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Monday, January 10, 2011

The First Amendment: A Christian Document on American Creation

American Creation blog did a post, unlike the majority of their posts, that reject the Founding Fathers were Orthodox Christian fundamentalists for heterodox men of the Enlightenment. Below, are some remarks from the post.
In fact, John Locke and James Madison even say that an atheist has no right to religious freedom, because he doesn't believe in the God who granted that freedom in the first place.
This is not an exaggeration, since no other religion gives religious freedom. This is a very important point secularist's fail to recognize. For the first 150 years, State courts were the authority in cases regarding the Bill of Rights. This is because the Bill of Rights were never applied to the States except starting in the mid-twentieth century. It follows there are few Federal court cases regarding the Bill of Rights. And when the feds ruled on a case they were quick to cite State courts. For instance, Updegraph v The Commonwealth (1824) Supreme Court of Pennsylvania was the first case cited in Holy Trinity:
In this the Constitution of the United States has made no alteration nor in the great body of the laws which was an incorporation of the common-law doctrine of Christianity. No free government now exists in the world unless where Christianity is acknowledged and is the religion of the country...Its foundations are broad and strong and is the purest system of morality, the firmest auxiliary, and only stable support of all human laws.
The author of the post's interpretation is correct. Even the morality of the nation was strictly Christian, as the courts proclaimed.
If the First Amendment enshrines religious liberty (which is doubtful, as I show above, regarding states v. the federal government), then the First Amendment is itself a Christian document.
The Father of the Bill of Rights tells us the context of the First Amendment:
[A]ll men have an equal, natural and unalienable right to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; and that no particular sect or society of Christians ought to be favored or established by law in preference to others.
-Col. George Mason. Kate Mason Rowland, The Life of George Mason (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1892, Vol. I, p.28.

The States already have control of establishment, and Christianity was the established religion:
In the minds of many, therefore, the purpose of the First Amendment was not to protect Jews or Muslims, but rather, to protect Protestants, by allowing them to continue to retain the power they already had on the state level, and to prevent any Protestant sects from competing for control of the national government's power over religion, which is to say, to equalize them all on the national level, but not on the state level.
The context then for the First Amendment must be Christianity, as Joseph Story explained, because no religion other than Christianity could have gained establishment. Quoting the Romans, or Greeks, does not diminish the influence of Christianity, rather, the framers believed Cicero, Aristotle, et al. aligned with Christianity. The framers did not included Roman or Greek philosophy in any part of the founding:

Sparta, Rome, and Carthage...These examples, though as unfit for the imitation, as they are repugnant to the genius, of America, are, notwithstanding, when compared with the fugitive and turbulent existence of other ancient republics, very instructive proofs of the necessity of some institution that will blend stability with liberty. I am not unaware of the circumstances which distinguish the American from other popular governments, as well ancient as modern; and which render extreme circumspection necessary, in reasoning from the one case to the other.
-James Madison, Federalist #63

Below, the author cites is eliminating God from the equation:
The Protestants could not limit themselves purely to social contract, because they refused to totally distance themselves from a view that all laws and morality come from God. They did not want to be pure legal positivists, that whatever the state says, goes. Over time, they grew to accept people who were not of the covenant, but they could never hold a purely secular view of social contract, that entirely divorces God altogether. Even Madison cited Martin Luther.


Tom Van Dyke said...

Mikewind's claim in the post that Madison didn't support religious freedom for atheists was challenged, and he did not provide support for his claim.

Madison is writing in Federalist 64 about the Senate. The senate seats of Rome, Sparta and Carthage were hereditary, and that's all Madison means by them not being consistent with the "American genius." We do not have a hereditary aristocracy.

We do have a senate, though...

Although there's a good point or two in here, you're overshooting the evidence again, Brother James. keep on keepin on.

Our Founding Truth said...

Tom, I think you are right again about Madison. We should start a blog. I should have made a better distinction in what I wrote. That my belief and the author's opinion about JM is different from Christianity. However, some of his points were quite good.

