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Posts Tagged ‘Constitution

The Founders Were Not Libertarians or Ayn Randers!

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To those who condemn government, I would ask you to read John Winthrop’s speeches and Scottish history.

John WinthropWinthrop’s speeches to his colony created the nation’s first free schools; he exhorted them to take care of the poor, the helpless and sick, the weak and defenseless because Jesus required it of them; his ideals caused them to create income taxation based on the religious principle of “do no harm.” He said those who have more should contribute more to the commonweal than those who have less because it was the moral thing to do to meet the needs of the commonwealth.

The South, on the other hand, as a result of the Scots-Irish immigrants came from a rougher sort as anyone who has studied Scottish history knows. Self-reliance in Scotland was necessary as civil society – and the rule of the King and Parliament and development of the commonweal – were extremely limited. That failure of government to develop a commonweal was one of the reasons why England prospered as Scotland stagnated and continuously plunged into tribal (clan) civil wars.

Prior to the Constitutional Congress, Madison, Mason and many others exhorted Jefferson and Washington to throw their hats in the ring with them to create a new national government out of the ashes of a dysfunctional Confederation. Finally, when representatives met, outside of the Confederation Congress, the members spent months writing and arguing the Constitution – without the Bill of Rights. Newspapers and tavern discussions dominated conversations across the states: how should a federal government be limited; does a new constitution need to explicitly state individual and state rights; should rights devolve to the people first or to the states first; should a federal government take pre-eminence over states. Those arguments consumed Americans and filled the newspapers.

Madison joined with Hamilton in arguing in the Federalist Papers that the nation needed a strong central government to deal with the challenges facing the new nation. England still threatened her merchant marines and trade routes. France wanted to be repaid. Individual state coinage was a complete fiscal disaster. In short, the new nation was being torn apart. However, a new central, strong government could solve those problems, Madison and his friend thought.

Not everyone was satisfied with the idea of strong central government. States’ Righters in the South pushed to have states rights prevail over individual rights, believing that states held pre-eminence over individuals. Northerners demanded individuals take precedence over states.

Finally, a compromise was formed after the original Constitution was ratified in which citizen rights were confirmed as Northerner’s wanted and state’s rights were confirmed as Southerner’s wanted. The outcome was the Bill of Rights.

Later, Washington came down on the side of strong federal government, which after much discussion, allowing Hamilton to set up a national bank and pay off the nation’s debts over Jefferson’s objections.

When I read Libertarians demand devolution or elimination of federal powers, I harken back to the arguments of our founders. None of them were Libertarians as many Libertarians would described today. The main disagreement that had existed two centuries ago was between the pre-eminence of individual rights via a strong federal government or state rights which held to a weaker federal government. It was not whether a person could opt out of societal responsibility, previously known as the commonweal, for self-interest. Although the North held to a stronger belief in social responsibility, the South really did not dispute those notions entirely. Even clans built strong social networks.

A month or so ago, I read a speech – or book preface – in which Libertarian economist and author Fredrick Hayek wrote that he was not a conservative. He wrote that conservatives look backwards, while he, a self described classical liberal, looked forward into the future. In other writings, he stated that a federal government should do what a individual cannot do alone, including building infrastructure, care for the needy, and providing health care. He wrote that these things were not against individual responsibility but rather fostered the ability of people to make decisions for themselves without destroying the social fabric (the commonweal).

The Mises Institute may be the hero of many libertarians, but Mises appears to have perverted Hayek’s concerns at a time of rising communism (authoritarian state control of industries) in parts of Europe. Fighting communism is a dead argument. Communism, in its purist form, no longer exists. Even China can no longer be called Communist. In actuality, China and Russia most clearly resemble their monarchies of the 19th Century.

Nevertheless, what some call socialism, particularly in the USA today, is nothing more than a response to the market and the requirement to compete globally. For example, 17% of GDP going to health care nationally when other OECD countries spend ~11% puts US companies at a financial disadvantage competitively. Moreover, a system based employer provided health care reduces the ability, incentive and motivation to start a new business. Even if one were to eliminate insurance companies, the costs of the health care delivery system would be beyond the financial means of a middle income family. That is why England, for example, has more start ups than the US: individuals and families don’t have to worry about being financially destroyed should a family member get sick. Essentially, the people have more freedom.

