jeudi, novembre 13, 2003

Alabama, Federal Judges and the Ten Commandments

Can Alabama legally and constitutionally place a monument of the Ten Commandments in the rotunda of the state Supreme Court building or is it a violation of the 1st Amendment?

This is an important question and if you will bear with me I would like to give a somewhat detailed answer, but before the details let me first give a short and to the point answer. That answer is a resounding YES!! It is their right as sovereign state to do so.

Now for the details: When Alabama joined the Union in 1819 she did so as a free and sovereign state. With all the rights and privileges of every other state. In 1819 New Hampshire, on its own accord, decided to disestablish the congregational church, which had been the established church there since before the War for Independence. It is important to note that New Hampshire and a number of other states had official state churches when they joined the new Union by ratification of the Constitution. They also had a state church when they voted for the Bill of Rights, which includes the 1st Amendment. New Hampshire, as well as every other state, saw no contradiction between an established church and the 1st Amendment. The reason is for this, when properly understood in context, is there is none.

The 1st Amendment was written to restrain the federal government from entering into the realm of church/state issues, because this was considered to be a state and not a federal matter. A number of the original States still had official state churches when they ratified both the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Some of the established churches were Anglican and some were Congregational. Other states had recently disestablished their state churches because of the pressure from non-established sects, especially the Presbyterians and the small but growing number of Baptists.

It was an accepted idea that this issue was a state issue and that if the new federal government tried to interfere in this area the Union would not and could not have been established. The Bill of Rights was written to restrain the FEDERAL government. The states were sovereign and had their own constitutions and they were often overtly Christian. Let’s look at a few of them here:

DELAWARE 1897: Through Divine goodness, all men have by nature the rights of worshiping and serving their Creator according to the dictates of their consciences…

GEORGIA 1887: To perpetuate the principles of free government, insure justice to all, preserve peace, promote the interest and happiness of the citizen, and transmit to posterity the enjoyment of liberty, we, the people of Georgia, relying upon the protection and guidance of Almighty God, do ordain and establish this Constitution.

MASSACHUSETTS 1780: We, therefore, the people of Massachusetts, acknowledging, with grateful hearts, the goodness of the great Legislator of the universe, in affording us, in the course of His providence, an opportunity, deliberately and peaceably, without fraud, violence, or surprise, of entering into an original, explicit and solemn compact with each other; and for forming a new Constitution of civil government, for ourselves and posterity; and devoutly imploring His direction in so interesting a design, do agree upon, ordain, and establish the following Declaration of Rights, and Frame of Government, as the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Now let’s look at the MassachusettsDeclaration of Rights” established that same year.

III. As the happiness of a people, and the good order and preservation of civil government, essentially depend upon piety, religion and morality; and as these cannot be generally diffused throughout a community but by the institution of public worship of God, and of public instructions in piety, religion and morality: Therefore, to promote their happiness and to secure the good order and preservation of their government, the people of this Commonwealth have a right to invest their legislature with power to authorize and require, and the legislature shall, from time to time, authorize and require, the several towns, parishes, precincts, and other bodies-politic, or religious societies, to make suitable provision, at their own expense, for the institution of the public worship of God, and for the support and maintenance of public protestant teachers of piety, religion and morality, in all cases where such provision shall not be made voluntarily....

And every denomination of Christians, demeaning themselves peaceably, and as good subjects of the Commonwealth, shall be equally under the protection of the law; And no subordination of any one sect or denomination to another shall ever be established by law.

I should note at this point that Massachusetts maintained an established Church until the 1830’s when it voluntarily disestablished the Congregational Church from being the state church.

NEW HAMPSHIRE 1784: Every individual has a natural and unalienable right to worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience, and reason, morality and piety, rightly grounded on evangelical principles, will give the best and greatest security to government, and will lay, in the hearts of men, the strongest obligations to due subjection; and the knowledge of these is most likely to be propagated through society by the institutions of the public worship of the Deity…

Vermont joined the Union soon after ratification and this is from her constitutions preamble:

VERMONT 1793: That all men have a natural and unalienable right, to worship Almighty God, according to the dictates of their own consciences and understandings as in their opinion shall be regulated by the word of God: and that no man ought to or of right can be compelled to attend any religious worship, or erect or support any place of worship, or maintain any minister, contrary to the dictates of his conscience, nor can any man be justly deprived or abridged of any civil right as a citizen, on account of his religious sentiments, or peculiar mode of religious worship; and that no authority can or ought to be vested in, or assumed by, any power whatever, that shall in any case interfere with, or in any manner control the rights of conscience, in the free exercise of religious worship. Nevertheless, every sect or denomination of Christians ought to observe the Sabbath or Lord’s day, and keep up some sort of religious worship, which to them shall seem most agreeable to the revealed will of God.

It becomes clear as you read the history of the States that they saw themselves as Christian Commonwealths. And these states created the federal Union and they barred the federal government from establishing one Christian sect as an official federal church.

