Part 5: A New U.S. Constitution

“I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power.”

Thomas Jefferson, letter to W.C. Jarvis, 1820

The higher the education obtained by all American youth and young adults—in some cases, students in their 40’s or 50’s even—university studies have shown the more likely those citizens will be civically engaged and as a result regularly vote in national, state, and local elections with needed intellectual prudence.

the University of Texas – Austin Clock Tower

My hope in writing this series is to assemble or reassemble the vital links between civic virtues and privileges, initiate adequate literacy, and most importantly clarify and restore some historical and U.S. Constitutional literacy. In doing so, my vision and hope is that any who might read this series will find some tools and/or ideas that inspire them to become more civically understanding, thoughtful, tactful, more civically wise, respectful, and inclusively tolerant, engaged American citizens. This is truly my hope. And I am certain that our nation’s six core Founding Fathers would agree with and support this objective. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt eloquently and profoundly put this mission into pristine focus:

“Our children [and adults alike] should learn the framework of their government and then they should know where they come in contact with the government, where it touches their daily lives, and where their influence is exerted on the government. [This] must not be a distant thing, someone else’s business, but they must see how every cog in the wheel of a democracy is important and bears its share of responsibility for the smooth running of the entire machine.”

Emphasis mine

Another hope and reason I am writing this in-depth series is really quite simple. It has already been summed up brilliantly by one of our country’s most famous prolific Presidents:

“The ballot is stronger than the bullet.”

Abraham lincoln

There is no debate whatsoever that since August of 1966, at the University of Texas Clock Tower and the random murder of 17 people, 33 wounded, gun-violence and mass shootings in the U.S. has only skyrocketed and today has become almost normal and expected. As of May 23, 2023, fifty-seven years later, domestic violence or homicide by guns in the U.S. resulting in death has already reached 16,652, of which 236 were mass shootings or mass murders. A staggering and appalling increase just in the last ten years; mindboggling really.

Obviously, during the last 20-30+ years Americans and their (representative?) Congress members are not comprehending the alarming, epidemic rise of gun-violence in their own country and townships, much less comprehending Lincoln’s famous, prophetic statement above. What has to be done? What must be done?

We have been doing NOTHING all this time,
and why is it STILL not working!?

A very dear friend of mine

One of my strong recommendations or reply to those profound quotes are 1) do precisely what Eleanor Roosevelt lays out above, 2) once gaining an above-average or higher understanding of how your own government is legally bound by/to the U.S. Constitution, get engaged with it and assure your/our government officials perform their sworn duties strictly within the U.S. Constitution’s legal boundaries. Yes, I am saying become an aficionado or Constitutional para-legal. If all of us don’t do this, we see over the last 57-years the dire consequences! And finally 3) find inspiration and initial steps or action-plans from this series to implement #1 and #2.

Let’s pickup where we left off in Part 4.

We Are Not An Athenian-styled Direct Democracy!

We were never originally designed to be or become an Athenian-styled government! Though the delegates of the Philadelphia Convention in 1787 had fire-branded arguments over how the president should be elected and exactly how much voting power individual states should have in Congress, in the end they had constructed a near satisfactory balance—that is, for 1787 and the foreseeable future. They had not, however, satisfactorily resolved the glaring issue of elites, specifically the wealthy, controlling or heavily influencing government policy at the demise of equal influence by the ordinary, “surviving” citizens. This fervent, often nasty battle both then and today is/was really about elitism and populism. It still very much matters right now in the 21st-century and foreseeable future.

ancient Athenian government – fresco by Cesare Maccari (1889)

Many of us today might consider the importance of elitism vs. populism as critical to individual, political human rights. On the contrary, it was not so simple as that in 1787 during the convention in Philadelphia. The fact is that even though the original Founding Fathers believed in general civil equality, they were quite opposed to full political equality to the masses, yes, even lowly white-caucasian men, let alone non-whites or non-elites. Why?

Simple answer: pedigree and socio-educational status and merit.

Let me point out again: socio-educational achievements. That is exactly what Eleanor Roosevelt was also endorsing over 160-years later, perhaps on several levels in opposition to the original Founding Fathers’ concepts. Most of the Philadelphia delegates also felt gerrymandering was perfectly acceptable in gaining or maintaining one’s political party’s government control and interests. Believe it or not, most of the Founding Fathers felt it was quite normal to posses and to widely allow racist views/opinions, employ methods of wealth discrimination, exhibit (privately and publicly) prejudice toward non-heterosexuals, and freely show or verbalize misogynistic prejudices and behaviors. Yes, believe it or not this was indeed our lauded Founders and their well-known 18th-century mindsets. However, after one or two generations and by the 19th– and 20th-centuries this began to change. A much more inclusive view of truer political equality and representation for all Americans began to emerge.

For example, popular pressure pushed into legal adoption for the 17th Amendment:

The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each state, elected by the people thereof, for [a term of] six years; and each Senator shall have one vote. The electors in each State shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the State legislators. […]

Amendment Xvii, ratified April 8, 1913

Sadly, in 2020 New York elected Republican House Representative, George Santos, somehow completely bypassed, undermined, and invalidated the entire 17th Amendment protocols and legal enforcement of our Constitution, including my emphasis of it above. How was this possible? This is the deteriorating distorted condition of our very own Constitution by our own (Republican?) elected officials not doing their proper, oath-avowed jobs. Period. No debate.

Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., speaks to reporters outside after an effort to expel him from the House, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, May 17, 2023. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Nevertheless, the popular movements of the early 20th-century were instrumental in increasing political equality for Americans. There has been a growing confidence and fact for the long-term effects of a truer representative government that can and will make better decisions when there is much less “elite” control of our institutions, specifically by the wealthiest that far too often govern or manipulate government to serve their own personal interests. The 19th-century progressive democratization of equal political rights in America improved the performance and duties of our representative government demanding its leaders to at least consider or truthfully represent its constituent’s broader interests and viewpoints in making legislative decisions. And more importantly, holding those government representatives accountable to their avowed office’s duties! This popular 20th-century movement had massively profound effects for the nation and its people.

For example, the public pressure directly induced our anti-trust laws that rightly control or manage massive concentrations of economic-political power such as the Rockefeller-founded Standard Oil Trust, that is now today known as ExxonMobil, the LARGEST investor-owned oil company in the entire world. Yet, this is to be expected. Truth be known of this uniquely American tradition: history has shown our government institutions often bow to controlling groups to change government policies to favor super wealthy mega-corporations.

Our Constitution’s Flaws and Failures

Contrary to these excellent 20th-century popular federal reforms, our antiquated 18th-century Constitution has two different, but equally fatal flaws written into it:

  1. They undermine and consequently violate modern standards and definitions of republican political equality.
  2. They also repeatedly have more anti-democratic effects than when they did when they were created.

What do I mean exactly by these two flaws? For one, Supreme Court justices receive lifetime tenures when appointed, an 18th-century mindset due to average lifespans then. Second, each state in the Union receives equal voting rights in the Senate and in the Electoral College, despite those with miniscule populations. Third, the Supreme Court’s 2019 landmark decisions stating the Constitution permits perpetual, partisan manipulations of upcoming elections via gerrymandering. Fourth, the incredibly obdurate Article V procedures for Constitutional amendments, which will be further addressed later in this series. Fifth, the Presidential powers of judicial review and veto being not just controversial, but anti-democratic as well.

The U.S. Supreme Court is often considered to reside outside of American politics, that it was originally designed to be the final arbiter of equal justice according to the Constitution and its laws. Hence, it should also act as guardian and interpreter of the Constitution and laws of the land. Though this impression of the nation’s highest court is correct in theory, it is not true in practice; never has been since 1787. Why is this? The quick simple answer is that it was never designed to be “outside” of civil or congressional-executive politics.

As mentioned earlier, justices are not elected by the general public. Justices, as also mentioned, are appointed by the standing President then confirmed by the current Senate. Justices serve on the Court for their lifetimes unless impeached by the House of Representatives, which requires a supermajority vote—i.e. 290 votes from 435 representatives—then followed by a conviction in the Senate. Obviously, impeachment is near impossible when Party-line favoritism and bias is rampant, as it is in today’s politics. Due to these 1787 design flaws, justices are literally unaccountable for their decisions by the very officials who are indeed very political!

