We live in an age of demanded secularism. If a religious utterance is made by the State or Government officials the cry goes up from an increasingly hostile minority and there are the usual platitudes about “Separation of Church and State,” a phrase that does not occur in the Constitution.

Free Exercise Clause – It is well true that the First Amendment requires that the Congress shall pass no law establishing an official State religion. That same amendment though, requires that the State not prohibit the free exercise of religion. But this second pillar, protecting religious expression is eroding. Increasing demands are made (even in the comments of this blog) that religious bodies (especially the Catholic Church) have no right to attempt any influence in the legislative process. They must “stay out” of meetings with elected officials, testifying at hearings and seeking to influence public policy decisions. But this of course limits our ability to freely exercise our faith, a major pillar of which tells us to take it to the streets, to evangelize, to be a light to the world, to testify to the truth. Many Secularists are increasingly arguing that the only valid place for religious expression of any kind is in the four walls of a Church.

Many secularists argue that the Founding Fathers wanted it this way and that a wall of separation pleased them since most of them were either irreligious or deists. But what is interesting is a all the founding Fathers spoke freely of God, and included appeals to God and God’s will in their remarks. This is true even of Thomas Jefferson. Any visit to the Jefferson Memorial will demonstrate that. A number of his writings and speeches are chiseled on the walls, most of them referring to God. Most of these Founding Fathers who, according to modern secularists, want this dramatic separation of Church and State, were involved in drafting the Constitution.

Most secularists love to point out that God is never mentioned in the Constitution. But actually He is! Specifically Jesus is mentioned and called our Lord! The final line of the Constitution reads thus:

Done in Convention by the Unanimous Consent of the States present the Seventeenth Day of September in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and Eighty seven and of the Independence of the United States of America the Twelfth. In Witness whereof We have hereunto subscribed our Names:

Guess the Drafters never got the Memo - In the year of our Lord?! Oops! Where did that come from? I guess the drafters of the Constitution never got the memo that God is unmentionable in Government documents or functions. The Lord referred to is none other than Jesus Christ for the year corresponds to the years since his birth.

Now the first Signature on the Constitution is George Washington. Apparently he too never got the memo about keeping God and religion out of things governmental because he mentions God, not a little, in his writings and talks. Since it is President’s Day I thought I might show a decree he published declaring that the U.S. should have a Day of Thanksgiving in 1789. The document is filled with references to God. In fact, if you read it with some enthusiasm you’d swear you’re listening to a Baptist preacher! Read and enjoy this Declaration of the First Official Thanksgiving. Secularist beware! This is NOT a religion free zone!

  1. We Ought to thank God – Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me to “recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:” Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us. And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best. Given under my hand, at the city of New York, the 3d day of October, A.D. 1789 George Washington, President.
  2. Washington also was know to invoke the wisdom of walking in Faith and was even willing to engage in what would be considered a high transgression of political correctness today:   You do well to wish to learn our arts and ways of life, and above all, the religion of Jesus Christ. These will make you a greater and happier people than you are. – Speech to the Delaware Indian Chiefs on May 12, 1779.
  3. He also placed a prayer upon the legislators of the United States:  I now make it my earnest prayer that God would… most graciously be pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that charity, humility, and pacific temper of the mind which were the characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed religion. – The Last Official Address of George Washington to the Legislature of the United States)

There are many other quotes from Washington, let this be sufficient here.

Abraham Lincoln too, often references God and faith and demonstrates too that he never got the secularist’s memo that no mention of faith is to be heard from any public official.

  1. On Faith as among the Civic Virtues – Intelligence, patriotism, Christianity, and a firm reliance on Him, who has never yet forsaken this favored land, are still competent to adjust, in the best way, all our present difficulty. – First Inaugural Address on March 4, 1861
  2. On Divine ProvidenceIn the very responsible position in which I happen to be placed, being a humble instrument in the hands of our Heavenly Father, as I am, and as we all are, to work out his great purposes, I have desired that all my works and acts may be according to his will, and that it might be so, I have sought his aid — but if after endeavoring to do my best in the light which he affords me, I find my efforts fail, I must believe that for some purpose unknown to me, He wills it otherwise. If I had had my way, this war would never have been commenced; If I had been allowed my way this war would have been ended before this, but we find it still continues; and we must believe that He permits it for some wise purpose of his own, mysterious and unknown to us; and though with our limited understandings we may not be able to comprehend it, yet we cannot but believe, that he who made the world still governs it.  – Reply to Eliza Gurney on October 26, 1862
  3. On Religious Liberty – But I must add that the U.S. government must not, as by this order, undertake to run the churches. When an individual, in a church or out of it, becomes dangerous to the public interest, he must be checked; but let the churches, as such take care of themselves. It will not do for the U.S. to appoint Trustees, Supervisors, or other agents for the churches.  – Letter to Samuel Curtis on January 2, 1863
  4. On the Justice of God – Fondly do we hope — fervently do we pray — that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-man’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether.” – Second Inaugural Address on March 4, 1865

Just a few samples showing that the modern aversion to any religious reference made by a small but loud group of secularists is newfangled, and a disposition unknown to the Founding Fathers and to Presidents of Lincoln’s era. These quotes do not indicate that these Presidents were perfect Christians, or that they were never critical of some aspects of religion, but they do indicate that, as Presidents, Washington and Lincoln understood the importance of religious faith for this country, and were quite comfortable articulating both the need for faith and its benefits.

