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Ron Paul and Separation

December 30, 2007

NOTE: If you like this article, please Digg it!

I am definitely thankful that I saw that video of Ron Paul over at Bad Astronomy, as it has helped me take a deeper look at Ron Paul’s candidacy. I found an interesting essay written by Dr. Paul back in 2003 entitled “The War on Religion”. This essay starts with the fairly generic war on Christmas tripe that I’ve already covered. However, Dr. Paul then goes on to make some very interesting (and researchable) claims.

Please note that I really am not trying to take shots at Ron Paul. This essay was one of the first that caught my eye mainly because religion and “wars on” are enjoyable topics to me, and looked like something I would like to delve into a little more thoroughly. For any RP supporters, I do realize he makes some good points in other areas, but this article is not about them. That being said, this is not an opinion article, but an analysis of the claims made in one article and an investigation into those claims. I truly hope that anyone who reads this will looks at his essay and my response with a skeptical eye, rather than immediately leaping to his defense or an attack on the man.

That being said, let’s sally forth, tallyho, and get this ball rollin’.

So, let me pattern this by quoting a section of the essay and then writing a reaction. First

Through perverse court decisions and years of cultural indoctrination, the elitist, secular Left has managed to convince many in our nation that religion must be driven from public view. The justification is always that someone, somewhere, might possibly be offended or feel uncomfortable living in the midst of a largely Christian society, so all must yield to the fragile sensibilities of the few. The ultimate goal of the anti-religious elites is to transform America into a completely secular nation, a nation that is legally and culturally biased against Christianity.

I do appreciate the use of strong language in what is, in it’s essence, an emotionally charged issue. However, if Rep. Paul was in my living room when he said that, I would remind him that these perverse court decisions were in defense of the Establishment clause in the 1st Amendment, and hardly perverse to someone who recognizes the wisdom of the Constitution. Also, the goal of most of the secularists that I know would not agree to forcibly removing religion from public view, but from having an influence on out legislation. Just like many Christians, we dig Christmas lights, decorated trees, do not retch at the sight of a nativity on someone else’s lawn, and are tiring of those damned inflatable decorations that people are now littering their lawns with. The problem that we tend to have is when, on publicly owned property, seeing only a nativity or Christmas tree displayed. We’ve now had 4 Christmases since this essay was written, and ideal progress on this issuehas been made in some areas. I love this idea: any group can put a display up on public property. IMHO, allowing all groups to place a display on public grounds is representation; having only a nativity is establishment. I guess that kinda covers the first three paragraphs, but it I will be happy to go further into this is anyone has any comments. Moving on to the juicy stuff.

The notion of a rigid separation between church and state has no basis in either the text of the Constitution or the writings of our Founding Fathers. On the contrary, our Founders’ political views were strongly informed by their religious beliefs. Certainly the drafters of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, both replete with references to God, would be aghast at the federal government’s hostility to religion. The establishment clause of the First Amendment was simply intended to forbid the creation of an official state church like the Church of England, not to drive religion out of public life.

This small paragraph has quite a bit that I want to touch on:

  1. Separation has no basis in the writings of the Constitution or the writings of our Founding Fathers.
  2. The Constitution and the Declaration of Independence are replete with references to God
  3. The federal government’s hostility to religion
  4. The intent of the First Amendment versus the mode of it’s defense

As for #1, less than an 15 minutes on wikiquote captured these gems that apparently don’t really exist:

Religion & Govt. will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together.
Letter to Edward Livingston (1822-07-10)  – James Madison

And:

Besides the danger of a direct mixture of religion and civil government, there is an evil which ought to be guarded against in the indefinite accumulation of property from the capacity of holding it in perpetuity by ecclesiastical corporations. The establishment of the chaplainship in Congress is a palpable violation of equal rights as well as of Constitutional principles. The danger of silent accumulations and encroachments by ecclesiastical bodies has not sufficiently engaged attention in the U.S.  – James Madison

This from the man who is regarded as the Father of the Constitution. As for there being nothing in the Constitution about rigid separation of church and state, we have no less than the Establishment clause itself! We’ll see some nice quotes later about how some of the Founding Fathers felt about the government being based on Christianity.

#2 was easy to research, many thanks to wikisource and search functionality. I simply loaded the noted documents and searched for several words related to god and religion: god, jesus, christ, creator, religion, church, faith, belief. Here are the results:

The Declaration of Independence:

NOTE: It has been brought to my attention by commenter pj that I have missed two references to God in the Declaration. These have been added below. Changes are in a red font. Thanks for the heads-up, pj!

  • god – 1 hit
    • “When in the course of human Events, it becomes necessary for one People to dissolve the Political Bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the Powers of the Earth, the separate and equal Station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent Respect to the Opinions of Mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the Separation.” opening of the DoI
  • Jesus – 0 hits
  • christ – 0 hits
  • creator – 1 hit
    • “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.”
  • religion – 0 hits
  • church – 0 hits
  • faith – 0 hits
  • belief – 0 hits
  • Supreme Judge of the World – 1 hit
    • “appealing to the Supreme Judge of the World for the Rectitude of our Intentions”
  • Divine Providence – 1 hit
    • “with a firm Reliance on the Protection of the divine Providence

The Constitution:

  • god – 0 hits
  • Jesus – 0 hits
  • christ – 0 hits
  • creator – 0 hits
  • religion – 0 hits
  • church – 0 hits
  • faith – 3 hits
    • “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.” – Section 1, Oath of Office
    • “…he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed, and shall Commission all the Officers of the United States.” – Article II, section 3
    • “Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State.” Article IV, Section 1
  • belief – 0 hits

The Bill of Rights:

  • god – 0 hits
  • Jesus – 0 hits
  • christ – 0 hits
  • creator – 0 hits
  • religion – 1 hit
    • “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” 3rd amendment, establisment clause
  • church – 0 hits
  • faith – 0 hits
  • belief – 0 hits

Other Amendments:

  • god – 0 hits
  • Jesus – 0 hits
  • christ – 0 hits
  • creator – 0 hits
  • religion – 0 hits
  • church – 0 hits
  • faith – 0 hits
  • belief – 0 hits

From this, we see that there were a total of 8 references to the search phrases in these two documents, three of which used a secular definition of the word “faith”. Even with the two additions that commenter pj brought to my attention, we still see that the vast majority of these documents are based in secular concepts and none are “replete” with references to God. It is also worthy to note that while a Divine Power is acknowledged in the Declaration, none of the references to god are specific to Christianity. Now, I realize that I did not search on every word relating to god or religion, but these terms that are pervasive in the concept of religion have little mention in these documents. Considering Rep. Paul stated that the documents were “replete with references to God”, we can see that he is engaging in a bit of hyperbole, is unfamiliar with these documents, or is willing to misrepresent the content of these documents. What is particularly stunning to me is the incongruity between what the Constitution contains, and what he believes it contains, especially considering he is supposed to be the candidate most well-versed in the Constitution. If he is the Constitutional scholar that he says he is, than this incongruity suggests that he is willing to interpret the Constitution according to his faith, which does not give a heartening view of his total defense of the Constitution.

