Michael Gaynor
Librarian of Congress and Federal Court should respect America's Declaration of Independence as approved by Congress, instead of a revision de-emphasizing the importance of God
By Michael Gaynor
July 9, 2018

On July 31, 1776, John Hancock, best known for the most prominent signature on America's Declaration of Independence, appended the following words to the two column, fully capitalized broadside known as "Walsh (3)" at its top: "As there is not a more distinguished Event in history of America, than the Declaration of her Independence – nor any, in all probability, will so much excite the Attention of future Ages, – it is highly proper, that the Memory of that Transaction, together with the Causes that gave Rise to it, should be preserved in the most careful Manner that can be devised. "Let's honor our history by respecting and publishing America's Declaration of Independence in the original text and format and not de-emphasize the importance of God and religion to the signers of the Declaration.

That means, at least, publish America's Declaration of Independence accurately instead of changing capitalization to deemphasize the importance of GOD to the Continental Congress and the success of the American Revolution.

The latest Facebook fiasco – censoring the posting of America's Declaration for hate speech content – highlights the problem of political correctness run amok and the need to respect important historical documents as written instead of to edit them.

See www.foxnews.com/tech/2018/07/05/facebook-found-hate-speech-in-declaration- independence.html:

"Facebook's algorithms are in the spotlight after the social network tagged an excerpt from the Declaration of Independence as hate speech.

"The Liberty County Vindicator in Liberty, Texas, has been posting excerpts from the document to its Facebook page. 'Leading up to Independence Day, The Vindicator challenged its Facebook followers to read the Declaration of Independence. To make it a little easier to digest that short but formidable historic document, the newspaper broke the Declaration down into 12 small bites and one to post each morning from June 24 to July 4,' explained Vindicator Managing Editor Casey Stinnett, on its website.

"While the first nine excerpts posted as scheduled, the 10th part, consisting [of] paragraphs 27 to 31 of the Declaration, did not appear. The Vindicator then received a notice from Facebook saying that the post 'goes against our standards on hate speech.'

"The offending excerpt, which details a long list of transgressions committed by King George III, contains the following passage:

'He has excited domestic insurrections against us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.'

"Stinnett suspects that the phrase 'Indian Savages,' triggered Facebook's filtering algorithm.

"'Perhaps had Thomas Jefferson written it as "Native Americans at a challenging stage of cultural development" that would have been better,' the managing editor quipped. 'Unfortunately, Jefferson, like most British colonists of his day, did not hold entirely friendly view of Native Americans.'

"'The removal of the post was an automated action,' he added. 'If any human being working at Facebook were to review it, no doubt the post would be allowed.'

"The newspaper said that it received an email from Facebook acknowledging its error Tuesday, which confirmed that the post had been restored.

"'It looks like we made a mistake and removed something you posted on Facebook that didn't go against our Community Standards. We want to apologize and let you know that we've restored your content and removed any blocks on your account related to this incorrect action,' Facebook said, in its email to the Vindicator."

This unfortunate instance of automated Facebook censorship was promptly undone when it challenged.

Bravo to the Vindicator for posting America's Declaration of Independence in parts on Facebook and bravo to Facebook for promptly acknowledging its error and setting matters right!

May the Library of Congress do the right thing and Judge Reggie Walton prod the Librarian to embrace historical truth.

As I wrote in "Will federal district court judge Reggie Walton save or shatter Obamaworld?" (www.renewamerica.com/columns/gaynor/140811):

"We can...remind Judge Walton that the official motto of the United States is 'In God we trust,' not 'In Federal Government, we trust.' (The federal government is the worst form of government, except for all the others, and checks and balances must be meaningful, not pro forma.)"

Sadly, an egregious instance of substituting the adjective divine for the noun DIVINE has yet to be undone after hundreds of years, even though Alvin Adams, 83, a citizen of the United States and the State of Connecticut, filed sued Carla Hayden, Librarian of Congress, in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia (Docket No. 18-cv-1338) pointing out that the text and format of America's Declaration of Independence had been determined by Congress on July 4, 1776 and en banc Congressional resolution on January 18, 1777.

Abrams requested that "[t]he court order, Carla Hayden, the Librarian of Congress to correct the Scholarly Journals of Congress, 1906 replacing the never authenticated adjective 'divine' with the Noun 'DIVINE' and ordering the full text of America's Declaration of Independence to be presented in two columns."

Why shouldn't the 1777 en banc Congressional resolution that "the words DIVINE, PROVIDENCE and GOD" be "fully capitalize[d] in America's Declaration of Independence?

They were originally, and they should be now and ever more.

What's the Librarian of Congress's problem with correcting changes that never should have been made to rewrite history?

The docket sheet of the case is available at www.pacermonitor.com/public/case/24749773/ABRAMS_v_HAYDEN .

Abrams filed his complaint on June 4, 2018 and paid a $400 filing fee, too late to expect a favorable decision before July 4, 2018.

He filed an amended complaint on June 20 and a second amended complaint on June 29.

It does not appear that a summons has been issued to Hayden yet, but why should any litigation be required to implement the 1777 en banc Congressional resolution?

