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October 31, 2006

I Feel So Free

I'm happy to say it: Fuck the founding fathers. See? It's liberating and alliterative.

October 31, 2006 | Permalink

Comments

I'm amazed.

Jane provides the exact same examples that I would have, but derives precisely the OPPOSITE conclusion from it.

Again, I'm amazed.

Posted by: KL | Oct 31, 2006 5:53:00 PM

I'm happy to say it: Fuck the founding fathers.

Why?

Posted by: Sanpete | Oct 31, 2006 6:06:31 PM

Echoing Sanpete, why?

The foounding fathers were who they were. Some were theists, some deists, some Christians. In fact, some were also in favor of structuring the country a lot more like the neo-cons seem so keen on. A court beholden to the legislature and the president being the one to interpret the laws passed by the legislature, thus making them beholden to him. That many of them were Tories makes little difference - it was a fierce debate - first, whether to fight England for our independence, then what the Declaration of Independence should say, and finally, how our government should be structured. Thankfully, the more reasoned voices carried the day. But to say that our founding fathers were all any one thing is ludicrous. There were many points of view, many with their mirror in 2006.

When people try to claim that the founding fathers would have problems with the absolute seperation we are moving towards today, they are only partly right. Certainly, some of them would. But many of them would applaud it and the "enlightenment" that led to it.

I should note that people who make arguments like Galt's, scare me. They sound halfway intelligent enough to drag a whole lot of morons down their stupid little path to break down the seperation of church and state. To make it worse, these arguments go hand in hand with arguments to weaken the judiciary, the legisalture and break down the seperation of powers.

This is not the fault of the majority of the founding fathers. This is not what they believed. We have what they believed in - read the federalist papers and read the anti-federalist papers, if you want to know what they thought. The explanations and details of certain debates are clear and prolific. We have today, what the majority of the founding fathers wanted us too.

The major point we dissent from is the republicratic stranglehold on our democracy - the founding fathers were terribly afraid we would develope political parties - they saw it as an inherent danger to democracy. They just didn't know how to stop it. That is our only major point of digression from what the founding fathers were attempting to build.

To be clear, they would probably be quite terrified of what this regime has managed to do to this country and is in fact exactly why they were afraid of political parties.

Posted by: DuWayne | Oct 31, 2006 6:32:42 PM

Echoing Sanpete, why?

Oh, that's an easy one.

Fuck the founding fathers. They were not fucking saints. You do not win an argument because a founding fucking father agrees with you. You do not lose because a fucking founding father disputes your argument.

The fucking founding father worship that so many perform is an attempt to destroy debate. For that same reason, I rejoice when baby Jesus cries.

Posted by: Oneiros Dreaming | Oct 31, 2006 7:00:35 PM

So what the writers of the Constitution had in mind isn't relevant to interpreting it?

Posted by: Sanpete | Oct 31, 2006 7:35:55 PM

Oneiros Dreaming -

Who said they were saints? I nor anybody else has. Nor have I said that their agreement, kind of hard as they didn't even agree with each other, makes any argument.

The fucking founding father worship that so many perform is an attempt to destroy debate.

To which I agree.

For that same reason, I rejoice when baby Jesus cries.

Because your obnoxious?

While I am not one to "worship" the founding fathers, I am one to appreciate the foundation they gave us, upon which to build our democracy. Certainly they were human, as such prone to imperfection - this doesn't make them any less important to our country. If for no other reason, I will give "them" a certain amount of respect because they were the first people to take a signifigant risk for this country, when it was just a dream, an ideal.

I am all for keeping the founding fathers and their thoughts out of debate, but that does not make them unworthy of my respect and appreciation. It is unfortunate that you seem to think it does. It is not their fault that morons like Galt wish to use them in arguments and badly at that. The only reason I point out the error in her position is in the interest of historical accuracy. The majority of founding fathers, whatever their motivation, felt it improper for the state to endorse any religion. That means it is improper to have prayer in schools funded by the state.

The fact that the other writings of those who wrote our constitution, supports my assertion, in no way has bearing on the debate about prayer in schools. The fact that they wrote it into our constitution does.