From the very beginning, at the Philadelphia Convention, delegates imagined and drafted our Constitution for a Supreme Court composed of men chosen by a political leader, the President. And most often those personal political viewpoints of those selected men/justices aligned with that current President’s and his political party’s viewpoints. This has certainly been demonstrated since the late 1990’s but unequivocally began with President George W. Bush’s two terms.

Going back to the early 1800’s, partisan court rulings and appointments were already raging. Chief Justice John Marshall and President Thomas Jefferson exchanged heated arguments over the Supreme Court’s judicial independence, or lack of, and its final authority. Their battle started with the last minute appointments, or “midnight appointments” of strictly Federalist judges by President John Adams, himself a Federalist. Knowing full well that Marshall despised Jefferson and his Republicans, John Adam’s very last act as President and perhaps in defiance to his once closest colleague, he appointed John Marshall as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Marshall swore in Jefferson as the nation’s third president surely under degrees of resentment by both men.

The campaigns and election of 1799–1800 went down in history as one of the most divisive, partisan campaign rancor and nastiest infighting between all three Branches of Washington D.C. in American history. However, the bitterness and power-struggles between Jefferson and Marshall did not end there.

Political cartoons of 1800 American Presidential campaigns – (left) First Amendment issues, (right) Separation of Church & State issues

Over the coming years legislative, executive, and judicial wars between opposed political ideologies—primarily Jefferson vs. Marshall—culminated in at least two paramount Supreme Court decisions:

  • Stuart v Laird — In this case, 5 U.S. 299 (1803), the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the repeal of the Judiciary Act of 1801, enacted by outgoing President John Adams and his Federalist Congress, which effectively abolished the existing circuit courts. The decision also affirmed the constitutionality of requiring Supreme Court justices to ride circuit.
  • Marbury v Madison — In case, 5 U.S. 137 (1803), the Supreme Court established the principle of judicial review—the power of the federal courts to declare legislative and executive acts unconstitutional. The unanimous opinion was written by Chief Justice John Marshall.

What did these two rulings mean and do exactly? In Stuart v Laird, Jefferson was able to purge all the Federalist circuit court “midnight” judges quickly appointed by former President Adams. In doing this Adams had hoped it would maintain some residual political control for his party as he departed—instead it was a win for Jefferson. In Marbury v Madison, by asserting the power to declare acts of Congress unconstitutional (which the court would not exercise again for over fifty years), Marshall (and the Federalists) claimed for the court an enormous authoritative position as interpreter of the Constitution independent of Congress and the White House—a win for Marshall and Adams.

As a result of these early 19th-century power-authority battles, today we see the same heated, divisive political wars continue over Supreme Court Justice appointments and those justices political backgrounds and affiliations, begging the question: are modern SCOTUS justices truly “independent” of Washington D.C.’s political hostility and influences?

As the Constitution now stands and has been practiced and/or protected for the last two-plus centuries, exactly how impactful and for how long are lifetime SC justice appointments affecting this nation’s governing? Furthermore, does the Supreme Court today adequately respond to the country’s popular will? Do lifetime appointments offer frequent decisions in favor of a minority party or group?

∼ ∼ ∼ § ∼ ∼ ∼

In Part 6: A New U.S. Constitution, I will address the problem of our modern Anti-democratic Senate and explore how we might restructure it into a more functional, civically responsive new Senate. I also plan in the next portion of the series to tackle the Electoral College, what it was designed for then, in 1804, and what it has become today. I hope all of you can join and share any thoughts or comments and feedback. Thank you as well for your continued patience with this drawn out series and understanding my daily, personal family-living situation while writing this series. My sincere gratitude to you all.

Live Well – Love Much – Laugh Often – Learn Always

The Professor’s Convatorium © 2023 by Professor Taboo is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 

The Mistaken Identity of the U.S.

The April 28th, 2015 New York Times reads:  Gay Marriage Arguments Divide Supreme Court Justices. Our country’s highest court will reconvene in June to hopefully put an end to individual states banning same-sex marriage. Supreme Court correspondent Adam Liptak for the NY Times described the proceedings and debate “…illuminated [Justices opposing same-sex marriage] conflicting views on history, tradition, biology, constitutional interpretation, the democratic process and the role of the courts prodding social change.” Their decision next month will probably go down as another landmark decision in the Supreme Court’s 200+ year history.

James MadisonHowever, like President Lincoln’s 1863 Emancipation Proclamation declared “that all persons held as slaves” within the Confederate rebellious states “are, and henceforward shall be free” did not mean freed slaves were suddenly treated fairly or not discriminated against for the following 122 years in housing, employment, or public programs as America’s Civil Rights history hideously documents. Despite the probable Supreme Court ruling in favor of same-sex marriage, there will be many states throughout the Midwest and South that will not protect gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgendered people. If abiding to the explicit or implicit letter-of-the-law put to the states by the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 followed by the 13th Amendment in 1865 were any indications of comprehensive state obedience, based on those historical reactions, though today the LGBT community has won a battle, the 122-year war is far from over. It might even get repulsive in some regions.

The controversy centers over the institution of marriage and its nature over at least the last couple of millenia. Conservatives advocate it is a sacred union before God between a man and woman. This is of course based upon Judeo-Christian dogma and traditions. The conservative right further claims these longstanding Christian tenets are woven into the nation’s Constitution, Bill of Rights, and Declaration of Independence by our Christian forefathers. By default, they claim, that makes the United States — including our Supreme Court frame-of-reference — a Christian nation.

Unfortunately for radical ultra Conservatives, this claim, that the U.S. and her founding fathers were always Christian, does not bear out in the historical records of those men. From James Huber:

The Founding Fathers were brilliant men. They spent months and months working on the Constitution. They were very, very careful about what they wrote, discussing and debating every passage at great length. It seems to me that if they had intended this to be a Christian nation they would have said so somewhere in the Constitution. The Founding Fathers had no reason to be vague. There was no ACLU, no “Activist judges.” If they had wanted a Christian Nation they could have written:

“God Almighty, in Order to form a true Christian Nation, establish Divine Justice, insure adherence to His Laws, provide for the defense of His Church, promote His Word, and secure His Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, has led us to ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

The words “Jesus” “Christ” “Bible” “God” and even “Creator” appear nowhere in the Constitution (“Endowed by their Creator” is in the Declaration of Independence.) Just how stupid would someone have to be to create a Christian nation then forget to mention Christ in the Constitution?

Also notice that nobody ever asks what the Founding Mothers might have said. There were no Founding Mothers. The Founders were all men; White men, many of them slave owners. White male slave owners who may or may not have been Christians, but explicitly forbade any kind of religious test for office. In other words, you have a far stronger case if you’d like to argue that the Founding Fathers intended us to be a racist and sexist nation.

This Is A Christian Nation?

The United States is historically and globally a very young adolescent nation. As such it has a few/many adolescent behaviors — depending on what segment of the near 320-million highly diverse population you hail from — that are good and bad on the human-decency human-rights meter. One such convoluted quagmire is our “religious history.”

Ignoring completely the already long-established Native American tribes in the 15th, 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries — well before any Europeans or Asians set foot here — immigrants from the European continent arrived, ironically, to escape religious oppression and forced beliefs by state-affiliated churches in Rome (Catholicism) and London (Church of England). Therefore, when modern evangelical conservative groups and organizations here yell the United States of America is and was created as a Christian nation by Christian forefathers,  what exactly are they wailing? What is “Christian” or Christianity? It certainly doesn’t describe America’s very first settlers: the Native American tribes! Who then are they really describing?

The leaders and immigrants of our pre-American Revolutionary Era (1775) were primarily from the British Isles (63.1%) and in significantly fewer numbers from other European countries, mostly Spain (7%) and Germany/Prussia (6.9%). Twenty percent were slaves from the African continent. All of our nation’s forefather’s who created and debated our Declaration of Independence, our Constitution, our Bill of Rights, had British and French heritage. Clearly the most influential forefathers of our country’s most hallowed documents have their roots in England and French-Huguenot civil history. A tiny lens when you ask 1,000, or 10,000, or even 500,000 Americans What is Christian? Ask the same number of Christian-believers outside of the U.S. the same question, and you will get various answers. Why different?