Pro se persons should not have to subject themselves to the time, trouble and expense of bringing a federal case to implement a Congressional resolution to publish America's Declaration of Independence accurately.

Perhaps Facebook can make amends by posting the Declaration of independence in the original text and format on Facebook!

A desire to avoid or downgrade references to God was hardly the prevailing sentiment of the people who won independence for the United States.

Thomas Cooley, in Constitutional Limitations, stated that recognition of God and general support for religion were governmental prerogatives: "[T]he American constitutions contain no provisions which prohibit the authorities from such solemn recognition of a superintending Providence in public transactions and exercises as the general religious sentiment of mankind inspires. . . . Whatever may be the shades of religious belief, all must acknowledge the fitness of recognizing in important human affairs the superintending care and control of the Great Governor of the Universe, and of acknowledging with thanksgiving his boundless favors, or bowing in contrition when visited with the penalties of his broken laws."

Cooley concluded, "No principle of constitutional law is violated when thanksgiving or fast days are appointed; when chaplains are designated for the army and navy; when legislative sessions are opened with prayer or the reading of the Scriptures; or when religious teaching is encouraged by a general exemption of the houses of religious worship from taxation."

Cooley emphasized that government needs to "foster religious worship and religious institutions, as conservators of the public morals and valuable, if not indispensable, assistants to the preservation of the public order." "Public recognition of religious worship," he wrote, is based on "the same reasons of state policy which induce the government to aid institutions of charity and seminaries of instruction."

This attitude prevailed when the first Congress passed both the First Amendment and the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, which explicitly integrated religion and public education. Article III of the ordinance states: "Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged." Two years later George Washington warned, "Let us with caution indulge the supposition, that morality can be maintained without religion."

The signers of the Declaration of Independence, the Framers of the Constitution, and the members of the first Congress and the state legislatures that enacted and ratified the First Amendment humbly recognized their dependence upon God. In lamenting the absence of daily prayers during the Constitutional Convention, Benjamin Franklin asked: "[H]ow has it happened . . . that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of lights to illuminate our understandings? . . . [H]ave we now forgotten that powerful friend? or do we imagine that we no longer need his assistance? 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. . . . We have been assured . . . in the sacred writings, that 'except the Lord build the House they labour in vain that build it.'"

The Declaration of Independence humbly appeals to "the Supreme Judge of the world" and proclaims "a firm reliance on the Protection of Divine Providence," as well as referring to "the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God" and a "Creator" who endowed "all men . . . with certain inalienable Rights."

The Constitution not only refers to "the Blessings of Liberty" in its preamble, but excludes Sundays in calculating the time in which a presidential veto must be issued. Further, it deliberately integrates religion into public affairs, while not compelling the unreligious to practice faith, by providing for oaths or affirmations. If the Framers had intended to separate church and state completely and embrace secularism, then they would have provided only for affirmations.

The First Amendment was adopted to afford atheists a right to not recognize God, to be sure, but not to give them a right to preclude government from doing so or from supporting religion generally – as the seminal Commentaries on the Constitution (1833) by Justice Joseph Story show.

Justice Story explained that the First Amendment's object was "to exclude all rivalry among Christian sects, and to prevent any national ecclesiastical establishment...." "[T]he duty of supporting religion," Story emphasized, was "very different from the right to force the consciences of other men, or to punish them for worshipping God in the manner which, they believe, their accountability to him requires."

Story conceived of governmental support for religion as a responsibility, rather than a prerogative, and not less important than respect for private religious beliefs. In his words, "it is the especial duty of government to foster" religion, and this duty is "wholly distinct from that of the right of private judgment in matters of religion, and of the freedom of public worship according to the dictates of one's conscience."

The current notion that public recognition of God and support for religion generally must yield to "the right of private judgment" surely would have been absurd to Justice Story. In his view, "the right of a society or government to interfere in matters of religion will hardly be contested by any persons, who believe that piety, religion, and morality are intimately connected with the well being of the state, and indispensable to the administration of civil justice."

According to Justice Story, "Probably at the time of the adoption of the Constitution, and of the amendment to it . . . , the general, if not the universal sentiment in America was, that Christianity ought to receive encouragement from the state so far as was not incompatible with the private rights of conscience and the freedom of religious worship," and that "an attempt to level all religions, and to make it a matter of state policy to hold all in utter indifference, would have created universal disapprobation, if not universal indignation."

Let's honor our history by respecting and publishing America's Declaration of Independence in the original text and format and not de-emphasize the importance of God and religion to the signers of the Declaration. Deemphasize: "to place less emphasis upon; reduce in importance, size, scope, etc." (www.dictionary.com/browse/deemphasize). Solid caps meant something in 1776 and still does!

© Michael Gaynor


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
(See RenewAmerica's publishing standards.)

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Michael Gaynor

Michael J. Gaynor has been practicing law in New York since 1973. A former partner at Fulton, Duncombe & Rowe and Gaynor & Bass, he is a solo practitioner admitted to practice in New York state and federal courts and an Association of the Bar of the City of New York member... (more)


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