In the post I put up previously about the founding Father’s there was something that struck me! Roger Sherman stated:
There is one amendment proposed by the convention of South Carolina respecting religious tests, by inserting the word other, between the words no and religious in that article, which is an ingenious thought, and had that word been inserted, it would probably have prevented any objection on that head. But it may be considered as a clerical omission and be inserted without calling a convention; as it now stands the effect will be the same”
This was written in his second letter to the New Haven Gazette on the 25th of December 1788. It made me wonder how much history would have changed if that word, other, had been inserted in between the words no and religious?
The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.
From the Congressional Debates of 1789, we have this discussion on Religious Amendments:
August 15, 1789 First Federal Congress (Amendments-religious reference)
The House again went into a Committee of the Whole on the proposed amendments to the Constitution. Mr. Boudinot in the chair.
The fourth proposition being under consideration, as follows:
Article 1. Section 9. Between paragraphs two and three insert ‘no religion shall be established by law, nor shall the equal rights of conscience be infringed.
Mr. SYLVESTER had some doubts of the propriety of the mode of expression used in this paragraph. He apprehended that it was liable to a construction different from what had been made by the committee. He feared it might be thought to abolish religion altogether.
Mr. VINING suggested the propriety of transposing the two members of the sentence.
Mr. GERRY said it would read better if it was no religious doctrine shall be established by law.
Mr. SHERMAN thought the amendment altogether unnecessary, inasmuch as Congress had ‘no authority whatever delegated to them by the Constitution to make religious establishments; he would, therefore, move to have it struck out.’
Mr. CARROLL As the rights of conscience are, in their nature, a peculiar delicacy, and will little bear the gentlest touch of governmental hand; and as many sects have concurred in opinion that they are not well secured under the present constitution, he said he was much in favor of adopting the words. He thought it would tend more towards conciliating the minds of the people to the government than almost any other opinion he heard proposed. He would not contend with gentlemen about the phraseology, his object was to secure the substance in such a manner as to satisfy the wishes of the honest part of the community.
Mr. MADISON said he apprehended the meaning of the words to be, that Congress should not establish a religion, and enforce the legal observation of it by law, nor compel men to worship God in any manner contrary to their conscience. Whether the words are necessary or not, he did not mean to say, but they had been required by some of the state conventions, who seemed to entertain an opinion, that under the clause of the Constitution, which gave power to Congress to make all laws necessary and proper to carry into execution the constitution, and the laws made under it, enabled them to make laws of such a nature as might infringe the rights of conscience, and establish a national religion; to prevent these effects he presumed the amendment was intended, and he thought it as well expressed as the nature of the language would admit.
Mr. HUNTINGTON said that he feared, with the gentleman first up on this subject, that the words might be taken in such latitude as to be extremely hurtful to the cause of religion. He understood the amendment to mean what had been expressed by the gentleman from Virginia; but others might find it convenient to put another construction on it. The ministers of their congregations to the eastward were maintained by contributions of those who belong to their society; the expense of building meeting houses was contributed in the same manner. These things were regulated by bylaws. If an action was brought before a federal court on any of these cases, the person who had neglected to perform his engagements could not be compelled to do it; for a support of ministers or buildings of places of worship might be construed into a religious establishment.
By the charter of Rhode Island, no religion could be established by law; he could give a history of the effects of such a regulation; indeed the people were now enjoying the blessed fruits of it. He hoped, therefore, the amendment would be made in such a way as to secure the rights of conscience, and the free exercise of religion, but not to patronize those who professed no religion at all.
Mr. MADISON thought, if the word ‘National’ was inserted before religion, it would satisfy the minds of honorable gentlemen. He believed that the people feared one sect might obtain a pre-eminence, or two combined together, and establish a religion, to which they would compel others to conform. He thought if the word ‘National’ was introduced, it would point the amendment directly to the object it was intended to prevent.
Mr. LIVERMORE was not satisfied with the amendment; but he did not wish them to dwell long on the subject. He thought it would be better if it were altered, and made to read in this manner, that Congress shall make no laws touching religion, or infringing the rights of conscience.
