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Opinion: Turns Out, O'Donnell Is Right About 1st Amendment
AOL News ^ | 10/27/10 | M. Stanton Evans

Posted on 10/27/2010 8:23:22 PM PDT by MissesBush

(Oct. 27) -- Newspaper and TV pundits bashing Delaware's Christine O'Donnell with respect to the religion clauses of the First Amendment need to do some homework on the topic, as they obviously don't know anything about it.

A good way to start might be to read the actual wording of the amendment, which O'Donnell's critics self-evidently haven't done, judging from the way they misstate its contents while neglecting to quote specific language. She is quite correct in suggesting that "separation of church and state" doesn't appear there, nor is such a construction justified by the well-documented history of the amendment.

What the First Amendment does say is that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion" -- the "respecting" part being important -- a phrase that had a definite meaning for the nation's founders.

This stemmed from the fact that various states at that time had "established" churches (like the Anglican church in Britain), which signified an official church supported by tax money and exercising certain legal privileges, while other states had no such establishments and didn't want them.

When the First Amendment was drafted, Massachusetts and Connecticut both had established (Congregational) churches. These continued long after the Bill of Rights was adopted -- the Connecticut establishment lasting until 1818, that in Massachusetts until 1833. As the dates suggest, the existence of these churches was in no way affected by passage of the First Amendment.

In other states, meanwhile, there was a patchwork of religious provisos, typically requirements that one had to be a professing Christian to hold public office. The Constitution of Delaware, on the books in 1789 when the First Amendment was adopted by the Congress, required Delaware officeholders to swear as follows:

"I do profess faith in God the Father, and in Jesus Christ His only Son, and in the Holy Ghost, one God, blessed for evermore; and I do acknowledge the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be given by divine inspiration." In still other states -- most notably Virginia -- there were no such restrictive provisos at the era of the Constitution.

Because of this great diversity in religious practice, there arose concerns that the new federal government might try to impose a "national" religion, overriding the customs of the several states. It was in response to this that James Madison in the First Congress (June 1789) proposed what would become the First Amendment. This said, among other things, that no one's rights under the new government would be abridged for reasons of religion, "nor shall any national religion be established."

This wording would be refined in conference committee among members of the House and Senate, which included Roger Sherman and Oliver Ellsworth, both from Connecticut, a state with an established church. This produced still more sweeping language, saying Congress shall make no law "respecting an establishment of religion," meaning Congress couldn't adopt any law whatever pertaining to the subject. It couldn't, that is, impose a national establishment, but it also couldn't interfere with the established churches in the states that had them.

So the "wall of separation" then erected wasn't between government and religion, but between the federal government and the states. This was the point Thomas Jefferson would make in 1802 in his letter to the Danbury Baptists, saying that via the First Amendment the American people had prevented "their legislature" -- Congress -- from interfering in matters of religion.

Sponsored Links He re-emphasized it in his second inaugural, saying he had left religion "to the discipline of state" or religious societies, and in 1808, asserting that as no power over religion had been given the "general government," it "must thus rest with the states" as far as any human authority could wield it.

It's also worth noting that, even at the federal level, there was then no strict separation between government and religion as modern secularists define it -- witness the existence in Congress of tax-supported prayers, chaplains and Thanksgiving proclamations, practices that of course continue to this day.

In sum, liberal teachings on this subject are a farrago of ignorance, bias and disinformation. Christine O'Donnell knows whereof she speaks about it, as her opponents all too clearly don't.

M. Stanton Evans is the author of "The Theme is Freedom: Religion, Politics, and the American Tradition" (Regnery) and a longtime contributor to Human Events, where a longer version of this piece originally appeared.

TOPICS: News/Current Events; Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS: odonnell
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Typical of the news media--rake a conservative through the coals and make them look like an idiot, then later quietly and without fanfare admit they were right. But duhhhh, we knew she was right all along.
1 posted on 10/27/2010 8:23:27 PM PDT by MissesBush
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To: MissesBush
Bringing facts to a debate with a leftist is like bringing an Eskimo kiss to a gun fight.

2 posted on 10/27/2010 8:26:53 PM PDT by I see my hands (How's that ballot box thing working out for you?)
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To: MissesBush; STARWISE; onyx; maggief; Liz; DelaWhere; Fishtalk; exit82

AOL news....pass it around.

3 posted on 10/27/2010 8:28:46 PM PDT by hoosiermama (ONLY DEAD FISH GO WITH THE FLOW.......I am swimming with Sarahcudah! Sarah has read the tealeaves.)
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To: MissesBush


4 posted on 10/27/2010 8:37:14 PM PDT by Marty62 (marty60)
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To: MissesBush
"In sum, liberal teachings on this subject are a farrago of ignorance, bias and disinformation."

To the contrary, I think the left is quite deliberate and methodical in its approach to the First Amendment. They know exactly what it says, and choose to destroy it from within by endeavouring to establish atheism as the official state religion.

5 posted on 10/27/2010 8:37:53 PM PDT by Joe 6-pack (Que me amat, amet et canem meum)
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To: MissesBush

Nasty political cartoon on the editorial page of my newspaper today in which they have Thomas Jefferson calling her an idiot for her statements on this subject.

Really pushes my button.

Liberal ignorance and stupidity treated by the press like the gospel.

6 posted on 10/27/2010 8:40:12 PM PDT by ChildOfThe60s ( If you can remember the weren't really there)
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To: MissesBush

For anyone who doesn’t realize who M. Stanton Evans is, let me share some insights with you.

Now very much a senior member of the Washington literati, Stan Evans has long been one of the most articulate, erudite, and witty conservative leaders in America. Decades and decades ago, he came to Washington from Indianapolis, where, at age 26, he was the youngest editor of a major metropolitan newspaper in America.