Posted by: DuWayne | Oct 31, 2006 7:36:28 PM

Sanpete said -
So what the writers of the Constitution had in mind isn't relevant to interpreting it?

Only so much as the judges who interpret the constitution allow it to be. We have judges on the bench who do base their interpretations on what certain of the founding fathers said about it, other judges base their's on the writings of other founding fathers. Some realise that this is just a sordid way to justify often preconceived ideology and use their common sense and precedent they agree with.

Ultimately, the only way, what the founding fathers thought is relevant in interpreting the constitution, is if they delve into a lot of their writings, such as "The Federalist Papers" and "The Anti-Federalist Papers," among many others - with the purpose of developing their own opinion, based on all of our nations founders, opinions. Otherwise they are just trying to justify their own ideological bent.

Posted by: DuWayne | Oct 31, 2006 7:45:05 PM

So what the writers of the Constitution had in mind isn't relevant to interpreting it?

No, to be perfectly frank. They lived over two hundred years ago and had values rather alien to those we share today. We don't own slaves, we let women and minorities vote, and we don't let states establish their own official churches. We should adopt or discard policies based on merit, not based on appeals to the authority of the founding fathers.

Posted by: Christmas | Oct 31, 2006 7:54:31 PM

I'm not aware of any consitutional scholar who doesn't think what the people who wrote it meant is an important factor in interpreting it. Take the Establishment Clause, for example. Does it mean that Congress shall make no law establishing a state religion, no law favoring a particular religion, or no law favoring religion generically? To decide that you need to try to figure out what the folks who wrote it and voted on it thought it meant. Legislative intent, essentially.

Posted by: Sanpete | Oct 31, 2006 8:18:54 PM

We should adopt or discard policies based on merit, not based on appeals to the authority of the founding fathers.

What a goober.

That is what the amendment process is all about. the problem liberals have is they wish to make changes without the consent of the masses. They wish to be elites that don't need any approval from the people.
That's why they favor 'court interpretation'.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Oct 31, 2006 8:39:04 PM

Fred said -
That's why they favor 'court interpretation'.

I prefer the courts do their damned job - which is to judge whether laws are or are not constitutional. And to decide whether things that the state decides to do (on every level) fit within the bounds of the constitution.

Posted by: DuWayne | Oct 31, 2006 8:47:10 PM

Sanpete said -
I'm not aware of any consitutional scholar who doesn't think what the people who wrote it meant is an important factor in interpreting it.

I think this breaks down to symantics. Certainly, it is a factor. It's importance really depends on how you define importance. I daresay that very few if any would not call it an important factor but while some may mean that it is the factor, few give it nearly that kind of relevance. Largely because the founding fathers themselves had many dissagreements, even among those who were quite satisfied with the final draft of the constitution. A lot of the phrasing in the constitution is deliberately vague and open to many interpretations, some of which can be contradictory and most of which were considered by different peope involved in the drafting proccess.

That is why I assurt that anyone who delves into the intent of the founding fathers must do so with a very open, objective mind. It is way too easy for a person to find justification for their pre-convieved ideology in the opinions of the founders.

For the very reason that Fred fears the judiciary, I wish they would get away from the focus on the founders opinions. It is simply too easy to find men among them who fit their ideology and decide that because this person was part of the proccess of deciding what our nations foundation would be, they are probably right. And many of the founding fathers believed exactly that - which is why they empowered a strong judiciary and wrote the constitution with a lot of room for interpretation.

Posted by: DuWayne | Oct 31, 2006 9:01:16 PM

To decide that you need to try to figure out what the folks who wrote it and voted on it thought it meant.

That standard is dicier than it seems. We aren't free to assign novel or unusual meanings to the words "establishment", "religion", "respecting", etc. But their understanding, that freedom of religion meant freedom to choose one Protestant sect or another, need not bind us at all. Times have changed, and our understanding of what an "establishment of religion" denotes (again, using dictionary meanings of the relevant words) need not be bound by the cultural norms of the 18th century. Teacher-led prayer in public schools was the norm in those days, and we rightly consider that practice utterly unthinkable (and unconstitutional) now.

