Opinion

America’s real first freedom? Secular government

Bicycle police stop traffic to allow a camel, part of a nativity scene procession, to cross near the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 3, 2013. The group "Faith and Action" held their annual "Live Nativity on Capitol Hill" to exercise their first amendment rights. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Jason Reed

(RNS) Earlier this month, 18 U.S. senators wrote a letter to President Trump urging him to issue an executive order “that would require the agencies of the federal government to respect religious freedom.”

Their letter began: “The free exercise of religion — the fundamental right guaranteed to Americans to practice any faith or to chose no faith at all — is enshrined as the first freedom in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.”

While it is unclear precisely what order the senators seek, one thing is clear: They are wrong about the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The “first freedom” is not the free exercise of religion — it is freedom from established religion.

We do not take lightly the accusation that sitting U.S. senators are incorrect regarding our Constitution. But this is not a matter of opinion; it is a matter of fact.

The First Amendment states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

This single sentence includes two important clauses each protecting different freedoms. The establishment clause protects the right of citizens to live free from government-propagated religion; the free exercise clause protects the right of citizens to observe, practice, and worship as they wish, including the right to not worship or observe anything at all.

Recognition of this complex truth does not in any way downgrade the importance of the free exercise of religion. It is a foundational right in the U.S., one that even those of no religious belief can recognize as valuable to the individual and necessary for an open and free society. But it is important to recognize — as the Founding Fathers did — that the free exercise of religion can only safely exist and flourish with a secular government.

The men who wrote the U.S. Constitution understood well that the greatest threat to freedom of conscience — of thought, belief, religion, and expression — was tyranny and, in their time, tyranny was predominantly religious in nature.

The founders were well aware of the oppression and violence that accompanied established religion in Europe. That continent had been ravaged by the brutal Thirty Years’ War, in which Protestants, Catholics and Orthodox Christians burned and killed their way across the map, leading to more than 8 million casualties between 1618 and 1648.

So when the U.S. founders had the opportunity to forge a legal framework for a new nation, they inscribed as the first freedom the right to live free from the government’s heavy hand in the area of religion.

They did this in part because they observed that government cannot change people’s minds; it can only punish them for the content of their thoughts.

As Thomas Jefferson wrote in his “Notes on the State of Virginia” in the early 1780s:

“Is uniformity attainable? Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned: yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth.”

The moment a government chooses favorites among religions, or supports religion over nonreligion, it begins down a path that leads to governmental persecution of, as well as increased societal hostilities toward, those of minority faiths and beliefs.

Without secular government, free exercise is in peril.

The Supreme Court has upheld this understanding. In Everson v. Board of Education (1947) the court ruled the establishment clause applied equally to states as well as the federal government.

Justice Hugo Black wrote broadly on the clause’s meaning:

“The ‘establishment of religion’ clause of the First Amendment means at least this: Neither a state nor the Federal Government can set up a church. Neither can pass laws, which aid one religion, aid all religions or prefer one religion over another. Neither can force nor influence a person to go to or to remain away from church against his will or force him to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion. No person can be punished for entertaining or professing religious beliefs or disbeliefs, for church attendance or non-attendance. No tax in any amount, large or small, can be levied to support any religious activities or institutions, whatever they may be called, or whatever form they may adopt to teach or practice religion. Neither a state nor the Federal Government can, openly or secretly, participate in the affairs of any religious organizations or groups and vice versa. In the words of Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect ‘a wall of separation between Church and State.’”

While the Supreme Court has been far from consistent in its restrictions on religious involvement in government, this much has remained true: The government may not impose religious orthodoxy on individuals or society at large. Government must remain secular, and religious belief (or nonbelief) must remain a matter of personal conscience, free from government preference or encouragement.

It is true that a secular government does not by itself guarantee the protection of the free exercise of religion, but there is no doubt that absent it, religious freedom is but a pipe dream. Our constitution recognizes this truth, and ideally more of our elected officials would, too.

(Michael De Dora is the Center for Inquiry’s director of government affairs and main representative to the United Nations. Nick Little is the center’s vice president and general counsel)

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  • An established religion, like the Church of England, does not necessarily restrict true freedom. We applaud what our Founding Fathers did, but the freedom to practice religion is far more important. A secular may not have any established religion, but could suppress any or all religions as we have seen in communist. countries.

  • Re: Church of England. I think you are underestimating the impact of a too close relationship between church and state. In the past freedom could be “restricted” to the point of death. Even today the relationship between church and state is problematical. The forms or worship must be authorized by Parliament and bishops are appointed by the state.

  • Let us start by ending all the stupidity about the foundations of the major religions:

    Part 1:

    : http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F20E1EFE35540C7A8CDDAA0894DA404482 NY Times review and important enough to reiterate.

    New Torah For Modern Minds

    “Abraham, the Jewish patriarch, probably never existed. Nor did Moses. (prob·a·bly
    Adverb: Almost certainly; as far as one knows or can tell).

    The entire Exodus story as recounted in the Bible probably never occurred. The same is true of the tumbling of the walls of Jericho. And David, far from being the fearless king who built Jerusalem into a mighty capital, was more likely a provincial leader whose reputation was later magnified to provide a rallying point for a fledgling nation.

    The notion that the Bible is not literally true ”is more or less settled and understood among most Conservative rabbis,” observed David Wolpe, a rabbi at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles and a contributor to ”Etz Hayim.” But some congregants, he said, ”may not like the stark airing of it.” Last Passover, in a sermon to 2,200 congregants at his synagogue, Rabbi Wolpe frankly said that ”virtually every modern archaeologist” agrees ”that the way the Bible describes the Exodus is not the way that it happened, if it happened at all.” The rabbi offered what he called a ”LITANY OF DISILLUSION”’ about the narrative, including contradictions, improbabilities, chronological lapses and the absence of corroborating evidence. In fact, he said, archaeologists digging in the Sinai have ”found no trace of the tribes of Israel — not one shard of pottery.”

  • Excellent op-ed on faith and the First Amendment. Too bad so many on Capitol Hill are not well-read enough to see it, read it and/or get it.

  • That is not the legacy of the U.S. Constitution, so why raise a straw dog against our own history?

