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President Obama's Weekly Address Enrages The Fanatical Right

Some people may have been too busy spending time with family this weekend to notice another right wing smear of Obama take root. I just happened to notice the article in the news and a comment in a right wing blog I’d been reading recently so it became more than a passing story for me.

The story:

Critics of President Obama felt little holiday cheer after the president did not thank God in his Thanksgiving-themed weekly Internet address. They immediately took to Twitter and the Internet to voice anger and disbelief.

It wasn't long after the story broke that folks were pointing out the fact that Obama had mentioned God in the official 2011 proclamation for Thanksgiving. Additionally he mentioned God in the 2010 proclamation, the 2009 proclamation, the 2010 weekly address, and the 2009 weekly address.

So there you have it: Obama left God out of 1 of the 6 Thanksgiving messages. Clearly he is an atheist. Or is Obama a Muslim? These folks can't decide. They don't want to decide. It would cut down on the noise to settle on one attack. Then when the noise was low everyone would notice how empty their arguments against President Obama are.

The reality here is that Obama, like many liberal Christians, will never be Christian enough for the right and no argument will change their minds. In their view each time that Obama invokes the themes of Jesus Christ like grace, providence, and blessing, he is using that for political reasons. The times when he doesn't invoke these themes he's showing his true colors. The facts don't matter at all.

But why does this story even matter? It wouldn't if it weren't for the fact that this core group of right wing fanatics is what the GOP primary candidates are adjusting their optics for each week. The base has not bubbled the most qualified candidate to the top but rather the one that most excites the creatures of the right the most this month. I'd like to think the normal, sane Republicans will settle this when voting begins but that's weeks away so we're stuck watching this unfold in slow motion in front of us.


Posted by Adam Ducker at November 27, 2011 9:10 AM
Comments
Comment #332442

Adam, I don’t believe these comments, or lack thereof…whichever way works…..has anything at all to do with Thanksgiving, God, or cranberry sauce.
These critics, disagreers, race-baiters and/or fanatical haters would find something…anything, up to and including the color of skivvies President Obama chose to wear on any particular day, to bitch about. It it what it has been, is and will continue to be, until ANY white, non-liberal, or leftist ceases to use the White House as an address.

Posted by: jane doe at November 27, 2011 3:18 PM
Comment #332443

I wish we could have an awakening in this country, one where we would stop worrying or caring about the things in people’s lives that should be no one’s business. We are so preoccupied with everyone else that we can’t talk about any actual issues. Both parties do it and are helping perpetuate the problems because they both want the power that government has to force others to live by their rules.

Posted by: Rhinehold at November 27, 2011 4:28 PM
Comment #332444

Adam

The reason people worry about what Obama says is because his words can get to be policy.

Obama says nothing w/o his teleprompter. He is the most scripted president in the history of our Republic. If he did not thank God there is some kind of policy decision. Obama is very political and never spontaneous.

Like Rhinhold, I don’t much care what Obama does as an individual. But he speaks not as an individual, but as president and a very politically sensitive one. Actually, he always speaks as a partisan candidate for president.So I wonder what he and his pollsters and policy advisers were trying to convey.

Posted by: C&J at November 27, 2011 5:30 PM
Comment #332446


The attack is as expected.

The Republicans USE God, declaring God an ally for their causes without God’s consent.

Posted by: jlw at November 27, 2011 6:03 PM
Comment #332448

C&J: “He is the most scripted president in the history of our Republic.”

How does one go about proving such a statement?

“So I wonder what he and his pollsters and policy advisers were trying to convey.”

His proclamations invoke God in terms relevant to his own faith but also grounded in the fact that he is leader of all Americans, not just Christian Americans. His weekly address thanks the troops for their service. Remember that? The troops sure were a whole lot more important to conservatives before a Democrat became Commander-in-chief.

Posted by: Adam Ducker at November 27, 2011 8:53 PM
Comment #332459

Adam

I have heard and read in multiple sources that our president does nothing w/o his teleprompter.

Look at what happens when his teleprompter fails.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eDJSVPAx8xc

Re the troops - Republicans support the troops and tend to be among them.

