1. The First Amendment
In last week's post, I stated that the early settler's believed in God. So let's take a moment to go back a bit further in time in order to review evidence for that statement. In Christian Life and Character of Civil Institutions of the United States, Benjamin Franklin Morris declared, "We have a noble nation, full of the evidences of the moulding presence of Christian truth, and of the power and goodness of Divine wisdom is rearing up a Christian republic for all time." (See preface). In that same book, Morris offers the following:
~In New Jersey, the people were determined to carry on Godly government. (pg. 90)
~In Delaware, the Christian colonization began in 1638 after a royal member of a Sweden family decided to "aid in the Christian settlement of the New World." (pg. 91, 92)
~Virginia began in 1607 after King James granted territories and acknowledged that the work performed there would be aided by the propagation of the Christian religion. (pg. 92)
~Maryland was settled in 1632 by Lord Baltimore who hoped to further the Catholic religion. Lord Baltimore was granted a charter because of his "...laudable zeal for extending the Christian religion...." Additionally, when Lord Baltimore's brother, Leonard Calvert, arrived in Maryland, he erected a cross and took possession for "our Lord Jesus Christ...." (pg. 94, 95)
~South Carolina's beginnings were due to the Christian religion. (pg. 96)
~In North Carolina, the settlers were of various Christian sects who were seeking refuge from Virginia's strict Catholic laws. (pg. 98)
~Georgia received its beginning in 1732 when James Ogelthorpe landed with several emigrants to further his Christian motives. (pg. 101)
Morris goes on to say that in Massachusetts and Connecticut, all free people and civil rulers had to be in communion with the church so they could promote the Christian church. (pg. 106)
Several state charters confirmed the settler's desire to uphold the Christian religion. For example, the Virginia charter stated that the people came to America to bring the “Christian Religion to such People, as yet live in Darkness and miserable Ignorance of the true knowledge and worship of God.”
Connecticut's charter states, "...whereby Our said People Inhabitants there, may be so religiously, peaceably and civilly governed, as their good Life and orderly Conversation may win and invite the Natives of the Country to the Knowledge and Obedience of the only true GOD, and He Saviour of Mankind, and the Christian Faith, which in Our Royal Intentions, and the adventurers free Possession, is the only and principal End of this Plantation;"
Delaware's charter states, "BECAUSE no People can be truly happy, though under the greatest Enjoyment of Civil Liberties, if abridged of the Freedom of their Consciences, as to their Religious Profession and Worship: And Almighty God being the only Lord of Conscience, Father of Lights and Spirits; and the Author as well as Object of all divine Knowledge, Faith and Worship, who only doth enlighten the Minds, and persuade and convince the Understandings of People, I do hereby grant and declare..."
Georgia's charter states, "...we do by these presents, for us, our heirs and successors, grant, establish and ordain, that forever hereafter, there shall be a liberty of conscience allowed in the worship of God, to all persons inhabiting, or which shall inhabit or be resident within our said provinces..."
Maryland's charter states, "Whereas our well beloved and right trusty Subject Caecilius Calvert...being animated with a laudable, and pious Zeal for extending the Christian Religion..."
Copies of the original thirteen charters can be found here at the Yale Law School website.
Interestingly enough, the majority of charters that mention religion declare that Christian people will not be prejudiced against. This suggests that the people were concerned that the government would treat them in a negative manner based on their religion. By the time America later declared independence from Great Britain, religious views hadn't changed. The Declaration of Independence was signed by fifty-six men on July 4th, 1776. When those men placed their signatures on this document, they agreed “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” Although Patrick Henry was not one of the signers of the Declaration, he is considered a Founding Father. He announced, “There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations…” See here for that quote along with several others he made regarding religion. Also, Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration, queried, “Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure if we have lost the only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are a gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath?”
Considering all this information, is it any surprise that the citizens of the new nation wanted assurance that the government would not interfere with their religious beliefs and that their rights would not be violated? This is the reason the Founding Fathers included religion in the First Amendment. The Establishment Clause and the Exercise Clause were only meant to prohibit any laws from being made that would violate the religious rights of the people. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court has used the First Amendment to do the opposite of what the Founding Fathers intended.
Next week, I will continue with the:
Beginning of a Nation