Mr. GERRY did not like the term National, proposed by the gentleman from Virginia, and he hoped it would not be adopted by the House. It brought to his mind some observations that had taken place in the Conventions at the time they were considering the present constitution. It had been insisted upon by those who were called anti-federalists, that this form of government consolidated the union; the honorable gentleman’s motion shows that he considers it in the same light. Those who were called anti-federalists at that time, complained that they were in favor of a federal government, and the others were in favor of a National one; the federalists were for ratifying the constitution as it stood, and the others did not until amendments were made. Their names then ought not to have been distinguished by federalists and anti-federalists, but rats and anti-rats.
Mr. MADISON withdrew his motion but observed that the words single ‘no National religion shall be established by law’, did not apply that the government was a national one; the question was then taken on MR. LIVERMORE’s motion, and passed in the affirmative 31 for it, and 20 against it.(5)
(End of Religious Reference)
I find it odd that people can read the amendment and clearly understand that the government is not allowed to infringe on the rights of the press, and yet as the same time ignore the statement that this same government is forbidden from infringing upon the rights of the people to practice their religion and to assemble peaceably as they will.
ARTICLE THE THIRD.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition to the government for a redress of grievances.
I also find it odd that those we elect to serve us and defend and protect the Constitution of the United States of American, assume that their role is instead to change that very document into something that suits their ideas of what should be. We have a responsibility to those who come after us to teach them the true meaning of what the oath of affirmation says.
“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
We have strayed very far from our beginnings, so far that children today seem to believe that our President serves as a Monarch, instead as part of a trinity of three equal branches of government with each having their own established jobs to do. We have let Presidents take power by way of Presidential Signings that has no real basis in law, and yet they use this power to force their will upon the people even when the people who elected them cry out for change. Our current discussion of limiting the rights of the people is another power grab that goes totally against the Constitution and knowing it, our leaders intend to do all they can to steal this right away from the people. This was not unforeseen by those very writers of the Constitution:
“A well regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, being the best security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed; but no person religiously scrupulous shall be compelled to bear arms.”
Mr. GERRY: This declaration of rights, I take it, is intended to secure the people against the mal-administration of the Government; if we could suppose that, in all cases, the rights of the people would be attended to, the occasion for guards of this kind would be removed. Now, I am apprehensive, sir, that this clause would give an opportunity to the people in power to destroy the constitution itself. They can declare who are those religiously scrupulous and prevent them from bearing arms.
What, sir, is the use of a militia? It is to prevent the establishment of a standing army, the bane of liberty. Now, it must be evident, that, under this provision, together with their other powers, Congress could take such measures, with respect to a militia as to make a standing army necessary. Whenever Governments mean to invade the rights and liberties of the people, they always attempt to destroy the militia, in order to raise an army upon their ruins. This was actually done by Great Britain at the commencement of the late revolution. They used every means in their power to prevent the establishment of an effective militia to the eastward. The Assembly of Massachusetts, seeing the rapid progress that administration were making to divest them of their inherent privileges, endeavored to counteract them by the organization of the militia; but they were always defeated by the influence of the Crown.
These gentlemen knew what it was like to be under an oppressive government. They understood the probability that there would come a time when our government no longer served the people but instead used force to impose their will upon them. They wanted to prevent this from happening.
Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)
The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.
Was the government to prescribe to us our medicine and diet, our bodies would be in such keeping as our souls are now.
I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it.
“Laws that forbid the carrying of arms…disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes… Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man.” (Quoting Cesare Beccaria)
The beauty of the Second Amendment is that it will not be needed until they try to take it.
The policy of the American government is to leave their citizens free, neither restraining nor aiding them in their pursuits.
No man has a natural right to commit aggression on the equal rights of another, and this is all from which the laws ought to restrain him.
To take from one because it is thought that his own industry and that of his father’s has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers, have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association—the guarantee to every one of a free exercise of his industry and the fruits acquired by it.
I think myself that we have more machinery of government than is necessary, too many parasites living on the labor of the industrious. (Back then!)
When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.
I am not a friend to a very energetic government. It is always oppressive.
Shake off all the fears of servile prejudices, under which weak minds are servilely crouched. Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call on her tribunal for every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear.
The god who gave us life, gave us liberty at the same time: the hand of force may destroy, but cannot disjoin them.
And the day will come, when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the Supreme Being as His Father, in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva, in the brain of Jupiter.
In matters of style, swim with the current;
In matters of principle, stand like a rock.
What country can preserve its liberties if its rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance?
The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions that I wish it to be always kept alive. It will often be exercised when wrong, but better so than not to be exercised at all.
