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The Ten Commandments vs. America
The Rational Argumentator ^ | September 5, 2003 | Dr. Harry Binswanger

Posted on 09/05/2003 1:45:10 PM PDT by G. Stolyarov II

In all the discussion about displaying the Ten Commandments in the Alabama courthouse, has anyone asked the fundamental question: what are the Ten Commandments? What is their philosophic meaning and what kind of society do they imply? Religious conservatives claim that the Ten Commandments supplied the moral grounding for the establishment of America. But is that even possible? Let's put aside the historical question of what sources the Founding Fathers, mostly Deists, drew upon. The deeper question is: can a nation of freedom, individualism and the pursuit of happiness be based on the Ten Commandments? Let's look at the commandments. The wording differs among the Catholic, Protestant and Hebrew versions, but the content is the same. The first commandment is: "I am the Lord thy God." As first, it is the fundamental. Its point is the assertion that the individual is not an independent being with a right to live his own life but the vassal of an invisible Lord. It says, in effect, "I own you; you must obey me." Could America be based on this? Is such a servile idea even consistent with what America represents: the land of the free, independent, sovereign individual who exists for his own sake? The question is rhetorical. The second commandment is an elaboration of the above, with material about not serving any other god and not worshipping "graven images" (idols). The Hebrew and Protestant versions threaten heretics with reprisals against their descendants—inherited sin—"visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation . . ." This primitive conception of law and morality flatly contradicts American values. Inherited guilt is an impossible and degrading concept. How can you be guilty for something you didn't do? In philosophic terms, it represents the doctrine of determinism, the idea that your choices count for nothing, that factors beyond your control govern your "destiny." This is the denial of free will and therefore of self-responsibility. The nation of the self-made man cannot be squared with the ugly notion that you are to be punished for the "sin" of your great-grandfather. The numbering differs among the various versions, but the next two or three commandments proscribe taking the Lord's name "in vain" and spending a special day, the Sabbath, in propitiating Him. In sum, the first set of commandments orders you to bow, fawn, grovel and obey. This is impossible to reconcile with the American concept of a self-reliant, self-owning individual. The middle commandment, "Honor thy father and mother," is manifestly unjust. Justice demands that you honor those who deserve honor, who have earned it by their choices and actions. Your particular father and mother may or may not deserve your honor—that is for you to judge on the basis of how they have treated you and of a rational evaluation of their moral character. To demand that Stalin's daughter honor Stalin is not only obscene, but also demonstrates the demand for mindlessness implicit in the first set of commandments. You are commanded not to think or judge, but to jettison your reason and simply obey. The second set of commandments is unobjectionable but is common to virtually every organized society—the commandments against murder, theft, perjury and the like. But what is objectionable is the notion that there is no rational, earthly basis for refraining from criminal behavior, that it is only the not-to-be-questioned decree of a supernatural Punisher that makes acts like theft and murder wrong. The basic philosophy of the Ten Commandments is the polar opposite of the philosophy underlying the American ideal of a free society. Freedom requires: — a metaphysics of the natural, not the supernatural; of free will, not determinism; of the primary reality of the individual, not the tribe or the family; — an epistemology of individual thought, applying strict logic, based on individual perception of reality, not obedience and dogma; — an ethics of rational self-interest, to achieve chosen values, for the purpose of individual happiness on this earth, not fearful, dutiful appeasement of "a jealous God" who issues "commandments." Rather than the Ten Commandments, the actual grounding for American values is that captured by Ayn Rand in Atlas Shrugged: "If I were to speak your kind of language, I would say that man's only moral commandment is: Thou shalt think. But a 'moral commandment' is a contradiction in terms. The moral is the chosen, not the forced; the understood, not the obeyed. The moral is the rational, and reason accepts no commandments."


TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Culture/Society; Editorial; Extended News; Philosophy; US: Alabama
KEYWORDS: churchandstate; dogmatism; freedom; independence; individualism; liberty; objectivism; reason; religion; tencommandments
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Dr. Harry Binswanger, author of The Biological Basis of Teleological Concepts, is a member of the board of directors of the Ayn Rand Institute (ARI) and teaches philosophy at ARI's Objectivist Graduate Center. The Institute (www.aynrand.org/medialink) promotes the philosophy of Ayn Rand, author of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead.
1 posted on 09/05/2003 1:45:10 PM PDT by G. Stolyarov II
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To: G. Stolyarov II
Paragraphs are our friends. :)
2 posted on 09/05/2003 1:46:40 PM PDT by kesg
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To: G. Stolyarov II
Here is a better-formated version of the article:

In all the discussion about displaying the Ten Commandments in the Alabama courthouse, has anyone asked the fundamental question: what are the Ten Commandments? What is their philosophic meaning and what kind of society do they imply?