Along with Hall, Barry Shain emailed me that the context for the 1st Amendment is clearly that of States.

Furthermore, the courts were not shy to proclaim religious liberty has its roots in Christianity.

In Federalist 63, the context is clearly as you claim. Is not Sparta, Rome, and Carthage incompatible with our governing principles of Christianity?

Tom, as Arnold said in Predator, "Stick around."

Tom Van Dyke said...

It's important not to overshoot the evidence, as Barton sometimes has. If you do they will tear you apart out there.

There's a modest claim to a much more religious Founding than is being presented these days, but the strict Calvinism of the Puritan era had largely faded. The arguments for the Calvinism of the Puritan period actually serve to argue the other way, since a lot changed between 1620 and 1776. A lot of the theocratic principles had been proven to be unworkable.

What works best in arguing the Puritans is what wasn't theocratic, like clergy being barred from holding political office. In this way, they were indeed onto the separation of church and state.

One thing we can say is that the proliferation of Protestant sects demanded some accommodation be made for religious freedom and conscience. But if you go to the early Calvinists of the 1600s like Rutherford and "Lex Rex," religious freedom isn't there yet. [The great number of sects isn't there yet.]

As for Carthage Rome and Sparta, I don't think there's a religious or anti-Christian dimension atall one way or the other. Madison might easily have argued against a House of Lords instead, but the Federalist largely ignores references to the British system, for its own reasons.

What Madison does like about a senate is a slower deliberative body than the populist passions of the House [or a House of Commons].

I'll drop by now and then to keep you from overshooting yourself in the foot. ;-)

It's easy to see what you want to see in the Founding documents, and as you've noticed, I'd have to play catcher in the rye with several of my co-contributors at AC.

Our Founding Truth said...


You write Puritanism faded by 1776? I beg to differ on that one. The Reformers more so than the Schoolmen, promoted: written constitutions, separation of powers, regular elections, the secret ballot, the federalist principle, Puritan Social Compact(not an inspired covenant), religious toleration and separation of church and state.

Also, the morality in the Southern Colonies was just as Puritan as that of the North and Middle Colonies:

That if any do commit the detestable and abominable vice of Buggery, with man or beast, he or she so offending, shall be adjudged a felon, and shall suffer death, in the case of felony, without the benefit of Clergy.

-A Collection of All Acts of the General Assembly of Virginia 1802, (Richmond:Pleasance and Price, 1803), page 179, ch. C [50], enacted Dec. 10, 1792.

Furthermore, I am not unaware of the Colonist's approval of Whigs, Francis Bacon, and Algernon Sydney; both supporters of Orthodox Reformed theology. Have you read Sydney's prior to death statement?

Without having the advantage of perusing Lex Rex, I will still go out on a limb in its affirmation of religious liberty.

The prosecution of Servetus, of which Rutherford supported, has less to do with religious liberty, than the former's stubbornness not heeding Calvin's admonitions. Calvin begged him to recount his blasphemy; had he, he would have walked.

Violating blasphemy laws that subvert public order is mutually exclusive from religious freedom.

Tom Van Dyke said...

The closest thing to a Puritan you'll find in the Founding is probably Samuel Adams, strict Calvinist.

In 1620 New England, they were all Puritans [well, enough of them]. In 1773, you had Sam Adams cheek-to-cheek with his unitarian cousin John.

You forget all the Puritan ideas of no private property, putting dissenters like Anne Hutchinson on trial, etc. This is the Puritanism that had "faded."

This is not to discount many of the mechanisms you mention that stuck. Calvinism's contribution to the Founding is way underrated in the modern "secular" narrative.

However, people like Bradford claiming Calvin is some sort of founder of America is absurd. Calvin's Geneva is what he founded, where they burned Michael Servetus for hassling the Trinity.

