United States Constitution
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.
In a 2019 speech by then–attorney general William Barr at the University of Notre Dame ...Barr presented a profound rewriting of the meaning of American democracy. He argued that by “self-government,” the Framers did not mean the ability of people to vote for representatives of their choice. Rather, he said, they meant individual morality: the ability to govern oneself. And, since people are inherently wicked, that self-government requires the authority of a religion: Christianity.Barr quoted the leading author of the Constitution, James Madison, to prove his argument. “In the words of Madison,” he said, “‘We have staked our future on the ability of each of us to govern ourselves…’.”This has been a popular quotation on the political and religious right since the 1950s, and Barr used it to lament how the modern, secular world has removed moral restraints, making Americans unable to tell right from wrong and, in turn, creating “immense suffering, wreckage, and misery.” “Secularists, and their allies among the ‘progressives,’” he said, “have marshaled all the force of mass communications, popular culture, the entertainment industry, and academia in an unremitting assault on religion and traditional values.” The law, Barr said, “is being used as a battering ram to break down traditional moral values” through judicial interpretation, and he called for saving America by centering religion.Madison never actually said the quotation on which Barr based his argument. It’s a fake version of what Madison did say in Federalist #39, in 1788, which was something entirely different. In Federalist #39, Madison explained how the new government, the one under which we still live, worked.Answering the question of whether the new government the Framers had just proposed would enable people to vote for their representatives, he said yes. “No other form would be reconcilable with the genius of the people of America; with the fundamental principles of the Revolution; or with that honorable determination which animates every votary of freedom, to rest all our political experiments on the capacity of mankind for self-government.” Madison said nothing about personal morality when he talked about self-government, though. Instead, he focused on the mechanics of the new national government, explaining that such a government “derives all its powers directly or indirectly from the great body of the people, and is administered by persons holding their offices during pleasure, for a limited period, or during good behavior.”He went on to say (and the capitalization is his, not mine): “It is ESSENTIAL to such a government that it be derived from the great body of the society, not from an [small] proportion [of people], or a favored class of it….”In his 2019 speech, Barr also expressed concern that people in the United States misunderstood the First Amendment to the Constitution, which expressly forbids the government from establishing a national religion or stopping anyone from worshiping a deity—or not—however they choose. In Barr’s hands, the First Amendment “reflects the Framers’ belief that religion was indispensable to sustaining our free system of government.” To support that argument, he cites a few lines from Madison’s 1785 pamphlet objecting to religious assessments that talk about how Madison defined religion.In reality, that pamphlet was Madison’s passionate stand against any sort of religious establishment by the government. He explained that what was at stake was not just religion, but also representative government itself. The establishment of religion attacked a fundamental human right—an unalienable right—of conscience. If lawmakers could destroy the right of freedom of conscience, they could destroy all other unalienable rights. Madison warned specifically that they could control the press, abolish trial by jury, take over the executive and judicial powers, take away the right to vote, and set themselves up in power forever.
Sloan BashinskyWhen President Biden said Vladimir Putin needs to be gotten rid of, I wish President Biden had said Donald Trump should be gotten rid of, too.Make no mistake, observe the Justice Brown confirmation proceeding - the American religious right really hopes to make America a Christian nation, by their definition, and they see Donald Trump as their way to do it, and are willing to make him president for life - Czar - to get there, even though he is about as Christian as Genghis Kahn was.Forget the Declaration of Independence contains 4 separate non-Christian references to Deity.Forget Thomas Jefferson and James Madison fought very hard and succeeded in defeating Patrick Henry's attempt to make the Episcopal Church, which had split off from England's Anglican Church, the official Virginia religion and recipient of Virginia tax revenues.The Founding Father's did not want a state religion country like England. They wanted every religion to be left alone by the government. The Baptists and Presbyterians in Virginia, for example, were terrified Patrick Henry would get his way in Virginia.