Hayek understood that essential freedom prospect and supported it. Hayek also understood the need to balance the “free market” with the need to protect the citizenry from corrupting, non-competitive legislation and legislation that would harm the public (the commons) due to industry specific, purchased legislation. Businesses will always – as they have always done – seek to protect their profits, regardless of the affects on society. That is why Hayek sought, in later years when communism was no longer a threat, to advocate for industry in general, rather than for businesses, and to protect workers from circumstances beyond their individual control.

Modern day Libertarians, all too often, align themselves less with Hayek and more with Ayn Rand in their philosophy. Rand espoused a selfish, self-centered economic philosophy that is the antithesis of Winthrop’s commonwealth.

It is also why Romney must be defeated. While Ayn Randers and many so-called libertarians aligned with him, he does not portray the values of Winthrop that dominated the US rise to prominence throughout the last 200 years.

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I Object!

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Rebels, who objected to the economic interests of the few being placed ahead of those of the many, signing the Declaration of Independence

Whenever I read the Declaration of Independence or the Preamble to the Constitution, I am filled with pride as well as a recognition that my ancestors, along with the writers of these formidable documents, sought to create a union – a nation – in which all people were equal under the law. A nation that rejected hereditary power and the overweaning influence of the wealthy. A nation wherein a person who grew up poor had the same opportunities to succeed as someone who grew up wealthy. A nation wherein one’s talent, abilities, and drive could lead to success regardless of one’s social status, or lack thereof, or inherited wealth. Talent, ability, drive, and equity of opportunity, our founders understood were the building blocks upon which this new nation would grow and succeed.

Driven by the Enlightenment and the knowledge of generations of religious wars, they chose to create a nation wherein religious beliefs would remain private and not subjected to public endorsement or denial. Where religion was a private matter of one’s conscience, not a matter of public approval or murderous denial as had occurred in Europe over two centuries.

The Enlightenment, too, offered a new philosophy…along with the Reformation…that advocated free and accessible education to all socio-economic classes. Shakespeare was a recipient of those free classes in the 1500s. Where would literature be without his free education?

Two hundred years later, Franklin not only advocated for free public schooling in Pennsylvania but also created a business led foundation to create the first public lending library. They were men who understood that knowledge was freedom…and that without knowledge no freedom could exist.

Yet, today we see an assault on the very deeply held beliefs that our founders held and understood. For thirty some years, a segment of the wealthy (also know as rentiers) have attempted to roll back the very ideas of equity, opportunity, and education our founders supported for their own self-serving benefit.

When I think back to my own ancestors who left England and Ireland to build a new life in the backwoods of Connecticut and Delaware, I understand they sought a better life, free of the numerous restraints put upon them by the wealthy, landed upper class that controlled nearly every aspect of their lives.

Yet, as I look around our nation today, I see far too much of what our founding generations despised about Europe and why they, like my own ancestors, secreted themselves aboard ships destined for a wilderness where they could become masters of their own destiny – rather than being held down by a wealthy, powerful class more concerned about their own status than the people at large.

President Obama and the Democrats are far from perfect. They are subject to the same failures as all humans, including the failures to reject the powerful pull of money and status. But they continually indicate a belief in what our founders as well as TR and FDR stated: a country that does not provide equity of opportunity and education cannot survive long without revolt. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same of the today’s GOP. The Republican party is no longer the party of Lincoln and of freedom of opportunity and equity. It is no longer the party of my founding ancestors.

When I think back to all my ancestors who left Europe in the early 17th to early 18th Centuries as political, religious, and economic refugees, I cannot help but think about why they left behind, what they sought, and what they would think of our political system today.

My ancestors left the religious and economic wars of early 17th and 18th Centuries Europe to build better lives with more freedom of opportunity. They chose to put religious tests, from which they had all suffered, behind them and chose freedom of opportunity, including free schooling, as a revolt against the class and economic strictures that dominated their European societies.

I don’t think they would be proud of our political system today any more than TR or FDR were proud, in their eras, of a government that protected a wealthy class at the expense of the every other citizen. Perhaps their educations included the Enlightenment, the centuries of European Religious Wars, and the economic wars that occurred throughout Europe. Regardless they understood that broad based economic and educational opportunity and religious freedom created national social stability. Their policies protected capitalism from the worst of its nature and expanded freedom of opportunity to those not borne of wealth and influence.

Upon reading the first sentences of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, it is clear our founding generations believed that government should place a premium on equity of opportunity – not on existing wealth and power – and to promote the potential of every person, from the very poorest to those born most fortunate, to succeed according to their own potential, ability and drive.

