Subject:    Re: Islam vs. Christianity
Date:    05 Feb 1999 01:11:17 EST

By the way you might be interested to learn that Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs representing twelve Baptist denominations have just published a critique of David Barton's "America's Godly Heritage." You will be sad to learn that the Baptist Joint Committee does not hold Barton in very high esteem.

I cannot speak too highly of David Barton's publications. True, he is an amateur historian. He has made a few mistakes. But his work has integrity and thousands of footnotes to primary source documents. His books have destroyed the myth of "separation of church and state" in the minds of any who will read them.

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Critique of David Barton's "America's Godly Heritage"

Critique of the Joint Baptists

David Barton, in his taped presentation called America's Godly Heritage, peddles the proposition that America is a "Christian Nation," legally and historically. He also asserts that the principle of church-state separation, while not in the Constitution, has systematically been used to rule religion out of the public arena, particularly the public school system. This is not a new argument, but Barton is especially slick in his presentation. His presentation has just enough ring of truth to make him credible to many people. It is, however, laced with exaggerations, half-truths, and misstatements of fact. His citation to supporting research is scant at best and at times non-existent.

"Peddles?" Is this the language of objective scholarship?





"laced" with lies. What makes Barton's book so persuasive (and therefore so dangerous to Humanists) is its voluminous compilation of statements from the Founding Fathers which make it impossible to believe that they intended to secularize America. Barton's books destroy the modern Secular Humanist myth of "separation of church and state."
What exactly is meant by "supporting research?" It is true that few law school professors and judges appointed by Bill Clinton agree with Barton. Barton is a path-breaker of sorts. I've read quite a few books in my day -- my personal library numbers more than 10,000 volumes -- and I've seen few books as well documented as Barton's Original Intent. The overwhelming majority of its nearly 1500 notes are to primary sources. As we will see, the documentation in the Joint Baptist Critique of Barton is usually to secondary sources.

This booklet contains a short critique of some of the major points that Mr. Barton raises. The copy of the "booklet" found in the left-hand column is from the Joint Baptist web site at 
1. Barton claims that 52 of the 55 signers of the Constitution were "orthodox" Christians and many were "evangelical Christians."  
Barton does not cite any authority to support this assertion. You mean the books cited in the footnote don't count?
You mean the declarations of nearly 50 Founding Fathers and excerpts from their last wills and testaments (Barton, Original Intent, ch. 6. "The Religious Nature of the Founding Fathers") isn't enough?
Indeed, the weight of scholarly opinion is to the contrary. Agreed. The weight of scholarly opinion IS contrary to the facts presented by Barton.
For example, Professor Clinton Rossiter has written:
Although is [no "sic" in Baptist Critique] had its share of strenuous Christians... the gathering at Philadelphia was largely made up of men in whom the old fires were under control or had even flickered out. Most were nominally members of one of the traditional churches in their part of the country.. and most were men who could take their religion or leave it alone.

"old fires . . . flickered out?" Many of the men in Philadelphia were in their 20's or 30's. These remarks are designed to mislead those who are ignorant of the facts of American history.
First, the "old fires" weren't just flickers in the hearts of a few. Christianity was a conflagration which engulfed the New World. It was too great a flame to have died out by 1776, and those who met in 1787 had no intention of putting it out. If you believe that "ignorance is bliss," don't click here.

Second, the Joint Baptists join other Humanists in confusing anti-clericalism with anti-Christianity. Many who despised organized religion believed that Christian principles were necessary for the success of the new nation (as the Joint Baptists admit several times). The author of the response in this column is a fanatic theocrat, but is no fan of organized religion, and is not a member of any church. The men who signed the Constitution are far closer to his theocratic beliefs than they are to the ACLU.

