In 1797 the United States Senate ratified the Treaty of Tripoli which involved making peace with the Barbary Coast of Africa (From Morocco to Libya). The treaty specifically notes the religious character of the Barbary peoples as Muslim. It was ratified by the full Senate - unanimously. This is important because by this ratification it is clear that the President and the Senate of the founding era, of the American Enlightenment, had a very different philosophical view of our foundation than Christian conservatives generally do.
Article 11 of the treaty reads:
"As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion -- as it has itself no character of enmity against the law, religion or tranquility of Musselmen, and as the said states never have entered into an war or act of hostility against any Mohametan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce."
Not in any sense founded on the Christian religion. No pretext arising from any religious opinion. This is strong stuff that directly contradicts the voices of the far right. Why would the President of the United States and a unanimous Senate say such a thing if it were not true? In the alternate universe of the religious right's Senate chamber of 1797, Christian voices would raise a clamoring charge that this was not so! But the legally Christian nation was not fact to the founding generation that ratified this treaty; every senator ratified the entire treaty. A large part of the answer to this apparent contradiction to the Christian nation doctrine lies in the prevalence of enlightenment thought in the intellectual circles of both Europe and America.
The enlightenment was all the rage in coastal, educated America, complete with an abundance of classical and renaissance literature, Newtonian science, and a sprinkling of deism. Like the Reformation period, which sprang from the the liberal nature of the renaissance period, the enlightenment was a political, scientific, and cultural revolution that changed all of western society.
It is important to notice that Article 11 of the Treaty isn't speaking of heritage, tradition, or culture; it is speaking of the government of the United States. That government, with all its codes and statutes, from the smallest town to the federal government, must be pursuant to the Constitution, a clearly secular and non-religious document. It is not anti-religion or pro-religion; it is religion-neutral. So now, what is the place of treaties in the Constitution? This is set down in no uncertain terms, as are the limits on states rights, in Article 6, Section 2. The section reads:
"This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the Supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every state shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding."
Even if one is to dispute any high place for treaties under the Constitution, it is hard to dismiss what the United States Senators and the President agreed that the Government of the United States was not in any sense founded on the Christian religion. And it would be a false premise because if one looks at the Federalist Papers, the Anti-Federalist Papers, and the state ratification conventions after the signing of the Constitution in Philadelphia, you will notice that this was an issue that was debated in regards to the power of the Senate. Many did complain but in the end the Senate's authority in matters of treaties was ratified by all the parties.
The Treaty was read aloud on the floor and published for all the Senators and every one voted in the affirmative. The treaty was signed into law by President John Adams only six years after the ratification of the Bill of Rights. The treaty testifies unequivocally against the historical revisionists. Here is President John Adams final say on the treaty:
"Now be it known, that I, John Adams, President of the United States of America, having seen and considered the said treaty do, by and within the consent of the Senate, accept, ratify and confirm the same, and every clause and article thereof."
Every clause and article. The separation of church and state is not a myth and invention of liberals, n onbelievers and activist judges in the 1960s as some claim. Note this ruling by the United States Supreme Court in an 1860 case, Melvin V. Easley.
"Christianity is not established by law, and the genius of our institutions requires that the Church and the State should be kept separate....The state confesses its incompetency to judge spiritual matters between men or between man and his maker ... spiritual matters are exclusively in the hands of teachers of religion".
Let's move on to a survey of religious laws in colonial charters and state constitutions prior to the constitution's ratification in 1789. This story tells us, bit by bit, how after nearly two centuries we arrived at a constitution very different than the colonial laws in matters of religious liberty and equality. In this study I will highlight most of the pre-constitutional religious laws based in the medieval traditions of those times. In doing so I will demonstrate that the old legal order of religious lawmaking was antithetical in principle to the view upon religion in the Federal Constitution. A European colonial epoch ended with the ratification of the US Constitution; a new beginning after fifteen centuries of codified religious intolerance. By carefully citing the religious laws in British North America we will see that the colonial religious temperament is not continued in word or principle in the Constitution. Although tradition and heritage desperately held on, they held on to laws no longer in effect. The clock had run out. The tank was empty yet the religious right and the cultural conservatives of the tea party still think the medieval order still exists. It is plain to see that nothing in the Constitution is based upon any religion. While the colonial charters and early constitutions are clearly Christian and evangelical, there is not a trace of these in the Constitution. The argument from the conservatives is that the Constitution is based on Christian principles yet there is not one clause or article that can be used to support this argument. Believe me, I have asked over and over and not one example has been offered. The Constitution is clearly neutral concerning religion. Where it does mention religion, they are actually sanctions against the religious tests and establishments the religious right seek.
What the supporters of church and state entanglements use as support for their arguments is exactly what I use to refute it. They have misinterpreted the historical currents and don't understand that our Constitution signaled the end of a very long epoch. While appraising each colonial religious law, ask yourself which of these colonial religious demands and religious partnerships with government are in the Federal Constitution? And ask, why aren't the religious demands and acknowledgments of God in the Constitution if that was its intent?
In this next section, I will highlight many of the pre-constitutional laws. In doing this I will demonstrate that the old order of religious jurisprudence ended with the ratification of the US Constitution. I will demonstrate this by showing how antithetical the pre-constitutional views of individual liberty were compared to the Constitution's principles of liberty. By doing this I will show that an age suddenly died and a new one was born. This change in dispensations is why the founders chose the Latin motto that translates to A New Order For The Ages. They did not say they were going to improve or fix the old order; they endeavored to invent a completely new system of laws and liberties. The great flaw of the religious right's argument is that they are blind to the monumental break with history that occurred with the ratification of the Constitution. It is misguided to think that the First Amendment and the Sixth Article came from any Biblical principle. The Bible says there is only one way available and the Constitution says you can chose your way. The sabbath, adultery, homosexuality and blasphemy laws, the religious tests for oaths of office and the demands of the citizenry for Christian belief found in the pre-constitutional charters and constitutions are from another age. That was an age that did not acknowledge any rights to any privacy or a free conscience. Their laws were not in any way similar to the Constitution's basic principles regarding privacy, liberty and religion. Full rights of conscience and privacy were never offered by colonial charters and laws. They watched everybody and there was noting one could do about it. You had to be a Christian, and in most cases a Protestant who rejected the Papacy, in order to have these rights. In effect, the people of these times and colonies never had real religious liberty; they had the liberty to be the right kind of Christian and not much else. That is not liberty. It is coercion. Religious liberty to zealots means the liberty to force their views on everyone and that usually means a never ending campaign to use the state for that purpose. As unreasonable as it sounds, when they can't use public schools for mass Christian prayers or to post their religion's Commandments in courthouses for all to see they think their liberties are being oppressed. But has anyone told them to close a church? No. Has anyone ordered them to change their faith? No. They simply can't live with their own personal religious liberties. They seem to think religious liberty means evangelizing by whatever means necessary and every place possible which to the religious right means to gain political power for this crusade. They represent the barren, unjust and intolerant legal orders of the past.
Although this essay deals mainly with the principles of liberty that were so bold and new, the separation of government powers were synthesized from the writings of the Roman Polybius and the French Enlightenment philospher and jurist Montesquei. Not in any government in the history of the world had the executive, the legislative and the judicial powers of the government been given separate but equal powers. Checks and balances were new. The Senate of Rome had no power after a while. It was mostly symbolic. The English Parliament could be dissolved by the King and the Parliament could and did nullify the King's power at one time. There are many examples of this failing order of government. This constitutional separation of equal government powers was a bold new paradigm in this new age but this essay deals mostly with rights of conscience, religious dogma of the old order, and the Constitution. Before I continue, I want to touch on a claim made by the religious right. It involves the nature of this old order and it's requirements if a person wished to be influential in his community.
THE FOUNDERS AND CHURCH MEMBERSHIP
One of the religious right's claims regarding the founders is that most of them belonged to churches. The argument is that they were Christians who created the Constitution so it must be based on Christian principles. Not only are Christian principles absent in the Constitution, this is a very misleading argument because it omits important details regarding the office of church vestrymen, which was the position many of the founders held. As you will see in the colonial charters, one could not serve the public without being a member of a church. Like so many of their arguments, they are superficial and deceptive claims that can be refuted with a little bit of digging below the surface.
In the old order of colonial law, which I will detail below, church and state were mixed and there were blurry boundaries between the two. The colonial governments, like Islamist governments, were Medieval governments by and of God. Because of this mixture of religious and civic, in order to hold any political power and have a say in the community's civil affairs, one had to be a church member. The office of Vestryman was an example. The church vestry at this time was also the county court and dealt with important civil affairs beyond its religious purpose. Here was the mix of religion and government that was abolished with the Virginia Statute and then the First Amendment. This was the old religious test at work. Here was a situation that prohibited a person from being a public servant unless they were a church member. So Deists like Jefferson, Madison, Washington, Wythe and others just used the system they were going to abolish - to their own advantage. They joined the church in order to gain access to this political clout. How else could their voices be heard? On page 26 of his 1963 book, George Washington and Religion Paul F. Boller wrote,
"Actually, under the Anglican establishment in Virginia before the Revolution, the duties of a parish vestry were as much civil as religious in nature and it is not possible to deduce any exceptional religious zeal from the mere fact of membership.* Even Thomas Jefferson was a vestryman for a while. Consisting of the leading gentlemen of the parish in position and influence (many of whom, like Washington, were also at one time or other members of the County Court and of the House of Burgeses), the parish vestry, among other things, levied the parish taxes, handled poor relief, fixed land boundaries in the parish, supervised the construction, furnishing, and repairs of churches, and hired ministers and paid their salaries."
Mr. Boller also notes at the asterisk that Bishop William Meade on page 191 of Volume I of his 1857 book, Old Churches, Ministers and Families of Virginia wrote:
"Even Mr. Jefferson and [George] Wythe, who did not conceal their disbelief in Christianity, took their parts in the duties of vestrymen, the one at Williamsburg, the other at Albermarle; for they wished to be men of influence´"
So don't let the Christian dominionists fool you with their church membership obfuscations. It was the old order and it was necessary to join a church in order to have political influence. And it would be these same men that banned the same office they held in its colonial form. Why not? It was unethical.
Now let's move on a very important survey of colonial charters, state constitutions and their Medieval laws regarding religion and liberty.
1610 & 1611: THE VIRGINIA COLONY
On May 24, 1610 and June, 22, 1611 the inhabitants of the Virginia colony made their laws. Colonial charters were extensions of the British and European models of church-state alliances more than they were precursors of the US Constitution. The Virginia colony was part of British America. It was a British colony with centuries old British notions of law and religion. It had a Medieval form of government. The Virginia religious laws of 1611 and 1786 were worlds apart. The old Medieval laws regarding belef would endure 175 years before Thomas Jefferson's religious freedom law separated religion and government and put an end to the European model of Godly government.
The Preamble of this document begins by saying that,
a most zealous Prince hath in his owne Realmes a principall care of true Religion, and reverence to God, and hath alwaies strictly commaunded his Generals and Governours, with all his forces wheresoever, to let their waies be like his ends for the glorie of God.
Nothing in the Constitution supports a care for true religion, reverence for God, or any glorie to God. While the oaths or affirmations in the Constitution are to protect the constitution, it being the supreme law of the land; the Virginia law declares allegience to God, saying
"we owe our highest and supreme duty, our greatest, and all our allegeance to him, from whom all power and authoritie is derived, and flowes as from the first, and onely fountaine, and being especiall souldiers emprest in this sacred cause, we must alone expect our successe from him, who is only the blesser of all good attempts, the King of kings, the commaunder of commaunders, and Lord of Hostes,.."
The military commanders were also ordered,
Almightie God bee duly and daily served, and that they call upon their people to heare Sermons, as that also they diligently frequent Morning and Evening praier themselves by their owne exemplar and daily life, and duties herein, encouraging others thereunto, and that such, who shall often and wilfully absent themselves, be duly punished according to the martiall law in that case provided.
