Sunday, December 27, 2009

Oklahoma Representative Mis-Represents Founding Fathers

Posted with permission of the author. The original letter sent by Rep. Ritze, can be sent to you upon request. Just include your email address and name in the comment box below this article. Rep Ritze is also the patron paying for the recently passed and sited "10 Commandments Monument" on the north side of the Oklahoma Capitol building ---

I sent the following letter to Rep Ritze, and have submitted a small extract
from it to the Tulsa World as a Letter to the Editor.

As a member of the Board of the ACLU of OK and as the President of the
Ne OK Chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, I have
been informed by some of MY constituents that you sent out a letter to your
constituents that states that "our Constitution ... demonstrate(s) that the
United States of America is a Christian Nation".

This is a myth that you are attempting to propagate.

It involves conflating America's two foundings - the earlier colonial
founding of Virginia, Connecticut, Massachusetts, etc. - with the Founding
of the federal government from 1776-1789. To distinguish between the two, I
suggest that we use different terms to describe these two "foundings." The
federal Founding Fathers were Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison,
Franklin, et al. Men like John Winthrop, John Smith, Thomas Hooker, and
Roger Williams were planting fathers.

It is true that the earlier colonial charters of the planting fathers used
explicitly biblical language and otherwise covenanted with the Triune
Christian God (save for Roger Williams' Rhode Island).

However, whatever useful ideas the Founding Fathers took from the earlier
colonial charters were secular. When comparing the language in the earlier
colonial charters to that of the US Constitution what is striking is just
how different their approaches are to religion and government. The US
Constitution completely and utterly lacks explicitly biblical language or a
covenant to the God of the Bible, but instead imposes a religiously neutral
"no religious test" clause in Article VI, Clause 3.

For example, the Mayflower Compact gives us a crystal-clear example of how
a charter is worded by people deliberately founding a Christian polity. We
are told directly that the colony is being "undertaken for the glory of God,
and advancement of the Christian faith." The Founding Fathers could have
used similar wording, but didn't. The rationales for creating the Union are
purely secular: insuring tranquility, providing for defense, promoting the
general welfare, and securing the blessings of liberty.

On religion and government, if the Founding Fathers followed any of the
planting fathers' models, it was Roger Williams' Rhode Island, the man who
coined the term "wall of separation" between Church and State. And whose
government was in principle a secular entity, not founded on a covenant to
the God of the Bible.

The document that was finally approved at the constitutional convention
mentioned religion only once, and that was in Article VI, Section 3, which
stated that "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to
any office or public trust under the United States." Now if the delegates at
the convention had truly intended to establish a "Christian nation," why
would they have put a statement like this in the constitution and nowhere
else even refer to religion? Common sense is enough to convince any
reasonable person that if the intention of these men had really been the
formation of a "Christian nation," the constitution they wrote would have
surely made several references to God, the Bible, Jesus, and other
accouterments of the Christian religion, and rather than expressly
forbidding ANY religious test as a condition for holding public office in
the new nation, it would have stipulated that allegiance to Christianity was
a requirement for public office. After all, when someone today finds a tract
left at the front door of his house or on the windshield of his car, he
doesn't have to read very far to determine that its obvious intention is to
further the Christian religion. Are we to assume, then, that the founding
fathers wanted to establish a Christian nation but were so stupid that they
couldn't write a constitution that would make their purpose clear to those
who read it?

Clearly, the founders of our nation intended government to maintain a
neutral posture in matters of religion. Anyone who would still insist that
the intention of the founding fathers was to establish a Christian nation
should review a document written during the administration of George
Washington. Article 11 of the Treaty with Tripoli declared in part that "the
government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian
religion..." (Treaties and Other International Acts of the United States,
ed. Hunter Miller, Vol. 2, U. S. Government Printing Office, 1931, p. 365).
This treaty was negotiated by the American diplomat Joel Barlow during the
administration of George Washington. Washington read it and approved it,
although it was not ratified by the senate until John Adams had become
president. When Adams signed it, he added this statement to his signature
"Now, be it known, that I, John Adams, President of the United States of
America, having seen and considered the said treaty, do, by and within the
consent of the Senate, accept, ratify and confirm the same, and every clause
and article thereof." This document and the approval that it received from
our nation's first and second presidents and the U. S. Senate as constituted
in 1797 do very little to support the popular notion that the founding
fathers established our country as a "Christian nation."

As to your statement: "The principles and laws that govern us find their
basis in the Bible".
Dr. Gregg Frazer, himself a Christian historian at a Christian university,
lays this record bare:

In the hundreds of pages comprising Madison's notes on the constitutional
convention (and those of the others who kept notes), there is no mention of
biblical passages/verses in the debates/discussions on the various parts and
principles of the Constitution. They mention Rome, Sparta, German
confederacies, Montesquieu, and a number of other sources - but no Scripture
In The Federalist Papers, there is no mention of biblical sources for any of
the Constitution's principles, either - one would think they could squeeze
them in among the 85 essays if they were, indeed, the sources; especially
since the audience was common men who were familiar with, and had respect
for, the Bible. The word "God" is used twice - and one of those is a
reference to the pagan gods of ancient Greece. "Almighty" is used twice and
"providence" three times - but neither is ever used in connection with any
constitutional principle or influence. The Bible is not mentioned.

