Our Christian Heritage?

The idea for this thread grew out of two posts in the Christianity is a force to be feared thread. First, a short excerpt from a long (and well-done) post by dalovindj:

In response to this paragraph, His4Ever had the following to say:

This thread is here in GD, not in the Pit, for a good reason. I want to see us dissect His4Ever’s post, with cites, to demonstrate what the errors of fact in it are. I know she sincerely believes what she’s saying is true – it’s been told her by Christian leaders (like the ones cited in the referenced thread), after all! I don’t think she deserves a flame for this; she’s expressing an opinion based on “facts” – and the task here is to show the falsehoods put forth as facts, not to call her names.

My reason for this is that I want to have, together in one place for reference, the clear evidence refuting the “ACLU is anti-Christian” and so forth that underlie what she had to say. Please oblige me with factual data and reasoning rather than flames. Thanks!

Okay, I’ll start here, with the easy one:

Al Gore got more popular votes in the 2000 Presidential election than George W. Bush did, at last count. Even if the vote-count was off by a good margin, though, neither of them got anywhere close to a majority of the popular vote – merely a plurality.
(Okay, okay, I know it wasn’t related to the U.S.'s alleged Christian heritage or any bias on the part of the ACLU, but it was thr first fact that sprang to mind.)

Well, given that my Jewish ancestors came to America seeking religious freedom, I am glad that the ACLU exists.

And speaking as a Jew, I am glad that the Founding Fathers had the intelligence and foresight to write and ratify the First Amendment, which prohibits the establishment of a state religion, as well as guarantees each person the right to exercise their religious beliefs as they see fit.

That said, the ACLU works to “keep government out of the religion business”, and vice versa. They do file suit on issues of public prayer, which has been held to violate the First Amendment when done as part of a government-sponsored event (such as prayers before football games or graduation ceremonies). They have also filed suit on behalf of churches regarding their right to incorporate. (See this site for more information.) So, they aren’t pro-Christian or anti-Christian, their position on an issue depends on the First Amendment.


You know, I’ve said any number of times, here and at the PP, that there’s a difference between exercising one’s own rights to follow the rules of one’s own religion, and enforcing those rules on others. Five Christian men have every right to come together for Bible study, pray together, say novenas to Mary, spend their own money on plaques of the Ten Commandments, or whatever else suits their fancy and their religious scruples. What they do not have the right to do is, having run for City Council and won election, do that as the elected representatives of the City, which presumably includes people who do not agree with them in matters of religion, nor to spend city money on matters of religion.

Same goes for school districts. Ten kids want to have an after school club that’s a prayer meeting, and can get a faculty sponsor – that’s their privilege; the First Amendment protects it. The principal decides to prescribe an “official school prayer” and he’s in violation of statutes State and Federal and the Constitution itself – he’s “government” (he’s an official paid by the government to serve in administration) “prescribing a religion” (in this case a religious practice).

Huh. I never knew you were pureblooded Native American, His! :slight_smile:

Our ancestors came here for the privilege of worshipping as they chose. And they were smart enough to write that into the Constitution, that nobody could tell anybody else how to worship, or not to. As FDR apocryphally once began a speech to the DAR, “My fellow immigrants…” :slight_smile:

The ACLU doesn’t push to make anything illegal. What it does is point out when something is unconstitutional, which is a different matter. If His4ever doesn’t like the constitution or its extremely explicit statements about the separation of church and state, I think she should go back where she came from.

Amd once again, Hisever has her facts wrong. Nobody wishes to make it illegal to pray in public–religious freedom is enshrined in the First Amendment to the Constitution.

However, while the free exercise of religion is not prohibited, neither may the government establish religion, that is, it may not endorse one religion over another or make one religion the state religion.

People can pray and give acknowledgment at home, in church, out in a park, or shouting at people through a megaphone, like this one loon at the Farragut West metro station does. I have yet to see street preacher locked up or see churches closed down.

Whsat the fundies refuse to get through their thick skulls is that they cannot force other people to pray their way. Fundies claim that prayer is banned in schools–that’s a lie for as long as there are pop quizzes, there will be prayer in school. No, what is not allowed is corporate prayer, forcing the student body to go to morning prayers, or listen to Bible lessons, or having the school, which is a body of the state, endorsing one particular religion. The test for determining when a law has the effect of establishing religious establishment was formulated by Chief Justice Burger in the majority decison in Lemon v. Kurtzman, and thus is called the Lemon test.

As for her claim that “Those who don’t like our Christian heritage, such as foreigners coming here trying to tell us we have to change our culture to suit them because it offends them,” i’m goung to need a cite. Is she talking about Latino immigrants? They are staunchly religious folks and are foursquare for Christian heritage. Muslims? They’re maybe 1% of the population and I have not yet heard of any attempts to “change our culture.”