Nothing in the Constitution supports the military being evangelizers of Christianity although Jay Sekulow of the ACLJ obsesses about it endlessly in his releases. While the colony could punish people for not attending sermons and daily prayers, the 1786 Virginia of Madison and Jefferson divorced religion from government. It disestablished the state supported church, ended religious tests, and people did not have to go to church anymore if they didn't want to. This was the beginning of freedom of and from religion in the sphere of the liberties of conscience. This was a radical, age-ending change in the relationship of religion and government. Here was a government getting out of the religion business, freeing itself from its sabbath policing role, too. by stating,
"no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever," And everyone "shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish enlarge, or affect their civil capacities."
The Virginia colony document had a law supporting Trinitarian Christianity and like Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and making speech against God, a capital crime. This would make criticism of Christianity a dangerous endeavor. Shut your mouth. Blasphemy was punishable by death. Deriding the Bible was a capital offense. Demeaning a preacher was also a crime. This society totally isolates and protects it's religion with harsh penalties for those who would dare to challenge customs and beliefs. Here are the laws:
2 That no man speake impiously or maliciously, against the holy and blessed Trinitie, or any of the three persons, that is to say, against God the Father, God the Son, and God the holy Ghost, or against the knowne Articles of the Christian faith, upon paine of death.
"3 That no man blaspheme Gods holy name upon paine of death,......"
"5 No man shall speake any word, or do any act, which may tend to the derision, or despight of Gods holy word upon paine of death:
.... Nor shall any man unworthily demeane himself unto any Preacher, or Minister of the same,..."
On top of the state's absolute protection of its religion from criticism and challenge comes mandatory church-going with punishments for those who miss church or violate the Sabbath.
Everie man and woman duly twice a day upon the first towling of the Bell shall upon the working daies repaire unto the Church, to hear divine Service upon pain of losing his or her dayes allowance for the first omission, for the second to be whipt, and for the third to be condemned to the Gallies for six Moneths.
Likewise no man or woman shall dare to violate or breake the Sabboth by any gaming, publique or private abroad, or at home, but duly sanctifie and observe the same, both himselfe and his familie, by preparing themselves at home with private prayer, that they may be the better fitted for the publique, according to the commandements of God, and the orders of our Church, as also every man and woman shall repaire in the morning to the divine service, and Sermons preached upon the Saboth day, and in the afternoon to divine service, and Catechising, upon paine for the first fault to lose their provision, and allowance for the whole weeke following, for the second to lose the said allowance, and also to be whipt, and for the third to suffer death.
Imagine that! The document continues with several more protections for the religion of the state and also makes perjury, sodomy and adultery capital crimes. Sodomy laws of all kinds were declared unconstitutional by the USSC in Lawrence V. Texas. Adultery is a privacy issue and a civil matter. Like the capital crimes of the Bible, there is a complete lack of proportionality in the Virginia laws of 1610 and 1611. The government of 1611 Virginia was a right wing authoritarian regime very similar to both Calvin's theocracy in Geneva and the religious governments that radical Islam supports. The condition of justice in Virginia was similar to Islam's Hadith based Shar'ia Court. There ware no boundaries between government and religion in these regimes. Virginia's alliance of church and state decided your religious belief, what you could say in matters of religion, and that you had to go to church in the manner and frequency prescribed by the laws of Virginia.
1620: THE PLYMOUTH COMBINATION
One of the most misunderstood historical documents is The Plymouth Combination which began being called the Mayflower Compact in 1793. Many of the religious right point their finger at the Christianity of the Plymouth immigrants and call their compact an example of how America was founded on Christian ideals. The problem with that is that the compact was conceived in England and reflects the Puritan's theocratic ideals in England. This compact is a good example of what America moved away from in the late eighteenth century. The Plymouth Combination is far more similar to the church-state alliances of late antiquity, the dark ages, and the Reformation's despots than it is to the US Constitution. Let's take a look at it:
IN the Name of God, Amen. We whose Names are under-written, the Loyal Subjects of our dread Soveraign Lord King James, by the grace of God of Great Britain, France and Ireland, King, Defendor of the Faith &c. Having undertaken for the glory of God, and advancement of the Christian Faith, and the Honour of our K[i]ng and Countrey, a Voyage to plant the first Colony in the Northern parts of Virginia; Do by these Presents, solemnly and mutually, in the presence of God and one another, Covenant and Combine our selves together into a Civil Body Politick, for our better ordering and preservation, and furtherance of the ends aforesaid:
In this nation under the Constitution, there is no promulgation ascribing the Civil Body Politick to being an evangelical instrument with which to advance Christianity. The First Amendment prohibition of the government establishing any religious point of view and the Sixth Article's ban on requiring religious tests and declarations for civil service make the two political systems incompatible and antithetical. The Puritans of Massachusetts took their voyage and created their Body Politick, or government, in the name of God. The government was for the glory of God, for the advancement of their Calvinist Puritan version of Christianity, and in the presence of God.
Our constitution was crafted in a radically different political atmosphere with a thoroughly different goal in mind. I think John Adams puts it very well in his 1787 tome,href="http://www.constitution.org/jadams/ja1_00.htm">A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America that,
"The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature; and if men are now sufficiently enlightened to disabuse themselves of artifice, imposture, hypocrisy, and superstition, they will consider this event as an era in their history. Although the detail of the formation of the American governments is at present little known or regarded either in Europe or in America, it may hereafter become an object of curiosity. It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of Heaven, more than those at work upon ships or houses, or laboring in merchandise or agriculture; it will forever be acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses."
Adams goes on to say that the Federalist system for the thirteen states devised under the Constitution were,
"founded on the natural authority of the people alone, without a pretence of miracle or mystery, and which are destined to spread over the northern part of that whole quarter of the globe, are a great point gained in favor of the rights of mankind."
No superstition, which is another word for believing in things which aren't evidenced. That entails the majority of all religious claims. No conversations with the deity. No influence from on high such as revelations or the Bible. The simple principles of nature. A government erected on common sense and natural instrincts. The Government of the United States was not founded on any pretense of miracle or mystery. But these supernaturalist ideas are exactly what the religious governments of Europe and the one hundred seventy years of colonies after the Plymouth Combination were based upon. But Adams makes it clear that the Constitution was a new order based on a new paradigm. Natural, not supernatural. Reason, not revelation. Since the new government was the first like this, it strongly supports the claim that the Constitution was a total break from the way governments were founded in the past. This renders the arguments of the religious right's pundits null and void. The European and colonial governments of the past which were founded under the influence of the heavens and revelations of the supernatural are those Adams claims were founded on superstition, imposture, artifice and hypocrisy. Let's not forget that Adams signed into law the Senate ratified Treaty of Tripoli in 1797. That religious tests were banned makes the Constitution a legal system based on reason instead of revelations. The Bible is considered infallible because the church councils of late antiquity said so. It is much wiser to use the common sense logic of Ockham's Razor and conclude that all literature is a reflecton of its people and its times. The Bible's social order is one that supports many forms of discrimination that the principles of liberty found in modern democratic constitutions condemn. The Bible's views on religion, class, women, slavery, sexual relations and notions of equality are all wanting and very similar to those in other primitive and superstitious tribes.
1632: MARYLAND COLONIAL CHARTER
The Maryland Charter of 1632 put it this way regarding the church-state alliances for establishing Christianity:
...the Patronages, and Advowsons of all Churches which (with the increasing Worship and Religion of Christ) within the said Region, Islands, Islets, and Limits aforesaid, hereafter shall happen to be built, together with License and Faculty of erecting and founding Churches, Chapels, and Places of Worship, in convenient and suitable places, within the Premises, and of causing the same to be dedicated and consecrated according to the Ecclesiastical Laws of our Kingdom of England,...
Advowsons regarded Church benefices which were the English ecclesiastical laws and rights regarding church offices and officials who are supported by the government's land grants and capital assets. Patrick Henry's law is representative of the same Medieval mindset regarding church-state alliances that was prominent in Europe from Constantine onward. This trend from the birth of Imperial Christianity onward became a major obstacle in the rise of religious freedom and other liberties of conscience such as speech, press and assembly. To create another Christian nation, according to Madison was to embrace principles that are marks of melancholy and degeneracy. In effect, to Madison and Jefferson, authors of the boldest laws on liberty and religion in the history of the United States, viewed Maryland's charter as what America was trying to leave behind. What else was Madison talking about when calling Henry's bill a sudden degeneracy but the degeneracy of backsliding to the concepts of the colonial charters and state constitutions that established and promoted Christanity? There is no other place to look. The view of these great lawmakers of the American Enlightenment is thoroughly contrary to the views the religious right tries to perpetuate regarding colonial religious laws. While David Barton and the religious right seek to convince people that the Constitution was a continuation of colonial religious ideals, James Madison, Jefferson's partner in the passing of the Virginia Statute and the Father of the US Constitution saw them as something degenerate and not to be repeated. So when the religious right tries to subvert the Constitution by saying we are a Christian nation that tolerates other religions, (and since when has the Bible been tolerant of any religion?) remember james Madison's words from his Virginia speech regarding Patrick Henry's attempt to establish Christianity:
It degrades from the equal rank of Citizens all those whose opinions in Religion do not bend to those of the Legislative authority. Distant as it may be in its present form from the Inquisition, it differs from it only in degree. The one is the first step, the other the last in the career of intolerance.
Not only degeneracy and signals of persecution but Henry's law degrades from the equal rank and only differs in degree from the inquisition! Those are fighting words! Like Thomas Jefferson, James Madison minced no words when it came to the antique relics of the church-state alliances that the religious right desired to return to and maintain.
This important point, that promoting or establishing, in any fashion, any religion or cosmology, including that of the majority, by the government, including posting Old Testament commandments and promoting theistic prayers, tells people of other convictions and values, whether Muslim, Hindu, pantheist, atheist or anything else that they are second class citizens with second class beliefs, has always been part of the argument put forth by civil libertarians and separationist. Those who naively or by theocratic obsession fight the new order of governmental religion neutrality are condemned to repeat the mistakes of the past. Our liberties are in danger when they achieve successes. Christianity before the enlightenment was very similar to the radical Islam of today. Just as Iran has established Islam and has made others second rate citizens, Maryland in 1632 did the same with their establishment of Christianity. This kind of religious discrimination based on Christianity's claim it is the only true religion has been going on since the days of Emperor Constantine and represents nothing found in our Constitution.
1638: FUNDAMENTAL ORDERS OF CONNECTICUT
The Preamble of the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut, speaks regarding forming a government "..well knowing where a people are gathered together the word of God requires that to maintain the peace and union of such a people there should be an orderly and decent Government established according to God, to order and dispose of the affairs of the people at all seasons as occasion shall require; do therefore associate and conjoin ourselves to be as one Public State or Commonwealth; and do for ourselves and our successors and such as shall be adjoined to us at any time hereafter, enter into Combination and Confederation together, to maintain and preserve the liberty and purity of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus which we now profess, as also, the discipline of the Churches, which according to the truth of the said Gospel is now practiced amongst us; as also in our civil affairs to be guided and governed according to such Laws, Rules, Orders and Decrees as shall be made, ordered, and decreed as followeth:
1. It is Ordered, sentenced, and decreed, that there shall be yearly two General Assemblies or Courts, the one the second Thursday in April, the other the second Thursday in September following; the first shall be called the Court of Election, wherein shall be yearly chosen from time to time, so many Magistrates and other public Officers as shall be found requisite: Whereof one to be chosen Governor for the year ensuing and until another be chosen, and no other Magistrate to be chosen for more than one year: provided always there be six chosen besides the Governor, which being chosen and sworn according to an Oath recorded for that purpose, shall have the power to administer justice according to the Laws here established, and for want thereof, according to the Rule of the Word of God; which choice shall be made by all that are admitted freemen and have taken the Oath of Fidelity, and do cohabit within this Jurisdiction having been admitted Inhabitants by the major part of the Town wherein they live or the major part of such as shall be then present."