Posted by: kth | Oct 31, 2006 9:08:50 PM

DuWayne, constitutional interpretation can always be done badly, no matter what one's philosophy about it is. Even though it can be done badly, it's still essential to try to figure out what the words meant to those who wrote and voted on them. Sometimes you can't tell, but you have to at least make a good effort. An open mind is always important in doing that, as you say.

Posted by: Sanpete | Oct 31, 2006 9:15:38 PM

Fred said -
That's why they favor 'court interpretation'.

I prefer the courts do their damned job - which is to judge whether laws are or are not constitutional. And to decide whether things that the state decides to do (on every level) fit within the bounds of the constitution.

LOL. Deftest slapdown of Factless Fred I've seen all day.

Posted by: Jimmmmm | Oct 31, 2006 9:18:26 PM

But their understanding, that freedom of religion meant freedom to choose one Protestant sect or another, need not bind us at all.

It doesn't bind us, but this view (which isn't the only view represented among the founders) is relevant to understanding what the Establishment Clause means. It would be bad faith to ignore that kind of thing in interpreting it. We're bound by the intent in some way or other (views differ on how).

Posted by: Sanpete | Oct 31, 2006 9:27:38 PM

Sanpete -
The constitution was not written all that long ago, in relative terms. The men who wrote and ratified the constitution have probably all written something about it - including their opinions and interpretations of it. The problem is that there were nearly as many interpretations by them as you would find today. If you have an interest in what they though and believed, in regards to the constitution read the texts I mentioned upthread twice. Read other texts you can find by the founders - many are available online through "Project Guttenburg."

You will find all manner of opinions to support most any idelogical argument being flouted today - including the notion that the courts should have considerably less power than they were given in the constitution to begin with. The fact that they were in the minority, makes them no less our founding fathers. They were a part of the proccess, and they still contributed to our constitution. Many of them even agreed with parts of it.

You will even find those who argued that prayer was appropriate for opening government meetings - at the time they were a majority. Many objected - most because they were concerned about what form of prayer would be appropriate, but even that is a valid reason not to allow it.

As far as prayer in schools goes, it was a non-issue at the time as there were no public schools as we know them today. Though some were supported by local tax levies, they were nearly all through a church. Certainly a church run school is going to have prayer - even if that school has allowed children of other practices to be educated in their school. But with a system of mandatory education for all kids, the government funded schools obviously cannot be allowed to lead children in any religious expression. That is clearly state endorsement of a religion.

I am not dead against judges paying attention to the intent of the various founding fathers. I think they should read what a lot of them have to say. But it is critical that they do so objectively. They need to maintain as close to absolute objectivity as possible - going to the absolute, I think is impossible, but paying attention to the same debates, argued two centuries ago cannot help.

It is hard to make this more clear. The constitution was a series of compromises. It was a game of give and take among many wildy dissenting views. Everyone there contributed to it - to founding our country. Certainly the specifics are different today - but many of the debates break down to the same old shit - different context. That is why the constitution is so ambiguous.

I geuss my point is that it is important for judges to have a historical perspective, but they should not give it too much weight - to do so is to make an opinion based on their own belief. Their job is not to do that. Their job is to rule according to the arguments put before them.

Posted by: DuWayne | Oct 31, 2006 9:58:03 PM

Sorry about the long comment - now I'll lengthen it a little more. I should be clearer - it is the job of those argueing before the court to form the judges opinion - his preconcieved ideas should not interfere with that.

Posted by: DuWayne | Oct 31, 2006 10:02:27 PM

My guess relative to the linked article.. is that Ezra said Ezra said 'Fuck the founding fathers' as a demonstration:
That in this country you are free to do just that.

Just a guess.

Posted by: david b | Oct 31, 2006 10:32:52 PM

I am not a huge believer in intellectual or moral progress. The 20th century should make anyone skeptical that we have better sources of wisdom because they have studied Keynes or Friedman. It was a fine set of minds Kant, Hume, Locke, Smith, Rousseau, etc.