#3 is a little bewildering to me. Rep. Paul states quite clearly that our Federal Government is hostile to religion. Anyone who is familiar with faith-based initiatives, prayers before Cabinet meetings, going to war in Iraq at the will of god, and candidates for any office shouting their faith to the clouds is well aware that not only is this not the case, but belief that our government and even our nation is hostile to religion and Christianity in particular shows a confusing interpretation of current events. If Rep. Paul is referring to the Establishment clause as a source of hostility, then at least it’s a Constitutional one that in my opinion does not create hostility, but maintains the purity of both government and religion.

#4 is a topic that I’m not sure I’m knowledgeable enough to speak to. But I will because this my blog and I can do whatever I want. “The establishment clause of the First Amendment was simply intended to forbid the creation of an official state church like the Church of England, not to drive religion out of public life.” This makes two very important claims. The first is that the Establishment clause is only there to make unconstitutional the naming of an official state religion. The second is the implication that secularists want to remove religion from public life.

It may be that the Establishment clause is strictly for that purpose. However, how does one go about making sure that we avoid this in the U.S.? Is it by giving religion every access to the government at every level, but draw the line at naming an official church? Conversely, is it by making sure that there is a strict wall of separation at every level to make sure we don’t get to that critical point? Once a religion starts getting access to government, can we trust its adherents to not make use of that power. History, and recent history at that, tells us no we can’t. This is why we have abstinence only sex education, bills that give aid to religious organizations only, and lack of government funding for stem cell research. The simple fact is, whether it’s for want of power or desire to save the heathen, a vast majority of the religious people in power try to force their morality on everyone else. Also, how would we, as Americans, decide which belief system gets the access to power? Majority rule? Would Christians accept that is the Muslims became the majority, or the Hindus, or the Jews? Very likely not. And what about us Humanists? We have a belief system, but it’s not religious. Can we have access to faith-based initiative funds? Is Humanism a faith when we want government support, or just when we debate and are told we are just as dogmatic as the faithful?

Opening the government to religion opens up a can of worms that would quickly consume the nation in conflict. That is why the Founding Fathers envisioned a secular government and built that wall: not one that abhors religion, but one that operates without it and leaves faith to the people.

The last paragraph, and the last of this article (I promise) is:

The Founding Fathers envisioned a robustly Christian yet religiously tolerant America, with churches serving as vital institutions that would eclipse the state in importance. Throughout our nation’s history, churches have done what no government can ever do, namely teach morality and civility. Moral and civil individuals are largely governed by their own sense of right and wrong, and hence have little need for external government.

We know that Thomas Jefferson was a fairly avid admirer of the teachings of Jesus, and he counseled John Adams to pick the teachings that were morally right:

“Of all the systems of morality, ancient or modern, which have come under my observation, none appear to me so pure as that of Jesus.” – Letter to WIlliam Canby (September 18, 1813)

“In the New Testament there is internal evidence that parts of it have proceeded from an extraordinary man; and that other parts are of the fabric of very inferior minds. It is as easy to separate those parts, as to pick out diamonds from dunghills.” – Letter to John Adams, on Christian scriptures (January 24, 1814)

If someone were to tell me that the other Founding Fathers have the same respect for some of the teachings of Jesus (the Sermon on the Mount, the Golden Rule – Matthew 7:12), and found these to represent a moral way to run a nation, I would agree that they are wonderful ways to rule and serve. However, it is quite possible to follow these concepts and not allow governmental power to fall into religious hands, as they are standard concepts of morality that are widely accepted by the secular and the faithful. However, if you think these are examples of Jefferson or other Founding Fathers wanting a uniquely Christian Nation, it may be wise to consider these:

“Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law.”
-Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Dr. Thomas Cooper (February 10, 1814)

“Religion & Govt. will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together.”
-James Madison, Letter to Edward Livingston (1822-07-10)

It may be that I read too much (and wrote waaaay too much) into Rep. Paul’s essay. However, it was a good learning experience for me to understand where he is on Separation of Church and State, and how his understanding of the Constitution may play in topics like support of the Theory of Evolution. If his strict adherence to the Constitution depends on incorrectly understanding the Founding Father’s intent for the Establishment clause, and allows all but the naming of a state religion, then that leaves the ideal of a secular state and its people free to believe what they like in a worrying and potentially grim future.

NOTE: Special thanks for this article go to Phil Plait, who indirectly put the idea in my head, and wikisource and wikiquote. Ain’t technology grand? Also, many thanks to anyone who read through this whole damned thing. Hope it made you think.

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51 Comments leave one →
  1. theangryrepublican permalink
    December 30, 2007 4:17 pm

    Interesting..
    First, Let me say this editorial was very well written.

    Also, I agree with you on Ron Paul. He has a knack for saying things that appeal to many people. But when you start to break down what he has said, it causes you to take a second look.

    I do not know of anyone who wants a church to rule the state. In my life, I have never met anyone who would prefer that. With that said..

    I believe the founding fathers added the First Amendment so that people could get along with each other. No one group of people could rule and kick out the other people out. (But isn’t that what many non-believers are trying to do? Kick people of faith out of public areas.)

    PUBLIC domain is a tricky topic. It is against the law to restrict the use of a PUBLIC park- based on gender, race, age, or religion. A city can adopt an- “all or nothing” clause. But city officials can be voted out and restrictions changed later on. (So I do not worry about what today’s politicians do.)

    As far as morality, hopefully we all have a little bit of it. You may believe that cutting down trees should be stopped in America. If you get elected to congress, you can draft up a bill and try and get the bill passed. You could stop logging in America.

    If I believe embryonic stem cells are human life and I get elected to congress, I have the same right to draft up a bill and try and get it passed.

    That seems very fair to me..!!

    One great thing about America is: if a majority of people believe we have made a wrong turn, we can change the direction.

    So I wouldn’t sweat the “God stuff” so much. (We are actually nice people if you get to know us)

  2. Joe M permalink*
    December 30, 2007 6:40 pm

    Thank you, the angryrepublican.