Once again we see that contrary to the US Constitution's tenor and more like the legal systems of the Middle Ages, the order declared that the government formed should be established "according to God." A couple of sentences later we hear that these people of Connecticut are entering together, "to maintain the liberty and purity of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus which we now profess, as also, the discipline of the Churches, which according to the the truth of the said Gospel is now practiced amongst us..."
Below that, in Section 1, we notice that the Governor and officials, "which being chosen and sworn according to an Oath recorded for that purpose, shall have the power to administer justice according to the Laws here established, and for want thereof, according to the Rule of the Word of God; which choice shall be made by all that are admitted freemen and have taken the Oath of Fidelity."
The Four Orders here go directly against the political philosophy of the US Constitution. The first is the order for the government to maintain Christianity; the Gospel of Jesus. The second order is to maintain the Churches. The third is to establish Laws according to the Rule of the Word of God. The fourth is the taking of an Oath of Fidelity which means a religious test and declaration to preserve the Gospel of the Lord Jesus. This mix of Christianity and the government is so muddy that it is hard to tell who is who. The boundaries between the two have turned to clouds. This political cocktale is at the root of the deaths, tortures, imprisonments, banishment, and the loss of basic civil rights of tens of millions of people in Europe's history. It is the root cause of all the religious wars, crusades and inquisitions of the western world over the last 1700 years. With the Constitution, the boundaries of religion and government were separated and reset and they could not overlap in this new order. Both Jefferson and Madison, who crafted the two greatest legal breakthroughs regarding religious liberty, interpreted the Sixth Article's ban on religious tests and the First Amendment's establishment clause as creating a wall of separation between church and state; between religion and government. The religious right attempts to deceive and obfuscate, saying that separation phrase is not in the Constitution, but the fact that the people who thought out and wrote these things ought to be taken seriously when they tell people what they meant. It is clear that the religious right's view of the founding period is not how Madison and Jefferson saw things. There view is much more akin to the view the day's religious right that was enbrased by the Reverend Patrick Henry. The Constitution sets new boundaries and they are not in any sense founded on the boundaries set in the previous fifteen centuires by the alliances of religion and the state. There are almost no simlarities and they represent competely different political aims and philosophies.
1639: THE FUNDAMENTAL ARTICLES OF NEW HAVEN
Five months later the New Haven colony met to create a new government under what would behref="http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/states/ct01.htm">The Fundamental Articles of New Haven. They had been under the Plantation Covenant at Qunnipiac for about a year. The Covenant was a very basic and short document which at the end it states:
As for our gathering together into a church way and the choice officers and members to be joined together in that way, we do refer ourselves until such time as it shall please God to settle us in our plantation.
Among the things the New Haven colony would address would be whether church members were the only people to be afforded full citizenship. Let's take a look at the first section of the proceedings recorded:
"THE 4th day of the 4th month, called June, 1639, all the free planters assembled together in a general meeting, to consult about settling civil government, according to GOD, and the nomination of persons that might be found, by consent of all, fittest in all respects for the foundation work of a church, which was intended to be gathered in Quinipiack. After solemn invocation of the name of GOD, in prayer for the presence and help of his spirit and grace, in those weighty businesses, they were reminded of the business whereabout they met, (viz.) for the establishment of such civil order as might be most pleasing unto GOD, and for the choosing the fittest men for the foundation work of a church to be gathered. For the better enabling them to discern the mind of GOD, and to agree accordingly concerning the establishment of civil order,..."
Right away we see things that would be considered unlawful by today's constitutional standards. Firstly, "settling civil government, according to GOD" is a form of government that was abolished by the Constitution. (The word God doesn't even appear in the Constitution.) Then, part of this civil order was to "the nomination of persons that might be found, by consent of all, fittest in all respects for the foundation work of a church." Can you imagine a modern American government deciding who does the work of the church? Of course not. The colonial documents that fundamentalists like David Barton make their arguments with to persude people actually make a much better case for just the opposite conclusions. The document continues to tell us that they are assembled "For the better enabling them to discern the mind of GOD, and to agree accordingly concerning the establishment of civil order". . So here they are, as John Adams noted about the governments of the past, under the influence of heaven and having conversations with the gods, those things which the US Constitution was not founded upon.
Let's take a look at Query #1 of the New Haven assembly which was, "Whether the scriptures do hold forth a perfect rule for the direction and government of all men in all duties which they are to perform to GOD and men, as well in families and commonwealth, as in matters of the church?" The First article's prohibition of government establishment of religion makes this query, and if made in the present, unthinkable as law.
In Query #4, "Mr. Davenport declared unto them, by the scripture, what kind of persons might best be trusted with matters of government; and by sundry arguments from scripture proved that such men as were described in Exod. xviii. 2, Dent. 1. 13, with Dent. xvii. A, and 1 C!or. vi. 1, 6, 7, ought to be intrusted by them, seeing they were free to cast themselves into that mould and form of commonwealth which appeared best for them in reference to the securing. the peace and peaceable improvement of all CHRIST his ordinances in the church according to GOD, whereunto they have bound themselves, as hath been acknowledged."
A government that uses scripture in defining what kind of people can run the affairs of the state? Huh? Today that is unconstitutional. To form a commonwealth that secures the ordinances of Christ? That is more like Iran's Muslim theocracy than the government of the United States Constitution.
Query #5 asked, "WHETHER free burgesses shall be chosen out of the church members, they that are in the foundation work of the church being actually free burgesses, and to choose to themselves out of the like estate of church fellowship, and the power of choosing magistrates and officers from among themselves, and the power of making and repealing laws, according to the word, and the dividing of inheritances, and deciding of differences that may arise, and all the businesses of like nature are to be transacted by those free burgesses."
The assembly voted in the affirmative, "1. That magistrates should be men fearing GOD. 2. That the church is the company where, ordinarily, such men may be expected. 3. That they that choose them ought to be men fearing GOD;...
Burgesses were the representatives of government in England and in the colonies. In northern parts of Europe they were called Burgomasters. The Burgesses of the government in New Haven had to be God-fearing and they had to be members of a church. Or stay home and shut up. The Sixth Article of the Constitution outlawed religious tests for oaths of office so the requirements of these Burgesses would be against the law in this day.
"They were now fully convinced, that it is the mind of GOD. One of them said that in the morning before he came reading Deut. xvii. 15, he was convinced at home. Another said, that he came doubting to the assembly, but he blessed GOD, by what had been said, he was now fully satisfied, that the choice of burgesses out of church members and to intrust those with the power before spoken of is according to the mind of GOD revealed in the scriptures."
At this point the freemen signed the document that agreed,
"Namely, that church members only shall be free burgesses, and that they only shall choose magistrates and officers among themselves, to have power of transacting all the public civil affairs of this plantation; of making and repealing laws, dividing of inheritances, deciding of differences that may arise, and doing all things and businesses of like nature."
Hmm, the free deciding who is to be free. Only church members can choose magistrates and make laws. That is unconstitutional these days. The idea is not in any way like our constitution's principles.
In Query #6, the colonists began the nomination process of the people of the government that should establish the church, which would be the only place where lawmakers and officials could come from.
1641: THE GOVERNMENT OF POCASSET, RI
The organization of the Government of Pocassset in Rhode island also had the same kind of deep flaws of religion-government alliances that the American founders toosed out in the new orders. In this case the nineteen individuals of the Bodie Politick stood in the "presence of Jehovah" to incorporate themselves as the town of Portsmouth and declared, we "will submit our persons, lives and estates unto our Lord Jesus Christ, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords and to all those perfect and most absolute laws of his given us in his holy word of truth, to be guided and judged thereby."
1641: MASSACHUSETTS BODY OF LIBERTIES
Some of the most barbaric laws derived from the Bible can be found in The Massachusetts Body of Liberties of 1641. Like the Bible, it ordered capital punishment for not believing in the God of the Bible. In this world of demanding religious laws, the state enforced your religious beliefs and behaviors. In Section 94 there is a list of capital crimes that takes us back to the brutal and unjust world of the Old Testament. Paragraph 1 says, "If any man after legal conviction shall have or worship any other god, but the Lord God, he shall be put to DEATH." Paragraph 2 tells us "If any man or woman be a witch, (that has or consults with a familiar spirit,) They shall be put to DEATH." Paragraph 3 continues, "If any man shall Blaspheme the name of god, the father, Son or Holy ghost, with direct, express, presumptuous or high handed blasphemy, or shall curse god in the like manner, he shall be put to DEATH. [CAPS are in original doc] The scriptures cited are Leviticus 20:27 and 24:15,16, Exodus 22:18,20, Deuteronomy 13:6,10, 17:2,6 and 18:10.
Well, there goes free speech with the blasphemy law and out the airlock into oblivion goes religious liberty with the others. While these laws represent an age of ignorance, injustice, and intolerance, with a total lack of religious liberty and conscience, some fundamentalists have cited them as reasons why the USA is founded on Christianity and should post the Ten Commandments in schools and courthouses. This view is ludicrous because the first four commandments are antithetical to the principles of the Sixth Article's first and third clause and both clauses of the First Amendment. There is no way the Constitution could be interpreted as requiring you to worship YHWH exclusively, forbidding you from making graven images, ordering you to take the Sabbath off from all work, or criminalizing the taking of any diety's name in vain. But the Massachusetts Body of Liberties and many other charters did some of those things. That is why they can't be considered, with the Ten Commandments, as the source of American law as it is expressed in the Constitution. The Commandmenst are part of the world's legal history but are not in any way responsible for the liberties of conscience and religion found in the constitution. As law, they would violate the spirit of the Sixth Article which forbids religious tests and declarations as requirements for public service. As law, they would violate the free exercise clause of the First Amendment
Christianity is not established by law, and the genius of our institutions requires that the Church and the State should be kept separate....The state confesses its incompetency to judge spiritual matters between men or between man and his maker ... spiritual matters are exclusively in the hands of teachers of religion. ...USSC Holding in 1860; case of Melvin V. Easley
1641: GOVERNMENT OF RHODE ISLAND
Another relic of the past age that is now unconstitutional can be found in The Organization of the Government of Rhode Island held March 16-19, 1641, in which Paragraph 1 states,
It was ordered and agreed, before the Election, that an Ingagement by oath should be taken of all the officers of this Body now to be elected, as likewise for the time to come; the ingagement which the several! officers of the State shall give is this: To the Execution of this office, I Judge myself bound before God to walk faithfully and this I profess in ye presence of God.
The key statement here is the oath of office required by the elected officials of Rhode Island which states, To the Execution of this office, I Judge myself bound before God to walk faithfully and this I profess in ye presence of God.
David Barton uses this in his Affadavit for the Ten Commandments as some kind of proof that God has been incorporated in American Law. The problem with this is that the Rhode Island of those times, like all the colonies, was based on common European statutes which were full of mentions of God. THIS America's law is based on a very unique system created at the end of the Eighteenth century that, quite unlike the colonial laws, does not require any faithfullness to, or walking in the presence of, the Christian God. In fact, it outlaws the requirement. The new order found in the American Constitution was not based upon Medieval Christian laws but the best and brightest ideas of classical antiquity, the Renaissance the European Enlightenment and the American experience. That is why the colonial and state constitutions before the US Constitution are so radically different in tone regarding the issues of religion and liberty. It is not a coincidence that we chose a Senate which had existed only in Rome, not a Parliament. Nor that our buildings in Washington, DC are based on the Greco-Roman Pagan temple architecture, not Christian cathedrals. Nor that the idea of the tripartite constitutional founded government originated in the Roman Empire; that portrayals of the Roman Goddess Minerva (Greek Athena) outnumber the expressions of all other archetypes. Nor that Solon of Athens, Greece, born seven centuries before the Gospels were written (90-110CE), was considered by the classically educated founders as the Father of Democracy. It was in the democratic reformist Age of Pericles of Athens, five centuries before the Gospels, when the Parthenon was built. It's classical architectural orders serves as the basic temple model for many buildings in Washington, DC. It is also not a coincidence that the first official statue of liberty was the Roman Goddess Minerva with a Roman Freedom Cap of a freed Roman slave on her breast. It was sculpted in 1791 by Giuseppe Ceracchi. Minerva can be found over twenty times in the Library of Congress. Early American money had the Roman Eagle on one side and the Roman Goddess of Freedom, Libertas, on the other. Early American coins were replicas of Roman coins. For a pictorial comparing some of the coins of the early Republic with Roman ones click HERE. And if you look at the Library of Congress exhibits online you will see that the Capitol Building was based partly on the Roman Pantheon, a pagan temple and the Temple of the Sun (Ba'al) at the ruins of Palmyra. It was what Jefferson, Washington and the District of Columbia Judging Committee wanted.