Religious conservatives claim that the Ten Commandments supplied the moral grounding for the establishment of America. But is that even possible? Let's put aside the historical question of what sources the Founding Fathers, mostly Deists, drew upon. The deeper question is: can a nation of freedom, individualism and the pursuit of happiness be based on the Ten Commandments?

Let's look at the commandments. The wording differs among the Catholic, Protestant and Hebrew versions, but the content is the same.

The first commandment is: "I am the Lord thy God."

As first, it is the fundamental. Its point is the assertion that the individual is not an independent being with a right to live his own life but the vassal of an invisible Lord. It says, in effect, "I own you; you must obey me."

Could America be based on this? Is such a servile idea even consistent with what America represents: the land of the free, independent, sovereign individual who exists for his own sake? The question is rhetorical.

The second commandment is an elaboration of the above, with material about not serving any other god and not worshipping "graven images" (idols). The Hebrew and Protestant versions threaten heretics with reprisals against their descendants—inherited sin—"visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation . . ."

This primitive conception of law and morality flatly contradicts American values. Inherited guilt is an impossible and degrading concept. How can you be guilty for something you didn't do? In philosophic terms, it represents the doctrine of determinism, the idea that your choices count for nothing, that factors beyond your control govern your "destiny." This is the denial of free will and therefore of self-responsibility.

The nation of the self-made man cannot be squared with the ugly notion that you are to be punished for the "sin" of your great-grandfather.

The numbering differs among the various versions, but the next two or three commandments proscribe taking the Lord's name "in vain" and spending a special day, the Sabbath, in propitiating Him.

In sum, the first set of commandments orders you to bow, fawn, grovel and obey. This is impossible to reconcile with the American concept of a self-reliant, self-owning individual.

The middle commandment, "Honor thy father and mother," is manifestly unjust. Justice demands that you honor those who deserve honor, who have earned it by their choices and actions. Your particular father and mother may or may not deserve your honor—that is for you to judge on the basis of how they have treated you and of a rational evaluation of their moral character.

To demand that Stalin's daughter honor Stalin is not only obscene, but also demonstrates the demand for mindlessness implicit in the first set of commandments. You are commanded not to think or judge, but to jettison your reason and simply obey.

The second set of commandments is unobjectionable but is common to virtually every organized society—the commandments against murder, theft, perjury and the like. But what is objectionable is the notion that there is no rational, earthly basis for refraining from criminal behavior, that it is only the not-to-be-questioned decree of a supernatural Punisher that makes acts like theft and murder wrong.

The basic philosophy of the Ten Commandments is the polar opposite of the philosophy underlying the American ideal of a free society. Freedom requires:

— a metaphysics of the natural, not the supernatural; of free will, not determinism; of the primary reality of the individual, not the tribe or the family;

— an epistemology of individual thought, applying strict logic, based on individual perception of reality, not obedience and dogma;

— an ethics of rational self-interest, to achieve chosen values, for the purpose of individual happiness on this earth, not fearful, dutiful appeasement of "a jealous God" who issues "commandments."

Rather than the Ten Commandments, the actual grounding for American values is that captured by Ayn Rand in Atlas Shrugged:

"If I were to speak your kind of language, I would say that man's only moral commandment is: Thou shalt think. But a 'moral commandment' is a contradiction in terms. The moral is the chosen, not the forced; the understood, not the obeyed. The moral is the rational, and reason accepts no commandments."

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3 posted on 09/05/2003 1:47:02 PM PDT by G. Stolyarov II (http://www.geocities.com/rationalargumentator/index17.html)
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To: G. Stolyarov II
Founding Fathers, mostly Deists,

I stopped there. Some of the Founders were Diests. Most were not.

4 posted on 09/05/2003 1:47:26 PM PDT by Skooz (All Hail the Mighty Kansas City Chiefs)
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To: Skooz
I stopped there. Some of the Founders were Diests. Most were not.

Me too.

Garbage.

With or without paragraphs.