Today, however, we see upon the political landscape a marked effort to over rule and over turn the very principles of opportunity and equity in which our founders and their successors believed and what caused them to leave Europe and to fight for independence. This nation today deserves better than the socio-political dessention and warring that disrupted Europe and caused millions to flee to opportunities not thought possible in old Europe.

What makes a nation strong and able to endure throughout the centuries is what our founders understood: a flattened hierarchy with strong social and governmental institutions wherein the innate ability of the people to succeed depended upon their talents and equity of opportunity, and not upon the power of a few to pervert economic policies solely in their favor.

Does the U.S. still believe in the Law?

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Liz CheneyThere’s a great deal of news in the media, sparked by Liz Cheney, daughter of VP Cheney, regarding her statements calling the Justice Department lawyers who previously represented Gitmo detainees as “terrorist sympathizers” and the “Al Qaeda 7,” among other epithets. However, our legal system says everyone, regardless of the crimes for which they are charged, should and must be given legal representation. That is one of the most remarkable aspects of our legal system as written into our Constitution.

Ted Olson, who worked for both Reagan and GW Bush, lost his wife in the 9/11 attacks. Nevertheless, he co-wrote an article for Legal Times in 2007 – when other attorneys for the defense and a judge where being attacked for their defined legal responsibilities – in which (Olson-Katyal1-22-07) he stated:

With the war on terror, which unfortunately may go on for generations, America doesn’t have any margin for error. The legal issues that surround this war are enormously intricate and don’t lend themselves to sloganeering-based solutions. When government officials are called “war criminals” and
when public-interest lawyers are called “terrorist huggers,” it not only cheapens the discourse, it scrambles the dialogue. The best solutions to these difficult problems will emerge only when the best advocates, backed by weighty resources,bring their talents to bear. And the heavy work of creating solutions for these complicated issues can only move forward when the name-calling ceases.

THIS IS REAL PATRIOTISM

An American patriot, John Adams, once defended a group of British soldiers who were accused of killing Americans in what was dubbed the Boston massacre. No one else wanted to take their case, but Adams believed that everyone deserved a fair trial. He and his law practice were threatened, but Adams stood strong. Although he was later elected president, Adams maintained that his defense of the British soldiers was “one of the best pieces of service I ever rendered my country.”

Working as an attorney for the government or on behalf of a detainee pro bono doesn’t make an individual a hero, nor does it insulate the individual from criticism. But such criticism would be more constructive if it focused on the merits of the particular position being argued rather than personally on the advocate.

I realize that Ms. Cheney, who worked in the Bush State Department, seeks to preserve the reputations of her father and herself, but in her attacks against these lawyers she trounces all over the Constitution and our centuries old ideals of juris prudence. It is a basic tenet of our judicial system, stretching back centuries into the English common law, that anyone accused of a crime, regardless of how heinous the crime, has the right to a defense attorney. Our Constitution states “innocent until proven guilty.” The intent of this juris prudence is to protects the innocent from malicious and false attacks such as occurred during the Salem Witch Trials. To give everyone a fair trial, based on the merits and evidence of the case.

Even Hitler’s captured high-ranking minions during the Nuremburg trials were afforded attorneys for the defense. In giving even the worst criminals a chance to defend themselves in a court of law, we defend not only our legal principles but the ancient laws of Moses.

To attack the attorneys who are doing their professional and legally bound duties of being terrorist sympathies – and other foul names – is like accusing the defense attorneys at Nuremburg of being Nazi sympathizers or Jew haters. It is just plain wrong. No two ways about it.

Unfortunately, the media continues to give Ms. Cheney’s radical and flagrant abuse of Constitutional justice air time.

Someone should just tell her to shut up and go home.

Written by Valerie Curl

March 5, 2010 at 8:04 PM

Of course, nothing gets done….

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So, do you ever wonder why DC doesn’t seem to get anything done? As Newsweek writes:

Such is the lament of the party out of power in Washington. Republicans on Capitol Hill say they have many good ideas and want to join with President Obama and the Democrats to alleviate the country’s problems. They want to collaborate on a health-care bill, a jobs bill, a clean-energy bill. But they can’t, because the Democrats—intent on pushing through a radical agenda that is out of touch with real Americans—won’t listen to them. Republicans want to help the president succeed, but he won’t let them.

