Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Obama and the Declaration of Independence

Another article at the American Thinker taking a more in-depth look at Obama's editing of the Declaration of Independence.

Obama Edits the Declaration of Independence By Peter J. Colosi

President Obama has taken to referencing the language of the Declaration of Independence while omitting key words. Although the practice has garnered attention of late, it dates back to the beginning of his presidency.

An October 19 article at CNSnews by Penny Star noted that "For the second time in little over a month, President Barack Obama stripped the word 'Creator' from the Declaration of Independence when giving a speech." These speeches have generated much debate concerning whether the president's omissions were deliberate or mistaken.

The answer, I think, can be found in President Obama's inauguration speech, which is perhaps the most striking example of this phenomenon, yet no one seemed to notice it then.

Toward the beginning of President Obama's inauguration speech, he said,

America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in
high office, but because We the People have remained faithful to the ideals of
our forebearers, and true to our founding documents.

A few paragraphs later, he said,

The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history;
to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation
to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all
deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

These opening lines are obviously meant to remind the listener of the Declaration.

A little later, in the same speech, the president called on the Founding Fathers, the documents they wrote, and the ideals those documents contain. He said that we will not give up those ideals:

Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a
charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by
the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not
give them up for expedience's sake.

But what does the Declaration actually say? It says this:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, 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.

Notice that in President Obama's speech, the words "created," "Creator," and "Life" are conspicuously missing. Why?

Notice, also, how he utilized three terms: "equal," "free," and "happiness." He removed the term "Life" from the list of the three rights and then replaced it with the term "equal," which occurs earlier in the Declaration. By retaining three terms and by replacing "life" with another word from the same document -- namely, "equal" -- Obama succeeded in generating in the audience a vague recollection of the Declaration while at the same time rewriting it. With well-crafted sophistry, he did precisely what he said we would not do: he gave up the original ideals for expedience's sake.

To say "all are equal" is not to say "all are created equal." To say that there is a "God-given promise" is not to say that there is a self-evident truth that we are all endowed by our Creator with unalienable rights. To leave "Life" out of the list of rights, is, well, to delete the first term in the original list of three.

To paraphrase one of his recent predecessors, I wonder what President Obama's meaning of the word "all" is. By removing the term "Life," who, one wonders, is included in "all"?

In the very same speech, right under our noses, Obama said that we would not give up those ideals and then promptly gave them up. He did it in such a way that no one noticed. Why?

In his inauguration speech, President Obama gave up "created," "Creator," and "Life." Is this true to our founding documents, or is it the work of a skilled rhetorician bent on the deconstruction of those documents by stealth? Is it a deliberate attempt to take the opportunity of a presidential inauguration to make major headway at deconstructing the Declaration in the minds of people, or was he just waxing eloquent, but inexactly? The recent speeches give powerful evidence that from the inauguration on, this has been deliberate and calculated.

I think that Peter Colsoi makes some interesting points and observations here, though I think he looks into some of Obama's wording a little to much and the article begins to take a conspiratorial approach to this entire collection of events. I tend to believe that Obama has done these things deliberately, but not because he has some sinister agenda, just that he is personally uncomfortable with the terms, due to how his own worldview and liberalism see's absolute terms and ideals such as those written and presented in the Declaration of Independence. This does suggest though, that Obama is uneasy about America as it was originally conceived and how it has historically been.

On another similar point, I don't know if you've seen MSNBC's new "Lean Forward" ad campaign which also edits out any reference to the Creator and replaces "all men" with "all men and women". Also after the reference to "certain unalienable rights" it shows footage of two men getting "married".

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Is Obama trying to omit God from American History? Again

Thomas Lifson at the American Thinker writes:

Obama omits 'Creator' from Declaration rights language again

He's done it again! President Obama has removed "Creator" from the language of the Declaration of Independence when citing the rights with which we are endowed -- by God, as the Declaration tells us. From the Whitehouse.gov website, the text of the President's remarks to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee on October 18:

As wonderful as the land is here in the United States, as much as we have been blessed by the bounty of this magnificent continent that stretches from the Atlantic to the Pacific, what makes this place special is not something physical. It has to do with this idea that was started by 13 colonies that decided to throw off the yoke of an empire, and said, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that each of us are endowed with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

He did this before on September 15th, speaking to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute:

After President Obama says "created equal..", there is a long pause during which he scowls and blinks several times. For once, he may actually have opted to not read something that was on the teleprompter. It looks like he is disgusted and decided it would be better not to read what the preamble actually says. (video here).

Both times, he was speaking before political groups of his supporters.

Once could be a mistake, but twice is a pattern. Acknowledging that our rights come from a power higher than government or himself seems to rankle this man who claims the power to halt the rise of the seas.

Its actually the third time now. There were two in the last article here. The first was at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute’s Annual Awards Gala on Sept. 15, then the second was when he was speaking at a Sept. 22 fundraiser for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) at the Roosevelt Hotel and now this one. I think the last line of Thomas Lifson's article sums this up well.

