MRFF Advisory Board Member John Compere’s Op-Ed: Celebrate American Independence with Pride!

Independence Day is our national celebration commemorating the Declaration of Independence approval by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776. It started the American Revolution which led to our independence from the British Empire and Church of England, and the establishment of our independent secular nation.

Our revolutionary American Founders fought and won independence by defeating an oppressive foreign power and occupier. The historic legacy of our independence as a nation and people is often obscured by the many celebratory events taking place during this holiday.

The Declaration (not a law or governing document) used universal terms inclusive of all beliefs and declared government derives its “…just Powers from the Consent of the Governed…”. Its central tenet was governments are instituted for and by the people (not for a monarch, deity, religion, etc). 83% of colonists did not belong to religious congregations in 1776.

The Constitution is the original document lawfully establishing our secular republican government. The Preamble states 6 secular reasons our nation was created for “We the People ” with no deity reference. The Constitution contains no deity reference and commands “no religious test” shall ever be required for public office.

James Madison reminded delegates of the Constitution’s secular purpose “This is derived from the superior power of the people.”  The United States was the first government in human history to be formed without acknowledging dependency on a higher authority. There were no public prayers during the Constitution Convention’s 116 days.

The Constitution created 3 separate and equal government branches for a check and balance on power. The legislative branch enacts law, executive branch executes law, and judicial branch interprets law with exclusive power to decide Constitution cases.

The first 10 Amendments are our Bill of Rights providing individual liberties for all Americans. 17 additional Amendments have been enacted by Congress and ratified by the states.

The 1st Amendment provides our historic trinity of religious liberties – freedom from religion, freedom of religion (or no religion), and freedom for religion speech. It prohibits our government from lawfully “respecting” a religion. Its genesis was the 1785 Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom mandating “No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever.”

The original national mottoes created by our Founders are secular – “E Pluribus Unum ” (Out of Many One), “Novos Ardo Seclorum ” (New Order of the Ages), and “Annuit Coeptis ” (Undertakings Favored). They remain on the US Great Seal, one-dollar bill, official documents, etc.

It is fact, history and law we were created as a secular nation and not one founded on religion. The Treaty of Tripoli, a publicly recorded international legal document, officially notified the world “…the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion…”.

This treaty was negotiated during 1st President George Washington’s administration, unanimously Senate ratified and signed by 2nd President John Adams. The American Consul to Algiers, Joel Barlow (Revolutionary War chaplain & Washington appointee), negotiated the treaty, co-authored the Arabic version signed abroad during Washington’s presidency and authored the English version unanimously ratified and signed in the United States during Adams’ presidency.

World history confirms the human harm caused when governments and religion combined. Separation of church and state is a fundamental liberty of free people keeping public government out of private religion and private religion out of public government. It was our Founders’ intent as provided by their original founding documents, indisputably documented by countless historical records, and continuously confirmed by the judiciary as the law of our land. It is also in the Texas Constitution.

We became the first nation in history to lawfully and constitutionally protect freedom of belief. Our visionary Founders believed this liberty could not exist or survive without separating government and religion. We were a genesis for the historic document passed by the United Nations in 1948 which proclaims “ …everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.” (Article 18, Universal Declaration of Human Rights).

Those wanting to know facts, history and law about American independence must begin with the original founding documents (1776 Declaration of Independence, 1782 National Mottos, 1787 Preamble & Constitution, 1791 Bill of Rights and 1797 Treaty of Tripoli). They are written in English and preserved in our national historical archives with copies available for reliable reading, research and reflection.

The noble eagle was selected as our national symbol by independent-minded Founders. Eagles are free and fearless. You find them one at a time and, unlike submissive species such as sheep, they do not flock or follow. May loyal and patriotic Americans honor our American Independence by becoming more like independent eagles and less like herded sheep.

Americans can celebrate with patriotic pride our historic independence as a nation and freedom as individuals.

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

John Compere
Brigadier General, Judge Advocate General’s Corps, US Army (Retired)
Former Chief Judge, US Army Court of Military Review
Disabled American Veteran (Vietnam Era),
Advisory Board Member, Military Religious Freedom Foundation
Texas rancher

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