January 12, 2012
“Isn’t is odd that every presidential contender is a Christian? Wouldn’t you rather elect someone who questions what they’ve been told instead of believing it in blindly? An atheist or agnostic president would be an interesting change.” –KTRN
To hear the Religious Right tell it, men like George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison were 18th-century versions of Jerry Falwell in powdered wigs and stockings. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Unlike many of today’s candidates, the founders didn’t find it necessary to constantly wear religion on their sleeves. They considered faith a private affair. Contrast them to former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (who says he wouldn’t vote for an atheist for president because non-believers lack the proper moral grounding to guide the American ship of state), Texas Gov. Rick Perry (who hosted a prayer rally and issued an infamous ad accusing President Barack Obama of waging a “war on religion”) and former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum (whose uber-Catholicism leads him to oppose not just abortion but birth control).
There was a time when Americans voted for candidates who were skeptical of core concepts of Christianity like the Trinity, the divinity of Jesus and the virgin birth. The question is, could any of them get elected today? The sad answer is probably not.
Here are five founding fathers whose views on religion would most likely doom them to defeat today:
1. George Washington. The father of our country was nominally an Anglican but seemed more at home with Deism. The language of the Deists sounds odd to today’s ears because it’s a theological system of thought that has fallen out of favor. Desists believed in God but didn’t necessarily see him as active in human affairs. The god of the Deists was a god of first cause. He set things in motion and then stepped back.
Washington often employed Deistic terms. His god was a “supreme architect” of the universe. Washington saw religion as necessary for good moral behavior but didn’t necessarily accept all Christian dogma. He seemed to have a special gripe against communion and would usually leave services before it was offered.
Washington was widely tolerant of other beliefs. He is the author of one of the great classics of religious liberty – the letter to Touro Synagogue (1790). In this letter, Washington assured America’s Jews that they would enjoy complete religious liberty in America; not mere toleration in an officially “Christian” nation. He outlines a vision of a multi-faith society where all are free.
October 25, 2011
By Matt Danzico and Kate Dailey
In Philadelphia, American and British lawyers have debated the legality of America’s founding documents.
On Tuesday night, while Republican candidates in Nevada were debating such American issues as nuclear waste disposal and the immigration status of Mitt Romney’s gardener, American and British lawyers in Philadelphia were taking on a far more fundamental topic.
Namely, just what did Thomas Jefferson think he was doing?
Some background: during the hot and sweltering summer of 1776, members of the second Continental Congress traveled to Philadelphia to discuss their frustration with royal rule.
By 4 July, America’s founding fathers approved a simple document penned by Jefferson that enumerated their grievances and announced themselves a sovereign nation.
“When a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security”
Called the Declaration of Independence, it was a blow for freedom, a call to war, and the founding of a new empire.
It was also totally illegitimate and illegal.
At least, that was what lawyers from the UK argued during a debate at Philadelphia’s Ben Franklin Hall.
The event, presented by the Temple American Inn of Court in conjunction with Gray’s Inn, London, pitted British barristers against American lawyers to determine whether or not the American colonists had legal grounds to declare secession.
For American lawyers, the answer is simple: “The English had used their own Declaration of Rights to depose James II and these acts were deemed completely lawful and justified,” they say in their summary.
To the British, however, secession isn’t the legal or proper tool by which to settle internal disputes. “What if Texas decided today it wanted to secede from the Union? Lincoln made the case against secession and he was right,” they argue in their brief.
A vote at the end of the debate reaffirmed the legality of Jefferson and company’s insurrection, and the American experiment survived to see another day.
It was an unsurprising result, considering the venue – just a few blocks away from where the Declaration was drafted. But did they get it right? Below are some more of the arguments from both sides.
August 5, 2010
My Way News
By: Michael R. Blood
Nevada U.S. Senate candidate Sharron Angle sees her campaign as a battle to stop Democrats in Washington who want to expand entitlement programs and “make government our God.”
In an interview with a Christian radio network, Angle describes her effort to oust Majority Leader Harry Reid as a religious calling in “a war of ideology, it’s a war of thoughts and of faith.”
Reid, President Barack Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have pushed “entitlement programs built to make government our God,” says Angle, who has called for privatizing Social Security and Medicare for younger workers.
“What’s happening in this country is a violation of the First Commandment,” Angle told Trunews in the April interview, which is posted on the network’s website.
“We have become a country entrenched in idolatry, and that idolatry is the dependency upon our government. We’re supposed to depend upon God for our protection and our provision and for our daily bread, not for our government,” she said.
Reid’s campaign said in a statement Wednesday that Angle’s statements are “frightening.” Since Angle won the GOP nomination in June, Reid’s campaign has depicted the tea party favorite in TV ads as an extremist who would gut federal programs and turn her back on those in need.
“The fact that Sharron Angle believes she’s on a religious crusade to eliminate critical programs like Social Security, Medicare, and unemployment insurance that help hundreds of thousands of Nevadans in need is both dangerous and extreme,” the statement said.
Angle’s campaign pointed out that Reid, too, has spoken about the relationship between politics and his Mormon religion. In a speech at Brigham Young University in 2007, he said, “My faith and political beliefs are deeply intertwined. I am a Democrat because I am a Mormon, not in spite of it.”
Angle spokesman Jarrod Agen said in a statement that “people are frustrated because, like Sharron, they understand Washington has become a giant, unseen, omnipotent force whose presence is felt in all our lives whether we like it or not.”
Angle, a Southern Baptist, has called herself a faith-based politician and prays daily. Among her positions, she opposes abortion in all circumstances, including rape and incest.
In the Trunews interview, she talked widely and with candor unusual for a politician about her religious views and how they relate to her life as a politician.
“In this political walk that I’m walking – and I think it is a calling that God has on my life – I have watched Him walk with me through politics and help me to see the pitfalls of the political machinery, the seduction of the party and even those outside the party, the lobbyists, all of that,” Angle told the network.
“The Lord shows me daily where he wants me to walk,” she said.
Asked why she would enter a race to challenge the most powerful Democrat in the Senate, Angle said, “We’re at war in this country, for our freedom, our culture, for our liberty, our Constitution.”
Angle, who has called for dissolving some federal agencies and shifting their powers to states, including the Department of Education, warned of growing dependency on Washington.
“We know that once we have a majority that are dependent upon the government, we will lose our freedom,” Angle said. “That’s the next stage. Our Founders warned against this.”
“I know people are very frightened about what’s going on in this country,” she added.
The campaigns have previously tangled over statements Angle made on the separation of church and state.
In a June interview on Nevada’s KVBC’s news interview program “Face to Face with Jon Ralston,” Angle was asked about minutes from a 1995 legislative hearing in which she reportedly said the doctrine of church-state separation is unconstitutional. Asked on the program if the separation of church and state arises out of the Constitution, Angle answered “no.” She said Thomas Jefferson is often misquoted and that he wanted to protect churches from being taken over by a state religion. The drafters of the Constitution “didn’t mean that we couldn’t bring our values to the political forum,” she said.
Reid’s campaign said Angle’s remarks showed she believed church-state separation is unconstitutional. Angle’s campaign said Reid was “figuring out ways to twist a larger historical statement Angle was making about the origins of separation of church and state.”
Meanwhile, Angle released a new TV ad faulting Reid for the state’s troubled economy. Nevada leads the nation in unemployment, foreclosures and bankruptcies.
The ad points out property values have plummeted on Reid’s watch. “The only thing he’s delivered for Nevada is hardship,” a narrator says.