    Now, let me address some of your points, if you don’t mind:

    “I believe the founding fathers added the First Amendment so that people could get along with each other. No one group of people could rule and kick out the other people out. (But isn’t that what many non-believers are trying to do? Kick people of faith out of public areas.)”

    I agree with you view on why the 1st, and particularly the Establishment caluse were put into the Bill of Rights. However, saying that the other guys are doing it does not make it right for either side to defy this critical amendment. Our government is one of representation of all it’s people, and if a public square is opened for one group to display a religious item, then it should be open to all groups, like in the article that I linked.

    “But city officials can be voted out and restrictions changed later on. (So I do not worry about what today’s politicians do.)”

    To me, this seems a little too longsighted (which is an odd concept). We absolutely need to call our legislators on any infractions immediately and without shame. Simply letting it go on in hopes that the next elected official won’t support the same restrictions is completely non-reactionary and against the spirit of a government by the people.

    “As far as morality, hopefully we all have a little bit of it. You may believe that cutting down trees should be stopped in America. If you get elected to congress, you can draft up a bill and try and get the bill passed. You could stop logging in America.

    If I believe embryonic stem cells are human life and I get elected to congress, I have the same right to draft up a bill and try and get it passed.

    That seems very fair to me..!!”

    It does not to me. Remember that in a representative government, the elected official is not supposed to be there to put forth their own views and biases, but to represent all of her people as best she can. That is why we elect them, to represent us, not themselves.

    “One great thing about America is: if a majority of people believe we have made a wrong turn, we can change the direction.”

    Absolutely, as long as the majority does not forget their responsibility to the minorities. We need to do our best to work for the common good of all, not the common good of Christians or women or married white men between the ages of 25 and 50.

    “So I wouldn’t sweat the “God stuff” so much. (We are actually nice people if you get to know us)”

    While I know firsthand that the majority og religious folks are good people, it does not mean that I am willing to be ruled by their religious dogmas.

    Again, thanks for the compliment and for reading and sharing your thoughts.

  3. sammylc permalink
    December 31, 2007 2:27 am

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” 3rd amendment, establishment clause.

    I think that sums up what Dr.Paul was trying to mean.

    We need more Churchs, Mosques and Pagodas, Tolerance is what he preaches, not a Church State.

  4. Brian permalink
    December 31, 2007 10:04 am

    First let me clarify: Dr. Paul opposes Bush’s “faith-based initiative,” entirely due to the Establishment clause. However, he takes the entirely constructionist stance that an elected official citing God or Jesus does not constitute a violation of that clause, contrary to the common secularist claim. (More reading here) His argument is that a teacher wearing a cross pendant is not equivalent to the Church of England levying a tax on the largely Scottish Presbyterian colonists, which is one place from which the First Amendment was derived (and one thing that led to the Revolutionary War). Not to mention which, whether or not you’re a Christian, if you’re an American, Christianity is definitely a part of your heritage vis-a-vis the Founding Fathers (much like English Common Law).

    Secondly, I don’t know of anyone who objected to the display of, say, a menorah along with a nativity at Christmastime since it overlaps Channukah; they have objected, however, to the banning of any recognition of the — to well over half of all Americans — “Reason for the Season.” (Though the Maccabean revolt is not quite on par to Jews — as far as foundational events — with the birth of the Christ to Christians)

  5. Joe M permalink*
    December 31, 2007 12:50 pm

    Brian,

    If the Establishment clause, in Rep. Paul’s view, is only to prevent the establishment of a state religion, then why would he use the same to not support faith-based initiatives. They are not a direct establishment of a state religion.

    I agree that candidates can say what they want, but ideally, they are to legislate based on what is best for the citizens of this country, not based on religious decree. Those that are religious should be able to, for example, understand that the equal rights of gay and lesbian citizens is more important than what their religious view of marriage is. That’s just one example of legislation based on religion, which should be prevented by the Establishment clause, can harm the citizens of this country.

    As to your second point, I agree that all celebrations of the seasons should be represented, if one is. However, as to the Reason for the Season, check this earlier post.

  6. Brian permalink
    December 31, 2007 3:20 pm

    Because of the incremental insinuation that will undoubtedly occur. I think Paul means, as I believe, that on an organizational level, no religious organization should be involved in the intrigues of government, and vice-versa. It’s from that point a slippery slope to “direct establishment.” But on an individual level, as a Christian, it would be incumbent upon me (or Dr. Paul) to be guided by my/his morality/religious principles in exercising my/his franchise, and to attempt to guide policy in the same manner. To do otherwise would be to betray the foundations of the belief system.

    I think the trap you’re falling into here is a common one: America is not a democracy; it’s a republic. Far from semantics, this is a key distinction. In a republic, the people elect the guy they think will do the best job, and if he doesn’t they vote him out of office; the should not elect the guy and expect him to be hanging on their every whim — that would be democracy, or rule by the immediate and ephemeral dictates of the mob. In other words, they vote their conscience, not their constituency; if they don’t like ‘em, the constituents can vote ‘em out. (Please forgive the civics lesson)

    And as far as the gay marriage thing, he’s consistent, in this any many other areas, in saying that the federal gov’t has no dog in that fight, and relegating it to the state or local level. Which, of course, means both that the government will be more responsive and more answerable to the will of the people (albeit on a smaller scale), and that the rules won’t (pretty much by definition) be the same everywhere you go.

  7. December 31, 2007 4:24 pm

    Joe: if I were a legislator, how do I decide what is “best for the people?” Why should I care about the rights of anyone- or why should I worry about anything that cannot be reduced to pragmatic concerns for myself? One’s religious- or, to expand the field some, metaphysical- ideas are determanitive of how she answers these questions. If I believe- as I do- that human rights are invested in the person qua person, made in the image of God and invested with dignity and inherent rights, then my legislation is going to be quite different than if I believed that all that talk of rights and personhood and such was merely so much slave morality, and that the best sort of legislation would help give rise to superior ubermensch or something.

    My faith- or more accurately and broadly, the values and ideas formed and reinforced by the metaphysical system I subscribe to- is going to influence and indeed determine to a great extent, what I think and do, both in my “private” life and in the life of the polis. Indeed they are hardly divorcable. If I am a legislator, the same holds true. I cannot suspend, say, my Christian metaphysics and values and pick up a “secular” set as soon as I cross into the chambers of Congress. Even if I could the “secular” values would still be part and parcel of a metaphysical system that says things and makes moral judgments about the world that run at variance with other metaphysical systems.