Simple. There are over 32,000 different denominations (from 6 primary designations) of Christianity that have different interpretations of the Canonical New Testament stories of the nature of Jesus and the authority of teaching his nature. Without getting neck-deep into that 2,000 year old mess that keeps getting messier, let’s focus on the English/French but clearly American forefathers and what they stated and inferred supporting the Separation of State and Church.

T_Jefferson_by_Charles_Willson_Peale_1791Thomas Jefferson (1742-1826)

Thomas Jefferson was a genius writer and obviously the one voted by the Founding Fathers to write our Declaration of Independence and a major contributor to other federal documents. He also authored Virginia’s Statute for Religious Freedom in 1777 and became our third President in 1801. Following are some of his written views about religion and government.

Convinced that religious liberty must, most assuredly, be built into the structural frame of the new [state] government, Jefferson proposed this language [for the new Virginia constitution]: “All persons shall have full and free liberty of religious opinion; nor shall any be compelled to frequent or maintain any religious institution”: freedom for religion, but also freedom from religion. (Edwin S. Gaustad, Faith of Our Fathers: Religion and the New Nation, San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1987, p. 38. Jefferson proposed his language in 1776.)

Our[Virginia’s]act for freedom of religion is extremely applauded. The Ambassadors and ministers of the several nations of Europe resident at this court have asked me copies of it to send to their sovereigns, and it is inserted at full length in several books now in the press; among others, in the new Encyclopedie. I think it will produce considerable good even in those countries where ignorance, superstition, poverty and oppression of body and mind in every form, are so firmly settled on the mass of the people, that their redemption from them can never be hoped. (Thomas Jefferson, letter to George Wythe from Paris, August 13, 1786.)

The Virginia act for religious freedom has been received with infinite approbation in Europe, and propagated with enthusiasm. I do not mean by governments, but by the individuals who compose them. It has been translated into French and Italian; has been sent to most of the courts of Europe, and has been the best evidence of the falsehood of those reports which stated us to be in anarchy. It is inserted in the new “Encyclopédie,” and is appearing in most of the publications respecting America. In fact, it is comfortable to see the standard of reason at length erected, after so many ages, during which the human mind has been held in vassalage by kings, priests, and nobles; and it is honorable for us, to have produced the first legislature who had the courage to declare, that the reason of man may be trusted with the formation of his own opinions….(Thomas Jefferson, letter to James Madison from Paris, Dec. 16, 1786.)

Subject opinion to coercion: whom will you make your inquisitors? Fallible men; men governed by bad passions, by private as well as public reasons. And why subject it to coercion? To produce uniformity. But is uniformity of opinion desirable? No more than of face and stature. (Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia, 1782)

Is uniformity attainable? Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth. (Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia, 1782)

No man complains of his neighbor for ill management of his affairs, for an error in sowing his land, or marrying his daughter, for consuming his substance in taverns … in all these he has liberty; but if he does not frequent the church, or then conform in ceremonies, there is an immediate uproar. (Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia, 1782)

In the Notes[on the State of Virginia]Jefferson elaborated his views on government’s keeping its distance from all religious affairs and religious opinions. “The legitimate powers of government,” he wrote, “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.” (Edwin S. Gaustad, Faith of Our Fathers: Religion and the New Nation, San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1987, pp. 42-43)

I am for freedom of religion and against all maneuvers to bring about a legal ascendancy of one sect over another. (Thomas Jefferson, letter to Elbridge Gerry, January 26, 1799.)

All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will, to be rightful, must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal laws must protect, and to violate which would be oppression. (Thomas Jefferson, “First Inaugural Address,” March 4, 1801)

…And let us reflect that, having banished from our land that religious intolerance under which mankind so long bled and suffered, we have yet gained little if we countenance a political intolerance as despotic, as wicked, and capable of as bitter and bloody persecutions. …error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it. …I deem the essential principles of our government. ..[:]Equal and exact justice to all men, of whatever state or persuasion, religious or political; …freedom of religion, freedom of the press, and freedom of person under the protection of the habeas corpus, and trial by juries impartially selected. (Thomas Jefferson, “First Inaugural Address,” March 4, 1801)

It behoves every man who values liberty of conscience for himself, to resist invasions of it in the case of others; or their case may, by change of circumstances, become his own.(Thomas Jefferson, letter to Benjamin Rush, April 21, 1803)

Jefferson wrote voluminously to prove that Christianity was not part of the law of the land and that religion or irreligion was purely a private matter, not cognizable by the state. (Leonard W. Levy, Treason Against God: A History of the Offense of Blasphemy, New York: Schocken Books, 1981, p. 335)

There are some thirty-three to forty more quotes from Thomas Jefferson regarding his stance on religious liberties and keeping questions of faith utterly separate from government enforcement but necessary for protecting any faith or belief. Feel free to research him and reconfirm these bibliographical references.

John-Adams-YoungJohn Adams (1735-1826)

John Adams was our 2nd U.S. President from 1797 to 1801 and a prolific leader at the Constitutional Convention in 1787. These are some of his opinions on government and religion.

Thirteen governments [of the original states] thus founded on the natural authority of the people alone, without a pretence of miracle or mystery, and which are destined to spread over the northern part of that whole quarter of the globe, are a great point gained in favor of the rights of mankind. (John Adams, “A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America” (1787-1788)

We think ourselves possessed, or, at least, we boast that we are so, of liberty of conscience on all subjects, and of the right of free inquiry and private judgment in all cases, and yet how far are we from these exalted privileges in fact! There exists, I believe, throughout the whole Christian world, a law which makes it blasphemy to deny or doubt the divine inspiration of all the books of the Old and New Testaments, from Genesis to Revelations. In most countries of Europe it is punished by fire at the stake, or the rack, or the wheel. In England itself it is punished by boring through the tongue with a red-hot poker. In America it is not better; even in our own Massachusetts, which I believe, upon the whole, is as temperate and moderate in religious zeal as most of the States, a law was made in the latter end of the last century, repealing the cruel punishments of the former laws, but substituting fine and imprisonment upon all those blasphemers upon any book of the Old Testament or New. Now, what free inquiry, when a writer must surely encounter the risk of fine or imprisonment for adducing any argument for investigating into the divine authority of those books? Who would run the risk of translating Dupuis? But I cannot enlarge upon this subject, though I have it much at heart. I think such laws a great embarrassment, great obstructions to the improvement of the human mind. Books that cannot bear examination, certainly ought not to be established as divine inspiration by penal laws. It is true, few persons appear desirous to put such laws in execution, and it is also true that some few persons are hardy enough to venture to depart from them. But as long as they continue in force as laws, the human mind must make an awkward and clumsy progress in its investigations. I wish they were repealed. The substance and essence of Christianity, as I understand it, is eternal and unchangeable, and will bear examination forever, but it has been mixed with extraneous ingredients, which I think will not bear examination, and they ought to be separated. Adieu. (John Adams, letter to Thomas Jefferson, January 23, 1825)

In his youth John Adams (1735-1826) thought to become a minister, but soon realized that his independent opinions would create much difficulty. At the age of twenty-one, therefore, he resolved to become a lawyer, noting that in following law rather than divinity, “I shall have liberty to think for myself without molesting others or being molested myself.” (Edwin S. Gaustad, Faith of Our Fathers: Religion and the New Nation, San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1987, p. 88. The Adams quote from his letter to Richard Cranch, August 29, 1756.)

The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature; and if men are now sufficiently enlightened to disabuse themselves of artifice, imposture, hypocrisy, and superstition, they will consider this event as an era in their history. Although the detail of the formation of the American governments is at present little known or regarded either in Europe or in America, it may hereafter become an object of curiosity. It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of Heaven, more than those at work upon ships or houses, or laboring in merchandise or agriculture; it will forever be acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses…. (John Adams, “A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America” (1787-1788)

We should begin by setting conscience free. When all men of all religions … shall enjoy equal liberty, property, and an equal chance for honors and power … we may expect that improvements will be made in the human character and the state of society. (John Adams, letter to Dr. Price, as quoted by Albert Menendez and Edd Doerr, compilers, The Great Quotations on Religious Liberty, Long Beach, CA: Centerline Press, 1991, p. 1.)

