Religious Freedom

James Madison, known as the “Father of our Constitution” met with a Baptist preacher named John Leland under a tree at the corner of what in now Madison and Leland Avenues in Richmond. They were to run for office against each other. However, Leland, a five to one favorite, didn’t want to run.

In that meeting Leland persuaded Madison an amendment to the Constitution was needed that would provide religious freedom and give every denomination equal footing. People had fled Europe because of various state churches. England had the Church of England, German the Lutheran Church, Spain and Italy the Catholic Church. These were funded by the state to the exclusion of other denominations.

There was strong growing sentiment in America for there to be no official denomination. Madison agreed to propose such an amendment and Leland withdrew. Thus, the First Amendment came to be to guarantee all denominations freedom. It is a prohibition on the government not the church.

Read it: “Congress shall make no laws….”

In Banberry, Connecticut a group of Baptist wrote Thomas Jefferson about their concerns related to there being no official denomination established by the government. Jefferson had no part in drafting our Constitution and wasn’t even at the convention. He was a respected public figure. In Jefferson’s response he assured the group there would be no official denomination because there was a great wall separating church and state. A reading of his full letter makes it apparent what he meant. He was assuring them there would be no official state church. That is, no one denomination would be the official denomination.

The “wall” isn’t mentioned in the Constitution. The First Amendment was intended to assure the people all denominations would be treated equal and was intended restrict government not the church.

That is the way law was interpreted until 1947 when Justice Black in effect made a new law on behalf of the court by applying the statement to virtually exclude the church from public life. For over 150 years the intent of the restriction being on government was understood. Only recently did courts reverse the intent. For years the issue was a one way street restricting government. Then courts reversed the traffic and made it a one way street going the other way and restricting the church.

This is one of the principle reasons some persons don’t want judges appointed who believe in the “laws of nature and natures God.” The expression referred to laws revealed through nature and the latter to the laws of God revealed through Scripture.

Constitutional law is based on the intent of those who established our Constitution. In modern times as evolution gained popularity the thought of evolving law emerged in the Harvard Law School. A move away from interpreting law based on the content and intent of the Constitution began to emerge based on what is known as a “living Constitution” or “dynamic Constitution.” Supreme Court Justice Charles Evans Hughes espousing this position said, “We are under a Constitution, but the Constitution is what the judges say it is.”

Our forefathers wanted to let freedom ring —- religious freedom.

Prostitots: Little Britneys

On my way driving through my home town recently I had occasion to drive by a humble little brick house. It is on a gravel road with the railroad running through the back yard. There is a small metal building outback that was used as a home gym where the mother of the household taught dancing.

The nearest town, my home town, has a population of about 400 and the second nearest about 2,000. The nearest city is Baton Rouge about 75 miles away.

The house brought two questions to mind. It is reminiscent of a question asked of the ancient village of Nazareth, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”

The second question was, “What difference can one person make?”

One of the most influential people in America was reared in that house. No fashion designer has ever had as much influence on youth attire as she. Brittany Spears has influenced not only wardrobes but the morals of young America dramatically. She has influenced youth fashion more than mothers and dads, school boards, and all other influences in society combined.

A group dressing and acting like her has resulted in the coining of a new word, “prostitots.” Middle school and high school youth are emulating her and she Madonna and she what only prostitutes wore a short time ago.

I keep hoping Britney will make enough money she can buy clothes that fit.

In Dublin, Ireland we saw many Britney “wannabes” on the streets. She was playing to a sold out crowd there that night.

Out in the open country about five miles from the house of her youth is her new dwelling. It is a mansion sitting on a ridge flanked by a large guest house on one side and the pool house on the other. The metal fence is made of twelve foot spears tipped in gold. The setting is dramatic amid the majestic oaks.

Psychologists say one way to change your mood and outlook is to “act as if.” If you are emotionally down start acting as though you are up and soon you will be. Apply that principle to our youth culture.

First, there are some youth with high morals that are naively copying Britney. Allow for that minority in evaluating this.

A person is not suggestive because they dress suggestively.

A person dresses suggestively because they are suggestive.

If that is true Britney has influenced more than clothes. She has influenced the morals of youthful Americans. They think suggestive thoughts and their wardrobes signal it.

Moms and dads did you hear that?

They dress like prostitots because they think like prostitots.

Parents, not MTV or Britney nor emotionally and socially immature youth should influence how youth dress. That can be a bitter battlefield on which parents and children fight it out. It can also be a forum in which parents and children bond by understanding each other.

President Bush And Judicial Appointments

Here come the judges.

There will be a litmus test for judges in America. The question is whose test?

When Nancy Palosi and Teddy Kennedy say there will be no litmus test for appointment of judges they are saying the president can’t have a defined standard for his appointments. One tactic often applied is to avoid persons noting what you are doing by accusing your opponent of doing what you are doing. In focusing attention on the president having a litmus test they are covering the fact they do have one themselves.

One to watch for is whether a candidate believes in “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.” That phrase is in our Declaration of Independence. When the petitions of Americans for redress of their grievances went unanswered by the king the Continental Congress appealed to “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.”

Thomas Jefferson who wrote that phrase was familiar with Blackstone’s writing on law. Blackstone defined it in this way: “This law of nature being co-eval with mankind and dictated by God himself, is of course superior in obligation to any other. It is binding over all the globe, and all countries, and at all times; no human laws are of any validity if contrary to this; and such of them as are valid derive all their force, and all their authority, mediately or immediately from this original.”

Jefferson was a Deist who believed a deity set the universe in motion and gave their “nature” to everything. To insure this was not the limit intended by the phrase members of the congress concluded the document with a more orthodox Christian reference: “the protection of Divine Providence.”