I don’t have a problem with Obama mentioning God or not. I just know that he doesn’t do anything w/o his advisers putting it in his scripts, so if he says something or fails to say something, I just wonder what it means.

Posted by: C&J at November 28, 2011 7:49 AM
Comment #332460

Adam

I have heard and read in multiple sources that our president does nothing w/o his teleprompter.

Look at what happens when his teleprompter fails.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eDJSVPAx8xc

Re the troops - Republicans support the troops and tend to be among them.

I don’t have a problem with Obama mentioning God or not. I just know that he doesn’t do anything w/o his advisers putting it in his scripts, so if he says something or fails to say something, I just wonder what it means.

Posted by: C&J at November 28, 2011 7:50 AM
Comment #332462

“I have heard and read in multiple sources that our president does nothing w/o his teleprompter.”

That is false of course. He does plenty of things without a teleprompter. He just tends to prefer a teleprompter more whereas previous presidents used notes. But of course he speaks better while looking at notes…just like almost every other public speaker in the world. I honestly don’t get what the argument is all about. He’s less of a president because he’s a worse public speaker without his teleprompter?

I agree with those who say it has nothing to do with Obama but is the result of years of conservatives having to defend President Bush who could hardly speak with a teleprompter. Conservatives weakly recycle Bush attacks to use against Obama all the time and it gets pretty sad.

The question though was how do you prove he’s the most scripted? Teleprompters aren’t new and when they were they were just a tech version of speech notes. Speech notes aren’t new either. So how do you go about proving Obama somehow is more scripted? And by scripted I assume you mean to imply he’s more somehow phony.

“…so if he says something or fails to say something, I just wonder what it means.”

This is true of every president in modern history. TV and Internet makes it so that a president needs to be prepared at all times. I don’t get how this says anything about Obama.

Why did Obama leave God out of his address and speak only to the troops and to people serving communities? Does he hate God? Why did he leave the troops out of the official proclamation and take a slightly more religious tone in there? Does he hate the troops? Why did he not mention clowns? Does he not support circuses or does he? You could play this game all day with his words.

Posted by: Adam Ducker at November 28, 2011 8:17 AM
Comment #332463

Adam

Politicians are not like you and me. They have to think about their constituencies and their image, so they always do the plans.

Presidents must show their support overtly. For example, you have to pretend that your favored minority group is oppressed and in need of help. You don’t have to believe this, but you have to say it. You also need to mention the flag, God and other iconic things.

All sides play this game of slights and mentions, because it sometimes makes a difference. The president who neglects to mention the homeless, for example, may not really care about them.

For example, in this year’s proclamation Obama says, “today we renew our gratitude to all American Indians and Alaska Natives.” I don’t feel any particular gratitude and I doubt most people do, but Obama puts that in to placate his own constituencies. It is probably a throw away phrase. It got wedged into the speech as a payoff or a nod to a constituency.

Personally, I think the whole things is silly, but it is the game and it is the game the liberals more often play against conservatives, usually when they fail to acknowledge some group or special day.

Posted by: C&J at November 28, 2011 9:15 AM
Comment #332469

I for one am thankful that Obama didn’t directly mention God this last thanksgiving speech. Hopefully C&J is right and it reflects a policy change in our government. Lets face it, faith based politics and faith based political leaders such as GWB just hasn’t worked. In fact it has been a miserable failure. We are at a point in this country that the extremist conservatives actually get press coverage because Obama didn’t mention God in his speech. The candidates are forced by the likes of the Pat Robertson’s of the world to put their religious beliefs on display to gain political popularity with the extremist in this country.

According to GWB we went to war in Iraq because God told him to. How foolish is faith based war? These scoundrels using Christianity as a cover for their theocratic authoritarianism need to be outed. Romney and Huntsman are Mormons so they are abused by the “Christians” because of their faith, as they run for political office, how foolish is that?

In the good old days it was patriotism the extremist scoundrels hide behind now it is religion and patriotism, but they are still extremist and still scoundrels.What we all need to remember is this country was founded during the age of reason not the age of religion. It was due to reason our country became independent from the religious scoundrels that used the pulpit to control the people of the individual states and from the church of England.