Extremism – Recent attempts to bar the door to any religious expression, any spoken appreciation for religion, or any encouragement of its practice would surely seem to these men a strange sort of extremism.  Yes, extremist and far from the embrace this land of ours has historically extended to faith.

32 Responses

  1. Alex Majthenyi says:

    Thank you Monsignor for defending our faith.

  2. Kinana says:

    The mindless irrationality of some militant atheists argue that religion must not have any place in government. When asked to explain how people, who come from a faith perspective, are to participate in public governance they have no rational answer — just the demand that religion must not raise its ‘ugly’ head or have any influence. If a political position/perspective is linked to the Bible, or worse, a Bishop, then it must be shouted down, denied and/or ridiculed.

  3. Mr. Secular says:

    And back in those days the Government also allowed (and on the state level, encouraged) slavery.
    The society has evolved since then. The move to push religion into the backwaters it deserves to be pushed to is a marker of our society beginning another major evolution.
    This change is to a rational, logical, reasoned society, where decisions are based in facts, not fantasies.
    Where morals are decided on by the community, not by a few men claiming “divine knowledge.”
    Your day in the sun is done.

    • Well of course you attempt to link slavery and religious discourse is strained and offensive. It is akin to the old hackneyed claim “More have died in the name of religion than for any other reason” – such a claim appears ludicrous when we examine the last century (20th) where two horrible bloody world wars were fought killing millions – for reasons having nothing to do religion. Add to that over 100 million were put to death at the hands of atheistic communism in that same century by the likes of (the very nonreligious) Stalin, the Chinese Communists, the Cambodians et al. Add to that the horror of abortion, hardly a religious movement rooted in biblical norms.

      If you really think we’re ushering in a new era you can have all my turns. For religion may have its flow of blood, the the godless secularist utopians have their blood bath.

      The Church by the does not teach that morals are merely decided by men claiming “divine knowledge” We also appeal to natural law arguments and commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience.

      You last claim shows you have no knowledge of history. The Church has outlasted every one of her opponents and nations have risen and fallen, movements come and gone all in the era of the Church. The kingdom of Herod is gone. The Roman empire is gone, the Goths, the Huns, the Holy Roman Empire, Napoleon, the British Empire, Innumerable Chinese dynasties, the Soviets, all gone, gone gone. And we will be here long after your little experiment in secularist utopia is gone too. Don’t underestimate the Church, the Gospel may be “out of season” in this culture. But seasons have a way of changing.

      Get with the winning team Mr. Secular. Many have pronounced our doom, but here are.

      • Richard T says:

        Companies come and go, sports teams come and go, countries come and go……….but the Catholic church remains steadfast after 2000 years. It is the best organization ever established. Why? Because it is founded on the Faith in Christ. He has never let us down.

  4. VistaNow says:

    The more mankind advances in science and technology, the more it wants to detach from the Almighty – why is that? Lord I pray that you heal my pride and arrogance and set my heart towards loving you!

    • Chris says:

      Perhaps it is because the more knowledge we gain about ourselves and our universe, the more we come to realize that the idea of an all-powerful creator is nothing more than a childish fantasy – a remnant of when we looked up at the night sky and saw gods shining lights at us instead of fiery balls of gas undergoing thermonuclear fusion.

      Or maybe you’d prefer we go back to 1450 and all die of Cholera.

  5. Steve M says:

    The clarity of this article is beautiful. The only way a person can deny the essential presence of God and Jesus in the founding of our nation is to roll your eyes a lot and talk so loudly repeating nonsense that your brain can not process this obvious information.

    May the Lord help the blind to see especially if their eyes work fine. May our Lord bless the most ardent secularist with the His Peace which is beyond our understanding.

  6. TaylorKH says:

    Dear Monsignor Pope,
    Well stated, and we should take this message to the President, to the Senators and to the Representatives and to the Judges in our government. Let us bring instruction and light to them – in a way which is helpful.