As for the rest of her uneducated bilge,


I’m very happy and grateful to have a President who prays and who’s not ashamed to say the name of God. I thank God for a President like that. * You must have loved Clinton because he invoked God’s name as much as Bush doesThis country was founded by people who wanted freedom of religion, not freedom from it. Actually, the first English settlement in the New World was right here in little ol’ Virginny where a pack of irrelgious, hard-drinking, and greedy “gentleman adventurers” founded Jamestown in 1607. As for the Pilgrims up in Plymouth, Mass., they were religious separatists who had been fruistrated in their attempts to subvert the Church of England, so they left for Holland, but after twenty years of being scandalized by the tolerance and freedom of the Dutch Republic, they bailed for their own little theocracy. * They wanted to worship and believe as they saw fit. * and make others worship and believe as they saw fit, too.* Our country was founded on Christian principles based on the teachings of the Bible, like it or not.No, it wasn’t. It was founded by products of the 18-th century enlightenment who based the constitution on the principles of freedom and tolerance. John Locke’s writings were their scripture, not the Bible*

Here is a cite from the ACLU archives that outlines ACLU supports Iowa Students right to distribute christian literature at school, outside of class.

Speaking of Native Americans and religious freedom, here is an early example of what not to do.

The Carlisle Indian Industrial School

slightly off topic a, but an interesting read.

Oh, but Latinos are CATHOLIC. That’s why.


H4E: Just because you don’t believe, doens’t mean you have the right to tell the rest of us we have to be quiet about it, including the President.

You don’t have to be quiet about it. You have the right to make a public expression of your faith (and believe it or not, the ACLU is a leading champion of that right on behalf of Christians and others). You just don’t have the right to expect the government to sponsor your expression of your faith.

That means that when the President is speaking for himself concerning religion (and I’m broad-minded enough to include his references to God in his official Presidential speeches in that category), he can express his own beliefs. (However, you’ll notice that he doesn’t carry his Christianity so far as to mention Jesus in this context. Why all these Christian extremists think that “our country’s Christian heritage” [sic] or “Christian principles” entitle politicians to spray references to “God” all over government buildings and money and documents, but somehow don’t mandate similar references to “Jesus”, I never understand. It can’t be tolerance or the desire not to offend or exclude people of different beliefs, because they have no objection at all to offending or excluding non-theists with the ubiquitous official references to “God”.)

But as Polycarp said, neither the President nor any other government representative is allowed to use his/her position to provide official government sponsorship of his/her religious beliefs. If you try to get government money or resources to support religious activities—and yes, that includes things like using the PA system for officially scheduled prayers before a public-school football game—you are seeking government sponsorship of religion, and that violates the constitutional separation of church and state.

Christian extremists’ persecution fantasies about “anti God based groups” trying to force religion into hiding are simply delusional. The public expression of religious belief is doing just fine in this country, and the ACLU certainly isn’t trying to hinder it. All we want to stop is the abuses by tyrannical zealots who are frustrated that they can’t inspire religious unanimity, so they want the government to enforce it by law.

Nor do Christians have the right to tell atheists and agnostics or whatever to be quiet about their beliefs, simply because the current President is Christian and openly expresses it.

But I sometimes get the feeling that he’s trying to polarize the nation around the Christian God, and that makes me a little uncomfortable. The Christian God is simply not the Deity I worship. And this nation just doesn’t have a state church.

I’ve got no problems with Bush being a Christian. And I’ve got no real problem with him occasionally referencing God. It just seems a little too much sometimes. The President is supposed to be the political leader of this country, not the religious leader. If he wants to be a religious leader, fine…but he can do it when he’s done being President.

False. This country was founded by people who wanted their religion to be the only religion. Case in point - Puritans of Plymouth Rock. They had freedom of religion in Amsterdam but did not like the freedom corrupting their youngsters.

But not all, including the founding fathers. Case in point - Ben Franklin. He was not a Christian and in fact quite opposed to many of its tenents.

While I know that his4Ever has no interest in actually learning anything that might cause her to change her extraordinarily narrow and unrealistic worldview, still, in the interests of clearing away the mists of ignorance I offer this list:

The Courage of their Convictions, Peter Irons
A People’s History of the Supreme Court, Peter Irons
Lies My Teacher Told Me, James W. Loewen
The Bill of Rights: A User’s Guide, Linda R. Monk

**His4Ever is quoted:

Our country was founded on Christian prinicples based on the teachings of the Bible, like it or not. **

Okay, I’d like a cite for all of this. Where, exactly, in the New Testament is the idea for a government of 3 branches, executive, legislative and judicial, expressed? Where exactly is the idea that our government has specific powers and limitations outlined in its founding document? Where is exactly is the idea that a representative democracy is the form of government approved by (the J/C/I) God?