I say good job Obama, now be proud of what you said and please tell us it was intentional.

Posted by: j2t2 at November 28, 2011 11:58 AM
Comment #332472

j2t2

I don’t think God needs us to help him accomplish his goals on earth, nor do I think he arranges his schedules around our needs.

God gave men free will, and all that comes with that. Prayer, IMO, can help me discover the right course. In prayer, you are trying to divine the will or the mind of God. This is unknowable by human reason, but may be perceived in pieces. Even if you don’t believe God is communicating with you, a little introspection is a good thing. If, however, you believe that God has given you a firm answer, you are praying in the wrong direction. God has granted man free will and does not withdraw the gift in times of crisis. He doesn’t tell you what to do and it is presumptuous of you to ask.

The thing that I believe is good about a faith-based life, besides it being true, is that it should lead to a little humility. No matter how successful or powerful you are, you are not the top of the pyramid. You do not have the right to exercise power w/o restraint. Those who think God has ordered them to kill, or really do anything at all, are talking to a false God.

I am suspicious of those w/o any professed faith because I think that there are NO humans alive w/o some sort of faith. We saw terrible things done in the name of religion and even larger scale horrors in the name of the state or of the utopian attempts of human perfection. The French terror, revolutionary socialism, such as communism and Nazism and lots of minor totalitarians are evidence of this. It is a hubris born of human arrogance.

The United States is exceptional among developed countries in that the American people still have a great deal of faith. We are also the country with the longest unbroken and strongest tradition of religious toleration. I think the two are not unrelated.

We Americans also know not to pursue perfection, but rather the grammatically flawed by eloquently states “more perfect” union. I think this is because we - most of us - understand that perfect order, perfect peace, perfect justice or perfect happiness exist only by the grace of God and for those who do not believe in God, it doesn’t exist at all. In any case, it cannot be created by man alone.

Posted by: C&J at November 28, 2011 12:54 PM
Comment #332475

C&J you are changing the subject. A faith based life is one thing a faith based government is another. The point is religion and politics don’t mix. God gets used by scoundrels. The conservatives have been using God to manipulate people, IMHO. Just as they are doing with the whole “Obama didn’t mention God” whine that is the subject of this post. Its disgraceful how these manipulators use the misguided this way IMHO.
As to your comments I would by and large agree with you. But when you think God is telling you to go to war or that God takes sides or that God wants this or that political favor you are being used and /or mislead.

Posted by: j2t2 at November 28, 2011 2:08 PM
Comment #332477

C&J-
There will always be people who trumpet their religion, who pray on the street corner so that everybody knows they are pious and Godly.

Jesus had something to say about that kind of person, no? Decades worth of increased insistence on pushing religion into the public sphere hasn’t made any more Godly a place out of Washington D.C., much less the party that thinks it can lecture everybody else on their religion.

I think the phrase “Easier said than done.” aptly sums up the problem with relying on your public piety. How many people who maintained pious exteriors were like crypts, whitewashed on the outside, but awful, nasty, and putrid on the inside? How many have tried to impose religious policies on the country, but ended up only opening the door to corruption and disaster?

Those in power often appeal to public piety. They’ll give lip service to whatever the modern religious idea is at the moment, but they’ll still do all the cheap and ugly things they do in the meantime.

If you want to lead a faith-based life, be my guest! But the politicians will never create a system that truly honors faith. They will always say more holy things than they actually do, and whatever religious requirements they might place on people, when people are obedient to them, both the obedience and the respect that is forced is given to man for man’s reward.

Let people seek their own path to God. Government has no business forcing them onto one that does not follow their conscience.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at November 28, 2011 2:35 PM
Comment #332478

Stephen & j2t2

I prefer that people largely keep personal things out of politics, this would include religion, sexual orientation, race/ethnicity, gender or lifestyle issues. Unfortunately, we live in an age of identity politics, where such mentions have become more or less mandatory. Not to mention them sends a message.

Posted by: C&J at November 28, 2011 2:54 PM
Comment #332479

C&J-
I believe that it’s dangerous to read things into what people don’t say at the expense of what they do say. Why did you feel it necessary to criticize Obama on this front, to make that assumption that the lack of mention of God in this particular address marked a real change?

