Tuesday, February 24, 2004

The Count is Now: 45

I'm somewhat surprised at how much President Bush's endorsement of the Federal Marriage Amendment has raised my blood pressure. More than President Bush, however, are many of the commentators that I have found at various sites on the internet. When it came to making fun of the media and Democrats, I was all with the crew at Scrappleface, but when it came to the vitriol aimed that the Courts, I found myself cold.

One of the refrains I read over and over is that the United States is a Christian country. The Scrappleface link includes several comments with quotes from various Founding Fathers supporting the concept. I agree that most of the Founders were deeply religious men. They probably believed that citizens who followed Christian mores would create a most stable Union. I'd even go so far as to say that they probably believed that Christian men would be the ones best able to lead the Nation, as they would best know the intent of God.

If that is true, then why would they deliberately write into the Constitution that religion was to play no part in the qualification for federal or state office?

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. Article VI, Clause 3

This is completely counter intuitive to the idea that the Founders wanted the country to run on strictly Christian principles. At no other point in the Constitution is God directly or indirectly referenced. If it was intended that God should be a central principle in the morality of the nation, then at the very least the preamble would have mentioned something like "In the Name of our Lord" or something similar.

When it came time to amend the Constitution, there was another opportunity for the people of the time to affirm their religious preferences. Again, there was only one reference to religion, and again it was a negative:

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

Two times, the issue of religion must have come up, and two times the Founding Fathers refused to address God as a central part of our government. Some would say, however, that they were taking for granted that virtually everyone in the nation at the time was Christian, and therefore nothing official had to written to establish that basis.

Let us then examine yet another occasion. This time, in an act of Congress, the matter was specifically addressed.

As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion,-as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen,-and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries. Article 11, Treaty of Peace and Friendship between the United States of America and the Bey and Subjects of Tripoli of Barbary.

This treaty was negotiated under Washington's administration and signed by John Adams. Even to be ratified by the Congress, it had to meet the approval of many men who were instrumental in establishing this nation.

I am a deeply agnostic person. I have many problems with the idea of God and a Divine Plan for the world. There is still some faith in me, however, and this attempt to put religious doctrine into the supreme law of our land brings up an anger in me that stems from that faith. Naturally this is my opinion, I can't point to any passages to prove this, but I believe that the Founding Fathers were truly and deeply religious. So much so that they separated Church and State for the purpose of protecting the Church. The previous centuries had seen European conflicts in which hundreds of thousands died because one group or another did not believe in the proper Christianity.

They believed, as I believe, that God must never be used as a tool for oppression in this land. Religion is too precious a thing to be used in that way.

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