Now, I have a feeling that the exact true story about Servetus is not being told [Jon Rowe in particular writes of it, probably pretty close to the prevailing "secular" narrative], that Calvin had Servetus burned for heresy.

I haven't studied it carefully, but perhaps you will. From what I gather, although Calvin didn't stop it, he didn't instigate it either. And neither did Servetus flatly deny the Trinity, he just had reservations about it.

Your point about being loud about certain "heresies" was seen in those time more as disturbing the peace. [See also the blasphemy trial in New York, People vs. Ruggles, 1810.]

A similar slander is made about the Catholic Church, that Galileo was thrown in a proson cell for believing the earth revolved around the sun. Actually, the church asked him not to start a theological controversy, since geocentrism was part of Aristotelian-Thomistic metaphysics and therefore Catholic Christianity, and the Church wanted time to puzzle out the implications. But Galileo was a loudmouth, so the Church put him under house arrest.

Big difference. Copernicus had found the same thing years before, but kept cool about it. The idea was not new.

You should familiarize yourself better with Rutherford and Lex, Rex, early 1600s. There is no breathing room for freedom of religious conscience. That comes later in Calvinistic thought, and Sam Adams got a boost from Locke on that.

Please do deposit the link to Sidney's farewell either here in the comments or on the blog. I check in on you now & then.

And remember, don't overshoot your evidence!

Tom Van Dyke said...

You will like this:

"In politics, the blues were born farther north: in the Puritan commonwealth of 17th century New England centered around Boston. For the Puritans, the construction of a godly society was the first order of business. The state was not the enemy of liberty; the state was society’s moral agent."


"New England government was charged with the creation of a moral society. There was nothing that was not its business: how much did a master pay his apprentices? Who celebrated Christmas? Who was cheating on his or her spouse? The duty of government was to make society live right; the university, the pulpit, the newspaper — these were to be the allies of government in the struggle for good."

However, Mead makes the same distinction as I did:

"Over the centuries, New England has changed its theology while remaining loyal to its cultural foundations. The Calvinist orthodoxy of the seventeenth century yielded increasingly to Deism and Unitarianism in the eighteenth — and Harvard officially became Unitarian in 1803, dropping its belief in the divinity of Christ. In the nineteenth century literary and intellectual New England hedged its bets, backing a range of horses from Emersonian transcendentalism to the more evangelically flavored Calvinism of the Victorian years. During the second half of the twentieth century the mind of New England became more secular than in past generations– but nothing has ever changed the deep belief in this cultural stream that, however defined, morality exists and that it is the job of the state to enforce true morals and uphold right thinking."

Our Founding Truth said...


The Hutchinson trial was 1637. We're talking 1776. Besides, below is the transcript of Hutchinson's trial. Winthrop was actually cordial with her. She was spreading heresy, among other violations of scripture. She knew what the law was, and broke it; in many places.

The Puritans were more enlightened than anyone on private property:

The Puritans’ defense of private property was an extension of their belief in the legitimacy of money. William Ames wrote that private property is founded “not only on human but also on natural and divine right.”

However, if you're talking about women and property, feel free to fill me in.

Bradford didn't claim Calvin formed the USA. Apparently, the most noted historian in this country did; George Bancroft, who was a secularist to boot!

If you want the scoop on Calvin and Servetus, read Foxes Book of Martyrs.

P. 306. on Sydney

Tom Van Dyke said...

You could be right about private property. I was thinking of when Governor William Bradford assigned each family an acre of land instead of a communal farm. The land apportionment wasn't permanent: the people could work it and keep the excess profits, but they were not given title to the land.

But really, you can't use religious websites for your sources. They're just too suspect for bias---you must confirm their facts from other sources.

And yes, you're right---the historian was Bancroft. I had Bradford on the brain for other reasons, above.

The Puritans are outside my main area of interest, but clearly you're unfamiliar with the arguments and illustrations of the difference in New England of 1620 to that of 1776. Puritanism certainly had "faded," although it certainly had not vanished, or not made its mark.