With the Constitution's abolition of religious tests, no present government of Rhode Island was supposed to again require any such statement of faith. Barton's claim lies in the misguided notion that American Law is a single Christian nation continuum that began in the colonies and exists to this day. The truth is that the religious oaths and the establishment of Christianity found in the colonies' laws fit into the legal and judicial paradigms begun by Christianity supporting Emperor Constantine, and solidified by the Christian emperors Theodosius the Great and Justinian in working in league with the clergy's Church Councils in the period of 306 through 565. These laws wrought by church-state alliances brought compulsory religious oaths and belief by the people and laws forbidding all other religions but their version of Christianity upon western civilization. The demand for conformity and uniformity brought us the dark ages which resulted in the near extirpation of all differing worldviews. I cover the imperial edicts and church council decrees that worked together to this end in The Rise of Church-State Alliances: 306-565. It is a story of Christian emperors and the clergy working together to wipe out all competing religious and philosophical viewpoints. All this that happened before the death of Emperor Justinian in 565 set the stage for the Medieval religious legal order found in the Protestant Confessions, colonial charters and state constitutions prior to the ratification of the US Constitution. Reformation Protestant Christianity was no different in this regard, contining and adopting the same kind of laws requiring Trinitarian oaths and belief, and membership in the approved churches. The United States Constitution completely broke from this ideologically choking religious paradigm.
1642: CAPITAL LAWS OF CONNECTICUT
The Capitall Laws of Connecticut Established by the General Court in December of 1642 established the same kind of barbaric religious laws found in New Hampshire and the Massachusetts Body of Liberties. These laws, rooted in the Old Testament, supported by firey damnation in the New Testament, are all violations of the morality of the Eighth Amendment which forbids Cruel and Unsual Punishments. Common sense and our basic human moral sense tell us that killing someone because they have the wrong religious belief is abhorrent, unjust and immoral. So detestable and unreasonable it is considered evil by some. Evil is how most of the west views the capital punishments still happening in Islam. Killing a person for adultery of for changing their religion from Islam to another is evil, plain and simple. It is no different for the Bible and the draconian laws that it inspired. Here are some of Connecticut's Capital Laws and they differ little from the Islamic Sharia Court:
1. If any man after legal conviction, shall have or worship any other God but the Lord God, he shall BE PUT TO DEATH. Deu. 13; 6, and 17. 2 Ex. 22; 20.
2. If any man or woman be a Witch, (that is) has or consults with a familliar spirit, they shall BE PUT TO DEATH. Ex. 22; 18. Lev. 20; 27. Deu. 18; 10, 11.
3. If any person shall blaspheme the name of God the Father, Son or Holy Ghost w'th direct, express presumptuous or high handed blasphemy, or shall curse God in the like manner, he shall BE PUT TO DEATH. Lev. 24; 15, 16.
In one Supreme Court case, Trop v. Dulles, which dealt with the loss of one's citizenship as a cruel punishment, Justice Brennan wrote (text from findlaw.com <="" b="">article on Eighth Amendment), The question is whether [a] penalty subjects the individual to a fate forbidden by the principle of civilized treatment guaranteed by the Eighth Amendment.'' A punishment must be examined ''in light of the basic prohibition against inhuman treatment,'' and the Amendment was intended to preserve the ''basic concept . . . [of] the dignity of man'' by assuring that the power to impose punishment is ''exercised within the limits of civilized standards.''
One of the great books I have read over the years is Francis Fukuyama's, The End of History which makes a grand case for why secular, rights based constitutional democracy seems to be the end game of mature and thoughtful governments. Fukuyama makes a case that these kind of governments codify a deep respect for individuality and human dignity. I would add that these kinds of government incorporate natural inborn traits like empathy which is at the heart of the wisdom of live and let live in a fdree society. The capital laws of Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Hampshire clearly violate principles of human dignity and the constitution's prohibition against inhumane treatment. The guarantee of ideological liberty in the First Amendment and the guarantee against cruel and unusual punishment in the Eighth are contrary to the principles of the Bible that are the basis for the brutality found in the colonial laws regarding religion and sex. Proportionality is the key to a fair justice system but the Bible seems to lack this. This is also true for the Quran, the Hadiths and the Shar'ia judicial system. The two religions are both offsprings of Judaism so a common thread of the jealous and wrathful God, tribal barbarism and intolerance regarding sex and religion runs through both Christianity and Islam. Here is a Connecticut law that was taken from Leviticus 20:13, which it actually references as the reason for the law:
7. "If any man lie with a man as he lies with a woman, both of them have comitted abomination, they both shall surely BE PUT TO DEATH. Lev. 20; 13."
Besides a lack of justice and proportion in matters of religion, some colonies also held to harsh and unreasonable punishments when it came to unruly sons and daughters. Also taken from the pages of the Old Testament were death penalities for homosexual behaviour shown above. Colonial laws on adultery that have been based in the intolerance and violence of the Bible are also almost completely gone from the American legal system. They do not take into account the complexities of the world and are violations of privacy rights. The State's killing of people on the grounds of adultery violates the Eighth Amendment, the implicit rights of privacy in the Bill of Rights. Below are two more laws that are just plain crazy in a just world and probably were not carried out. Coming directly from the Bible, I can't even imagine the Connecticut colonists doing something this terrible.
13. If any child or children above sixteen years old, and of sufficient understanding, shall curse or smite their natural father or mother, he or they shall BE PUT TO DEATH; unless it can be sufficiently testified that the parents have been very unchristianly negligent in the education of such children, or so provoke them by extreme and cruel correction that they have been forced thereunto to preserve themselues from Death or maiming. Ex. 21; 17. Lev. 20. Ex. 20; 15.
14. If any man have a stubborn and rebellious son, of sufficient years and understanding, viz., sixteen years of age, which will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and that when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them; then may his father and mother, being his natural parents, lay hold on him and bring him to the Magistrates assembled in court, and testify unto them, that their son is stubborn and rebellious, and will not obey their voice and chastisement, but lives in sundry notorious crimes, such a son shall BE PUT TO DEATH. Deu. 21; 20, 21.
1643: THE NEW HAVEN FUNDAMENTALS
The New Haven Fundamentals, agreed upon on October 27, 1643 seems to be a reaffirmation of the 1639 articles of New Haven in regards to requiring that every representative of their government be church members. In the first section it makes clear that only members of approved churches can become representatives of the people in the government. No power in civil affairs shall ever be in the hands of anyone but a church member.
"that none shall be admitted to be free burghesses in any of the plantations within this jurisdiction for the future but such planters as are members of some or other of the approved churches of New England; nor shall any but such free burghesses have any vote in any election, the six present freemen at Milford enjoying the liberty with the cautions agreed; nor shall any power or trust in the ordering of any civil affairs be at any time put into the hands of any other than such church members,...."
In the second section, it makes clear that these church members are the only people with power to choose people to be magistrates and judges in minor civil and criminal cases and they, too, have to be members of approved churches. Later on, we find out that the Free Burgesses will handle serious cases.
"All such free burghesses shall have power in each town or plantation within this jurisdiction to choose fit and able men among themselves, being church members as before, to be the ordinary judges to hear and determine all inferior cases, whether civil or criminal provided that no civil cause to be tried in any of these plantation courts in value exceed £20; and that the punishment in such criminals, according to the mind of God revealed in his word touching such offenses,..."
Scary, eh? Again we see the people trying to interpret the mind of God instead of having a judicial process based in the people's natural reasonings. Basic moral principles aree not the domain of only the religious. Most people are ethical and just on their own because of biologically based empathy. Thomas Jefferson expounded on this in his letter of The Moral Sense to Thomas Law in Poplar Forest. Interpreting the mind of God separates the colonial religious and sexual laws and the principles of the Constitution and makes them irreconcilable as institutions. The American Revolution began not just a revolution to break away from England, it became a revolution to break away from 1500 years of church-state debacles and injustice. Permeating the intellectual society at the time were the ideas of the Enlightenment and a neo-Classical revival.
1669: CONSTITUTION OF CAROLINA
Beginning in paragraph 95 The Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina ratified March 1, 1669 violates principles of individual liberties of conscience. Imagine a place where you could not be free, own property or live there unless you publicly acknowledged a God and it's worship. The Christian Emperors Theodosius and Justinian, fathers of the church-state tyrannies, would be proud of Carolina. The statute reads:
No man shall be permitted to be a freeman of Carolina, or to have any estate or habitation within it, that doth not acknowledge a God, and that God is publicly and solemnly to be worshipped.
If one bad law is not enough for you in this constitution, Paragraph 96 establishes parliamentary support of the Church of England, saying,
As the country comes to be sufficiently planted and distributed into fit divisions, it shall belong to the parliament to take care for the building of churches, and the public maintenance of divines, to be employed in the exercise of religion, according to the Church of England; which being the only true and orthodox and the national religion of all the King's dominions, is so also of Carolina; and, therefore, it alone shall be allowed to receive public maintenance, by grant of parliament.
Above we find another representative of what the First Amendment outlawed and James Madison regarded as a sudden degeneracy if we were to return to such a government. If two are not enough, how about a third Carolina law that violates the spirit of freedom found in the US Constitution. Paragraph 100 requires a religious test for admittance to a church or a profession; yes, even your profession. The membership to a church is one thing but to demand a religious test for a profession is something ridiculous. This kind of law goes back to the days when Christian clergy and Emperors banned people other than Christians from practicing certain professions. Common was the banning of Jews and pagans from practicing law or becoming civil servants. The banning of non-Christians from certain careers and compulsory religious tests for oaths of office before the US Constitution outlawed them are both part of those repressive legal orders begun by the clergy and the Emperor Constantine in the fourth century. Martin Luther continued that spirit, claiming that people were called by God into professions. These laws should in no way be considered precursors of the Constitution. Here is Carolina the oath that orders a person to believe, worship and evangelize God. The Sixth Article of the Constitution outlawed these kinds of laws.
1st. "That there is a God."
2nd "That God is publicly to be worshipped."
3rd "That it is lawful and the duty of every man, being thereunto called by those that govern, to bear witness to truth; and that every church or profession shall, in their terms of communion, set down the external way whereby they witness a truth as in the presence of God, whether it be by laying hands on or kissing the bible, as in the Church of England, or by holding up the hand, or any other sensible way."
The next part of the Carolina Constitution is Paragraph 101 which states:
No person above seventeen years of age shall have any benefit or protection of the law, or be capable of any place of profit or honor, who is not a member of some church or profession, having his name recorded in some one, and but one religious record at once.
This is religious coercion. No protection, no profit and no honor unless you joined the approved church. And what was the punishment for not complying with the ecclesiatical rules in the world of church-state alliances?
"Assemblies, upon what presence soever of religion, not observing and performing the above said rules, shall not be esteemed as churches, but unlawful meetings, and be punished as other riots."