5 posted on 09/05/2003 1:50:57 PM PDT by EternalVigilance (Thank God for FR)
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To: Skooz
I stopped there. Some of the Founders were Diests. Most were not.

Maybe you should have kept reading. :) Incidentally, both Thomas Jefferson (who inspired the First Amendment and first coined the phrase "separation of church and state" when explaining its establishment clause) and John Madison (who actually drafted the First Amendment) were both Deists. So was George Washington, who presided over the Constitutional Convention.

6 posted on 09/05/2003 1:57:50 PM PDT by kesg
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Comment #7 Removed by Moderator

To: G. Stolyarov II
Since Binswanger has his Ph.D. and claims to have done his scholarship, I accuse him of being a liar, rather than merely a fool. It is false that "most of the Framers were deists." Only by selective quotation -- the Maureen Dowd dodge -- can it even be argued that Jefferson and Franklin were deists. And a thorough reading of their works shows the charge is false.

The only "Framer" who was clearly a a deist, was Thomas Paine. His Age of Reason makes it perfectly clear that that was his viewpoint at the end of his life (though not when he wrote his towering works, Common Sense and The American Crisis).

This is typical of the leftists; when you give an inch, they take a mile. People like Binswanger and the Ayn Rand Institute shove Tom Paine into the "atheist" category -- they take each political philosopher, and shove them one more notch to the left than they really were.

As the author on an upcoming book on Tom Paine (entitled These Are the Times that Try Men's Souls) I will cheerfully take Binswanger on, nose to nose and research to reseach.

Is he reading this thread? Binswanger, you are a liar, and should be ashamed of yourself. There, does that cover the waterfront?

Congressman Billybob

Latest column, "We Are Running for Congress -- Maybe," discussion thread on FR.

8 posted on 09/05/2003 2:24:21 PM PDT by Congressman Billybob (Everyone talks about Congress; time to act on it. www.ArmorforCongress.com)
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To: golden1
Who was it that first made the statement "the government of the people, by the people, for the people"? Abe Lincoln at Gettysburg? Nope.

It was John Wycliffe, in the 14th century who said, "This Bible is for the government of the people, by the people, for the people"

9 posted on 09/05/2003 2:28:06 PM PDT by Galatians513
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To: kesg
"So was George Washington(a Deist), who presided over the Constitutional Convention."

George Washington was a Christian. His own personal writings and an affirmation by his own family strongly rebut this lie.

I'm very tired of the re-writing of American history to support the lies of the godless.

10 posted on 09/05/2003 2:34:37 PM PDT by NoControllingLegalAuthority
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To: kesg
Niether Jefferson, nor Madison, nor Washington were Deists. Jefferson was a nominal Christian, who disbelieved the miraculous but attempted to pattern his life after the life of Christ and the teachings of the Bible. He believed in personal God who could intervene on behalf of humanity. Deists did not.

Washington was a Christian. A true believer. His writings make this abundantly clear.

Like I stated earlier, some founders were Deists. Most were not.

11 posted on 09/05/2003 2:41:43 PM PDT by Skooz (All Hail the Mighty Kansas City Chiefs)
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To: kesg
"...John Madison (who actually drafted the First Amendment)..."

Who the hell is "John" Madison?
12 posted on 09/05/2003 3:32:15 PM PDT by beelzepug (incessantly yapping for change)
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To: beelzepug
Who the hell is "John" Madison?

Ouch, did I write that? :) James Madison. Dam spellchecker is on the blink again.

13 posted on 09/05/2003 3:41:30 PM PDT by kesg
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To: Skooz
To be honest, there seems to be some disagreement on who was or was not a Deist, but the point doesn't interest me. The point that interests me is that these men (Deists or otherwise in their personal life) clearly believed in separation of church and state, and two of them (Jefferson and Madison) were primarily responsible for the First Amendment itself.
14 posted on 09/05/2003 3:46:50 PM PDT by kesg
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To: kesg
The point that interests me is that these men (Deists or otherwise in their personal life) clearly believed in separation of church and state,

You have no historical basis for that assertion. The "separation of church and state," as we know it, was discovered by the Warren Court in 1962. It is nowhere in the Constitution or any other founding document.

