connor, and Ginsburg wanted the Ten Commandments banned, and Justices Rehnquist, Scalia, Kennedy, and Thomas wanted them to stay. Justice Breyer believed the Texas display was fine, but the Kentucky ones were not, and, casting the deciding vote in both cases, his views prevailed. A review of the two cases illuminates the sad state of establishment clause jurisprudence in particular, and the general arbitrariness of a majority of the justices.”


In his dissent to the Kentucky ruling, Justice Antonin Scalia cited an earlier decision in writing, “We are a religious people whose institutions presuppose a Supreme Being.” In his concurring opinion in the Texas case, Justice Clarence Thomas directly condemned the incorporation doctrine. Presser refers to Thomas’s objection as “an acknowledgement as rare among Justices as it is indisputable as a matter of history.”


To his credit, Professor Presser does not oversimplify the complexities in these cases. Instead, he simply asserts that the Court has unnecessarily compromised its own authority in delivering to the nation “this jurisprudential mish-mosh.” Much of the confusion would be avoided if the justices interpreted the Constitution in terms of its original understanding. “Original understanding can’t clear up everything in constitutional law,” Presser admits, “but if the court were more committed to interpreting the Constitution rather than social planning for the Republic, it might well diminish the number of 5-4 decisions rendered on important public issues. Splits of this kind among the Court are not unusual in cases involving race, abortion, gender, or religion, and underscore the arbitrary nature of what the Court has done in all of those areas.”


Professor Presser’s review of the Ten Commandments cases helps to clear the air, even as his historical analysis points to the intractable nature of the Court’s misadventures.


Now, when any case involving references to deity in the public square comes before the Court, the ground is clear for proponents of the most radical secularism to have their day. The only mitigating factor in these cases is the personal restraint exercised by at least some of the justices. Some argue that the only reason the Court has not adopted an even more pervasively secularist approach is fear of public outrage.


Intelligent Christians should look to these developments with concern and with determination to contend for religious liberty. A fundamental and dangerous lie stands at the very center of the secularist argument. If there is no power higher than the state, then the state automatically becomes the highest power on earth. This is a most dangerous assumption, and it opens the door to fascism and unchecked assertions of state power.


From the very founding of this Republic, presidents, justices, legislators, and citizens have insisted that the nation is accountable to a higher power and a higher law. Of course, many of the Founders were believing Christians. Those who were not were generally deists of one variety or another, united in their denial of raw state power and united in denying the ultimacy of the State. The secularist argument is shipwrecked on the actual wording of the Constitution and the unquestionable beliefs and practices of the Founders.


Yet, there is a danger on the other side as well. Christians must contend for religious liberty and for the right of citizens to express their deepest convictions and beliefs in the public square. Furthermore we should insist that the state is not ultimate and that the state’s actions and laws are accountable to God.


Nevertheless, we must be honest in acknowledging that public and ceremonial references to deity are not tantamount to statements of belief in the Triune God--Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Church bears responsibility to preach and teach the Gospel and to bear witness, without compromise or governmental restraints, to the one true and living God.


Likewise, the Church should ask for no assistance from the state, but should preach the Gospel on the basis of its own identity, mission, and divine assignment. In other words, even as the United States Supreme Court produces a jurisprudence of confusion, the Church is called to be a voice of clarity and truth.




R. Albert Mohler, Jr. is president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.




Multiple Choices from the Founders (Christian Post, 051031)


The “Founding Fathers,” or “Founders,” are getting worked over in public affairs, and especially in religious matters, more than ever before. With courts wrestling with issues of church and state, educators fighting over ways to treat faith and faiths in public institutions, and communities battling over the place of religious symbols on “everybody’s spaces” like courthouse lawns and walls, we often find citations from figures like Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Madison, and so many others. These figures were writing in the context of their own times and are easily misrepresented out of that context, but we can still draw some signals from their works.


Fortunately, a new collection of snippets from their writings is available in The Founders on Religion: A Book of Quotations, edited by James H. Hutson. I first came across Hutson during the bicentennials of the Declaration and the Constitution, about which he had so many sane things to say. He is chief of the Manuscript Division at the Library of Congress, and a scholar friendly to religion -- one who shows little bias in his writings and in this current work. Thus, since the Founders differed so much from each other, Hutson offers some conflicting and contradictory comments by these leaders.