Although no one in this sober gathering would have dreamed of invoking the Goddess of Reason, neither would anyone have dared to proclaim his opinions had the support of the God of Abraham and Paul. The Convention of 1787 was highly rationalist and even secular in spirit. (Clinton Rossiter, 1787; The Grand Convention, pp. 147-148.)
Important concession: No one would have invoked the "Goddess of Reason," and equally so, none of them believed that their Constitution created an atheistic nation. As for "support of the God of Abraham," on the same day that Congress approved the Declaration of Independence, it appointed John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Ben Franklin to draft a national seal. Franklin proposed:

Moses lifting up his wand, and dividing the Red Sea, and Pharaoh in his chariot overwhelmed with the waters. This Motto: "Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God."

Jefferson proposed:

The children of Israel in the wilderness, led by a cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night.

(From a letter to Abigail from John Adams, Aug 16, 1776)

On July 8th, the Declaration had its first public reading (on the steps of Independence Hall), and then the Liberty Bell was rung, in obedience to the Bible inscription emblazoned on its side:

Proclaim liberty throughout the land unto all the inhabitants thereof. Leviticus 25:10

Sure doesn't sound like the mottoes of a secular nation to me.

To say that the Convention was "secular in its spirit" is misleading. A church finance meeting held after church services in the dining hall could be called "secular," yet it is part of an enterprise dedicated to evangelizing the heathen and bringing Glory to God. The evidence that this is how the Founders viewed their task has been suppressed. Barton is unearthing it. 

Much has been made of Benjamin Franklin's suggestion that the Convention open its morning sessions with prayer. His motion was turned down, however, and not again taken up. Franklin himself noted that "with the exception of 3 or 4, most thought prayers unnecessary." (Ferrand, Records of the Federal Convention of 1787, rev. ed., Vol. 1, p.452.) See the prayerful nature of their deliberations.
While there can be little doubt that Christian values shaped the thinking of the Founders, it is wrong to jump to the conclusion that the Founders were almost all orthodox evangelicals Christians. Even though many of the Founders applauded religion for its utility - believing religion was good for the country - they also argued vigorously for voluntary religion and complete religious freedom. Thus, even if Barton's point were true, it does not compel the conclusion that we should privilege Christianity in any legal or constitutional sense. Who's jumping to a conclusion? Barton has presented massive documentation. No serious scholar can maintain that there was a single atheist in the Constitutional Convention.


The fact is that Christianity was legally and constitutionally "privileged" both before and after the Constitution was ratified, and the Founders, while they wanted to disestablish the government from any particular ecclesiastical denomination, had no intention of secularizing the nation.

2. Barton quotes at length from George Washington's Farewell Address extolling the salutary effect that religion has on politics and civil government. Barton says we have ruled the study of Washington's Farewell Address out of the public schools.  
Washington no doubt firmly believed that religion is good for government. And there is nothing wrong with studying his Farewell Address in the public school system. As did every single signer of the Constitution. Which makes it impossible to believe that they intended to prohibit the government from favoring "belief over unbelief."
But other statements of Washington should also be studied , to give a more complete picture of what Washington truly believed. But as Barton has shown, the speech (or its religious components) have been systematically flushed down the Orwellian Memory Hole.
Washington wrote the following:  
If I could now conceive that the general government might ever be so administered as to render the liberty of conscience insecure, I beg you will be persuaded, that no one would be more zealous than myself to establish effectual barriers against the horrors of spiritual tyranny, and every species of religious persecution... [E]very man, conducting himself as a good citizen, and being accountable to God alone for his religious opinions, ought to be protected in worshipping the Deity according to the dictates of his own conscience. (Stakes, supra, p. 495.)
The "general government" cannot discriminate on the basis of one's church membership, but the states were free to do so, and the First Amendment was demanded by the States to protect that power. Of course, most of the states allowed "freedom of conscience," but only for Christians.

While Christians are to be "protected in worshipping the Deity according to the dictates of [their] own conscience," non-Christians were not, if their pattern of worship transgressed the teachings of Christian morality. Human sacrifice, polygamy, and other features of many world religions were outlawed because America was a Christian nation.

The Joint Baptists criticize Barton for his footnotes, but who is "Stakes"? There is no prior reference to this secondary source, the "supra" to the contrary notwithstanding.