This isn’t true, of course—any more than it was true when the Democrats said the same thing as they dedicated themselves to thwarting George W. Bush. In zero-sum Washington, members of the opposition party have little incentive to help the president, especially if it means the credit for their actions could accrue to him and not them. If politics is the art of compromise, then politics as practiced in the capital is the art of preventing compromise at all costs. This is why, infuriatingly, our elected officials spend so much time plotting ways to stick it to the other side with “filibuster-proof super-majorities” and “nuclear options,” while the unemployment rate hovers in the double digits and 46 million Americans go without health insurance. It is why not a single GOP senator voted for the health-care bill now stalled in Congress, and why Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell turned against a GOP-inspired plan for a deficit commission once Obama endorsed the idea.

A handful of Republicans—Sen. Olympia Snowe on health care, Sen. Bob Corker on financial reform—have tried on their own to break from this tit-for-tat and deal with Democrats. They see what most politicians know but don’t talk about: that on many issues, the differences between the two sides are not nearly so great as the party bosses would have us believe. Too often it is politics, not policy, that stymies progress.

So, what I want to know is when will this country decide to break the hold on our republic by the Old South which currently dominates

Old South Reb yelling

Old South Reb yelling against North

Republican the leadership in Congress? This is the same Old South that held the original Articles of Confederation and the Constitution hostage until they won the right to retain not only slaves but the right to vote every slave as a 3/5 person for which they cast the ballot as landholders. Remember, non-landholders originally were denied the vote.

Pre-Civil War Southern States fight against Northern States

Pre-Civil War, Southern States fighting against Northern States

As a result of these maneuvers early in our constitutional statehood, the South enjoyed a great deal of primacy and electoral power. Alexander Hamilton, the father of our federalist economic system and closest adviser to Geo. Washington, often railed against the Southern block as did many other of our founding fathers, including Ben Franklin, from the Federalist north.

It seems to me, now that we have a Black President, that we’re once again locked in a battle between the North and South.

Written by Valerie Curl

February 23, 2010 at 7:19 AM

Thoughts on the headlines

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From the headlines:

The 10th Amendment is becoming a rally point for the Tea Party Movement. That’s the one that says,

“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

Strange that no one mentions Article 1, Section 7?

Growing populace outrage over the government spending. But no one says what they’d cut. Hmm….

Too much socialism. So, shall we eliminate social security, medicare, medicaid, unemployment benefits, federal aid to education, federal pension security, etc?

The divisions within the public are too numerous to recount. We have a severely divided public, arguing and angry. However, those with the loudest voices provide few if any solutions. We have a Congress (both houses) who appear more interested in winning elections than serving the public good.

What are the answers?

Written by Valerie Curl

January 18, 2010 at 8:28 AM

Federal debt: the genesis.

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While I’ve chosen to stay away from politics lately to focus on business, I have to depart slightly from that choice today. Much has been made lately in the media and blogosphere about the national debt, claiming that Obama is responsible for the $2 trillion – and rising – debt. However, the national debt level is a business issue, not just a political issue.

Not only does a sizeable portion of the federal budget go to pay the interest on the debt, it’s very possible that if the debt continues to rise, interest rates on that debt will rise, costing even more to service our debt. It’s kind of like the credit card companies saying we’re no longer sure of your credit worthiness so we’re going to raise your interest rates to slow or stop your borrowing. That debt creates an environment which overtaxes businesses as well as families.

Moreover, as interest rates rise on the national debt, so too do they rise on business borrowing. And the more businesses have to pay in interest on short term and long term business borrowing, the less they have to expand their businesses, hire new workers, and so on. Huge national deficits, simply put, are unsustainable for the nation, for families, and for business.

Regardless, though, of the existing national debt, President Obama has the powers to spend not one dime. That authority is left strictly in the combined hands of Congress.

Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution states: The Congress shall have Power to lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the Defence and general Welfare of the United States but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States.

Section 8 and 9 go on to enumerate the powers granted to Congress. Nowhere in the Constitution is the power to spend money given to the President. Nowhere in the Constitution does it say that the President is to develop the Federal Budget.

All powers to raise and spend money are granted exclusively to Congress. The President can only advise and request. It is left to Congress, specifically to the House of Representatives, to decide how to “lay and collect” funds and how to spend them.

So, when did all this debt arise? The New York Times’ analysts dove in the issue.

The story of today’s deficits starts in January 2001, as President Bill Clinton was leaving office. The Congressional Budget Office estimated then that the government would run an average annual surplus of more than $800 billion a year from 2009 to 2012. Today, the government is expected to run a $1.2 trillion annual deficit in those years.

You can think of that roughly $2 trillion swing as coming from four broad categories: the business cycle, President George W. Bush’s policies, policies from the Bush years that are scheduled to expire but that Mr. Obama has chosen to extend, and new policies proposed by Mr. Obama.