    • Sandy says:

      Here is some imifrnatoon that may help you.~American Judicial System The American judiciary system was found on the adversarial model. In the United State of America, the constitution founders believed that the only best form of government was one that would promote the welfare of an individual such as one social class or a director. The middle class was favored as the most likely group to promote the common welfare because they had in mind that the rich and poor would mostly be concerned with promotion of their own interests. The founders of constitution also believed that the common welfare meant having total protection to each individual?s natural rights of property, life and liberty. They chose a form of government called the republican government (Vaughan, 2003, p.1712-1862).Because England?s powers of government were balanced and divided among the king and the parliaments two houses (the commons and the House of Lords), this system was applicable. This is because it best exemplified republican government. Madison J. who was one of the United States Farmers had his own definition to the republic as a nation or country whose laws and policies are made and administered by some of representatives of the people. He recommended that those representatives should be elected by a large number of people but not a small class. In addition, he figured out that such a government would fully serve the society with no special consideration to particular groups.More so, apart from their nations of republican government, natural rights and common good the constitution founders wanted written laws that would clearly show the rights of all individuals and extent of the power in government. The American constitution sets forth the fundamental laws and rules showing how their government is operated and organized. Although most of the countries have both unwritten and written constitutions, the limited powers of the government by a constitution which must be obeyed by the government is the one that distinguishes a dictatorial government from a constitutional one. The contrast is perceived in that, the dictatorial government has unlimited powers over the government and its natural resources. It is very difficult for the citizens to force such kind of tyrannical rules to obey the law because the rules also control the nation?s defense force group like police and military. In a government governed by a constitution, the laws set should show the basic rights of its citizens to their property, liberty and life. It states that the government should have a responsibility to guard such rights. It also has the government?s power limitations shows the extent to which citizen?s lives cannot be interfered with by the government. Also it includes the ways by which the nation can be changed through the consent of its citizens. The constitution farmers in America borrowed some ideas from the British model and came up with a series of balances and checks so as to have protection against power abuse by the government. To avoid domination of powers by one sector in the government, powers are given to quite different branches of government. The two main power branches in a constitution include; the executive branch which has the responsibility of enforcing the laws, and the legislative branch which is responsible for law making. This imifrnatoon centers on the judicial branch system in the United States government (Young, 54). Although all other nations have laws and rules governing people?s relationships with each other, and other kinds of rules which govern human relationships like the custom, religion and accepted morality, the American?s judicial system appears to be a bit complex. The complexity is with the courts at different levels like in state, Federal County and Municipal bodies. It is not easy to understand the interrelationships although there are laws which clarifies jurisdiction and assigns responsibilities.Recommend a FriendAccording to the judicial foundation system, nobody and nothing in the country can stand outside the law or above the law. In the United States, the penalty for running a red light in vehicles is same to the general or admiral because it is made for a season or private. The brief in the primacy of the law is basic to the citizen?s way of life. The law becomes the ultimate arbiter while the courts are its major guardians. The actions of all other government branches must have consistency with the laws. With regardless of citizens? official status, social position, religion, wealth or political creed, they are all subject to the law. This acts as one major goal for justice in America. The court ensures same law enforcement upon the powerless and the powerful. Due to this reason the courts and the law are said to be the fundamental guardians of equality life in United States. What is more important with American Judicial system is thaReferences :

  7. James says:

    The declaration by Washington is a Martinmas commemoration. Although bifricated from the date of signing treaties, it does follow the supplicative formula. Read it again through the lens of the Eucaristic-rite and you will see it: 4-parts. Pretty cool eh? It’s plain as day once you see it.

  8. TaylorKH says:

    And may God Himself enlighten the “Mr. Secular’s” out there such that they can understand that slavery is not a creation of religion – that Catholics – the Pope was always against slavery, and there is proof of this. Also, if morality is left to the local community (as it has been left to the local community), you will find slavery erupt in ways you did not foresee.

  9. Brian says:

    Also remember that the Declaration of Independence is part of the organic (foundational) laws of the land, and IS part of the US Code. http://uscode.house.gov/download/pls/organiclaws.txt

    The Declaration leaves no wiggle room for athiests, as it bases the entire reason for being on a Creator and His self-evident law (Natural Law).

    I often wonder why athiests try to claim any rights in the US, since they are all based on the unalienable rights granted by the Creator.

  10. Peter Wolczuk says:

    So, there are those who demand that, “religious bodies (especially the Catholic Church) have no right to attempt any influence in the legislative process. They must ‘stay out’ of meetings with elected officials, testifying at hearings and seeking to influence public policy decisions.”
    I don’t know the numbers on those who make this claim but I can readily believe that those numbers are growing. Why don’t I hear of any demands that other special interest groups refrain from addressing their concerns to government? Corporations, unions, professional societies, state and civic governments, community groups and more speak on behalf of their tax paying, voting US citizen members to the federal government. Should members of churches be disenfranchised from a share of communicating on legislation which has an effect on the rights of their group? Should other groups have a resulting, unbalanced, share of the federal government’s attention?
    Seems awful lop-sided, anti democratic and selfish to me.

