“In God We Trust”

Every American rifle should say, as does our currency, “in God we trust.”

You say religion is “personal.” As a former Marine, I can tell you that nothing is more personal than squeezing the trigger on a jihadi while watching his face in the crosshairs. Each time you do that, “in God we Trust” strengthens you for the next shot.
You sound like some Muslim front organization. Or some loser desperate for attention.
At the very least your “movement” to erase Bible verses from military rifles is misguided, and will strengthen the resolve of no one of value to America
There are far more useful causes you could put your time and money into.
And do not pretend to honor our fallen with your BS. Not a one I’ve ever known would find anything but anger and sadness in what you are doing. You merely dishonor those upon whose sacrifice your freedom depends.
(name withheld)

Dear  (name withheld),

Mr. Weinstein is busy protecting the religious freedom of the women and men in our military so I’ve been asked to respond to your message.

You are welcome to your belief system, of course, and if your trust in God “strengthens you for the next shot” that’s for you to deal with. But I’m afraid you’ll have to engrave it in your mind or on your heart or wherever you carry your beliefs, because it has no place on a weapon provided to America’s fighting forces. That matter was closed long ago.

I’d explain why associating a religious belief with our military efforts is both unAmerican and inappropriate, but your assertion that the MRFF sounds to you like “a Muslim front organization” makes it clear that you wouldn’t understand, so I won’t bother.

Suffice it to say that our government agreed that the engraving, which had been done surreptitiously, was inappropriate and saw that the offending weapons were removed from service. And, again contrary to your apparent belief, the removal was of great value, both to America and to those who understand what fighting for our country is actually about.

As regards our efforts and the “anger and sadness” you think you’d find among your friends who know of us, you either don’t know many people or are, again, simply mistaken. We will continue to honor those who serve our country, thanks, and we will do so with the support of the thousands of active duty and retired women and men of the armed forces who depend on us to protect their Constitutional right to believe as they choose, to do so privately, and who refuse to have someone else’s belief system forced upon them.

Mike Farrell

(MRFF Board of Advisors)


Dear (name withheld),

I gather from your email that you are a Christian who is against the Constitution – which demands the separation of church and state.

 

I also see that you have a Reagan ISP. Would it surprise you to know that Ronald Reagan was for the separation of church and state?

“We in the United States, above all, must remember that lesson, for we were founded as a nation of openness to people of all beliefs. And so we must remain. Our very unity has been strengthened by our pluralism. We establish no religion in this country, we command no worship, we mandate no belief, nor will we ever. Church and state are, and must remain, separate. All are free to believe or not believe, all are free to practice a faith or not, and those who believe are free, and should be free, to speak of and act on their belief.

At the same time that our Constitution prohibits state establishment of religion, it protects the free exercise of all religions. And walking this fine line requires government to be strictly neutral. And government should not make it more difficult for Christians, Jews, Muslims, or other believing people to practice their faith.”

https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/US-Israel/RR10_26_84.html

 

“. . . no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”   (Article VI, Section III)

 

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment (Establishment Clause) of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise (Free Exercise Clause) thereof . . . “(1st Amendment)

 

The Establishment Clause comes before the Free Exercise Clause for a reason; the Free Exercise Clause is subservient to the Establishment Clause – not the other way around as some Christians would like it to be.

 

“Because religious belief, or non-belief, is such an important part of every person’s life, freedom of religion affects every individual. Religious institutions that use government power in support of themselves and force their views on persons of other faiths, or of no faith, undermine all our civil rights. Moreover, state support of an established religion tends to make the clergy unresponsive to their own people, and leads to corruption within religion itself. Erecting the “wall of separation between church and state,” therefore, is absolutely essential in a free society.” Thomas Jefferson, to the Virginia Baptists (1808) ME 16:320.

 

This wording of the original was several times upheld by the Supreme Court as an accurate description of the Establishment Clause.

 

Jefferson’s concept of “separation of church and state” first became a part of Establishment Clause jurisprudence in Reynolds v. U.S.., 98 U.S. 145 (1878). In that case, the court examined the history of religious liberty in the US, determining that while the constitution guarantees religious freedom, “The word ‘religion’ is not defined in the Constitution. We must go elsewhere, therefore, to ascertain its meaning and nowhere more appropriately, we think, than to the history of the times in the midst of which the provision was adopted.” The court found that the leaders in advocating and formulating the constitutional guarantee of religious liberty were James Madison and Thomas Jefferson. Quoting the “separation” paragraph from Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists, the court concluded that, “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.

 

The Supreme Court heard the Lemon v. Kurtzman case in 1971 and ruled in favor of the Establishment Clause.

 

Subsequent to this decision, the Supreme Court has applied a three-pronged test to determine whether government action comports with the Establishment Clause, known as the “Lemon Test.”

 

  1. Any law or policy must have been adopted with a neutral or non-religious purpose.
  2. The principle or primary effect of any law or policy must be one that neither advances nor inhibits religion.
  3. The statute or policy must not result in an “excessive entanglement” of government with religion.

 

If any government entity’s actions fit into one of these three, then it is a violation of the Establishment Clause.

 

Then there’s Parker v. Levy:

 

“This Court has long recognized that the military is, by necessity, a specialized society separate from civilian society… While the members of the military are not excluded from the protection granted by the First Amendment, the different character of the military community and of the military mission requires a different application of those protections. … The fundamental necessity for obedience, and the consequent necessity for imposition of discipline, may render permissible within the military that which would be constitutionally impermissible outside it… Speech [to include religious speech] that is protected in the civil population may nonetheless undermine the effectiveness of response to command.  If it does, it is constitutionally unprotected.” (Emphasis added) Parker v. Levy, 417 U.S. 733, 1974

 

Our military is secular and our wars are not Christian Holy Wars. By placing “in God we trust” on rifles that are being used by people of all faiths and those of no faith, we are sending a clear message that we are following in the footsteps of the Crusaders.

 

You stated: As a former Marine, I can tell you that nothing is more personal than squeezing the trigger on a jihadi while watching his face in the crosshairs. Each time you do that, “in God we Trust” strengthens you for the next shot.

 

As a Christian myself, I hope you are not taking joy in killing an Iraqi because not all of them are jihadist.

“Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? said the Lord GOD: and not that he should return from his ways, and live?” (Ezekiel 18:23)

“For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dies, said the Lord GOD: wherefore turn yourselves, and live.” (Ezekiel 18:32)

God takes no pleasure in the death of anyone and I hope you don’t put yourself above God for he says:

 

“The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord.” (Matthew 10:24)

 

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, the servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him.” (John 13:16)

 

Mikey is the Founder, President and face of MRFF but there is also the Board, the Advisory Board, volunteers and supporters of which 75% are Christians. A full 96% of our 41,000+ soldier clients (1 can represent up to 50 and 1 represents 100) are Christians – Catholics, Episcopalians, Methodist, Lutherans, Baptists, Evangelicals, etc. We fight for the rights of these Christians more than any other religion but it never makes the news.

 

We also rely on our military supporters for their expertise in all matters concerning the military and religion. To name just a few that you may heard of:

 

Board Member – Major William E. Barker

Board Member – Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV

Advisory Board Member – Lawrence Wilkerson – Secretary of State Colin Powell’s Chief of Staff (2002-05).

 

Also, 2 retired Brigadier Generals, 1 retired Lt. Colonel, the first Vice Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staffs, 2 Governors, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, other honorable military personnel, several ministers and people of all walks of life.

 

Why don’t you tell them that our “movement” is misguided and “will strengthen the resolve of no one of value to America?”

 

What gives you the right to determine who is of value and who isn’t in America?

 

You wrote:

 

“And do not pretend to honor our fallen with your BS.”

 

Are you for real or do you usually spout nonsense to someone or an organization you know nothing about?

 

And:

 

“Not a one I’ve ever known would find anything but anger and sadness in what you are doing. You merely dishonor those upon whose sacrifice your freedom depends.”

 

You need to get out more. Our 41,000+ soldier clients and numerous supporters LOVE us!

 

If anyone dishonors the Constitutional rights of our soldiers it is you.

 

Plus, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation has been nominated SEVEN times in SIX CONSECUTIVE years for the Nobel Peace Prize.

 

I guess we’re not as “misguided” as your judgmental attitude seems to believe.

 

You will be held accountable by God for this email because you don’t a clue about what we stand for and really do.

 

“But I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the Day of Judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.” (Matthew 12:36-37)

 

Good luck with that.

 

Pastor Joan

MRFF Advisory Board Member


Dear (name withheld),

I’m sure killing jihadis is easier when you are waging war for your God…which is jihad.  Why would you have any animosity towards someone who does precisely what you do but names a different deity?

Blake A. Page
Military Religious Freedom Foundation
Special Assistant to the President
Director of US Army Affairs


 

Blake,

I’m surprised you took the time to respond personally. I appreciate that.

But, you know, there are those who use their religion to deliberately destroy civilians in suicide  bombings, deliberately kidnap and torture innocents, deliberately demean women, and deliberately seek to impose a vicious brand of Islam on the whole world in a new Caliphate.
And then there are those for whom  religion helps give them the strength to oppose such needlessly brutal people, their hatred of the US, and their commitment to destroy the very freedom for which all peoples hunger.
Though mistakes have certainly been made by the US, no nation in history has ever worked so hard to support and preserve the freedom of others, and to avoid as much collateral damage as possible in war.
You present a moral equivalency between the two groups. I honestly don’t understand how clear-thinking individuals could do such a thing.
Best,
(name withheld)

Dear (name withheld),

The moral equivalency that I present is not between the U.S. and jihadists, it is between individuals.  Fortunately the United States is not a theocratic country and does not engage in wars (overtly anyway) based on religious principles.  However there do exist many people within this country and our armed forces that go to war with the intent of furthering a religious mission.  Those individuals who plainly state that killing or converting non Christians overseas motivates them to serve are not better our more moral than terrorists simply because they come from a more developed nation.

