Posted on February 9, 2019 by Diana Roberts
With respect to the Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation (“CPCF”) and to their right to free speech, the following rebuttal should be considered.
First, as to religion, this nation and its constitution was not founded on Judeo-Christian principles. The new religious liberty of free thought and democracy came to writers and congressmen from France as the institution of conscience of the individual mind. The only full church/state experiment that was attempted in America was the failed attempt by the Puritans. That is not to say that most settlers were not Christian, but their theology was not controlled by the state government with the exception of Virginia, which demoted the Church of England about the time of passage of the United States Constitution.
The mis-statement of this history as posed in this report, that America was founded on Christian principles, did not surface until the mid-19th century. Its purpose preached by evangelicals was to divide, to support and heat-up the South to the civil war in the tensions of 1860, when southern Baptist fundamentalists and evangelists split from northern Baptists over the issue of slavery. They heatedly preached that slavery was approved by God and that the owner of one person of another controlled all that person’s beliefs and physical condition. They preached that America was founded on Christian principles and slavery was part of our Christian heritage. Southern fundamentalists and evangelists used numerous arguments such as human ownership was right and good for the slave physically and morally. Without a Christian owner, the slave would be lost with no moral guidance. This country was founded on the principle and usefulness of slavery. To be sure, slavery was full blown in Jesus’ time, and he never said one word against it.
As one studies such journalism as The Federalist Papers or speeches by Presidents or other influencers, it is not unusual to see references to a deity or even a call for spiritual help. Unfortunately, our CPCF friends interpret this as the American government reaching out to divine intervention and as being evidence of American government Christian founding. There is no basis for that interpretation. Those references are natural to that speech maker or article writer, individually, not as our government. They are individual statements that every American has in free speech, but they are not the law to be imposed upon every American, any more than Thomas Paine’s Common Sense or Rights of Man journalism was.
After the war, there was very little discussion about Christian principles being part of American the founding. However, this mis-information got a rebirth of energy as Penecostalism emerged in the early 20th century. Radical adherents of the Holiness group were energized by revivalism and the imminent expectation for the Second Coming of Christ. Believing that they were living in the end times, they expected God to spiritually renew the Christian Church thereby bringing to pass the restoration of spiritual gifts and the evangelism of the world.
Two world wars later there was little discussion in the public consciousness about religion or America being founded on Christian principles. In the late 1970s, however, religious resurgence for rewriting American history as to the First Amendment to the Constitution again revitalized with the rising influence of the Christian religious right and the so-called moral majority. For the last 40 years, that influence consolidated and grew stronger and continues to try to codify the actions, activities and promote human stereotypes into what it sees as a Judeo-Christian frame and to further block any science that it sees as threatening to the words in the Bible.
While CPCF has a nuanced approach to success for convincing state legislatures to pass Christian belief proclamations, that being a graduation or stair-stepping of confrontation and control in the legislature by making each successive proclamation more literal in fundamentalist belief, the dicta in the report mixes in a desire for American history teaching goals that no one could argue with. Apparently, in order to confuse the congressman or state representative, those legitimate teaching goals, i.e. studying the Constitution and Declaration of Independence, reading the Emancipation Declaration, etc. as recommended in the report is there to take some of the sting out of the recommended proclamations that are not only illegal and unconstitutional but also promotes one fundamental set of religious beliefs to the exclusion of all others.
Democracy is one thing, a political construct to protect the freedom and rights of each person. Religion is a different thing, often a belief in a deity whose voice is interpreted and explained by a human religious leader.
Twogaa respects the individual members of CPCF and their supporters but disagrees with their attempts to bring government into our individual persona, sexual and moral identification, or a certain Christian sect’s theology controlling the individual, the United States citizen. Freedom of individual conscience based on any religion or no religion is what our founding fathers brought to us and what every state ratified. Why? Because their consensus was that freedom of belief, religious practice, and diverse religious philosophies was best protected by all when the government stayed out of religion. We need to have intellectual and truthful dialogue with our fellow citizens of different mind. A starting point could be the Civic Literacy Act they propose in this report (too lengthy to quote here but can be found at www.citizensunitedfoundation.com). In the meantime, CPCF proselytizing (“My way or the highway,” “This is what god said,” “This is God’s law, and we had better enact statutes following it,” etc.) leaves us with no alternative but to fight back to defend our liberties, so we can worship as we choose and be whatever and whoever we are as individuals.