Allahpundit quite nicely summed up yesterday that we’ve now reached truly new heights of campaigning with Trump vs. Francis; the mogul vs. the Pope. For Trump, who used to be a boxing promoter, perhaps he’ll add pay-per-view to his “self-funded” campaign (why the “donate” button, Donald?). This particular war of words is yet more evidence that it’s past time to get politics away from religion, and religion away from politics.
In a Republican primary, a candidate or candidates running while panting, tongue extended, to pander to the “Christian conservative” or “evangelical” bloc is a given. Entire campaigns are founded on winning this segment of our population, like that of Senator Ted Cruz:
Today, roughly half of born again Christians aren’t voting. They’re staying home. Imagine instead millions of people of faith all across America coming out to the polls and voting our values.
More recently Senator Cruz, who wraps his arms around our Constitution with every speech he gives, also said this:
I’m a Christian first, I’m an American second, I’m a conservative third, and I’m a Republican fourth, and that’s part of the problem, is that there are too many people who don’t have that ordering correct.
Remember back when Dr. Ben Carson made his ignorant comments about Muslims being disqualified from high office in the United States because Islam is incompatible with the Constitution? Breaking news: the tenets of nearly every faith, if executed or lived to the letter, is incompatible with our Constitution and its limited, enumerated powers. And yes, that includes Christians; which I say unapologetically, includes me. Senator Cruz would be well to remember that the Constitution he loves so much simply requires of the President this, in Article II, Section 1:
I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.
No mention of religion or God, and it’s preposterous to believe that the Constitution’s framers meant “faithfully” as “full of religious faith”, when just preceding they allowed for affirmation instead of swearing should a person’s beliefs forbid the latter. It was George Washington who ad libbed “So help me God” on the end of the oath. It’s a tradition, not a requirement. Nor is it required for a Constitutional oath taker to have their left hand on a religious work, of any kind, from any faith.
It’s time we got religion and faith out of our politics and government. If you believe in the Constitution and its strictly enumerated powers, I believe it’s the only proper conclusion.
I’ll be blunt: if Senator Cruz – or any of the other Republican candidates – would put their Christian faith before the Constitution in the execution of the office of President, they are every bit as unqualified for the office as a progressive like Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton. I say that both as a Constitutionalist and a believer.
But candidates like Cruz will continue to pander to the “religious right”, though it gets them nothing even in evangelical-heavy states like South Carolina. It must be a huge shock to Senator Cruz that evangelicals are way more enthusiastic for Donald Trump than he. I wonder if the results Saturday follow the polls the Senator will claim that evangelicals didn’t come out to “vote their values.”
Now, this is the point where “conservatives” will scream – like Cruz surrogate Pastor Mike Gonzalez – that the First Amendment doesn’t really mean “a wall of separation of Church & State”; that the concept only comes from a single letter by President Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptists.
I expect people now are also rushing to the bottom of this post to throw the following quote from President John Adams into the comments.
Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.
Bet most folks don’t know that quote is the last sentence of a paragraph that hardly stands alone. It’s from a letter written by President Adams to the officers of the First Brigade, Third Division, Massachusetts Militia on October 11, 1798. Here’s the whole paragraph, emphasis mine:
While our country remains untainted with the principles and manners which are now producing desolation in so many parts of the world; while she continues sincere, and incapable of insidious and impious policy, we shall have the strongest reason to rejoice in the local destination assigned us by Providence. But should the people of America once become capable of that deep simulation towards one another, and towards foreign nations, which assumes the language of justice and moderation while it is practising [sic] iniquity and extravagance, and displays in the most captivating manner the charming pictures of candor, frankness, and sincerity, while it is rioting in rapine and insolence, this country will be the most miserable habitation in the world; because we have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.
The words that precede the commonly seen Adams’ quote are way more significant. Adams asserts that our government is not empowered to dictate morality and religion the people or enforce moral and religious standards. Adams believed that religion and morals were the sole domain of people, not government.
And what of President Jefferson’s statement to the Danbury Baptists? By the way, have you ever seen or read the letter sent to President Jefferson by the Danbury Baptists on October 7, 1801? Know the context? Here’s the second paragraph, emphasis mine:
Our sentiments are uniformly on the side of religious liberty—that religion is at all times and places a matter between God and individuals—that no man ought to suffer in name, person, or effects on account of his religious opinions—that the legitimate power of civil government extends no further than to punish the man who works ill to his neighbors; But, sir, our constitution of government is not specific. Our ancient charter together with the law made coincident therewith, were adopted as the basis of our government, at the time of our revolution; and such had been our laws and usages, and such still are; that religion is considered as the first object of legislation; and therefore what religious privileges we enjoy (as a minor part of the state) we enjoy as favors granted, and not as inalienable rights; and these favors we receive at the expense of such degrading acknowledgements as are inconsistent with the rights of freemen. It is not to be wondered at therefore; if those who seek after power and gain under the pretense of government and religion should reproach their fellow men—should reproach their order magistrate, as a enemy of religion, law, and good order, because he will not, dare not, assume the prerogatives of Jehovah and make laws to govern the kingdom of Christ.
The Danbury Baptists wrote to President Jefferson because the State of Connecticut only allowed their religious freedom at the pleasure of the State. Check me: it’s “conservative” to want to protect individual’s religious liberty, right? It’s “conservative” to stand for people who don’t want to be forced to act against their religious beliefs in society, right? Care to guess what the fullness of what President Jefferson said back to the Danbury Baptists on January 1, 1802 was?
Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & 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 & State. [Congress thus inhibited from acts respecting religion, and the Executive authorised [sic] only to execute their acts, I have refrained from prescribing even those occasional performances of devotion, practiced indeed by the Executive of another nation as the legal head of its church, but subject here, as religious exercises only to the voluntary regulations and discipline of each respective sect.] 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.
Once again, what isn’t typically quoted is way more significant than what is. Jefferson was supporting religious freedom and arguing against government interference in religion.
My friend and Vigilant Liberty Radio cohort Taylor Millard recently wrote here at Hot Air that we’re all wrapped up in Justice Scalia’s death and the future of the Supreme Court because we don’t truly follow the Constitution. “Our side” is as every bit reliant on the Supreme Court as the opposition is because our politicians don’t have the guts to really stand legislatively for a return to Constitutionally limited government.
The need to inject faith, and the religiously-driven morals that come with it, are an extension of the same phenomenon. The reason why people think faith is significant in politics is because our government has insinuated itself into areas of life, family, and morals that it has no proper place being. Instead of driving us further away from the Constitution and enumerated powers by injecting religion, if we claim to stand for the Constitution, shouldn’t we go the opposite direction?
Oh…and if you’re still keen to believe that “separation of Church & State” was just Jefferson’s game, check out the writings of James Madison, Jefferson’s successor as President of the United States, principal author of the Constitution and 30 percent of the Federalist Papers…and the principal author of what’s now known as the First Amendment. He was unswerving in his beliefs and his actions that politics had no place in religion, and religion had no place in politics.
We’d all be well to yet learn.
Allan Bourdius is a co-founder of Vigilant Liberty Radio and the co-host of the station’s “Roundtable of Extreme Liberty”, host of “Their Finest Hour” and the founder of the blog of the same name. You can follow him on Twitter as @allanbourdius.