The Bible is often quoted on both state and federal buildings and monuments alike. The same men who gave us the Constitution and Bill of Rights also established Christian chaplains for the Congress and Senate. They established chaplains for the military as well. It is obvious that, while the 1st Amendment clearly barred the federal government from having and established church it did not and was not intended to be used as a means to strip the Christian faith out of public square as federal judges have been doing for more then fifty years.

This was not always the case. There was a time when the judges (state and federal) understood that the states and the United States were all Christian in origin and in fact. Let’s look at some decisions from that time before judicial dementia set in on the question of Church and State.

Let’s look first at an 1824 case from Pennsylvania. In the case of “Updegraph v. Commonwealth” we read the following in the Judges decision:

We will first dispose of what is considered the grand objection--the constitutionality of Christianity--for in effect that is the question.

Christianity, general Christianity, is, and always has been, a part of the common law of Pennsylvania; Christianity, without the spiritual artillery of European countries; for this Christianity was one of the considerations of the royal charter, and the very basis of its great founder, William Penn; not Christianity founded on any particular religious tenets; not Christianity with an established church, and tithes, and spiritual courts; but Christianity with liberty of conscience to all men

In the decision by the United States Supreme Court in Davis v. Beason (1890), which is dealing with polygamy, we read:

Probably never before in the history of this country has it been seriously contended that the whole punitive power of the government for acts, recognized by the general consent of the Christian world in modern times as proper matters for prohibitory legislation, must be suspended in order that the tenets of a religious sect encouraging crime may be carried out without hindrance.

It is clear that the Justice writing the decision includes the United States as part of the “Christian world in modern times.” But the Supreme Court was much more specific in the case of Holy Trinity Church v. U.S. (1892). Here Justice David Brewer, after a fine survey of America’s Christian origins and foundations then writes:

There is no dissonance in these declarations. There is a universal language pervading them all, having one meaning. They affirm and reaffirm that this is a religious nation. These are not individual sayings, declarations of private persons. They are organic utterances. They speak the voice of the entire people. While because of a general recognition of this truth the question has seldom been presented to the courts, yet we find that in Updegraph v. Comm., 11 Serg. & R. 394, 400, it was decided that, "Christianity, general Christianity, is, and always has been, a part of the common law of Pennsylvania; * * * not Christianity with an established church and tithes and spiritual courts, but Christianity with liberty of conscience to all men." And in People v. Ruggles, 8 Johns. 290, 294, 295, Chancellor KENT, the great commentator on American law, speaking as chief justice of the supreme court of New York, said: "The people of this state, in common with the people of this country, profess the general doctrines of Christianity as the rule of their faith and practice; and to scandalize the author of those doctrines in not only, in a religious point of view, extremely impious, but, even in respect to the obligations due to society, is a gross violation of decency and good order. * * * The free, equal, and undisturbed enjoyment of religious opinion, whatever it may be, and free and decent discussions on any religious [143 U.S. 457, 471] subject, is granted and secured; but to revile, with malicious and blasphemous contempt, the religion professed by almost the whole community is an abuse of that right. Nor are we bound by any expressions in the constitution, as some have strangely supposed, either not to punish at all, or to punish indiscriminately the like attacks upon the religion of Mahomet or of the Grand Lama; and for this plain reason that the case assumes that we are a Christian people, and the morality of the country is deeply ingrafted upon Christianity, and not upon the doctrines or worship of those impostors." And in the famous case of Vidal v. Girard's Ex'rs, 2 How. 127, 198, this court, while sustaining the will of Mr. Girard, with its provisions for the creation of a college into which no minister should be permitted to enter, observed: "it is also said, and truly, that the Christian religion is a part of the common law of Pennsylvania."

If we pass beyond these matters to a view of American life, as expressed by its laws, its business, its customs, and its society, we find everywhere a clear recognition of the same truth. Among other matters note the following: The form of oath universally prevailing, concluding with an appeal to the Almighty; the custom of opening sessions of all deliberative bodies and most conventions with prayer; the prefatory words of all wills, "In the name of God, amen;" the laws respecting the observance of the Sabbath, with the general cessation of all secular business, and the closing of courts, legislatures, and other similar public assemblies on that day; the churches and church organizations which abound in every city, town, and hamlet; the multitude of charitable organizations existing everywhere under Christian auspices; the gigantic missionary associations, with general support, and aiming to establish Christian missions in every quarter of the globe. These and many other matters which might be noticed, add a volume of unofficial declarations to the mass of organic utterances that this is a Christian nation…

This is barely the tip of the iceberg on the matter. The case is overwhelmingly in favour of those that proclaim the Christian origins, foundation and character of American culture and law. It is the courts and liberal lackeys that have worked most diligently to cause modern Americans to forget the Christian foundations of this land.

The courts have used a distorted and contorted view of the 1st Amendment tied with the 14th Amendment (which is another story) as the means to de-Christianise this land. They are sorely wrong and the State of Alabama could, constitutionally speaking, if it so desired, make the Southern Baptist Church or any other, the State church tomorrow and the federal government should not have a word to say about it, because it has no authority to do so.

Coram Deo,

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