Friday, March 12, 2010

The Beliefs of the Founding Fathers

In defending its decision that "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance is constitutional, the majority claims that it is relevant that the founding fathers believed that our inalienable rights were granted by a Creator.

Ninth Circuit upholds Pledge of Allegiance in public schools

The Founders did not see these two ideas - that individuals possessed certain God-given rights which no government can take away, and that we do not want our nation to establish a religion - as being in conflict

Let's grant this, for the sake of argument.

And let us also ignore the fact that a substantial protion of them did not see a conflict between the claim that individuals possessed certain God-given rights and slavery.

And let us also ignore the fact that they believed that, literally, all men were created equal while women were created inferior to men.

There is also no conflict between the belief that God granted us certain inalienable rights and, at the same time, it is wrong for the government to push this notion on its citizens.

Seriously look at what the majority is telling us in this opinion. They are telling us that, if you believe that our rights come from God, and if you believe that the government should not establish a religion, then you must believe that a patriotic exercise claiming that atheists are not patriotic is not an exercise in establishing a religion.

They are claiming that there must be a conflict in those two beliefs and the belief that such an exercise is unconstitutional.

Yet, a great many Americans today - and the majority opinion provides no evidence against the claim that a great many of the founding fathers - hold or held that:

(1) Our rights come from God.

(2) Governments should not establish a religion.

(3) A political exercise in which the Government says and in particular insists on teaching young children that those who do not believe in God are not patriots is a violation of those God-given rights.

The majority opinion is not only telling us that 1 and 2 are not in conflict.

They are telling us that (1), (2) and (3) ARE in conflict.

Because that is what they need to establish to support their claim that this proves the constitutionality of 'under God' in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Furthermore, they can very much be in conflict even thought the founding fathers failed to see and appreciate that fact.

They failed to properly appreciate the fact that their doctrine of God-given rights condemned slavery. They were very keen to blind themselves to that particular contradiction - because it profited them to do so. It also profited the men blind themselves to the fact that there was a conflict between the arguments that established the equality of men and that which established the equality of men and women.

If you accept that everything the founding fathers believed can be the grounds for a court decision, then you must either believe that the founding fathers held no contradictory or inconsistent beliefs, or that there is no opinion that cannot be argued from the foundation of what the founding fathers believed.

Because, logic tells us, from a contradiction, all conclusions are possible.

Which, I suspect, is exactly why some justices like to begin their arguments with a foundation that is inherently contradictory such as the beliefs of the Founding Fathers, because that then allows them to draw their preferred conclusion from whatever side of that contradiction is useful to the at the moment.

There is absolutely nothing in the fact that many founding fathers believed that our rights came from a creator that implies either the constitutionality or the unconstitutionality of declaring that the government may teach the people, and particularly its children, that those who do not support a nation under God are not patriots.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Alonzo, I love your blog and your book.

Something I'd like to point out I've not seen addressed is that the pledge is a kind of religious test which is expressly forbidden by the constitution. I was reading some stuff by Madison (I think, I was tired and it was a couple of weeks ago), where he argued by we must not have a religious test to hold office. It allows the scoundrel to wear the cloak of piety but excludes the truly honorable and principled person who disagrees on matters of faith from public office. Obviously, it's the honest and principled person we WANT to have in office.

The pledge has the same effect irregardless of whether it's a prayer or not.

Scott M.