    • Brian says:

      I mostly agree, Peter. The problem here, though, is that the Catholic Church is not one of many equals. It does not just have a seat at the table of plurality, but helped establish that there can even be a table and chairs at all. Natural Law comes directly out of the Christian faith taught in its fullness through the church Christ established.

      So, in this attack, we shouldn’t be approaching it as ‘hey, we want an equal seat at the table!’ This, by its very nature, then make the Church subservient to the government, because it admits the government is the one giving out the dinner tickets.

      I pray the bishops stand on the principle of Natural Law, and why governments even have a right to rule, not fighting merely for our place among the Scientologists, Wiccans, Pastafarianians, Satanists, and others.

  11. Ben says:

    Great article Msgr! (and I’ve enjoyed becoming accustomed to your good writing)… Who was the first Church to proclaim that racism was a sin?

  12. Clinton Romero says:

    It should be remembered by Catholics, especially where I am in California, that President Lincoln signed back the Missions in California to the Catholic Church after they had been secularized by the Mexican government.

  13. Ann Marie says:

    As a lawyer, I have always had an interest in the Natural Law. I have come to some thoughts based on that interest.

    Asking that the Free Exercise clause be limited to “worship” and your own congregation, is like asking that the Free Speech clause be limited to speaking freely only in your own home, but never in the public square.

    When various pundits sound off on how the Constitution should be used in the Courts, one extreme says that it is a “living document” and therefore subject to any stretching that a partisan judge can push it. The other says that “strict construction” is the best approach, allowing for very little growth of the the law.

    In fact, because the Constitution is based on a long history of the Natural Law and is a document in which the Founding Fathers avoided the excesses of the French Revolution whose version of the Natural Law deteriorated into anarchy, courts should adapt the Constitution to changing circumstances, BUT ONLY UNDER THE UMBRELLA OF THE NATURAL LAW. This would disallow such decisions as Dred Scott and Roe v. Wade and many others.

    Remember that the Natural Law of the Founding Fathers was, unlike any Roman Law country, rooted in such principles as the Magna Carta, the King (Obama and Clinton included) are not above the law. Also one is innocent until proven guilty and other principles which come directly from the English Common Law, which law has its roots in the Natural Law of Aquinas and the Cathollic Courts of Equity in old Catholic England.

    Further, we Catholics must remember and appreciate the Constitution which permitted the Catholic Church to grow and educate and evangelize in ways unprecedented in other forms of government.

    We Catholics who forget this and elect socialist minded candidates, whether Republican or Democrat, do so to the death of the Natural Law and our country as it was founded.

  14. Doug Indeap says:

    Separation of church and state is a bedrock principle of our Constitution much like the principles of separation of powers and checks and balances. In the Constitution, the founders did not simply say in so many words that there should be separation of powers and checks and balances; rather, they actually separated the powers of government among three branches and established checks and balances. Similarly, they did not merely say there should be separation of church and state; rather, they actually separated them by (1) establishing a secular government on the power of “We the people” (not a deity), (2) saying nothing to connect that government to god(s) or religion, (3) saying nothing to give that government power over matters of god(s) or religion, and (4), indeed, saying nothing substantive about god(s) or religion at all except in a provision precluding any religious test for public office. Given the norms of the day (which explains the dating convention of which you make much), the founders’ avoidance of any expression in the Constitution suggesting that the government is somehow based on any religious belief was quite a remarkable and plainly intentional choice. They later buttressed this separation of government and religion with the First Amendment, which constrains the government from undertaking to establish religion or prohibit individuals from freely exercising their religions. The basic principle, thus, rests on much more than just the First Amendment.

    That the phrase “separation of church and state” does not appear in the text of the Constitution assumes much importance, it seems, to some who may have once labored under the misimpression it was there and, upon learning they were mistaken, reckon they’ve discovered a smoking gun solving a Constitutional mystery. To those familiar with the Constitution, the absence of the metaphor commonly used to name one of its principles is no more consequential than the absence of other phrases (e.g., Bill of Rights, separation of powers, checks and balances, fair trial, religious liberty) used to describe other undoubted Constitutional principles.

    To the extent that some nonetheless would like confirmation–in those very words–of the founders’ intent to separate government and religion, Madison and Jefferson supplied it. Madison, who had a central role in drafting the Constitution and the First Amendment, confirmed that he understood them to “[s]trongly guard[] . . . the separation between Religion and Government.” Madison, Detached Memoranda (~1820). He made plain, too, that they guarded against more than just laws creating state sponsored churches or imposing a state religion. Mindful that even as new principles are proclaimed, old habits die hard and citizens and politicians could tend to entangle government and religion (e.g., “the appointment of chaplains to the two houses of Congress” and “for the army and navy” and “[r]eligious proclamations by the Executive recommending thanksgivings and fasts”), he considered the question whether these actions were “consistent with the Constitution, and with the pure principle of religious freedom” and responded: “In strictness the answer on both points must be in the negative. The Constitution of the United States forbids everything like an establishment of a national religion.”