The first category — the business cycle — accounts for 37 percent of the $2 trillion swing. It’s a reflection of the fact that both the 2001 recession and the current one reduced tax revenue, required more spending on safety-net programs and changed economists’ assumptions about how much in taxes the government would collect in future years.

About 33 percent of the swing stems from new legislation signed by Mr. Bush. That legislation, like his tax cuts and the Medicare prescription drug benefit, not only continue to cost the government but have also increased interest payments on the national debt.

Mr. Obama’s main contribution to the deficit is his extension of several Bush policies, like the Iraq war and tax cuts for households making less than $250,000. Such policies — together with the Wall Street bailout, which was signed by Mr. Bush and supported by Mr. Obama — account for 20 percent of the swing.

About 7 percent comes from the stimulus bill that Mr. Obama signed in February. And only 3 percent comes from Mr. Obama’s agenda on health care, education, energy and other areas.

If the analysis is extended further into the future, well beyond 2012, the Obama agenda accounts for only a slightly higher share of the projected deficits.

Nevertheless, the Times makes it clear that if the Democrats are lining up behind Obama policies, the Republicans are not exactly coming out with any viable alternatives. For example, the Times states:

But Congressional Republicans aren’t, either. Judd Gregg recently held up a chart on the Senate floor showing that Mr. Obama would increase the deficit — but failed to mention that much of the increase stemmed from extending Bush policies. In fact, unlike Mr. Obama, Republicans favor extending all the Bush tax cuts, which will send the deficit higher.

Republican leaders in the House, meanwhile, announced a plan last week to cut spending by $75 billion a year. But they made specific suggestions adding up to meager $5 billion. The remaining $70 billion was left vague. “The G.O.P. is not serious about cutting down spending,” the conservative Cato Institute concluded.

What, then, will happen?

“Things will get worse gradually,” Mr. Auerbach predicts, “unless they get worse quickly.” Either a solution will be put off, or foreign lenders, spooked by the rising debt, will send interest rates higher and create a crisis.

I willingly admit I am a social liberal. I don’t care if a person is green, blue, black, white, brown, or yellow. I don’t care if a person likes males or females. None of that is my business, and it doesn’t matter when it comes to business. What does matter, to me as a fiscal conservative, is fiscal responsibility and solutions orientation. Right now, I’m not seeing much of either in Congress, either on the Democratic side or the Republican.

Nevertheless, to blame Obama for the fiscal mess this country is in equates to blaming a newly-appointed CEO of a company on the edge of bankruptcy. It’s like blaming the mouse that enters a house full of holes: damn the mouse but ignore the holes. The job of Congress is to fix the problem, not play one-upmanship. Yet, all we’re seeing out of Congress is party politics, not solutions.

Government vs. the modern Promotion of Christianity

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My son-in-law and I enjoy many animated but mild conversations on the Constitution and the intent behind the Founding Fathers wording of the Bill of Rights. As a committed, devout Mormon and strict Constitutionalist, I suspect his gift to me this year was meant to alter my mind regarding the First Amendment. Or maybe he just wanted to give us something else to discuss.

A year ago, I told him the Queen Elizabeth I outlawed violent persecution of Catholics as revenge for what her sister had done to Protestants by saying that the practice of religion was a matter of conscience. Her words more exactly were that she would not peer into a man’s conscience regarding religion.

So, this year my son-in-law gave me Steven Waldman’s book, Founding Faith. In the book, Waldman uses historical records to elaborate on the faith of the Founding Fathers to explain the religious foundations of the United States and how the First Amendment came into being.

According to Waldman’s research, the U.S. was Christian at its’ conception. I doubt there is any disagreement of this fact as the early settlers were all from England – and later from Germany, Holland and other Northern European nations where one form or another of Christianity was practiced. However, many Christian sects – Anglican, Episcopal, Presbyterian, Baptist, Quaker, Congregational, Catholic and others – were practiced and/or violently discriminated against in the colonies. One has only to look at Catholic France to see the extreme violence practiced against Calvinist Huguenots (French Puritans) to understand the enmity that existed between varying Christian sects.

Waldman records that enmity as having existed in the colonies as well: popish Catholics being hated overall; Quakers being considered too anti-American in their pacifisms or too fond of Blacks; Baptists as not legitimate; Massachusetts and Connecticut approving only Puritan Congregationalists, and so on.

