Two hundred twenty-nine (229) years ago today the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the US Constitution, was ratified by the last state, Virginia. The Bill of Rights is a magnificent document, an integral part to our Charters of Freedom. I cannot help but believe that these 10 amendments were presented in order of importance rather than some random selection. I believe each builds on the next succeeding amendment ending at the tenth which says simply:
“The powers 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.”
But what about the First Amendment, the first of the Bill of Rights? Why was it first and why was it written in the manner it was? It reads:
“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 the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
Why is freedom of religion first in this list of individual rights? It clearly states that Congress can make no laws establishing or prohibiting the free exercise of religion. In other words, and especially for the historical revisionists and secular humanists, Congress, or any governmental agency, is prohibited from legislating what you can or cannot do when it comes to how you exercise religious belief.
This means that you cannot establish a national religion nor can you prohibit any one religion from peaceably exercising their beliefs.
The man who wrote the Bill of Rights, James Madison, did not believe in the establishment of religion by law because it violates the tenets of Christianity:
“Whilst we assert for ourselves a freedom to embrace, to profess, and to observe Religion which we believe to be of divine origin, we cannot deny an equal freedom to those whose minds have not yet yielded to the evidence which has convinced us. If this freedom be abused, it is an offence against God, not against man. To God, therefore, not to man, must an account be rendered.”
Madison understood that man has the freedom to choose to worship Christ or reject Christ. We all have the same choice that Joshua presented to Israel:
“And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:15)
Does this mean Madison didn’t care about religion? Some historical revisionists even claim that Madison was a deist. The only way one comes to that conclusion is to either ignore or take out of context the massive body of Madison’s words, both quoted and written. In one such quote, attributed to him in 1778, Madison boldly states:
“We have staked the whole future of American civilization, not upon the power of government, far from it. We have staked the future of all of our political institutions upon the capacity of mankind for self-government; upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God.”
Madison was very distrustful of any religion, Christianity included, being established by law but that in no way translates to deistic beliefs. In a letter to William Bradford dated September 25, 1773, Madison writes:
“I have sometimes thought there could not be a stronger testimony in favor of religion or against temporal enjoyments, even the most rational and manly, than for men who occupy the most honorable and gainful departments and [who] are rising in reputation and wealth, publicly to declare the unsatisfactoriness [of temporal enjoyments] by becoming fervent advocates in the cause of Christ; and I wish you may give in your evidence in this way.”
Abuse of the establishment clause of the First Amendment can be attributed to all sides of the public religion debate. Too many Christians wish to create a theocratic form of government in the US but that is impossible because King Jesus has yet to return to reign. Be there no doubt that day shall come, hallelujah!
However, today we have a form of government, with it’s separation of powers and checks and balances, that was developed with the admonitions of the Prophet Jeremiah in mind:
“Thus says the LORD: ‘Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart departs from the LORD. For he shall be like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see when good comes, but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land which is not inhabited. Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, and whose hope is the LORD. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes; but its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit. The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings.’” (Jeremiah 17:5-10)
This is why our form of government was established not trusting in the capacity of mankind itself, rather in the capacity of mankind to govern itself “according to the Ten Commandments of God.”
Oh would that our precious nation one day return to this simple truth!
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Copyright © 2010 David Jeffers
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