Reflections on Constitution Day USA

Received from MRFF Advisory Board Member John M. Compere (Judge and Brigadier General, US Army, Retired)

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REFLECTIONS ON CONSTITUTION DAY USA

American Constitution Day is an annual national observation on September 17 commemorating the signing of our Constitution by 39 founders on that day in 1787 at the Constitutional Convention conclusion in Philadelphia. All publicly funded educational institutions and federal agencies are required by federal law to provide concurrent Constitution educational programming. Unfortunately, it normally passes with little publicity.

Constitution illiteracy is widespread and worrisome. Knowledge is gained only through independent educational, historical, governmental, judicial or legal sources (e.g., www.ConstitutionFacts.com), not from unqualified history deniers and revisionists with self-serving religious or political agendas who freely express opinions but rarely exhibit knowledge of the Constitution and its history.

The Preamble states the 6 secular reasons for our national establishment. The Constitution is the original legal document creating our secular form of government, its organization and operation. The first 10 Amendments are our Bill of Rights providing individual liberties for Americans. 17 additional Amendments have been federal legislative branch enacted and states ratified.

The Constitution provides for 3 separate and equal government branches. The legislative branch enacts law (Article I), executive branch executes law (Article II), and judicial branch interprets law with the exclusive power to decide all cases arising under the Constitution (Article III). When the Supreme Court decides a Constitution case, it becomes settled law and all government branches, states and citizens must comply. The judicial doctrine “Stare Decisis” (decision adherence) applies and the decision becomes legal precedent seldom re-litigated. This insures American law is consistent and reliable.

There are only 2 ways to amend the Constitution: (1) constitutional convention requiring 2/3s of state legislatures to convene, agree and enact the amendment, then ratification by 3/4s of 50 states; and (2) amendment enactment by 2/3s of the Senate and House of Representatives, then ratification by 3/4s of 50 states. It cannot be amended by citizen petition.

The original 1782 national mottoes created by our founders are strictly secular : “E Pluribus Unum” (Out of Many One): “Novos Ardo Seclorum” (New Order of the Ages); and “Annuit Coeptis” (Undertakings Favored).

The 1776 Declaration of Independence, which is not law, uses only universal terms (“Laws of Nature”, “Nature’s God”, “Creator” and “Divine Providence”) that are not exclusive to any religion.

Separation of church and state is a fundamental liberty of free people that keeps public government out of private religion and private religion out of public government. It is clearly the intent of our founders as confirmed by the Constitution and its 1st Amendment, indisputably documented by countless historic records, publicly acknowledged by every President since Thomas Jefferson, continuously confirmed by the US Supreme Court, and firmly embedded in the long established law of our land. The Constitution even expressly provides “no religious test ” shall ever be required as a qualification to any public office or public trust (Article VI).

The 1st Amendment provides 3 religious liberties for all Americans:

Freedom from religion – our government is prevented from “respecting” an establishment of religion (i.e., favoring a religion). It is our right to be free from religion imposed by the government or its representatives.

Freedom of religion – our government is prevented from “prohibiting” free exercise of religion. It is our right to practice a religion or no religion provided it does not violate the rights of other Americans.

Freedom to speak about religion – our government is prevented from “abridging” freedom of speech. It is our right to talk publicly about religion provided it does not violate the rights of other Americans.

There should be no misunderstanding about the operative words of these first three provisions of the 1st Amendment. All one has to do is look up the definition of “respecting ”, “prohibiting ” or “abridging ” in any American dictionary.

It is fact, history and law that we were not created as a religion-based nation. This question was permanently settled in 1797 by the Treaty of Tripoli, a publicly recorded one-page international legal document located in the Department of State historical archives, that boldly declared to the world “…The United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion…”. It was negotiated during 1st President George Washington’s administration, unanimously ratified by the US Senate, and signed by 2nd President John Adams. The US Consul to Algiers, Joel Barlow (Washington appointee & American Revolution chaplain), negotiated the treaty, co-authored the Arabic version signed in Tripoli during Washington’s presidency, and authored the English version ratified and signed in the US during Adams’ presidency.

It is significant that the solitary eagle was selected as our national symbol. Eagles are independent and fearless like our patriotic and courageous founders. You find them one at a time and, unlike submissive sheep, they do not flock or follow.

The very definition of a republic is a nation “of laws, and not of man.” – 2nd President John Adams (“Thoughts on Government”, 1776)

“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.” – 40th President Ronald Reagan (public speech at Valley Stream, New York, on October 26, 1984).

John Compere
Brigadier General, Judge Advocate General’s Corps, US Army (Retired)
MRFF Advisory Board Member

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2 Comments

  1. watchtower

    OK John, beyond the “founded on the Christian religion”, how do we settle those that profess the USA was “built” on/from christian principles, values, morals and the ultimate “gods law trumps mans law”?

    Founded or built on/from mean different things. There certainly is influence, although there wasn’t much on the hell fire and brimstone or even dominionist back in the 60’s or 70’s. Oh the good’ole days.

  2. Tom O

    “how do we settle those that profess the USA was ‘built’ on/from christian principles”?
    It’s simple: ask them which specific principles (that are unique to Christianity) they’re referring to. They can never answer that question.

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