Thus, while Washington may have recognized the benefits of religion for the state, he also believed persons' religious preferences were a matter of individual, voluntary choice in which the government should not interfere. . . . in which the "general government" should not interfere. The states were free to do so.
3. Barton makes much from a statement attributed to John Quincy Adams to the effect that the principles of Christianity and civil government form an "indissoluble bond."  
Most of the Founders did believe that religion was good for the country. Which is why they believed that the government could prefer "belief over unbelief."
Martin Marty talks about how the Founders recognized the "utility" of religion much like other public utilities (e.g., waterworks, gasworks, etc.) (Martin E. Marty, "The Church in Tension," Speech to 20th National Religious Liberty Conference, Baptist Joint Committee, Oct. 7, 1986.) Even today public officials try to baptize their political aims in the waters of sacred approval. Of course, this ignores the fact that true Christianity serves as much a prophetic function as a pastoral one. Christianity does not exist to prop up government or a particular regime but to critique it and call it to judgment. It would be nice if, instead of citing a secondary source, the Joint Baptists would cite the language of the Founding Fathers to support the preposterous claim that they held religion in no higher esteem than a public utility.


Not only does Christianity critique governments, but America's government admitted it had a duty to listen to Christianity, but no similar duty to listen to other religions, or to the demands of atheists. This is a nation "under God," whose motto is "in God we Trust."

In any case, one wonders whether Barton really wants to embrace John Quincy Adams. According to John McCollister, "some members of the organized church branded [Adams] an atheist" and there was no evidence that the Bible was used at the time he took the oath of office. His church attendance was irregular at times. He, like his father, was a Unitarian. (John McCollister, So Help Me Go, pp. 41-43.) Many members of many organized churches are liars and hypocrites. Again, the Joint Baptists rely on secondary sources to prove the character of Adams.

There is often no evidence to prove that many presidents took their oath of office on the Bible. It is well known that they did, it would have been scandalous if they didn't, and there is no evidence that they didn't.

Unitarians were much more evangelical in the early 1800's than they are today. The Joint Baptists obviously missed the striking evidence Barton collected in Original Intent, pp. 304f., and chose to rely on another secondary source instead of Barton's primary source evidence.

4. Barton says that John Jay, the first Chief Justice of the United States, desired that we should "select and prefer Christians" for office.  
There are many problems with trying to leverage this statement into something more than it really is. While voters can choose their candidates for any reason they deem fit, the Constitution explicitly disallows any official religious test for public office (Article VI). In fact, this is the only place that the Constitution even mentions religion. George Washington himself, in a personal letter to a church in Baltimore, penned words which dispute Jay's ideas: "...a man's religious tenets will not forfeit the protection of the Laws, nor deprive him of the right of attaining and holding the highest offices that are known in the United States." (Anson Phelps Stokes, Church and State in the United States, Vol. I, p. 497.) Many of the Founding Fathers believed and encouraged this practice.

Article VI prescribes an "oath" to be taken by all office holders, and since an oath in 1787 was universally believed to be an act of religious worship, no atheist could have taken it.

Although the Federal government could not test a man's denominational affiliation, the state governments were free to do so. And many of them did.

John Jay remained Chief Justice for only six years and then left to be the governor of New York. Jay was an anti-Catholic bigot and, while governor, led an unsuccessful movement to banish Catholics form New York. (Thomas J. Curry, The First Freedoms, p. 162.) Apparently, Jay did not even believe in religious toleration, let alone full-blown religious freedom. Is this the kind of approach we want to take in our pluralistic society today? Can we really hold up Jay's notions of church-state relations as an ideal? Many of the Founding Fathers recognized that some Roman Catholics had an allegiance to the Pope which conflicted with their allegiance to the Constitution, and a belief in monarchical principles which conflicted with the principles of liberty enunciated in the Constitution. Jay's notions of church-state relations are just as vital today as they were in the 1780's. What has changed is not our understanding of "religious liberty," but Catholic understanding of their traditions. If a man in 1999 has taken a blood oath of allegiance to a religious leader named Khomeni, Ayatollah of Iran, he probably could not become an American citizen, much less hold high office.
5. Mr. Barton cites the Church of the Holy Trinity v. United States, 143 U.S. 457 (1892), for the proposition that this is "emphatically a Christian nation." He says Justice Brewer cites 87 precedents to prove this point.  
Holy Trinity involved the legality of a contract to hire a minister from England under an act of Congress limiting immigration. The statement about a "Christian nation" is dicta - that is, it is a gratuitous statement that is not essential to the Court's holding. The Court had already decided the issue before venturing its opinion as to the religious character of the country. The so-called "87 precedents" were not case decisions, but mainly examples taken from pre-Constitutional documents, historical practice, colonial charters and the like which reveal our undisputed religious roots. The Holy Trinity holding is premised on the fact that America is a Christian nation. Half the opinion is not "dicta." The fact that America is a Christian nation is essential to the Court's holding.