I honestly look to the Ancients first, and then the Enlightenment and Founding Fathers, and then the Medieval, and finally the Moderns. Makes me unfashionable and lacking conversational couth.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Oct 31, 2006 10:46:55 PM

with a system of mandatory education for all kids, the government funded schools obviously cannot be allowed to lead children in any religious expression. That is clearly state endorsement of a religion.

I'm not sure why you're telling me these things, but since you have, I'll point out that school prayer doesn't have to endorse any particular religion, and that what you (and most liberals) see as obvious in this regard is based an a particular reading of the Establishment Clause about which there is some doubt.

I geuss my point is that it is important for judges to have a historical perspective, but they should not give it too much weight - to do so is to make an opinion based on their own belief.

I don't see how this is more a matter of personal belief than anything else a judge does. It may be complex, but that doesn't mean the judge is any less obligated to give it its proper place. To fail to consider the intent is to substitute one's own belief for the meaning that was actually voted on.

My guess relative to the linked article.. is that Ezra said Ezra said 'Fuck the founding fathers' as a demonstration:
That in this country you are free to do just that.

Unless you're trying to interpret the Constitution in a proper way, which tends to be where the kind of thing Jane Galt was talking about comes up.

Posted by: Sanpete | Oct 31, 2006 10:55:08 PM

school prayer doesn't have to endorse any particular religion

How? And what about those who do not believe in any kind of prayer? Or those who simply do not believe in whatever kind of prayer they are being led in? How is it not an endorsement of any particular religion, if the school sanctions any kind of religious expression? Even if it is boiled into some kind of open to all, sort of expression - it is endorsing that spiritual belief. I just cannot see how that is not state endorsement of religion.

I'm not sure why you're telling me these things

Because that was the thrust of Galt's article.

To fail to consider the intent is to substitute one's own belief for the meaning that was actually voted on.

But whose intent are we talking about? Get specific - which founding fathers should they pay attention to? Who should they ignore?

The whole point I am trying to make is that the intent is the problem. If the judge is going to rule on the intent of the founding fathers, they can justify any personal ideology they have that way and the weight of the argument is that it was the intent of the founders. A judge should be listening to the arguments of the lawyers right in front of them - not men 200 years dead. If they have made an argument that the judge feels is justified under the constitution, that judge should rule in their favor. The judge should not be weighing the intent of their favorite founder - unless the lawyer in front of them argues they should. At the same time if the lawyers main argument is the intent of, say, Madison or Jefferson - the judge should laugh him out of the room.

Posted by: DuWayne | Oct 31, 2006 11:22:39 PM

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Oct 31, 2006 7:46:55 PM The 20th century should make anyone skeptical that we have better sources of wisdom because they have studied Keynes or Friedman.

Actually, when people who had read and studied Keynes had a bit of say, it seems like things went OK, as far as the kinds of things that Keynes' work addresses ... unemployment, interest rates, prices, that kind of thing.

It was more in the 70's and after, when Keynesians who had never studied Keynes were fighting with Friedmaniacs, that things seemed to go a bit awry.

Posted by: BruceMcF | Oct 31, 2006 11:26:40 PM

Exactly, Ezra- FUCK the Founders. As progressives, ask yourselves this: How many women, people of color, and members of the GBLT community contributed to writing the Constitution? As far as I can tell NONE. So why do we continue to act like we should respect it? Let's replace it with a new document for OUR times written by OUR people. We could get framers like Chomsky and West and DiFranco. Feel free to nominate YOUR own to this list.

Posted by: Dellinger | Oct 31, 2006 11:43:26 PM

I'll point out that school prayer doesn't have to endorse any particular religion

From the standpoint of an atheist it certainly does. In our time, the meaning of the Establishment clause isn't merely that the government must be neutral between faiths, but must as well be neutral between religion and non-belief, or between faith and doubt. That some or most of the Founders might have thought otherwise is completely beside the point.

The descriptive meaning of the phrase "shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion" is simply different now from what it was then, because our society is different; i.e., a lot more of us aren't Christians than in the time of the Founders. The literal meaning, by contrast, is the same: 'establishment', 'religion', 'law' mean much the same as they did it the 1780s, and it is only the literal sense that binds us, not the descriptive.

Posted by: kth | Nov 1, 2006 12:04:44 AM

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