You say our government is based on Christian principles; exactly which principles are those?

Freyr, freedom, equality, and the sanctity of human life are all Christian principles. They may not be exclusively Christian, but they are Christian nonetheless.

This country was founded on principles of freedom, equality, and the sanctity of human life, among other things. I’d have to go with His4Ever on this one.

However, this does not mean that I agree with some of the things that some of my Christian colleagues are doing. I’m just making a point that this country was founded on Christian principles, perhaps by accident.

Bravo, Tracer! A few points: Gore was the popular vote winner, by a small margin. The election was close to a tie – but that tie was not50/50 between Bush and Gore. (Or 49/49, with a small fraction of the vote going to the smallfry.) It was roughly a 50/50 split between those who voted and those who did not vote. Among those who voted, the split was roughly 24/24 between Bush and Gore, with a small fraction of the vote going to the smallfry.

As we got closer to election day, it became more and more plain that this was going to be a very close election – yet 1/2 of those eligable to vote did not do so. Why was this the case? Did they really see no important differences between Bush and Gore? Or were they just too lazy to bother to vote, and/or too self-involved to care who won?

Well, not entirely true. While the Puritans (who we are all holding, like good Caucasians, to be the only large group in colonial America) were aiming for religious freedom, they were also trying to escape the oppressively Anglican views of King James, who persecuted, among other “heretical” beliefs, those of the puritans.

So it was really both for religious freedom and against state-controlled religion. (Also, Puritans were Calvinists, and favored seperation of church and state.)

Also, even though all but one 43 of our presidents have been White Anglo-Saxon Protestants (Kennedy was an Irish Catholic), most agree that, at least officially, the principles that built this country were not Christian.

Take a look at our founding fathers, for example. Franklin was not Christian. He was a Deist, and believed in God strictly along rational lines.

To understand America’s heritage, it’s also necessary to understand the Enlightenment, which was going on at the time.

Basically, what the Enlightenment was was a bunch of educated thinkers, philosophes (as the word implies, mostly French, but many English, as England was one of the most liberal country at the time), speaking out against all forms of inequality, fanatacism, and superstition. Some spoke loudly against established religion (Voltaire); some believed in the values of ** life, liberty, and the pursuit of property** (Locke); but they all hated injustice and intolerance. They despised state-run religions, and in doing so helped to create a much more secular, just form of government.

If you haven’t already noticed, Thomas Jefferson (also, like Franklin and Adams, a member of the Enlightenment) used the exact same words to draft his Declaration of Independence. (In the final edition, the one fourth-graders recite now, the word “property” was replaced with the word “happiness.”)

So, it was Enlightenment ideals and not Christian ones that established this country. Christianity really had no de jure influence on the construction of America. What actual affect it did have, however, was great indeed.

How many people mind if Planned Parenthood is publically or federally funded?

How many people like giving a portion of their check every week to people who won’t?

How many people like the fact that tax money is used for $500 a plate inaugural dinners, and they will proabably never get invited?

I know I don’t like it, and I am sure I am not the only one.

The point is, everyone has there panties in a bunch because they don’t want anything “Christian” federally or publically funded.
There are a lot of things we don’t like, but it’s just too danm bad.
Don’t worry, before long, the ACLU will make sure Christianity is illegal.

His4ever, you knew it was bound to happen. we shouldn’t be the least bit suprised!
Can anyone give me a cite for what the ACLU did when some students of the University of North Carolina were required to read part of the Koran? I don’t believe they did anything.


There was an incident where a fifth grade teacher, Kenneth Roberts, of Berkley Gardens Elementary School in Denver, Colorado, was sued by his principal, Kathleen Madigan, the ACLU and the Anti-Defamation League, because he kept a Bible at his desk for his own personal reading during tests. He didn’t read it to anybody or force any beliefs on anybody.

Now looking at the two above, where is the justice? Biased, are they?

Why would it be ok to demand that someone pay dues to the ACLU if they don’t want anything to do with the ACLU?
Is the ACLU fighing for Mr. Poisel’s rights?

People are very crafty when it suits their desires."


I wonder if the ACLU would fight for me if I decided to make a religious statement by wearing my Bible on a necklace?

Freyr, maybe this cite will be useful:

Persephone, I have no real problem with people having thier own beliefs, just as you have no problem with someone being a Christian. I think we can both agree that Bush is an American and does have the same rights as the rest of us. this also includes freedom to speak freely. he isn’t hurting anyone, right? If he cannot say “God”, then we would have to change the Bill of rights.