  • Those things may all be true, but the post is not directly germane to the article. The Constitution protects first freedom from religion by the government, and second the free exercise of religion by those who choose it. We do not need people trying to subvert the Constitution by putting the Bible above it. That would make the Bible a “Christian Sharia Law” and would be a direct violation of the constitutions.

  • The First Amendment protects those who believe in myths i.e. religions. So to be fair, we should have amendments protecting those who believe in the easter bunny and the loch ness monsters. So yes, my commentary is germane to the article.

  • Ok smarty pants, please explain how free exercise of religion can be protected without the separation of church and state of secular government.

  • Your bias is showing:
    http://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2009/08/09/The-Exodus-Controversy.aspx#Article
    Limits of Archaeology

    Many critics who doubt the historicity of the Exodus share a problem: over-reliance on what archaeology can prove. Archaeology is, in fact, a limited and imperfect area of study in which the interpretation of findings, as archaeologists readily admit, is more of an art than a hard science.

    Archaeologist Edwin Yamauchi points out the limits of this science when he explains:

    (1) little of what was made or written in antiquity survives to this day;

    (2) few of the ancient sites have been surveyed and a number have not even been found;

    (3) probably fewer than 2 percent of the known sites have been meaningfully excavated;

    (4) few of these have been more than scratched; and

    (5) only a fraction of the fraction that have been excavated have been published and data made available to the scholarly world (1972: chapter 4).

    Considering not only the limits but also the positive side of archaeology, it is remarkable how many Biblical accounts have been illuminated and confirmed by the relatively small number of sites excavated and finds uncovered to date. Even though, regrettably, some professionals go out of their way to present a distorted picture of what archaeology does reveal, it does provide some of the strongest evidence for the reliability of the Bible as credible and accurate history.

    Evidence Destroyed

    A major challenge in reconstructing an accurate view of history is that, through the ages, most negative or embarrassing evidence was never written down or was intentionally destroyed by later rulers. In fact, the Bible stands in marked contrast to most ancient literature in that it objectively records the facts about Biblical personalities, whether good or bad.

    When new kings ascended the throne, they naturally wanted to be seen in the best light. So in many nations they covered up or destroyed monuments and records of previous monarchs. This pattern of expunging earlier historical evidence can be repeatedly seen in Egyptian monuments and historical records. For example, after the Hyksos rulers were expelled from Egypt, the Egyptians erased the records of that humiliating period so thoroughly that some of the names and the order of the Hyksos kings remain uncertain.

    Some time later Pharaoh Thutmosis III destroyed virtually all records relating to Queen Hatshepsut, the previous ruler, whom he despised. Visitors to her famous temple can still see where Thutmosis’s workmen carefully chiseled away her image from the walls of the structure. A few decades afterwards, the ruling priests eliminated virtually all possible traces of the teachings of Pharaoh Akhenaten, who had introduced what they considered to be heretical Egyptian religious reforms.

  • Bias against the Bible

    Besides these limits of archaeology, an additional problem exists that is seldom noted—the ever-present scholarly bias. It takes only a brief reading of archaeological journals to witness how alive and well human nature is among many of the experts. Differing opinions can stimulate public accusations that are envious, arrogant, spiteful and even hateful.

    Radio commentator Dennis Prager made an insightful comment about Rabbi Wolpe’s skepticism of the Exodus account noted earlier:

    According to the [Los Angeles Times] article, most archaeologists…do not believe the Biblical Exodus occurred. That most archaeologists conclude from the alleged lack of archaeological evidence that Jews were never slaves in Egypt and the Exodus to Canaan never took place tells us something about these individuals, but nothing about the Bible or the Exodus.

  • It is an irony that the nations the founding fathers of the US heralded from have come farther than the US itself. Its not a surprising one considering the relatively young nature of the US, but it is very much ironic.

  • It doesn’t have to no, but as seen in more examples all over the world than not, that a religion that interferes with the affairs of government works more against some than trying to keep things equal for all.

    And communist nations are bad examples. Religion first and foremost are driven by ideology and communism represents the same thing. In other words, communist states just replaced one ideology with another. Yes i see that secularity can be viewed as the same, however it is important to note that inherent in secularity is the fact that you and everyone else is still free to believe and preach whatever you want. You are not like in communist states prevented from doing so as that is not the goal with a secular nation.

  • That recent letter from the Senators to Trump about “religious freedom” was a blatant attempt to legalize discrimination against a disfavored group of Americans – namely gay people. (The same tactic of “religious freedom” was tried after the passage of the Civil Rights Act). “Religious freedom” in America has come to mean discrimination against gay people, stripping gay people of their legal rights and freedoms, denying gay people access to health care, access to businesses, access to jobs, etc. Thankfully so far Trump has rejected the blatant attempt to discriminate against LGBT people under the guise of “religious freedom”.

    True religious freedom protects everyone equally and strips no one of their rights and liberty as citizens of this great nation.

  • A continuation of the New Torah for Modern Minds:
    “The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, which represents the
    1.5 million Conservative Jews in the United States, has just issued a new Torah
    and commentary, the first for Conservatives in more than 60 years. Called ”Etz
    Hayim” (”Tree of Life” in Hebrew), it offers an interpretation that
    incorporates the latest findings from archaeology, philology, anthropology and
    the study of ancient cultures. To the editors who worked on the book, it
    represents one of the boldest efforts ever to introduce into the religious
    mainstream a view of the Bible as a human rather than divine document. “

  • Leaving aside the fact that the Establishment Clause protected state established religions from federal interference, the problem today in the US is governments supporting nonreligion over religion. The point of the Establishment Clause is that no single sect will receive special legal status that other religions don’t — no more, and no less. But Christmas as a federal holiday is constitutional, and so is opening sessions of Congress with prayer.

  • Separation of church and state is not what people think it is. The state has no business doing anything for or against religion. If you know history, you know religious people came to the US to find a place where the state would leave their religious beliefs alone. Simply, the wall is to keep the state out of religion and not religion out of the state. All of our laws are faith based. If you ever read the Bible you would see the foundations of our law in that book.

  • Secularism is not “supporting nonreligion over religion,” it’s staying neutral.

    Both of your examples are flawed. Christmas is only a legal federal holiday because of the secular aspects of Christmas (e.g. Santa, elves, etc.). The Supreme Court made that clear in Allegheny: the government cannot give the impression that it celebrates the religious aspects of Christmas, such as a nativity scene.