    All in all, as one would expect, the available historical evidence does not all point in the same direction. For instance, while Washington offered Thanksgiving proclamations as you note, seemingly seeing no problem in that, Jefferson refrained from issuing any such proclamations for the very reason he thought the Constitution precluded it. Madison too preferred not to issue any such proclamations, but upon being requested by Congress to do so, reluctantly issued one, though taking pains to word it so as merely to encourage those so inclined to celebrate the day. He later almost sheepishly acknowledged that had been a mistake. Also, Congress appointed chaplains for the two houses of the legislature and for the army and navy.
    Historical evidence of this sort can be seen in at least two ways. On one hand, some of it can be seen, as you seemingly urge, as evidence that the founders considered the government’s actions to conform to the Constitution, thus indicating they did not intend the Constitution to prevent the government from taking actions of that sort with respect to religion. On the other hand, it can be seen as examples of early mistakes by Congress and the Executive, where they failed to conform to the Constitution. Mistakes of that sort are hardly unexpected or unusual. Recall that Congress made two other similar mistakes during Madison’s presidency, resulting in his vetoes of two bills neither of which would form a national religion or compel observance of any religion, on the ground that they were contrary to the establishment clause. While some in Congress expressed surprise that the Constitution prohibited Congress from incorporating a church in the town of Alexandria in the District of Columbia or granting land to a church in the Mississippi Territory, Congress upheld both vetoes. The government has made many such mistakes during our history, and continues to make them to this day.

    Madison discussed just this point in his Detached Memoranda. As it happens, he not only stated plainly his understanding that the Constitution prohibits the government from promoting religion by such acts as appointing chaplains for the houses of Congress and the army and navy or by issuing proclamations recommending thanksgiving, he also addressed the question of what to make of the government’s actions doing just that. Ever practical, he answered not with a demand these actions inconsistent with the Constitution be undone, but rather with an explanation to circumscribe their ill effect: “Rather than let this step beyond the landmarks of power have the effect of a legitimate precedent, it will be better to apply to it the legal aphorism de minimis non curat lex [i.e., the law does not concern itself with trifles]: or to class it cum maculis quas aut incuria fudit, aut humana parum cavit natura [i.e., faults proceeding either from negligence or from the imperfection of our nature].” Basically, he recognized that because too many people might be upset by reversing these actions, it would be politically difficult and perhaps infeasible to do so in order to adhere to the constitutional principle, and thus he proposed giving these particular missteps a pass, while at the same time assuring they are not regarded as legitimate precedent of what the Constitution means, so they do not influence future actions.

    In any event, the very fact that evidence and arguments can be advanced in support of both “sides” of issues like this is one of the reasons we have courts and call on them to resolve such issues. In this instance, the Supreme Court has done just that–decisively, authoritatively, and, in the most important respects, unanimously. In its jurisprudence, the Court has, in effect, followed Madison’s advice, though not his suggested legal theories. The Court has confirmed the basic constitutional principle of separation of church and state, while also giving a pass to the appointment of chaplains for the house of Congress and army and navy and the issuance of religious proclamations, as well as various governmental statements or actions about religion on one or another theory, e.g., ceremonial deism. Notwithstanding sometimes lofty rhetoric by courts and commentators about an impenetrable wall of separation, as maintained by the courts, that wall is low and leaky enough to allow various connections between government and religion. Indeed, the exceptions and nuances recognized by the courts can confuse laymen and lawyers alike, occasionally prompting some to question the principle itself, since decisions in various cases may seem contradictory (e.g., depending on the circumstances, sometimes government display of the 10 commandments is okay and sometimes not).

    You correctly observe that the constitutional separation of church and state does not prevent citizens from making decisions based on principles derived from their religions. Nor does it purge religion from the public square–far from it. Indeed, the First Amendment’s “free exercise” clause assures that each individual is free to exercise and express his or her religious views–publicly as well as privately. Moreover, the religious beliefs of government officials naturally may inform their decisions on policies. The principle, in this context, merely constrains government officials not to make decisions with the predominant purpose or primary effect of advancing religion; in other words, the predominant purpose and primary effect must be nonreligious or secular in nature. A decision coinciding with religious views is not invalid for that reason as long as it has a secular purpose and effect.

