The First Amendment

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press; or the right of he people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Warning: If you don’t understand the First Amendment, you will surely loose it.

Thomas Jefferson – “If a Nation, in a state of civilization, expects to be ignorant and free, it expects what never was and never will be.”

Instructor’s Note: Our Bill of Rights, as well as our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution, assumes and professes that all power is inherent in the people and that all government powers are derived from those governed. The Bill of Rights contains 462 words – telling the Federal government what it must not do. Congress shall make no law …

Remember: all that is needed to understand a certain phrase or clause in the Constitution is to apply what Alexander Hamilton called the “unsophisticated dictates of common sense.”

It is easily discerned that Article 1 of the Bill of Rights was lifted directly out of the Virginia State Constitution. The Virginia Constitution in its clause makes it plain that Article 1 was there to secure the position that no one Christian sect would have dominance over another Christian sect. General Christianity was considered the State religion. This clause was never meant to take Christianity out of government life. At the time this clause was written (both Virginia and Federal) there were no other established religions in Virginia or any other State or Colony.

John Marshall, Founding Father and Chief Justice – “In almost every convention by which the Constitution was adopted, amendments to guard against the abuse of power were recommended. These amendments demanded security against the apprehended encroachments of the general [Federal] government – not against those of the local [State] governments …”

Thomas Jefferson “Taking from the states the moral rule of their citizens, and subordinating it to the general authority [Federal government] … would … break up the foundations of the Union … I believe the States can best govern our home concerns, and the Federal governments our foreign ones.”

Instructor’s Note: Since the Constitution did not authorize infringement of any freedom that a Bill of Rights might seek to protect, Alexander Hamilton warned that an enumeration of certain freedoms not to be infringed (by the Federal government) might imply that government could infringe others (rights) not listed. So …

The Tenth Amendment clearly states “all rights not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

United States Supreme Court, 1952 –“We are a religious people whose institutions presuppose a Supreme Being  … When the state encourages religious instruction or cooperates with religious authorities by adjusting the schedule of public events to sectarian needs, it follows the best of our traditions. For it then respects religious nature of our people and accommodates the public service to their spiritual needs. To hold that it may not, would be to find in the Constitution a requirement that the government show a callous indifference to religious groups. That would be preferring those who believe in no religion at all over those who do believe …We find no Constitutional requirement which makes it necessary for government to be hostile to religion and to throw its weight against efforts to widen the effective scope of religious influence.”

U. S. Supreme Court, Commonwealth v Nesbit, Lindenmuller v The People – identified actions in which the government did have legitimate right to intrude upon religion; these activities included human sacrifice, polygamy, bigamy, concubinage, incest, INFANTICIDE, parricide, advocation and promotion of immorality, etc.  Such acts, even if perpetrated in the name of religion would be stopped by the government since according to the court they were “subversive of good order … and were overt acts against good order.”

Note: The government was never to interfere with traditional religious practices outlined in “the Books of Law and the Gospel”, unless they were against good public order … [for this to happen somebody would have to pervert the law]. Also take note that the government had the right (power) to prevent the promotion of immorality; compare this court ruling with today’s court rulings on pornography that claim it’s a matter of free speech. Our founding fathers would have had the Larry Flint’s of this world locked up.

John Adams, Vice President under Washington and 2nd President of the United States – “The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were … the general principles of Christianity …now I will avow that I then believed, and now believe, that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God … I could therefore safely say … that I believed they (people) would never make discoveries in contradiction to these general principles.”

Fisher Ames who provided the final wording for the First Amendment, which reads: “Congress shall pass no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof …”

Fisher Ames was hailed one of America’s premier and most eloquent orators; called for “The Bible always to remain the principle textbook in America’s classrooms.”

James Madison proposed; “The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established.”

Supreme Court Justice James Iredel (appointed by Pres. Washington) – “It is never to be supposed that the people of America will entrust their dearest rights to persons who have no religion at all, or a religion materially different from their own (Christianity).”

Benjamin Morris, historian 1818-1867 – in one of his books he wrote; “The fundamental objects of the Constitution are in perfect harmony with the revealed objects of the Christian religion. Union, justice, peace, the general welfare, and the blessing of civil and religious liberty, are the objects of Christianity, and always secured under its beneficent reign. The State must rest upon the basis of religion, and it must preserve this basis, or itself must fall … this is a Christian Nation, first in name …  The chief security and glory of the United States of America has been, is now, and will be forever, the prevalence and domination of the Christian faith.”

Daniel Webster – “God grants liberty only to those who love it, and are always ready to defend it.” “Lastly, our ancestors established their system of government on morality and religious sentiment. Moral habits they believed, cannot safely be trusted on any other foundation than religious principle, nor any government be secure which is not supported by moral habits … Whatever makes men good Christians, makes them good citizens.”