If you want to deal with this with some kind of integrity, then you must first not jump to conclusions based on such paltry evidence, and you then must renounce that kind of informal requirement.

I mean, this questioning of people’s religion is starting to hurt your own people. Because people are so concerned about religion, sectarian differences, like those between evangelicals and mormons, have the potential to undermine Mitt Romney, should he become a candidate. Even short of that, its provided some of your candidates with their biggest foot-in-the-mouth moments.

If you want to lessen people’s dependence on government, one way is to quit promising Christianizing influence on policy that your people can’t really deliver on.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at November 28, 2011 3:21 PM
Comment #332485


It has gotten to the point where conservative politicians are making a mockery of God. How many of the conservative presidential candidates have announced that God told them to run for president? Which one is telling the truth, none or all? Is self-delusion a virtue?

Posted by: jlw at November 28, 2011 5:20 PM
Comment #332491

C&J certainly you are not including “sexual orientation, race/ethnicity, gender or lifestyle issues” in the same category as religion, right?

Has “sexual orientation, race/ethnicity, gender or lifestyle issues” ever did the damage to a country misguided religious zealots have?

It seems to me if it wasn’t for the extremist religious right in this country sexual orientation, gender or lifestyle issues would be non issues. If it wasn’t for the very extremist right wing skinhead types neither would race/ethnicity. And if it wasn’t for conservative politicians and their hypocrisy “sexual orientation, race/ethnicity, gender or lifestyle issues” wouldn’t be such a polarizing issue in this country.

Posted by: j2t2 at November 28, 2011 7:04 PM
Comment #332494

j2t2

Certainly race/ethnicity have caused lots of suffering.

Re God in general - God does not speak to me, so I don’t know for sure if he talks to others. I figure if the big guy ever did ask me to do something, I would do it.

Stephen

Obama doesn’t say anything that is not on a teleprompter and nothing that has not been researched and tested by focus groups. That is why we pay attention to what he says and what he leaves out.

I don’t know anything about Obama’s personal beliefs. Whatever they are, they are clearly subordinated to his political expedients.

Re dependence on government - I want less of it. I want LESS protection provided by government and LESS demands made by government.

Posted by: C&J at November 28, 2011 8:21 PM
Comment #332514

“I don’t know anything about Obama’s personal beliefs. Whatever they are, they are clearly subordinated to his political expedients.”

Clearly? I guess I’m still not following how this is so clear to you. Can you expand on that for my sake?

Posted by: Adam Ducker at November 29, 2011 7:33 AM
Comment #332528

Good Grief, it is unimaginable to think that a sitting US president would fail to mention the name of God on a national holiday of Thanksgiving. Are we expected to believe that this special day of thanks was instituted by government, and honored by most Americans, simply as a way to thank ourselves?

Posted by: Royal Flush at November 29, 2011 5:28 PM
Comment #332529

Adam

Obama bends to the winds of his constituencies. He spent years in the church of the racist Wright w/o evidently paying attention to the hate-spewing old fart. Then he quickly threw him under the bus.

Posted by: C&J at November 29, 2011 5:47 PM
Comment #332539

“Good Grief, it is unimaginable to think that a sitting US president would fail to mention the name of God on a national holiday of Thanksgiving.”

You only have to go back to Thanksgiving 2008 under Bush to see a sitting US president “fail” to mention the name of God. Clearly Bush is godless.

Posted by: Adam Ducker at November 29, 2011 11:03 PM
Comment #332541

From Adam’s link…

President Bush stated, “But they were willing to endure that adversity to live in a land where they could worship the Almighty without persecution.”

Adam, I did not write that obama was “Godless”. I believe your comment reflects what is truly wrong with our nation and its people. Nearly anything anyone says or writes is taken as an affront and must be shoved back in the face of the writer or speaker.

I was very specific in my message about a president, any president, recognizing God in a Thanksgiving Day message to the nation.

Posted by: Royal Flush at November 30, 2011 11:12 AM
Comment #332542
Good Grief, it is unimaginable to think that a sitting US president would fail to mention the name of God on a national holiday of Thanksgiving. Are we expected to believe that this special day of thanks was instituted by government, and honored by most Americans, simply as a way to thank ourselves?