Let the human mind loose. It must be loose. It will be loose. Superstition and Dogmatism cannot confine it. (John Adams, letter to John Quincy Adams, November 13, 1816)

james-madison-portraitJames Madison (1751-1836)

James Madison was the fourth U.S. President from 1809 to 1817. He was the primary author of our Bill of Rights and Constitution. Following are his ideas of church and state separation.

At age eighty-one[therefore, in 1832?], both looking back at the American experience and looking forward with vision sharpened by practical experience, Madison summed up his views of church and state relations in a letter to a “Reverend Adams”: “I must admit moreover that it may not be easy, in every possible case, to trace the line of separation between the rights of religion and the Civil authority with such distinctness as to avoid collisions and doubts on unessential points. The tendency of a usurpation on one side or the other, or to a corrupting coalition or alliance between them, will be best guarded by an entire abstinence of the Government from interference in any way whatever, beyond the necessity of preserving public order, and protecting each sect against trespass on its legal rights by others.” (Robert L. Maddox, Separation of Church and State: Guarantor of Religious Freedom, New York: Crossroad, 1987, p. 39.)

This assertion[that Madison was committed to total and complete separation of church and state]would be challenged by the nonpreferentialists, who agree with Justice Rehnquist’s dissent in the Jaffree case. Contrasted with the analysis set forth above, Rehnquist insisted that Madison’s “original language ‘nor shall any national religion be established’ obviously does not conform to the ‘wall of separation’ between church and state which latter day commentators have ascribed to him.” Rehnquist believes Madison was seeking merely to restrict Congress from establishing a particular national church. There are three problems with this contention. First, nothing in Madison’s acts or words support such a proposition. Indeed, his opposition to the General Assessment Bill in Virginia, detailed in the “Memorial and Remonstrance,” contradicts Rehnquist directly. Secondly, all of Madison’s writings after 1789 support the Court’s twentieth-century understanding of the term “wall of separation.” Third, the reference to Madison’s use of “national” simply misses his definition of the word. Madison had an expansive intention when he used the term national. He believed that “religious proclamations by the Executive recommending thanksgiving and fasts… imply and certainly nourish the erroneous idea of a national religion.” He commented in a similar way about chaplains for the House and Senate. Historical evidence lends no support to the Rehnquist thesis. And clearly Jefferson, even though absent from the First Congress, seems a far more secure source of “original intent” than Justice Rehnquist. (Robert S. Alley, ed., The Supreme Court on Church and State, New York: Oxford University Press, 1988, p. 13)

Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprize [sic], every expanded prospect. (James Madison, in a letter to William Bradford, April 1, 1774)

Congress, in voting a plan for the government of the Western territories, retained a clause setting aside one section in each township for the support of public schools, while striking out the provision reserving a section for the support of religion. Commented Madison: “How a regulation so unjust in itself, so foreign to the authority of Congress, and so hurtful to the sale of public land, and smelling so strongly of an antiquated bigotry, could have received the countenance of a committee is truly a matter of astonishment.” (Richard B. Morris, Seven Who Shaped Our Destiny: The Founding Fathers as Revolutionaries, Harper & Row, 1973, p. 206. The Congress here referred to was the Continental Congress; the Madison quote is from his letter to James Monroe, May 29, 1785)

Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity in exclusion of all other religions may establish, with the same ease, any particular sect of Christians in exclusion of all other sects? That the same authority which can force a citizen to contribute threepence only of his property for the support of any one establishment may force him to conform to any other establishment in all cases whatsoever? (James Madison, “A Memorial and Remonstrance,” addressed to the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia, 1785; from George Seldes, ed., The Great Quotations, Secaucus, New Jersey: The Citadel Press, pp. 459-460. According to Edwin S. Gaustad, Faith of Our Fathers: Religion and the New Nation, San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1987, pp. 39 ff., Madison’s “Remonstrance” was instrumental in blocking the multiple establishment of all denominations of Christianity in Virginia.)

Wherever the real power in a Government lies, there is the danger of oppression. In our Governments, the real power lies in the majority of the Community, and the invasion of private rights is chiefly to be apprehended, not from the acts of Government contrary to the sense of its constituents, but from acts in which the Government is the mere instrument of the major number of the constituents. (James Madison to Thomas Jefferson, October 17, 1788)

Strongly guarded as is the separation between Religion & Govt in the Constitution of the United States the danger of encroachment by Ecclesiastical Bodies may be illustrated by precedents already furnished in their short history. (See the cases in which negatives were put by J. M. on two bills passd by Congs and his signature withheld from another. See also attempt in Kentucky for example, where it was proposed to exempt Houses of Worship from taxes. (James Madison, “Monopolies. Perpetuities. Corporations. Ecclesiastical Endowments,” as reprinted in Elizabeth Fleet, “Madison’s Detatched Memoranda,” William & Mary Quarterly, Third series: Vol. III, No. 4 [October, 1946], p. 555. The parenthetical note at the end, which lacks a closed parenthesis in Fleet, was apparently a note Madison made to himself regarding examples of improper encroachment to use when the “Detatched Memoranda” were edited and published, and seems to imply clearly that Madison supported taxing churches.)

On Feb. 21, 1811, Madison vetoed a bill for incorporating the Episcopal Church in Alexandria and on Feb. 28, 1811, one reserving land in Mississippi territory for a Baptist Church. (James D. Richardson, Messages and Papers of the Presidents [Washington, 1896-1899], I, 489-490, as cited in a footnote, Elizabeth Fleet, “Madison’s Detatched Memoranda,” William & Mary Quarterly, Third series: Vol. III, No. 4 [October, 1946], p. 555)

Whilst we assert for ourselves a freedom to embrace, to profess and observe the Religion which we believe to be of divine origin, we cannot deny equal freedom to those whose minds have not yet yielded to the evidence which has convinced us. If this freedom be abused, it is an offense against God, not against man: To God, therefore, not to man, must an account of it be rendered. (James Madison, according to Leonard W. Levy, Treason Against God: A History of the Offense of Blasphemy, New York: Schocken Books, 1981, p. xii)

George-Washington-1797George Washington (1732-1799)

America’s first President after commanding the Continental Army against Great Britain, he is considered the Father of His Country and had these ideas about church and state.

Government being, among other purposes, instituted to protect the consciences of men from oppression, it is certainly the duty of Rulers, not only to abstain from it themselves, but according to their stations, to prevent it in others. (George Washington, letter to the Religious Society called the Quakers, September 28, 1789)

It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it was by the indulgence of one class of the people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that those who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it, on all occasions, their effectual support. (George Washington, letter to the congregation of Touro Synagogue Jews, Newport, Rhode Island, August, 1790)

The following year[1784], when asking Tench Tilghman to secure a carpenter and a bricklayer for his Mount Vernon estate, he[Washington]remarked: “If they are good workmen, they may be of Asia, Africa, or Europe. They may be Mohometans, Jews or Christians of any Sect, or they may be Atheists.” As he told a Mennonite minister who sought refuge in the United States after the Revolution: “I had always hoped that this land might become a safe and agreeable Asylum to the virtuous and persecuted part of mankind, to whatever nation they might belong….” He was, as John Bell pointed out in 1779, “a total stranger to religious prejudices, which have so often excited Christians of one denomination to cut the throats of those of another.” (Paul F. Boller, George Washington & Religion, Dallas: Southern Methodist University Press, 1963, p. 118. According to Boller, Washington wrote his remarks to Tilghman in a letter dated March 24, 1784; his remarks to the Mennonite–Francis Adrian Van der Kemp–were in a letter dated May 28, 1788)