The "87 precedents" were more than just "precedents." They were, as the Court calls them, "organic utterances," from the foundational legal charters of our nation. "These are not individual sayings, declarations of private persons," the Court declared. "They are organic utterances. They speak the voice of the entire people."

There can be no doubt that we are a "religious people." Even Justice William O. Douglas, a thoroughgoing separationist, recognized the fact. Zorach v. Clauson, 343 U.S. 306, 313 (1952). That is not, however, the same thing as declaring that Christianity has been legally privileged or established to the exclusion of other religions or to the exclusion of irreligion. The Constitution, which is our civil compact, is decidedly nonsectarian and mentions religion only to disallow religious tests for public office. To the degree that Brewer's opinion can be read to support a "Christian nation" thesis, it is a legal anomaly that has been cited by the Court only once. The reason why Holy Trinity has not been cited is because the Court has refused to abide by its precedent. The Court says that the government cannot favor "belief over unbelief," even though the Holy Trinity Court established that this nation has always favored belief over unbelief.
Brewer himself later clarified his position. In a book published in 1905, he says that the U.S. is "Christian" in that many of its traditions are rooted in Christianity -- not that Christianity should receive legal privileges. If "clarified" is intended to make the reader think "repudiated" or in any way "retreat" from the position in the Holy Trinity opinion, then the statement is misleading. In his 1905 book, Brewer elaborated and amplified his position. The book is entitled, The United States: A Christian Nation, and is available in a reprint.
6. Barton spends a great deal of time lambasting the concept of church-state separation.  
A. Church-state separation is not in the Constitution.  
Of course, neither the words "church-state separation" nor "wall of separation" appear in the Constitution. That does not mean Barton's position is correct. The Constitution does not specifically mention "separation of powers" or "the right to a fair trial" either, but who would deny the constitutional status of those concepts? "Church-state separation" is a metaphor for what certainly was and is the spirit of the First Amendment's religion clauses -- government is to be neutral toward religion to the end of ensuring religious liberty. There is no evidence that the Founders intended the Constitution to prohibit public institutions from recognizing their duty to God.

There is no evidence that the Founders intended to put atheism and religion on a par.

The "separation of church and state" originally referred to a separation of clergy and tax revenues. It never meant what it means today.
"The 'wall of separation between church and State' is a metaphor based on bad history, a metaphor which has proved useless as a guide to judging. It should be frankly and explicitly abandoned."
J. Rehnquist, dissenting in Wallace v. Jaffree, 472 U.S. 38, 108. (1985).
B. Barton quotes the First Amendment as saying "Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion." He also goes on to talk about the amendments that were rejected primarily by the Senate which, on their face, would have allowed the government to support religion on a non-preferential basis. He says this shows the Founder's true intent behind the First Amendment.  
Barton is absolutely wrong. First of all, the phrase is not "the" establishment of religion, but "an" establishment of religion. It is not sufficient for the government to avoid establishing one particular religion; it may not establish any religion. Moreover the Founders banned laws even "respecting" an establishment of religion, indicating how broadly they intended the government's non-involvement in religion to be extended. Government acknowledgement that America is a nation "under God" is not an "establishment of religion" as Congress is prohibited from creating.

Even Franklin praised America as a place where religion was greatly "respected."