    Congressional prayer is a narrow exception that the Supreme Court has carved out of the Establishment Clause because it’s such an old tradition. I think that reasoning stinks, but it’s still the law. It’s a narrow exception to the general rule, so you can’t point to it as an indication that religion deserves “equal time” in our government.

  • That does not make the 14th Amendment “faith based.” In fact, it was enacted as part of a long-overdue rescinding of a legitimately faith-based law allowing for ownership of other humans. A law couldn’t be more secular, and pointing to something in the old testament that you think is analogous to Equal Protection doesn’t change that.

    On the other side of the spectrum that makes your comment so laughable, does the old testament include the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)? Or is that law faith-based for some other reason?

  • None of our laws are secular because part of them come from loving your neighbor as yourself. How we treat people doesn’t have secular origins? Probably if look outside of the 21st century you might get that. BTW, are you a lawyer? If you are, you have no concept of the origins of our law. If you’re not, what you have written is understandably limited.

  • No, when the Supreme Court declares that governments can declare a public holiday but not properly celebrate it, or that Congress can open its sessions with prayer but the council of a newly-created municipality cannot, what is flawed is the SC’s reasoning rather than my examples. The fact that the SC has to carve out exemptions is proof that it has chosen to unilaterally amend the Constitution and wants to avoid the backlash that would come from consistently applying its new definition. (I can’t call it “interpretation,” because an honest interpreter doesn’t deliberately change the meaning of what he is ostensibly interpreting.)

  • Also, if you look at the Old Testament’s provisions as to slavery, you will see that the slave system in ancient Israel bears no resemblance to American slavery. Granted, slavery is unacceptable. But the Hebrews were instructed on the treatment of slaves. And it was believers in England and the US who spear- headed the anti-slavery movement there. In the US, pastors and rabbis headed up the civil rights movement.

  • the republican platform outlines a christian theocracy, where god’s law is supreme. I was kicked out of a verizon store last week for saying a cuss word, by a manager with jesus and praying hands tattooed all over his neck and arms. That is what christian sharia would look like here, it’s already happening.

  • the writers left an enormous amount of notes on the writing and thinking of our founding documents so we know where they came from, and the bible is NOT listed. Our founding came from the magna carta, english common law, constitutions of our states and other countries. No religious test for office, no religion in govt and no govt in religion, separation of church and state.

    I read your version all the time from wishful thinkers who want a christian theocracy so they can enslave the rest of us to their version of govt. without secular govt religious freedom dies for all of us.

  • And that sort of Bible-thumping bullying needs to be resisted. Holy hypocrite hate speech and bullying are on the rise like a tidal wave under Trump. It has to be vigorously fought against.

  • 11 of thirteen states had separation long before the establishment clause was written, the last 2 by 1833. The fed learned what the people wanted by looking at what the states had done since 1776.

    But what you seem to want is christianity to have a prefered status in govt and law so they can control what others can and cannot do (gays). The founders left an enormous amount of notes to tell us where our documents came from and what they mean. Your interpretation is wrong by our founders own words. But by now the laws have all been codified, states have separation in their constitution some more strict than the fed. SCOTUS has defined what laws mean based on their research of founders letters, notes, books they read, and what they said at the convention.

    As soon as the constitution was ratified certain congressmen wanted congressional prayer, BEFORE the establishment clause was ratified. Madison said it was the biggest mistake he ever made allowing it to continue. Congress is being sued now to allow all religions to have equal status to say the prayer, not just christianity. It will change via the greece NY decision.

  • Christmas is an explicitly Christian holiday. If the Court rules that governments can declare it to be a public holiday but cannot recognize its Christian nature in that recognition, there’s a serious flaw in that ruling.

  • Through the years the courts have looked into the original intent of our founding documents, and the everson decision was their conclusion. Separation of church and state was first mentioned in the bible twice, give to caesar what is caesar’s. Rome establishing christianity led to it’s downfall as the citizens freedom of religion was taken, our founders referred to that. The 30 yrs christian war was still going on at the time of the puritans where millions were executed for their beliefs. They had a history to look at and learn from and it translated into what we have now.

    Ted Cruz the so called constitutional scholar said religious freedom was the first law in the bill of rights, he ignores the establishment clause completely.

    Everson and other cases since had concluded we didn’t have to have an established religion by law, even the appearance of one by an objective observer was enough. Christians being able to mistreat gays because of their religion would constitute a theocracy, because no other religion is pushing for that. If christians were to be allowed to do that, they would have preference in the law and it would be unconstitutional. One religion getting special treatment in the law would take the religious freedom from the rest of us.

  • BTW, all of our “modern” notions of property come from the Old Testament which has an impact on DMCA.

  • Also try reading the common law greats of where they think our laws come from. The problem is that most people have no knowledge of legal history. Also, no one I know wants a Christian theocracy, but believers have a right under our laws to make their beliefs known and to vote so good luck on trying to keep faith out of politics here in the US. Again it was believers who helped greatly to end slavery in the US and England and to begin the march towards equality. You have been spoon fed a history that is contrary to the facts.

  • Article III gives the Supreme Court the ability to interpret the Constitution. Like it or not, that’s the law. If you study constitutional law you’ll see that declaring war on “carving out exemptions,” as you say, is ridiculous; there will always be conflicts between absolute rules that require exceptions.

    You can disagree with the SCOTUS interpretation, as I do with them in Greece, but it’s still the law of the land until it’s overturned. And the things you are labeling as “unilaterally amending the Constitution” have been upheld by generations of justices, both liberal and conservative. So really you’re just stomping your feet and wishing that the Constitution said what you think it should say, but it doesn’t.

  • Churches, with their pastors and rabbis, also headed up the pro-slavery movement and cited the bible to defend it. When churches are on both sides of it, you can’t pretend that religion had some sort of moral high ground. The churches you want history to remember from that period were doing good DESPITE their holy book, not because of it.

  • Nonsense! As if non-Jewish humans had no concept of property? The Chinese dynasties, the Egyptian pharos, and the Roman empire had no notion of property and accompanying laws? You have twisted yourself into believing that anything in the old testament originated there, but it’s just not so. Property law predates the old testament, as do prohibitions on murder, theft, and perjury. Their inclusion in the old testament does not “claim” them for Judeo-Christianity, so you don’t get to claim that anything with an analogy in the old testament is “faith based.” It’s not.

