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March 06, 2005

Careful what you presuppose

Yesterday we brought you how apparently confused poor Rich Lowry's brain is, trying to read a judicial opinion. Today, our friends colleagues over at Powerline point us to another astonishing display of hackery on the ten commandments cases over at the Weekly Standard. Feel free to read the whole thing if you want; a lot of it is the same sort of "oh, save us from this confusion" alarmism that Rich was doing. But the Weekly Standard goes Rich one better:

The Court could usefully set aside its many tests and instead consider what various majorities have affirmed on no fewer than five occasions since 1952, to wit: "We are a religious people whose institutions presuppose a Supreme Being."

Whoa whoa whoa!  Hold on there guys.  I didn't know that.  All this time, I've been trusting the implication of that pesky old Constitution, the (pre-amendment) body of which doesn't mention religion at all except to say this:

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

Surely if our "institutions presuppose a Supreme Being," the founding fathers, deists though most of them were, would have thought fit to mention that.  Let's take a look at the preamble of the Constitution, and look at what words it does not include:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Compare this to the Preamble to the Constitution of the State of Alabama:

We, the people of the State of Alabama, in order to establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, invoking the favor and guidance of Almighty God, do ordain and establish the following Constitution and form of government for the State of Alabama:

Which does, as you can see, "invok[e] the favor and guidance of Almighty God." 

I quote the two because of course the authors of the US Constitution could have invoked the favor and guidance of God if they had wanted to.  They did not.

Interestingly, Alabama's constitution contains similar phrasing on the religious test:

That no religion shall be established by law; that no preference shall be given by law to any religious sect, society, denomination, or mode of worship; that no one shall be compelled by law to attend any place of worship; nor to pay any tithes, taxes, or other rate for building or repairing any place of worship, or for maintaining any minister or ministry; that no religious test shall be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under this state[.]

So here's the evidence: the founders didn't mention God in the Constitution, and their only mention of religion is to say that it should have no bearing on one of these institutions that our Weekly Standard friends colleagues think presuppose an Almighty Being.  They could have mentioned God, because the writers of the Alabama constitution did.  But even there, there is surely no "presupposition of an Almighty Being" in their institutions, because they seem to be happy with atheists, Muslims, and Hindus working for them. 

So the Weekly Standard and Rich Lowry can keep living in their fantasy world, but maybe two of the more prominent conservative publications in the country should try reading the document they claim to be so enamored of one of these days. 

-- Michael

March 6, 2005 | Permalink

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Comments

The fundamentalists - whether Constitutional or Biblical - are very good at projecting an impression of expertise. They have an arsenal of quotes and facts at hand and use them liberally(ha!) to bolster their points.

But reading the entirety of a text is not their strong suit.

They exist in the echo chamber, where the same ideas, the same texts, the same interpretations are repeated endlessly. Confront a fundie with these portions of the Constitution or ask them who the Bible says conquered Jerusalem; on both they'll probably be wrong, because neither one of these questions serves to bolster their point of view.

BTW, do you know the problem with Fundamentalists? They're no Fun, all Damn, and very little Mental.

Posted by: Stephen | Mar 6, 2005 8:36:28 PM

when the conservatives mention god, the unspoken thing behind it is his alleged son, who died on the cross for the sins of mankind,supposedly.

well, jesus died for somebody's sins but not mine. (thanx to patti smith for the quote.)

vive st voltaire! vive deism!

Posted by: harry near indy | Mar 7, 2005 5:15:29 AM

Art. 11. As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

Treaty of Peace and Friendship between the United States and the Bey and Subjects of Tripoly of Barbary

Unanimously approved by the Senate on June 7, 1797

link

Posted by: jasper emmering | Mar 7, 2005 8:47:19 AM

But Jasper, don't you realize that said treaty has been rendered "quaint" by the astounding evil and stupidity of our current leaders?

Also, we must a priori reject any law, treaty, constitutional statement or quote by a founding father that does not fit in with the current right-wingnut agenda.

Posted by: Stephen | Mar 7, 2005 11:40:29 AM

Compare the Alabama preamble to that of the CSA:

We, the people of the Confederate States, each State acting in its sovereign and independent character, in order to form a permanent federal government, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity--invoking the favor and guidance of Almighty God--do ordain and establish this Constitution for the Confederate States of America.

Posted by: John J. McKay | Mar 7, 2005 1:39:45 PM

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Posted by: peter.w | Sep 15, 2007 5:40:37 AM

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