Of all the animosities which have existed among mankind, those which are caused by difference of sentiments in religion appear to be the most inveterate and distressing, and ought most to be deprecated. I was in hopes that the enlightened and liberal policy, which has marked the present age, would at least have reconciled Christians of every denomination so far that we should never again see the religious disputes carried to such a pitch as to endanger the peace of society. (George Washington, letter to Edward Newenham, October 20, 1792)

In the Enlightened Age and in this Land of equal Liberty it is our boast, that a man’s religious tenets will not forfeit the protection of the Laws, nor deprive him of the right of attaining and holding the highest Offices that are known in the United States. (George Washington, letter to the members of the New Church in Baltimore, January 27, 1793)

Unlike Thomas Jefferson — and Thomas Paine, for that matter — Washington never even got around to recording his belief that Christ was a great ethical teacher. His reticence on the subject was truly remarkable. Washington frequently alluded to Providence in his private correspondence. But the name of Christ, in any correspondence whatsoever, does not appear anywhere in his many letters to friends and associates throughout his life. (Paul F. Boller, George Washington & Religion, Dallas: Southern Methodist University Press, 1963, pp. 74-75)

Washington’s religious belief was that of the enlightenment: deism. He practically never used the word “God,” preferring the more impersonal word “Providence.” How little he visualized Providence in personal form is shown by the fact that he interchangeably applied to that force all three possible pronouns: he, she, and it. (James Thomas Flexner, George Washington: Anguish and Farewell [1793-1799], Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1972, p. 490)

As President, Washington regularly attended Christian services, and he was friendly in his attitude toward Christian values. However, he repeatedly declined the church’s sacraments. Never did he take communion, and when his wife, Martha, did, he waited for her outside the sanctuary…. Even on his deathbed, Washington asked for no ritual, uttered no prayer to Christ, and expressed no wish to be attended by His representative. George Washington’s practice of Christianity was limited and superficial because he was not himself a Christian. In the enlightened tradition of his day, he was a devout Deist — just as many of the clergymen who knew him suspected. (Barry Schwartz, George Washington: The Making of an American Symbol, New York: The Free Press, 1987, pp. 174-175)

benjamin-franklinBenjamin Franklin (1706-1790)

Benjamin Franklin is one of America’s founding fathers, most well-known earliest scientist, outstanding statesman and foreign ambassador. Here are three of his known ideas about religion and government.

Though himself surely a freethinker, Franklin cautioned other freethinkers to be careful about dismissing institutional religion too lightly or too quickly. “Think how great a proportion of Mankind,” he warned in 1757, “consists of weak and ignorant Men and Women, and of inexperienc’d Youth of both Sexes, who have need of the Motives of Religion to restrain them from Vice, to support their Virtue, and retain them in the Practice of it till it becomes habitual, which is the great Point for its Security.” (Edwin S. Gaustad, Faith of Our Fathers: Religion and the New Nation, San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1987, p. 61)

[Benjamin]Franklin drank deep of the Protestant ethic and then, discomforted by church constraints, became a freethinker. All his life he kept Sundays free for reading, but would visit any church to hear a great speaker, no doubt recognizing a talent he himself did not possess. With typical honesty and humor he wrote out his creed in 1790, the year he died: “I believe in one God, Creator of the universe…. That the most acceptable service we can render Him is doing good to His other children…. As to Jesus … I have … some doubts as to his divinity; though it is a question I do not dogmatize upon, having never studied it, and think it needless to busy myself with it now, when I expect soon an opportunity of knowing the truth with less trouble.” (Alice J. Hall, “Philosopher of Dissent: Benj. Franklin,” National Geographic, Vol. 148, No. 1, July, 1975, p. 94)

I am fully of your Opinion respecting religious Tests; but, tho’ the People of Massachusetts have not in their new Constitution kept quite clear of them, yet, if we consider what that People were 100 Years ago, we must allow they have gone great Lengths in Liberality of Sentiment on religious Subjects; and we may hope for greater Degrees of Perfection, when their Constitution, some years hence, shall be revised. If Christian Preachers had continued to teach as Christ and his Apostles did, without Salaries, and as the Quakers now do, I imagine Tests would never have existed; for I think they were invented, not so much to secure Religion itself, as the Emoluments of it. When a Religion is good, I conceive it will support itself; and when it does not support itself, and God does not take care to support it so that its Professors are obliged to call for help of the Civil Power, it is a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one. (Benjamin Franklin, from a letter to Richard Price, October 9, 1780)

Thomas_Paine_by_Matthew_Pratt,_1785-95Thomas Paine (1737-1809)

Paine was one of only a handful of English-born American revolutionaries. He was a philosopher, political theorist and activist, and wrote several influential pamphlets during the revolution. These are his ideas about religion with government.

As to religion, I hold it to be the indispensable duty of government to protect all conscientious protesters thereof, and I know of no other business government has to do therewith. (Thomas Paine, Common Sense, 1776. As quoted by Leo Pfeffer, “The Establishment Clause: The Never-Ending Conflict,” in Ronald C. White and Albright G. Zimmerman, An Unsettled Arena: Religion and the Bill of Rights, Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1990, p. 72)

Persecution is not an original feature in any religion; but it is always the strongly-marked feature of all law-religions, or religions established by law. Take away the law-establishment, and every religion re-assumes its original benignity. (Thomas Paine, The Rights of Man, 1791-1792. From Gorton Carruth and Eugene Ehrlich, eds., The Harper Book of American Quotations, New York: Harper & Row, 1988, pp. 499-500)

Toleration is not the opposite of intolerance but the counterfeit of it. Both are despotisms: the one assumes to itself the right of withholding liberty of conscience, the other of granting it. (Thomas Paine, The Rights of Man, p. 58. As quoted by John M. Swomley, Religious Liberty and the Secular State: The Constitutional Context, Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1987, p. 7. Swomley added, “Toleration is a concession; religious liberty is a right.”)

All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish[Muslim], appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit. I do not mean by this declaration to condemn those who believe otherwise; they have the same right to their belief as I have to mine. But it is necessary to the happiness of man that he be mentally faithful to himself. Infidelity does not consist in believing, or in disbelieving; it consists in professing to believe what he does not believe. It is impossible to calculate the moral mischief, if I may so express it, that mental lying has produced in society. When a man has so far corrupted and prostituted the chastity of his mind as to subscribe his professional belief to things he does not believe, he has prepared himself for the commission of every other crime. He takes up the profession of a priest for the sake of gain, and in order to qualify himself for that trade he begins with a perjury. Can we conceive anything more destructive to morality than this? (Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason, 1794-1795. From Paul Blanshard, ed., Classics of Free Thought, Buffalo, New York: Prometheus Books, 1977, pp. 134-135)

Take away from Genesis the belief that Moses was the author, on which only the strange belief that it is the word of God has stood, and there remains nothing of Genesis but an anonymous book of stories, fables, and traditionary or invented absurdities, or of downright lies. (Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason, 1794-1795. From Gorton Carruth and Eugene Ehrlich, eds., The Harper Book of American Quotations, New York: Harper & Row, 1988, p. 494)

The most detestable wickedness, the most horrid cruelties, and the greatest miseries that have afflicted the human race have had their origin in this thing called revelation, or revealed religion. It has been the most dishonorable belief against the character of the Divinity, the most destructive to morality and the peace and happiness of man, that ever was propagated since man began to exist. (Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason, 1794-1795. From Gorton Carruth and Eugene Ehrlich, eds., The Harper Book of American Quotations, New York: Harper & Row, 1988, p. 494)

The adulterous connection of church and state. (Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason, 1794-1795. From Gorton Carruth and Eugene Ehrlich, eds., The Harper Book of American Quotations, New York: Harper & Row, 1988, p. 500)

Past U.S. Supreme Court Positions

For the simple reason that there are too many perceptions and interpretations of the nature of divinity, some a little more “plausible” than others, a constitutional democracy has no choice but to have a justice court system to protect its highly diverse citizens against abuses and tyranny of the arrogant and self-righteous. Impeding or halting attempts for one singular religious standard in civil government is paramount for the purest forms of liberty and freedom. Following are some U.S. Supreme Court cases toward that fight.