Our military is not an arm of Christianity or any other religion.  To imagine it to be one army under God is a clear perversion of its mission.

Blake


Dear (name withheld),
First, thanks for your correspondence to the MRFF, and for your military service.
(Though I was surprised to see you refer to yourself as a “former Marine.” In my day, we did not refer to ourselves as “former” Marines, because “Once a Marine, always a Marine.”)
I received a copy of your letter from Mr. Weinstein, who asked me (as a Marine combat veteran and MRFF supporter) to respond on his behalf.
Please allow me to enlighten you on the MRFF and its mission.The MRFF’s staff, supporters, and clients comprise people of all beliefs and none. For example, Mr. Weinstein’s own family circle is one of blended faiths, including observant Christians. The MRFF staff (paid and volunteers) is composed of approximately 75% Christians of varying sects (mainly Protestant, including evangelical), 15% Jews, and 10% all others, including Hindus, Muslims, and various other faiths, as well as free-thinkers of various types, including atheists and agnostics. My esteemed MRFF colleagues, such as Joan Slish (an ordained minister) and Mike Challman (who was a USAF officer), are practicing Christians.The MRFF staff, supporters, and clients also are, for the most part, active, active reserve, retired, or former members of the US Armed Forces. These include ranks from private to flag officers, from all branches of the service, and specialties ranging from support to combat arms.Service eras represented in the MRFF’s ranks include WW II, Korea, Viet Nam, Gulf I and the present GWOT.Many hold personal decorations, including the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star w/ V and the Silver Star, as well as the Army, Navy, and AF Crosses. One holds the Medal of Honor.

Many members come from multi-generation service families. For example, my own family has a long history of military service, which includes 5 generations of Marines, as well as other branches. My earliest known ancestors arrived in Massachusetts  ca. 1627, a few years after the founding of the colony.  My thrice-great grandfather fought in the Revolution and my great-grandfather fought in the Civil War, fighting for the Union in the 66th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, one of the few regiments to remain all-volunteer for the duration of the war. He was wounded at the Battle of Peach Tree Creek, GA during Sherman’s March to the Sea.

My family also participated in WW I, WW II, Korea, Vietnam, and Gulf I and the current GWOT as well as most of the smaller wars and conflicts.  One of my Marine uncles by marriage was captured upon the fall of Corregidor, and transported on the Hell Ships to Japan, where he served as a slave laborer (aka “guest of the Emperor”) until he was liberated. My (Marine) father served in the South Pacific in the island campaigns, starting with Guam and Guadalcanal, till he was med-evaced to the US after being seriously wounded. Two Marine uncles (one of them the former POW) were in Korea with service from Inchon to the Chosin Reservoir.

As noted, I myself served in the Marines, and was engaged in close personal ground combat in several of the major operations in Vietnam in 1967 and 1968, including Operation Scotland at Khe Sanh, before, during, and after the Tet 1968 assault and the Siege, and in the Hue-Phu Bai area mopping-up operations after leaving Khe Sanh.

My colleague Rick Baker (another MRFF volunteer) flew two combat tours in Vietnam as a rescue pilot, pulling SOG teams, Recon teams, and downed pilots out of “bandit country.” He was wounded in the process, and decorated.

MRFF’s founder and Director, Mr. Weinstein and his family also have distinguished service spanning three generations of military academy graduates and over 130 years of combined active duty military service, from World War I to the current GWOT.

Mr. Weinstein’s father was a distinguished graduate of the US Naval Academy, and Mr. Weinstein himself was a 1977 Honor Graduate of the US Air Force Academy, later serving for 10 years in the Air Force as a Judge Advocate General (JAG) military attorney, both as prosecutor and defense attorney. He also served in the Reagan White House.

His oldest son and daughter-in-law are also Air Force Academy graduates (2004), and his youngest son also graduated from the Academy (2007). He was the sixth member of the Weinstein family to attend the Air Force Academy.

Mr. Weinstein’s nephew (an observant Christian), is a Marine SNCO with an MOS in combat arms, who has had several front-line deployments in the GWOT.

Mr. Weinstein was a wealthy and well-connected lawyer who worked with some of the most powerful corporations and people in this country. He left his last position (with H. Ross Perot) to found the MRFF when he found out about the religious abuses going on in the military. Far from “gaining” anything from his pursuit of these issues, he has sacrificed his comfort, savings, and mortgaged all his property to pursue this fight. Furthermore, he has risked his own safety and that of his family in this struggle.

(For Mr. Weinstein’s full biography, please see here: http://www.militaryreligiousfreedom.org/about/michael-l-mikey-weinstein )

Many staff are volunteers (like me) who pay for the “privilege” of spending a lot of time and effort fielding letters that are often scurrilous, venomous, obscene, and threatening (this doesn’t include yours, I hasten to add), by contributing what we can to the MRFF financially as well. Paid staff are few, and all are believers in what we do. There is no money in any of this — other than what we spend pursuing cases.

The MRFF supports the Constitutionally mandated requirements that there will be no religious test for office, and no established religion (i.e. no state official religion).

“. . . no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”   (Article VI, Section III)

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . .”  (1st Amendment)

Successive Supreme Court decisions have upheld these principles. Based on the 1971 case of Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602, 612-13, the Court will rule a practice unconstitutional if:

1. It lacks any secular purpose. That is, if the practice lacks any non-religious purpose.

2. The practice either promotes or inhibits religion.

3.  The practice excessively involves government (in this case the military) with a religion.

Drawing from the 1989 case of Allegheny County v. ACLU, 492 U.S. 573, the practice is examined to see if it unconstitutionally endorses religion by conveying

“a message that a particular religion is ‘favored,’ ‘preferred,’ or ‘promoted’ over other beliefs.”

“Wherein ‘core religious viewpoints’ are contrary to or abrogate other Constitutional protections, ‘ the free exercise clause’ and or freedom of ‘expressive association’ as well as its rights to free speech and the free exercise of religion may be curtailed.”

The Coercion Test

Based on the 1992 case of Lee v. Weisman, 505 U.S. 577 the religious practice is examined to see to what extent, if any, pressure is applied to force or coerce individuals to participate.

The Court has defined that “Unconstitutional coercion occurs when: (1) the government directs (2) a formal religious exercise (3) in such a way as to oblige the participation of objectors.”

A religious body may not interfere with or attempt to disrupt the practice of other religions.

A religious body is subject to civil law and may not practice acts which are deemed illegal under law.

The MRFF is committed to ensuring that this boundary between church and state is maintained, and that the Constitutional rights to freedom of conscience for all Americans (particularly our servicemen and women) are not violated, and that they are not subjected to unwanted proselytization by any religious group whatsoever.

Despite reports to the contrary, neither Mr. Weinstein nor the MRFF is “against” Christianity or any other religion.  On the contrary, as the name implies, the MRFF supports religious freedom and pluralism for all faiths or none, in accordance with the US Constitution (see above) and public law.  Its founder, members, and supporters include people of many different faiths and belief systems, as well as free-thinkers.

Though the MRFF is comprised of people of many faiths (as well as no faith), it is strictly secular, and as noted above, defends US service personnel against violations of their Constitutional rights to freedom of conscience.

As to the problems MRFF clients face, I’ll let the numbers tell the story.

Currently, 96% of all the over 41,000 (and rising) MRFF cases are brought on behalf of professing Christians, (mainly Protestants), followed by Catholics (including Roman and Eastern Orthodox).  

The 4% balance of cases includes Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs, as well as self-described Pagans of various sects, atheists, agnostics, and other free-thinkers, and at least one self-described “Jedi Knight” (formed around the Jedi Knights of the Star Wars movies).

The great preponderance of MRFF cases involve abuses of authority and violations of the above quoted Constitutional guarantees of freedom of conscience by a specific sub-set of aggressively evangelical radicals who style themselves “Christians” and who are becoming increasingly entrenched and powerful in the military at ranks all the way up to flag officer. They are known variously as Dominionists or Reconstructionists.  (See the attachment below for more detail.)

In clear and blatant violations of the Constitution, public law, and the Uniform Code of Military Justice, members of these groups aggressively inveigle and solicit “recruits”, but failing that, harass, bully, and attempt to intimidate (often under color of authority) service members under their command, in order to forcibly attempt to proselytize them, using tactics ranging from denying choice assignments and promotions to all but those they consider “Christian enough” to giving those unwilling to knuckle under poor performance reviews, and assigning difficult, dirty, and dangerous tasks – including potentially deadly tasks in combat. Some infantrymen have even been put on “permanent point” — that is, they are ordered to be the first man in line on a patrol. (I don’t know what you know about combat patrolling, but this is the equivalent of a death sentence.)

In many commands the entire CoC is often riddled with or entirely composed of these Dominionists — including the people tasked with providing relief, such as EO NCOs and officers, and on up through the entire CoC.  In more than one case we have dealt with, the EO NCO (a Dominionist) has placed the supposedly confidential complaint on the desk of the very same CO or XO who was the cause of the complaint in the first place!  Exactly what chances of redress through the system are there in these situations? If you answered “minus zero” you are correct.  Here is just one example of the thousands of cases we have fielded. Like the USAF, the Army is SUPPOSED to have avenues for wrongs like this to be addressed. Read this and see what just one of our clients, an Army officer, experienced. (And this was an officer — imagine the plight of an enlisted person in the rigid top-down hierarchy of the military.)

http://www.veteransnewsnow.com/2011/12/05/thought-u-s-military-would-protect-individual%E2%80%8Bs-from-in-rank-bigotry-and-injustice

For all the lip service the USAF and other branches give these issues, the realities are far different. The MRFF has a great many USAF (and other branches of service) clients, both officer and enlisted, who have been actively discriminated against, harassed, and even beaten for being other than Christian — or even for being the “wrong kind” of Christian — i.e., non-Dominionist.