Obama didn’t thank ‘ourselves”. Your right it goes without saying who he was thanking, yet many on the right were in a tizzy over it. Why such a big deal over nothing? Partisan politics?

Perhaps those on the right ought to recognize how overboard Faux went on this non issue, before we have a “war on thanksgiving” O’Reily ratings grab.

From Adams link-

http://gawker.com/5863255/jon-stewart-mocks-fox-news-for-overreacting-to-obamas-godless-thanksgiving-address

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thanksgiving_%28United_States%29

Posted by: j2t2 at November 30, 2011 11:43 AM
Comment #332549

I have no idea why j2t2 provided the wiki link. However, from that link comes this…

“The New England colonists were accustomed to regularly celebrating “thanksgivings”—days of prayer thanking God for blessings such as military victory or the end of a drought.”

Is j2t2 suggesting that Thanksgiving Day is not a celebration to thank God for our blessings? I wonder what he celebrates on CHRISTmas Day.

Posted by: Royal Flush at November 30, 2011 4:26 PM
Comment #332566

Royal the wiki link was just an interesting bit of Thanksgiving history for all to peruse.

To answer your question, No I am not.

Posted by: j2t2 at December 1, 2011 10:18 AM
Comment #332578

I don’t want Christianity shoved down my throat by my government just because some people in America are obsessed with their religion to the point that they think people aren’t American if they aren’t Christian. This is insane.

However, if all presidents are going to be expected to talk about Christianity on Thanksgiving, then our presidents should talk about how people who called themselves Christian invaded, persecuted and destroyed vast numbers of Native American people, stole most their land, drove them onto small reservations, ignored the fact that they have a beautiful religion and culture of their own, and now like to act like these people don’t matter very much, and have tried to erase the fact that this horrific and disgusting atrocity against an entire continent full of people ever happened.
And did so at the hands of “Christians.”

Posted by: Adrienne at December 1, 2011 6:04 PM
Comment #332600

Adrienne the speech would indeed be a long one were it a requirement to mention the good and bad of Christianity in the Thanksgiving speech. I agree with you that it should be a non issue. The separation of church and state was a very wise move by the founding fathers. One we can be thankful for.

Posted by: j2t2 at December 2, 2011 12:55 PM
Comment #332607

And did so at the hands of “Christians.”

Posted by: Adrienne at December 1, 2011 6:04 PM

It is lamentable Adrienne that no atheists were around at the time to participate in these foul deeds.

By the way, no one suggested that Thanksgiving Day be about Christianity. Our founders did not speak of Christ in our founding documents, but rather, of God.

I know of no legal requirement that anyone celebrate Thanksgiving Day or observe Christmas Day. Despite the fact that “In God We Trust” is printed on our paper money Adrienne, you can place your trust in anyone you choose or nothing at all.

I suggest that Adrienne petition the ACLU on behalf of all the government workers who find their offices closed on these national holidays. Since they are paid holidays they should insist that they get to work on those days for those wages. It’s unjust to close their work place for a religious holiday.

Posted by: Royal Flulsh at December 2, 2011 4:30 PM
Comment #332629

J2T2,

I’m sorry, but I have to call you on this:

“The separation of church and state was a very wise move by the founding fathers.”

What exactly are you referring to? The Founding Fathers never did any such thing and generally advocated for the opposite. There is no such “separation” in any of our founding documents, the most important of which is the Constitution. The First Amendment is the only place in the Constitution where religion is even mentioned and the notion that the Founders believed in such a separation is absolutely false.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;…”

This, in no way, even implies a “separation of church and state”. That specific phrase comes from a letter from Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptists in 1802. Surely, nobody can in any way think that a personal communication has any impact on public policy, let alone any force of law. It’s also interesting to note, that only a few days after Jefferson penned that letter, he attended church services in the House Chamber of the Capitol Building. James Madison, who is generally referred to as the primary author of the Constitution, also attended church services in the Capitol, where they were held regularly up until the Civil War.