Friday, 1 October 2010

America: A Christian nation?

I found this exchange about the idea of America as a Christian Nation from a newspaper, it was between Bruce Gourley and Blake Dunlop.

Original letter by Bruce Gourley:

Don't cling to myth of U.S. as Christian nation (12/22/08)

I would like to second Tom Stonecipher's excellent comments on the myth of America as a Christian nation.

Many Christians in America today have forgotten their own history, both religious and national. In 2009 Baptists will celebrate their 400th anniversary. In the 17th and 18th centuries Baptists, heavily persecuted by colonial theocracies, led the way in embracing a pluralistic society and insisting upon full religious liberty and separation of church and state.

Baptists' perseverance in the face of religious and state persecution led to the founding of America as the world's first secular nation, including the adoption of separation of church and state in the First Amendment. England was so mortified, when the new nation left God out of its Constitution, that some English leaders accused America of being an atheist nation.

Why did Baptists (and some other Christian groups) insist that America be founded as a secular nation? Because they realized that true religion is voluntary, not coerced. This fundamental belief is as true today as it was hundreds of years ago. Christians of the late 18th century clearly understood that our country was founded as a secular nation (although not all were happy about the matter; some wished for a theocracy). Clinging to the historical myth of America as a Christian nation is historical dishonesty, as well as a slap in the face of our spiritual forefathers (and foremothers).

Bruce Gourley Churchill

Blake Dunlop's response:

U.S. is indeed a Christian nation (12/28/08) Bruce Gourley (Dec. 22 letter, "Don't cling to myth of U.S. as Christian nation") must think that if he repeats his "secular nation" mantra enough, he'll bludgeon people into believing it, but the idea that the early republic was a secular nation would have astonished our founders.

If Gourley were right, he'd have a hard time explaining, among other things, why the first Congress purchased Bibles for distribution in the Northwest Territory (most of today's Great Lake states), why Congress opens its daily sessions with a prayer, and why many states had established (i.e., tax-supported) churches, some persisting well into the 19th century.

Above all, Gourley would have to tangle with John Jay, who wrote approvingly in Federalist No. 2, "that Providence has been pleased to give this one connected country to one united people--a people descended from the same ancestors, speaking the same language, professing the same religion, attached to the same principles of government, ..." (Note that Jay's famous words were decisively no paean to "diversity," which many of our contemporaries seem bent on imposing as the national religion.)

The First Amendment, as originally understood, merely stipulated that there be no established national church--no denomination favored by the federal government nor supported by federal monies. And the Constitution's Article VI assures that there's no religious test to hold national office.

But the founding generation took it for granted that Americans were predominantly Protestants of various denominations, with a few Catholics and Jews mixed in. They didn't think America was a society of non-religious people, a "secular nation." Jewish writer Ilana Mercer understands all this: Recently, defending Christmas displays on public property, she referred to Christianity as "America's founding faith."

Indeed. Merry Christmas to all, from an atheist.

Blake Dunlop Bozeman

Bruce Gourley's response:

America was founded as a secular nation (1/1/09)Blake Dunlop's (Dec. 28 letter, "U.S. is indeed a Christian nation") assertion that America was founded as a Christian nation does not square with historical fact. Christians of the late 18th century would be astonished that contemporary Christians believe our nation was founded as a Christian nation.

Yes, theocracies existed at the colonial state level prior to the American Revolution (and persecuted Baptists, Quakers, and non-Christians). However, at the insistence of Baptists, Deists, and many others, our founding fathers rejected theocracy and chose a secular government structure. Yes, some states continued to collect taxes for churches into the early 19th century, because some Christians yet yearned for some degree of theocracy. And yes, people of all manner (not just Christians) in the late 18th and 19th centuries spoke to the vague notion of "providence." John Jay's reference to "providence" is akin to the deism of most of our founding fathers, as is the formal offering of prayer to a distant universal force or supreme being.

Baptist leader John Leland declared, in 1794, that the state has no reason to care whether "a man worships one God, three Gods, 20 Gods, or no God." Baptists as a whole helped ensure that America's founding principles, in terms of religion, were religious liberty, separation of church and state, and pluralism.

In short, America, like most other nations throughout history, has always been a nation of religious persons (as Tyler Mills in a Dec. 29 letter, "Why try so hard to downplay religion?", correctly notes). But unlike all other nations prior to the late 18th century, America is a secular nation that believes the best way to honor religious faith--and lack of faith--is to separate church (and mosque and synagogue) from state.

Bruce Gourley Churchill

Blake Dunlop's reply:

America substantively a Christian society (1/17/09)In his letters (Dec. 22 and Jan.1) about the religious character of the early Republic, Bruce Gourley hammers us with boilerplate--"America was founded as a secular nation"--as though sheer repetition will convince. His boilerplate is based on the false premise that the Constitution was co-extensive with America itself, so that if the national government was secular, then America was a secular nation. But the Constitution merely created a federal governing structure, leaving most of the substance of the society, including religion, to the states.