While I grant you that the poster incident is small potatoes, it is just one of a vast number of intrusions on the Constitution by these people in the military and other government agencies. MRFF opposes ALL violations when a complaint is made by service personnel or a member of the DoD.

I have attached some information on the Dominionist movement. (See below)

As to what the Founders intended regarding religion, they were hardly a monolithic bloc, but please see the information (also attached below) for a clear look at what some of the principal Framers had to say on this issue.

As to praying in combat — if you believe it helped you, fine, although I personally think that praying to a (supposed) deity to help you kill another one of its supposed “creations” is pretty ridiculous, especially when the other person is likely to be praying to his deity to help kill YOU.  It is particularly (though sadly) amusing to a non-theist like me when the antagonists are in the “Abrahamic” religious groups (i.e., Judaism, Christianity and Islam), and they are all praying to the same deity under different names, e.g. Jahweh (in Judaism),”Jehovah”  (its equivalent for English speaking Christians) and Allah (for Muslims).

(And even more sadly stupid when Christians to pray when they are fighting other Christians – which they have been doing for well over a thousand years.)
As for me, though raised a Catholic, I parted officially from that faith and all others at the age of 14 (though I had never really believed since at least age 6 or so).  I became and remain a non-theist — though I respect the First Amendment right of all to freedom of conscience. I never prayed to any “deity” when in combat or in other times of danger.  IMO, it is not only utterly useless, but praying when one is in trouble, but not when things are OK is hypocritical. However, my lack of belief never affected my combat effectiveness one iota, as any of the men I served with can attest.
My Marine father, who was in the toughest fighting in the Pacific in WW II was, despite his evangelical fundamentalist upbringing, an atheist.I have also known many other men who have been in serious combat who were and remain atheists or agnostics.I recently spoke with a long-time friend who is kind of an expert on the issue, LCDR Rev. Ray Stubbe, USN (Ret.), who was chaplain of the 26th Marines at Khe Sanh, and noted co-author of the most authoritative history of the battles for Khe Sanh “Valley of Decision.”Ray informed me that not only was that statement “atheists in foxholes” untrue in his personal experience, but that he had made a statement to the news to that effect at the time of the Siege of Khe Sanh (where we were both stationed). He sent me a copy of the newspaper clippings of the statement. He reiterated that he stands by his statement, based on his extensive personal combat experience with wounded and dying Marines and other service personnel. I quote from the relevant parts of his letter dated 21 Nov. 2010, and attach his pdf (below);

“Your mention of “atheists in foxholes” evoked some memories, as I mentioned to you, and I’m attaching the documentation I mentioned along with a letter received in regard to the news item.  I think you’ll find this to be interesting. I’ve always tried to be completely honest about things, as you know. We have to be focused on telling the truth!” 

One of my comrades in arms was and remains a devout Christian evangelical, and a deacon in his church. In 1967 and 1968, he was a Navy Hospital Corpsman, assigned to our unit at Khe Sanh, where he endured the initial assaults on Khe Sanh ville during the onset of the Tet  Offensive of 1968, and later was with us on the lines of FOB 3 outside KSCB when our company was removed there following the assaults. As a combat Corpsman, he was personally exposed on numerous occasions to enemy fire, and cared for casualties. He later became a USMC CPT (now retired).  In an E-mail dated Nov. 21 2010, he wrote:

“The old saying is that there are no “atheists in foxholes” is certainly not a true statement. Some of the Marines I could not save from their injuries did not want me to pray with them.  Some died quietly and others went out fighting for every breath and cursing. Most resigned themselves to their fate. Most of the time, when I asked if I could pray for them, they said “Please.”

I personally know several other men who were atheists who were awarded the Silver Star and Navy Cross, and other personal combat awards.  In fact, some became atheists as a result of their combat experience. (My dad was one.)

One well-known soldier who lived and died an atheist was the late CPL Pat Tillman. Though not killed by enemy action, I think his actions in leaving a high-paid career in professional football and enlisting to serve his nation in combat were the mark of a highly principled individual.

Of course, I am aware that others get religion in combat. One of our men got religion shortly before his death in an ambush on Hill 689, and several other Khe Sanh vets later became ministers, and of course, there are our often brave chaplains (the Four Chaplains of WWII and my friend Ray Stubbe, among others), but that is not the point under discussion.  It has never been said or implied that there were “no theists in foxholes” or “no Christians in foxholes” – a statement which would be as untrue as the one I am disputing.

I did some research, and found that those who are usually credited with the creation of the phrase did not in fact claim or acknowledge it.

The three candidates from WW II were: Fr. William Cummings, a Catholic priest who served as a Transport chaplain, Lt. Col. Warren Clear, and an unnamed Army sergeant, all of whom were in Bataan in April of 1942.  However, neither Fr. Cummings nor LCOL Clear claimed to be the author of this, and indeed, denied it. (The sergeant’s claim is as unknown as he is.)

Some newspapers published at the end of WW I stated that an “unnamed clergyman” had (supposedly) remarked that “during the Great War one could find no atheists in the trenches.”

As a young man, I personally knew men who were in the trenches during that particularly ghastly war on both sides (one was a German soldier), and several were atheists. Some had gone into the war as true believers – both in god and the righteousness of the cause. They emerged from the other end of the meat-grinder with quite a different set of beliefs.

Possibly someone at Bataan or elsewhere was influenced by these earlier remarks. If anyone said that, they either weren’t in the trenches (where there most certainly were some atheists, as is plain from their writing both during and after their time in combat) – or they were just lying – a trait not unknown among some people who loudly profess faith.

Nobody can identify the speaker or speakers in either WW I or WW II with any degree of certainty or accuracy, or their rank, clerical status, or military affiliation (if any), let alone their combat experience (if any).

The most anybody can say about this remark with any degree of accuracy is that someone (who may or may not have even been in the military, or had combat experience) may have made this or a similar statement in WW I and / or WW II.

In addition to LCDR Stubbe’s and CPT Roberts’ remarks (above), at least one WW II chaplain stated clearly that there WERE atheists in foxholes, and indeed, they were rampant. Here is a reprint from Time, dated July 18, 1945, found in the Time archives on the Net:

Religion: Atheists & Foxholes
Monday, Jun. 18, 1945

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,775935,00.html

Despite pious rumor, there are atheists in foxholes. So writes Transport Chaplain Lewis A. Myers in the current Arkansas Baptist: “Foxholes are not valid agents for making Christians, for destroying atheists or for driving men to God. … If you desire a man to come out of a foxhole with something, you had better send him in with something.

“In load after load of returning soldiers … we find 80% of them listen to the gospel with more skepticism than . . . ever … stay away from religious services . . . with less scruples . . . curse more and with a finesse unbelievable . . . gamble with more avidity and defend it with more vigor . . and find it difficult to hold an extended conversation without defaming womankind, even though unintentionally.”

Chaplain Myers believes that his plain speaking should act as a challenge to churchmen: “There is no need for our churches to fear the truth. Frankness in this matter is not against the war effort, and it isn’t expected of churches that they should surrender their idealism. We should understand now, before the great discharge of soldiers begins, that foxholes are not now and never will do the work of our Christian institutions.”

So yes, there are atheists, and agnostics, and non-theists of all kinds in foxholes — I was one of them, as was my father before me.

There are also theists of faiths other than yours, including Muslims.I know that some people feel the need to pray when they are in danger. Perhaps it gives them some relief from the stresses of combat. If so, they (and you) are welcome to it. However, there are those of us who do not feel the need for some mysterious, miraculous BFF in the sky, whether it be your own flavor, or Thor, Zeus, the Cosmic Muffin or the Flying Spaghetti Monster of the Pastafarians.I don’t know how much close personal ground combat you had. I am not bragging or complaining, but I had some pretty intense episodes. None of them ever made me even the least bit inclined to jump on the religious bandwagon, though some of our guys did.If you choose to believe in order to calm your own fears of death or whatever motivates you, fair enough. You have that right. But please be aware that there are and always have been “atheists in foxholes.”Some may choose to believe that god is their co-pilot, but I have never seen him or any other supposed deity in the trenches or fighting holes of Khe Sanh or any battlefield I have been on — just dirty, sweating, smelly grunts, mangled, bloody men, and rotting corpses. Anyone who wants to know what Hell is really like can ask me or any other grunt who has crossed the line.

I might add that our SECULAR Constitution forbids the establishment of ANY religion whatsoever, and that I don’t want my tax dollars paying for sights with bible (or any religious) verses on them, or any other religious paraphernalia.
(Personally, like Jefferson, Madison, et al, I am not in favor of paid chaplains [esp. not ranked as officers!] , chapels or religious texts either. If any religious group wants specific services, they should be lay volunteers and / or volunteers from the church who are paid by the churches or adherents of that faith.)I remain sir, with respectSemper Fidelis,F. J. Taylor
USMC (Ret.)Dominion Theology — A Serious and Growing Threat to the Nation

The MRFF began in 2005 when Mr. Weinstein, an Honor Graduate of the USAF Academy and highly successful top-level business attorney (then working for Perot Enterprises), learned from his son (then at the USAF Academy) that there was a great deal of religion-based physical, verbal, and emotional harassment directed not just at his son, but at all cadets who were not Christian — or even just “not Christian enough” or the “right kind.”  For Jews and others non-Christians, things were even worse. The Jews got the usual “Jesus-killer” and other ethnic slurs, and non-Christians who don’t wish to convert got even worse.