  • I am an attorney, but that’s not a prerequisite for understanding why your arguments are flawed. You shouldn’t try to “posture up” on people because they don’t have a particular degree (the “courier fallacy”). As I said elsewhere, all you are doing is claiming anything mentioned in the bible for your religion, which is nonsense.

    If the origins of our laws were so “Judeo-Christian,” maybe there would have been a mention of a deity, or the bible, in the Constitution? There was a great deal of outrage at the time that there wasn’t (which I’m sure you are aware of, since you think only attorneys are worthy to discuss this with you), and yet the Framers clearly and deliberately left the Constitution secular, both in its text and in its effect.

    Can I venture a guess that you enjoy reading pseudo-historian and habitual liar David Barton? Your “historical” claims sound like they came straight from his lying liar’s mouth.

  • the declaration is not a founding document that has legal standing, it was a letter to the king of england, no more than that. It was written by a deist who did not believe in the deity of jesus, most said he was an atheist, Jefferson. ‘Nature’s god’ is not the christian god but the god of nature. a god that created then left and has no day to day meaning in our lives.

    the founders left many papers on where our laws come from, you can’t change that by wishful thinking.

  • It’s not your commentary, it’s the New York Times’s decade-plus-old book review of the most recent Conservative edition of the Chumash (five books of Moses plus weekly prophetic readings plus extensive commentary and essays), one which you seem to be bizarrely fascinated with as it’s in everything you post.

  • I love how you dodge all of Dennis’s points, even when they are direct refutations, and tell him to read something else and lament that “most people have no knowledge of legal history.”

    It appears that you don’t understand the things that you have read on the subject.

  • No, there’s not. If your premise were correct, that Christmas were an explicitly (and “exclusively,” which is what you really mean) Christian holiday, then declaring it a public holiday would violate the Establishment Clause. That’s why the Supreme Court split it into secular and religious components; they were throwing your side a bone so that Christmas could remain a federal holiday.

  • The founders did indeed leave a great many notes and papers regarding our founding documents, but very few here have read any of them.

    The operative clauses of the Declaration of Independence (particularly the “pursuit of happiness” bit and the “laws of nature and of nature’s God) are virtually cut-and-pasted from Blackstone’s Commentaries, from which all of the founders studied, being lawyers. The constitution’s clauses about “life, liberty, and property” are Blackstone’s three primary personal rights: personal security, personal liberty, and private property. Our (legitimate) principles of constitutional interpretation are Blackstone’s. Every SCOTUS from Jay’s to the present, every year, cites it regularly:

    “This law of nature, being coeval with mankind and dicta­ted by God himself, is of course superior in obligation to any other. It is binding over all the globe, in all countries, and at all times: no human laws are of any validity, if contrary to this; and such of them as are valid derive all their force, and all their authority, mediately or immediately, from this original…Upon these two foundations, the law of nature and the law of revelation, depend all human laws; that is to say, no human laws should be suffered to contradict these.” — Sir William Blackstone, 1753.

    And one thing is clear from all of the documentation we have — the founders saw our fundamental rights as fundamental because they are God-given. Jefferson’s Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom states this directly.

  • And the nonreligious people, cultures, etc who contributed to the cause of abolition are….?

    Slavery was a universal in pre-Christian society, and abolition was entirely a Christian invention from its first appearance in the 4th century which led to the death of slavery in Europe, to its second wave in response to slavery’s revival during the age of exploration.

    Abolition owes not one thing to atheism.

    “Things are coming to a pretty pass when religion is allowed to invade private life.” — Lord Melbourne, future prime minister of England, in opposition to William Wilberforce’s efforts to end the slave trade.

  • Slavery was abolished in France in 1791 by the atheistic founders of the revolution, almost a century before it was abolished in the U.S. In England, leading abolitionists included Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill, both atheists.

    The early critics of slavery in the U.S.—Franklin, Washington, Jefferson, and J.Q. Adams—were all either atheists or deists, and were certainly all secularists. Later, Ralph Waldo Emerson took up the cause, as did William Lloyd Garrison and even the “Great Agnostic” himself, Robert Ingersoll.

    Some churches were certainly helpful too, but—again—it was in spite of their scripture, not because of it. It’s absurd and ahistorical to say that abolition was “entirely a Christian invention,” or that “abolition owes not one thing to atheism.”

  • Excellent column. The greatest threats to religious liberty in the US today are the well entrenched campaigns to undermine our public schools by diverting public funds to sectarian private schools (championed by Trump, Pence, DeVos, and many Republicans in Congress and state legislatures, but opposed by American voters by 2 to 1) and the Religious Right drive to cut back on women’s rights of conscience and religious freedom on abortion and contraception, again supported by the buffoon in the Offal Office. Church-state separation is absolutely vital to the preservation of American democracy. — Edd Doerr, President, Americans for Religious Liberty

  • “In the early and middle 20th century, leading archaeologists such as William F. Albright, and biblical scholars such as Albrecht Alt, believed that the patriarchs and matriarchs were either real individuals or believable composites of people who lived in the “patriarchal age”, the 2nd millennium BCE. But, in the 1970s, new arguments concerning Israel’s past and the biblical texts challenged these views; these arguments can be found in Thomas L. Thompson’s The Historicity of the Patriarchal Narratives (1974), and John Van Seters’ Abraham in History and Tradition (1975). Thompson, a literary scholar, based his argument on archaeology and ancient texts. His thesis centered on the lack of compelling evidence that the patriarchs lived in the 2nd millennium BCE, and noted how certain biblical texts reflected first millennium conditions and concerns. Van Seters examined the patriarchal stories and argued that their names, social milieu, and messages strongly suggested that they were Iron Age creations.[5] William G. Dever has stated that by the beginning of the 21st century, archaeologists had “given up hope of recovering any context that would make Abraham, Isaac or Jacob credible ‘historical figures'”.[6]

    Dever, William G. (2002). What Did the Biblical Writers Know, and when Did They Know It?: What Archaeology Can Tell Us about the Reality of Ancient Israel. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. ISBN 978-0-8028-2126-3.

    20archaeologists%22&f=false

  • No. It’s mostly a pagan holiday. Christians claim it and try to make it religious but it isn’t to many many people.

