Thursday, February 24, 2005
Our Godless Constitution
by BROOKE ALLEN
[from the February 21, 2005 issue]
It is hard to believe that George Bush has ever read the works of George Orwell, but he seems, somehow, to have grasped a few Orwellian precepts. The lesson the President has learned best--and certainly the one that has been the most useful to him--is the axiom that if you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it. One of his Administration's current favorites is the whopper about America having been founded on Christian principles. Our nation was founded not on Christian principles but on Enlightenment ones. God only entered the picture as a very minor player, and Jesus Christ was conspicuously absent.
Our Constitution makes no mention whatever of God. The omission was too obvious to have been anything but deliberate, in spite of Alexander Hamilton's flippant responses when asked about it: According to one account, he said that the new nation was not in need of "foreign aid"; according to another, he simply said "we forgot." But as Hamilton's biographer Ron Chernow points out, Hamilton never forgot anything important.
In the eighty-five essays that make up The Federalist, God is mentioned only twice (both times by Madison, who uses the word, as Gore Vidal has remarked, in the "only Heaven knows" sense). In the Declaration of Independence, He gets two brief nods: a reference to "the Laws of Nature and Nature's God," and the famous line about men being "endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights." More blatant official references to a deity date from long after the founding period: "In God We Trust" did not appear on our coinage until the Civil War, and "under God" was introduced into the Pledge of Allegiance during the McCarthy hysteria in 1954 [see Elisabeth Sifton, "The Battle Over the Pledge," April 5, 2004].
Sunday, February 13, 2005
Friday, February 04, 2005
PRINCETON-The Ten Commandments monument must be moved from the Gibson County Courthouse square, according to a federal judge's Jan. 31 order.
In his order to remove the monument, U.S. Southern District Judge Richard Young noted that case precedent in Indiana finds the Ten Commandments "cannot be reasonably stripped of their sacred religious significance by a characterization of them as a moral or ethical code."
Judge Young wrote, "While a large majority of those that pass by the monument in Princeton may find its inscription to be consistent with their intentions and beliefs, plaintiffs and perhaps numerous others do not share that same feeling. Our forefathers strived to craft a Constitution and Bill of Rights which took into account the need for government to be "of all the people," no matter what religious beliefs they hold or choose not to hold."
Young found the display of the monument on the lawn of the seat of local government violates a constitutional guarantee that government will "not appear to promote, discourage or endorse any particular religious beliefs."
Last summer, Indiana joined eight other states seeking a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on how the Ten Commandments can legally be displayed on public property, and court agreed in October to hear the issue.
Tuesday, February 01, 2005
Dr. John Frandsen, a retired zoologist, was at a dinner for teachers in Birmingham, Ala., recently when he met a young woman who had just begun work as a biology teacher in a small school district in the state. Their conversation turned to evolution.
"She confided that she simply ignored evolution because she knew she'd get in trouble with the principal if word got about that she was teaching it," he recalled. "She told me other teachers were doing the same thing."
"You can imagine how difficult it would be to teach evolution as the standards prescribe in ever so many little towns, not only in Alabama but in the rest of the South, the Midwest - all over," Dr. Frandsen said.
Dr. Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education, said she heard "all the time" from teachers who did not teach evolution "because it's just too much trouble."