politicians would abuse their office to advance a theistic or anti-theistic
agenda. The following quotations suggest
are quotations commonly launched in the state-and-church-separation battle.
Their listing here is not to imply accuracy. Rather, it is to present what
disparate sides (theistic and non-theistic) have formally presented in print
and video. Activists and politicians commonly present a Founder’s comment
that suits individual political bias as if it were the Founder’s ultimate
intention. Seemingly, the Founders made statements benefiting both sides; their
If a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We’ve been assured in the sacred writing that, "Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it."
Constitutional Convention 1
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: Ben Franklin, National Geographic, Vol. 148, No. 1, July 1975, p. 94.) 2
. . . 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, 1706-1790, American statesman, diplomat, scientist, and printer, from a letter to Richard Price, October 9, 1780; from Adrienne Koch, ed., The American Enlightenment: The Shaping of the American Experiment and a Free Society, New York: George Braziller, 1965, p. 93.) 2
And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis- a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever. 1
I have always said, and always will say, that the studious perusal of the sacred volume will make us better citizens. 4
The precepts of philosophy laid hold of actions only . . . [but Jesus] pushed his scrutinies into the heart of man, erected his tribunal in the region of his thoughts, and purified the waters at the fountainhead. 1
Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of...education on minds... reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principles. Let it simply be asked, "where is the security for prosperity, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert?" 3
You do well to wish to learn our arts and way of life, and above all, the religion of Jesus Christ. 4
We think ourselves
possessed, or, 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
We have no government armed with power which is capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other. Oct. 1798 military speech 3
Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise [sic], every expanded prospect. (James Madison, in a letter to William Bradford, April 1, 1774, as quoted by Edwin S. Gausted, Faith of Our Fathers: Religion and the New Nation, San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1987, p. 37.) 2
As nations cannot
be rewarded or punished in the next world, so they must be in this. By an
inevitable chain of causes and effects,
George Mason "Father of the Bill of Rights" 1
We have to keep our
Bible the number one textbook in our classrooms; that is the source of morality
and behavior in
In his writings of
1791, Benjamin Rush stated: If we were to ever take the Bible out of schools in
All the miseries and evil which men suffer from vice, crime, ambition, injustice, oppression, slavery and war proceed from despising or neglecting the precepts contained in the Bible. Noah Webster (Author of Article one section 8 of the U. S. Constitution) 3
The preceding statements
represent but a few from the state-and-church-separation dispute. Selective
exposure could lead one to believe that a particular Founder held a particular
position. For example, Benjamin Franklin asserted that, "We’ve been
assured in the sacred writing that, ‘Except the Lord build the house,
they labor in vain that build it.’" By presenting this quotation, a
Christian political leader could win the hearts of Christians who value
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.
After universe: ". . . that He governs it by His providence. That He ought to be worshipped."
After children: "that the soul of man is immortal."
After As to Jesus: " . . .of Nazareth . . . I think the system of morals and His religion, as He left them to us, the best the world ever saw or is likely to see."
After I have:
" . . . with most of the present
the Buckners’ defense, they presented other
the AFS source included any one of the first three omissions, a different
The previous quotations were presented to a local clergy member. In response, he questioned the contexts and times of the quotations the AFS presents. He questioned whether the Founders, at that time, perceived to what extent libertarianism 5 would stretch. In contrast, an AFS board member questioned the contexts and times of the quotations Dave Barton produced. He then commented the Founders undoubtedly had to appease Christian interests in their speeches and writings. Neither questioned the contexts or times of quotations supporting their individual position.
Franklin "apprehended" any religion needing government endorsement
and sanction to survive is a bad one. He made that statement when Christianity
truly freethinking AFS member would question why freethought religions (e.g., atheism and humanism) need
governmental sanction and taxpayers to survive. The AFS and numerous other
non-theistic state-church separatist groups (e.g., American Atheists, Freedom from Religion Foundation, and Humanists of Georgia) advocate that government ["Civil
Powers"] mandate that mandated behavior be non-theistic. For example,
government mandates non-prayer over mandated prayer and teaching evolutionary
theory over creationism in government schools. Are the religions of Secular
Humanism and Atheism, calling on "Civil Power" to survive, "bad
claims have been made about the Founders (e.g. they were deists, atheists, and
various other non-theists). Conversely, Dave Barton claimed 52 of
Swindall applied a simple approach to American politics. He swore an oath to
uphold the Constitution of the
individuals of any religious or non-religious persuasion can swear an oath to
uphold the Constitution of the
Pat Swindall had a tough job ahead of him when elected to Congress in an era he describes as a "post-God American culture." Compare American culture from the 1960s to when Pat held a congressional seat (1985-88). Several examples follow. Abortion remained illegal (due to an American value of life over a woman’s choice- a fundamental Christian principle) until the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision in 1973. Homosexuality (a fundamental Christian prohibition) remained not only illegal in most states, but also remained immoral by the general populace until the American Psychological Association (APA), under pressure from the gay lobby, declared homosexuality not a mental disorder. The creationism theory of man’s origin (another fundamental Christian principle) had already been replaced in government school classrooms with the evolutionary theory. The point is not whether any of the preceding principles are right or wrong, but that existing God-centered perspectives were either replaced or drastically altered.