    Finally, take care in quoting the founders regarding religion, as fakes abound–including no less than four notorious ones in the video you offer attributed to Patrick Henry, James Madison, George Washington, and John Hancock. https://fakehistory.wordpress.com/2009/06/14/fake-quotations-patrick-henry-on-religionists/ http://candst.tripod.com/misq1.htm http://fakehistory.wordpress.com/2009/07/03/fake-quotations-washington-and-governing-without-god/ http://fakehistory.wordpress.com/2010/05/12/%E2%80%9Cno-king-but-jesus%E2%80%9D-and-the-american-revolution/ Whoever made the video knows little of history. Also, while the quotation you offer of Washington’s response (not a speech) to a petition of the Delaware Indians is accurate, the context reveals a different sense than you suggest. http://fakehistory.wordpress.com/2010/04/02/fake-quotations-washington-and-american-schools/ Excuse the lonnnng comment, but you seem interested enough in the subject to perhaps not mind.

    • Brian says:

      Doug, you really need to read my comment above about the Declaration of Independence. It IS a part of the US Code (the official law of the land.) How do you counter the claim the document declares our rights are bestowed by a creator?

      I think you are forgetting the context with which the nation was founded. The founders and their laws are protecting religion from government intrusion- as they had been subject to in their homelands that they fled.

      Their philosophy, building on the tradition of the Magna Carta, states that government may only have Just authority if subservient to the creator. Natural Law is the basis for government and all additional just laws. Everything else is tyranny.

      What the founders add to this tradition is another layer protecting people from government- that of representation. Above government authority there is the Creator’s Natural Law, and then another layer of the consent of the governed.

      So, the authority of government depends upon the consent of the governed, and both of those depend upon Natural Law.

      That is why I argue the Church needs to remind this government of Natural Law- since they are violating it with this mandate and many other actions. If they do, they will avoid the erroneous arguments about majority opinion (even among Catholics) and legal loopholes.

      This is a fight for right order to protect us from tyranny. People seem to forget that tyranny was a normal human condition until fairly recently, but we are sliding that way again.

      • Doug Indeap says:

        The subjects of natural law and the origin and nature of human rights are large and fascinating. They are, at bottom, philosophical questions, but they also have legal and practical aspects. In this respect, it bears noting that the concept of natural rights is not necessarily dependent on a belief in god(s); some philosophers ground the concept in such a belief, and some don’t. (See, e.g., http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_rights).

        I agree with you that the religious and philosophical views of the founding generation naturally underlie and, at least in some sense, are reflected by the laws enacted by the government they founded, which is hardly surprising given its republican nature. That said, there is no law connecting our government with the philosophical view that our rights are god given. To the extent any such claim seeks to “establish” some form of theism as an inherent aspect of our government, it is antithetical to the constitutional principle of separation of religion and state.

        While some also draw meaning from the references to “Nature’s God” and “Creator” in the Declaration of Independence (references that could mean any number of things, some at odds with the Christian idea of God) and try to connect that meaning to the Constitution, the effort is largely baseless. Important as the Declaration is in our history, it did not operate to bring about independence (that required winning a war), nor did it found a government, nor did it even create any law, and it certainly did not say or do anything that somehow dictated the meaning of a Constitution adopted twelve years later. The colonists issued the Declaration not to do any of that, but rather to politically explain and justify the move to independence that was already well underway. Nothing in the Constitution depends on anything said in the Declaration. Nor does anything said in the Declaration purport to limit or define the government later formed by the free people of the former colonies. Nor could it even if it purported to do so. Once independent, the people of the former colonies were free to choose whether to form a collective government at all and, if so, whatever form of government they deemed appropriate. They were not somehow limited by anything said in the Declaration. Sure, they could take its words as inspiration and guidance if, and to the extent, they chose–or they could not. They could have formed a theocracy if they wished–or, as they ultimately chose, a government founded on the power of the people (not a deity) and separated from religion.

        The text of the Declaration is indeed reprinted in Volume 1 of the U.S. Code, but that hardly renders it a “law.” The Constitution carefully prescribes the process by which Congress, along with the President, can make a law, and simply placing text between the covers of a book is not how it is done. In all our history, no court has ever enforced any part of the Declaration as “law.”

        • Brian says:

          It is part of the organic law, and has been used as an interpretive guide for the Supreme Court in many cases, including Amistad and Dred Scott…

          I don’t think you would disagree when studying any text for meaning, one must understand the authors of the text. The Declaration helps us do that, and is quite clear on the self-evident origin of our unalienable rights. And, once knowing the authors thought it was self-evident, why would they have to make a law saying so! In fact, they specifically would NEVER make a law declaring such, since that would admit government can affect the Natural Law!

          Also to consider:

          If you deny human rights come from a Creator (whether the Christian God or not, doesn’t matter), then from whence to you assert they come?

          If you assert they come from anything else than the Creator, then you clearly disagree with the people who signed the Declaration.

          If you assert it comes from government (even through majority vote), then you admit that you consent to the whims of the powerful, and can never claim that they are treating you unfairly. By your own admission, you MUST accept without complaining whatever they desire to be “Good” and “Right” and “Just”… whether that be slavery, or rape, or torture, or murder, funding more seasons of Jersey Shore, or stopping the grants to Planned Parenthood.

