The Naked Public Square Revisited, Part I

This Christmas holiday season has reignited the public debate about the proper roles for church and state.
Why are so many Americans upset about what is going on? Consider the following:

Christmas has been sanitized in schools and public squares, in malls and parades…
“Those who think that the censoring of Christmas is a blue-state phenomenon need to consider what happened today in the Wichita [Kansas] Eagle,” said William Donahue of the New York-based Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights.
The Kansas newspaper ran a correction, he said, for mistakenly referring to a “Christmas Tree” rather than a “Community Tree” at the Wichita Winterfest celebration.
“It’s time practicing Christians demanded to know from these speech-code fascists precisely who it is they think they are protecting [by] dropping the dreaded ‘C-word’,” Mr. Donahue said yesterday…
“People are tired of efforts to sanitize religious expression. This policy against even instrumental Christmas music in schools violates common sense and is neither necessary nor constitutional,” Mr. Scott [of the Alliance Defense Fund] added…
Denver, for example, refused to allow a Christian church float in the city’s holiday parade, because “direct religious themes” were not allowed. Homosexual American Indians, Chinese lion dancers and German folk dancers, however, were welcome…
School districts in Florida and New Jersey have banned Christmas carols altogether, and an “all-inclusive” holiday song program at a Chicago-area elementary school included Jewish and Jamaican songs, but no Christmas carols.
Meanwhile, a Kirkland, Wash., high-school principal nixed a production of “A Christmas Carol” because of Tiny Tim’s prayer, “God bless us everyone,” while neighboring libraries banned Christmas trees…
“Our Founding Fathers didn’t intend to take religion out of the state. They took state out of religion,” [said] Jim Finnegan.

We have seen similar issues arise in Cranston.
Unfortunately, however, the problem is much deeper and not limited to the Christmas season. As an article entitled “Declaration of Independence Banned” noted:

In the city of Cupertino, California, a fifth grade public school teacher at Stevens Creek School, Stephen Williams, has been prohibited by the principal from distributing the Declaration of Independence among other documents from the American Founding. Why? Because they mention God.

Things have truly gotten out of hand when American children are forbidden from reading our own Declaration of Independence. And, it shows how far certain people will go to enforce the new religion of secular intolerance. (See the Liberal Fundamentalism, Revisited posting for additional perspective on this intolerance.)
The same author continued:

Carried to its logical conclusion, the position staked out by modern courts would prevent not only any mention of God in the classroom, but would render teaching the natural rights principles of constitutional government unconstitutional…
…there is a concerted effort to drive God out of our schools and out of our public square…to remove constitutional limitations on government power, and, at the same time, replace moral, free, self-sufficient citizens with needy, subservient citizens dependent on government. Removing God from the American mind advances both goals.
Understanding that sound government and a free, moral society rest upon a belief in the “laws of nature and of nature’s God,” California passed a law in 1997 requiring public schools to teach the Declaration of Independence and other documents from the Founding period…

As my friend, John Eastman, said in the same article:

“Unfortunately, our courts have abandoned the original meaning of the religion clauses of the First Amendment, and what we are witnessing today is the logical consequence of a half-century of misguided jurisprudence.”

This view of the world has serious implications for the American principle of self-government. Here are some further thoughts from an article entitled “Belief in God Underlies Self Government”:

America’s founders devised the world’s most excellent constitution, but they never imagined that their handiwork would survive without the proper understanding of its foundations and purposes.
The ultimate cause of our political order, and the reason for its existence, is set forth with surpassing eloquence in the Declaration’s Preamble:

“We hold these truths to be self evident-that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

This is the most revolutionary political doctrine in the history of the world…
But the radical nature of the Declaration consists not only in its revolutionary character but in its reliance on the authority of a divine Creator. The Declaration teaches that the authority of the people is prior to government, but that the rights of the people are the gift of God. Neither man nor government is the author of liberty. That honor belongs only to God…
It is true that America’s founders were scrupulously neutral between the numerous religious sects that existed in their time. But it is not true that they were hostile to the God worshipped by all of them…
What is especially sinister about the relentless campaign to remove all public references to God is that it calls the nation’s foundations needlessly into question. If there is no God, then there is no human freedom and there is no government by consent of the governed…
Thomas Jefferson wrote in his Notes on the State of Virginia,

“[C]an the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God?”

I will post shortly some excerpts from a powerful book which directly tackles this important issue of religion and democracy in America.

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