Further, it's not even correct to say that the national government was secular: Congress has always held daily prayers, and the First Congress mandated distribution of Bibles in the territories. So the correct description of our national government isn't that it was secular, but that it didn't establish one Christian denomination over others.

Gourley's underlying conceptual mistake is to characterize a polity without a religious establishment as "secular" and a polity with a religious establishment as "theocratic." Thus, nonsensically, he derides all colonies and states with religious establishments as "theocracies." A religious establishment doesn't mean that the government is run by God, saints, or holy men, as in a theocracy. "Establishment" simply means that one denomination is supported by taxes and that membership in it is required for public officeholders.

Also, I didn't say that the U.S. was "founded as a Christian nation," a phrase implying that the Constitution declared America to be Christian. I said that, in the Founding era, America was substantively a Christian society, its common beliefs, morals, and religious practices being Christian, and with Christian religious establishments in many states. The Constitution added atop this Christian society a national government that was barred both from establishing a national religion and from interfering with the states' religious establishments.

Blake Dunlop Bozeman

To say that America is not a Christian Nation is true in the sense that the federal government, or the Constitution, makes no direct mention of Christianity, and the First Amendment obviously prohibits any establishment of religion by the federal Congress.

A key point to remember though, which is constantly overlooked, ignorned or just forgotten, is that the federal government is not supposed to be considered the totality of the United States. The federal government is a system created to support the states, to help them handle certain indispensable governmental functions that the states could not handle themselves, the states thus delegate certain powers to the federal government. The states, which comprised the actual substance of what American society was and is, were certainly founded on religion and many of them even had established religions by this point. By contrast, the federal government was seen as a neutral voice and shell to hold together the disparate states. That's why the First Amendment prohibited any establishment of religion by the federal Congress, even as the states continued with their religious establishments. Since the states had different majority religions and different established religions, the federal government, in order to hold the states together, had to be neutral as regards religion.

In 1620 for instance, the Puritans made there religion the official faith of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

They made membership in their congregations a requirement to vote in civic elections. They charged all citizens – members of the congregations or not – taxes for the support of the clergy and the congregations. And they could arrest citizens who “absented themselves from the Ordinances of Publicke Worshipe,”.

The Pilgrims with there Puritan Congregational Church were aloud to tax, arrest, and expel Baptists, Catholics, Quakers and Jews with the appoval of there state.

It wasn't Thomas Jefferson’s “wall of separation” nor the First Amendment, that changed this system. It was the peoples views on tax politics that eventually caused the change.

If you read the First Amendment carefully you will see that it says: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof …”

At the time the First Amendment was signed, Massachusetts was one of two states with what are called established churches – official state churches, supported by taxes. And the First Amendment was carefully worded so that Congress could not make any law that would interfere with those official state churches. The Congregational Church lost its preferential status in Connecticut in 1818; in Massachusetts (which for most of this period included what is now Maine) in 1830.

So as often as later legal decisions would cite the “wall of separation” phrase, this concept is simply not there in the First Amendment.

It comes from this passage from a letter Thomas Jefferson's sent to the Danbury Baptists Association in 1802:

... 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 & State."

His equating of non-establishment of religion with separation of church and state, was personally how Jefferson wished the Constitution had been conceived and how he wanted it to be interpreted, but it was not how it had been originally formed and agreed upon collectively amongst the founders.

As for the original intention. The United States Constitution, while "made only for a moral and religious [i.e. Christian] people ... [and] wholly inadequate to the government of any other," in Adams's famous words, is not formally or offically Christian. In the formal sense, the U.S. government is not founded on the Christian religion. But that government, as delineated by the Constitution, comes from an overwhelmingly Protestant Christian people, was made for an overwhelmingly Protestant Christian people, and would have been impossible without an overwhelmingly Protestant Christian people."

Further, even at the time that the Treaty of Tripoli was being made, written up and signed, the Congress started its sesssions with prayers, the Congress had Bibles distributed to the federal territories, and did other things that directly promoted and expressed a connection with the Christian religion. What the Congress did not do was establish any Christian denomination as a favored denomination, favour one over the other, which is what was and is meant by an the term "establishment of religion".

The prohibition against establishment of religion by the federal Congress was obviously later distorted, manipulated and then turned into a direct prohibition not only of establishment of religion in the states and localities, but a prohibition against any form of religious expression by the states and localities. The absence of any reference direct or indirect to religion or Christianity within the federal Constitution was ultimately turned into the idea that America as such was a secular country/nation and was designed to be one; and with the destruction of the states' reserved powers, the federal courts gained the power to impose secularism or at least a form of Anti-Christian secularism on the entire country.

Also to note is that the preambles of the Constitutions of all 50 states make some reference to God. Attempts were made in the 19th century to add language acknowledging God to the U.S. Constitution by amendment, but they failed.