Christianity is not established by law, and the genius of our institutions requires that the Church and the State should be kept separate…The state confesses its incompetency to judge spiritual matters between men or between man and his maker… spiritual matters are exclusively in the hands of teachers of religion. (U. S. Supreme Court, Melvin v. Easley, 1860)

The law knows no heresy, and is committed to the support of no dogma, the establishment of no sect. (U. S. Supreme Court, Watson v. Jones, 1872)

[Chief Justice Morrison Waite, in Reynolds vs. U.S., a Supreme Court decision in 1878]cited Madison’s Memorial and Remonstrance of 1785, in which, said Waite, “he demonstrated ‘that religion, or the duty we owe the Creator,’ was not within the cognizance of civil government.” This was followed, said Waite, by passage of the Virginia statute “for establishing religious freedom,” written by Jefferson, which proclaimed complete liberty of opinion and allowed no interference by government until ill tendencies “break out into overt acts against peace and good order.” Finally, the Chief Justice cited Jefferson’s letter of 1802 to the Danbury Baptist association, describing the First Amendment as “building a wall of separation between church and state.” Coming as this does, said Waite, “from an acknowledged leader of the advocates of the measure, it may be accepted almost as an authoritative declaration of the scope and effect of the amendment thus secured.” (Irving Brant, The Bill of Rights: Its Origin and Meaning, Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill Co., Inc., 1965, p. 407)

… the First Amendment of the Constitution… was intended to allow everyone under the jurisdiction of the United States to entertain such notions respecting his relations to his maker, and the duties they impose, as may be approved by his conscience, and to exhibit his sentiments in such form of worship as he may think proper, not injurious to the rights of others, and to prohibit legislation for the support of any religious tenets, or the modes of worship of any sect. (U. S. Supreme Court, 1890, Darwin v. Beason)

If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion, or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein. If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not now occur to us. (Justice Robert H. Jackson, U. S. Supreme Court, West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, 1943)

The “establishment of religion” clause of the First Amendment means at least this: Neither a state nor the Federal Government can set up a church. Neither can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another. Neither can force nor influence a person to go to or remain away from church against his will or force him to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion. No person can be punished for entertaining or professing religious beliefs or disbeliefs, for church attendance or non-attendance. No tax in any amount, large or small, can be levied to support any religious activities or institutions, whatever they may be called, or whatever form they may adopt to teach or practice religion. Neither a state nor the Federal Government, can openly or secretly, participate in the affairs of any religious organization or groups and vice versa. In the words of Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect “a wall of separation between church and State.” (Justice Hugo Black, U. S. Supreme Court, Everson v. Board of Education, 1947)

The First Amendment has erected a wall between church and state. That wall must be kept high and impregnable. We could not approve the slightest breach. (Justice Hugo Black, U. S. Supreme Court, Everson v. Board of Education, 1947)

In efforts to force loyalty to whatever religious group happened to be on top and in league with the government of a particular time and place, men and women had been fined, cast in jail, cruelly tortured, and killed. Among the offenses for which these punishments had been inflicted were such things as speaking disrespectfully of the views of ministers of government-established churches, nonattendance at those churches, expressions of nonbelief in their doctrines, and failure to pay taxes and tithes to support them. (Justice Hugo Black, U. S. Supreme Court, Everson v. Board of Education, 1947)

As the momentum for popular education increased and in turn evoked strong claims for state support of religious education, contests not unlike that which in Virginia had produced Madison’s Remonstrance appeared in various forms in other states. New York and Massachusetts provide famous chapters in the history that established dissociation of religious teaching from state-maintained schools. In New York, the rise of the common schools led, despite fierce sectarian opposition, to the barring of tax funds to church schools, and later to any school in which sectarian doctrine was taught. In Massachusetts, largely through the efforts of Horace Mann, all sectarian teachings were barred from the common school to save it from being rent by denominational conflict. The upshot of these controversies, often long and fierce, is fairly summarized by saying that long before the Fourteenth Amendment subjected the states to new limitations, the prohibition of furtherance by the state of religious instruction became the guiding principle, in law and in feeling, of the American people…. (Justice Felix Frankfurter, U. S. Supreme Court, in McCollum v. Board of Education, the 1948 decision that forbid public schools in Illinois from commingling sectarian and secular instruction)

We find that the basic Constitutional principle of absolute separation was violated when the State of Illinois, speaking through its Supreme Court, sustained the school authorities of Champaign in sponsoring and effectively furthering religious beliefs by its educational arrangement. Separation means separation, not something less. Jefferson’s metaphor in describing the relation between church and state speaks of a “wall of separation,” not of a fine line easily overstepped. The public school is at once the symbol of our democracy and the most pervasive means for promoting our common destiny. In no activity of the state is it more vital to keep out divisive forces than in its schools, to avoid confusing, not to say fusing, what the Constitution sought to keep strictly apart. “The great American principle of eternal separation”–Elihu Root’s phrase bears repetition–is one of the vital reliances of our Constitutional system for assuring unities among our people stronger than our diversities. It is the Court’s duty to enforce this principle in its full integrity. We renew our conviction that “we have staked the very existence of our country on the faith that complete separation between the state and religion is best for the state and best for religion.” (Justice Felix Frankfurter, U. S. Supreme Court, in McCollum v. Board of Education, the 1948 decision that forbid public schools in Illinois from commingling sectarian and secular instruction)

The day that this country ceases to be free for irreligion, it will cease to be free for religion–except for the sect that can win political power. (Justice Robert H. Jackson, dissenting opinion, U. S. Supreme Court, Zorach v. Clausor, April 7, 1952)

We repeat and again reaffirm that neither a state nor the federal government can constitutionally force a person “to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion.” Neither can constitutionally pass laws nor impose requirements which aid all religions as against non-believers, and neither can aid those religions based on a belief in the existence of a God as against those religions founded on different beliefs. (Justice Hugo Black, U. S. Supreme Court, in Torcaso v. Watkins, the 1961 decision that Torcaso could not be required by Maryland to declare a belief in God before being sworn in as a notary public)

The government must pursue a course of complete neutrality toward religion. (John Paul Stevens, majority opinion, U. S. Supreme Court, Wallace v. Jaffree, June 4, 1985)

Protecting religious freedoms may be more important in the late twentieth century than it was when the Bill of Rights was ratified. We live in a pluralistic society, with people of widely divergent religious backgrounds or with none at all. Government cannot endorse beliefs of one group without sending a clear message to non-adherents that they are outsiders. (Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, in a speech to a Philadelphia conference on religion in public life, May 1991)

Religious beliefs and religious expression are too precious to be either proscribed or prescribed by the state. (Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, according to Mark S. Hoffman, editor, “Notable Quotes in 1992,” The World Almanac and Book of Facts 1993, New York: Pharos Books, 1992, p. 32)

These Supreme Court references to church and state separation are just a few of many more I omitted from listing here due to time and length constraints. Yet a close and thorough examination of the principle contributors of the U.S. Constitution clearly reveals the spirit of prohibiting the government to favor one religion over another or favoring religion over non-religion. Since 1971 state and lower federal courts have used with good success The Lemon Test to gauge whether a law or action violates the First Amendment.

But nothing in life is absolute, black or white, and immutable in all cases all the time. And try convincing a radical evangelical fundamentalist of impermanence and they will look at you like you have three eyes and two mouths.

The Purpose of Marriage

Ignoring and aside from the unreliability and contradictions of Christian theology, as well as the Holy Bible, many mainstream Christian institutions and organizations teach anywhere from 3 to 6 biblically based principles or reasons for marriage:

  1. To reflect God’s nature or the covenant between Christ and His Church
  2. To reproduce children
  3. To reign and protect each other in spiritual warfare
  4. To have companionship
  5. To enjoy intimacy
  6. To become complete

Again, without getting neck-deep into the validity or non-validity of the “Holy Scriptures” and its convoluted theology, a neutral bystander could easily ask “Out of these 6 reasons, what does gender have to do with ANY of them besides possibly #2!?” And #2 begs the question — in light of adoption — is conceiving children the primary reason for marriage? Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg addressed that non-issue:

“If the purpose of marriage is procreation, why are two 70-year-olds [or 80!] allowed to marry?”

marriage-by-the-numbersWe are back to the original problem…radical absolutism and those individuals or groups seeking to impose their life-beliefs onto others, even into private homes and bedrooms…exactly what European immigrants were fleeing in the 18th and 19th centuries when they arrived here. What I find ironic is that on a broader scale these same ultra Conservative American groups oppose — and are even willing to go to war over — the same type of radical absolutism in Islāmic nations like Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, northern Caucasus of Russia, Syria, and parts of central Asia where extremists seek to impose Sharia laws. It’s a fascinating comparison to say the least! But for peculiar reasons they don’t recognize the similarities.