Riots to be punished! This example is very similar to the way Nicene Christianity conquered Europe. With the help of the state, the church was able to confiscate the churches and properties of religions that did not meet the standards that the churh-state alliance had decreed. Nicene Christian churches, with the aid of the state, stole the Christian churches and properties of Arianists, Novations, Pellagians, Eutychians, Eunomians, Macedonians, Monophysites, Priscillianists, Sabellians, Donatists and man more because they didnt have the correct kind of Christianity. Nicenes also confiscated or destroyed thousands of pagan temples and libraries. Martin of Tours and John of Ephesus bragged about how they built a church on the ruins of every temple they destroyed. During the Reformation, the Protestant church-state alliances did the same thing, confiscating and plundering Catholic churches for their own purposes. Some even made saying the Catholic Mass a capital crime.
In this Carolina, one could not be a freeman, own property, or enter into a profession, and that would also mean public service in the government and the legal profession, without the requirement and rules of the above religious test-oath. And your church had to be of one kind of church or else you aren't a church and your meetings are unlawful. The unlawful meetings law also has its roots in the brutality and religious repression of late antiquity. Almost every Emperor and King joined with the clergy in crqafting laws that outlawed religious assemblies not pleasing to the Nicene clergy. All of the above Christian sects were victims of these perseutions. The penalties varied but exile, loss of one's estate and testmentary rights were common penalties. Death penalties were even on the books but they were used rarely. One emperor Marcianus even decreed the death penalty for anyone who re-opened a closed pagan temple or even decorated it with flowers and incense offerings. The point was to threaten the lives of people in order to make them religiously correct. Carolina had its own way of coercion that is an idea, a relic from the dark ages.
1683: THE PROVINCE OF EAST NEW JERSEY
In Paragraph 16 of the 1683 Fundamental Constitutions for the Province of East New Jersey we see something new developing. As long as you're a Christian, you have religious liberty. This broke away from the long held British legal tradition that gave only Protestants special rights. But the law was still a discriminating law because people with non-Christian belefs are treated as second class citizens with fewer civil rights. While inching towards disestablishment, the law nevertheless states in no uncertain terms,
"All persons living in the Province who confess and acknowledge the one Almighty and Eternal God, and holds themselves obliged in conscience to live peaceably and quietly in a civil society, shall in no way be molested or prejudged for their religious persuasions and exercise in matters of faith and worship; ..nor shall they be compelled to frequent and maintain any religious worship, place or ministry whatsoever"
The ban on compelling people to support and frequent a church seems to be the first one in American history but it changed very little by itself. Mandatory church-going goes all the way back to the canon laws of the Council of Elvira around 306. In East New Jersey, the liberty was extremely narrowly defined and limited because if you weren't a believer in Christ Jesus, you still could not serve in government nor would you be immune from molestation. Ironicly, a person was required to promise not to be discriminatory towards heretics, which is what the religious laws of East New Jersey clearly do:
"Yet it is also hereby provided, that no man shall be admitted a member of the great or common Council, or any other place of publick trust, who shall not proclaim faith in Christ Jesus, and solemnly declare that he doth no ways hold himself obliged in conscience to endeavour alteration in the government, or seeks the turning out of any in it or their ruin or prejudice, either in person or estate, because they are in his opinion hereticks, or differ in their judgment from him:..
Nor by this article is it intended, that any under the notion of this liberty shall allow themselves to avow atheism, irreligiousness,"
To serve in the government, you could not be an atheist, a Jew, a Muslim or an irreligious person either. You had to promise not to alter the government which meant, among others, the religious test of faith in Jesus Christ was not to be touched. This continued the discrimination against unbelief and other religions that could be found in the governments of Europe. These laws are continuations of the general attitudes towards atheist in Medieval Europe and in no way were congruent with the future guarantees of liberty in the US Constitution. One didn't actually have freedom of conscience in East New Jersey. Like 1683 Europe and England, full freedom of conscience simply did no exist. And continuing the disdain for the theater that began in late antiquity, the people are told not to be ...indulging themselves in stage plays, masks, revells or such like abuses; Many an emperor and church council attacked the theater. For instance, Emperors in league with the clergy repeatedly outlawed the circuses and theaters on the Sabbath. You could be excommunicated for going to the theater on Sunday. The Calvinists of the old and new world were vehemently anti-theater and did what they could to stifle it.
THE AMERICAN ENLIGHTENMENT:MOVING AWAY FROM THE OLD ORDER
The Delaware State Constitution of 1776 states,
"That all Persons professing the Christian Religion ought forever to enjoy equal Rights and Privileges in this State, unless, under Colour of Religion, any Man disturb the Peace, the Happiness or Safety of Society."
In 1776 Delaware, religious liberty is for Christians only. In order to serve in a public office, one must -
...profess faith in God the Father, and in Jesus Christ His only Son, and in the Holy Ghost, one God, blessed for evermore; and I do acknowledge the holy scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be given by divine inspiration."
The religious test-oath above is a declaration for the Nicene Creed which was formulated during the first four general councils of the Nicene church that were organized by the imperial court and the clergy (325, 381, 431, 451).
"SO HELP ME GOD"
Article Six of Georgia's Constitution of 1777, states the representatives chosen from each county shall be of the Protestant religion. In 1789, Georgia ended the Protestant requirement for office holding and removed the phrase "so help me God" from their oaths. This was the medieval tradition that was also ended by the US Constitution. Using those words is no longer part of the law as it was for over a thousand years but is based on tradition. This where people like Jay Sekulow are confused; American heritage and tradition are not the always the same as American laws. The religious right mentions this phrase without telling people that it was dropped in the Constitution. Tradition is what they consider some kind of unwritten constitution. These people wish to continue pre-ratification religious tradition and in no way represents of the present legal foundation of the United States. It is unheard of to hear a religious conservative activist stress the fact that most Presidents have continued the pre-ratification Medieval tradition of ending oaths with so help me God but it is not part of the presidential oath required by the US Constitution which has completely banned religious tests as a requirement. The use of the Bible and religious statements in oaths of office are relics of the past. Because of the general attitude towards non-Christians that still permeates America, people opt for the Bible and a religious declaration to stay electable. Recently a Muslim was elected and planned on using a Quran. There was a right wing firestorm of protest and self-righteous criticism. They shouted that if you're going to be an American, adhere to American tradition. Not once did anyone on the right remind people that relkigioius tests have been banned. Neither should be used and people sholuld just stick to the secular oath given us in the Constitution.
Here is the US Constitution's Presidential oath, which is, like the rest of the Constitution, is religion-neutral and says nothing like "so help me God" That statement is the old order's compulsory mixture of religion and politics. Article 2, Section I of the Consitution requires:
I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.
Returning to the state constitutions, Article 3 of the Massachusetts Constitution of 1780 and Article 4 of New Hampshire's of 1784 both say:
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
These are still the old order ideas of Europe. This problem with such a limited conception of religious liberty was addressed and ignored in Massachusetts when the 1778 constitution was rejected by the people by a three to one margin. The Essex Result, which was a document of declarations from a meeting in Essex of many of the surrounding townships, pointed out,
"That the thirty fourth article is exceptionable, because the rights of conscience are not therein clearly defined and ascertained; and further, because the free exercise and enjoyment of religious worship is there said to be allowed to all the protestants in the State, when in fact, that free exercise and enjoyment is the natural and uncontroulable right of every member of the State".
As you can see, this important point was ignored in Massachusetts because although religious liberty was expanded in 1780 to all Christians instead of just Protestants, it still came up short of the ideal that every member of the State, regardless of their religious belief, should possess this natural and uncontroulable right.
Like George Mason's refusal to sign the US Constitution because it lacked a Bill of Rights, the Essex Result stated similar forward thinking concerns in points 2 and 10 which, voted and approved by the majority, stated respectively, That a bill of rights, clearly ascertaining and defining the rights of conscience, and that security of person and property, which every member in the State hath a right to expect from the supreme power thereof, ought to be settled and established, previous to the ratification of any Constitution in the State and, That the rights of conscience, and the security of person and property each member of the State is entitled to, are not ascertained and defined in the Constitution, with precision sufficient to limit the legislative power--and therefore, that the thirteenth article of the constitution is exceptionable.
New Jersey's Constitution of 1776, not catching on to enlightenment principles yet, ratified the same old order beliefs in its Article 19, "that there shall be no establishment of any one religious sect in this Province, in preference to another; and that no Protestant inhabitant of this Colony shall be denied the enjoyment of any civil right, merely on account of his religious principles; but that all persons, professing a belief in the faith of any Protestant sect, who shall demean themselves peaceably under the government, as hereby established, shall be capable of being elected into any office of profit or trust, or being a member of either branch of the Legislature, and shall fully and freely enjoy every privilege and immunity, enjoyed by others their fellow subjects.
No Catholics, Jews or Turks allowed to run for office. Klan meetings have such signs outside of their meetings. New York's Constitution of 1777 makes some real headway into the new epoch. In Article 35, this constitution makes clear that revolutionary era New Yorkers are doing away with the British tradition, by common law and statute, of establishing and maintaining a particular Christian denomination. New York was ahead of Jefferson, Mason and Madison's Virginia on this issue. It reads, -
"That all such parts of the said common law, and all such of the said statutes and acts aforesaid, or parts thereof, as may be construed to establish or maintain any particular denomination of Christians or their ministers, or concern the allegiance heretofore yielded to, and the supremacy, sovereignty, government, or prerogatives claimed or exercised by, the King of Great Britain and his predecessors, over the colony of New York and its inhabitants, or are repugnant to this constitution, be, and they hereby are, abrogated and rejected."
Article 38 states, echoing some of Jefferson's sentiments regarding the clergy's influence upon liberty saying "whereas we are required, by the benevolent principles of the rational liberty, not only to expel civil tyranny, but also to guard against that spiritual oppression and intolerance wherewith the bigotry and ambition of weak and wicked priests and princes have scourged mankind,.."
In Article 39, sharing the majority view of the colonies at the time after the Declaration of Independance, clergymen were forbidden to hold public office.
"..whereas the ministers of the gospel are, by their profession, dedicated to the service of God and the care of souls, and ought not to be diverted from the great duties of their function, therefore, no minister of the gospel, or priest of any denomination whatsoever, shall, at any time hereafter, under and preference or description whatever, be eligible to, or capable of holding, any civil or military office or place within this state."
And like much of colonial religious law, the laws banning the clergy from serving in the government or the military originated the church-state alliances of late antiquity. Similar laws had protected the clergy from being drafted into military service. These are all very old ideas brought to America by Europeans. Under the Federal Constitution, this kind of discrimination regarding the clergy and civic service abolished.
With the Sixth Article, the US Constitution banned centuries old traditions of religious tests and required of every citizen, in order to establish a consistent legal foundation, an oath requiring elected office holders to swear allegiance to the US Constitution as the Supreme Law of the Land. Making the Constitution the highest law solved the problem of the religious individuals and denominations who each lay claim to a superior enlightenment of higher laws from their higher power. There could be no higher law, religious or secular, than the United States Constitution. The myriad of interpretations of God's higher law were now, legally, under the Supreme Law of the Land. No longer would religious law, whether Biblical demands or church dogma, be incorporated in our constitutions.
And like much of colonial religious law, the laws banning the clergy from serving in the government or the military originated the church-state alliances of late antiquity. Similar laws had protected the clergy from being drafted into military service. These are all very old ideas brought to America by Europeans. Under the Federal Constitution, this kind of discrimination regarding the clergy and civil service was abolished. With the Sixth Article, the US Constitution banned centuries old traditions of religious tests and required of every citizen, in order to establish a consistent legal foundation, an oath requiring elected office holders to swear allegiance to the US Constitution as the Supreme Law of the Land. Making the Constitution the highest law solved the problem of the religious individuals and denominations who each lay claim to a superior enlightenment of higher laws from their higher power. There could be no higher law, religious or secular, than the United States Constitution. The myriad of interpretations of God's higher law were now, legally, under the Supreme Law of the Land. No longer would religious law, whether Biblical demands or church dogma, be incorporated in our constitutions.
