A column about history, culture, policy, and things in between.
And so - our community awaits a decision.
We await the knowledge of whether or not the views of an anonymous few and the litigious intervention of a social activist group from our Nation’s Capitol, will overturn the clearly expressed desire of the overwhelming majority of our community.
The compelling reasons as to why Elmbrook Church is the best physical and logistical alternative to hold these ceremonies have been much detailed. It is also an established fact that it is the least expensive. Such matters are not subject to debate; they are, as Jefferson would have claimed, “self-evident”.
But this matter is being evaluated on the grounds of whether or not such action violates the Constitution, and it is on that “higher ground” that the debate should stand. Passionate discussion of political freedom is important, and if we are to be serious in the pursuit of such debate, it seems fitting to make an honest attempt to understand the intent of the people who WROTE that document. And no serious evaluation of that can be conducted without a history lesson. But perhaps even more important than the lesson, we need to rid ourselves of dogma and cant, by conceding that there are misunderstandings on BOTH sides of this issue.
Many people in the Evangelical Movement believe that America was founded as a Christian nation – it was not. While it is certainly true that most of the men and women who founded this country were believers in the Christian faith and held its tenets to be essential to a stable society, the simple fact is that America was founded as a secular political entity, not some quasi-Christian State.
Conversely, many who support this litigation have accepted the fiction that the Constitution demands and delineates the “Separation of Church and State”. This five word phrase has affixed itself to our political consciousness by the mind-numbing inertia of repitition, but no matter how many mantra-chanting University Professors or historically illiterate network suits drone out this fiction, that does not make it true.
Here is what the Constitution says: “Congress shall make no law regarding the establishment of religion”.
Now it seems to me that the fundamental question is – “WHAT DID THEY MEAN BY THAT”?
This is where we must be as willing to reflect as we are to debate. If we are serious, we need to look upon the foundational reasoning of the Founders' intent as contained in The Federalist Papers.
The men and women who founded this country were English, and came from a country where the State WAS the Church. The Church of England was founded in the 16th Century by Henry VIII for purely political and personal objectives. It was no more than an ecclesiastically disguised extension of his POLITICAL power, an extension that saw the Monarchy manage, fund, and establish doctrine for what was, quite literally, the country’s officially ordained religion. It was the prohibition of such political atrocity that was the objective of the Establishment Clause.
Even a cursory study of the writings of these men leads to one foundational and inescapable conclusion: what they most greatly feared was an overly powerful and intrusive Federal Government. Their intent in drafting the Constitution was to DEFINE and then LIMIT its powers. Conversely, all powers not expressly granted to the Federal level were intended and defined to reside in the States and municipalities, so that the unfettered wisdom and desires of the people residing there could be brought to bear in public policy. The notion that the power of the Federal Judiciary could be unsheathed so as to obviate the free and overwhelming choice of a community as to the venue of a graduation ceremony, would have horrified and saddened the Founders beyond measure.
Though the John Doe Plaintiffs in this matter would attempt to have us believe so, this is NOT a question of "freedom of religion". It is a matter of our POLITICAL freedom.
And so we await the news.
And we await the knowledge of whether our liberties are to be defended or reduced.