This is a completely false presentation of the aims of the ACLU. For example here is the ACLU statement on Religion In The Public Schools:. Note that there are numerous occasions for relgious action by students in school that are supported by the ideals of the ACLU.
Among cases in which the ACLU has participated, the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts asked a federal district court in Springfield to protect the First Amendment rights of high school students who were disciplined by school officials for distributing candy canes with religious messages just before Christmas.

One more unsubstantiated claim from another Nine Commandment Christian. (Bearing False Witness has been expunged.)

Well, when a student in the Midwest was forbidden by his teacher to read the Bible on his own time if he had completed his work, the ACLU went to court to protect his right to read whatever he chose–including the Bible.

Of course he can speak freely. As long as he remembers that what he’s standing behind is a podium, and not a pulpit.

No religion in this country should be federally funded. Nothing Christian, nothing Jewish, nothing Islamic, nothing Pagan. Separation of church and state goes for all churches.

One of your links goes to a story about firefighters not being allowed to wear beards past a certain length. IMHO, no, they shouldn’t be allowed to wear them past that length. It’s a safety issue. Their masks just don’t fit properly otherwise, and those masks have to fit right. An ill-fitting mask on a firefighter could result in his death from smoke inhalation. It’s not religious discrimination. And if a firefighter thinks that maybe his facial hair is more important than his personal safety, I say he’s got one of two options:

A) Talk to his Deity. I believe that most deities are understanding enough to cut their worshippers a little bit of slack on certain issues. Firefighting is a noble job, one I firmly believe that all Deities look upon with special favor. I’d bet money that if said firefighter looked within himself, he’d see that his Deity would understand why he’s got to keep his beard trimmed,

or B) Get another job. There are plenty out there that don’t have the strict safety requirements that firefighters must follow, and will have no trouble with the Muslim facial hair standards.

Let’s start with some very easy ones. And let’s be gentle … referring to her post as bilge, no matter how strongly we may believe it, does not make her want to listen to what we have to say.

First of all, not all of the founding fathers were Christian nor was this country’s legal code, as the common perception sometimes goes, founded on the Ten Commandments (some of which violate our Bill of Rights, if you hadn’t noticed;)). I’m not trying to raise a strawman but a point you might made otherwise made. No need to now:)

Some quotes from some of the founding fathers might be appropriate here. Let’s start with a figure important in the history of this country’s early founding documents, Thomas Jefferson:

"Although Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence wrote of the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God, there exists nothing in the Declaration about Christianity."Cite.

Further, “Although Jefferson believed in a Creator, his concept of it resembled that of the god of deism (the term “Nature’s God” used by deists of the time). With his scientific bent, Jefferson sought to organize his thoughts on religion. He rejected the superstitions and mysticism of Christianity and even went so far as to edit the gospels, removing the miracles and mysticism of Jesus (see The Jefferson Bible) leaving only what he deemed the correct moral philosophy of Jesus.”

You may feel free to dismiss this next quote as being out of context if you so desire (which you might, for all I know, do at everything from Jefferson or Adams or even Stuyvesant if it disagrees with your perception of history;)):

“Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined and imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity.”

Take note especially of this next one, with bolding by myself as I doubt Jefferson knew much VB coding in his day;):

“Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between church and State.”

This letter, in case you were wondering, was written to Danbury Baptist Association. All these quotes can be found at that website I cited earlier.

“Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law.”

Not entirely relevant but interesting nonetheless:

“If we did a good act merely from love of God and a belief that it is pleasing to Him, whence arises the morality of the Atheist? …Their virtue, then, must have had some other foundation than the love of God.”

Here is another website with some poignant, although certainly not wholly convincing when standing alone, words from more founding fathers.

Secondly, unless your ancestors are people indigenous to this land (that is, prior to european invasion and settlement), you are born of immigrants. This country’s heritage pre-Euro invasion is most notably not Christian save for the argument Mormons will make (being careful not to discredit it) about Christ’s presence here before us. As such, you, if you disagree with the Native Theism (which IIRC was very peaceful polytheism throughout the various tribes inhabiting this land), you are free to leave.

I suppose it’s rather convenient for me to say that, however, as I have blood of indigenous persons in both sides of my family history, thus at least partially saving me a ticket to some other country were I intolerant of polytheism.

Minor correction here. Atheism is the belief that there is no god/God/goddess/whatever. It is not “not believing in a deity” but believe there to be none whatsoever. Small difference, I know, but a difference nonetheless.

Agnostics, for our part (yes, our:)), tend to believe as part of that label one of two things: either that the act of knowing God’s existence is not possible for us specifically (that is, “I do not think the proof exists to show me God’s existence”), or that it is not rightly possible period for anyone to believe they can prove God’s existence to anyone, up to and including same person. IOW, such an agnostic would disagree with Poly’s assertion that he can prove God’s existence to himself.

If you’re going to make an historical argument, make sure history stands solidly behind it;)