In reality, almost all of the Founders were religious to some level, many of them devout. Most of them also believed that religion was necessary to a civil society and “necessary for good government”. Most of them had no problem with public displays of religion and even went as far as to suggest Federal buildings be used for religious services. Their only concern with Government on this issue was that they didn’t want a forced religion, which is why the Establishment Clause was written. The Federalist Papers alone are enough to support this, even if one were to read nothing else. (Here’s a very thorough, well-researched article about Madison’s views on the subject for those that are interested.)

The truth is that the “separation of church and state” phrase has been misused for decades to try to eradicate religion from public life. I won’t attempt to explain why, much less assign any motivation to it, but I will simply say that it’s important to understand that the First Amendment guarantees freedom of religion, not freedom from religion.

I’m fairly conservative, but I’m not religious and I don’t want anyone shoving their personal religious beliefs down my throat. With that said, I’m also not threatened by a nativity scene at a fire station, nor do I believe that it constitutes an endorsement of any particular religion. It certainly does not rise to anything close to a Constitutional violation.

Not only would the Founding Fathers disagree with the “separation” philosophy that so many endorse today, but they would be disgusted that it’s been taken to such an extreme level.

Posted by: Kevin Nye at December 2, 2011 10:14 PM
Comment #332669

Kevin while I agree with some of what you say the founding fathers were also wise enough to know Kings were often considered to be divinely chosen. They didn’t want kings leading the government. They wanted a government of the people. They didn’t want a government ruled by preachers they wanted a government ran by we the people. They did not want any interference between the person and his or hers God.

The First Amendment is the only place in the Constitution where religion is even mentioned and the notion that the Founders believed in such a separation is absolutely false.

Article 6 of the constitution states “but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

Their only concern with Government on this issue was that they didn’t want a forced religion, which is why the Establishment Clause was written.

I think they were also trying to keep the problems the different states had with religious qualifications from becoming a part of the national problem as well.

James Madison, who is generally referred to as the primary author of the Constitution, also attended church services in the Capitol, where they were held regularly up until the Civil War.

Yet Madison also said “”practical distinction between Religion and Civil Government is essential to the purity of both, and as guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States.”

Yes Kevin,many of the founding fathers were religious. The problem as I see it is is a bit more than just the establishment of a national religion as they took “national” out of the clause during the process.

There is no such “separation” in any of our founding documents, the most important of which is the Constitution.

Jefferson’s wall of separation quote while not a direct quote from the constitution refers to the first amendment. It has been used since 1896 in the SCOTUS as a definition of religion of the first amendment clause. So it does hold sway in decisions coming in front of the court.

The truth is that the “separation of church and state” phrase has been misused for decades to try to eradicate religion from public life.

Had the founding fathers defined religion in the Constitution perhaps I would agree with you. The problem is the repeated attempts by religious activist to force their beliefs upon others, which is why we need a wall of separation Kevin.

The founding fathers were wise in that they didn’t want church and state mixed. We are a nation of predominately Christians but we are not a Christian Nation. The founding fathers did not want the government to dictate religious beliefs to anyone nor did they want any specific religion to dictate to the government. Religion is a private matter between the person and the persons God. For good reason as we see today with some evangelicals trying to make some sort of a religious test for people running for office, Thank God the Constitution protects us from this.

I do agree that we as a country have went to far in the wall of separation however, Kevin but that is a discussion for another time.

Posted by: j2t2 at December 3, 2011 8:25 PM
Comment #332673

j2t2,
Great reply to Kevin. Btw, he’s dead wrong about this:

There is no such “separation” in any of our founding documents, the most important of which is the Constitution.

Yes, actually there is a document. The Treaty Of Tripoli, (1796) ratified by Congress in 1797, defined once an for all the separation between church and state.
The Treaty states:

As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion,—as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen,—and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

Furthermore, President Adams made a statement about this document that reads:

Now be it known, That I John Adams, President of the United States of America, having seen and considered the said Treaty do, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, accept, ratify, and confirm the same, and every clause and article thereof. And to the End that the said Treaty may be observed, and performed with good Faith on the part of the United States, I have ordered the premises to be made public; And I do hereby enjoin and require all persons bearing office civil or military within the United States, and all other citizens or inhabitants thereof, faithfully to observe and fulfill the said Treaty and every clause and article thereof.
Posted by: Adrienne at December 4, 2011 2:07 AM
Comment #332674

J2T2,

Yes, you are correct. I realized after I posted my comments that I had omitted the Article 6 reference (I hate it when that happens).