Merriam Webster’s 10th New Collegiate Dictionary defines fundamentalism as "a movement or attitude stressing strict and literal adherence to a set of basic principles." Pat Swindall then, by definition, is a fundamentalist. However, is atheism not "a movement or attitude stressing strict and literal adherence to a set of basic principles"? Are the pro-choice, gay rights, and evolution movements not the norm in secularist activism? Indeed, secular organizations (e.g., Atlanta Freethought Society, Freedom from Religion Foundation, American Humanists Association, American Atheists, and Humanists of Georgia) strictly and literally adhere to their own principles: No god exists. Only man can solve man’s problems. They demand absolute separation of church and state. They advocate trust in science and reason, not faith in spiritual entities.
An understandable fear among non-theists is that, if elected, theists may pervert the Constitution to force unwilling masses into religious conformity. Perhaps non-theists should equally fear atheists would pervert the Constitution to deprive everyone of their religious practices. Why has mainstream American media never coined the term, "secular fundamentalist"? Is it not possible for atheists to be "fanatics" or "extremists" in their pursuits?
Considering Madalyn Murray O’ Hair’s (former American Atheists president) assertion: "Atheists are here now to stay. We are ready to take over the culture and to move it ahead for the benefit of all humankind." 6 [emphasis added] What would happen if a Christian proclaimed Christians are ready "to take over the culture?" Secular hue and cry? Has O’ Hair been an anti-religious fanatic engendering political decisions (though holding no political office) affecting American society? Her American Atheist magazines report political effects of her movement’s challenges against First Amendment violations. Despite O’ Hair’s guise of "religious liberty," the American public would be better served by a full adherence to the First Amendment. O’ Hair’s movement has done a fantastic and justified job of ensuring Congress passes "no law respecting the establishment of [any theistic] religion," and rightly so, for any liberty-loving American (theistic or non-theistic) should fear governmental religious intrusion. Now if only atheists would pursue with the same zeal the other half of the amendment’s clause: "...or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...." Does a country founded on religious liberty really want to banish the "free exercise thereof...."? Congressman Swindall’s position clearly respected both sides of the amendment.
A House Divided, Pat opens with an introduction that astutely likens
Increasingly, the courts and other state institutions have played fast and loose with our founding principles and the ‘formula’ that implements them, saying it is a "dynamic" document. That’s frequently just another way of saying it is their right to alter the Constitution as they see fit.... It was the chief architect of the Constitution himself, James Madison, who insisted to the contrary that "It was the duty of all to support the Constitution in its true meaning as understood by the Nation at the time of its ratification. 7
It does not require a political sage to deduce our nation’s Founders kept the issue of rights out of the reach of government. Government’s role is to protect the constitutionally established rights. The Constitution forbids government to add or deprive rights. Regarding theism, one may call that entity above government, referred to in the Declaration as "Creator" and "Nature’s God," whatever one chooses. However, do not infringe on any of the rights. One may worship any, all, or no gods, but do not infringe on the inalienable rights enumerated in the Constitution. For example, do not "prohibit the free exercise thereof [religion]...."
The First Amendment
Pat Swindall’s position regarding the First
Amendment requires special attention. From here most of the discourse regarding
relations between church and state emerges. Pat emphasized the phrase "a
wall of separation between church and state" appeared nowhere in the
Declaration or Constitution. Instead, it appeared in a letter from Thomas
Jefferson to the Danbury Baptists in
...congressional chaplaincy system, wherein ministers were to be paid out of the government treasury to say prayers on public property, on public time, at public expense? That practice goes on today in both houses of Congress and the Supreme Court. 7
If they wanted God out of all public affairs and offices, would they not have abolished Him then? Though the courts have often sided with secularists and have re-written the First Amendment, it does not make it right or accurate to do so. It has, however, developed a "hostility toward religion." If government is hostile toward any religion, there is no "freedom of religion."
Government (public) Schools
atheists and religionists should feel comforted by Swindall’s government
schools approach, for he advocated teaching both evolution and creation
theories. Students could then assess the relative merits of each. Atheists
Children should have the First Amendment right to pray freely, alone or with others, so long as they are not disruptive or violating any rules that apply to any other voluntary or "free time" activities. 7
Swindall encountered a public school textbook presenting the First Amendment as reading: "A wall of separation between church and state." When he confronted the teacher regarding this, she defended it as a paraphrase. Why paraphrase? Secularists tend to be quick to point out when a culture’s religious mainstream alters texts to suit its biases. What if the Founders wrote the amendment as "a wall of separation between church and state," then religionists paraphrased it as "Congress shall pass no law respecting the establishment of a religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . ."? Again, secular hues and cries would arise.
Secularists tend to be extremely articulate and, at times, accurate when charging religionists with "out-of-context" quotations. How is it then they rarely elucidate the fact the "wall of separation" phrase appeared in a private letter without legal bearing? With turned tables, they would scream, "out-of-context Christian paraphrasing!"
August 1997, Dr. Edward M. Buckner accurately asserted, while a guest on
Pat’s show, the Declaration is not a legal document. Dr. Buckner
continued that (regarding
...a club against religious people, usually conservative religious people....It is only when conservatives assert their political rights that we hear dark, ominous warnings about catastrophic violations of the sacred "separation of church and state" dogma. 7
Frankly, he is accurate.