    I say all of this as one who enjoys and wishes to strengthen and perpetuate a polis that allows for multiple metaphysical systems and points of view, and a very open and free cultural space. However, we cannot achieve this by excercising religious belief from the polis, if only because so doing would undermine the entire idea. The trick- and it’s not something I have figured out entirely how to deal with- is creating a polis where a multitude of people with differing values and belief systems, from Buddhists to atheists to Orthodox, can interact and maintain a viable, peaceful polity- which means mutually recognizing certain paradigms and values, and working through everyting else within that space.

  8. December 31, 2007 4:32 pm

    Well written and researched. So much of his appeal is as a man who understands the constitution, yet he plainly does not.

    Brian,

    And as far as the gay marriage thing, he’s consistent, in this any many other areas, in saying that the federal gov’t has no dog in that fight, and relegating it to the state or local level.

    That’s false. If we are to understand that the Church cannot impose its laws on the State, then that should be true across the United States, not on a state by state basis. Why should separation of Church and State exist in MA but not in TX? Should that same measure be applied to other constitutional rights, like freedom of speech, privacy, or the 5th amendment?

  9. Brian permalink
    December 31, 2007 4:56 pm

    Your mistake, Dan, is in not realizing that the Constitution itself, in the 10th amendment, places such questions outside its purview, and squarely in that of the several states. That is exactly the way it was intended, in order to be able to meet the needs of a great number of people, over a large area, separated by a diversity of beliefs. And the beautiful part is, if you don’t like it (the laws in a given state or locality), you don’t have to live with it: you can lobby to have the local laws changed, or move to another area that suits you better. The US Constitution — and the federal gov’t — was never intended to provide a national “one size fits all” statute, just to ensure the basic rights of all Americans.

    It’s a beautiful thing, really. If Californians want a purely secular state, they can have it; and if Alabamans want all public officials to make a public profession of faith (as was common in the early years of this republic), then they can have that, too. The Establishment Clasue was only intended to restrict the Congress, not the various legislatures. Original intent was a “bottom-up,” not “top-down,” approach.

    The ironic thing here is, I fear, that before much longer (“much longer” being a fluid concept), there will be a “mobocratic” divestiture or any religious freedom, whether by it be humanists, evangelicals, muslims, or what have you. The fault for that will be lain at the feet of any and all of us who don’t have a strong grounding in the foundational tenets of this republic. And it’ll be done in the name of “religious tolerance.”

  10. December 31, 2007 5:15 pm

    Brian,
    No, the mistake is yours. I am referring to the ammendments, specifically the Bill of Rights. That applies everywhere within the USA. So no, you can’t have one state infringe on those rights.

    But the larger point is that the constitution is not set in stone. We can ammend, shift, and follow its spirit in the creation and application of the law. And the spirit of it is clear, that fundamental issues like equality are innate to humanity, and need to be respected across the board.

    The fear of a lack of “any” religious freedom, as a result of trying to preserve the religious freedom granted by separating church and state, is a disingenuous strawman. The problem facing us is an orchestrated slide towards a Christian theocracy.

  11. Brian permalink
    December 31, 2007 5:40 pm

    I disagree, Dan. It’s not “The problem,” so much as it is an exposure to the possibility that the factions that are currently in dynamic tension will become unbalanced, and any of them will become ascendant. The nature of all government is to increase the state and gradually restrict individual liberty; the only question here is what form will such restriction take, and who will be the catalyst for it, not whether it will occur at all. (follow the eveolution of government from the tribal level, through the city-state [Rome, Sparta], to the nation-state [US, etc.], to the supra-national [UN, EU, …NAU?])

    I would like to believe in the basic goodness of human beings, but the game is rigged: I’ve met too many human beings. Any group given too much power is a threat to the freedom of everyone.

    As for states’ rights, I didn’t say the states can infringe upon them; I said that the Constitution leaves it to the states to decide what compliance looks like in the case of mandated, “endowed” rights, and leaves the rest — anything not defined in the Constitution — up to the several states themselves, or the People. (Amendment X, last in the Bill of Rights)

  12. Joe M permalink*
    December 31, 2007 8:51 pm

    Johnathan,

    I understand what you’re saying, and my intent was not to imply the any publice servant should leave all their values at the door. However, there’s a limit. That limit is when someone’s Christian or Muslim or Atheist values start to infringe on the rights of other citizens.

    Should a Christian senator forget about love when his butt hits the seat? Or the Muslim forget about sobriety? However, should that Christian enforce his version of love to restrict the rights of two women to marry or push a bill that outlaws masturbation? Should the Muslim try to reinstate prohibition?

    That’s the line. When someone’s values infringe on the freedom of other citizens when that citizen’s behavior poses no infraction on the rights of others. All public servants are responsible to defend the rights of all Americans by very nature of the government that they were elected to serve in. For that reason, they need to be the most vigilant in making sure their actions do not infringe on the rights of the citizen.

    As a humanist, questions of morality and being a good person consume me, especially when I fail. One of the primary questions I ask myself is, “is my behavior hurting myself or someone else?” While that’s not the end-all-be-all of my morality, it really is a great place to start, and hasn’t yet failed me in improving myself.

    I would like to offer all the commenters here my thanks on a conversation that continues to be stimulating, civil, and enjoyable. Keep it coming!

  13. Brian permalink
    December 31, 2007 9:01 pm

    That’s exactly my point, Joe. That’s why we have to limit the role of the federal government in the everyday lives of the people, just as the Founding Fathers intended (overall). If Vermont became entirely Muslim, and wanted to prohibit the sale of alkyhaul, that’s on them (I say this as a guy who loves a good beer, living in a dry county in Texas), more power to ‘em. But if 60 Muslims got elected to the Senate and decided the whole gosh-darn country had to get on the wagon, that’d be a big problem (sorta like it was during Prohibition).

    Repeat after me: limited federal government, limited federal government, limited federal government…

    (The applications are endless)

  14. Joe M permalink*
    December 31, 2007 9:09 pm

    I’m not sure I see the logic in it being unacceptable to do these things in the Federal government, but okay at the state level. People rights should never be infringed upon, and the the amended Constitution is supposed to protect us from that.

    Rep. Paul’s willingness to stick his fingers in his ears at the Federal level is not a solution to guaranteeing the rights of citizens, it’s just saying, “Not my problem.”

  15. Brian permalink
    December 31, 2007 10:05 pm

    The point is, in 50 states, you can find your own little slice of nirvana. I’m not suggesting the rights of the people be infringed upon, I’m suggesting that the desires of the people in a given state or locality be more fully reflected without federal intervention as long as basic human rights are not abridged. I really think that’s a better solution than trying to paint the entire political spectrum with one brush.