You are also correct that SCOTUS has referenced Jefferson’s phrase from the Danbury letter, however the court has generally done so out of context, to support the notion that government and religion can never mix in any fashion. The primary evidence that the quote has been used out of context is that is has been referenced to show the intent of the First Amendment, yet Jefferson did not take part in the writing of either the First Amendment or the Constitution.

Jefferson’s letter was in response to a letter from the Danbury Baptists in which they expressed concern over the First Amendment. Specifically, they were concerned that the amendment might be interpreted as though that right was being granted by the Government, as opposed to being a “natural”, or “inalienable” right.

Jefferson shared their concerns and responded to assure them that their religious beliefs would not be interfered with by the Government. This is the complete letter (emphasis mine):

Gentlemen, – The affectionate sentiments of esteem and approbation which you are so good as to express towards me on behalf of the Danbury Baptist Association give me the highest satisfaction… . Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God; that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship; that the legislative powers of government reach actions only and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church and State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties. I reciprocate your kind prayers for the protection and blessing of the common Father and Creator of man, and tender you for yourselves and your religious association assurances of my high respect and esteem.

When read in its entirety, Jefferson’s letter is clear that he believed that Government had no right to say anything to anyone about religion, unless it was to protect the rights of others.

The bottom line is simply that the Founders never intended for absolute separation. If they did:

• The Capitol Building wouldn’t have a sculpture of Moses holding the Ten Commandments as you enter the building.
• The Supreme Court wouldn’t have the Ten Commandments engraved on the doors to the courtroom, nor would they be displayed right above where the Justices sit.
• The Supreme Court wouldn’t open every session with the prayer “God save the United States and this honorable court”.
• There wouldn’t be literally hundreds of religious symbols, prayers and biblical references on Federal buildings and monuments all over Washington.

The Founders only intended to protect the individual right to worship how one chooses (or not) and did so by preventing the establishment of a religion or any laws abridging free exercise. As I said previously, I’m not religious, so I don’t have a horse in this race. You make some valid points and I think we generally agree, but to say that the Founders instituted a separation (or even intended to) is just not historically accurate.

Posted by: Kevin Nye at December 4, 2011 2:23 AM
Comment #332676

Adrienne,

Just a couple of things:

First, perhaps I wasn’t clear enough with my statement, but I was referring to our founding documents, of which the Treaty of Tripoli is not one of. This means the Constitution from a legal standpoint, and the Declaration of Independence, Federalist Papers, Madison’s Convention Notes, etc., for historical context.

Second, the statement in Article 11 of the Treaty of Tripoli has no bearing as to whether or not the Constitution allows or prevents any coexistence of government and religion, nor does is show the intentions of the Founders when they drafted our founding documents. It is essentially a statement of opinion and not any kind of enforceable action.

Notice also that it specifies the Christian religion, not Islam, Judaism, or any other religion. It does not say that the Government is not founded on religion, only that it is not founded on a specific religion. Reading almost any of the founding documents, it’s quite clear that our laws are based on at least the concepts of religion, even if not a specific one.

Lastly, what exactly does the phrase actually say? Simply, it says that the two nations should not enter into war over religion. Using the treaty to support the “separation” argument is something that many have tried for many years, but when one actually looks at it, it’s not a very compelling argument.

Posted by: Kevin Nye at December 4, 2011 3:11 AM
Comment #332686

Kevin, thanks for the discussion I have taken the topic and moved it to a new thread should you want to continue .

Posted by: j2t2 at December 4, 2011 12:58 PM
Comment #332712

Kevin, I have to disagree because a treaty is a binding document, and the Treaty of Tripoli was ratified by the entire Congress of the United States.

Anyway, I’m putting up a post in j2t2’s new post in the center column if you want to continue to argue on this topic.

Posted by: Adrienne at December 5, 2011 2:26 PM
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