          In this case a slave would have no basis for arguing his right to be free if the majority declare he has no right to be free. As we know now, our government at one time tried to tip-toe around the Natural Law in this regard. How many died setting them straight?

          So, our rights either come from government, or from a power higher than government. Do you have another origin?

          And, by the way, your threat of a theocracy is a red herring. A representative republic, subject to Natural Laws founded by a Creator doesn’t need to be a theocracy. It must only declare (which ours does) that any government is subject to those Natural Laws. Many faiths can thrive within that system.

          • Doug Indeap says:

            I agree with you that the Declaration provides some context for interpreting the Constitution–as do the Revolutionary War, the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, the Great Awakening, the disestablishment movement, the slave trade, the political rivalry between large and small states, and the like. The Supreme Court has (on a few occasions where the opportunity or need arose) referred to the Declaration for just that purpose. The Court has never, though, applied the Declaration as a “law,” “organic” or otherwise.

            Underlying your view of the Declaration’s role appears to be the idea that it and the Constitution written twelve years later were drafted and adopted by one and the same persons or institution. That, of course, is simply not the case. While the documents plainly are related as a matter of history, the people and institutions that prepared each differed. Of the 56 or so delegates who participated in the Second Continental Congress, convened by the thirteen colonies, that drafted and adopted the Declaration of Independence, seven later participated in the Constitutional Convention, convened by the Confederation Congress, that drafted and adopted the Constitution.

            For that and the other reasons offered in my second comment, it cannot simply be assumed that the references to “Nature’s God” and “Creator” in the Declaration hold meaning that should be transferred to the Constitution.

            You ask what I think the signers of the Declaration meant by those references. I think they astutely chose words that could mean different things to different people–that could fit with the thinking of Christians, Unitarians, deists, and others–so they could achieve political consensus.

            In any event, it matters but little, since the Constitution says nothing of the sort, and there is no basis for selecting one or another meaning of the Declaration’s political or philosophical statements, transporting that meaning to the Constitution, and giving it the effect of law.

            You ask from whence I think our human rights come–and, in particular, whether I think they come from “a Creator” or government or some other origin. As I noted earlier, this is a large subject. I’m not sure much light will be shed on the Constitution by modern musings about natural law–though I am aware there has been much such musing over the last two centuries. I can’t say that I’ve devoted much thought to developing my own philosophical views of natural law or natural rights. That said, I think any such rights necessarily derive from our “nature” (just as one may say carnivores have a natural right to eat flesh, as that is inherent to their nature) and, as people can and do differ in their views of human nature (including whether humans are created in the image of God or developed through natural processes of evolution), it is hardly surprising that people would come to different conclusions about the rights inherent in our nature. Apart from that, there is then the question of how any such natural rights relate to the law as developed and enforced by human institutions. For instance, who would discern what are and are not natural rights and undertake to conform law to those rights? The courts? Do we really want judges divining natural rights and deciding cases, perhaps overturning laws, on that basis? How about the legislature? If we leave it to the legislature to enact laws in keeping with natural rights, how is that any different than what the legislature would do absent ideas about natural rights? As a practical matter, to the extent that any such rights can only be known and enforced through the work of one or another governmental institution, what real difference does it make if we speak of natural rights deriving from sources other than or above the government, since it is only through the government that they are recognized and given effect?

            • Brian says:

              A good reply, Doug.

              But you do agree government law is subject to physical law, yes? I mean, the legislature cannot enact a law that says a man can change into a giraffe, or a woman can jump 55 feet into the air last May while traveling faster than the speed of light?

              There are so many problems created when you try to make government your sole source of rights.

              You said above “it is only through government that they (rights) are recognized and given effect.”

              Like my illustration above, there are many rights that the government can NOT give effect. So, a government, could ‘recognize’ man’s right to change into a giraffe, but they could NOT put it into effect. Government has limits.

              Furthermore, the government rarely has the capability to ‘give effect’ at 100% efficiency. According to your position, we could have a government that outlaws slavery, but not have the muscle power to enforce it. In this situation, would you say slaves have a right to be free or not? The people with power (the slave owners) are dictating the rights of the slaves, even against the wishes of the impotent government.

              Let me also ask you this. Does the government EVER have the power to say a man has a right to rape any female he wants? If it did (and I’m sure there are most likely examples in the past), would you defend that government? Or, would you perhaps appeal to a power higher than government to say that they are wrong in their proclamation? The laws of physics to not prohibit this specific act, but the Natural Law does.

              Natural law simply states what laws the government must stay subordinate to in order to remain within their jurisdiction, in order to put government in its proper contextual role within human life.

  15. Loud says:

    It is a little scary that there are poeple who know so little about our nations history that they could be fooled by secularists.