RELIGIOUS TESTS IN POST-1776 USA
The Vermont Constitutions of 1777 and 1786, Chapter 1, Article 3 shows a very limited move away from the old order. The notions are representative of English, not American law. In its somewhat vague language it states "That all men have a natural and unalienable right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences and understandings,.." Similar to both the East New Jersey law of 1683 and the Virginia Statute OF 1786, the law states "no man ought, 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." At the start of these laws it looks as if they are on the right track but this move to the new order dies in its tracks when we are told that one's "opinion shall be regulated by the word of God," and that "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." I don't have to go to church but my opinion is to be defined by the Bible and I have to observe the Sabbath. That is lightyears from full freedoms of conscience.
Both constitutions also declare that only Protestants enjoy religious liberty by stating,"nor can any man who professes the protestant religion, be justly deprived or abridged of any civil right,This law is very English and reflects centuries of religious strife between Protestants and Catholics. Not only is religious liberty for Protestants only but the religious test for public office requires belief in the Bible's God and the divine inspiration of the Bible. It also requires one to be a Protestant. Catholics, Jews and Muslims were barred from civil service. This kind of law is modeled on the church-state crafted laws of late antiquity which barred Jews, pagans and non-Nicene Christians from practicing law and civil service jobs. The religious test and declaration requires that you "do believe in one God, the Creator and Governor of the Diverse, the rewarder of the good and punisher of the wicked. And I do acknowledge the scriptures of the old and new testament to be given by divine inspiration, and own and profess the protestant religion."
This is not an example of religious liberty. It is what was done away with in the Federal Constitution's Sixth Article and First Amendment. What the religious right supports is the failures of the past. Again, we see religious liberty is seriously limited because it doesn't go beyond granting Protestant Christians these liberties. This is the discriminatory nature of every so-called Christian nation throughout history and it is what was eventually abolished by the Federal Constitution. These laws require Christian worship to be maintained and it requires people to keep the sabbath. The religious test requires a declaration of belief in scriptures as being the divinely inspired Word of God. After the ratification, Sabbath laws began to be struck down as unconstitutional and in violation of the free exercise clause of the First Amendment. Plus they made no sense economically.
The 1776 Pennsylvania constitution's religious clauses would also become outdated under the coming new order's secular constitution because Pennsylavaia only afforded liberties of conscience to believers. That is the nature of all legally Christian nations because scripturally speaking, like Islam, Christianity tolerates no other religion. In Section 2 it states - "nor can any man, who acknowledges the being of a God, be justly deprived or abridged of any civil right as a citizen, on account or his religious sentiments or peculiar mode of religious worship."
Section 10 repeats the age old creedal requirment, that every Representative, "before he takes his seat, shall make and subscribe the following:
"I do believe in one God, the creator and governor of the universe, the rewarder of the good and punisher of the wicked. And I do acknowledge the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be given by Divine inspiration."
"And no further or other religious test shall ever hereafter be required of any civil officer or magistrate in this state."
In order to be a representative, you still had to be a Bible believing Christian in the constitutions of the old order. This was true from the times of Emperor Constantine to the period right up to the Constitutional ratification. Ands some states did not comply right away. Politicians had to be church members and representatives had to pass a Christian test-oath. With most of the population in colonial America unchurched, it was still the church members and the test-oath takers that made the laws. When the full Senate and President Adams said that the "Government of the United States was not in any sense founded on the Christian religion" it was because the new order abolished the official alliance of religion and government. Under the United States Constitution, the officially Christian governments were abolished after. The new order was not in any sense founded on the Christian religion. Christian belief was no longer superior to any other religious (or nonreligious) belief in the new order of laws. The policies of equality, acceptance and tolerance in the new order were products of enlightenment philosophy, not of Christian principles. Christian principles and doctrines mandated total control in order to achive societal uniformity through every individual's conformity. The world of the Christian Bible and the Quran is a one-religion-fits-all world, not one accepting pluralism, which is a foundation in free societies. As historical documents from the fourth century onward right into the founding years show us Live and let live principles have never been embraced under governments allied with and controlled by religious belief.
The Essex Result's natural and uncontrollable rights of conscience for all, not just Christians, would take some time. Major changes would be necessary in order to move away from the old order:
*A bill of rights guaranteeing well defined rights of conscience would include all citizens.
*Limiting the power of the legislative branches, a serious problem when the separation of powers with checks and balances aren't defined constitutionally.
*An independant judiciary to safeguard the laws of a free people's constitution was crucial to checking the abuses of power in the legislative and executive branches.
Striking down bad laws, regardess of how popular they may be, is one of the functions of the judiciary. Elected officials who pander for votes, do the bidding of special interest groups and at times a misguided majority can't be trusted to adhere to the Constitution so we need an independant judiciary willing to strike down poorly conceived laws. The majority, over almost all of human history, doesn't have a good track record when it comes to the rights of conscience. Battles over religious liberty, slavery, women's rights, reproductive education policy, mixed race marriages and now gay rights, are all examples where the majority has been ethicly wrong until daring people spoke up and convinced them otherwise.
In steps, change would surely come as Enlightenment principles of pluralism, rooted in antiquity, eventually defeated the old order of laws based upon doctrines such as the great commission, the mandate to confess of Christ, the trinity, a final judgement day, and the divine inspiration of the Bble. These were all part and parcell of the order. Eventually, a government would emerge that was Constitutionally religion-neutral and protected the liberties of conscience of all its people, regardess of their faith. Its genius is still not understood by the religious right because they, like the evangelists of the past, want to make us all Christians under a Christian government. They simply can't tolerate religious pluralism and want the state to stand for them in raising their religion to a higher status than all of the others. Afterall, they are the sole owners of the truth. But James Madison, in his speech before the Virginia House said that was wrong; an animal that was of the same species as the inquisitions. The religious right have always fought religious diversity. The new order respects all belief equally under the law unless its aim is to subvert the Constitution. Debates about worldviews have been related to the private sector's marketplace of ideas. Most of the people who attended the Constitutional Conventions knew they were creating a new order, not continuing the old. They saw their efforts as changing the history of the world and eventually benefiting all of humanity. This was not done by retaining or retooling the old order based on Christian heritage and convention. It made a radical break from the past and created the foundation of a new legal and judicial dispensation; a new age of government, laws, equalities and liberties. It was A New Order for the Ages.
It is clear from the religious clauses of the states cited so far were not laws that supported full religious liberty. The nature of these religious laws was not much different than the ones of Europe and Britain. They are a direct result of the legal changes that took place in the 4th to 6th centuries. These were colonies and states that allowed only Christians and sometimes only a particular kin of Christian to have religious liberty. Jews, Muslims and other unbelievers have no religious rights. Catholics were mistreated in the colonies much the same they were mistreated in Britain.
The Delaware Constitution we see in Article 22,
Every person who shall be chosen a member of either House, or appointed to any office or place of trust, before taking his seat, or entering upon the execution of his office, shall take the following oath, or affirmation, if conscientiously scrupulous of taking an oath, to wit:
"I [your name], will bear true allegiance to the Delaware State, submit to its constitution and laws, and do not act wittingly whereby the freedom thereof may be prejudiced.
and also make and subscribe the following declaration, to wit:
I [your name], do profess faith in God the Father, and in Jesus Christ His only Son, and in the Holy Ghost, One God, blessed for evermore; and I do acknowledge the holy scriptures of the Old Testament and New Testament to be given by Divine Inspiration."
In the Massachusetts Constitution's Chapter 6, Article 1, elected officials of the state were required to make this declaration:
I [your name], do declare that I believe the Christian religion, and have a firm persuasion of its truth; and that I am seized and possessed, in my own right, of the property required by the constitution, as one qualification for the office or place to which I am elected."
New Hampshire required, in Part 2 of its Constitution of 1784, that members of the Senate, the House of Representatives and the elected Executive "shall be of the Protestant religion."
Religious tests such as the Trinitarian declarations required by Delaware, began after the Council of Nicea held in 325 held under the orders of Emperor Constantine to settle Christological disputes that were rampant throughout the empire. At this time, Christianity whad been splintering into dozens of factions and it would take a powerful and ruthless alliance of church and state to put down the religious diversity found in both the Christian and pagan worlds. The result of this council was a requirement for all clergy members to make a Trinitarian declaration of faith. Below are key excerpts from the Nicene Creed which was the first major religious test required and would serve as the basis for future religious tests for both clergy and civil servants for the next fifteen centuries.
"We believe in one God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father by whom all things were made.....
And we believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life, who proceedeth from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, who spoke by the prophets."
Bishops who did not make this confession lost their positions, their churches and were exiled. Church leaders who were not present at the council received letters from Emperor Constantine informing them that if they failed to make the required declaration of the Nicene faith, their churches would be confiscated. This three century period of imperial decrees working hand in hand with major church councils is how fifteen centuries of religious tests began in the west. Forcibly transforming the classical world, the table of contents for this part of the website can be viewed here. My main sources are the primary historical writers from the 4th , 5th and 6th centuries. The story covers emperors Constantine to Justinian. The story covers from the Council of Elvira to the Second Ecumenical Council of Constantinople in 553 under Justinian's reign.
GEORGE WASHINGTON ON THE EVOLUTION OF LIBERTY
George Washington noted in his 1783 Circular to the States:
The foundation of our Empire was not laid in the gloomy age of darkness and superstition, but at an Epocha when the rights of mankind were better understood and more clearly defined, than at any former period, the researches of the human mind, after social happiness, have been carried to a great extent, The Treasures of Knowledge, acquired by the labours of Philosophers, Sages, and Legislatures, through a long succession of years, are laid open for our use, and their collected wisdom may be happily applied in the Establishment of our forms of Government;
The gloom, darkness and superstition as law and knowledge kept freedom and democracy imprisoned. Its ignorance regarding nature, the free mind and human rights. A new Epoch as I have been pointing out. The Enlightenment Epoch. The treasures of knowledge found in the writings of classical philosophers; the Sages of antiquity that fueled the Renaissance and Enlightened Europe and then America. Washington also mentions the benign, not divine, light of revelation, as if speaking of enlightenment by reason and knowledge; of the age of reason and the educated man. To the deists of the enlightenment, the light of reason, not divine revelation, supported faith. Deists rejected the notion that the Bible was a divine revelation. In fact, Deists reject the virgin birth, divinity, miracles, atonement, resurrection and ascension of Jesus. To Deists, the doctrine of the holy trinity was irrational superstitious nonsense. To Deists like the Unitarians, Jesus was a great teacher of a system of morality that needed to be separated from the superstition and corruptions of the Bible that distorted the life and teachings of Jesus. That is why Jefferson wrote The Jefferson Bible.
LIBERTIES OF CONSCIENCE AND THE NEW ORDER FOR THE AGES
The Third Clause of the Sixth Article of the new nation's Constitution thoroughly broke with the past, beginning a new dispensation of law, rejecting the religious test-oaths, declarations and confessions of the previous fifteen centuries years. It was not a continuation of the alliances of religion and government seen in the past. It did not restrict religious and political beliefs, speech, press and assembly as the old order always did. It guaranteed far reaching liberties of association and privacy that were unheard of in the old order. Ending thousands of years of tribal and national traditions, kings were now things of the past. The new order of three branches of government with separate and equal power was a monumental step in world history. The founders were acutely aware that they were creating a new order for the ages: that phrase ended up on the Great Seal and is found on every dollar bill under the 1776 Pyramid and Eye on a banner saying, NOVUS ORDO SECLORUM. The In God we trust motto was not on our money at any time during the lives of the Founders. That was a later development forced by the religious right of the late 19th century and the 1950s, when by law it started to appear on all US currency. There was also a push by the religious right in the late 19th century to declare this country a Christian nation. Money wasn't the only thing attacked by the radical religious right. The same extremism can be seen regarding Congress's act establishing the religious phrase, under God, in the Pledge of Allegiance in the Eisenhow era. This act broke the law by violating the Congress shall make no law regarding the establishment of religion clause of the First Amendment. Both the motto on our coins and the "under God" addition to the pledge were reactionary answers to Godless Communism in the 1950s by ultra-nationalists with McCartyist worldviews. The Congress wrong wrong. As we have seen after 9-11, extreme nationalism is a threat to our nation's Constitution. The Founders were clear about separating government and religious belief. Yes, we were going to show those Godless pinko commies a thing or two about religion and liberty but we violated the letter and spirit of the Constitution in our way of doing so. Red scares, McCarthyism and religious fundamentalism took a heavy toll on the Constitution's principles in those days.