  • Nice cut-paste job. Oh well…

    “Slavery was abolished in France in 1791 by the atheistic founders of the revolution” LOL! It was successful slave rebellions (organized by slave preachers, no less!) that “abolished” slavery, not any French atheistic philanthrophy. They freed the slaves to keep from losing their colonies altogether — and lost them anyway. And under Napoleon they returned and attempted to reestablish both French rule and chattel slavery but were again defeated. Got anything else?

    None of the founders you named were atheists at all, and the least religious of them was a lifelong slave-owner and a sexual predator. Not the best support for your case. Then you cited a former minister (Emerson). Finally, you cited the guy who said this: “By the dissolution of the Union we shall give the finishing blow to the slave system; and then God will make it possible for us to form a true, vital, enduring, all-embracing Union from the Atlantic to the Pacific — one God to be worshiped, one Savior to be revered, one policy to be carried out — freedom everywhere to all the people without regard to complexion or race — and the blessing of God resting upon us all!” Doesn’t sound like an atheist to me — unless he had a death-bed “de-converson.’

    But you did name two bona fide anti-religious abolitionists. So I’ll name some bona fide Christian ones. Like John Wesley, William Wilberforce, Charles Finney, Theodore Weld, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Abigail Adams, John Quincy Adams, Louisa May Alcott, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, Richard Allen, John Brown, Angelina and Sarah Grimke, Julia Ward Howe, John Jay, Benjamin Lay, Joshua Leavitt, Benjamin Lundy, David Livingstone, Zachary Macauley, Absalom Jones, Denmark Vessey, Thaddeus Stevens, Gamaliel Bailey, Salmon Chase, Sojourner Truth, Henry Wilson, Elijah Lovejoy…need I go on?

    Not to mention the early heroes of Christian abolitionism that nobody in our history-challenged culture seems to know about anymore, such as the Gregory of Nyssa, St. Patrick, Ste. Bathilde, St. Anselm, St. Wulfstan, various popes, and all the unnamed clergy who quietly and steadily encouraged the freeing of slaves until the institution gradually disappeared from the legal record in Europe around the end of the 1100s.

    “It’s absurd and ahistorical to say that abolition was “entirely a Christian invention.” Then who made a serious case for (universal) abolition before Gregory of Nyssa in the 4th century?

  • As a retiree both teacher and administrator of the public school, I’d take my chances with the private schools.

  • You wrote (or hypocritically copy-pasted, for the most part?) a book, but didn’t do much to bolster your original points. I’m sorry that I don’t have all evening to answer every point you brought up, so I’ll just hit the major ones. But really, I do appreciate the mostly civil discussion.

    First, it’s hard to pin down any through-and-through atheists in the 18th century because the term was so rare (and because cosmology was so young, those who rejected theism tended to reasonably drift toward deism or pantheism); but as far as most churches are concerned, pantheism is just watered-down atheism anyway. Since we’re talking about whether or not Christianity gets all the credit for abolishing slavery, which was your claim, there’s no need to get more pedantic than this.

    Second, you can list all the Christian abolitionists you want; after all, most Americans were Christian then, as they are now, so the vast majority of people on both sides of any American debate are, of course, going to be Christian. In 100 years will Christianity get all the credit for the anti-abortion movement, or for the pro-choice movement? If you ask Christians, it will be whichever one stands the test of time as the moral position.

    Third, as with most Western “first” claims of the ancient world, the Chinese beat them to it. The emperor of the Xin dynasty abolished slavery in 9–12 AD. It’s not a Christian “invention.”

    But it’s really beside the point; human morality and common decency have gradually conquered barbarism and slavery, which are widely condoned in your religion’s holy book. Christians fighting against them are always condemned by their more fundamentalist cohorts, as they are today in debates on gay rights, state/church separation, and many other issues. The church is always the last one on the bandwagon of civil rights, and then wants all the credit.

  • no, we have free speech in this country. it was a public space. I was not accommodated just the same as if I was gay, because he put his beliefs ahead of my freedom. His tattoos only confirmed what I already suspected.

  • ur an apologist and that’s fine. to say ‘all the founders read’ is blackstone means you have no background on where they came from or what they did read. the founders were educated here and our first 7 presidents were deists, did not believe in the deity of jesus and believed god created earth then went away.

    you don’t agree and that’s fine. but pretending to know just enough to make us a theocracy regardless of proof to the contrary is wishful thinking.

  • Brings to mind how the viewpoints of Christians are not the same thing as views based on Christianity when one looks at how some Europeans that lived in and traded with sea faring indigenous communities, that had slave based economies, were chagrined by the fact that the children of slaves in these communities were born free thus brought into question among the many of the settlers the morality of slavery especially in regards to indentured servants.

  • Did I say the founders weren’t educated here? Of course they were — in what were the BRITISH COLONIES, about BRITISH COMMON LAW, of which Blackstone was the most important and widely used text. Did I say it was “all” they read? Of course not But they had all studied from it. And as for a “god that went away” I seriously doubt that founders who believed thusly would have opened sessions of the constitutional conventions with prayers for guidance as Franklin did, or write of the finger of God guiding the assembly of the constitution as it had guided the revolution, as Madison, Hamilton and Jay wrote in The Federalist Papers.

    Jefferson had his own problems with Blackstone — because Blackstone did not support American independence and because Jefferson did not want to import the entirety of British common law into American law. But that does not change the reality of Blackstone’s influence upon the founders and their ideas about fundamental rights and liberties which meant very different things to the writers of our foundational documents that they do to our increasingly ignorant modern-day populace.

  • It was a private store. He probably had the right to throw you out (as long as unreasonable force was not used). If he also knew you were an atheist, or gay, etc., it would be different.

  • “First, it’s hard to pin down any through-and-through atheists in the 18th century because the term was so rare” When you have the time, google Francis Bacon’s 17th century essay “On Atheism.” Four hundred years ago, he described modern-day atheists to a tee.

    “The emperor of the Xin dynasty abolished slavery in 9–12 AD” The emperor Wang Mang did not abolish the existence of slavery but only the buying and selling of slaves, temporarily — as well as the buying and selling of various other commodities whose trade he was trying to control. He himself used a great many “government slaves,” particularly for ongoing repair of the Great Wall and the construction of his own lavish tomb — and promptly executed them to preserve its secrets. Nice guy.