Barton's citing of the Senate amendments allowing non-preferential support of religion cuts against his argument, not in favor of it. Those amendments do show that the Founders considered adopting such non-preferential ideas into the Constitution. However, they then defeated those amendments and deliberately adopted the language we have now which calls for governmental neutrality towards religion, neither favoring a specific sect nor religion in general. An argument such as Barton's "requires a premise that the Framers were extraordinarily bad drafters," as Douglas Laycock of the University of Texas Law School has written. "Nonpreferential Aid to Religion: A False Claim About Original Intent," 27 Wm -Mary L. Rev. 875 (1985-86).
When all of the debates are considered, and all of the opinions counted, there was not a single delegate to the Constitutional Convention who believed that America should not be a nation "under God," that is, that the government should not favor "religion in general." If there was not a single delegate who believed this, how could a majority have intended the First Amendment to mean this? The Framers were not "extraordinarily bad drafters," but they were in a hurry, and they couldn't have foreseen the secularization that would occur. Numerous changes in wording were submitted, and all of them point to the same result. When the Senate was all finished debating, this was their proposal:
"Congress shall make no law establishing articles of faith or a mode of worship, or prohibiting the free exercise of religion."
The present form of the Amendment emerged from a Conference of House and Senate. Allowing state and local school boards to post a copy of the Ten Commandments in classrooms could not by any stretch of the imagination be seen to violate the intent of the Framers.
Unless we are willing to accept this ludicrous assertion -- that the Framers really intended the government to non-preferentially support religion, but then voted down amendments to that effect -- we must conclude that the First Amendment says precisely what the Framers meant: the government should remain neutral towards religion. Everyone, including Barton, is agreed that the government should remain neutral between competing Christian denominations. There is no evidence that the Framers intended government to disregard God.
C. Barton mentions church-state separation as flowing from Thomas Jefferson's 1802 letter to the Danbury Connecticut Baptist Association. He asserts that later in the letter Jefferson made it clear that he wanted only a"one directional wall" to prevent the government from harming religion, not to prevent religion from capturing the government.  
A reading of the entire letter belies any suggestion that Thomas Jefferson thought it was "one directional." There is absolutely nothing in the letter even to hint that that is the case. Indeed, to the degree that Jefferson's notion was one-directional, most scholars would argue that he was more concerned with the church harming the state than vice versa. (Laurence H. Tribe, American Constitutional Law, p. 1159.) Of course, Barton completely ignores Roger William's reference 150 years earlier to the "hedge or wall of separation between the garden of church and the wilderness of the world." (Perry Miller, Roger Williams: His Contribution to the American Tradition, p. 89.) It is clear that Williams, a Baptist pioneer, saw the advantage to the church of a clear boundary erected between itself and the state. More then that, he thought this wall was mandated by the very principles of Christianity. To that end, he wrote: There are plenty of hints. Jefferson said government power reaches actions, not beliefs. Which actions? The U.S. Supreme Court answered this very question, when it held that America was a Christian nation which could not tolerate non-Christian practices like polygamy and human sacrifice.

Roger Williams and Rhode Island were both Christian. While Williams denied that the State should prescribe any mode of worship, one could not become a citizen of Rhode Island unless he was a Christian.