The majority, oppressing an individual, is guilty of a crime, abuses its strength, and by acting on the law of the strongest breaks up the foundations of society.
When wrongs are pressed because it is believed they will be borne, resistance becomes morality.
Were we directed from Washington when to sow and when to reap, we should soon want bread.
The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.
The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.
God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion. The people cannot be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented, in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions, it is lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty…. And what country can preserve its liberties, if its rulers are not warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to the facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.
Of liberty I would say that, in the whole plenitude of its extent, it is unobstructed action according to our will. But rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add “within the limits of the law,” because law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the right of an individual.
It is strangely absurd to suppose that a million of human beings, collected together, are not under the same moral laws which bind each of them separately.
Liberty is the great parent of science and of virtue; and a nation will be great in both in proportion as it is free.
He who knows nothing is closer to the truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods and errors.
I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.
I have sworn on the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.
I have never been able to conceive how any rational being could propose happiness to himself from the exercise of power over others.
To compel a man to furnish funds for the propagation of ideas he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.
In a government bottomed on the will of all, the…liberty of every individual citizen becomes interesting to all.
I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it.
Say nothing of my religion. It is known to God and myself alone. Its evidence before the world is to be sought in my life: if it has been honest and dutiful to society the religion which has regulated it cannot be a bad one.
The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.
Most bad government has grown out of too much government.
Timid men prefer the calm of despotism to the tempestuous sea of liberty.
The two enemies of the people are criminals and government, so let us tie the second down with the chains of the Constitution so the second will not become the legalized version of the first. Read more at
The White House
I understand from public reports that you taught a course in Constitutional law at the University of Chicago some years ago, though I have not seen a publication of your class syllabus for that course. I note, too, that you were graduated from Harvard University School of Law. I assume that you took a course in Constitutional law while attending Harvard, though a transcript of your Harvard course work indicating such a course has not been published.
News accounts during the past weeks report great controversy over a new requirement that religious institutions will soon be required to fund all medical requirements of their employees. I note with interest that you, too, have commented on it, apparently concluding that these institutions must pay for medical services just like all other institutions covered by the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
Liberty of conscience, especially in religious matters, certainly is at the heart of this dispute. It occurred to me that you would have a clear view of this issue, having taught Constitutional law for a time. Since your public statements give no indication that you are familiar with the Religion Clause, I wondered how that could be in light of your time teaching it. Then it occurred to me that you had the same experience as others of us who have taught at the college or university level — we do not always get to the end of our syllabi. In the case of the Constitution, that could mean that you did not get to the Bill of Rights in your course.
As everyone knows, the Founding Fathers placed freedom of religion in the first two clauses of the Bill of Rights (First Amendment). They did so because this issue was foremost in the public mind. Assuming that you did not get a chance to study the religion clause, and therefore, did not lecture on it at the University of Chicago, let me briefly sum up the essence of the matter. I believe that this could help you to understand liberty of conscience better.
We all know that George Mason and Thomas Jefferson led the way towards religious liberty in Virginia in the 1770s. This resulted in the famous Virginia Statute on Religious Liberty in 1786. Before that, however, two important statements about religious liberty were promulgated. The first was the Constitution of the State of Virginia, published in 1776 including a “Bill of Rights,” the last section of which stated the following:
That religion, or the duty we owe 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 are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; and that it is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian forbearance, love, and charity towards each other.
Months before the enactment of the 1786 statement on religious liberty, a second very important document appeared. It was James Madison’s famous argument, presented to the state legislature for enactment, against state support for churches and in favor of religious liberty based on liberty of conscience which was already enshrined in the state constitution — noted above. It had that odd title often used in the late 18th century: A MEMORIAL AND REMONSTRANCE. In addition to the emphasis on liberty of conscience, defined in the Virginia Bill of Rights, Madison stressed a point that is significant for today’s arguments about liberty of conscience and proposed state action. Said Madison, “We maintain therefore that in matters of Religion, no man’s right is abridged by the institution of Civil Society, and that religion is wholly exempt from its cognizance.” He continued, “If religion be exempt from the authority of the Society at large, still less can it be subject to that (authority) of the Legislative Body.” Madison goes on to say rulers who encroach on the barriers between liberty of conscience and the power of civil society “are Tyrants.”