    “human morality and common decency have gradually conquered barbarism and slavery” In what world? You do know that there are more people enslaved today than at any other point in history? We still have barbarism, now enhanced by technology. If slavery has not even been stamped out yet, I have not the slightest confidence that it would ever have been stamped out ANYWHERE without the influence of Christianity. The pre-christian world, after all, had three millenia of recorded history to demonstrate otherwise.

    You are speaking exactly like another guy around here who talks at length about this “human decency” (and his own most of all) but appears to be completely unaware that our western notions of what constitutes “decency” is almost entirely informed by our Judeo-Christian heritage. The Romans thought they were decent too; in fact, “virtue” (their term for “decency”) was one of their favorite subjects to write about. Yet their populace was 25-30% slave, grossly oppressive of women, and tolerant–indeed approving–of infanticide. But the tide of history changed not gradually and globally but at a very specific time and place in history. A panoramic rather than myopic view of history tends to make one wonder what a world that never knew Christianity would consider “decent” today. Yet, considering what the previous state of affairs was like, I’m sure it’s nothing I would want to experience.

  • You are conflating disestablishment with separation, they are not synonymous. There’s a big difference between not having an established church and banning all Ten Commandments monuments from public grounds and forbidding prayers at public events. As And if you believe that the all the justices make decisions based on Original Intent why aren’t you sharing what you’re smoking? When Supreme Court opinions start using words like “emanations” and “opinions” they’ve abandoned any pretense to honestly interpret the Constitution and are pulling justifications out of their a**es.

    And BTW, in Town of Greece vs. Galloway the Supreme Court ruled that opening legislative sessions with prayer does NOT violate the Establishment Clause.

  • There’s a difference between having the power to do something and honestly exercising that power. If a member of the UN General Assembly gives a speech stating that Iran is a supporter of terrorism and his interpreter states that the member said that Iran is NOT a supporter of terrorism, would you say that the interpreter was honestly performed his duty?

    As for “stomping my feet and wishing that the Constitution says what I think it should say,” is that what those that opposed Plessy v. Ferguson, insisted that the ruling was not in keeping with the true meaning of the 14th Amendment, and fought to overturn the ruling were doing? After all, it was a 7-1 decision and stood for over two generations.

  • So you are claiming that Christmas is NOT a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ? The Court’s insistence that Christmas can be divorced from its foundational purpose is ludicrous, like insisting that because a driver’s license can be used as photo ID it isn’t actually a driver’s license. Christmas is about Christ, it’s right in the name.

  • So where are these massive numbers of pagans, enough to outnumber the Christians that celebrate the birth of Christ?

  • maybe you should go back and read those constitutions for yourself.
    greece said prayer was ok IF they allowed all faiths and non faith to participate. even non christians.

  • Your first example is absurd. You think that the Supreme Court has been incorrect for the past 70 years (at least) and you compare it with an interpreter saying the exact opposite of what he’s tasked with interpreting? If the Supreme Court’s interpretation were even remotely close to being THAT backwards, the entire legal community would be on your side. The fact that they’re not should show you that your example is massively off-base.

    Those opposed to Plessy v. Ferguson by and large did things the right way: they acknowledged that it was the law, disagreed with the ruling, and eventually had it overturned. They didn’t just go on as though that ruling never happened, since they viewed it as a “dishonest interpretation.”

    The Supreme Court gets stuff wrong, I agree—but you have to acknowledge that if you think they’ve never gotten the Establishment Clause right, you are climbing a much bigger mountain than those who opposed the “separate but equal” doctrine.

  • You might want to go back and read those opinions yourself. The section of the majority opinion that dealt with opening sessions with prayer as a tradition only had the support of three justices: Kennedy, Alito, and Roberts. Scalia and Thomas properly argued that because the Establishment Clause, like the 10th Amendment, protected state governments from interference with their own established churches by the federal government it cannot properly be Incorporated against states at all — again, like the 10th Amendment. So while there were five justices ruling that opening sessions with prayer is constitutional, they are divided 3-2 on why. And the dissent was divided as well, 3-1. I see no reason why justices in a future case that couldn’t rule in agreement with that majority, but base their opinions on Scalia and Thomas’s reasoning.

  • I absolutely do claim that Christmas is not necessarily a celebration of the birth of Jesus. I grew up in a non-Christian household that celebrated a secular Christmas. We had santa (never pretending he was real), a tree, presents, snow, and we got together with family. You know, all the *good* things about Christmas. We were aware that the name came from Christianity, and that Christians hijacked and renamed the holiday from other cultures. No big deal there.

    As I said, you should be thankful that the Court was willing to slice up Christmas in this way. If they had taken your approach, that “Christ is right there in the name! It must be about Jesus!”, it would be a clear Establishment Clause violation.

  • No, it would not be a violation, because federal recognition of the religious holiday of Christmas does not give special legal standing of any one church, any more than Thanksgiving did when it was first established — and that’s why they “sliced it up” in that way, as you say. Imagine the uproar if the Supreme Court was to rule that Christmas couldn’t be a federal holiday because it violated the Establishment Clause! So instead they had to find some way to say black is white in order to maintain their current distortion of the Establishment Clause while still permitting Christmas to stand as a federal holiday.

  • No, my example is not absurd, because that it precisely what the Supreme Court did in Plessy. The fact that no one had the power to overrule them (and considering the prejudices at the time, probably wouldn’t have even if that power existed) does not change the fact that in Plessy the justices clearly abused their power by handing down a ruling that DID NOT properly apply the Constitution.

    Nor is it a matter of “never getting the Establishment Clause right,” since the abuse of the Establishment Clause didn’t start until 1947 — and the multitude of ways that that particular Court abused the Constitution makes pretty much any opinion it handed out subject to suspicion. Even as liberal a scholar as Laurence Tribe has acknowledged that “[a] growing body of evidence suggests that the Framers principally intended the Establishment of Religion Clause to perform two functions: to protect state religious establishments from national displacement, and to prevent the national government from aiding some, but not all, religions.” Which is why most commentators on the Constitution agree that the Establishment Clause is the least likely candidate for Incorporation.