15 posted on 09/05/2003 4:51:41 PM PDT by Skooz (All Hail the Mighty Kansas City Chiefs)
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To: Skooz
"Deist" is offered but not defined.

de-ism n. Belief in the existence of God as the creator of the universe who after setting it in motion abandoned it, assumed no control over life, exerted no influence on natural phenonmena, and gave no supernatural revelation.

The Founders believed the Bible to be the written word of God. The Founders prayed. Deists don't pray. What would be the use since the Demiurge has "left the building."

http://www.wallbuilders.com/resources/search/detail.php?ResourceID=29
16 posted on 09/05/2003 4:54:39 PM PDT by nonsporting
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To: G. Stolyarov II
Let's put aside the historical question of what sources the Founding Fathers, mostly Deists, drew upon

2 deists, one no pref and 52 Chritstinas, mostly Calivinists a conservative sect.

17 posted on 09/05/2003 4:57:47 PM PDT by jwalsh07
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To: nonsporting
Exactly. Deists subscribed the "master clockmaker" theory of God. They believed that the universe and all therein was composed so well and orderly that divine influence could not be beneficial. Thus, God tended to other matters as the universe plodded on.
18 posted on 09/05/2003 4:57:57 PM PDT by Skooz (All Hail the Mighty Kansas City Chiefs)
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To: Skooz
You have no historical basis for that assertion. The "separation of church and state," as we know it, was discovered by the Warren Court in 1962.

No. Jefferson used the phrase in a famous 1802 letter to describe the meaning and intent of the establishment clause. Madison was, if anything, an even stronger advocate of separation of church and state than was Jefferson.

19 posted on 09/05/2003 5:01:02 PM PDT by kesg
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To: kesg
Neither Jefferson, who was in France, nor Madison authored the First Amendment, Fisher Ames did. His state at the time of it's ratiifcation had a state establisehed religion.

Likewise, Jefferson did not construct a "wall of separation", Justice Hugo Black did that in Everson in 1946. In fact Jefferson and Madison authored a law, while members of the Virginia Legislature, proscribing penalties for breaking the Sabbath. Jefferson, as POTUS, used the public treasury to build Catholic missions for the Indians and man them with the word of God, the Bible.

And that's the rest of the story.

20 posted on 09/05/2003 5:02:35 PM PDT by jwalsh07
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To: kesg
The First Amendment "establishment clause" merely states that there is to be no Church of the United States endorsed by the Federal Government; no religion established by congress. Kids praying at a football game is NOT an establishment of a religion by congress.

To assert that a phrase used one time in private correspondence should determine our national policy is stretching it.

21 posted on 09/05/2003 5:05:41 PM PDT by Skooz (All Hail the Mighty Kansas City Chiefs)
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To: Skooz
The deism, or lack thereof, of the founding fathers doesn't really matter, does it? They made sure the deists (as well as the non-deists) were protected from theocratic rule by the tyranny of the majority theists through the first ammendment. Or did they?
22 posted on 09/05/2003 5:06:29 PM PDT by Mushinronshasan
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To: jwalsh07
Bump.

Very crappy "objectively lying" article.
23 posted on 09/05/2003 5:09:00 PM PDT by wardaddy (deforestation now!)
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To: jwalsh07; kesg
Yep. And what was the very first thing Congress did after completing the final wording of the 1st Amendment?

A resolution calling for a national day of Prayer:

RESOLVED, That a joint committee of both Houses be directed to wait upon the President of the United States, to request that he would recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging, with grateful hearts, that many signal favors of almighty God, especially by affording them the opportunity peaceably to establish a Constitution of government for their safety and happiness.
US Congress, 25 Sep 1789

24 posted on 09/05/2003 5:09:13 PM PDT by Skooz (All Hail the Mighty Kansas City Chiefs)
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To: Skooz
To assert that a phrase used one time in private correspondence should determine our national policy is stretching it.

Well, since the SCOTUS has deemed it perfectly proper to cite the private correspondence of a POTUS to a Baptist minister in Danbury, CT as legal precedent, there is a simple solution to the matter.

President Bush can simply write a letter to a current Baptist minister in Danbury, Ct letting him know that displaying the Ten Commandments, praying before football games, voluntary rectitation of the Pledge with the words "under God" and voluntary prayer in public institutions are indeed Constitutional.

Voila!