Let's take a look at the first of the two mentions of religion in the Constitution (my caps) :
The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but NO RELIGIOUS TEST shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States."
Philosophically and legally, the US Constitution struck down principles of evangelism, religious adherence and religious conformity in government. Some colonies and states even used the word evangelism in their constitution (NH for one). But with the Constitution, government evangelism of religion and the Christian-specific test/oath for public office was officially dead. Even without the First Amendment, as Justice Story noted, church and state were walled off from each other with the religious test ban clause. The free exercise clause of the First Amendment guaranteed liberty of conscience to all within the private sphere while that amendment's establishment clause combined with the religious test ban effectively made the US Government religion-neutral. Being religion-neutral put all people on the same footing under the law. The US Government and its supreme law were 'not in any sense founded on the Christian religion' yet protected all equally without promoting any theological or cosmological position. This sharply contrasted with the evangelical governments of the past, both European and colonial.
The 6th Article outlawed those state laws that required one to make a declaration of Christian faith. Before the ratification, most colonies had laws just like England that supported one religion, required a confession of said religion, and discriminated against others. These religious tests and demands for religious conformity are certainly in line with scripture; no other Gods before me and every knee shall bow. They can be said to be teachings based upon principles derived from scriptural authority, not nature. But these teachings, these scriptures, and these principles are antithetical to the principles of liberty which guarantees the freedom to choose and devolop one's owns beliefs from experience. Scriptures forbid this choice in matters of religious belief just as many States did before the several states complied with the Federal Constitution.
The west's Christian 'heritage', contains a good deal of tyranny. It was this heritage of religious government that stood in the way of the humanist principles of equality and liberty for fifteen centuries. The church-state alliances not only banned religious choice, but all the accompanying rights of speech, writing, press, and assembly. It sanctioned cruel and unusual punishments to frighten people into compliance. Equality was countered by the Bible's support of slavery and keeping women at home in submission to her husband. It was the religious right that made the argument in the early 20th century that Women's Suffrage was against God's natural law. It was conservative religious doctrine that it was God's order that the races be kept segregated. Judges handed down sentences that jailed interracial couples who cohabitated or married. One judge ruled that if it hadn't been for technology and discovery, the races would still be separated on the different continents just as God had planned. He went to college? And troubling it is that not long before the Civil War, almost every major denomination's Church Council or Conference, except Catholics and Quakers, declared that slavery was moral and attacked those that opposed slavery as socialists, atheists and apostates.
Christianity is one of the major currents of western tradition but it is not the stream that is primarily responsible for the principles of liberty, equality, democracy and republicanism. It is a mistake to think of western traditions in strictly Christian terms. There are several major currents. The stream most responsible for these ideas began in Ancient Greece and Rome, re-emerged during the Renaissance, contributed to the Reformation and exploded upon the west during the enlightenment. Celebrating the roots of democracy and the Classical and European enlightenments, Washington, DC's architecture and statuary are largely based upon classical temple designs and art. Christian leaders in church-state alliances deliberately sought to wipe out the classical world and nearly did, oppressing every sign of it until the Renaissance's awakenings. In late antique war against classical philosophy, science, and religious diversity, it was the Bible's demand for strict individual conformity in a strict uniform society that guided the clergy and the imperial court. It was the Bible's violent punishments for unbelief and its sanctioned destruction of religious properties that were copied by these leaders. God was angry and jealous and had a sword. God burned unbelievers with fire so the most zealous believers emulated this God's wrath with Iron, Steel and fire. When classical humanism was reborn in the late Medieval period, its ideas were soon branded heretical enemies of the state. At first, the religious hierarchy embraced the rebirth of classical art, architecture, philosophy, humanism and even science (Scholastism), but then rejected it as antithetical to Christian values which was quite correct. By then it was too late and the Renaissance was under way, setting the stage for the eventual European Enlightenment which became springboard for the American Enlightenment. The rise of the new classicism with its rediscoveries brought to Europe a revival of the judicial savagery and intolerance that first shook the Mediterranean world dring late antiquity's forceful Christianization of Europe. The church fought back and punished all who publicly believed other than church doctrine.
The US Constitution abruptly ended the legal paradigms of the past and set down a new standard that the states eventually met. Some took longer than others. In fact, NH and Massachusetts rejected the religious test ban clause of the Sixth article. Connecticut and Massachusetts took three and four decades respectively to disestablish Christianity. There are probably thousands of old laws that remain on the books that are unconstitutional. Really bad laws are sometimes repealed or they die in court. In most cases they are just ignored by law enforcement because they know that if tested in court, they would lose the case. And each year, because of constitutional misconceptions, historical revisionism, or the bleeding heart evangelical zealotry of certain lawmakers, laws are still passed which are unconstitutional. Some shout accustions "judicial activism" when a law is struck down but that is one of the jobs assigned to the judiciary in the constitution. Bad laws have to be killed.
Those legal examples above are not representative of the America born at the ratification of the Constitution. Those laws are descendants of the church-state alliance laws of Constantine, Theodosius and Justinian. The new constitutional order nullified the church state notions of a very aged order. Nullified was the foundation on 'required religion' built by an alliance of church and state. Imperial Edicts and Church Council canon law worked hand in hand for centuries to establish a severe and rigid legal structure founded one one specific religious cosmology, A zealous clergy and the powers in the Imperial Court main continuous flow of letters back and forth The dialogue resulted in Emperors and the Church working together using edicts and general councils to establish this new legal order. The clergy bickered. The clergy and the state bickered and cut deal after deal. The clergy endlessly patronized, complained to and begged favors from the imperial court. Emperors made their own demands, returned the patronization, and eventually issued imperial edicts calling for a major councils. The emperor and/or an imperial delegation would attend and ratify the declarations. Not long afterward, the Emperor would issue an edict that went towards making church canont into the civil law, too.
With the new order, the wishes of the church fathers regarding the empire needing one religion in order to be a stable and moral one were rebuked, refuted, and repudiated. The Fathers had covered their eyes and plugged their ears to the fact that one of the Roman Empire's great strengths for over a thousand years was its religious diversity and philosophical pluralism. They were social capital in both the republic and the empire. Aside from the extreme political elements, most politicans and people recognize diversity as one of a nation's strenghts. Pluralism worked in Rome. It is working in the free world. The guarantees of the First Amendment and the Constitutional ban on religious tests insures and protects more diversity than any other in history. Especially in the 1500 year stretch of church-state alliances begun by Constantine.
The new legal order returned us to a world of pluralism and religious diversity and actually outlawed all of the colonial and state laws and requirements regarding Christian support. This is where the Christian reconstructionist and dominionist crowd has it all backwards so they draw all the wrong conclusions about the place of colonial law in the history of American law. Colonial governments were very English, very European, very Christian and consequently intolerant in regards to religious freedom. They were religiously intolerant Christians who took the Bible seriously to the extreme and fought for the European model of religious tradition. Colonists carried the same baggage of religious bigotry onto the western hemisphere that infected Europe for fifteen centuries because they were citizens of that kind of government and under the authority of its king to begin with. In European America, people were exiled. People were jailed. People were whipped in public. People were burned alive. Rhode island came into being because of the religious intolerance of the Massachusetts theocracy. People faced execution because of wrong religion or communing with the supernatural. The laws and beliefs responsible for the witch hunts were brought from Europe's burning times, where it claimed more than one hundred thousand lives in Protestant inquisitions in Germany, Switzerland, Scotland and England. They in turn learned their violence and intolerance from a thousand years of religious persecutions under governments allied with the Roman and Byzantine churches. It was legal to do these killings in this church-state where laws were derived directly from the religious and sexual intolerance of the Bible. The Christian fundamentalists are using dead laws when they point to the religious governments of colonies and states as a reason why we should be honoring God in our government. But they have it all wrong because they can not see through their evangelical worldview as to why the founders crafted a godless constitution. They can't admit it is Godless even though it clearly is. This neutrality was a revolutionary philosophical change rooted in the best ideas of Classical, Renaissance and Enlightenment humanism.
ANOTHER BOGUS RIGHT WING QUOTE:JEFFERSON'S NATIONAL PRAYER FOR PEACE, MARCH 4, 1805:
Through militant deception or a lack of proper study, many of the religious right are making the claim that Thomas Jefferson proclaimed a Prayer for Peace on March 4, 1805. The problem with this proclamation's date is that Jefferson gave his second inaugural speech on that day. Nothing remotely like the claimed prayer can be found in the text. His speech can be read at the University of Virginia site.
The nonexistent prayer that is quoted by the Christian right goes like this:
"Almighty God, Who has given us this good land for our heritage; We humbly beseech Thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of Thy favor and glad to do Thy will. Bless our land with honorable ministry, sound learning, and pure manners."
"Save us from violence, discord, and confusion, from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitude brought hither out of many kindred sand tongues."
"Endow with Thy spirit of wisdom those to whom in Thy Name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that through obedience to Thy law, we may show forth Thy praise among the nations of the earth."
"In time of prosperity fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in Thee to fail; all of which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen."
Jefferson's world view was nothing like the world view the prayer stands for. He was a deist who denied the virgin birth, miracles, resurrection and divinity of Jesus. (See his Letter to William Short, with a Syllabus Monticello, October 31, 1819) It just wasn't in him to say such a prayer. No deist thinks like that. Like the fraudulent commandments quote attributed to Madison, these quotes appear out of nowhere and can't be found in any primary source by scholars and laymen alike. One of the places where this claim is is in Bob Gingrich's book, In Their Own Words. What Gingrich and the rest of the religious right always ignore or forget is that quotes are not the United States Constitution. The chosen quotes are not to be found in the Constitution, either. We all have a suitcase of quotes but they are not the ratified Supreme Law of the Land. Using bogus quotes only compounds the error of the right wing.
Other places that use the prayer are:
A Contender Ministries page. Copies of this page with its bogus sources can be found on many more right wing religious sites. Contender Ministries has not removed the quote after being notified of its lack of authenticity. Contender, like Gingrich's book, claims the prayer can be found on page 341 of The Life and Selected Writing of Thomas Jefferson by Adrienne Koch and William Peden in 1944. Big problem here: page 341 contains letters to Martha Jefferson (December 22, 1783) and a Colonel Munroe (June 17, 1785). According to an email from Gingrich, a primary source for the prayer is supposed to be the Jefferson years of A Compilation of Messages and papers of the Presidents, 1789-1897. The March 4, 1805 entry of President Jefferson's messages and papers quickly puts that claim to rest. It's not there. If you search the entire collection of Jefferson's messages and papers for any of the words, God, Almighty, Jesus, or Christ, you will come up empty.
Help Save America also quotes the prayer on its Commandments Defense Fund page that was created to help ex-Judge Roy Moore during his bazarre commandments monument fiasco at Alabama's Supreme Court. As you may know, Judge Moore was removed from the court based on his lack of judicial ethics.
Other internet offenders are:
Godresolution's page titled, Don't Blame Thomas Jefferson for "Separation of Church and State."
Freedom Project USA
Christian Heritage Ministries
A Free Republic Blog post
A right wing Testimonial-Archives page at blogspot.
American tract society page.
