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  • Samuel at Gilgal

    This year I will be sharing brief excerpts from the articles, sermons, and books I am currently reading. My posts will not follow a regular schedule but will be published as I find well-written thoughts that should be of interest to maturing Christian readers. Whenever possible, I encourage you to go to the source and read the complete work of the author.

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Joseph Story On Freedom of Religion

From the pen of Joseph Story:

Piety, religion, and morality are intimately connected with the well being of that state, and indispensable to the administration of civil justice.

Freedom Is Not Indifferent To Religion

Quoting Justice Joseph Story:

The promulgation of the great doctrines of religion, the being, and attributes, and providence of one Almighty God: the responsibility to him for all our actions, founded upon moral freedom and accountability; a future state of rewards and punishments; the cultivation of all the personal, social, and benevolent virtues–these never can be a matter of indifference in any well-ordered community. It is, indeed, difficult to conceive how any civilized society can exist without them.

Religious Freedom Versus White House War Of Regulations

The church/state debate continues to heat up in spite of the recent unanimous 9-0 margin, when the Supreme Court overruled the idea that the federal government can tell a church who it must employ as a minister if the church violates anti-discrimination employment guidelines. The White House claimed that there is no special protection for clergy in our Constitution. However, the Supreme Court ruled that it “is hard to square with the text of the First Amendment itself, which gives special consideration to the rights of religious organizations. We cannot accept the remarkable view that the Religion Clauses have nothing to say about a religious organization’s freedom to select its own ministers.”

Now, The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which was signed into law on March 23, 2010, seeks to force Catholic universities, hospitals, and charities to give insurance to their employees covering contraception — even though this violates the teachings of the Catholic Church.

The policy says that Catholic hospitals can only invoke the “conscience clause” — and get an exemption on the new rules — if they turn away patients of other faiths. Catholic hospitals have never turned people away because of their religious beliefs. Instead of asking “”Are you hungry or sick?” The Church would be forced to ask “”Are you Catholic?”

Arlington (Va.) Bishop Paul Loverde called the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services order “a direct attack against religious liberty.” Bishop Alexander Sample of Marquette, Mich., stated: “We cannot — we will not — comply with this unjust law.” This is not just a Catholic issue; there is growing concern in other denominations that this is an assault on religious freedom.

Let us take a look at what the First Amendment actually says:

I. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

We often hear about “”a wall of separation” between church and state in America. However, this phrase cannot be found in either the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence. The phrase occurs in a letter from Thomas Jefferson to an assembly of Baptists in Connecticut. The quote is usually used out of context.

The real purpose of the “Establishment Clause was to prohibit Congress from imposing a national religion upon the people; and to prohibit Congress (and the Federal government generally) from meddling with existing church-state relations in the several States. Thus the “Establishment Clause is linked directly to the “Free Exercise Clause. It was designed to promote religious freedom by forbidding Congress to prefer one Christian denomination over another Christian denomination.

The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment was not intended as a declaration of governmental hostility toward religion. The phrase “”prohibiting the free exercise thereof” was meant to keep Congress from ever meddling in the disputes among religious bodies or interfering with their mode of worship and seeking to regulate the many ministries of the church.

Since Thomas Jefferson quote is the source of much of the negative political view of religion as expressed by the political left in our country, we would do well to find out what else Jefferson had to say about the First Amendment Establishment Clause:

“In matters of religion, I have considered that its free exercise is placed by the Constitution independent of the powers of the general [federal] government. (Jefferson, Second Inaugural Address, 1805)

“[O]ur excellent Constitution . . . has not placed our religious rights under the power of any public functionary. (Jefferson, Letter to the Methodist Episcopal Church, 1808)

“I consider the government of the United States as interdicted [prohibited] by the Constitution from intermeddling with religious institutions . . . or exercises. (Jefferson, Letter to Samuel Millar, 1808)

It is clear that Jefferson believed the First Amendment did not allow the Federal Government to limit, restrict, regulate, or interfere with public religious practices and religious institutions. The intent of the First Amendment’s “establishment” clause was, according to Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story, “. . . to exclude all rivalry among Christian sects.” This is confirmed by the preliminary draft of the First Amendment proposed by James Madison to the House of Representatives in 1789:

“The Civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established, nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience be in any manner, or on any pretext, infringed.

President James Madison also appointed Joseph Story (1779-1845) as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. Joseph Story continued on the bench for 34 years, until his death in 1845. Joseph Story wrote tremendously influential works, including: Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States, 1833; and A Familiar Exposition of the Constitution of the United States, 1840. The following are a few of Justice Story‘s quotes about the “Establishment Clause:

“Probably, at the time of the adoption of the Constitution, and of the Amendment to it now under consideration, the general, if not the universal, sentiment in America was, that Christianity ought to receive encouragement from the State so far as was not incompatible with the private rights of conscience and the freedom of religious worship.

“Temporary delusions, prejudices, excitements, and objects have irresistible influence in mere questions of policy. And the policy of one age may ill suit the wishes or the policy of another. The constitution is not subject to such fluctuations. It is to have a fixed, uniform, permanent construction. It should be, so far at least as human infirmity will allow, not dependent upon the passions or parties of particular times, but the same yesterday, to-day, and forever.