25 posted on 09/05/2003 5:11:19 PM PDT by jwalsh07
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To: Mushinronshasan
Well, they DID assure that congress would not establish a state religion.
26 posted on 09/05/2003 5:11:32 PM PDT by Skooz (All Hail the Mighty Kansas City Chiefs)
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To: wardaddy
Never got past the deist thing. If he's that stupid, it becomes a waste of time.
27 posted on 09/05/2003 5:13:00 PM PDT by jwalsh07
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To: kesg
B.S. ALERT !!!!!!!!!!!!!
28 posted on 09/05/2003 5:13:41 PM PDT by lawdog
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To: jwalsh07
LOL! Yeah. To most revisionist "wall of separation" people, Deism = Atheism. They simply don't know the difference.

ALRIGHT! PIZZA'S HERE! Sausage, extra cheese and mushrooms (for the wife) Gotta go.

29 posted on 09/05/2003 5:16:02 PM PDT by Skooz (All Hail the Mighty Kansas City Chiefs)
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To: kesg
FYI

Regarding religion, the First Amendment was intended to accomplish three purposes. First, it was intended to prevent the establishment of a national church or religion, or the giving of any religious sect or denomination a preferred status. Second, it was designed to safeguard the right of freedom of conscience in religious beliefs against invasion solely by the national Government. Third, it was so constructed in order to allow the States, unimpeded, to deal with religious establishments and aid to religious institutions as they saw fit.

30 posted on 09/05/2003 5:18:24 PM PDT by lawdog
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To: kesg
If your gonna go with the " of church and state" premise. Your hero is Justice Hugo Black ( circa 1947 ) not Jefferson or Madison. Black was one of the libs packed into the court by that other usurper of the Constitution FDR.
31 posted on 09/05/2003 5:26:47 PM PDT by lawdog
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To: G. Stolyarov II
Its point is the assertion that the individual is not an independent being with a right to live his own life but the vassal of an invisible Lord. It says, in effect, "I own you; you must obey me." Could America be based on this?

I don't know why an invisible country (you can't find "America" on a map) would have trouble serving an "invisible Lord".

32 posted on 09/05/2003 5:28:29 PM PDT by al_possum39
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To: jwalsh07
It is true enough that Jefferson did not actually draft the First Amendment. My understanding is that Madison did indeed draft the First Amendment (he certainly drafted the version that originally passed the House of Representatives but was defeated in the Senate). Having said that, I now admit that there is some historical evidence that the establishment clause may have originally been intended to apply only to the federal government. There is also conflicting historical evidence. However, this point became moot with the passage of the 14th Amendment, which applied the First Amendment -- and most of the rest of the Bill of Rights -- to the states as well.

These historical points are interesting, but the overall point -- and one of the key points of the original article -- is that separation of church and state is essential to a free society. Jefferson and Madison were absolutely correct on this point. We have the benefit of more than 5,000 years of human history to illustrate the consequences of people who try to impose their particular religion on the rest of us. We saw it in spades during the Dark and Middle Ages, the heyday of religious rule. We see it today in places like Iran and Saudi Arabia, as well as in the Islamofascist terrorist movement. In sum, theocracy and religious fanaticism, in all of their forms, is hazardous to human life and well-being.

33 posted on 09/05/2003 5:36:05 PM PDT by kesg
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To: Skooz
Yep. And what was the very first thing Congress did after completing the final wording of the 1st Amendment? A resolution calling for a national day of Prayer...

The Bill of Rights hadn't yet been ratified and therefore were not yet the law of the land. Nice try. :)

34 posted on 09/05/2003 5:40:40 PM PDT by kesg
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To: G. Stolyarov II
I think the important thing here to remember is that for millions of Americans, God comes first, family second, and goverment a poor third. If you want such people (call them, say, Christians) to follow the orders of your nation state when clearly everyone else (ie, potheads, illegal immigrants, and politicians themselves) ignores the law of the land, then you'd better draw some kind of philosophical connection between Christianity and the US government.

The founding fathers knew that, which is why they were always respectful of the God of the Bible, even though they were deists. They knew that if they didn't make it appear they had God on their side, they wouldn't have Christians on their side. And today, that means they wouldn't have anybody at all.

Something for you secular humanists to consider, when the US government collapses and the government jobs you guys always hold go unfunded.