All civil state with officers of justice, in their respective constitutions and administrations, are... essentially civil, and therefore not judges, governors, or defenders of Spiritual, or Christian, State and worship... An enforced uniformity of religion throughout a nation or civil state confounds the civil and religious, denies the principles of Christianity and civility, and that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. (Stokes, supra, p. 199.)
Williams is referring to the differences between Baptists and Presbyterians, not the differences between Christians and those who engage in human sacrifice.
Thus, Williams and Jefferson understood the benefits to both the church and state of keeping those two entities separate and distinct. One ecclesiastical denomination should not be given preference by the State over others. But theism should be preferred by the state over atheism. Atheists could not be compelled to go to church, but this was to be a nation "under God," not "in neglect of God." Not a single person who signed the Constitution believed that the State should publicly pretend that God does not exist.
D. Barton cities Reynolds v. United States, 98 U.S. 145 (1878), for the proposition that the Supreme Court has recognized Jefferson's "wall" as being "one-directional."  
This is simply not the case. Reynolds quotes Jefferson and then proceeds to ensconce Jefferson's wall metaphor into American Jurisprudence. The court observes, "Coming as this does from an acknowledged leader of the advocates of the measure, it may be accepted almost as an authoritative declaration of the scope and effect of the amendment thus secured." Id. at 164. Again, if anything, Barton's citation to Reynolds disputes, rather than supports, his position. Barton is absolutely correct, and the U.S. Supreme Court agreed with him. The Court in Reynolds and other cases held that America was a Christian nation, and any claim to violate Christian morality based on "religious freedom" would be thrown out. The Court ruled that it was proper for government to maintain Christian values, principles, and practices in official policy.
E. Barton criticizes the Court's decision in Everson v. Board of Education, 330 U.S. 1 (1947), for adopting a separationist position without quoting the Founders and in disregard of what Barton thinks the Founders intended.  
Justice Hugo Black, a Baptist who had taught Sunday school in Alabama, wrote the majority opinion. The case involved a challenge to the right of government to reimburse the parents of parochial school students for transportation costs. For all of the Court's strong separationist language, it voted (5-4) to allow New Jersey to fund the transportation costs under the so-called "student benefit" theory. However, the Court was unanimous in agreeing with Justice Black's statement of the law. Justice Black cited plenty of authority for his decision -- the writings of James Madison (fn. 11), including his "memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments"; Jefferson's "Bill For Establishing Religious Liberty" (fn. 13); and Reynolds v. United States. Lots of people teach Sunday School. The greatest of "Robber Barons" used Sunday School classes to propagate the idea that government-subsidized "capitalist" monopolies were a "law of God." Adolph Hitler probably taught Sunday School.

Everson marked a complete departure from the Founders' ideas of a nation "under God." Virtually the only authority cited by the Court was Madison. The only direct precedent cited by the Court was the Reynolds case, and as Justice Rehnquist observed, Everson's citation of Reynolds was "truly inapt," because Reynolds supports Barton's view, not the ACLU's "separationist" view.

7. Barton next criticizes Engel v. Vitale, 370 U.S. 421 (1962), where the Court struck down use of the New York Regents' prayer in public classrooms. He cannot understand why anyone would object to such a "bland" prayer. Barton is also critical of Abington School District v. Schempp, 374 U.S. 203 (1963), which ruled unconstitutional state-sponsored devotional Bible reading in classes.  
First, one wonders why any person with serious Christian convictions would want the state -- instead of the church or individual Christians -- composing a prayer at all, particularly a "bland" prayer that offends no one and says very little, The Engel decision did not throw God out of the classroom or outlaw prayer. They puny god of civil religion may have been thrown out, but the Almighty God of the Universe has not. It is presumptuous to say that anyone has the power to exclude God from any realm of our existence. Furthermore, it is only state-sponsored prayer that is prohibited. Students are absolutely free -- in the classroom, in the lunchroom, or on the playing field, -- to pray to God whenever they see fit. Barton's opposition to the classroom prayer case shows how far on the radical fringe he really is. Most conservative Christian groups in the country today (e.g., Southern Baptist Convention Christian Life Commission, National Association of Evangelicals, Christian Legal Society, etc.) do not disagree with the Engel decision. The Founders had no more objection to the state composing a prayer than they did to the state composing an oath. Both were considered acts of "religious worship."

A bland, generic recognition of God, teaching children that we have duties to God, is better than the implicit teaching of our now-secular schools that God can be ignored.

If a classroom full of children unanimously decided that they wanted to start their school day with prayer, could the teacher permit this free exercise of religion without conveying "endorsement" of religion? What if the children asked the teacher how to pray, as the disciples asked Jesus? (Luke 11:1) Could the teacher tell the students what they wanted to know?

Separationists would be outraged if a classroom full of students were allowed to engage in corporate prayer. The Founders encouraged it.