    And that’s what you call “fingers in the ears” — some things aren’t subject to a federal solution, constitutionally speaking (like the incredibly bad law, and even worse jurisprudence, known as Roe v Wade, regardless of your stance on abortion). Rather than circumventing, this approach tends t maximize freedom, government accountability, and personal responsibility.

  16. Joe M permalink*
    December 31, 2007 11:11 pm

    I understand your point, Brian, but this aspect of limited federal government is a pretty thin comfort.

    Which is more acceptable: the Federal government doing it’s Constitutionally granted job of protecting all Americans’ rights, or forcing Americans to have to move to a state that protects their rights?

    It’s still not making sense to me.

  17. Brian permalink
    January 1, 2008 2:18 am

    I’ve misrepresented my argument if you think ,from it, that decentralization endangers the rights of the governed. On the contrary, it enhances and better guarantees them by making government more accountable to the people. The federal gov’t is still available — in a much more limited role — but only when absolutely necessary, as constitutionally defined.

    The idea is, it’s much easier to fight City Hall than Congress.

    You take a more nationalist view (like Hamilton), which is valid; but, IMHO, less desirable.

  18. Joe M permalink*
    January 1, 2008 8:54 am

    From the points that you raised about finding their own slice of Nirvana and moving to another area that suits you better in order to avoid a religion-based rule of law, then decentralization does endager the rights of the citizen.

    It endangers their right to live where they want and their right to pursue happiness as they want. Why should someone have to pick up and leave their home, family, and friends behind because a religious-based doctrine become State law infringes on their right to pursue basic rights?

    This is why we have a Constituion that endows the Federal Government with the responsibility to protect the rights of all U.S. Citizens.

    Your examples of States being able to create a government based on religious doctrine and it it’s citizens don’t like it, they can move certainly does not gel with any kind of freedom that I’m familiar with.

    If those examples are a misrepresentation of how this form of decentralization is a way to grant more freedom, you have a chance now to correct them or explain them in a different way.

  19. Brian permalink
    January 1, 2008 10:50 pm

    Okay, thanks for the opportunity to reframe the position.

    Let’s take, for example, abortion. The Constitution is silent on the topic, no matter the precedent-setting (and bad) Roe decision (I mean, “the penumbra of the Constitution”? Really? Where the [censored] did they come up with that one?). I believe that abortion — at any point, for any reason, is murder. I live in Texas, and let’s say for the sake of argument, a bast majority of Texans agree with me (I don’t know if this reflects reality, but I think it’s close). You live in Delaware, where you and a vast majority of — Delawarians? Delawarites? …Delawights? — think that abortion is the right of the woman (again, assumption for the sake of argument), and the state should have no say in its legality.

    A nationalist approach would take one side and force it on all citizens: either you would have to live with a basic right being abridged, or I would have to live with state-sanctioned murder.

    A decentralized, federalist approach removes the conflict: Texans can outlaw abortion, requiring anyone seeking such to find it somewhere else; and Delawarians could set the bar of legality at whatever height they choose.

    And this works on a lower and lower level, depending on the way the individual state’s legal system is set up. (For example, in Texas, state law strictly defines what is within the purview of county and city governments; if the Legislature doesn’t allow it, the city councils can’t do it)

    You can apply this to any issue you choose: gay marriage and other GLBT issues, education/homeschooling (just get rid of the gosh-darn awful NCLB), health care, elections at the state and federal levels (because the Constitution allows the states to define their election processes), gun control (tho, IMO, virtually anything in this arena is prima facie a violation of Amendment II), and on and on…

    So basically, a federalist approach puts determining how to meet the federal mandates in the hands of the much-more-accountable state legislatures, with the US gov”t being the final arbiter, the court of last resort, in an appellate jurisdiction.

    No ideological cleansing necessary, to coin a phrase. I hope that’s a little clearer discussion… I have to beg tolerance; we have a five-week-old, and neither my wife no I have gotten a whole lot of sleep for… well, about five weeks.

    Happy New Year!

  20. Meggie permalink
    January 2, 2008 5:31 am

    Congratulations, Brian, to you and your wife on the birth of your child!!! It is a wonderful thing. And…way to go on getting in under the wire! ;0)

    BTW-I’m Joe M.’s wife. Sorry to intrude.

  21. Brian permalink
    January 2, 2008 8:02 am

    No need to apologize, Meggie. Thanks! It was my pleasure. We’re all real excited about it. (In fact, my other two both got baby dolls for Christmas, which they (both) immediately named “Baby Thing 3” after the newbie… which can get confusing)

    Yeah, under the wire…. ‘course, I changed my deductions as soon as we figured out the due date, ‘cuz I’m not so much with the paying the taxes thing….

  22. armchairdissident permalink
    January 2, 2008 11:13 am

    I hope no-one minds someone from the UK jumping in to the middle of a debate about American politics (just got here via Bad Astronomy):

    Brian; your examples of abortion as murder, and GLBT issues are excellent examples of how church and state can get entangled if people aren’t watching carefully.

    Let’s take the idea that abortion is murder. Your position is that abortion is murder, my position is that your position is indefensible without resorting to religion, by means of reducto ad absurdium. There difference here between a religious law, and a purely secular law, is whether either position can be successfully defended without reference to a deity or other purely religious principle.

    To take that further, the hardline position of the catholic church (for instance) on the issue is that the “abortion is murder” line, is simply a smoke-screen for “contraception is murder” theocratic position; again, a position that would be difficult to defend without reference to that particular religion’s specific form of deity.

    Now, what you’re arguing is can you, as a Texas citizen or legislator, enforce a religious conviction upon the those people who do not follow the same religious conviction so long as they are residents within Texas; but not within Delaware. Ultimately, as I understand it, the answer is no. Not purely because of the 1st amendment, but also because of the 14th. The 1st amendment states quite plainly what congress – i.e. the federal government – is prohibited from doing, but it’s the 14th amendment (after various supreme court decisions) that says that the Texas legislature is also not allowed to do it either.

    This ultimately, however, is a state’s-rights vs. federal rights issue: are you first and foremost a Texas citizen, subject to the whim of the Texan legislature, or are you first and foremost a citizen of the United States, with the guaranteed protection of the constitution. As a UK citizen we get a bit of this with “The West Lothian Question” (Scottish MPs can vote on issues dealing with both Scotland and England, but English MPs can only vote on issues dealing with England; which has led to some very “interesting” results in the past), and with religion we get an awful lot of it with bishops guaranteed seats in the House of Lords.

    Ultimately, the freedom of and from religion guaranteed by the US 1st amendment is a good thing: it says that protestants can’t be forced not to wear condoms, and catholics can’t be forced to wear them; irrespective of who has the most votes in the Texan government.