35 posted on 09/05/2003 5:41:08 PM PDT by JoeSchem (Arnold Schwarzenegger is the moral and intellectual death of the Republican Party.)
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To: lawdog
See my earlier posts in this thread, in which I responsed to many of these points. The most important response is that this entire issue became moot with the passage of the 14th Amendment, which effectively extended the Bill of Rights (including the establishment clause) to the states.
36 posted on 09/05/2003 5:43:53 PM PDT by kesg
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To: lawdog
No, my heros here are Jefferson and Madison (among others). Jefferson originally coined the phrase "separation of church and state" in a letter explaining the establishment clause.
37 posted on 09/05/2003 5:46:38 PM PDT by kesg
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To: kesg
Judge Moore made NO law. Nor did he deprive any U.S.citizen of any right... as to the 14th Amendment "application"...

"CONGRESS shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

The phrase that governs all the rest of the sentence is " Congress shall make no law..." It is addressed to no other branch of government. Even if we make a giant leap to the view that the First Amendment was made applicable to the states by the 14th Amendment, it is still not clear what application could be made of it.

The 14th Amendment provides that " The CONGRESS shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article." But how can Congress legislate about matters concerning which the governing phrase is, CONGRESS shall make no law? The obvious answer is that it can't.

That aside and even supposing the the 14th made the First applicable to the states, there was NO grant of power to the Federal courts to lay down rules as to what constituted an establishment of religion, what states governments might authorize regarding religion, how local governments might celebrate religious occasions etc. No such powers are granted to any branch of the federal government, including Congress, by the First Amendment.

For nearly 70 years after the adoption of the 14th Amendment, the courts and and just about everybody else believed the First Amendment meant what it said, no more no less.It was not until the 1930's and 40's that the federal judiciary started to stick it's nose under the tent of state authority in the matter of religion and morals.

The fed courts have hijacked a power not enumerated to them in the Constitution

38 posted on 09/05/2003 5:50:41 PM PDT by lawdog
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To: kesg
P.S. I know all about the "letter". Hardly an offical government dictum.
39 posted on 09/05/2003 5:53:31 PM PDT by lawdog
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To: kesg
The Bill of Rights hadn't yet been ratified and therefore were not yet the law of the land.

So, those who crafted the 1st Amendment immediately disregarded it and had a "let's proclaim a national day of prayer and acknowledge God before this monster we have created comes into effect and we will no longer be allowed to" attitude?

I think not.

40 posted on 09/05/2003 6:59:04 PM PDT by Skooz (All Hail the Mighty Kansas City Chiefs)
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To: kesg
However, this point became moot with the passage of the 14th Amendment, which applied the First Amendment -- and most of the rest of the Bill of Rights -- to the states as well.

Again historically inaccurate. The 14th Amendment was never intended to apply the establishment clause to the states. That is evidenced by the Blaine Amendment which failed and 14 other attempts to begin the amendment process in Congress applying the 1st Amendment to the states.

The 14th Amendment was intended to protect the individual rights of all US citizens. A worthy cause. The establishment clause was a restraint on the federal government, not an individual right.

Of note here is that all the states managed to disestablish state religions without the omnipotent 14th Amendment and it's penumbras.

But that's neither here nor there. The Constitution never required the banning of religion from the public square. Quite the contrary as evidenced by Article 1 Section 7 of the US Constituion which proscribes doing business on Sunday, a bow to the Fourth Commandment. More to the point the founders acknowledged that rights come from God, "the Creator", not from the state, the SCOTUS or Presidents writing letters to Danbury Baptists.

Banning of religion from the public square is Marxist, not Jeffersonian.

Which brings us to your final paragraph. Undoubtedly in times past there has been lots of killing and mayhem due to religion and there is to this day. But if you want to go purely on a numbers basis Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot et al have religion beat by miles and there deeds have been in the recent past, not ancient history.

You can argue that God shoul be banned from the public square because it offends some folk but you can't do it honestly from a historical or Constitutional basis.

If you want God and religion banned from public you should do it honestly be amending the Constitution to do just that and not rely on judicial activism whne it accords with your ideology. When they come for your guns don't be surprised if they find a right to be free of weapons in the 14th Amendment.

41 posted on 09/05/2003 8:56:46 PM PDT by jwalsh07
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To: G. Stolyarov II
We have staked the future of government not upon the power of government, far from it. We have staked the future of all of our political institutions on the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves according to the ten commandments of God.

-James Madison

The highest glory of the American Revolution was this: that it connected in one indissoluble bond civil government with the principles of Christianity.