In Washington, long before Ronald Reagan became president and conservative came into vogue, Stan was the urbane leader of the small group of us Young Turks who manned what was then a lonely and isolated outpost. We were soldiers then, and young; and Stan gave us encouragement, guidance, and an intellectual foundation.

I well remember the early to mid-Seventies when a small group of us would gather in the back room of the Hawk & Dove bar and restaurant for Stan’s Monday Club meetings. Our icon and idol, Stan would wittily guide we young Senate and House staffers as we plotted the overthrow of the liberal establishment. He was a godsend.

From time to time, when the burdens of waging our lonely war would begin to wear on one or another of us, we would singly or in small groups visit Stan’s small, unkempt office. There, Stan, always with his faithful three-legged dog at his side, would dispense the wisdom we needed to soldier on.

When I became the Director of Communications for the new Senate Majority in 1980, my staff and I introduced the first-ever satellite-fed programming from the US Senate (this pre-dated CSPAN). One of the shows we originated was called “Conference Roundtable.” Hosted each week by a committee chair, it would feature two Repub senators, two journalists, and, on the panel. I always tried to make sure Stan was one of the featured journalist because I wanted the whole world to see the man who had so inspired our movement.

Reading this article brought back those memories of this wonderful man. And I just wanted to share them with you.

7 posted on 10/27/2010 8:41:08 PM PDT by hampdenkid
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To: MissesBush

If this is the M. Stanton Evans I think it is, he goes back to Reagan and is a fine conservative. Dunno how he ended up on Asspress.

8 posted on 10/27/2010 8:44:23 PM PDT by Luke21
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To: hampdenkid

You gave far more details. Thanks.

9 posted on 10/27/2010 8:45:02 PM PDT by Luke21
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To: MissesBush
Let's see what the Delaware Constitution has to say about the Separation of Church and State.



Through Divine goodness, all men have by nature the rights of worshiping and serving their Creator according to the dictates of their consciences, of enjoying and defending life and liberty, of acquiring and protecting reputation and property, and in general of obtaining objects suitable to their condition, without injury by one to another; and as these rights are essential to their welfare, for due exercise thereof, power is inherent in them; and therefore all just authority in the institutions of political society is derived from the people, and established with their consent, to advance their happiness . . .

10 posted on 10/27/2010 8:48:24 PM PDT by Hoodat ( .For the weapons of our warfare are mighty in God for pulling down strongholds.d)
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To: MissesBush

Agreed. But also, it takes time to find someone, anyone, who actually knows what they’re talking about.

Most of the Leftists attacking Christine didn’t know what they were talking about. But the Conservatives, too, didn’t really have a good grasp of the matter either. It’s hard to explain the establishment clause, incorporation, and all of those things. The people who blog, or are reporters, or are columnists, really don’t understand the stuff. Experts on Constitutional Law typically don’t have columns. So, someone has probably got to ask them to write something. All of that takes some time.

11 posted on 10/27/2010 8:49:00 PM PDT by truthfreedom
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To: MissesBush


12 posted on 10/27/2010 8:50:19 PM PDT by ocr1 (really?.. Really?)
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To: Luke21

It’s my pleasure. M. Stanton Evans is a giant of a man, and one of our last great conservative intellectual founding fathers.

13 posted on 10/27/2010 8:50:56 PM PDT by hampdenkid
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To: MissesBush

Anybody who has ever read the First Amendment knew she was right. There’s nothing abour a “wall” or “seperation”. The Amendment says there shall be no state-established religion.

14 posted on 10/27/2010 8:52:04 PM PDT by ozzymandus
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To: Joe 6-pack
As opposed to the 10th, which does not exist in their small minds.
15 posted on 10/27/2010 9:00:08 PM PDT by Michael.SF. (Current count of friends/family who have abandoned Obama: 11)
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To: ozzymandus

No, There is to be no “National Religion”, the states were free to do what they wised.

16 posted on 10/27/2010 9:00:40 PM PDT by abigkahuna (screw em all)
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To: hampdenkid
I can see why you so admire this man; hope this AOL piece gets read by a lot of people. There really is so much ignorance out there about what the Constitution says--as was evidenced by the audience's reaction to O'Donnell's statement.

Thanks you for sharing your experience with us--and for the work you did in getting Evan's views more widely disseminated.

17 posted on 10/27/2010 9:02:00 PM PDT by milagro
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To: milagro

Applauding Stan Evans is truly a labor of love. One say, monuments should be erected to Stan, Tom Winters and Alan Ryskind (founders of Human Events), Richard Viguerie, Howie Philips, Lee Edwards, Paul Weyrich, and a handful of others who guided us through those early years.

When I think of them, I am reminded of the Churchill’s dedication in The Gathering Storm: “How the brave Britons stood alone until those who were hitherto half-blind were now half ready.”

18 posted on 10/27/2010 9:07:29 PM PDT by hampdenkid
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To: abigkahuna


The Founders knew exactly what they wrote and what it meant. They opened every day of Congress with a prayer. they also held sunday services in their capitol building. Obviously they all thought this was not unconstitutional, nor did any of them that became Supreme Court justices.

Further Jefferson as governor DID celebrate a statewide Day of Prayer. As President he did not because he didn’t even want to appear to be promoting any one Christian denomination. THAT was where his “wall” he wrote about was.

19 posted on 10/27/2010 9:09:24 PM PDT by Secret Agent Man (I'd like to tell you, but then I'd have to kill you.)
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To: hampdenkid

His book on the history of modern conservatism is on my list as I recall. Thanks for the reminder of his strategic importance.

20 posted on 10/27/2010 9:12:41 PM PDT by KC Burke
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