I found the remark by a reader in your "Op. Cit." January/February issue almost amusing: "I pray that the supreme court of Alabama will rule against Judge Roy Moore and force him to remove the Protestant version of the Ten Commandments--an affront to Jews and Catholics--from his courtroom wall.
I can see that the nine Catholic commandments could be an affront to Jews and Protestants, but I am a Protestant, and the Ten Commandments we abide by are exactly the same as the ones etched in stone by the finger of God that Moses brought down from Mt. Sinai to present to Israel. I don't know of any Protestants who have a different set.
However, I do agree that whether the Catholic nine or the Jewish/Protestant ten, the commandments have no place in public buildings in America. Since the first four commandments have to do with the relationship between God and man, and are interpreted quite differently by various denominations, no secular judge should make rulings in these matters.
The last six commandments are covered in secular laws, and therefore hardly need to be posted on the wall of a judicial building.
MARY JANE EAKLOR
A Christian Nation: The Presbyterian Approach
This is a post-script to the parody on talk about a Christian nation by Presbyterian minister Larry V. R. Bunnell in the July/August issue of Liberty. In addition to contributing leadership in the formation of a national government, Presbyterians in 1788 were putting together their own national organization. The form of government which they adopted has a preface that is addressed not to the members but to the general public. It describes the relationship of church and state in terms that are at once firm and gentle, and generous to those who differ in belief and organization.
In our present Book of Order the opening lines have been revised to introduce the "Historic Principles" that are basic to the Presbyterian concept and system of church government. Here are the original opening lines, and the first two of the eight sections.
The Synod of New York and Philadelphia, judging it expedient to ascertain and fix the system of union, and the form of Government and Discipline of the Presbyterian Church in these United States, under their care; have thought proper to lay down, by way of introduction, a few of the general principles by which they have been hitherto governed and which are the ground work of the following plan. This, it is hoped, will, in some measure, prevent those rash misconstructions, and uncandid reflections, which usually proceed from an imperfect view of any subject; as well as make the several parts of the system plain, and the whole plan perspicuous and fully understood.
The Synod are unanimously of the opinion:
I. That "God alone is Lord of the conscience" and hath left "it free from the doctrine and commandments of men, which are in any thing contrary to his word, or beside it in matters of faith or worship." Therefore, they consider the rights of private judgement, in all matters that respect religion, as universal, and unalienable: They do not even wish to see any religious constitution aided by the civil power, further than may be necessary for protection and security, and, at the same time, equal and common to all others.
II. That, in perfect consistency with the above principle of common right, every Christian church, or union or association of particular churches, is entitled to declare the terms of admission into its communion and the qualification, of its ministers and members, as well as the whole system of its internal government which Christ hath appointed. That, in the exercise of this right, they may, notwithstanding, err, in making the terms of communion either too lax or too narrow: yet, even in this case, they do not infringe upon the liberty, or the rights of others, but only make an improper use of their own.
Rev. C. FRED JENKINS, Associate Stated Clerk, PC (U.S.A.)
When You Can't See the Forest for the Trees
Even if one were to agree on the principle of church/state separation as stated in your Declaration of Principles, it must be said that just laws made by a separate legislative body of government do not arise from a vacuum, but come from some foundation and standard of measurement for human behavior.
The issue at this time in America's history is less the locating of church/state boundaries (the First Amendment has been reasonably effective for more than two centuries), but more of an assault on the validity of the foundation upon which the successful American system has been built.
The consciousness and view of the nature of God and man as seen by the Founders was not Buddhist, Muslim, Native American, or atheist, rather it was Judeo Christian based on biblical thought. The political statement in the Declaration of Independence which refers to self-evident truths and inalienable rights endowed by a Creator, was not a thought formed in a vacuum of neutrality, and is clearly a foundation cornerstone quite inseparable from its spiritual (religious) source. Indeed, the very fabric of society with which we are so comfortable, has its roots in biblical thought.
The civil liberty cases that we have witnessed in the last few years--whether a suit against displaying a nativity scene in a public square or an elementary school child reading his Bible in class--are intent on causing a paradigm shift in the very consciousness of America.
If we, in America, cast off godly restraints, allow good to be called evil and evil to be called good, and choose that which the Creator calls "abominable," we do so at our own peril. Therefore, just as godly men are sometimes called to defend their country in the military, so it may be that they are also called to defend it in the political arena. It is my hope that the very gifted and sincere staff of Liberty will not lose sight of the forest in its concentration on the trees.
The Democratic Party has historically been known as the party of the working man and labor unions. The election of Democratic politicians was consistent with the support, aid, and assistance of unions.
The Republican Party is becoming known as the party of the Christian Right, the Christian Coalition, the ultra-conservative wing of the Roman Catholic and Morman faiths. Republican politicians are wined and dined by PACs affiliated with these religious groups. D. James Kennedy, a television evangelist has his lobbying group, the Center for Christian Statesmanship, in Washington to wine and dine the Republican demagogues who bow to Kennedy's religious wishes. Since the Christian Right cannot convince the country to obey their religious dogma, they would coerce us by law and by judicial decree. For proof positive, witness the number of religious amendments proposed by "religious" Republican conservatives.
When churches (religion) becomes political and when politicians become religious, beware. The Republicans, pressured and controlled by ultra-conservative religionists--some of whom have infiltrated the Party--would force this democratic Republic to become a bigoted religious theocracy.
MELVIN S. FRANK
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
The Fourteenth Amendment--In Need of an Overhaul?
For quite a while now I have believed that the biggest problem with constitutional law is the interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment. I want to thank you for the articles in your September/October issue which finally helped me to solidify my opinion.
Derek Davis, in "Completing the Constitution," comes to the opposite conclusion I do, but he argues fairly, and I appreciate that. All too often, it seems, people rummage through the papers of the Founders looking for isolated quotes to buttress their conclusions.
Dr. Davis believes that the authors of the Fourteenth Amendment intended to impose the Bill of Rights upon the states. The simple response to that argument is the one made by chief justice John Marshall in Barron v. Baltimore, quoted by Davis and paraphrased by me, "If that's what the Congress meant, they should have said it." They could have saved a lot of words by saying, "No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the rights guaranteed to citizens of the United States by this Constitution." Why didn't they? Because it would never have been ratified by the states.
The Supreme Court should take a case on Fourteenth Amendment incorporation and settle it once and for all, rather than grinding the Tenth Amendment down to nothing, one grain at a time. Dr. Davis is correct that the Constitution must be flexible, but it should be changed in a straightforward manner, and not by stealth.
GARY D. JENSEN
Lake Jackson, Texas