    Just my 2p worth.

  23. Joe M permalink*
    January 2, 2008 12:04 pm

    Couldn’t have said it better myself.

    Thanks for coming by, and feel free to stick around, armchairdissident!

    Brian,
    Congrats on the little one! Hope you start getting some sleep soon.

  24. John Frum permalink
    January 2, 2008 12:50 pm

    Joe,
    Excellent article! Thanks for doing your part to “build up that wall”.

    Brian,
    The fact that abortion (or other things you find personally offensive) is not illegal does not in any way impinge upon your personal freedom. In fact the opposite is true – it guarantees *additional* freedoms to other people. The same would be true of gay marriage, etc. The fact that you personally have no need of these freedoms is your choice, but you are on shaky ground when you seek to deny them to others based solely on your religious beliefs or personal preferences. Besides, would you be content if your city banned abortion but the next city over did not? Somehow I doubt the oppression would end at the city limits.

  25. Joe M permalink*
    January 2, 2008 1:04 pm

    Interestingly, I have heard no comment about Rep. Paul’s abysmal accuracy regarding references to god in these documents and the writings of the Founding Fathers.

    Anyone?

  26. Brian permalink
    January 2, 2008 2:32 pm

    Joe,

    Again, thanks. Me, too.

    Alles,

    First, housekeeping:

    I will admit to personal bias on the topic du jour, abortion, so perhaps it’s not the ideal example. But the die is cast, so we’ll go with it. (The counter-argument is, “should randomly shooting people in the head be illegal?”, but I’ll let that go.) As a rule, I (a Southern Baptist, yet) do not attempt to force my beliefs on others, unlike many of my brethren, so please don’t make assumptions and try to paint me with a unbecoming brush. For example, it is my considered opinion that a “Marriage Amendment” is a bad idea, as would be an “Abortion Amendment;” these would set precedence that would tend to restrict, rather, than extend, personal liberty. (Unlike the Texas Constitution, the US Constitution is meant to be difficult to amend, and therefore not subject to ephemeral political whimsy)

    Also, I admit that the UK system (ironically, for the “brithplace” of commonlaw) is somewhat disadvantaged, due to the lack of a similar “bill of rights”, or defined restraints on gov’t, and the brazen entanglement of the CoE with the gov’t (one of the drivers behind our revolution, you’ll recall). Not to be snarky, but I do feel that we have pretty much the best system (aside from the two-party thing) available in human gov’t.

    For anyone needing a ‘fresher: 1st Amendment (and discussion), 14th Amendment (and discussion)

    Prior to some 14th Amendment cases, it was, I believe understood that the Coinstitution was the “supreme law of the land,” and it was the circumscription of the power of the federal goverment alone (thus the effort taken to ensure the 14th would extend what is essentially the 5th’s “due process” clause to the states — the 14th Amendment’s [section 1, second sentence, starting with “No state shall…”] language shows that this does not apply to the federal gov’t). The aforementioned cases extended these powers to policing the activities of the several states. Original intent, I think, shows that the Founding Fathers understood that the diversity of political thought which necessitated the “freedom of speech” clause, would also make instituting broad regulation on the states much like herding kittens. Hamilton’s writings on gov’t, and the libertarian reaction (excoriation) to them, fairly well illustrates this; it also sharply defines the misapprehension the SCOTUS had in thus extending federal requirements to the state level.

    Let’s keep the discussion between the federal level and the state level, because to allow civic entities into it would quickly become too confusing.

    The Jeffersonian — federalist — approach (which Ron Paul supports) would tend to maximize freedom by being more responsive to the desires of the citizens of the state (set aside discussion of the impact on federal objectives). From my perspective, it would allow a means of — on a limited scale, admittedly less than ideal — ending a practice that even many proponents of which have said should be rare, and only used as a last resort. From your perspective, it would contain (and largely sate) the “theocrats” that Dan channeled in an earlier post.

    But this cuts both ways: if you sub “gay marriage” for “abortion” in this discussion, then our roles are reversed. I mean, currently, there’s a strong push to have the DOMAmend become constitutional law (as with the less permanent DOM Act of a few years ago). If that happened, there would be no recourse for gay marriage proponents. Would you rather have no gay marriage at all, or gay marriage allowed by some states, but not others? (Don’t argue a “perfect world;” cuz this ain’t it.)

    I’m a conservative with a very strong libertarian bent — what may be referred to as a “fusionist” by earlier generations, though that doesn’t quite fit me — so I don’t want to infringe anyone’s rights. It also means I think the people are much better suited to run things than some unaccountable, distant central gov’t (and I have no illusions that that is exactly what a robust national gov’t would become).

    But “libertarian” does not mean “libertine;” like you, I take my morals and my beliefs into the voting booth with me. My religious views inform my politics, just like anyone else (including humanists).

  27. Brian permalink
    January 2, 2008 2:44 pm

    Joe:

    Interestingly, I have heard no comment about Rep. Paul’s abysmal accuracy regarding references to god in these documents and the writings of the Founding Fathers.

    You’re gonna have to clarify, dude.

    Links?

  28. Brian permalink
    January 2, 2008 2:53 pm

    Sorry… original post… duh!

  29. Joe M permalink*
    January 2, 2008 3:02 pm

    Sorry… original post… duh!

    No worries :)

  30. Joe M permalink*
    January 2, 2008 3:16 pm

    But this cuts both ways: if you sub “gay marriage” for “abortion” in this discussion, then our roles are reversed. I mean, currently, there’s a strong push to have the DOMAmend become constitutional law (as with the less permanent DOM Act of a few years ago). If that happened, there would be no recourse for gay marriage proponents. Would you rather have no gay marriage at all, or gay marriage allowed by some states, but not others? (Don’t argue a “perfect world;” cuz this ain’t it.)

    I won’t argue “perfect world” but I will argue “false dichotomy”. The obvious (and attainable, but for the religious right) choice in this argument is to stop restricting the rights of a specific group of Americans. Not Texans, Delawareans, or Maineiacs, but Americans. The perfect tool for that, and a tool that was tempered with the addition of the Bill of Rights, is the Constitution.

    As I argued before, while limited government power can be a good thing, there is a limit. At the level that you’re arguing, you seem to be favoring small government over Federal protection of the rights of the citizens.

    For what it’s worth, you are arguing it well, but not convincingly.

  31. strider permalink
    January 2, 2008 3:30 pm

    Well, I live in Texas and I disagree with Brian on several points.