    This is a case where the Supreme Court is out of step with at least majority opinion among constitutional scholars, and even then applies that Incorporation incoherently: a paid chaplain in Congress and state legislatures is constitutional, but a moment of silence in a school is not; religious schools may not receive funds for maintenance expenses, but places of worship can enjoy tax-exempt status; prayers at high school football games are unconstitutional, but a bailiff can open Supreme Court sessions with “God save this honorable court.”

  • Not to mention that legislative history that followed the ratification of the 14th Amendment shows rather clearly that the framers drafted it, and the people ratified it, with no intention of having it incorporate the Establishment Clause. If they had, discussion of religious freedom would surely have appeared SOMEWHERE in the debates surrounding the 14th, the failed Blaine Amendment would never have been on the table at all — and it certainly would not have taken almost 80 years to even notice a 14th Amendment religion issue.

  • That is the modern SCOTUS’ modus operandi, after all. First determine the desired result, then invent justifications for it dressed with “constitutional” footnotes. Hence the incoherence, flip-flopping, politicization and blatant lack of integrity that characterizes modern constitutional jurisprudence — to use the term loosely.

    We’ve fallen a long way from where we were when Hamilton penned these words: “Until the people have, by some solemn and authoritative act, annulled or changed the established form [of the Constitution], it is binding upon themselves collectively, as well as individually…But it is easy to see, that it would require an uncommon portion of fortitude in the judges to do their duty as faithful guardians of the Constitution.” — The Federalist #78

  • I meant go back and read the state constitutions before the BOR was ratified.

    gorsuch and thomas believe we are a christian theocracy, scalia said he always decided for god even if he had to wrap in some far reaching logic or case law to get it through. Scalia said on greece ‘because we always have’ was his reasoning. Gorsuch has never ruled for separation of church and state, not because he doesn’t believe it exists, but he believes religion should always get the break when all things are even.

    found only one reference to blackstone in 10 books I’ve read on the subject. Blackstone said common law was based on christianity, Jefferson said it was based on saxon law and that common law was written 200 yrs before christianity came to that region. Watched a documentary on these things last night,
    http://www.pbs.org/godinamerica/view/

  • We’re going around in circles on two threads. You keep denying the entire body of Establishment Clause precedent and have convinced yourself that constitutional scholars all agree with you, which is sheer nonsense. No one is happy with the cobbled-together jurisprudence that courts since 1947 have come up with for the Establishment Clause, but it’s the law of the land and it’s not going to get reversed in its entirety anytime soon. If you think it should, ask your legislators to pass a constitutional amendment clarifying what *you* think it ought to protect. Meanwhile, I’ll stick with Jefferson, Madison, and the Supreme Court with its occasional silly exceptions, which can be chipped away at over time.

    We’ve been talking past each other the entire time, but let me repeat this: you should frame your objections clearly and not blur the line between asserting what the law is and asserting what you think the law should be. You talk of giving “special legal standing of any one church” as the test for an Establishment Clause violation, but you’ve pulled that squarely out of your ass. No one will take you seriously when you’re trying to make up the rules as you go along.

  • If you aren’t keeping the government neutral to religion, you can’t protect free exercise of religion for its citizens. You are simply demonstrating a disdain for religious freedom and advocating sectarian discrimination.

  • No they don’t. They come from the Norman conquest of England and the development of the common law. Our property laws are a direct descendant of those laws designed to keep lands in the hands of the foreign overlords.

    Lying for the lord does no favors for your faith.

  • So how does one protect free exercise of religion when governments is entangled with a given faith or sect? One doesn’t. The separation of church and state insulates the public from government sanctioned religious discrimination.

  • Everywhere! Even in your church. You know there are support groups for preachers that are atheist but are afraid to come out? Naturally – they’d be out of a job. Atheists are everywhere and celebrate the holidays with their families too. Hey, nothing bad about pretty decorated trees and a turkey dinner with you family!

    Outnumber the xtains? Not in the U.S. but more than you think.

  • Calling someone a liar so easily reveals your faith. All western property law has roots on the Bible.

  • Anti-religion propaganda myths: This appears to be what the Center for Inquiry is all about. Their quote from Jefferson fails to note that Jefferson was talking about an “established” religion that is an arm of some nation and tries to force everyone to accept its beliefs. They failed to quote other remarks by Jefferson in the same document, just three pages later:

    “And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, A CONVICTION IN THE MINDS OF THE PEOPLE THAT THESE LIBERTIES ARE OF THE GIFT OF GOD? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep for ever…” America was NOT founded as a secular nation!

    http://docsouth.unc.edu/southlit/jefferson/jefferson.html

    In an excellent article by the nonpartisan Library of Congress, Dr. James Hutson explains Jefferson’s expression,”wall of separation” in its historical context (which is the only way to apprehend the meaning of older works). Jefferson and Madison promoted and attended church services in the U.S. Capitol building.

    “The State Becomes the Church: Jefferson and Madison

    It is no exaggeration to say that on Sundays in Washington during the administrations of Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809) and of James Madison (1809-1817) the state became the church. Within a year of his inauguration, Jefferson began attending church services in the House of Representatives. Madison followed Jefferson’s example, although unlike Jefferson, who rode on horseback to church in the Capitol, Madison came in a coach and four. Worship services in the House–a practice that continued until after the Civil War–were acceptable to Jefferson because they were nondiscriminatory and voluntary. Preachers of every Protestant denomination appeared. (Catholic priests began officiating in 1826.) As early as January 1806 a female evangelist, Dorothy Ripley, delivered a camp meeting-style exhortation in the House to Jefferson, Vice President Aaron Burr, and a “crowded audience.” Throughout his administration Jefferson permitted church services in executive branch buildings. The Gospel was also preached in the Supreme Court chambers.

    Jefferson’s actions may seem surprising because his attitude toward the relation between religion and government is usually thought to have been embodied in his recommendation that there exist “a wall of separation between church and state.” In that statement, Jefferson was apparently DECLARING HIS OPPOSITION, as Madison had done in introducing the Bill of Rights, TO A ‘NATIONAL’ RELIGION. In attending church services on public property, Jefferson and Madison consciously and deliberately were offering symbolic support to religion as a prop for republican government.”

