It’s true: when they penned the First Amendment, our founders believed that what they were doing was protecting the equal rights of all denominations of the Christian faith, though they called them ‘sects.’ They also said the First Amendment was not intended to establish a tolerance of indifference to religion or what they called ‘infidelity,’ but we know today as Agnosticism and Atheism. I know this will come as a shock to many readers, but it is true, and the evidence is in the historical record.
The first step in proving this starts with the proposed wordings of the First Amendment that were not accepted by the committee. They will show the general intention of the committee and what they believed they were trying to do:
[A]ll men have an equal, natural and unalienable right to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; and that no particular sect or society of Christians ought to be favored or established by law in preference to others.”
–George Mason, member of the Constitutional Convention and “The Father of the Bill of Rights”
“The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established.”
And from the Annuls of Congress from June 8, 1789 to September 25, 1789:
“August 15, 1789. Mr. [Peter} Sylvester [of New York] had some doubts… He feared it [the First Amendment] might be thought to have a tendency to abolish religion altogether… Mr. [Eldrige] Gerry [of Massachusetts] said it would read better if it was that “no religious doctrine shall be established by law”… Mr. [James] Madison [of Virginia] said he apprehended the meaning of the words to be, that “Congress should not establish a religion, and enforce the legal observation of it by law.”… [T]he State(s)…seemed to entertain an opinion that under the clause of the Constitution…it enabled them [Congress] to make laws of such nature as might…establish a national religion; to prevent these effects he presumed the amendment was intended… Mr. Madison thought if the word “national” was inserted before religion, it would satisfy the minds of the honorable gentlemen… He thought if the word “national” was introduced, it would point the amendment directly to the object it was intended to prevent.”
Notice what the founders were trying to do: they did not want to prohibit the inclusion of religion in government; they wanted to prohibit Congress from establishing a national religion. The fact that Fisher Ames, the man who drafted the wording that would eventually become the First Amendment would later advocate the teaching of the Bible in our public schools should serve to affirm this conclusion. Also, given what these men who are mentioned suggested, and that this was the prevailing sentiment in the convention, it seems improbable that these same men would later vote for something that they understood to mean something other than their stated goal: a conclusion that is further supported by the recordings of the debates in the State governments during the ratification of the Bill of Rights. Governor Samuel Johnston, from the record of the State of North Carolina:
“I hope, therefore, that gentlemen will see there is no cause of fear that any one religion shall be exclusively established.”
At this point, we must remember that – at the time – all of the State governments supported religion, and several had official State religions. This is one of the reasons the founders were seeking to restrict any federal hand in religion: to preserve the State(s) authority over religion. And this is affirmed by the historical record. Again, from Joseph Story:
“…the whole power over the subject of religion is left exclusively to the State governments to be acted upon to their own sense of justice and the State constitutions.”
And from no less than Thomas Jefferson:
“Certainly, no power to prescribe any religious exercise or to assume authority in any religious discipline has been delegated to the General [federal] Government. It must then rest with the States.”
At this point, my dear reader, the case has been made: unless Congress tries to establish a national religion, Congress and the federal courts have zero authority over any religious matter — which then makes every ruling the federal courts have ever made on any matter of religion null and void. They are unconstitutional by definition. And this means the courts are acting lawlessly when they accept let alone rule on any case involving religion.
The next thing we should note is that we have established what the founders were trying to do. They were not trying to promote tolerance for Agnostics or Atheists (as we will soon see), but to establish equal liberty to worship for all religions that do not harm innocent people or disrupt the good order of civil society – especially the different denominations of the Christian faith. The following excerpts from Acts of the several States will attest to this fact:
From New Hampshire: “And every denomination of Christians…shall be equally under the protection of the law: and no subordination of any one sect or denomination to another shall ever be established by law.”
From New Jersey: “[T]here shall be no establishment of any one religious sect…in preference to another.”
From North Carolina: “[T]here shall be no establishment of any one religious church or denomination in this State in preference to another.”
From Connecticut: “And each and every society or denomination of Christians in this State shall have and enjoy the same and equal powers, rights, and privileges.”
Zephaniah Swift, author of America’s first law textbook:
“Christians of different denominations ought to consider that the law knows no distinction among them; that they are all established upon the broad basis of equal liberty.”
Notice that none of these references specifically mention any other religion as being protected by the many acts of legislation the founders were passing. This is because, to the founders, protecting the different denominations of Christianity was the primary focus of their intention. In their day, this was as understood as the tyranny of political correctness is in our society today. Everyone knew what the founders meant; they did not have to spell it out for the people of their day.
Now, let’s look at other what the founders had to say about religions and those who profess to be indifferent to our not to believe in God.
“We are not to attribute this [First Amendment] prohibition of a national religious establishment to an indifference to religion in general, and especially to Christianity (which none could hold in more reverence, than the framers of the Constitution)…”
“Any attempt to level and discard all religion would have been viewed with universal indignation…It [religion] must be considered as the foundation on which the whole structure [founders’ government] rests… In this age there can be no substitute for Christianity;…”
–House and Judiciary Committee reports, 1853-1854
“But they [the founders] had no fear or jealousy of religion itself, nor did they wish to see us an irreligious people…they did not intend to spread over all the public authorities and the whole public action of the nation the dead and revolting spectacle of atheist apathy.”
–Senate Judiciary Committee, 1853-1854
“The real object of the [First A]mendment was not to countenance, much less to advance, Mahometanism, or Judaism, or infidelity [Agnosticism and Atheism], by prostrating Christianity; but to exclude all rivalry among Christian sect”
–Joseph Story (remember, he is one of the primary authorities on the original intent of the Constitution)
“Such is my veneration for every religion that reveals the attributes of the Deity, or a future state of rewards and punishments, that I had rather see the opinions of Confusius or Mohamed inculcated upon our youth than see them grow wholly devoid of a system of religious principles. But the religion I mean to recommend in this place is that of the New Testament…”
–Benjamin Rush, Signer of the Declaration of Independence, gratifier of the U.S. Constitution, Father of American medicine, founder of 5 universities and – at the time – one of the three men the Colonists considered most influential and important to the Revolution
I will close this post with the words of Supreme Court Justice, James Iredell, appointed by President Washington:
“But it is objected that the people of America may perhaps choose representatives who have no religion at all, and that pagans and Mahometans may be admitted into offices… But it is never to be supposed that the people of America will trust their dearest rights to persons who have no religion at all, or religion materially different from their own.”
My dear reader, those words mean that our founders asked each other about the possibility that the society we have now might one day come into being, but they rejected it because they simply could not imagine that Americans would trust their liberty to any other than Christian leaders. This is not my opinion. It is not historic revision. The revision lies with those who tell a different story. This is the truth, and the proof – as I have shown – lies in the historical records waiting for this nation to rediscover.
I just realized there will be people who think the First Amendment and free speech gives them the right to malign religion. The problem with that is the founders said it does not. In fact, they said you could be jailed for doing it, but Joseph Story covers it this way:
Christianity . . . is not to be maliciously and openly reviled and blasphemed against to the annoyance of believers or the injury of the public. . . . It is unnecessary for us, however, to consider . . . the establishment of a school or college for the propagation of . . . Deism or any other form of infidelity. Such a case is not to be presumed to exist in a Christian country.
Notice that he is also saying we should not have to tolerate our schools being used to attack our faith, either. I hope you are starting to see who the problem is here: the people who have been changing our history and not those who simply want to be free to worship God.