Daniel Webster – “This is the book. I have read the Bible many times, and now make it a practice to read it through once a year. It is a book for all others – for lawyers as well as divines.”

Nathaniel Gorham, George Read and Richard Bassett delegates to the Continental Congress, and signers, helped draft state Constitutions requiring all state officials to profess their faith in God and Jesus Christ and the Christian religion (Delaware and Mass.)

Remember this: James Madison – “I entirely concur in the proprietary of resorting to the sense in which the Constitution was accepted and ratified by the nation. In that sense alone it is the legitimate Constitution …”

George Mason, father of the Bill of Rights – “ All men have an equal, natural and unalienable right to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; and that no particular sect or society of Christians ought to be favored or established by law in preference to others.” 

Charles Carroll, one of the framers of the Bill of Rights and the only Roman Catholic signer of the Declaration, declared that the reason that he and many other founders had entered the Revolution was to ensure that all Christian denominations were placed on an equal footing – “To obtain religious as well as civil liberty I enter zealously into the Revolution, and observing the Christian religion divided into many sects, I founded the hope that no one would be so predominant as to become the religion of the State. That hope was thus early entertained, because all of them joined in the same cause, with few exceptions if individual.”

James Wilson, one of six men who signed both the Declaration and Constitution, a Supreme Court Justice, and one of the men that laid the foundation for the America jurisprudence system. He was also the second most active speaker at the Constitutional Convention – “Far from being rivals or enemies, religion and law are twin sisters, friends, and mutual assistants.”

Note: If religion and law are mutual, bound together, and law – God’s natural law – is the basis of our legal system [then] how can we separate church and state? Law is the basis of our Republic; it is the cornerstone of American government. Religion cannot be separated from the ‘American State’ because it is the basis for the state. Since our very form of government and our legal system were formed from, and based on, God’s natural law and the Bible, then how can we separate church from state? We cannot. The heart cannot be removed from the body without the corresponding death of that same body. However, our government may not impose a national church or prefer any Christian church over any other.

Abraham Baldwin, signer of the Constitution – “A free government … can only be happy when the public principle and opinions are properly directed – by religion and education.”

Noah Webster –“To Christianity we owe our free Constitutions of Government.”

Henry Laurens, Member of the Continental Congress and a delegate to the Constitutional Convention – “I had the honor of being one among many who framed that Constitution … In order effectually to accomplish these great ends, it is incumbent upon us to begin wisely and to proceed in the fear of God; and it is especially the duty of those who bare rule – to promote and encourage piety [respect for God] and virtue and to discountenance every degree of vise and immorality.”

Note:  The Bill of Rights was designed to keep specific issues like religious expression out of the power of the Federal government and place them into the States where the citizens would have power and recourse against encroachments upon their liberties. In almost every State convention that adopted the Constitution, amendments to guard against the abuse of power were recommended. In almost every State Constitution the promotion of religion [Christianity] was one of the first duties of the State.

It is easily apparent to anyone who reads the words of our Founding Fathers that these same men who prohibited the establishment of religion (particular sects of Christianity) also encouraged religion. FACT: The Founding Fathers did not equate encouraging, promoting or endorsing religion as an establishment of it. The Congress, which passed the Bill of Rights, requested George Washington proclaim a day of “Public Thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts, the many and signal favors of Almighty God.”

You decide for yourself, whether George Washington, affectionately called the ‘father of his country’, and the majority of the Founding Fathers – or the courts of today – understand /understood ,the meaning of the Establishment Clause.

Alexander Hamilton sited the truth about mortal men – “Why has Government been instituted at all? Because the passions of men will not conform to the dictates of reason and justice without constraint …”

Note: At the time of the Declaration of Independence, Prof. Montesquieu was one of the most esteemed writers about government. From him came the separation of powers theory rooted in the Bible (Jeremiah 17:9) that man naturally tends toward corruption. A belief in God and His just reward or punishment, would be the basis of keeping government restrained. There is no morality or justice without God.

U.S. Supreme Court 1892 – “No purpose of action against religion can be imputed to any legislation (State or National) because this is a religious people … this is a Christian nation.”

President George Washington, in his Inaugural Address, REMINDED THE PEOPLE THAT – “ [T]he propitious [favorable] smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained.”

Note: Do you know that Washington’s Inaugural Address is no longer read in some of America’s schools? In the year 2000, a Federal district court in Kentucky ruled that speeches by George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Dwight D. Eisenhower, etc. cannot be taught in the public school system because they violate ‘the wall of separation of church and state’; the teaching of these writings would be unconstitutional.