  16. Brian A. Cook says:

    I know I have posted critical comments on this ‘blog. That is because I have tried to pierce what could otherwise become a closed echo-chamber.

    For example, I wish to point one historical example. The French law separating Church and State was a reaction to the antisemitism on the part of anti-liberal Catholics during the Dreyfus Affair. Secular liberals seemed to be alone in defending Dreyfus.

    Today’s concerns about the Taliban may be a bit hackneyed, but the bottom line is that liberals don’t want to see theocracy and try desperately to prevent such a takeover. If you want to argue that they are mistaken in seeing the Taliban in the Church, by all means do so, but I wish to see hard evidence–otherwise, how will actual secular liberals see hard evidence?

    Monsignor, I want to assure you that I have respect for priests, including you. If I have been maladroit, then I apologize. I do try hard to write properly. Perhaps I have not done enough to convince you that I really am with the Church. I do not if I can. Please tell me whether you want me to leave this ‘blog and never return. I am sincerely seeking truth and goodness. If you do not believe me, if you still think I am wearing a mask, then I don’t know what to say.

    • your last series of comments was deleted because on a post dealing with the tragedy of the aborting of the disabled in huge percentages, you chose to go on an errand of church bashing. Not only off topic, but frankly it came across as callous.

      What you call an “echo-chamber” some others might call a forum where believers support and encourage one another, even if imperfectly. The premise of your point seems to be that dissent and argument are worthy ends in themselves. They are not, especially when it comes to faith and moral issues, they are unfortunate examples of the divided human condition, a condition Christ came to heal with the truth proclaimed by Scripture and Tradition.

      You are free to comment, but as a moderator I must weigh whether any remark will be on topic and whether it will encourage discussion that respectfully ponders the faith or that merely and unnecessarily trashes it. One of your remarks in response to a comment that over 100 million in Europe and Asia had been put to death for non-religious ideological purposes was to state the “one person put to death for religious reasons is too many.” A comment like this, while denotatively true, connotatively shows forth an extreme animus and predjudice by you against the faith, not the respect you say you have. Further, you come across as dismissing the death of 100 million people with a wave of the hand. I think long and hard before posting such comments.

      • Brian A. Cook says:

        I never had any intention of bashing the Church. Not once did I say that the Church was evil. Not once. I intended simply to have people within the Church look at the issues facing the Church.

        Never did I dismiss the deaths of 100 million victims of communism. I recall saying nothing to that effect. If I did seem to do so, I apologize. I only wanted to have the people on this ‘blog look at why the Church is attacked as the real dealer of death. Never did I dismiss the abortion of the disabled. I recall saying nothing to that effect. If I did seem to to so, I apologize. I only wanted to have people look at the allegation that the Church wars on women.

        Basically, I tried having people look at the full picture. Clearly I failed here. Perhaps I should have taken more time to write more sentences to make my thought fare more explicit, but the problem is that my comments could have ended up so much longer as to be unreadable. I have a complicated history of seeking the truth.

        I have been asking difficult questions about the Church in order to get at the truth. Some day I hope to have full confidence in the Catholic identity. Until then, I will keep asking difficult questions. If we don’t ask difficult questions, how will we get at the truth?

        Clearly, we got off on the wrong foot. I have only myself to blame for creating a bad first impression and I do not know how i can correct it. I do go to Mass. I do try to care for people around me. I do try to educate others on the breadth and depth of the Faith. I do go to Confession. I do give to the Church’s works. I am currently reading Robert Barron’s Catholicism for a basic primer on the Faith. I even once discerned becoming a Benedictine monk. I know that all of this is likely to be dismissed.

        I do not always know exactly how what I say will be received, in spite of my efforts at careful wording. It seems as if nothing I say will ever convince you that I want to see the Church thrive. I suppose that all I can do at this point is simply ask that you respect the seriousness of what I write here.

  17. Brian A. Cook says:

    I don’t know if the other comment from this morning will ever be posted. I will admit to one thing. I spoke very poorly. I apologize. I could write more, but the complex history of my journey in Christ, which could be necessary context, could be beyond the scope of a comment.

  18. Erin says:

    Excellent post!

    How far we have fallen. Compare this to current presidential commentary, and it is enough to make one cry. Not that the US was ever a perfect nation, nor is the Constitution perfect (since it labeled blacks as 3/4 citizens, may I remind us). But it was a successful document for a long time…

    The current erosion really proves the comments by those same founding fathers to the effect that democracy is only suited to a people with morals and who accept the ten commandments, etc. If people stop believing in the principles, the document becomes only a piece of paper. Let us pray that our Supreme Court justices and legislators (in enough numbers) do not join the ideological disaster that has overtaken the executive branch. Doesn’t matter if it comes from left or right…if you violate the constitution, whether in forcing religious citizens to violate their consciences or whether in setting up a police state, it’s a sad sad day for the US.

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