I want to say I agree with many of the points in Mr. Whitefield’s guest column, “Choose Wisely,” that appeared in the Advocate Sept. 25. However, he fails to understand that secularism and humanism were part of the radical thinking of our country’s founders in their struggle to protect our new nation from the destructive religious wars that were part of Europe’s history for hundreds of years.
These religious wars continued even on American soil until the Founders did something unprecedented and very un-Christian. They defied the world’s most powerful Christian nation, Great Britain and rebuked its Christian monarch, King George, with a humanist Declaration of Independence.
Our Constitution, which came later, is a godless document that recognizes no higher authority than, “We the people,” the first three words of its preamble. It is clearly and intentionally secular as the only mention of religion is in Article VI which states there shall be no religious test required as qualification to hold any public office.
The Constitution is also a humanist document because it addresses the relationship of humans and their government, not their relationship with their God. The Founders were so determined to prevent the horrors of religious and state sponsored mass killings of the past centuries that the first words to the First Amendment made it clear that the government will not support the establishment of any religion.
It allows us to practice any religion we choose, or none at all as long as we don’t break any laws or hurt anybody or force our beliefs on anyone else by using public funds or public property such as public schools or courthouses.
The authors of the Declaration of Independence could easily have made it clear that our founding was based on Christianity and/or the Bible and/or the Ten Commandments by simply stating it but it’s not there. Instead, they intentionally used generic, deistic, non-religious terms such as “Nature’s God,” and “Creator,” terms that could be used by anyone, religious or non-religious. There is also a big problem with Mr. Whitefield’s claim that the Constitution is loosely based on the Ten Commandments.
The awkward truth is that most of the Ten Commandments are actually unconstitutional. The first three or four commandments, depending on how you organize them, collide violently with the First Amendment. The commandments that demand worship of only one god and forbidding worship any other god, violate the establishment clause as well as the prohibiting clause of the first sentence of the First Amendment.
Forbidding the creation of any image violates free speech. Punishing children for the crimes of their parents to the fourth generation is clearly illegal and immoral. Forbidding the improper use of the name of the Lord violates free speech again. Mandating one day of the week where absolutely no one can work is impossible in modern society. Honoring your parents is a good idea but not enforceable because we don’t stone children anymore.
No problem with commandments forbidding murder, adultery, stealing or lying under oath except these are not original to the Ten Commandments and can be traced back to earlier civilizations and laws. The commandment forbidding the coveting of your neighbor’s wife and other possessions attempts to make even certain thoughts illegal.
It is also unenforceable and assumes that a man’s wife is his property. Good luck with that. The really bad news is that violating any of these commandments in Old Testament times was punishable by stoning to death. That easily qualifies as “cruel and unusual punishment,” which is prohibited by the Eighth Amendment.
The United States effectively civilized Judaism and Christianity, forcing the faithful to grow up, stop using the powers of state to kill and torture each other in the name of God and join the modern world.
The result, ironically, is a safe, lawful country where all religions can actually flourish.