    Below this text, Hutson provides a wealth of documentary evidence for his analysis. Manasseh Cutler, a member of Congress, wrote a letter telling how Jefferson “and his family have constantly attended public worship in the Hall”. The first preacher was the famous Baptist, John Leland, an opponent of “establishment”. Margaret Bayard Smith, of the “National Intelligencer” newspaper, noted “Jefferson during his whole administration was a most regular attendant. The seat he chose the first day sabbath, and the adjoining one, which his private secretary occupied, were ever afterwards by the courtesy of the congregation, left for him”. A variety of preachers spoke, including a Catholic priest. Even two women, Harriet Livermore and Dorothy Ripley, preached in this congressional “church”. Services with “several denominations” were also held in the Treasury Building and the Supreme Court Chamber.

    http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/religion/rel06-2.html

    We must reject the myths and lies of secularist propagandists as they try to “establish” secularist myths as the national religion and suppress any dissent to their propaganda.

  • You have been doing nothing but lie. Everyone has been calling you out on it. And no, you are wrong.

    I don’t have to make garbage up to defend my beliefs. It speaks badly of yours.

  • European countries for the most part still get religious freedom wrong on a lot of occasions. Lack of separation of church and state causes numerous problems there we don’t face.

  • So dominionist quote mining spammer, please answer a simple question:

    How does one protect free exercise of religion without a secular government?

  • Just because conservative Christians can’t form honest coherent legal arguments, it’s no cause to attack the entire judicial system.

  • Busily shopping, erecting pagan symbols (Xmas tree …), enjoying family and friends (Wassail), sharing ancient (& pre-Christ) pagan myths and practices as has occurred since how many thousands of years ago? Going to church once or twice (Easter) a year in a grudging matter because it is traditional and looks good has little to do with a god or religion.

  • Totally unrelated to what I said.

    Nothing wrong with the system — as it was designed. But this isn’t’ it.

  • Religious “discrimination” was not a concern of the founders. Their aim was freedom to follow one’s conscience free of government coercion. They would laugh at the nonsense that professional victims whine about today.

  • You are avoiding the question and saying something patently untrue. Of course sectarian discrimination by government was a concern for the founders. 3 colonies were founded precisely as a way to prevent and avoid such things. I guess direct questions on the subject of religious freedom make you uncomfortable.
    Please do tell us how we can protect religious exercise when government is entangled with a given faith/sect?If you are going to post nonsense about founder intent and the separation of church and state, please elaborate on the relevant part of the topic. Such as how can one uphold religious freedom without it. If you can’t do that much, you are just blowing hot air.

  • It explains your little tirade about SCOTUS. An expression of sourgrapes variety at its rulings.

  • “You talk of giving “special legal standing of any one church” as the test for an Establishment Clause violation, but you’ve pulled that squarely out of your ass.”

    Um, not so fast. This language is found in the religious liberty amendments which both Virginia and New York proposed at their ratification conventions in 1788: “No one religion, or the duty which we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence, and therefore all men have an equal, natural and unalienable right to the exercise of religion according to the dictates of conscience, and that no particular sect or society ought to be favored or established by law in preference to others.”

    But if we want to see something truly pulled-from-ass, look no farther than the “Lemon Test.” Where is the historical predicate for THAT nebulous mess? Nowhere, except in the thin air in which most constitutional “jurisprudence” from the mid- to late 20th century to the present drifts this way and that.

  • If you are not being coerced to worship in a particular manner, nor profess a particular doctrine, nor attend services, nor contribute financially to a religious institution, nor violate your conscience, then you are not being denied religious freedom. Jefferson described all of this in the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom — an infinitely more important document than the letter to the Baptists that so much is made of and which actually demonstrates the OPPOSITE of what it’s usually offered for.

    I have no love for established religion; it ruined the church in Europe and no doubt would do the same here. The state constitutions have their own anti-establishment and religious liberty provisions and that is a good and healthy thing. But I also want our severely limited federal government to work as the the founders and more importantly the PEOPLE agreed that it should. Nothing that defies that social compact is a legitimate act, be it legislative, executive, OR judicial.

  • There’s no doubt that favoring one religion over another is covered under the Establishment Clause; of course states wanted that prohibited. I was addressing the claim that that’s the ONLY thing covered by the Establishment Clause, which is nonsense.

    Defining the exact breadth of the religious clauses isn’t the simplest thing. The Supreme Court took cracks at crafting convenient tests (or basic rules) in Reynolds, Everson, Lemon, Lynch, and other cases. The Lemon test isn’t perfect, to be sure, but it’s the law of the land for now and it’s a not-totally-unreasonable approach. It’s just difficult to apply consistently because it’s so subjective and fact-specific.

  • “I was addressing the claim that that’s the ONLY thing covered by the Establishment Clause, which is nonsense.”

    If you examine how the founders themselves applied the principle of non-establishment in their official capacities, it DOES seem to the the gist of what they understood the Establishment Clause to mean. Washington, Adams and Madison all issued official national calls to prayer, fasting, humiliation, and/or thanksgiving on various occasions, but all nonsectarian. While Jefferson did not do this in his capacity as president (although he did as governor of Virginia) he regularly attended worship services in Congress which he did not consider problematic because they were totally voluntary and conducted by clergy of various denominations. Madison, in his speech introducing the new Bill of Rights, stated that the 1st Amendment prevents a “national religion.

    While the Lemon Test may still be widely used — no one is disputing that — its really has no particular grounding in 1st Amendment history or law. It’s manufactured out of thin air. Such departure from the intentions of the people who ratified the Bill of Rights borders on violation of separation of powers and denial of right of representation. It isn’t a defense to simply point out that “this is what the SCOTUS is doing, end of story.” It is the duty of the people to be educated about these matters and hold government accountable for their overreaching.

  • Not answering the question and clearly trying to deflect the discussion.

    “I have no love for established religion”

    Yet you are chiming in support when it comes to someone is attacking the concept of separation of church and state, established religion. One of those moments where you try to “dogwhistle” your argument and hold back on explicitly providing it when directly addressed.

    “an infinitely more important document than the letter to the Baptists that so much is made of and which actually demonstrates the OPPOSITE of what it’s usually offered for”

    Meaning you are refuting the concept of the separation of church and state but not being direct about it. Jefferson was hardly the progenitor of the concept. It predated that letter by a century with the writings of Roger Williams. You know this, but it doesn’t fit into the typical Fundamentality Christian historical revisionism script.

    Get back to me when you want to be more honest about your position here.

  • There may be freedom OF religions or no religion but there is precious little freedom or tolerance within religions.

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