I used his book while preparing a lecture on Founders’ types. First, let it be noted that this whole cast of characters was concerned with “virtue” and “morality” in the young republic, and all were favorable to the influences of religion on these. The differences came in on the question of what public institutions should do to privilege and promote religion and its practice.


Type one was John Jay, author of Federalist Paper No. 2, who spoke of “the privilege and interest of our Christian nation.” He thought citizens of such a nation should elect only Christian rulers and not vote for the infidels, the ungodly. He was nearly alone, and his view, popular as it is in some circles today, did not win out among Constitutionalists in his day. He wanted uniformity in faith.


Type two was Thomas Jefferson, who thought that legal privileging and promotion was harmful to church and state. “Truth can stand by itself. Subject opinion to coercion: whom will you make your inquisitors? Fallible men .... And why subject it to coercion? To produce uniformity .... 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 one inch towards uniformity.”


Type three found its voice in James Madison, who had most influence on the Constitution. He famously wrote that “in matters of Religion, no man’s [sic] right is abridged by the institution of Civil Society and that Religion is wholly exempt from its cognizance,” while the Civil Magistrate was not a “competent Judge of Religious Truth” or a good user of it “as an engine of Civil policy.” Christians ought to be most concerned, since the Christian religion was never to show “dependence on the powers of this world.” Privilege Christianity, and you have “pride and indolence,” ignorance, servility, superstition, bigotry, and persecution.


It’s our choice which direction to go in, which type to favor.


Martin E. Marty’s biography, current projects, upcoming events, publications, and contact information can be found at




County says ACLU prayer lawsuit is unnecessary (WorldNetDaily, 051102)


MARIETTA, Ga. - Saying that invocations made in the name of Jesus have been around for centuries, Cobb County officials said a lawsuit against the county to stop it from making “overtly Christian” prayers before meetings was unnecessary.


“As a matter of historical fact, the exact prayers given in the first Congress explicitly referred to Jesus Christ,” according to a 50-page legal brief the county filed Tuesday.


In addition, as recently as July 19, a prayer that said “in the name of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,” was made at the opening of the U.S. House of Representatives, the brief said.


The Georgia Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and seven Cobb County residents filed the lawsuit in August. The ACLU claims the prayers made before commission meetings are too Christian.


The ACLU said in the lawsuit that one prayer ended, “in the name of Jesus our savior,” and dozens more since 2003 mentioned Jesus. The ACLU is not challenging the commission’s right to pray before meetings.


But Cobb Commission Chairman Sam Olens, named in the lawsuit, said the prayers do meet the requirements for the separation of church and state and said the county feels “very strongly” that the lawsuit is improper.


“If they’re looking for a test case, we’re not it,” Olens said.


Cobb Planning Commission Chairman Bob Homan also was named as a defendant in the ACLU’s lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia in Atlanta.




Group takes offensive with Nativity scenes: Counters removal from public square with call for displays nationwide (WorldNetDaily, 051103)


A group is launching a Christmas-season campaign to counter efforts to remove Christian symbols of the holiday from the public square.


“Operation Nativity,” a project of The Truth Matters, is urging Christians nationwide to set up nativity scenes on their own property.


Borrowing an old football adage, director Charles Nestor says the best defense of public nativity displays is a good offense.


“Some may object to such overt declarations of Christianity in these displays, but this is in part why this project is necessary,” he said. “This is not only a religious freedom issue, it is a free speech issue.”


Nestor says the only opposition so far has been from “radical anti-Christian zealots” exploiting zoning and signage ordinances.


“We expect a determined few to use any means available to eliminate the public display of the symbols of Christianity,” he said. “We are encouraged to know that there is an abundance of attorneys willing and waiting to insure that the federally guaranteed free exercise of faith and the First Amendment are not squashed by the bigoted abuse of a city or local ordinance.”


Since announcing Operation Nativity a week ago, the project already has caught fire, Nestor said.


He believes it’s because people are becoming fed up with the “crusade to get rid of the expressions of Jesus’ birth from the Christmas season.”


“Americans, even those who do not profess to be Christians, do not want Christmas reduced to a secular winter celebration,” said Nestor.


Noting that since 1870, Christmas has been a federally endorsed legal holiday, he said, “Every effort should be taken to keep its true meaning in view of all Americans.”