Having experienced similar abuse himself at the Academy while a cadet (including a brutal beating from ambush), Mr. Weinstein was very concerned that such egregious violations of the Constitutional right to freedom of conscience, which he had supposed eradicated in the modern military, were still on-going — and what is more, that they were even worse than in his own time.

Initially, he thought that with his service background and his own connections in the services, the government, and business that things could be set to rights with a few calls and visits. However, he was astonished to find that not even a man with his connections had enough clout to right the situation, and that indeed, it was far bigger, and far more wide-spread, than he had anticipated.

Instead of a few isolated religious fanatics acting as loose cannons, he found a network that spread wide and deep throughout the USAF and indeed the entire armed forces, in positions of great power and trust from enlisted and NCO through flag officer ranks. Sadly, even flag officers (those who weren’t personally involved as part of the problem) were and remain afraid to confront this issue.

As Mr. Weinstein probed deeper into the mire, he found that this was part of a long-running, well-financed, and well-organized operation by a group of zealots who follow an extremely radical theology.

In violation of the Constitution, public law, and the Uniform Code of Military Justice, these Dominionists (a radical and militant subset of evangelical Christianity) aggressively seek converts. Failing persuasion, they harass, bully, and attempt to intimidate under color of authority service members under their command or control, in order to attempt to proselytize even service members who have expressed their unwillingness.

When in command positions, they use tactics ranging from denying good assignments and promotions to those they don’t consider Christian or “Christian enough” to giving poor performance reviews, and difficult, dirty, and dangerous tasks – including potentially deadly tasks in combat. (One of our clients was assigned as “permanent point” in a combat unit!)

They have advocated in both words and writing the overthrow of the Republic and Constitution (by ballot if possible, but by bullet if necessary), and replacing them with an Old Testament style theocracy, complete with “Biblical” Sharia-like laws, complete with public executions by stoning, sword, or other “Biblical” methods, with mandatory attendance and participation by the whole community – including children.

Anyone not considered not “Christian enough” by these people if they gain power will be forced to either convert to or accept their warped version of Christianity – or die. They have been correctly described as “American Taliban.”

Some people might consider this some sort of tin-hat conspiracy theory, or that they are just far-right fringe loonies without a hope of achieving power, but these people have been operating “under the radar” for over 50 years, and are now firmly entrenched in every branch and MOS of our armed forces and government, at every level – and are getting bolder by the day.

To get a handle on their plans for the rest if us, let’s examine the words of the individuals who founded and control the movement, such as the late Rousas John Rushdoony who wrote that they intend to “…lead them (non-believers) to Jesus – in chains, if necessary.”  (Rushdooney was not speaking metaphorically here!

Rushdoony also wrote that democracy is heresy and that Christians must remember that a monarchy (referring to “God’s kingdom on earth”) is not a democracy.” and “Democracy is the great love of the failures and cowards of life.

Rushdoony listed eighteen capital “crimes” including: blasphemy, witchcraft, astrology, adultery, incorrigible delinquency, homosexuality, promiscuity or unchastity before marriage, wearing a red dress (for women – though one must suppose this would apply it to men too), and failure to keep a kosher kitchen.

Punishment for non-capital crimes would include whipping and indentured servitude or slavery (including for debt), and prisons would become temporary holding tanks while prisoners awaited sentencing. Women and children would again become chattel property of men.

Rushdoony and other Dominionists have been aptly described elsewhere as “the American Taliban” as noted above.  This is true in more ways than just their morbid interest in cruel and unusual punishment. They are extremely retrogressive socially and politically, and share many more beliefs in common with the Islamic fundamentalists than they do with the average American.

Perhaps one reason they hate the Islamist fascists is that they have so much in common with them — battles between kindred are always the worst. One can only hope that they never recognize their true kinship, lest they join forces in a truly unholy alliance.

Rushdoony’s Chalcedon Foundation also helped establish The Rutherford Institute, a legal organization to promote their agenda through the very courts they plan to supersede once in power, so although Rushdoony died, his organization and legacy of theocracy lives on.

Gary North, Rushdoony’s son-in-law, espouses (publicly) a slightly less draconian version, stating, “I don’t want to kill homosexuals–I would be happy just driving them back into the closet.”  However, he also espouses stoning for blasphemers and those who curse their parents, and has stated that public stoning of “malefactors” would be “a great way to bring communities together.”

The CFGC (Council of Full Gospel Churches) was founded and is run by  retired Army COL “Jim” Ammerman. They have been one of the main chaplain accreditation agencies ending these stealth “Dominionist” chaplains into the military services.

One of their worst offenders is  US Army chaplain MAJ James Linzey, who, with his CFGC cohorts have also denigrated Judaism and Catholicism, as well as mainstream Protestant churches. In a stunning example of their theology (and ultimate plans for everyone not of their belief), Linzey, in a 1999 video, described mainstream Protestant churches as “demonic, dastardly creatures from the pit of hell “ that should be “stomped out.”  

The Council of Full Gospel Churches (Linzey’s accrediting agency) not only didn’t pull his accreditation, but supported this egregious violation of the Constitution, his mission and orders as a military chaplain, and of his oath as an officer. (Of course, Ammerman is as bad or worse.)

COL Ammerman and MAJ Linzey have also spread conspiracy theories about “Satanic forces” in the U.S. government for years aiding a military takeover aided by unnamed “foreign” (presumably UN) troops.

In 2008, COL Ammerman said that four presidential candidates (US Senators Obama, Clinton, Biden and Dodd) should be hanged for treason – for not voting to designate English as America’s official language.  He also stated that President Obama would be assassinated as a “secret Muslim.”  (In the late 1990s, he had also called for the execution of then-president Clinton for treason.)

CFGC and its chaplains have repeatedly and egregiously violated the Constitution and the laws and regulations regarding chaplaincies, including those on interfaith cooperation, bans on membership in organizations with religious or racial supremacist principles, especially those espousing violence, and that active military personnel cannot make disloyal or contemptuous statements about officials.

This problem, as stated, is very wide-spread and deeply entrenched, not only in the military but in many areas of government and indeed, other nations.

These people are very clever, subtle, well-organized, and well-funded. They are gaining ground in many areas – including the military and the Service Academies.

These people are our main opponents, and regular violators of the very Constitution which guarantees them freedom of religion and pluralism, which they call upon to defend themselves as they attack and undermine the very principles which allow them to exist and operate.

While we accept their right to believe as they please, within the framework of the Constitution and public law, we balk at allowing them to proselytize unwilling service personnel under their command “under color of authority” and to undermine and work to destroy the Constitution that many of our members (most of whom are former or serving members of the US Armed Forces), swore to “uphold and defend.”

The Dominionists and their allied sects are committing egregious assaults on the Constitution and on the rights of servicemen and women daily. We expose to the clear light of day their violations, as well as those of any other individuals or groups who attempt the same. Unfortunately, this group constitutes the bulk of the complaints we receive.

Mr. Weinstein determined that this movement, far from being a few relatively harmless religious lunatics, had developed into a highly dangerous and credible threat to the Constitution and to the Republic itself. He determined that there was no way he could stand aside and let them continue their rise to power. He left his employment, and founded MRFF, using all his own money and mortgaging his possessions, borrowing from friends, family and anyone he could convince of the need to battle this threat. He quite literally has wagered his “life, fortune, and sacred honor” to defend the Constitution he swore (like all of us who have served) to “uphold and defend against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”  That is why he (and we) belong, and do what we do. In return, we are demonized, vilified, and daily threatened with death and violence to ourselves and our families.

FYI, some Online sources of information on Dominionism:

http://www.mainstreambaptists.org/mob4/dominionism.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dominionism

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dominion_Theology

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christofascism

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rousas_John_Rushdoony

http://www.religioustolerance.org/reconstr.htm

http://www.yuricareport.com/Dominionism/TheDespoilingOfAmerica.htm

http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Dominionism

http://www.publiceye.org/christian_right/cr_intro.html#dominion

http://www.theocracywatch.org/dominionism.htm

http://www.jewsonfirst.org/dominionism.html

http://www.rwor.org/a/033/dominionism-be-very-afraid.htm

Pat Robertson’s “The Secret Kingdom” outlines his own plan for a theocracy.

Was American “intended” to be a “Christian Nation”? 
 
The US Constitution does not mention any deity or any religion, except to state clearly :
“. . . no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”   (Article VI, Section III)Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion”  (1st Amendment)
(Emphasis added.)
However, one might legitimately ask, what was the Framers’ intent in relation to these clauses? As Jefferson said (in a letter to William Johnson, 1823;)

“On every question of construction carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text or invented against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed.”  