Criticism of the Schempp case is likewise unfounded. The court simply ruled out state-sponsored Bible reading. It did not prevent students from bringing their Bibles to class or even reading their Bibles during free periods. Bibles properly can be included in school libraries, and the study of the Bible as literature is certainly not prohibited. Indeed Justice Clark, in his majority opinion in Schempp, said: Teachers may not read the Bible during their free periods, according to the Ninth and Tenth Circuit Courts of Appeal. Books favoring Christianity can be removed from classroom libraries.

To teach the Bible "as literature" is to teach it as fiction. The Bible claims to be an infallible revelation of the Law of God. It is to be treated with all the reverence due God Himself. To teach about the Bible in "a Secular program" is to teach that what the Bible says is false.

[I]t might well be said that one's education is not complete without a study of comparative religion or the history of religion and its relationship to the advancement of civilization. It certainly may be said that the Bible is worthy of study for its literary and historic qualities. Nothing we have said here indicates that such a study of the Bible or of religion, when presented objectively as part of a secular program of education, may not be effected consistently with the First Amendment. Id. at 225.
Did it occur to Justice Clark that the way Secular Humanists teach the Bible is different from the way Christians teach the Bible? Of course he did: this is double-talk.
Thus, while state-sponsored religious exercises have been ruled out, there is nothing to prevent studying the Bible or teaching "about" religion across the board.  
8. Barton claims that virtually all of or social ills over the past 30 years were cause by the prayer and Bible-reading decisions in 1962-63. He lays at the feet of these decisions the increase in divorce, decline of SAT scores and rampant crime.  
One wonders how the exclusion of routine -- indeed, "bland" -- prayers form schools could have such disastrous consequences. Of course, there is no connection between the elimination of state-sponsored religion in public schools and the described social ills. This is a classic "after this, therefore because of this" logical fallacy. Just because one event follows another in time sequence does not mean that the latter caused the former. Martin Marty, in a tongue-in-cheek critique of this kind of thinking, has said: Anyone familiar with the Founding Fathers' beliefs that religion and Christian morality were essential to social order and the prosperity of government has no wonder at all. The Joint Baptists are completely out of line with the thinking of the Founding Fathers.
Why did everything go wrong when everything went wrong?... I think that the divorce rate rose shortly after the invention of the electronic church. Check the coincidence of dates. When born-again celebrities started writing born-again autobiographies, teenage pregnancy increased; and when fundamentalists started writing sex manuals, the Vietnam War accelerated. Didn't you notice the cause-and-effect relation? (Marty, The Christian Century, September 10-17, 1980.)
Barton makes voluminous citations and quotations of the Founding Fathers and early Supreme Court cases establishing the link between religion in schools and social order. The quoting of pop-theologian Martin Marty's sarcasm is a spit-wad shot through a straw at Mount Everest.
The problems that we face as a society are due to a variety of complicated socioeconomic factors. To try to blame the lack of prayer in school is simplistic. The whole thing needs to be put in perspective. For example, SAT scores have fallen but that decline is better explained by the fact that more students form a wider variety of socioeconomic backgrounds are taking the test than that the decline is in any way attributable to the elimination of state-sponsored religious exercises. Moreover, is one is going to engage in this kind of thinking, one also ought to point out some of the improvements that have been made since 19762. Life-expectancy has increased, as well as the average standard of living; great strides have been made in medical science, space travel and computer technology -- to name a few. To characterize Barton as saying that merely adding prayer to a secular school day will solve all these problems is unfair as well as simplistic. Barton advocates a complete spiritual re-orientation of schools and our nation.

Early Christian schools met boatloads of immigrants at the docks and took these people of diverse "socioeconomic backgrounds" and taught them to read fluently, to know the law of the land (Christianity), and become free American citizens. Lack of discipline in schools is a result of lack of religion and morality, and is crippling students' ability to learn.

Increased technology in the hands of an immoral people gives us "smart-bombs" and digital child pornography.