All other states by 1780 had provisions in their constitutions for liberty of conscience, each almost a mirror image of the others. It’s not surprising, therefore, that when it came time during the first session of Congress to draft a Bill of Rights for the federal Constitution, the first clause was a religion clause. That it was intended to mirror the liberty of conscience clauses of the state constitutions is evident in the developing drafts of the religion clauses by the Congress in the summer of 1789. Joseph Gales, comp., The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States (Washington, 1834), pp. 434, 729, 766, records the following development of the religion clause:
(June 8) The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any religion be established, nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience be in any manner, or on any pretext, infringed.
(August 2) Congress shall make no law establishing religion, or to prevent the free exercise thereof, or to infringe the rights of conscience.
(August 15) No religion shall be established by law, nor shall the equal rights of conscience be infringed.
(September 25) Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibit the free exercise thereof …
The September statement is the one that came back from the printer. After much study, my view is that since printers were also editors in that era, the reflexive “thereof” was an editorial change that did not change the standing practice of seeing “freedom of religion” and “liberty of conscience” as interchangeable phrases.
The point here, President Obama, is that Congress, in drafting the religion clauses of the Bill of Rights, was reflecting provisions found in all of the state constitutions at the time of the American Revolution — all providing for liberty of conscience. This reflected a common phrase in America, dating back a century and a half, namely, ”God alone is Lord of the conscience and has made it free from the doctrines and commandments of men.”
President Obama, let me make one more point that you probably might know about. The Constitution of the State of Illinois, dated December 15, 1971, begins with a preamble which states, “Grateful to Almighty God for the civil, political, and religious liberty He has permitted us to enjoy and seeking His blessing … we establish this constitution.” Then Section 3, entitled “Religious Freedom,” states: “The free exercise of religion and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination shall forever be guaranteed.” And it adds, “Liberty of conscience is hereby secured.” Last time I checked, most of the other states have the same or similar clauses in their constitutions as does your home state of Illinois.
President Obama, there seems to be only one conclusion that can be reached in a study of liberty of conscience clauses in American constitutions from the early days of the Revolution to the present hour. It is this: People’s religious views, excepting outrageous and unreasonable actions, cannot be infringed upon by anyone, especially not by the civil government (state).
It would seem to me that as America’s Chief Magistrate, after reviewing the development of liberty of conscience as outlined above, and having taught Constitutional law, you would be especially careful to support liberty of conscience when issuing executive orders or departmental regulations.
Finally, you may find that the liberty of conscience of citizens constrains or limits some things you may wish to do. That, however, is a condition of your office given the separation of powers in the Constitution.
Exercising my religious liberty, I pray for you often.
L. John Van Til, Ph.D.
Dr. L. John Van Til is a fellow for law & humanities with The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College.
Publication date: February 16, 2012
This is in response to a commenter on The Tree of Mamre who said
“In the secular world the abortion is considered a medical procedure and should not be invaded by the church house as it belongs only in the state house.”
This person was making the comment on the post of Santorum not running for pastor in chief. He also made the statement that Jesus didn’t try to change the laws, as if they made the laws okay, the following is my response.
“No, He didn’t go to the Roman Senate to get laws changed, that was not the reason that He came to earth, He came to die for our sins that we might be forgiven by God for them.
By your reasoning, if the secular world says that it is okay for your neighbor to come and chop off your head and take your possessions, that is fine. Personally, I think that leads to anarchy. Our country is based on the laws of Moses, if you don’t believe it, do the research yourself, it is pretty easy to find the ten commandments online. As far as abortion, even the medical profession should be constrained by moral laws, if they are not, what is to stop them from cloning individuals and farming out their body parts. By your reasoning, these would just be simple medical procedures. What, in your mind, is the difference from a baby and a fetus? Medically, the only difference is that one is in the womb and the other not, what then of abortionist who deliver live babies during the abortion process? Should they be allowed to kill them as Mr. Obama has advocated for? They are medically considered babies! Or how about abortionist that do kill those live babies by clipping their spinal cords or sticking scissors in the backs of their necks? When is the murder of babies a crime? If it is just in the womb, why? Dead is dead, whether it is in the womb or out. It amazes me that the same people that throw hissy fits at people killing animals for food, think that the killing of a baby is okay. Do you know the reason? It is because if they can kill a baby, they can evade the responsibility for that baby, if they can prevent someone else from killing an animal, they have power. Jesus didn’t come to end the laws, He came to fulfill them, until He comes back at judgement, we will be responsible for our actions, murder of the defenseless is a terrible thing that those who do it will have to answer for. Giving government that right, takes the responsibility away from the person and that is not a good thing for society or humanity.”