Arguably, the strongest influence on men like Jefferson, Madison, and Adams, the principal Framers of the Constitution (as opposed to earlier settlers like the English Brownist Dissenters, aka “Puritans” and 175 years later “Pilgrims”) who settled Massachusetts) was not religion, either Judaism or Christianity (which perpetuated aristocratic, priest-ridden theocracies for most of their histories), but the broad new flowering of thought among the intellectual elite of European philosophers from about the middle of the 17th century to the late 18th century known as the “Age of Enlightenment” which is often included with its early 17th century predecessor, the “Age of Reason” (which Thomas Paine used as the title of one of his famous pamphlets).  Its principles were based on reason and intellect instead of illogic, irrationality, and superstition, and sought to replace both the aristocracy and established churches, which were viewed as reactionary and oppressive. Many of these philosophers were Deists at best.
Many of our Founders and Framers were active participants in the Enlightenment movement, and in regular correspondence with the European philosophers who had started the movement. Though raised as at least nominal Christians of one stripe or another, the most influential and important Framers, the main crafters of our form of government, such as Jefferson, Madison, Adams, Franklin, and Paine, among others, were clearly Deists, eschewing the “miraculous” trappings of  religion. In fact, it is extremely doubtful that any of these gentlemen would pass the modern political “litmus test” of the religious right as “true believers.”
They had seen the manifold evils of established religion in other lands, which featured the religious persecution, imprisonment, torture, religious murders, and many religious bloody wars  – which was one of the main reasons that the US was created as a secular nation with NO established religion — for as Mr. Madison so cogently wrote;

“Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other sects?”

Who indeed but a blind zealot?

However, that was far from the Framer’s only objection to religion in government. The Framers (who were remarkably prescient — even without divine help) had just this problem in mind when they banned establishment and religious tests for office.
The Framers believed in the Enlightenment theory of “natural rights” which held that human rights come from nature (or deity), and cannot justly be taken away without consent. Therefore, the majority has no legitimate power to vote away or otherwise abridge the natural rights of political, ethnic, religious, or other minorities.

Though the Framers had respect for the will of the majority, they also understood that, as Madison stated at the Virginia Constitutional Convention in 1829, “In republics, the great danger is, that the majority may not sufficiently respect the rights of minority.
Jefferson had proclaimed in his first inaugural address, “All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will, to be rightful, must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal laws must protect, and to violate which would be oppression.”
Independent judicial protection of rights by judges who are appointed and serve for life (SCOTUS) also helps to ensure justice and the protection of individual rights.  An early example of legislation designed to protect minorities was the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom mentioned above.
George Washington, our first President, was a member of the established Anglican church of Virginia (which became the Episcopalian church following the Revolution).
He was also a Freemason, which requires a belief in some higher power. It is also clear that he was a firm believer in the importance of religion in maintaining order.
I have already quoted his attitude towards equality for all religions and even non-theists. Here are some more facts regarding his beliefs.Washington’s personal diaries indicate that he did not regularly attend services at Mount Vernon, spending most Sundays writing letters, conducting business, fox-hunting, or doing other activities. A biographer, Paul Leicester Ford, wrote:
His daily “where and how my time is spent” enables us to know exactly how often he attended church, and in the year 1760 he went just sixteen times, and in 1768 he went fourteen, these years being fairly typical of the period 1760-1773.
Though he attended services more often when he traveled on political business, it might be any sect or denomination – he attended several churches in his travels, including Catholic, Presbyterian, and Quaker.
He also rarely used the word “God” except in catchphrases such as “thank God”, “God knows” (i.e. no one knows), “for God’s sake”, or “my God!” as an exclamation. More often, he simply spoke of “Providence” or wrote privately to fellow Masons of the “Great Architect of the Universe” (both common Deist terms).
Washington almost never mentioned “Jesus Christ” in speeches or writing.  A rare reference was in a 1779 letter to a delegation of Christianized Indians, which replies to a letter they sent him telling him of their intent for peace, and to acquire religious instruction, and asking for support in their affairs with Congress.As noted above, Washington was an early supporter of religious toleration and freedom of religion. In 1775, he ordered that his troops not show anti-Catholic sentiments by burning the pope in effigy on Guy Fawkes Night, and he issued the first official proclamation of St. Patrick’s Day in America on March 17, 1780, as a holiday for the Continental Army stationed in Morristown, New Jersey. It was the first holiday granted to the troops in two years. Washington awarded this holiday
“…as an act of solidarity with the Irish in their fight for independence”.
 
In 1790, Washington expressed his support for religious tolerance where in a letter to the Hebrew Congregation in Newport, Rhode Island he stated,
May the Children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.”
On February 1, 1800, a few weeks after Washington’s death, Thomas Jefferson made the following entry in his journal, regarding an incident on the occasion of Washington’s departure from office:
“Dr. Rush tells me that he had it from Asa Green that when the clergy addressed Genl. Washington on his departure from the govmt, it was observed in their consultation that he had never on any occasion said a word to the public which showed a belief in the Xn religion and they thot they should so pen their address as to force him at length to declare publicly whether he was a Christian or not. They did so. However he observed the old fox was too cunning for them. He answered every article of their address particularly except that, which he passed over without notice. Rush observes he never did say a word on the subject in any of his public papers except in his valedictory letter to the Governors of the states when he resigned his commission in the army, wherein he speaks of the benign influence of the Christian religion. I know that Gouverneur Morris, who pretended to be in his secrets & believed himself to be so, has often told me that Genl. Washington believed no more of that system than he himself did.”

Morris (January 31, 1752 – November 6, 1816) represented Pennsylvania in the Constitutional Convention of 1787. He was a signatory to the Articles of Confederation, and the amanuensis of the Constitution committee. He wrote the preamble and some sections of the Constitution, and was one of its signers. He was also a noted “ladies’ man” and libertine, and was at best a Deist.

Rev. Dr. James Abercrombie was rector of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, which Washington sometimes attended. After Washington died, when asked about Washington’s beliefs, Abercrombie replied: “Sir, Washington was a Deist!”  (Rev. Abercrombie was NOT being complimentary.)
What emerges from all this is a picture of Washington as a typical Enlightenment Deist who (like his fellow Founders, Jefferson, Madison, and Franklin) admired the moral teachings, though not necessarily believing in the divinity or miraculous aspects of a (possibly) historic 1st century AD Jewish preacher known as Yehoshua.
John Adams, Washington’s VP and successor in office, clearly did not believe the US had been established by divine intervention or assistance – in fact, quite the opposite. In “A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America” (1787-88)  he states clearly;
“The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature;  and if men are now sufficiently enlightened to disabuse themselves of artifice, imposture, hypocrisy, and superstition, they will consider this event as an era in their history.
Although the detail of the formation of the American governments is at present little known or regarded either in Europe or in America, it may hereafter become an object of curiosity.  
It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of Heavenmore than those at work upon ships or houses, or laboring in merchandise or agriculture; it will forever be acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses.” 
and;
“. . . Thirteen governments thus founded on the natural authority of the people alone, without a pretence of miracle or mystery, and which are destined to spread over the northern part of that whole quarter of the globe, are a great point gained in favor of the rights of mankind.”
(Emphasis added.)
As anyone can clearly see, Adams was quite adamant about the US being solely a product of the minds and labors of human beings, and not a deity of any denomination whatsoever. 

Surely even the most entrenched fundamentalist or zealot should be able to read such a clearly worded statement and determine that Adams (one of the prime movers in the Revolution and establishment of this country), although certainly believing in some higher power to some degree, had no belief in ANY sort of  “divine intervention”  in the establishment of the US.

 
Sadly, he was mistaken in his belief, as the religious right in this country has been making inroads upon government for years, and has disseminated (via years of propaganda and pseudo-history by the likes of David Barton) a widely believed mythological version of US history

Here are some other Adams’ quotes on religion:

The divinity of Jesus is made a convenient cover for absurdity.  Nowhere in the Gospels do we find a precept for Creeds, Confessions, Oaths, Doctrines, and whole carloads of other foolish trumpery that we find in Christianity.” 

“The question before the human race is, whether the God of nature shall govern the world by his own laws, or whether priests and kings shall rule it by fictitious miracles?” 

(Note his use of the typically Deist phrase, “God of nature.”)
Adams also wrote;

“The priesthood have, in all ancient nations, nearly monopolized learning…. And, even since the Reformation, when or where has existed a Protestant or dissenting sect who would tolerate A FREE INQUIRY? The blackest billingsgate, the most ungentlemanly insolence, the most yahooish brutality is patiently endured, countenanced, propagated, and applauded. But touch a solemn truth in collision with a dogma of a sect, though capable of the clearest proof, and you will soon find you have disturbed a nest, and the hornets will swarm about your legs and hands, and fly into your face and eyes. ” — John Adams, in a letter to John Taylor, 1814,

(Unfortunately, Adams’ statement remains true to this day.)

“As I understand the Christian religion, it was, and is, a revelation. But how has it happened that millions of fables, tales, legends, have been blended with both Jewish and Christian revelation that have made them the most bloody religion that ever existed?” – John Adams, letter to F.A. Van der Kamp, Dec. 27, 1816

 

Thomas Jefferson, our 3rd President and author of the Declaration of Independence, had studied a number of religions. As noted, he had a copy of the Koran and had studied it, later donating it to the library of the university he founded.
He wrote extensively of religion and Christianity.  However, Jefferson clearly stated clearly in his writings that he didn’t believe in the miraculous trappings of the Bible, or the divinity of Jesus, but viewed him as an admirable, but entirely human reformer, as we find from these quotes:

“The whole history of these books [the Gospels] is so defective and doubtful that it seems vain to attempt minute enquiry into it: and such tricks have been played with their text, and with the texts of other books relating to them, that we have a right, from that cause, to entertain much doubt what parts of them are genuine. In the New Testament there is internal evidence that parts of it have proceeded from an extraordinary man; and that other parts are of the fabric of very inferior minds. It is as easy to separate those parts, as to pick out diamonds from dunghills.” – letter to John Adams, January 24, 1814.