Our country has many problems and many of our institutions must share some of the blame: government, churches, families and, yes, the public schools. But to attribute all the problems on the schools and the Court's prayer decisions thirty years ago is a pure fantasy at best and base demagoguery at worst. "Base demagoguery?" The accusation must also be leveled at the Founding Fathers.
9. Barton concludes by calling upon his listeners to become involved in politics. He says that if Christians don't influence the government, someone else will. He also talks about being "robbed" by the atheists.  
Much of what Barton says here is correct. Church-state separation does not require the divorcement of religion form politics. Religious people have just as much right to engage in politics and to try to influence public policy by religious, even Christian values. However, any foray into politics with a decidedly sectarian agenda or a "God is on our side" mentality ought to be tempered with a healthy dose of humility. The Kingdom of God cannot be equated with any political party; religious people of good faith can differ on a number of issues. Christians no longer have the right to formulate public policy. The Court in Edwards v. Aguillard, 482 U.S. 578 (1987) held that "legislation can be invalidated under the Establishment Clause on the basis of its motivation alone" (J. Scalia, dissenting, 482 U.S. 578, 610). After all, suppose a legislature got together and passed a law because they felt it was God's will and would make us a more Godly nation? We couldn't have that.

Barton agrees that Christianity cannot be equated with any political party.

Something that pervades all of Barton's thinking is a certain dualism which effectively denies the ability of government to remain neutral in matters of religion, He seems to suggest that if government is not promoting his brand of religion, it is necessarily promoting the opposite. If Christian don't take over the schools, Barton implies, the Satanists will, and on and on. When God says that everything we do must be done to His glory, government cannot be neutral. Neutrality is impossible when dealing with a God who claims comprehensive authority. If God says His religion must be promoted at all times, in every area of life, then "neutrality" is a clear denial of God's claimed authority.
Schools cannot teach the opposite of Christianity or actively debunk belief in God any more than they can promote religion. That, too, would be unconstitutional. But there is a middle ground of neutrality in which the schools legitimately can operate that neither promotes nor inhibits religion. To refuse to indoctrinate Christianity is not the same thing as promoting its opposite. The Founding Fathers believed that if schools did not indoctrinate Christianity, they would be promoting its opposite. Barton has smothered his opponents with the evidence.
Finally, Barton suggests that since the majority of Americans are Christians, or at least religious people, they should be able to use the government to privilege their religious stance. Those who disagree should, at best, be tolerated or, at worst, discriminated against. If a majority of parents wish their children to pray in school, they should have that freedom. The Court in Engel admitted that no atheists were coerced into praying, but it struck down the school prayer law, thus denying free exercise of religion to the majority.
This is not at all what our Founders intended or what our Constitution says. The religion clauses in the First Amendment to the Bill of Rights are, by definition, "counter-majoritarian." The Constitution ensures the will of the majority. Justice Jackson said it well more than 50 years ago in West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624, 638 (1943): George Washington recognized that "[T]he fundamental principle of our Constitution . . .enjoins that the will of the majority shall prevail." (Sixth Annual Address to Congress [19 Nov.1794], Fitzpatrick 34:29-30.)

Alexander Hamilton spoke of "that fundamental maxim of republican government, which requires that the sense of the majority should prevail" (Federalist Paper No. 22)

They very purpose of a Bill of Rights was to withdraw certain subjects from the vicissitudes of political controversy, to place them beyond the reach of majorities and officials and to establish them as legal principles to be applied by the courts. One's right to life, liberty, and property, to free speech, a free press, freedom of worship and assembly, and other fundamental rights may not be submitted to vote; they depend on the outcome of no elections.
In the Barnette case, a majority of the parents wanted their children to recite the flag salute. The school wanted to force the children of Jehovah's Witnesses to recite it as well, despite their religious objections. The Barnette Court told the school the JW children did not have to recite the prayer, but the Court did not forbid the rest of the class from reciting this "political orthodoxy." The Barnette case does not support the proposition that the free exercise of the majority must be eliminated at the request of a minority.
This article is a production of the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs. Please copy and distribute the article. However, the information contained in this article cannot be modified without the express written permission of the Baptist Joint Committee. If this article is transmitted or duplicated, it must include this message. How disappointing that Baptists would support the secularization of America.

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