    I believe that his view of each of us “finding their own slice of Nirvana” would inevitably lead to theocratic states as believers of different faiths felt more persecuted and emigrated to the state(s) more amenable to their beliefs. He may think that’s a good idea, but I don’t. I prefer to be able to visit, find a job, and live in any part of this nation according to my abilities, not my beliefs.

    I also fail to see how his “decentralized, federalist approach” works with respect to something like abortion, since he’s saying that it would be OK if some states allowed it, and others didn’t. The fact that Texas didn’t and New Mexico did, could still put neighbors (maybe even his) on different sides of the issue, the fact that they live in different states notwithstanding. If it’s OK for folks on the TX side of the street to differ from their neighbors on the NM side of the street, why is it not OK for neighbors anywhere to differ?

  32. Joe M permalink*
    January 2, 2008 3:35 pm

    Strider,

    That’s an excellent point. I didn’t think so far as to consider the effect of the migrations caused by “slice of Nirvana”.

    As more and more people were forced to move to a state that better supported their own beliefs, what would stop a state from turning theocratic, or outlawing religion altogether? In this theoretical world, the majority would make their own Slice of Nirvana at the expense of the minority, who would then be forced to move out.

    That’s an interesting little snowball of a thought exercise.

  33. armchairdissident permalink
    January 2, 2008 4:04 pm

    Strider: “I believe that his view of each of us “finding their own slice of Nirvana” would inevitably lead to theocratic states as believers of different faiths felt more persecuted and emigrated to the state(s) more amenable to their beliefs.”

    Ironically, isn’t this the impetus between both the initial emigration from Europe to the New World? And, for that matter, the impetus that lead to the various European political machinations and wars that pretty much defined Europe prior to its acceptance of the Enlightenment.

    Essentially the outcome of the idea Brian is espousing is almost inevitably to return the United States to a pre-Enlightenment European state of religious war.

    Brian: “(The counter-argument is, “should randomly shooting people in the head be illegal?”, but I’ll let that go.)”

    That’s really only a counter-argument if you a-priori agree that abortion is murder. If you don’t accept that premise, then that’s not a counter-argument, merely a straw-man.

  34. armchairdissident permalink
    January 2, 2008 4:10 pm

    Sorry, meant also to add: Brian: “(The counter-argument is, “should randomly shooting people in the head be illegal?”, but I’ll let that go.)”

    By this argument, you’re also accepting that any form of contraception is randomly shooting people in the head because that is the official position of the Roman Catholic Church, not to mention other religions, whether you – as a Southern Baptist – accept that premise or not.

  35. Joe M permalink*
    January 2, 2008 4:12 pm

    Ironically, isn’t this the impetus between both the initial emigration from Europe to the New World? And, for that matter, the impetus that lead to the various European political machinations and wars that pretty much defined Europe prior to its acceptance of the Enlightenment.

    Not only that, AD, but when such segregation of beliefs is in a position to be forced into their own physical location it’s not too difficult to imagine a large conflict, like a civil war of some sort, to follow.

  36. Brian permalink
    January 2, 2008 4:18 pm

    That argument works whether you apply it on a federal or a state level. Democracy is at its heart majority rule, often at the “expense of the minority.” Not advocating that, just calling ‘em as I see ‘em. (which is largely why the Founders intended a republic, not a democracy)

    Federalism only works because the states are not sovereign, and the national gov’t is not monolithic. The federal gov’t therein acts as a “referee” in an appellate capacity, as defined by the Congress; if your “theocratic” state arose, the federal judiciary could then smack down the offenders.

    In contrast, a Hamiltonian approach [which is the current approach to all thing governmental] would create a monolithic central (or national) gov’t with little or no obligation to make itself accountable to the states, or to the people, and few if any avenues by which the states or the people could redress greivances against it.

    Since corruption and tyranny are the eventual end of all human governments (and I think history backs me up here), wouldn’t it be better to have small, controllable tyrannies that can easily be dealt with and overturned (or escaped), than to have a real-world Oceania?

  37. Joe M permalink*
    January 2, 2008 4:45 pm

    The mandate of the federal government, given byt the Constitution, and supported by the courts is to prevent these theocratic governments from forming. To me, that seems the simplest way to handle the hypothetical situation, rather than having to quash a state that has gotten out of line.

    Also remember, that if the theoretical state was allowed to go that far, many crimes against civil rights have likely already happened.

    I know Hamilton favored a strong central government, but I don’t think going all the way to the other side is a good way to prevent that. I think a lot of people would agree that we are a nation before we are our individual states, and that is reflected in the balance we have between the powers of the federal and state governments.

    Since corruption and tyranny are the eventual end of all human governments (and I think history backs me up here), wouldn’t it be better to have small, controllable tyrannies that can easily be dealt with and overturned (or escaped), than to have a real-world Oceania?

    I hesitate to adress this kind of hyperbole, but I want to say that you would have to provide proof that all human governments have ended in tyranny. As to the second bit, you’re presenting another false dichotomy, completely ignoring the fact that all tyrannies could be prevented completely with a balance of power between the state and federal governments with strong Constitutions that protect the rights of the populace.

  38. armchairdissident permalink
    January 2, 2008 5:28 pm

    The federal gov’t therein acts as a “referee” in an appellate capacity, as defined by the Congress; if your “theocratic” state arose, the federal judiciary could then smack down the offenders.

    Then where is the argument? I presume from this comment that you agree that a purely theocratic state is a Bad Thing. But what defines a theocratic state? Is it when a state forbids abortion whilst referencing their personal theological prejudice? Is it when that same state forbids contraception, whilst referencing their personal theological prejudice? Is it when that state endorces Intelligent Design, or Creationism, or that utter rejection of the sciences that has mad America the leading scientific nation it (currently, but for how much longer) is: Young Earth Creationism?

    Since corruption and tyranny are the eventual end of all human governments (and I think history backs me up here), wouldn’t it be better to have small, controllable tyrannies that can easily be dealt with and overturned (or escaped), than to have a real-world Oceania?

    I’m going to add on Joe’s comment here: If corruption and tyranny are indeed the eventual end of all human governments, then why would it be better to have 50 individual tyrannies unconstrained by any federal constitution, than to have 50 states subordinate to the constitution that are not free to form tyrannies in the first place? If the tyranny of the majority does not work at the federal level, why should it suddenly work at the state level?

  39. Brian permalink
    January 2, 2008 5:50 pm

    As I said, we all carry our morality into the voting booth with us. I’m not belaboring the morality of abortion conversation; I’m accepting that we will agree to disagree, and attempting to find an equitable solution in the middle ground.

    I think the refusal to find a negotiated truce makes abortion advocates as recalcitrant as they accuse abortion opponents to be.