“And the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerve in the brain of Jupiter. But may we hope that the dawn of reason and freedom of thought in these United States will do away with this artificial scaffolding, and restore to us the primitive and genuine doctrines of this most venerated reformer of human errors.” – Letter to John Adams, April 11, 1823


“It is between fifty and sixty years since I read it [the Apocalypse], and I then considered it merely the ravings of a maniac, no more worthy nor capable of explanation than the incoherences of our own nightly dreams.” – letter to General Alexander Smyth, Jan. 17, 1825


“Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined and imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity.” – “Notes on Virginia” 1782

“They [the clergy] believe that any portion of power confided to me, will be exerted in opposition to their schemes. And they believe rightly; for I have sworn upon the altar of god, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.” – letter to Dr. Benjamin Rush, Sept. 23, 1800

“Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between church and State.” – letter to Danbury Baptist Association, CT., Jan. 1, 1802 

“History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes.” – to Alexander von Humboldt, Dec. 6, 1813.

“Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law.” – letter to Dr. Thomas Cooper, February 10, 1814

“In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own.” – letter to Horatio G. Spafford, March 17, 1814

“What need we despair of after the resurrection of Connecticut to light and liberty? I had believed that the last retreat of monkish darkness, bigotry, and abhorrence of those advances of the mind which had carried the other States a century ahead of them. They seemed still to be exactly where their forefathers were when they schismatized from the covenant of works, and to consider as dangerous heresies all innovations, good or bad I join you, therefore, in sincere congratulations that this den of the priesthood is at length broken up, and that a Protestant Popedom is no longer to disgrace the American history and character.” —Letter to John Adams on the disestablishment of the Connecticut Church — vii, 62. M., 1817.)

(Note the phrase “Protestant Popedom” – it is clear in this letter on the dis-establishment of Connecticut’s Congregationalist church [directly descended from the militant and radical sect of English Brownist Dissenters (aka by themselves as “Saints” and in England as Puritans — and only 175 years after their time as “Pilgrims”) that Jefferson equates Protestant or any other religious establishment with “popery.”  Likewise, the word “priest” as used by Jefferson refers equally to Protestant clergy as well as Catholic and ancient priesthoods.)

Writing in his autobiography about the passage of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, Jefferson said;

“…a singular proposition proved that its protection of opinion was meant to be universal. Where the preamble declares that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed, by inserting the word ‘Jesus Christ,’ so that it should read ‘a departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion,’ the insertion was rejected by a great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan, the Hindoo, and infidel of every denomination.”

 

Note that Jefferson clearly states that “protection of opinion was meant to be universal.” and he goes on to enumerate “…the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan (Muslim), the Hindoo, and infidel of every denomination.

In other words, EVERY religion and “opinion” was to be protected, not just Christianity.
Thus for Jefferson’s views. He was clearly a Deist, and tolerant in all matters of conscience for all people.
James Madison our 4th President, was the principal author and known as the “Father of the Constitution.”  He was a co-supporter of Jefferson’s bill, and said much the same as Jefferson about the event in his autobiography and “Detached Memoranda.”In addition, in Madison’s “Memorial and Remonstrance against Religious Assessments of June 1785, he wrote;
During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits?  More or less
in all places, pride and indolence in the Clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity, in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution.
What influence, in fact, have ecclesiastical establishments had on society? In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of the civil authority; on many instances they have been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny; in no instance have they been the guardians of the liberties of the people. Rulers who wish to subvert the public liberty may have found an established clergy convenient auxiliaries. A just government, instituted to secure and perpetuate it, needs them not.
Concerning “National Prayer” or other national religious days, Madison wrote;
“They seem to imply and certainly nourish the erroneous idea of a national religion.” 
During the War of 1812, Madison had declared one such day under pressure from religious groups, but later regretted it. Jefferson also believed such days at a federal level were inappropriate, and refused all efforts to declare one. (However, he had previously declared such days as Governor of Virginia, but that was prior to the adoption of the Constitution.)Madison was against the encroachments by religious groups that had already occurred and were occurring during this period. In his letters, and “Detached Memoranda” (written between 1817 – 1828), he warned strongly against them, including the government-established and paid chaplaincies in Congress and the military, and other encroachments that were occurring. Among the views he expressed were these;

Ecclesiastical establishments tend to great ignorance and corruption, all of which facilitate the execution of mischievous projects.” — Madison, in a letter  to William Bradford, Jr., January 1774

Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprize, every expanded prospect.” Madison, in a letter to William Bradford, April 1,1774

“…Freedom arises from the multiplicity of sects, which pervades America and which is the best and only security for religious liberty in any society. For where there is such a variety of sects, there cannot be a majority of any one sect to oppress and persecute the rest.” — Madison, spoken at the Virginia convention on ratifying the Constitution, June 1778

No distinction seems to be more obvious than that between spiritual and temporal matters. Yet whenever they have been made objects of Legislation, they have clashed and contended with each other, till one or the other has gained the supremacy.” — Madison in a letter to Thomas Jefferson Oct-Nov 1787

The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe in blood for centuries.” — James Madison, c. 1803

“The Civil Government, though bereft of everything like an associated hierarchy, possesses the requisite stability, and performs its functions with complete success, whilst the number, the industry, and the morality of the priesthood, and devotion of the people, have been manifestly increased by the total separation of the church from the state.”  — James Madison in a letter to Robert Walsh, March 2, 1819

Strongly guarded as is the separation between Religion & Govt in the Constitution of the United States the danger of encroachment by Ecclesiastical Bodies, may be illustrated by precedents already furnished in their short history.” James Madison, Detached Memoranda, 1820 – he refers to cases where  religious bodies had already tried to encroach on the government.
Notwithstanding 
the general progress made within the two last centuries in favour of this branch of liberty, & the full establishment of it, in some parts of our Country, there remains in others a strong bias towards the old error, that without some sort of alliance or coalition between Gov’ & Religion neither can be duly supported: Such indeed is the tendency to such a coalition, and such its corrupting influence on both the parties, that the danger cannot be too carefully guarded agst.. And in a Gov’t of opinion, like ours, the only effectual guard must be found in the soundness and stability of the general opinion on the subject. Every new & successful example therefore of a perfect separation between ecclesiastical and civil matters, is of importance. And I have no doubt that every new example, will succeed, as every past one has done, in shewing that religion & Gov will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together;


It was the belief of all sects at one time that the establishment of Religion by law, was right & necessary; that the true religion ought to be established in exclusion of every other; and that the only question to be decided was which was the true religion. The example of Holland proved that a toleration of sects, dissenting from the established sect, was safe & even useful. The example of the Colonies, now States, which rejected religious establishments altogether, proved that all Sects might be safely & advantageously put on a footing of equal & entire freedom…. We are teaching the world the great truth that Govts do better without Kings & Nobles than with them. The merit will be doubled by the other lesson that Religion flourishes in greater purity, without than with the aid of Gov.”
(Both the above by Madison in a letter to Edward Livingston dated July 10, 1822)
Madison, like Jefferson in his letter to the Danbury Baptists, uses the term “separation of church and state” multiple times, and CLEARLY means the same thing as Jefferson and others — i.e., that they must and should be separated from one another.   Note also his clear disapprobation of the creeping intrusion of religion into government even in his time — a trend that has only gotten worse over the intervening centuries.
Franklin (like several of the Founders and Framers) was also clearly a Deist, despite being (like Adams) raised as a Congregationalist. Like Jefferson, Adams, Madison and some other Founders, Franklin expressed belief in a supreme being, and espoused Christian moral principles (though he often failed to follow them himself) — but did not believe in the divinity, virgin birth, miracles, or any of the other trappings accorded to Jesus by fundamentalists. He wrote;
“I have found Christian dogma unintelligible. Early in life, I absenteed myself from Christian assemblies.”
Franklin himself made his views clear several times during his life in bis autobiography and other writings, beginning with his “Articles of Belief and Acts of Religion” published November 20, 1728.  (Benjamin Franklin Papers at http://franklinpapers.org/franklin/framedVolumes.jsp?vol=1&page=101a )You will notice in these “Articles” that Franklin does not mention any “fundamentalist” ideas of belief in salvation, hell, the divinity of Jesus, or other religious dogma. In fact, he has some rather bizarre concepts of what constituted “deity” – and these ideas would clearly not have passed muster with any fundamentalists, then or now.For example, he envisioned an ultimate supreme being who is indifferent to mankind, but who created other beings superior to man, in themselves “gods” — each of whom has their own “fiefdom” in terms of a solar system, and who are therefore the more “personal” subordinate gods of their sub-creations, the “local” god of each system. Therefore, in his view, we in our solar system are subordinate to a deity who is more personally concerned with us than the “supreme being” who created all – including our “deity.”Franklin further clarified his position in his 1771 autobiography.Franklin retained these beliefs until his death.  In 1790, just about a month before he died, Franklin wrote a letter to Ezra Stiles, then president of Yale University, who had asked him his views on religion:

As to Jesus of Nazareth, my Opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think the System of Morals and his Religion, as he left them to us, the best the world ever saw or is likely to see; but I apprehend it has received various corrupt changes, and I have, with most of the present Dissenters in England, some Doubts as to his divinity; tho’ it is a question I do not dogmatize upon, having never studied it, and I think it needless to busy myself with it now, when I expect soon an Opportunity of knowing the Truth with less Trouble….” 

Thomas Paine was an author, pamphleteer, radical, inventor, intellectual, and revolutionary — and the chief propagandist of our Revolution. His “Common Sense” (1776) was so influential that John Adams said,

“Without the pen of the author of ‘Common Sense,’ the sword of Washington would have been raised in vain.”

Writing in “The Age of Reason” Paine stated;

“I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church.

“All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.”

(And I say “amen” to that!)