The reason should be self-evident. The liberal Marxist/ Humanists don’t want us, or our children, to know we are a Christian nation; that our system of law came from God Himself – and if we are to continue as a nation, we must return to obedience to God. Remember the phrase ‘wall of separation of church and state’ does not appear in any of our founding documents – it does appear in the Russian Constitution!

John Hancock, signer – “The very existence of the Republic … depends much upon the public institutions of religion.”

The Northwest Ordinance (Federal law considered one of the four foundational or organic laws) requirements for statehood … declared; “religion, morality and knowledge being necessary to government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.” Our framers of the First Amendment and Constitution believed that teaching of religious principles (Christianity) was the most important duty of the state.

Excerpts from the Northwest Ordinance – July 13, 1787

It is hereby ordained and declared by the authority aforesaid, That the following articles shall be considered as articles of compact between the original States and the people and States in the said territory and forever remain unalterable, unless by common consent, to wit:

Article 1 – No person, demeaning himself in a peaceable and orderly manner, shall ever be molested on account of his mode of worship or religious sentiments, in the said territory.

Article 2 –The inhabitants of the said territory shall always be entitled to the benefits of the writ of habeas corpus, and of the trail by jury; of a proportionate representation in the legislature; and of judicial proceedings according to the course of the common law…

Article 3 –Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.

Daniel Webster, ‘defender of the Constitution’ asked, “What is an oath?” … “It is founded on a degree of consciousness that there is a power above us that will reward our virtues or punish our vises … our system of oaths in all our courts … are founded on or rest on Christianity and a religious belief. …There must be a firm conviction on a person’s mind that falsehood or perjury will be punished either in this world or the next or he cannot be admitted as a witness. If he has not this belief, he is disfranchised [not admitted].”

Note: Many States in the 1700 and early 1800’s would not let atheists testify in a court of law because they couldn’t swear an oath. Their testimony was not considered as valid.

James Madison –“Such a government [without an established religion] will be best supported by protecting every citizen in the employment of his [own] religion with the same equal hand which protects his person and his property; by neither invading the equal rights of any Sect [of Christianity], nor suffering any Sect to invade those of another.”

Note: Madison is called ‘the Father of the Constitution’-maybe he understood the 1st. Amendment. The duty of government is to protect our rights, given to us by God.

John Jay, member of the Continental Congress and original Chief Justice of the Supreme Court – “ Every member of the State ought diligently to read and to study the Constitution of his country … by knowing their rights, they will soon perceive when they are violated and be the better prepared to defend and assert them.”

A Section On:

Thomas Jefferson and ‘The Wall of Separation of Church & State’

Note: In 1947 U.S. Supreme Court based a decision on and introduced as evidence a “wall of separation between church and state”. The court heard a complaint that a public school reimbursed a public transit for the cost to bus both private and public school students. They based their decision mostly upon a private letter written in 1802 by Thomas Jefferson. The court ruled that public monies could not be spent on busing of children to private schools.

Current history books and professors call Thomas Jefferson a deist and claim he was against any government involvement in religion, and that he believed in total separation of church and state. They claim him as one of the least religious of the Founding Fathers. Let us take a look a Thomas Jefferson, using his own words. [Webster’s 1828 Dictionary definition of deist: one professes no form of religion, but follows the light of nature and reason, as his only guides in doctrine and practice.]

Thomas Jefferson, committed himself as President to pursuing what he believed to be the purpose of the First Amendment; [paraphrasing a long speech] not allowing the Episcopalians, Congregationalists, or any other denomination to achieve the “establishment of a particular form of Christianity.”

Note: In his letter to the Danbury Baptist Church, Jefferson did mention a wall of separation of Church and State but he also explained that this was to keep government from controlling religion, not religion from government. He went on to say that through religion government is “to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural rights in opposition to his social duties.” Natural rights were an important legal phrase in Jefferson’s day; natural rights included “that which the books of the law and the Gospel do contain.”

Natural rights then incorporated what God himself had guaranteed to man in the Scriptures. Natural rights meant that religious liberties were inalienable rights (God given and not to be taken away). Jefferson assured the Baptists that following their natural rights they would violate no social duty or governmental laws. He assured them that the issue of religious expression was above (out of the hands) of Federal jurisdiction. You will read  the entire letter later in this lesson.

If Thomas Jefferson believed that a wall of separation of church and state existed that meant religion had to be kept out of government; then why would he, the very Sunday after writing to the Danbury Baptists, attend church with the largest congregation of Christians in America – the church met in the House of Representatives of the U.S. Congress. He attended that church virtually every Sunday for the next seven years of his presidency. Thousands joined together to worship God there each Sunday.