    …the impetus that lead to the various European political machinations and wars that pretty much defined Europe prior to its acceptance of the Enlightenment.

    I don’t think anything in European intrigues was ended with the Enlightenment; the same rivalries carried on through WWII, albeit with different justifications. And not necessarily ended there, either; the embers of conflict still burn, and have flared up occasionally in the meantime. (IMO, that’s simply too many people too close together)

    By this argument, you’re also accepting that any form of contraception is randomly shooting people in the head

    How does this follow? I don’t hang my hat on the (extra-biblical, BTW; this is meaningless to you, but holds the keys to the kingdom for me) doctrine of any church; I put forth my beliefs, unqualified. I find the suggestion that a gamete floating around in the uterus is the same as a developing fetus — or, for that matter, a zygote — to be utterly ridiculous. Nor does it follow that if I think abortion is murder, then using a condom is murder. [Talk about your non sequitur: Americans believe in equality before the law. AD believes in equality before the law; therefore, AD is an American.] However, it is entirely logically valid to say: Human life begins when the egg is fertilized by the sperm. Taking human life is murder; therefore, abortion (which destroys/kills a fertilized egg [qv]) is murder.

  40. Brian permalink
    January 2, 2008 6:03 pm

    I’m not advocating any tyranny on any level; I’m simply trying to demonstrate that absolute power in the federal gov’t — in the hands of any extreme worldview — is a Bad Thing Too. I don’t advocate near-sovreignty at the state level and an anemic national gov’t. The Constitution clearly defines federal powers — as amended, and balanced among the three branches — and leaves all other issues at the state level or below.

    I don’t know how we keep getting sidetracked (maybe I’m to blame, with bad illustrations) into evil theocracies and the like.

    My overarching contention is that the states oughtta be more powerful, and the federocracy oughtta be less powerful, because, ultimately, the states are more directly and immediately answerable to the people than is the federal government, in any branch. The federal gov’t oughtta keep to itself, mostly, except in extreme circumstances — like the 19th amendment, say (extending suffrage to women) — and let the states usually run things, according to the will of the people of each individual state.

  41. Joe M permalink*
    January 2, 2008 6:10 pm

    I don’t think we’re getting sidetracked. The theocracies were just an example brought up by you to support the idea of strong states. The example has merely been sustained, but I think the main topic has been strong state government.

    Now, the original article was about Establishment, but I think the debate has naturally evolved, and I’m happy with that.

    BTW, I still haven’t heard anything about the accuracy of RPs statements about the content of “God” in the founding documents and what that says about his Constitutional scolarship :)

  42. Brian permalink
    January 2, 2008 6:14 pm

    That takes research into an area I’m less familiar with; gimme time.

  43. John Frum permalink
    January 2, 2008 7:50 pm

    Brian,

    I’m sorry for belaboring the point, but I fail to see how state=good, federal=bad. Perhaps instead of arguing for less federal oversight, you should be arguing for more accountability at the federal level, thus making federal<bad.

    I agree with one of your earlier post that our democracy is essentially (unfortunately) a majority-rule system. However, this is precisely why it is the majorities responsibility to respect the minority position. This does not necessarily mean we have to bend over backward for them, but we should have enough respect to allow them to live as free as possible, even if it means violating some of our more delicate sensibilities. Nevertheless many people still vote according to their religious/dogmatic beliefs, blissfully unaware of how oppressive these beliefs can be to outsiders. Voting according to strictly dogmatic beliefs (as opposed to humanistic reasoning) when you’re fully aware that it is the majority position is, IMO, the act of a bully. Might does not make right.

    armchairdissident already covered this one, but I’ll throw my 4c in anyway. Brian said:
    Federalism only works because the states are not sovereign, and the national gov’t is not monolithic. The federal gov’t therein acts as a “referee” in an appellate capacity, as defined by the Congress; if your “theocratic” state arose, the federal judiciary could then smack down the offenders.

    What criteria does the federal government use to define theocratic behavior? Do blue laws count? How about placing Christian icons in public bldgs? Or interfering with embryonic stem cell research? Or placing arbitrary restrictions on who a human being can or cannot marry?

    And where does it all end? What happens when the State becomes to Liberal or when the taxes become to high? Will you start advocating for Municipal autonomy? What happens when that doesn’t go your way? Will you sell your house, uproot your children, and move someplace more conservative? At what point does the polity become a militia?

    I don’t know about you, but all this seems like a slippery slope that I would just as soon avoid by maximizing freedom at *all* levels of government, starting at the top.

  44. John Frum permalink
    January 2, 2008 7:52 pm

    As for RPs confusion about God and the founding documents: I think you pretty much demolished his arguments. There is not much more to say. I am a little curious why he decided to write this piece. Did he write it for LewRockwell, or are they just aggregating his essays? Is this what prompted BillO’ to start his war on x-mas?

  45. Rock permalink
    January 2, 2008 8:59 pm

    If the federal government couldn’t overrule state laws, then I doubt we would have seen the end of Jim Crow laws and lynchings in Southern States.

  46. Tylor permalink
    January 3, 2008 3:39 am

    As someone who thinks that Paul does do several things right I will gladly admit that you argue your points very well here. I would also say that Paul may have made some extreme assumptions in those particular statements.

    I will also freely confess that I myself am a Christian (not the Republican loyalist stereotypical kind but the rather radical follower of the teachings of Jesus kind). With that in mind I don’t believe in the slightest that it is the Church’s place to run a country. After all, Jesus could have very well become a governmental leader but instead chose to live the life of a poor vagabond. He taught, He healed, He served, He died for our sake. Simply put, He changed the world forever without passing a single piece of legislation.

    Anyway, thank you for the quality writing. I enjoyed it.

  47. Joe M permalink*
    January 3, 2008 4:21 pm

    He changed the world forever without passing a single piece of legislation.

    Tylor, this is simply and very well put. A lot of Christians would do well to keep this in mind!

  48. Joe M permalink*
    January 3, 2008 4:26 pm

    I am a little curious why he decided to write this piece. Did he write it for LewRockwell, or are they just aggregating his essays? Is this what prompted BillO’ to start his war on x-mas?

    From the About page on LRC, the site looks to be an aggregator of Ron Paul news and archive of his essays. Lew Rockwell himself was a former congressional Chief of Staff to Ron Paul. (link)

  49. January 22, 2008 4:03 am

    Maybe you should read the Declaration of Independence:

    “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”

    So God is mentioned at the beginning and at the end, and this part of your analysis is wrong.

  50. Joe M permalink*
    January 27, 2008 10:11 am

    Thanks for the heads-up, pj! The article has been modified to account for the references that I missed.

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