Republican Hermelinda Aguilar
Virginia land rights coalition
We have decriminalized adultery because these are private issues that are dealt with at the Civil Court level. Adultery is no longer considered a crime against God and your community first. But like the Biblical penalties, Islam still executes adulterers. Adultery is a matter of contract law but the repercussions of adultery in a marriage or a cohabitating agreement can be devastating because of property, children, inheritances and more. Some people might say that getting a big rock over the head would be less painful than adultery's consequences. The Bible's punishment of death for adultery, found in many places such as Leviticus 20:10, states, the man that commits adultery with another man's wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall be put to death. This punishment was worlds away from the sense of justice realized by free nations. In fact, this punishment was so brazen that some colonies employed other punishments. Some colonies that had laws making blasphemy a capital offense decided to mark and/or whip the offenders. But like the intolerance of radical Islam and the Bible, they still demanded of everyone to believe in their brand of Christianity.
WHAT RIGHTS OF PRIVACY?
There are people who argue we don't have a right to privacy. Most of the time, these views come from the far right, both religious and secular. Dictatorships are not much different. For example, compare Heinrich Himmler's view on homosexuals and privacy with the views of religious fundamentalists like Senator Rick Santorum right before the Supreme Court overturned all the sodomy laws in the nation.
Heinrich Himmler on privacy to SS leaders at Bad Lodz on February, 18, 1937:
"I would like to develop a couple of ideas for you on the question of homosexuality. There are those homosexuals who take the view: what I do is my business, a purely private matter. However, all things which take place in the sexual sphere are not the private affair of the individual, but signify the life and death of the nation, signify world power..."
Now look at Rick Santorum's view, which is representative of radical Christian and Islamic views:
"We have laws in states, like the one at the Supreme Court right now, that has sodomy laws and they were there for a purpose. Because, again, I would argue, they undermine the basic tenets of our society and the family. And if the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything. Does that undermine the fabric of our society? I would argue yes, it does. It all comes from, I would argue, this right to privacy that doesn't exist in my opinion in the United States Constitution, this right that was created, it was created in Griswold — Griswold was the contraceptive case — and abortion. And now we're just extending it out. And the further you extend it out, the more you — this freedom actually intervenes and affects the family. You say, well, it's my individual freedom. Yes, but it destroys the basic unit of our society because it condones behavior that's antithetical to strong healthy families. Whether it's polygamy, whether it's adultery, where it's sodomy, all of those things, are antithetical to a healthy, stable, traditional family."
People like Pat Buchananan and other radical Christians continue by telling us that because of the civil rights activists and their assault on traditional patriarchy and heterosexism, society is going to crumble. Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell are so deluded that they made remarks in effect saying that civil rights activists, abortion rights and the gains by gays and lesbians in America brought 9-11 upon us. These people are indeed scary in their isolated and twisted view of reality. There are so many similarities between Himmler's Nazi outlook and that of the religious right it is downright creepy. Radical religious conservatives and many totalitarian ideologies over the centuries have told us that we have few rights of privacy and have rigidly enforced a social conservative agenda in tandem. It is for the good of the state. But like almost every instance of the expansion of liberty, the religious right fought and lost on the issue of privacy. They are a bitter lot who lament not being about to control our private lives. Many of the Christian right have started using the term Islamafascists for radical Islam. It is an apt term but they have blinded themselves to the fact that radical Christianity with its never ending fight against the expansion of liberty over the centuries is not much different. That is why it is so easy to find congruence with fascism and radical Christianity. Remember, these are the same people that want to plaster the public square with Judeo-Christian commandments and morning prayers to the Christian God. How is that different from the radical islam they attack? These are the same people that rant against secularism in the same fashion the Taliban and the Muslim Broherhood do. These are the same people that have done their very best to fight women's suffrage, family planning, and contraception. Add to this their opposition to women with careers, basic gender equality and women in high places of authority. Radical Christians and Muslims are of the same species. And the violence against homosexuals that is part of the history of Christianity? It is no different from the radical Islamic and fawscist view which brings homosexuals to incarceration and/or execution. When I first heard of Heinrich Himmler and his creation in 1936 of The Reich Office for the Combating of Homosexuality and Abortion, I thought to myself, "And the Christian right calls radical Islam Islamafascists?" Here is a bureaucracy with powers that every extremist religious group would love to create.
The religious right has always attacked freedom and privacy with claims regarding God's natural order. The Bible's order trumps any right to privacy in the world of the fundamentalist Christian. This desperate and worthess argument was always their last resort for keeping things they way they had always been for centuries. Natural Law was one of the biggest excuses used by conservative activists in the past. The fights against the expansion of liberty with the abolition movement, Women's Suffrage movement, and ending the discriminatory bans on mixed race marriages all were contrivances of such natural law arguments. The expansion of freedom in these movements was, afterall is the striking down of old laws based in the 'old order' of things; the Medieval Christian one that kept slaves, prevented blacks from marrying whites, kept women at home and persecuted homosexuals. Those are the fruits of the old Christian order. Attacking privacy has always been a tool under both religious and secular dicatorships, to control the behavior and the beliefs of the masses. It has always been a major tool to fight the liberties of religion, conscience and expression. See my page, Social Conservatism as a Coercive Tool of the State.
The Bible, like radical Islam, not only approves the persecution and executions of unbelievers and blasphemers under the guise of righteousness and law and order, it strongly supports arson and destruction of the temples and altars of the 'other gods' and religions. Over and over, the Bible's diety supports and commands the extermination of religious diversity, a cherished liberty in modern democracies. The zeal by which the religious right pushes their commandments and morning prayers would be an effective way to push all other religions off the stage. The apparent deep need and unfettered zeal to make all confess Christ is at the heart of all the propaganda and historical revisionism of the Christian nation lie. Even if it is ot a Christian nation, they don't care because their aim is to make it so any way they can. That is why they call it religious fanaticism.
MURDER, THEFT AND LYING
Probably one of the most naive arguments is to think that bans on murder, theft and deception originated with the Bible's commandments. Bans on murder are far older than the Bible. But there is a deeper truth here and that regards what scientists call Sociobiology and Evolutionary Psychology. The jist of it is that morality has biological origins that go back before humanity emerged. Even Chimps and other Primates have a deeply ingrained cheater detection which, for the member of a troop who is caught cheating on issues like sharing food, means ostracism. Even the eye for an eye type of laws are far older than the Bible, being first written in Babylonia's Code of Hammurabi's Code. The flood story has its roots in Babylonia's Epic of Gilgamesh, a 2000BCE story from 2800BCE.
The religious right has it backward; religion is an attempt to codify the natural human moral sense with supernatural deities as authors and originators. Because today's major religions originated in primitive tribes with little or no scientific knowledge about nature and life, their attempt to codify the human moral sense is distorted by the supernatural. What they initially miss is that the moral sense comes from humanity and its evolution, not any supernatural world. So nobody needs any religion to know that laws against murder, theft and certain kinds of deception are proper. When one compares cultures from all over the world there are commonalities regardless of the culture's origins. The commonalities are the moral sense that all umanity shares and the differences are mostly cultural and tribal. For instance, all cultures have laws against murder and theft but not all have declared Pork unclean or Cows scared.
For some good reading on the subject read the reknowned natural scientist E. O. Wilson's books (See Amazon's list) or some of his articles on the internet. I have copied a very good article for this website called The Biological Basis of Morality which is based on his book, CONSILENCE. Wilson broke ground in the 1970s with his Pulitzer Prize winning ON HUMAN NATURE and his technical SOCIOBIOLOGY: THE NEW SYTHESIS. Before Wilson's important books came on the scene, the playwrite turned science writer Robert Ardrey was popularizing the subject with books like African Genesis, The Territorial Imperitive, and The Social Contract. Natural scientists have always had some kind of understanding of the develpment of morality being part of the evolutionary process but it was not until the 1970s that it was popularized in non-professional writings. Being a science fan all my life, I found these books thrilling science. Even in Darwin's writings he sees that the foundations of our ethical values originated in natural selection processes.
WHAT ABOUT AFTER THE COMMANDMENTS CONVERSATION WITH MOSES?
The Ten Commandments are part of a conversation on the mount between the Bible's God and Moses. But the conversation doesn't end with the so-called 10th commandment. The conversation continues, showing the commanding mind of God, in the mythic Book of Exodus, Chapter 21. In verse 2, the commandments God says: When thou buyest a Hebrew servant -- six years he doth serve, and in the seventh he goeth out as a freeman for nought;
Here we see God okaying and regulating slavery, something modern cultures find immoral and unjust, going against all of our moral principles of liberty and equality. Continuing on the slavery issue in verse 7, the commandments God says, And when a man selleth his daughter for a handmaid, she doth not go out according to the going out of the men-servants;
Not only is it okay for a man to sell his daughter into slavery, while male slaves can go free after 6 years, female slaves are slaves for life. In terms of modern justice and ethics, this is repugnant. It is easy to see why many say that the Bible is a reflection of the people and it's times, not anything devised by a deity. In the commandments God okays and regulates slavery and decrees policies that make women second class citizens. These commands are repugnant to the reasoning and ethics of societies which hold nothing more sacred than just equality and affording dignity and respect to all.
Another commandment in the same dialogue with Moses is verse 15 which demands that, he who smiteth his father or his mother is certainly put to death. Again, we see a system of justice that is barbaric and irrational, with sentences that do not match the offenses. It is three tiered with different laws for different stations. Not only will a son be executed for smiting his father or mother, verse 17 states, he who is reviling his father or his mother is certainly put to death. Death for insulting someone? Now thats PC in the extreme!
Not in congruence with any modern ethical system of justice, the Bible's God takes this point of view on the life and dignity of a slave in verse 20 and 21 when a man smiteth his man-servant or his handmaid, with a rod, and he hath died under his hand -- he is certainly avenged; only if he remain a day, or two days, he is not avenged, for he 'is' his money.
If the slave dies immediatley he is avenged but there is no clear statement of putting the owner to death as there is for other less criminal offenses like cussing out one's father. Even a lazy son can be put to death in this ruthless and violent society. But if the slaves lives a couple of days and then dies, he is not avenged because the slave is his money.
In Exodus 21 there is also talk of an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a stripe for a stripe yet when it is a slave's eye or tooth, the law doesn't apply, the slave gets to go free but the law for the free, an eye for an eye, doesn't apply. Women are second class citizens in the Bible's social and legal order and slaves are third class citizens. Female slaves have it the worst. There is a completely different set of laws and a much lower level of justice for women and slaves as far as the Bible is concerned. Even the New Testament tells slaves and women both to obey their masters and husbands as they would God. Their lives and their personal dignity aren't worth as much as a free males. This is made quite clear as verse 26 and 27 state when a man smiteth the eye of his man-servant, or the eye of his handmaid, and hath destroyed it, as a freeman he doth send him away for his eye; and if a tooth of his man-servant or a tooth of his handmaid he knock out, as a freeman he doth send him away for his tooth.
Does this system of justice or social order in any way resemble what American law founded in the United States Constitution decrees? Does it approach its religious liberty or decrees of rights? Are the capital punishments just and rational when compared to the western principles of equality and justice found in our constitution? Not really. The justice and the social order of the Bible are mostly contary to the principles of liberty and equality just as the first commandments are antithetical to the free world's principles regarding the guaranteed liberties of conscience.
When it comes to the liberties of conscience protected by our laws, the Bible is on the wrong side of history, ethics, justice, equality, liberty and law. Some of the worst tyrannies in human history were based upon literal interpretations of the Bible. A case in point is the way Christianity rose in Europe as a religion that violently persecuted all other religions when it achieved political power. While we see religious intolerance as an evil, it was a celebrated virtue for Christian leaders and writers over the centuries. See the section which documents the foundational decrees, canons, and policies of the church-state alliances which were laid down during the the 4th thru 6th centuries; Constantine to Justinian.
THIS PAGE IS STILL UNDER CONSTRUCTION. Soon to be adding information on how Sabbath, blasphemy and other blue laws died due to the Constitution's religion-neutral framework.
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