Proof we have forgotten our history: Thomas Jefferson was in France while the Constitution was written; in fact he did not return until one month after the Bill of Rights was added.

Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to Dr. Joseph Priestly, correcting information Priestly was planning to publish, said this – “… and all say it was yourself more than any other individual, that planned and established it [i.e.. The Constitution]. I was in Europe when the Constitution was planned, and never saw it till after it was established.”

Thomas Jefferson – “God who gave us life gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure if we have lost the only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath? Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever.”

Thomas Jefferson – “Certainly, no power to prescribe any religious exercise or to assume authority in any religious discipline has been delegated to the general [Federal] government. It must then rest with the states.”

Thomas Jefferson – “Those who labor in the Earth are the chosen people of God … whose breasts He has made His peculiar deposit for substantial and genuine virtue.”

Thomas Jefferson – “I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.”

Thomas Jefferson – “ I consider the doctrines of Jesus as delivered by Himself to contain the outlines of the sublimest system of morality that has ever been taught but I hold in the most profound detestation an execration the corruptions of it that have been invented …”

Thomas Jefferson – “I am a desciple of the Lord Jesus Christ”.

Note: As President, Thomas Jefferson signed bills which appropriated funds for chaplains in Congress and in the armed forces. In ‘ The Articles of War’ 1806, he “earnestly recommended to all officers and soldiers, diligently to attend divine services”.

In 1816 Jefferson wrote in his own handwriting “a wee book” for his personal study entitled “The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, Extracted Textually From the Gospels in Greek, Latin, French and English”. A table of contents titled, “A Table of the Text From the Evangelists Employed in this Narrative and the Order of Their Arrangement”.

Thomas Jefferson – “A more beautiful or precious morsel of ethics I have never seen; it is a document in proof that I am a real Christian; that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus.” Note: This quote came from a catalog Jefferson had written listing all the books in his library; it was written on the title page describing the first works in his library, his own Bible, a well-worn four volume set.

Thomas Jefferson declared that religion is; “Deemed in other countries incompatible with good government and yet proved by our experience to be its best support.”

Read the epitaph on Jefferson’s tombstone, which he wrote himself; “Here lies buried Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, author of the Statutes for Religious Freedom in Virginia and father of the University of Virginia.”

While he was a member of the Virgina legislature, Thomas Jefferson drafted religious liberty laws and the Statutes for Religious Freedom:

1. A bill to punish Sabbath breakers

2. A bill to punish religious worship disturbers

3. A bill appointing days of Fasting and Thanksgiving

4. A bill to fine ministers if they failed to perform Divine Services on the appointed days

5. Virgina Statute for Religious Freedom

Thomas Jefferson – “I have always said, I always will say, that the studious perusal of the Sacred Volume will make better citizens, better fathers, and better husbands.

1.     The Doctrines of Jesus are simple and tend to the happiness of man.

2.     There is only one God, and He is all perfect.

3.     There is a future state of rewards and punishment.

4.     To love God with all the heart and thy neighbor as thyself is the sum of all. These are the great points on which to reform the religion of the Jews.”

Thomas Jefferson – “I am for freedom of Religion, and against all maneuvers to bring about a legal ascendance of one sect over another…” 

Thomas Jefferson’s Prayer for the Nation – “Almighty God, who has given us this good land for our heritage; we humbly beseech Thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of Thy favor and glad to do Thy will. Bless our land with honorable industry, sound learning and pure manners. Save us from violence, discord and confusion; from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way.

Defend our liberties and fashion into one united people the multitudes brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues.Endow with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in Thy name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that through obedience to Thy law, we may show forth Thy praise among the nations of the earth.

In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in days of trouble, suffer not our trust in Thee to fail;

All of which we ask through our Lord. Amen”

NOTE: From the Heritage Foundation, read in Washington at their annual conference December 9, 1998.

While he was president, Thomas Jefferson was also chairman of the Board Of Education in Washington D.C. … He insisted on two books, and only two books, to be taught in the public schools –The Bible and Watts Hymnal.

Note: In 1904, the fifty-seventh Congress, in an effort to restrain unethical behavior, voted; “That there be printed and bound … for the use of Congress, 9,000 copies of Thomas Jefferson’s ‘Morals of Jesus of Nazareth’ … 3,000 copies for the use of the Senate and 6,000 copies for the use of the House.”

“I personally feel this action should be repeated for today’s politicians – I just wonder if they would actually read it.” Joseph R. Larson

There are more religious quotes and actions of Jefferson, but I think you can now get the drift. You can either believe Thomas Jefferson himself, or today’s educational elite.