The purpose of marriage, or a commitment to a person or persons, is quite simple. It is to become a more wholesome human being with the assistance of another desiring the same. You further enhance each other’s qualities to the benefit of your partner and to the benefit of society. This can absolutely be accomplished despite genders. Yet, to protect this intuitive truth, we as a nation need a Supreme Court. A highest court to inhibit those who wish to destroy what our Founding Fathers desired and authored to protect.

Next month, let’s hope the court falls on the correct side of history.

Added Oct. 29, 2019:
The Founding Myth_coverAndrew L. Seidel is an American constitutional and civil rights attorney, activist, and author. He is a graduate of Tulane University (’04 and ’09) with high honors. He studied human rights and international law at the University of Amsterdam. His 2019 book The Founding Myth: Why Christian Nationalism Is Un-American has been described by his colleagues and American historians as a work that “explodes a frequently expressed myth: that the United States was created as a Christian nation.” I highly recommend reading at least twice his exceptional legal examination of what our premier, core Founding Fathers actually intended for governing the United States of America through our three most hallowed documents. From the book’s forward:

[Seidel] makes the vital point that when faith is politically weaponized, religion itself is “weakened and tainted.” […]

[Seidel quotes Benjamin Franklin] …when “a Religion is good, I conceive that it will support itself; and when it cannot support itself, and God does not take care to support [it], so that its Professors are oblig’d to call for the help of the Civil Power, ’tis a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one.”

Seidel’s Table of Contents should be enough to spark your interest. From a Constitutional Law point-of-view it should force you to not only better understand that the U.S. is governed by the laws of the land, but also demand you recheck and reassess what you think you know about the founding of this nation’s federal and state governments, and what you don’t know. I mean, how many of you are board-certified Constitutional lawyers? Exactly. So take a look at the Table of Contents:



1 Interesting and Irrelevant, the Religion of the Founders
2 “Religion and Morality”: Religion for the Masses, Reason for the Founders
3 Declaring Independence from Judeo-Christianity
4 Referrals: The Declaration’s References to a Higher Power
5 Christian Settlements: Colonizing the Continent, Not Building a Nation



6 Biblical Influence
7 Christian Arrogance and the Golden Rule
8 Biblical Obedience or American Freedom?
9 Crime and Punishment: Biblical Vengeance or American Justice?
10 Redemption and Original Sin or Personal Responsibility and the Presumption of Innocence
11 The American Experiment: Religious Faith or Reason?
12 A Monarchy and “the morrow” or a Republic and “our posterity”



13 Which Ten?
14 The Threat Display: The First Commandment
15 Punishing the Innocent: The Second Commandment
16 Suppressed Speech: The Third Commandment
17 Forced Rest: The Fourth Commandment
18 On Family Honor: The Fifth Commandment
19 Unoriginal and Tribal: The Sixth, Eighth, and Ninth Commandments
20 Perverting Sex and Love: The Seventh Commandment
21 Misogyny, Slavery, Thoughtcrime, and Anti-Capitalism: The Tenth Commandment
22 The Ten Commandments: A Religious, Not a Moral Code



23 Argument by Idiom
24 “In God We Trust”: The Belligerent Motto
25 “One nation under God”: The Divisive Motto
26 “God bless America”: The Diversionary Motto

Conclusion: Take alarm, this is the first experiment on our liberties


Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always

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To Operate A Mechanical Edger

cell phone blueprintMy Mom and I have a chronic skit. Recently they are centered around the operation of her newest cell phone. The year before it was the operation of her new Dell desktop computer, the modem, router, printer, and the cosmic-concept of wifi communication. Before that, the new HD television and the list goes on.  In a repeating rhetorical exercise over the years, one of my first questions to her is usually, “Have you read the manual yet?” She knows it’s coming at some point, so she intentionally tries to sound smart, using big techy words (that are a bit outdated), to divert the inevitable question.  Numerous quippy comical jabs at each other follow, always ending in laughter. I’ve become comfortable and overly entertained with this predictable cycle. It’s always provided us several big smiles.

But that’s my mother. It doesn’t always go so well in the real world, does it?
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* * * * * * * * * *

Understanding the mechanics has so many applications in life. One common and popular application would be with your automobile(s) and driving. To get from point A to point B it is important to understand the operation of your vehicle and traffic tips and laws. Many might say it’s critical, myself included. When instructing me on the extra tips, knowledge, and nuances of driving — the stuff the nearby DMV does not cover — my father would often preempt our lesson saying “a vehicle is a lethal weapon.” Stark perspective gained Dad, thank you. He used the same type of instruction about guns, rifles, firing them, and storing them.

1-cylinder combustable engineLike myself, most of us men grew up learning and doing the outdoor chores: mowing, edging, trimming, etc. In one particular instance when I was 13-14 years old, my father saw the perfect opportunity to teach me about the love-hate marriage between me and forces bigger than me; unseen misunderstood forces that can really hurt. I posted about this lesson (Click here) if you care to read about it in more detail. To earn a little cash I would sometimes do our next-door neighbor’s yard while they were out-of-town. I had to use their lawn equipment unless I wanted to pay rent to use Dad’s. No way! Profit, profit, maximize profits was my youthful M.O.!  Cha-ching!

Their grass-edger was mechanical, a 1-cylinder driven blade on the side, as opposed to our edger, a half-moon blade I’d have to step on every 8-12 inches in the gap between concrete and grass. Starting the neighbor’s mechanical edger was a breeze, as I imagined all the dollar bills being stacked in my hand.  You pull the string just like our lawn mower. Turning it off, however, was a mystery to me. I went and got Dad to show me how. With their edger you had to push this L-shaped piece of metal onto the spark-plug to short out the electric current to the cylinder. Pffft, easy. I reached down to that piece of metal, pushed it firmly onto the spark-plug…WHAAM! I was nearly knocked to my ass! With the biggest white-eyes I looked up at Dad, bewildered. “What happened!?” I had done exactly what he told me! Dad pointed at the still running edger, “Turn it off.” I thought to myself, maybe I didn’t hold it on the spark-plug long enough. WHAAM! Once again I was nearly knocked off my feet. Now with tears in my eyes I looked up at Dad’s unphased expression… “Turn it off son.” The third time I tried to hold the metal-breaker down even longer — only making the pain worse and my muscles begin to quiver. I was on the verge of bawling when I looked at Dad’s unchanged expression.

I could not bring myself to try a fourth time. When Dad realized I couldn’t, he calmly pointed to my other hand holding the metal handle-bar. “Move that hand to the rubber-grip,” he explained “then turn it off.” The damn beast died immediately.

Forces unseen, misunderstood, and bigger than me. Check.
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college studentsMedical doctors and EMT’s must understand the mechanics of the human body to prolong lives. Marriage, love, relationships are no different. In order to communicate well with our loved ones, not only must we learn the basics of language to be understood, equally we must understand the mechanics of how others use it.  Honestly, we should want to be experts at it, both parts, and not just to get by and leave it in the grey! The mechanics of parenting and raising children are perhaps even more important and more demanding than communicating and understanding adults, do you agree? Dad was a hardened cattle-hand and rice farmer, degreed in mechanical engineering from U.T. in Austin, former U.S. Marine, and well versed in precise communication.  In his own way, correct or not, my father also knew how to use non-verbal mechanics to teach me one invaluable (life-saving?) lesson about electricity that I can never forget.  There are times when simple words will not convey the magnitude.