In each colony, each dominant religious sect sought to preserve its dominance even as the Revolution proceeded. However, Washington, leading an army of religiously diverse men, recognized that choosing one religious sect over another would be disastrous to the army…and to the country he was fighting to build. Thus, he sought to eliminate religious sectarianism in the ranks of his Army as well as during his years in public office.

Later during the Congressional Convention, men like James Madison, Geo. Mason and Baptist leader John Leland, who fought against religious discrimination in their home states, led the way to prohibit the national government from becoming involved, in any way, in religion. “At the Massachusetts convention, the Reverend Isaac Backus declared that religious tests had been the ‘greatest engine of tyranny in the world’ and praised the revolutionary new document (the Constitution sans Bill of Rights) for recognizing that ‘Nothing is more evident both in reason and Holy Scriptures, than that religion is ever a matter between God and individuals; and, therefore no man or men can impose religious test without invading the essential prerogatives of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ ‘After Pennsylvania ratified…. Watching from the side, Dr. Benjamin Rush noticed a rabbi [heretofore Jews having been banned in every colony from property ownership, business, and schools] and two Christian ministers marching arm in arm and thought it a perfect symbol of the Constitution’s ban on religious tests.’ “

But as Madison found when he returned home to Orange County, VA, the Constitution did not go far enough to secure the people’s right to religious freedom…or what was commonly called “freedom of conscience.”

What Madison had learned throughout his education at the College of New Jersey (later Princeton), an evangelical seminary known as both a citadel for republicanism and a haven for dissenting Presbyterianism, and in his travels was that religion was an individual choice – a matter of conscience for each person – and that no other person had the right to abridge that freedom of conscience. To him, the practice of any religion was a God given freedom of conscience. Thus, to say that government had the right or authority to tax or promote one religious sect over another was an abridgment of the freedom of conscience. It was his belief that religion was best served when government stayed out it completely.

What Madison sought from Congress, as he had from the Virginia Legislature earlier in his political career, was an assurance that government would not be involved in the sponsorship or promotion of religion in any way. Even though having been a Christian, he believed that religion was best served if government had no part in it. In this, Thomas Jefferson, who held a mild Christian attitude, influenced Madison. Jefferson believed in Christianity, as did all of his political contemporaries, but he held some purely anachronistic views, i.e. that Jesus was not born of a virgin or was The Son of God. He did believe that the philosophical views of Jesus were the best that had passed down through the ages of the human race.

Jefferson firmly believed that Christianity was best when government left it alone. That is, when government played no part in its recommendation or assistance or promotion.

While this ideology was commonplace in Franklin’s Pennsylvania, it was fairly new and different in Virginia and elsewhere in the colonies – in Massachusetts and Connecticut, in particular, where government sponsorship and taxation promoted and paid for a particular brand (sect) of Christianity.

As a result of Madison’s travels to Pennsylvania and potentially his tutelage from Jefferson, Madison developed the ideal that government – any government, whether national or state – should very strictly stay out of the realm of religion.

Thus, after Madison put the First Amendment to the House of Representatives, he agreed to New Hampshire Representative Samuel Livermore’s rewording: “Congress shall make no laws touching religion, or infringing the rights of conscience.” After much argument in the House and the Senate, the final wording is as we know it today: “Congress shall make no laws respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

Moreover, he believed that religion, if left alone without government help or assistance of any kind, would thrive and grow based on it’s own great merits…and that if government interfered or chose to assist it in any way, religion would weaken as had the Catholic Church in Europe. Madison, as most of his contemporaries, was a student of the Enlightenment and the Great Awakening. They understood the religious arguments of previous generations as well as those of their day. And they also knew that when government became involved with religion, by choosing one religious sect over another, that people died: when the rights of the minority are sacrificed to the majority, people suffer.

In the Federalist Papers, Madison argued this point, and in particular that government –keeping religion in mind – should prevent the majority from denying the rights of the minority. Given the violent religious discrimination Madison witnessed in Virginia prior to becoming a member of congress, he firmly believed that religion was best served when government was prohibited from partaking in religious delegation or general designation for the populace.

As he decided from first hand observation, when government becomes involved with a particular religion or religious sect, the majority ends up practicing extremes of cruelty against the minority. Thus, it is best for religion that government, whether national or stare, divorce itself entirely from religion of any sort. Only then will parishioners of religion, of whatever name, enjoy the choice of freedom of conscience. Only when government, in its entirety, is separated from religion will religion thrive.

Written by Valerie Curl

January 1, 2009 at 5:29 PM

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