However, in addition to the Constitution and the writings of the Framers, in 1797 America made one of its earliest foreign treaties with the Muslim kingdom of Tripoli (in the present state of Libya).This treaty was initially drafted on November 4th, 1796 (at the end of Washington’s presidency) by Joel Barlow, the American consul to Algiers. Barlow was a friend to Jefferson and Madison, and had been an Army chaplain in the Revolutionary War appointed by Washington himself, but he later abandoned dogmatic religion and became a Rationalist.Barlow forwarded the treaty to the Senate, where it was endorsed by Secretary of State Timothy Pickering, approved by the Senate, and signed by the new President, John Adams on June 10th, 1797, and published in the Philadelphia Gazette on June 17th of that year.This treaty explicitly states (in Article 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 Musselmen; and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan 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.”

Thus, in one of our earliest treaties with a foreign power (ironically, an Islamic culture), our first two Presidents and Congress agreed that the US was “not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion” – in other words, we were a secular nation. Q.E.D.

As to the Founders’ personal beliefs, a brief glance at their own words (above) should suffice to demonstrate that many would not be considered “Christians” by modern fundamentalists.

That this fact was well known in the early days of the Republic is proven by the words of men like the Reverend Doctor Bird Wilson, son of a founder and Signer, and an Episcopal minister of Albany, New York, who frequently called the founders “Infidels” and “Deists at best.”
Another noted preacher, the Reverend James Renwick Willson (no relation to a Founder’s son, the Rev. Bird Wilson, though his sentiments were much the same), was a Reformed Presbyterian (and Dominionist), who stated in his otherwise obscure and fanatical religious tract grandly entitled “Prince Messiah’s Claims to Dominion Over All Governments”;

 

“The founders of our nation were nearly all Infidels, and that of the Presidents who have thus far been elected not a one had professed a belief in Christianity….

“Among all our presidents from Washington downward, not one was a professor of religion, at least not of more than Unitarianism.”

“Washington was a man of valor and wisdom. He was esteemed by the whole world as a great and good man; but he was not a professing Christian.”

 

 In 1831, the presidents had been up to that time: Washington; John Adams; Jefferson; Madison; Monroe; John Quincy Adams; and Jackson. Please note that Dr. Wilson was not being complementary of these early leaders — he was being critical, and stating what was a generally known and acknowledged fact in America in this period, which coincided with an intense religious “revival” a precursor of the various religious “revivals” that America has experienced up to the present — some of which have involved trying to inject religion into government, despite the best attempts of the Founders to separate them.There are many other quotations of this nature. It seems apparent that the leading Founders, like Jefferson and Madison, and even the more religious ones, were strongly against mixing religion with government and politics.  It is clear that they had seen the failure of religious governments in Europe and elsewhere, and wanted no part of them.
(It is also interesting to note that the percentage of church-affiliated Americans in 1776 was quite low, despite (or perhaps because of?) their origins in Christian-dominated nations. Early numbers are impossible to estimate exactly, since the U.S. census has never asked Americans directly about their religion or religious beliefs, but it did compile statistics from each denomination starting in 1850. Roger Finke and Rodney Stark used a statistical manipulation of the official census data after 1850 and the Atlas for 1776 to estimate the number of Americans who were adherents of a specific denomination. For 1776 their estimate was 17%.  In the 19th century, following the so-called “Second Great Awakening” from ca. 1850-1890, the rate increased from 34% to 45%. From 1906 to 1952, the rate grew from 51% to 59%  (source: Roger Finke; Rodney Stark (2005). The Churching of America, 1776-2005: Winners and Losers in Our Religious Economy. Rutgers )
Correspondents to the MRFF and others involved in the so-called “culture wars” erroneously cite as “proof” of the US being established as a Christian nation the phrase; “One Nation Under God” and other religious mottoes, friezes (such as on the SCOTUS), etc., apparently believing were handed down from the Founders and Framers. They were not. This motto and others are actually from well past the Founding, and most of them are relatively modern
For example, “One Nation Under God” is from the 1954, and is a rewrite of the relatively modern Pledge of Allegiance. (Not a Founding document by any stretch of the imagination.)
The author of the Pledge was Francis Bellamy, who far from being a Founder or Framer, was a Socialist, then working as the circulation manager of a Boston children’s magazine, “The Youth’s Companion.”  He had previously been a minister, but was defrocked for telling his parishioners that Christ was a Socialist. They took umbrage, and he was dismissed.
In 1892, Mr. Bellamy wrote the “Pledge of Allegiance” to coincide with the Columbus Quadricentennial and Exposition, as part of an ongoing campaign to send flags to schools, to boost advertising and circulation.
The Pledge of Allegiance as written by Bellamy originally read;
I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands-one nation indivisible-with liberty and justice for all.”
(Note that there is no reference to “God.”)
It was re-written around WW I (during a flurry of nativist anti-German and anti-immigrant political strife) to read “…to the Flag of the United States of America…” because it was believed by some paranoid nativists that some immigrant children might mistakenly think the flag of their native land was meant.
The original Pledge included extending one’s hand toward the US flag, but this was later dropped in WW II in favor of the current hand over the heart, because it was thought that the extended hand too closely resembled the Nazi salute.
In 1942, Congress officially recognized the Pledge, but in 1943, the Supreme Court ruled that school children could not be forced to recite it, citing the First Amendment. The phrase “under God” was only added in 1954 during the Cold War, mainly due to pressure from the religious right, particularly from the Catholic secret society, the Knights of Columbus.
As can be seen, this phrase is neither very old, nor was it from the Founders and Framers, who were generally adamant that the US was a secular nation with freedom of conscience for all.  (See below.) Far from being a gift from the Founders, it was composed in the late 19th century by a defrocked Socialist minister as part of an ad campaign. 
Likewise, “In God We Trust” on our coinage and as a national motto was not chosen by the Founders and Framers.
The original national mottos handed down by the Framers  were:
E Pluribus Unum” (“From Many, One” — which Jefferson suggested) adopted in 1782, five years before the Constitutional Convention, and inscribed next to the Great Seal of the United States, designed under the joint supervision of Franklin, Adams, and Jefferson.
Annuit Cœptis” – suggested by Charles Thomson who made the final design for the reverse side of the Great Seal in June 1782.  The motto is from a line in the pagan Roman poet Virgil’s “Georgics.” (Thomson changed Virgil’s “annue” to “annuit” – i.e., 3rd person). In conjunction with the Eye on the Seal, representing Providence as the subject, it is a rebus meaning; “Providence has favored [or “favors” as annuit can also be present tense] our undertakings.”
(The use of the term “Providence” here is a deistic phrase, which is not surprising as Jefferson and Franklin were Deists, while Adams, originally a Congregationalist, had by then become a Unitarian leaning towards Deism.)
The other original motto from our Great Seal, is again from a line by Virgil, “Novus Ordo Seclorum” meaning “A New Order of the Ages.
(Before the tin-hatted conspiracy theorists among my readers get out their M-16s, I hasten to add that this does not translate as “new world order” as has been suggested by some conspiracy theorists, whose understanding of Latin is obviously defective. Thomson himself said that the motto referred to the beginning of a new age, or “American era” beginning in 1776, the date inscribed below the Pyramid in Roman numerals.)
In God We Trust” originally dates only from the Civil War (again, not from the Founders, Framers, or the Revolutionary

Dear (name withheld),
Mr. Weinstein asked me to respond to you.
First, you must be masquerading as a Marine.  Otherwise you would know that there is no such thing as “a former Marine”, as you claim to be.  I was deputy director and director of the Marine Corps War College at Quantico, Virginia for four years (1993-1997), and I know that real Marines never consider themselves “former” but always Marines.  As a soldier, that’s the way I look at them too.
But for the sake of argument, let’s pretend you are a Marine for a moment and let’s destroy your point of view.
“In God We Trust” on our paper currency was NOT on our paper currency for the first 180 years of our national existence and for the more than 150 years of our colonial existence.  It was only put on our paper bills in 1956.  Admittedly, some coins displayed it from the Civil War (1864) forward because of the intense religious sentiments generated by almost a million casualties.  The entire affair of putting it on our currency is still under debate, but seems to be a done deal as people with intense religious beliefs overwhelm the secular beliefs of most of our Founding Fathers (their motto was E Pluribus Unum, or Out of many, One — a much more appropriate motto for a secular democracy such as the one our Founders created).  Incidentally too, the motto “In God We Trust” did not appear in an uninterrupted fashion even after 1864 on our coins.  There were long periods where no coin displayed it.  I refer you to the report of the US Treasury on the motto for the full details.
So, the motto is not as sacrosanct as you seem to think and, frankly smacks of a theocracy such as Iran rather than a democracy such as America.  Moreover, putting it on our armed forces’ weapons would be tantamount to lunacy.   That is why it is strictly forbidden to do so by military law and customary practice.  Were you to try it in my unit, I would ask you to erase it and if you did not I would court martial you.  While most civilizations do indeed believe in some divine providence, or god, the divisions in the world over the identity of that entity and over the proper ways to recognize and worship her, are so rife with passion, hatred, and division, that any armed force that did so so visibly and–let’s face it–profanely, would be insane, much the way, for example, the forces of the Islamic State are viewed today, or the Pakistani Taliban.
Now we arrive at your truly disgusting description of the delight you derive from killing another human being.  I was a soldier for 31 years, through several wars, several conflicts less than war, and many, many trials and tribulations.  I NEVER TOOK DELIGHT FROM THE TAKING OF ANOTHER PERSON’S LIFE.  Like most of my buddies, I knew I had been called by the State to kill in its name; but I took no pleasure from doing so.  If I had, I would have been no better than the enemy against whom I fought and, worse, I would have been less than an American, much less than a Christian, and subhuman to boot.  Sadly, you seem to fit each of these categories rather well.
You are also dead wrong with regard to the actions of the MRFF.  Its actions do in fact give hope to thousands of Christians and others in the U.S. Armed Forces because they know that through the MRFF their religious rights, or beliefs of no religion, are defended and upheld–in accordance with the Constitution of the United States.  People such as you are their enemies–and they know it.  Combating you and your type is worth every single penny and dollar we put into the effort.
Finally, please don’t pretend to speak for those who have fallen, sacrificed in the name of America, or otherwise been harmed while serving America. I will put my 31 years of service up against yours any day, any time, and so will tens of thousands of others like me.  Our service was to the nation, to its Constitution, and to its elected leadership under that Constitution.  I suspect, at the end of the day, my Christian God, as described in the New Testament, was and is appalled at the travesty of human warfare and very much wishes that we would cease killing one another.  There is no other conclusion one can come to if one ACTUALLY READS the New Testament, or, for that matter, the fundamental text of almost any extant and globally-recognized religion.
I will not thank you for your input to the debate because your input is so dead wrong.  But I will pray for you.
Lawrence B. Wilkerson
Colonel, US Army (Retired)

Ok Blake. Individuals not countries. Bottom line? If some Americans want to fight/convert Muslims, good enough. That, after all, is what US freedom of religion allows.