“It yet remains a problem to be solved in human affairs, whether free government can be permanent, where the public worship of God, and the support of religion, constitute no part of the policy or duty of the state in any assignable shape. . . .

But the duty of supporting religion, and especially the Christian religion, is very different from the right to force the consciences of other men, or to punish them for worshipping God in the manner, which, they believe, their accountability to him requires.

In the case of The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, we see clearly an attempt by Federal authorities to assault religious freedom by forcing the hospital ministry of the Catholic Church to violate it’s own moral teachings. I wonder which protestant denomination the government bureaucrats will be coming for next?

Joseph Story On The Foundation Of Civilization

Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story

Quoting Joseph Story (Supreme Court Justice):

Indeed, the right of a society or government to [participate] in matters of religion will hardly be contested by any persons who believe that piety, religion, and morality are intimately connected with the well being of the state and indispensable to the administrations of civil justice. The promulgation of the great doctrines of religion—the being, and attributes, and providence of one Almighty God; the responsibility to Him for all our actions, founded upon moral accountability; a future state of rewards and punishments; the cultivation of all the personal, social, and benevolent virtues—these never can be a matter of indifference in any well-ordered community. It is, indeed, difficult to conceive how any civilized society can well exist without them. (Source: Joseph Story, A Familiar Exposition of the Constitution of the United States (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1847), p. 260, §442.)

A Noble Inheritance

Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story

Quoting Joseph Story:

Let the American youth never forget, that they possess a noble inheritance, bought by the toils, and sufferings, and blood of their ancestors; and capacity, if wisely improved, and faithfully guarded, of transmitting to their latest posterity all the substantial blessings of life, the peaceful enjoyment of liberty, property, religion, and independence. (Story, Commentaries on the Constitution, 718)

The Relationship Of Christianity To American Democracy

Joseph Story

Justice Joseph Story

We all, generally, recognize that civil governments make laws that churches must submit to: building codes, fire safety codes, etc. Such laws do not violate the liberty of churches to worship God according to their own conscience. Civil law and Christianity were viewed as allies by the founders of our nation. Each was considered complementary to the other and the general principles of Christian morality were encouraged in our early republic. Bob Vincent writes on this topic that:

Until well into my life-time, the overwhelming majority of Americans believed that the United States was a Christian nation. In believing that, they did not desire the persecution of other religions, nor did they want to see people forced to become Christians, nor did they believe that one Christian denomination should be favored at the expense of others. They rejected the concept of one Christian denomination functioning as an established national Church, as the Churches of England and Scotland still do today in Great Britain.

But Americans overwhelmingly believed that Christian ideas and principles should receive favorable treatment and that its understanding of Moral Law should undergird the laws of the United States and the individual states. When other people’s religious practices came into conflict with Moral Law, Moral Law, not the practices of other religions, was always supreme. People were free to believe as they saw fit, but they could not practice their beliefs when those practices ran contrary to morality; they had to live by the Christian based laws of the United States. . . .

“Probably at the time of the adoption of the Constitution, and of the First Amendment to it . . . the general if not the universal sentiment in America was, that Christianity ought to receive encouragement from the state so far as was not incompatible with the private religious rights of conscience and the freedom of religious worship. An attempt to level all religions, and to make it a matter of state policy to hold all in utter indifference, would have created universal disapprobation, if not universal indignation . . . .The real object of the amendment was not to countenance, much less to advance, Mahometanism, or Judaism, or infidelity, by prostrating Christianity; but exclude all rivalry among Christian sects, and to prevent any national ecclesiastical establishment which should give to a hierarchy the exclusive patronage of the national government” [Justice Joseph Story (who served on the Supreme Court from 1811-1845) Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States, 2 Vol. 2:593-95, 2nd Ed. Boston: Little Brown (1905)].

Justice Story’s understanding reflects the thinking of the framers of the Constitution, who expressed unbridled faith in God in the Declaration of Independence. . . .

Such an understanding of the foundation of the American law was still reflected in the decisions of the United States Supreme Court just over one hundred years ago. Justice Josiah Brewer wrote on February 29, 1892:

“Our laws and our institutions must necessarily be based upon and embody the teachings of the Redeemer of mankind. It is impossible that it should be otherwise; and in this sense and to this extent our civilization and our institutions are emphatically Christian” [Church of the Holy Trinity v. United States, 143 U.S. 457-458, 465-471, 36 L ed 226. (1892)].

Read more here. . . .

Job Descriptions For Federal And State Governments

Joseph Story

Joseph Story

Quoting Joseph Story, Commentaries on the Constitution, 1833:

“Another not unimportant consideration is, that the powers of the general government will be, and indeed must be, principally employed upon external objects, such as war, peace, negotiations with foreign powers, and foreign commerce. In its internal operations it can touch but few objects, except to introduce regulations beneficial to the commerce, intercourse, and other relations, between the states, and to lay taxes for the common good. The powers of the states, on the other hand, extend to all objects, which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, and liberties, and property of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the state.”

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