1. None of the men who were at the Constitutional Convention noted any
discussion at all of Biblical sources. They mention many historical sources
for their ideas, from ancient Greece and Rome to Enlightenment philosophers,
but there is no mention of any Biblical principle anywhere in those

2. In the Federalist papers, which were written by Madison, Hamilton and Jay
for the purpose of explaining and justifying the provisions of the
Constitution, nowhere mention any Biblical source for any of those
provisions. Remember, they were writing for a predominately Christian
audience and trying to convince them to vote for the Constitution. If they
could have pointed to Biblical justifications for the various provisions of
that document, that would have been a powerful and persuasive argument that
would have served their purposes. That they did not - indeed, could not -
make such an argument speaks volumes.

3. There are no Biblical analogs for the provisions of the Constitution.
There is no support to be found in the Bible for the notion of political
liberty, much less for religious liberty. Indeed, Romans 13 makes it quite
clear that all governments, including tyrannical ones, are instituted by God
and are to be obeyed. The very idea of revolution is antithetical to this

4. At no point in history prior to the Enlightenment is there a single
example of a Christian government that established anything even remotely
like a free and democratic society. Christian theology prior to that time
supported the divine right of kings and imposed punishments for things like
blasphemy that are entirely contrary to the notion of freedom of conscience.
The Constitution, by eliminating religious tests for office and forbidding
religious establishments, is completely opposed to that entire history.

Karl Sniderman

Friday, December 18, 2009

Americans United Urges Army Officials To Alter ‘Church Retreat’ Program At Missouri Base

Watchdog Group Says Further Changes Are Necessary To Avoid Religious Coercion At Fort Leonard Wood

December 18, 2009

U.S. military officials should make further changes at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri to ensure that soldiers are not subjected to unwanted religious proselytism, says Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

In July of 2008, Americans United wrote to Department of Defense officials to raise concerns about the “Tabernacle Baptist Church Retreat” (previously known as “Free Day Away”), a program sponsored by a church in Lebanon, Mo. Under the program, soldiers are taken to the church for food and recreational activities but are required to attend an evangelistic service while there.

Soldiers who chose not to attend were left behind at the base to continue with their military responsibilities. The fort is a training center for new recruits, and the “Church Retreat” program is the only day (other than the day before graduation) off base allotted to enlistees. Officials at the fort had been promoting the program for 36 years.

Shortly after AU sent its missive, Department of Defense officials issued guidelines stating that it should be made clear that attendance is voluntary and that soldiers who remain behind should be allotted free time and not made to work.

Read the full press release at

Read the follow-up letter sent to Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Americans United Praises Senate Vote Against Nelson-Hatch Amendment

Health-Care Reform Package Should Not Reflect Religious Doctrine, Says Church-State Watchdog Group

December 8, 2009

Americans United for Separation of Church and State today commended the U.S. Senate for rejecting a religion-based amendment to the health-care reform bill that would have limited women’s access to abortion.

By a 54-45 vote, the Senate tabled the Nelson-Hatch amendment, which would have eliminated abortion coverage from insurance plans that receive federal funds, even if the coverage is paid for with private funds. The proposal, promoted by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, is similar to a controversial amendment added to the health-care bill in the House at the behest of the church hierarchy.

The Catholic bishops and allied Religious Right forces are lobbying aggressively to enshrine their doctrines about abortion in the health-care reform package.
Said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director, “I am glad the Senate defeated this proposal. Health-care legislation should be based on the needs of the American people, not the doctrines of powerful religious interest groups.

Read the full press release at

Monday, December 7, 2009

Supreme Court Should Reject Religious Discrimination At Public Universities

Supreme Court Should Reject Religious Discrimination At Public Universities, Says Americans United

Church-State Watchdog Group Calls On High Court To Affirm Lower Court Ruling In Calif. Law School Case

December 7, 2009

The U.S. Supreme Court today announced it will hear a dispute from California involving an evangelical Christian club at a public law school that wants recognition and funding as an official campus organization, even though it discriminates on religious grounds.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State urged the high court to use the case as a vehicle to make it clear that groups seeking public funding and official recognition on public college campuses must be open to all.
“This case is about fundamental fairness,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “If the student religious group wins, it will mean some students will be compelled to support clubs that won’t even admit them as members. That’s just not right.”

The dispute involves a branch of the Christian Legal Society at Hastings College of Law at the University of California in San Francisco. The group sought funding and official status from the school, even though it effectively bars gays and non-Christians from membership by requiring all officers and voting members to sign an evangelical Christian statement of faith.

Read the full press release at

Friday, December 4, 2009

Federal Appeals Court Blows Whistle On Wisconsin Sheriff’s Religious Proselytism

December 4, 2009

A federal appeals court made the right call today by striking down religious presentations given at mandatory meetings at the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s office, says Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously that Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. ran afoul of the law by inviting the Fellowship of the Christian Centurions, a group that seeks to evangelize law-enforcement officers in its religious doctrines, to give proselytizing talks at meetings that deputy sheriffs were required to attend.

Americans United Executive Director the Rev. Barry W. Lynn welcomed the decision, which he called “a strong reaffirmation of religious liberty.”
Said Lynn, “Sheriff Clarke is free to engage in whatever religious activities he wants in his personal time, but he has no right to use official channels to impose religion on his staff.”

Read the full press release at