19 January 2008

Which way is the trend really going?

    Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man & his god, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state.
      Thomas Jefferson
      Letter to the Danbury Baptist Association, January 1, 1802

    I have opponents in this race who do not want to change the Constitution. But I believe it's a lot easier to change the Constitution than it would be to change the word of the living god. And that's what we need to do -- to amend the Constitution so it's in God's standards rather than try to change God's standards so it lines up with some contemporary view.
      Governor Mike Huckabee
      Michigan campaign speech, January 14, 2008

A popular theme of the radical right is the so-call secularization of America. The standard argument is that left-wing atheists are systematically removing God from its traditional and historical place in the laws and governance United States. So let us examine the historical trend, shall we?

  • 1776 - The Declaration of Independence is adopted. It includes mention of the "laws of Nature," "Nature's God," and a "Creator" that is the source of our unalienable rights.
  • 1782 - The motto E pluribus unum (from many, one) is adopted the motto written on the scroll held by the eagle on the Great Seal of the United States. This is the original motto used on U.S. coinage, beginning in 1795.
  • 1787 - The U.S. Constitution is ratified. Drafters rejected religious language and any religious qualification to hold office, and as ratified it contained no mention of a deity whatsoever.
  • 1791 - The First Amendment becomes law when Virginia becomes the 10th state to ratify the Bill of Rights. It guarantees the free practice or religion and forbid laws that favor or forbid specific religious beliefs.
  • 1796 - Article 11 of the Treaty of Tripoli states that the "government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion...."
  • 1802 - Jefferson's writes the now famous letter to the Danbury Baptists describing the separation of church and state as guaranteed by the First Amendment
  • 1861 - Rev. M. R. Watkinson petitions then Secretary of the Treasury Samuel P. Chase for "recognition of the Almighty God in some form on our coins." The motto "In God We Trust" is ultimately chosen and begins appearing on U.S. currency in 1864.
  • 1863 - Several protestant Christian organizations, most notably the National Reform Association, begin attempts to amend to U.S. Constitution. The goal is to re-word the preamble to say, "We, the People of the United States [recognizing the being and attributes of Almighty God, the Divine Authority of the Holy Scriptures, the law of God as the paramount rule, and Jesus, the Messiah, the Savior and Lord of all], in order to form a more perfect union...."
  • 1892 - The original pledge of allegiance is written by Baptist minister Francis Bellamy. It is undergoes slight modifications until the 1925. None of these versions mention God at all. The final version in 1925 was as follows: "I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands: one Nation indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all."
  • 1954 - Congress votes to add the phrase "under God" to the pledge, in part as a response to the threat of atheistic Communism. The family of Fancis Bellamy lobbied Congress against the change. The same year, Congress also moves to officially include the motto "In God we Trust" on all U.S. currency.
  • 2001 - The White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives is established by executive order by George W. Bush. By 2004 religious organizations are receiving billions of federal dollars without a strict separation between their religious activities and social service programs, and despite discriminatory hiring on religious grounds.
  • 2008 - Republican Presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee speaks in favor of amending the Constitution to reflect "God's standards."

As adopted, the supreme law of the land, the U.S. Constitution was completely secular. Yet since that time, there has been a slow march toward adding religious, and in particular Christian, language to our laws. That's the real trend, and it definitely concerns me.

1 comment:

Michael said...

Thank you for this insightful and prescient posting.