The Watering Hole, Monday, December 28th, 2015: No Religious Test?

I ran across this opinion piece at christianpost.com [and for more religious wackiness, check out some of the stories on their home page] and felt it was a perfect example of the ridiculousness of the “Christian Nation” argument. In it, Reverend Mark H. Creech cherry-picks references from some version of the bible, from early American historical documents, and from the Star-Spangled Banner.

Recently, WTVD News ABC 11 for Raleigh-Durham reported that the mayor of Franklin, North Carolina, Bob Scott has a long tenure of public service. He was in the Army as a public affairs officer. He flew in the Civil Air Patrol. He spent ten years on the Franklin Board of Alderman.

Each time he was sworn into office he placed his left hand on the Bible to take his oath. But this year, which will make his second term as Franklin’s mayor, he decided to do something different. He decided he wouldn’t use the Bible, but instead swear upon a copy of the Constitution.

According to WTVD, Scott said that he had been thinking about the matter for a long time.

“I realized we are taking an oath to defend the Constitution, pure and simple, and those are the laws of the land. And If I’m gonna give an oath, that’s what I’m giving an oath to. It had nothing to do with religion — for or against — just swearing to protect and defend the Constitution,” said Scott.

Regarding the office of any public official, Scott also said, “We do not represent any religion, what we represent are the laws of the land. As far as I am concerned, there is no place in government for religion. I’m a secularist in that respect. I just don’t think there’s a place for any kind of religious doctrine in government because we represent everybody.”

The woeful ignorance of Scott’s view is breathtaking. You can no more separate our nation’s form of government from the Christian religion than you can separate smoke from fire or water from ice.

Granted, at the start of our fledgling republic, there was a severing of the politico-ecclesiastical ties that had long existed between the church and state. But the separation of the two did not mean the severance of our way of government from God, or from its basis — the Christian religion. As John Quincy Adams, the sixth president of the United States stated, the American Revolution connected in “one indissoluble bond the principles of civil government and the principles of Christianity.”

This fact is voluminously evident in such matters as the biblical worldview that shaped the resistance of the colonists to King George’s tyranny, the Declaration of Independence’s references to “Nature’s God,” the “Creator,” the “Supreme Judge of the world” and its signers acknowledgement of “a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence.” This is not to mention the repeated presidential and congressional calls for prayer and days of fasting in periods of great national challenges throughout American history.  [HUH?]

Scott may claim that there is “no place in government for religion,” but even something as simple as the concluding words of our National Anthem summarize the United States was birthed out of a religious commitment — out of a commitment to God.

“Blessed with victory and peace, May this heaven rescued land, Praise the Power that hath made And preserved us a nation!

“Then conquer we must, When our cause is just; And this be our motto, ‘In God is our trust!’**

“And the star-spangled banner in, Triumph shall wave, O’er the land of the free, And the home of the brave.

Scott may have chosen to take his oath on the Constitution, but neither can he remove that great document from its Christian influences. Stephen McDowell and Mark Beliles, in their book, Liberating the Nations, point out that James Madison, who has justly been referred to as the “Father” of the US Constitution, was a tremendous Christian statesman that delineated the biblical responsibilities of government in its preamble:

To establish justice — the goal of government as taught in Romans 13 and I Peter 2:14 is to punish evildoers and to protect those who do right.

To ensure domestic tranquility — a phrase that comes from the focus of prayer for government, which instructs us to pray “in order that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.”

To provide for the common defense — “The protection of innocent human life is at the base of not only capital punishment (Gen. 9:6) but also in the provision of an army for protection from external threats.”

To promote the general welfare — Romans 13:4 says that civil rulers are servants of God “to you for good.”

To secure the blessings of Liberty — Liberty is a gift from our Creator, not simply a privilege granted by the government. The government should secure the God-given rights of every man to his life, liberty, and property.

No wonder Noah Webster said, “The religion which has introduced civil liberty is the religion of Christ and his apostles … to this we owe our free constitutions of government.”

Moreover, these are some of the same reasons George Washington in his farewell address warned:

“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars …The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked where is the security for prosperity, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths…? And let us with caution indulge the supposition, that morality can be maintained without religion …Tis substantially true, that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government.”

Mayor Scott certainly has the right to reject putting his hand on the Bible when taking his oath of office, but his choice sends a dangerous message that places every citizen at risk. His actions declare the erroneous notion that our rights come from the state — not God.”

While there’s a lot here that should be picked apart, I’ll leave most of that to you, my readers. I’m just going to throw out a few comments regarding certain parts.

First: Who the hell sings the entire National Anthem?

Second: Noah Webster was wrong: the democratic principles of the Greeks, not “the religion of Christ and his apostles”, introduced civil liberty and “our free constitutions of government.”

Third: Mayor Scott’s decision to swear his oath of office on the Constitution is not a danger to any citizen, it is a promise to ALL American citizens to uphold our rights as granted by the Constitution – NOT by the Reverend’s, or anyone else’s, god. No one’s god can take away my rights as a U.S. citizen.

Fourth: Obviously I disagree with George Washington’s notion that morality is dependent upon religion; however, I must point out that Reverend Creech left out an important line that followed the Washington quote he referenced:

“Promote then, as an object of primary importance, institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge. In proportion as the structure of a government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be enlightened.”

If only George Washington could have foreseen the bastardization that is Liberty University.

**According to www.treasury.gov, we can blame adding the motto “In God We Trust” to U.S. coinage (not on paper currency) on Salmon P. Chase, who apparently was totally ignorant of the First Amendment. An excerpt:

The motto IN GOD WE TRUST was placed on United States coins largely because of the increased religious sentiment existing during the Civil War. Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase received many appeals from devout persons throughout the country, urging that the United States recognize the Deity on United States coins. From Treasury Department records, it appears that the first such appeal came in a letter dated November 13, 1861. It was written to Secretary Chase by Rev. M. R. Watkinson, Minister of the Gospel from Ridleyville, Pennsylvania, and read:

Dear Sir: You are about to submit your annual report to the Congress respecting the affairs of the national finances.

One fact touching our currency has hitherto been seriously overlooked. I mean the recognition of the Almighty God in some form on our coins.

You are probably a Christian. What if our Republic were not shattered beyond reconstruction? Would not the antiquaries of succeeding centuries rightly reason from our past that we were a heathen nation? What I propose is that instead of the goddess of liberty we shall have next inside the 13 stars a ring inscribed with the words PERPETUAL UNION; within the ring the allseeing eye, crowned with a halo; beneath this eye the American flag, bearing in its field stars equal to the number of the States united; in the folds of the bars the words GOD, LIBERTY, LAW.

This would make a beautiful coin, to which no possible citizen could object. This would relieve us from the ignominy of heathenism. This would place us openly under the Divine protection we have personally claimed. From my hearth I have felt our national shame in disowning God as not the least of our present national disasters…

As a result, Secretary Chase instructed James Pollock, Director of the Mint at Philadelphia, to prepare a motto, in a letter dated November 20, 1861:

Dear Sir: No nation can be strong except in the strength of God, or safe except in His defense. The trust of our people in God should be declared on our national coins.

So, America has “Divine protection”? Coulda fooled me.

 

UPDATE:  Being ever so suspicious of religious quotes attributed to our Founders (or their children), Wayne checked and found out the John Quincy Adams quote above is a fake quote.  The words were written by John Wingate Thornton and are believed to be Thornton’s summary of a concept he attributed to John Quincy Adams.  Whether they represent Adams’ views or not, they are not his words, they are Thornton’s.

 

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