Michael M. Bates
June 28, 2005
Religion, government, and the Declaration of Independence
By Michael M. Bates

This week the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on government displays of the Ten Commandments. Apparently some of the justices have enrolled in the John Kerry School of Advanced Nuance and Nonsense. Displaying the Ten Commandments outside the Texas state capitol is OK, but displaying them inside Kentucky courthouses isn't.

Bringing some common sense to the matter was, as usual, Justice Antonin Scalia. In his dissent he wrote: "What distinguishes the rule of law from the dictatorship of a shifting Supreme Court majority is the absolutely indispensable requirement that judicial opinions be grounded in consistently applied principle."

Consistency? Principle? In present day Washington, that's probably expecting too much.

These decisions came only days before we celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence. An irony is that the Declaration is a statement of religious faith as well as a political manifesto.

The document contains repeated references to God: "the Laws of Nature and Nature's God;" "they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights;" "appealing to the Supreme Judge of the World for the Rectitude of our Intentions;" and "a firm reliance on the Protection of divine Providence."

Today's children are often taught that many if not all of the Founding Fathers now designated the more PC correct "Founders" were Deists or agnostics or disbelievers. That's a conclusion you wouldn't draw from their words.

George Washington spoke of "That great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that ever will be, that we may then unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people."

At the Constitutional Convention, Benjamin Franklin spoke: "I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth that God governs in the affairs of men."

"The sacred rights of mankind," observed Alexander Hamilton, "are written, as with a sunbeam, in the whole volume of human nature by the hand of the Divinity itself, and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power."

The Declaration's primary author, Thomas Jefferson, asked: "Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that his justice cannot sleep forever."

John Quincy Adams saw a direct connection between the Declaration and religion: "Is it not that the Declaration of Independence first organized the social compact on the Foundation of the Redeemer's mission upon earth? That it laid the cornerstone of human government upon the first precepts of Christianity?"

Until fairly recently, most Americans had little difficulty acknowledging the relationship between God and the freedoms offered by this blessed country.

In "Little Town on the Prairie," Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote of a 4th of July celebration she attended as a young girl. This was in the late 1800s.

After a speaker had read the Declaration of Independence, the crowd, led by Laura's Pa, spontaneously began singing "My Country, 'Tis of Thee."

"The crowd was scattering away then, but Laura stood stock still. Suddenly she had a completely new thought. The Declaration and the song came together in her mind, and she thought: God is America's king."

"She thought: Americans won't obey any king on earth. Americans are free. That means they have to obey their own consciences. No king bosses Pa; he has to boss himself. Why (she thought), when I am a little older, Pa and Ma will stop telling me what to do, and there isn't anyone else who has a right to give me orders. I will have to make myself be good."

"Her whole mind seemed to be lighted up by that thought. This is what it means to be free. It means, you have to be good. 'Our father's God, author of liberty ' The laws of Nature and of Nature's God endow you with a right to life and liberty. Then you have to keep the laws of God, for God's law is the only thing that gives you a right to be free."

Now, however, we're infested with ACLU types eager to wipe out every vestige of religion in public life while concurrently defending child molesters and murderers.

We can only thank a benevolent God that the Founding Fathers set us on the right course. And ask His continued blessings on this Republic conceived, and maintained, by remarkably courageous people.

Have a terrific Independence Day.

This appears in the June 30, 2005, Oak Lawn (IL) Reporter.

© Michael M. Bates

 

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Michael M. Bates

Michael M. Bates has written a weekly column of opinion or nonsense, depending on your viewpoint since 1985 for the (southwest suburban Chicago) Reporter Newspapers... (more)

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