Current proponents of the concept of “the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God” are generally inclined toward Constitutional law and interpret law in light of it rather than making contemporary laws that often conflict with the intent of the Constitution.

Watch for that as a catch phrase in and Supreme Court hearing.

The judges to be appointed, like those before them, will dramatically color the conscience of America. One reason Americans elected President Bush was the importance of the appointment of judges. It was known where he stood on the issue and in supporting him they were endorsing the appointment of such judges. They wanted the type judges President Bush would appoint not the type Senator Kerry would recommend. For a minority in Congress to keep appointments grid locked would be to frustrate the will of the people.

Stalwart detractors of the President say he should cooperate with them. Should not they cooperate with him? Who won? Who had a majority of the votes? Who ran saying he would fulfill the promises he made in order to get elected? He said he would appoint justices like Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. Don’t be surprised if he does. That is what he was elected to do.

President Bush’s Global Peace Initiative

President Bush delivered an Inaugural Address that will go down in history as a monumental one. What he proposes is an idyllic world. History has never known an era when such was a reality. It is a noble concept that bumps its nose against the plate glass reality of man’s inhumanity to man. We could all hope his philosophy will catch fire and afford freedom and peace as never before.

The Twentieth Century was a bloody one like those before it. It is this pattern of human conduct that would have to be reversed for his ideals to be an admirable reality. Consider these war casualties resulting from conflicts in the Twentieth Century. Different sources record differing totals. These come from “The Twentieth Century Atlas – Death Tolls.”

Russia lost 14,000 troops in Afghanistan and in the continuing Chechnya conflict 10,500+.

Following are a few countries involved in World War I, the number of casualties for each, and the percent of their combatants lost.
Russia, 6,650,000, 55%; Germany, 5,952,000, 54%; France, 5,651,000, 75%; Austria, 4,820,000, 74%; Bulgaria, 254,000, 64%; Canada, 241,000, 39%; U.S., 321,000, 8%.

Staggering death totals are recorded from these conflicts:
The Congo Free State (1886-1908) lost an estimated low of 8,000,000 and a high of 21,000,000. The Mexican Revolution (1910-1920) involved 2,100,000 fatalities. In Armenia between 1915 and 1923, there were 1,500,000 killed. In the China Warlord era (1917-1928) 800,000 died and in their Nationalist era (1928-1937) 3,1000,000. 1948-1987, North Korea committed 1,293,000 domecides. In the conflict between North Korea/China and American allied 2,800,000. In Rwanda and Burundi between 1959-1995, there were 1,250,000 killed. The second Indochina War recorded 3,500,000 casualties. Kinshasa Congo in 1998, there were 3,300,000 killed. The war between Iran and Iraq (1980-1988) resulted in over 1,000,000 fatalities. In Nigeria between 1966-1970, 5,000,000 died in conflict.

Obviously there was no liberty and justice for all. Annually millions die in wars of which we never hear. These astronomical totals do not diminish the value of one American lost in combat. They do not justify war but they put it in a perspective of which most of us aren’t aware.

It would be nice if all the bad guys in the world would go away and leave us alone. We would be perfectly willing for that to happen. Unfortunately it isn’t going to happen. Eternal vigilance is an absolute necessity to maintain our freedom. An even greater price in lives and money than that already required may well be necessitated to preserve liberty within our own country.

Our president has indicated diplomacy is the primary means of trying to bring peace to nations. There is too much to be lost not to try.

Post War Iraq And Afghanistan

Post war Iraq and Afghanistan are seen by many as hopeless regions destined to have continued tribal conflicts. It may be. It does not have to be. There is in the Muslim world an example of a state once in a similar condition that overcame it. The transition was led by the man named by Time magazine as the greatest leader of the Twentieth Century. Most Americans don’t even know his name.

Kemal Ataturk led Turkey out of the Ottoman culture to become a cohesive republic. It was as socially, culturally, tribally, and racially diverse as Afghanistan. Not all of his dealings in doing so would be smiled upon by Westerners but were actually mild compared to what he was dealing with.

Being on two continents its largest cultural groups were Kurds, Arabs, Circassian, and Armenians. There were large colonies of Russians, Greeks, Mongols, and Jews also.

Language diversity and a primitive language more suited for a former era were a challenge. Ataturk did away with the Arabic alphabet and replaced it with a completely phonetic Roman alphabet very much like ours.

Turkish women had no rights and were in all things subservient to their fathers and/or husbands. They too wore veils in public and were uneducated. Today men and women have equal rights. A large proportion of women serve in its parliament.

Now public education is mandated. Compulsory education applies to all under age 15. I asked one teacher in Kusadasi if they had discipline problems in their schools. The answer was no. Teachers are highly respected and revered. Students look upon them as their hope for a better life. They idolize their teachers.

Though ninety-eight percent of the population is Muslim there is religious freedom. Most Muslims are Sunni, the orthodox branch of Islam. Emperor Justinian built the awe inspiring cathedral of Saint Sophia in the 500’s. During the Ottoman era it was converter into a mosque. Under Ataturk it was turned into a museum for use by all faiths.

When the Ottoman Turks conquered Constantinople in 1453 they plastered over the Christian mosaics of Saint Sophia. After the building was made a museum in 1933 work was begun to restore the Christian mosaics.

In general the Turkish people are among the most warm and friendly of any country I have visited. They are much more open and conversant with people they don’t know than Americans. Children are courteous and adults polite. Like all nations they have a minority of radicals and extremist but the government works to control them.

Many repressed Iraq and Afghanistan people are Western educated and very capable of giving leadership to that torn society and even making it open to Christian aid workers like those recently imprisoned there. Then a new Phoenix will have arisen from ashes.