But let’s face it. We’re confronting bad guys motivated by a hatred-driven religion/world view that would kill or enslave us all if possible.
Whatever an American’s personal motivation, stopping the bad guys is a good thing.
Yes?
(name withheld)

Dear (name withheld),
Sure,  I’ll concede that point.  A theoretical Christian Supremacist fighting a holy war for Jesus that stops an enemy of the state from causing harm to Americans would have done a good thing albeit for very bad reasons.  Is that what US freedom of religion allows though?  No, absolutely not.  We are not free to kill people in the name of our religion.  Bible based murder isn’t sanctioned by any US law.

We began all this with your insistence that the US military should inscribe all of its rifles with an homage to your personal god.  Merging our secular government’s tools of war to your vengeful jealous god would do no good for either.  On one side, our government would be debased by regressing to the political system of theocracy which has been proven to fail every test of human rights in every example that history has shown us.  On the other side your religion would be branded as a warrior faith, bloodthirsty and aggressive.  I’m sure that wouldn’t bother you.  Jesus did bring a sword after all, eh?
Do the ends justify the means?  No.  Not if the means produce a more nefarious end.  Developing a theocratic America to fight a temporary external threat would make our government a lasting enemy of its own people.  Stopping the bad guys in this case would be stopping not just foreign threats, but domestic enemies of the constitution as well.
Blake

Good Day –

Thank you for taking the time to write to the MRFF — and especially, I want to thank you for your service to our country.  I’m an Air Force veteran, as well as a lifelong Christian and an MRFF supporter.  Mikey Weinstein has read your email and has asked me to take a moment to reply to the concerns you’ve raised.
I strongly object to the accusation that our efforts “dishonor those upon whose sacrifice our freedom depends”.  The ranks of MRFF supporters are filled with both former and current military members, so we know exactly what it means to serve, and many of us have lost comrades and close friends.  And of course, all of our clients are military members, or civilians who work in service of our military.  So that group, too, understands very well the meaning of service and sacrifice.
To be frank, I can’t think of a more meaningful mission than to advocate on behalf of the Constitutional rights of all members of the US military. The fact that our brave soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen can sometimes find their rights jeopardized simply because they don’t share the same personal religious belief as someone who outranks them is, in my opinion, a travesty. That is why the mission of the MRFF is what it is — we are dedicated to ensuring that all members of the United States Armed Forces fully receive the Constitutional guarantees of religious freedom to which they and all Americans are entitled by virtue of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
How anyone might find that mission to be anything but a “useful cause” is beyond my comprehension.
I also strongly disagree with your suggestion that “every American rifle should say, as does our currency, ‘in God we trust’.” For starters, that motto has not always been on our currency and was certainly not part of the vision of our founding generation… great men like Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Benjamin Franklin, who all supported “e pluribus unum” as our national motto — without question a more appropriate sentiment to describe how our country is comprised of many different backgrounds, beliefs and traditions.  Further, the phrase didn’t even appear on US coins until the Civil War, nearly 100 years after the birth of our nation, and then only appeared sporadically for generations.  It wasn’t on US paper money at all until the 1950’s.  So to argue that there is some fundamental truth about America’s origins in that phrase indicates a very poor appreciation of US history.
But even more importantly, to suggest that every rifle should be dedicated to God is to ignore the plain truth that there are many, many honorable and courageous men and women in our military who don’t believe in God… and their service is no less important, and no less worthy of our gratitude, than anyone else’s service.
I’d ask you to thoughtfully consider what Constitutional protection should mean for people who don’t share your personal beliefs. What it SHOULD mean, I think, is that everyone is equally entitled to the same rights and protections, even if their beliefs don’t align with our own.  Because if that is not the truth, then any talk of religious liberty for all Americans is meaningless.  And it should mean that no particular religious belief can be given prominence or preference within our military… because if that is not the truth, then the Constitution that every US military member has sworn to support and defend is just a piece of old parchment filled with meaningless words.
Thanks again for writing.
Peace,
Mike Challman
Christian, USAF veteran, MRFF supporter

Joan
I’m impressed that you went to so much effort responding to my rather off-hand comment. I appreciate that. Thank you.
Hard to know where to begin an answer to your lengthy missive.
Full disclosure. I am not only a former Marine, but a Vanderbilt PhD, writer of scholarly books for NYU Press, and retired Philadelphia university professor – specializing in the legal and intellectual aspects of American Colonial and Revolutionary History.
I probably know significantly more about our Constitutions and how/why they came about than most. (Not at all intended as boast or pejorative, just noting my bona fides.)
The freedom of religion clause in the First Amendment of our current “Constitution” (a term we’ll use to distinguish it from the Articles of Confederation – our original Constitution), was written for a very specific purpose. To prevent the new national government from imposing a single religion on the whole country.  
This as opposed to the colonists’ unhappy experience with Anglicanism, for example, which England forced on all its subjects. This brought, of course, multifarious conflicts, including the challenges of Separatism (think the Pilgrims of 1620, for example).
Most people don’t realize that this clause was never intended to apply to the individual states, which were entirely free to establish their own state religions. And many states did just that – imposing religious taxes, punishing recusants, etc.
That goes to the heart of Federalism (which the founders chose) vs. Democracy. An interesting discussion we might have some time if you like.
Not until some two-and-a-half centuries later did the Supreme Court declare that all individual Constitutional rghts applied to the state governments.
Previously, the typical case – holding that federally protected individual rights did not apply to state governments – was the 1833 Supreme Court decision, Barron v. Baltimore.
That changed after the Civil War, primarily because of the specific “states” language of the 14th Amendment.
Though focused on the 14th Amendment, the  generally accepted hallmark case that changed all that was Adamson v California. This application, to all the states, of federally-protected rights was not decided until 1947. Remarkable, is it not?
Perhaps the best single read on all of this is Bradford’s essays in Original Intentions: On the Making and Ratification of the United States Constitution, which I reviewed for The William and Mary Quarterly some years back.
Bradford’s prosographical analysis is among this book’s most powerful elements. He did not merely select quotations from a few of the more famous “founding fathers” (as so many tend to do). Instead, Bradford methodically examined the several hundred real founding fathers.
These were the men in the numerous state conventions whose job it was to study, analyze, and agonize over the new Constitution placed before them – then accept, reject, or modify this admittedly radical proposed document.
This lengthy and challenging ratification process, by the way, led directly to the addition of the Bill of Rights – the first 10 amendments which we so cherish – to the Constitution.
If you like, we can discuss why those rights were left out of the Constitution in the first place – a fascinating and instructive story relating directly to Roe v. Wade, among others.
If you’re willing to have your intellectual/historical horizons expanded, take the time to read Bradford’s brief, eye-opening book. It’s available for about $2 on Amazon. SEE http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/social/swf/0820315214/o=ShareProduct/ref=tsm_1_aw_swf_d_sp?vs=1
Please, let me know what you think, will you?
To paraphrase Winston Churchill, forgive this long response – I didn’t have time to write a short one.
Best,
 (name withheld)

Dear (name withheld),
I am not as illiterate on the Constitution as you may think. Growing up in one of the original 13 colonies, my schooling was steeped in history. Besides our classroom teachings, we took many trips to our different museums and sat in on fascinating lectures. I also searched out many old books (one smelled like mold and made me very sick) because I loved history.
I have used the difference between the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution in many responses to the people that have contacted the MRFF.
One of the things I found to be fascinating was that the English Bill of Rights of 1689 (one part of it guaranteeing that Protestants’ weapons could no longer be taken away) was the precursor of our Second Amendment in our Bill of Rights.
Part of my training to be an ordained minister was to know the history of religion in the early colonies before and after the Declaration of Independence from King George III and his Anglican church. So, I am very much aware of the fighting between the different denominations and the colonies preference of one religion over another.
I am a prolific reader and have in my possession the Federalist Papers.
History is fascinating but the original intentions of the Founding Fathers are in the past. We live by the laws of today- not intentions – and that’s what we fight to uphold.
At this point I don’t feel that I have the time to have my “intellectual/historical horizons expanded” any more than what it is because I am very busy working and trying to keep up with the present rules and regulations affecting our soldiers in the military. It’s my job to know them inside and out.
V/R
Pastor Joan

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1 Comment

  1. mariajames

    I feel proud to be a nation server and believe in god that older people stay healthy and safe through respite nj and are really getting close to these kind of things to deliberate there lives and make it worth living.

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