-John Quincy Adams

42 posted on 09/05/2003 9:01:14 PM PDT by Ol' Sparky
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To: G. Stolyarov II
George Washington: "It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible."
43 posted on 09/05/2003 9:03:01 PM PDT by Ol' Sparky
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To: G. Stolyarov II
The moment the idea is admitted into society, that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence. If "Thou shalt not covet," and "Thou shalt not steal," were not commandments of Heaven, they must be made inviolable precepts in every society, before it can be civilized or made free.

(Source: John Adams, The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States, Charles Francis Adams, editor (Boston: Charles C. Little and James Brown, 1851), Vol. VI, p. 9.)

44 posted on 09/05/2003 9:04:48 PM PDT by Ol' Sparky
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To: jwalsh07
Good idea.

Ping W ...and W the elder while you're at it.

We could go for a two-fer....precedent being what it is and all.

Come to think of it since Comrade Ginsburg has decided to let foreign precedent weigh in as well now on determining SCOTUS policy, why not let's ping Berscolinni(sic) or maybe even Blair while we're at it...they'd probably be good for a short note or two.
45 posted on 09/05/2003 9:35:21 PM PDT by wardaddy (deforestation now!)
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To: lawdog
Even if we make a giant leap to the view that the First Amendment was made applicable to the states by the 14th Amendment, it is still not clear what application could be made of it.

At least two ways that I know of. One, the privileges and immunities clause -- the rights set forth in the First Amendment (including but not limited to the establishment clause) are privileges and immunities of all US citizens. Two, these rights are part of our substantive right to liberty under the due process clause. I personally prefer the first method, but my understanding is that the Supreme Court essentially adopted the second method.

A third method is the Ninth Amendment, which should be construed to incorporate by reference the individual rights philosophy set forth in the Declaration of Independence. My understanding is that no court has ever used the Ninth Amendment this way -- unfortunately.

46 posted on 09/05/2003 9:45:35 PM PDT by kesg
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To: lawdog
That aside and even supposing the the 14th made the First applicable to the states, there was NO grant of power to the Federal courts to lay down rules as to what constituted an establishment of religion, what states governments might authorize regarding religion, how local governments might celebrate religious occasions etc. No such powers are granted to any branch of the federal government, including Congress, by the First Amendment.

The federal courts have this power of judicial review under Article III -- a question of law that has been settled since the Marbury vs. Madison case. Moreover, the right to religious freedom -- which is what we are discussing here -- can equally be derived from the Ninth Amendment, the privileges and immunities clause of the 14th Amendment, or the due process clause of the 14th Amendment.

47 posted on 09/05/2003 10:03:05 PM PDT by kesg
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To: jwalsh07
The 14th Amendment was intended to protect the individual rights of all US citizens. A worthy cause. The establishment clause was a restraint on the federal government, not an individual right.

I agree that the 14th Amendment was intended to protect individual rights, but would add that religious freedom (and, more broadly, intellectual freedom) is not only an individual right, but arguably one of the most important individual rights we have. The Founding Fathers, such as Jefferson and Madison, were acutely aware of the long, sorry history of the commingling of church and state during that time that historians now call the Dark and Middle Ages. Indeed, many people came from Old Europe to the New World to escape religious tyranny.

If the State has the right to impose religion on you, then it effectively owns or controls your mind and your life -- the very opposite of the State's recognition of your "inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." It is no accident that the man who wrote these words in the Declaration of Independence was also the man who explained that the establishment clause of the First Amendment established the principle of separation of church and state.

48 posted on 09/05/2003 10:38:14 PM PDT by kesg
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To: jwalsh07
Undoubtedly in times past there has been lots of killing and mayhem due to religion and there is to this day. But if you want to go purely on a numbers basis Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot et al have religion beat by miles and there deeds have been in the recent past, not ancient history.

I don't think that our choice is between religion and Communism (or Marxism, or socialism), but between freedom and statism -- whether the government recognizes your inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, or whether the government violates these rights to some degree by asserting ownership or control over your mind, your property, and your life. Theocracy, or religious tyranny, is merely one form of statism. Communism is another form of statism. Both forms, and many other variations, are to be distinguished from the constitutional republic that our Founding Fathers actually intended for us, a form that -- albeit imperfectly -- was based on the individual rights philosophy outlined in the Declaration of Independence.

49 posted on 09/05/2003 10:48:40 PM PDT by kesg
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