So why, in the settings of community, conversation, love, family, SOCIAL-MEDIA, or government and politics, are we ever content with just the bare basic mechanics of dialogue which often fall into the fog of ambiguity?

A recent example…

A good friend of mine posted on a popular social-media website (FB) a picture I felt, and obviously he did to, conveyed the absence or ineptitude of federal legislation to stay on top of Wall Street and the activity of billion-dollar interest-earning corporations. The image is above.

The message resonates deeply with me because I am and have been an educator — 5th thru 8th grade Generalist and passionate about Social Studies and Science. Our young students, primary, secondary, and certainly college, are our nation’s hope and future.  They are the potential leaders for our own children and grandchildren! The image has a lot of truth to it.  This was my comment about it to my friend:

Many a wise man have stated correctly that you give a man too much power or money, sooner or later both WILL corrupt him. History has proven the same in organizations or empires, particularly those who grow obese and disengaged from the very hands who fed them. Perhaps it is time to promote the eternal value of collective virtues rather than beguiled individual “success” or wealth. Foolish is the CEO and 1-percent who believe their ivory tower was built solely by their hands alone. Everyone enters this world from the womb of need and then one day leaves it in hospice. Never forget your REAL place in this world.

That’s my version, the short one.

Then a complete stranger to me chimed in… from here forward named Cymbal:

Cymbal:  “So people aren’t successful because of their own efforts. Spoken like a true Marxist.”

Myself:  “Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.” — Albert Einstein

Myself:  “The difference between “success” and “value” is an ocean. Wouldn’t you agree Kelly?”

Cymbal:  “Lol.. project much?”

Jax Jacqueline:  “Most of the ppl now would be way better off going to one of the countries that now offers free college for Americans.”

Myself:  “Jax, which not surprisingly explains why many nations, particularly the northern European countries, are ranked ABOVE the U.S. in a plethora of educational and quality-of-life tables. For example:

Cymbal:  “Yea I’m sure life is so much better in Poland than in the US. Or by quality of life do you mean tax payer provided services?”

Cymbal continued his snippy semi-rude remarks despite my words. For the complete debate-dialogue (if it can be called that), click here.  Click the image to enlarge.

Whether someone had the more convincing argument or position is not my concern here. My point is the minefield created between foreign parties or people, including on social-media, when lazy content basic dialogue and mechanics exist. Furthermore, what vibrates and disturbs that minefield, making it more volatile, occurs when one or both parties fail to rebalance their talking with listening, or in this case reading the entirety. It follows that the level beneath a statement(s) on the conversation-blueprint if you will, is understanding the mechanics and dynamics of the whole machine to appropriately operate it. Or in my painful childhood case, knowing How To Operate A Mechanized Electrical Edger!

I could write several posts about the enormous importance of civil debate or dialogue. Its use carries over into a long list of daily, human interactions, and the acute awareness of self. But I will spare all of you the laborious hours (laughing permitted) and skip the list. I do, however, want to share some film clips from two Directors who more eloquently express what it is I am trying to communicate.  First, Stephen Spielberg.  The dramatic scene is in two separate YouTube clips, in the following order. I beg you, watch both fully…

Without a doubt, Thaddeus Stevens’ 1865 speech to the House regarding slavery is today a foregone conclusion: the majority of Americans prohibit it. Yet, almost 150 years later Americans and our judicial courts are still dealing with various forms of racism, e.g. Ferguson, MO., modern-day George Pendletons in the Lincoln clips. Representative Stevens might well exclaim today, “How can I hold that all men are created equal when here before me stands…the gentleman from Ohio, proof that some men are inferior, endowed by their Creator with dim wits…” but in the end, even Pendletons deserve some dignity and respect (before the law) if one must rip it from the deepest abyss of their human decency… it must be done! Right there, THAT is why professional, refined dialogue and the fortitude to understand ALL the mechanics and dynamics of a message or issue, are paramount to the survival and civility of a species… a species which is expected to be superior on this planet. Verbal abuse, violence, or war can never breach that sacred articulation.

In colonial America there was never a more charged, igniting relationship between statesmen which evolved into an endearing lifelong friendship than between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. How did these two highly intelligent juxtaposed men coexist? By superb discourse and acute listening; skills requiring great effort, time, and exposure to diversity. Who is the other Director who so eloquently portrays this point? This is a scene from Tom Hooper of the HBO Mini-series and the Pulitzer Prize book, John Adams. Ben Franklin is played by Tom Wilkinson, John Adams by Paul Giamatti, and Thomas Jefferson by Stephen Dillane:

Adams and Jefferson were two gifted communicators and more gifted debaters, each giving deserved respect to the other.

When I happily watch this seven-part mini-series over and over, I sometimes ask myself, who else can I note with such remarkable oratory and writing talent? The late Nelson Mandela or Mahatma Gandhi come to mind. Another is former four-star General and Secretary of State, Colin Powell. Perhaps a no-brainer would be the 16th U.S. President, Abraham Lincoln. And not to forget great women, Eleanor Roosevelt and Marie Colvin, to name just two, stand out to me as superb speakers. How much more peaceful and enriched would our earthly experience be if 50, 60, or 80% of a population earned and acquired the same skills? Would more embarrassment or conflict be averted? I should think laughing would be more common, even epidemic, if human discourse were an art en masse and not an anomaly.
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It has become my impression since the dawn of the internet, especially now with social-media addicts and a world fast becoming more Wifi connected, that an increasing number of people (at least in Texas and parts of America where I’m exposed) are lazily content with quick elementary dialogue and mechanics. For some time now I have been one of those nauseated with my speaking and writing skills, and trying to advance them in earnest.  There is still much room for improvement.  And what of acronyms? Unless mankind has mastered infallible telepathy or they are the codes of action used in live military combat where half-seconds count, acronyms are the epitome of lethargy anywhere else. I would be thrilled if proven wrong!

In a routine of convenience, impatience, and fundamentalism, mastering advanced language mechanics cannot be understated. Why? One noble reason is to have the ability of recognizing immoral and/or unethical rhetoric and manipulation — remind you of anyone or group in a particular field(?) — then protecting the greatest good for the greatest number.  With each passing decade it is not enough to simply be free.

Two quotes I am fond of apply this idea…

“Patterning your life around other’s opinions is nothing more than slavery.” – Lawana Blackwell

“My definition of a free society is a society where it is safe to be unpopular.” – Adlai Stevenson

Whether it’s good or not, we are inextricably tied to our fellows, our countrymen, our colleagues, our bosses, our coworkers, on many levels. Obviously we are inextricably tied to our spouses, our parents, our children, our siblings, even extended family.  But it goes further.  Modern genetics and DNA research has all but proven this: globally there is less than a one-percent difference in all of us; every living human being. In many contexts we are all connected. What we choose to do with those vast similarities and their interactions hinges on how well or how poorly we express ourselves and strive to understand what we hear or read. We will either be progressive and ingenious with dignity given and received, or we will be digressing, destructive, divisive, and impatiently ignorant, subtly devoid of common decency.  No matter how annoyed I might get with a “Cymbal,” I must strive to find the strength and patience to coexist with them, and the respectful (eloquent) dialogue vital in the temporary struggle, always.

Kids-Talking-on-Tin-Can-Phones1What sort of world do you live for, fight for, are willing to die for? Is your World Operator’s Manual small and unchanging, or perpetually growing? Let me put a different lens on the question: Is your Family Operator’s Manual small and unchanging, or perpetually growing? Do you have a library of manuals? Is the library designed to expand or remain stagnate collecting dust? The word for today is Impermanence! Actually, is it not 365 days a year? Maybe the question should be “Are you and I keeping up?”

I have on my bathroom mirror this sticky note: WOMS? It means World Operator’s Manual Status. I pronounce it “WHUM-s”; what’s my WHUM-s status, to remind me daily to find more strength, energy, and patience to understand the mechanics. Do I want to be slammed to the ground in tears by a motorized-edger, or would I rather learn how to wisely operate it and create a beautiful lawn and garden?

Can you use an upgrade in your oral and writing skills, beyond the high school level?  Name one or two specific areas and the context below.

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Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always

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