I want to re-emphasize what I started with, “Abortion is not just a medical procedure.” It is in point of fact, a willful and deliberate ending of a life. This is simple truth and undeniable. No matter whether you agree that it is human or not, it is life. For all those who believe that the taking of life bears responsibility, those that choose this are responsible for their actions.
- Abortionist Knows He is Killing: Spinning Scripture to Make Abortion Right with God (erasetheneed.wordpress.com)
- Late-Term Abortion Practitioner: “Yes I am Killing” Babies (via Life News) (loopyloo305.wordpress.com)
When I reflect that God is just; That His justice can not sleep forever;” Those were the words of Thomas Jefferson, 3rd U.S. President, Drafter and Signer of the Declaration of Independence. He began with “God who gave us life gave us liberty. 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 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; His justice cannot sleep forever; That a revolution of the wheel of fortune, a change of situation, is among possible events; that it may become probable by Supernatural influence! The Almighty has no attribute which can take side with us in that event.”
Thomas Jefferson was talking about the shame of slavery and how God would move to change the situation. He knew that we, as a nation would suffer for the degradation of humanity which slavery is. He warned that this was a very bad example for our children and that God would not take the side of those intent on keeping others in slavery.
We are again, entering a period where slavery is entering into this country. Oh, not outright slavery, but what else do you call it when people work for a master that controls their every move. When the master decides the amount of money that you are allowed to keep for your work, how you can live, what you can eat, what you are allowed to hear, how you are allowed to worship. Is that not slavery? With the master being a government that does not even pretend to work for the people!
This is not what our founder meant for our country. Tyranny is what they were fighting to free us from. I tremble at what they may have though if they could see the future and see how the people that they gave their lives and fortunes to free, have instead sold themselves back into slavery.
3rd U.S. President, Drafter and Signer of the Declaration of Independence
“God who gave us life gave us liberty. 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 forever; That a revolution of the wheel of fortune, a change of situation, is among possible events; that it may become probable by Supernatural influence! The Almighty has no attribute which can take side with us in that event.”
–Notes on the State of Virginia, Query XVIII, p. 237.
An amazing tribute and a message
These came in my email and I’ve shared them with all on my list. Hope you do the same. They are both remarkable and touching..
Meet me in the Stairwell
You say you will never forget where you were when
you heard the news On September 11, 2001.
Neither will I.
I was on the 110th floor in a smoke filled room
with a man who called his wife to say ‘Good-Bye.’ I
held his fingers steady as he dialed. I gave him the
peace to say, ‘Honey, I am not going to make it, but it
is OK..I am ready to go.’
I was with his wife when he called as she fed
breakfast to their children. I held her up as she
tried to understand his words and as she realized
he wasn’t coming home that night.
I was in the stairwell of the 23rd floor when a
woman cried out to Me for help. ‘I have been
knocking on the door of your heart for 50 years!’ I said.
‘Of course I will show you the way home – only
believe in Me now.’
I was on all four of those planes, in every seat,
with every prayer. I was with the crew as they
were overtaken. I was in the very hearts of the
believers there, comforting and assuring them that their
faith has saved them.
I want you to know that I saw every face. I knew
every name – though not all know Me. Some met Me
for the first time on the 86th floor.
Some sought Me with their last breath.
Some couldn’t hear Me calling to them through the
smoke and flames; ‘Come to Me… this way… take
my hand.’ Some chose, for the final time, to ignore Me.
But, I was there.
I did not place you in the Tower that day. You
may not know why, but I do.. However, if you were
there in that explosive moment in time, would you have
reached for Me?
Sept. 11, 2001, was not the end of the journey
for you . But someday your journey will end. And I
will be there for you as well. Seek Me now while I may
be found. Then, at any moment, you know you are
‘ready to go.’
I will be in the stairwell of your final moments.
Diary of a Mad Conservative
- Remembering Robert E. Pattison Who Died on September 11th 2001 – A Tribute For His Family (thinkingofrob.com)
- Tribute and Memorial to the Search and Rescue Dogs of 9-11: Words and Images (allcreatureslargeandsmall.wordpress.com)