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


  1. Treaty of Tripoli


    Treaty signed at Tripoli November 4, 1796, and at Algiers January 3, 1797
    Senate advice and consent to ratification June 7, 1797
    Ratified by the President of the United States June 10, 1797
    Entered into force June 10, 1797
    Proclaimed by the President of the United States June 10, 1797
    Superseded April 17, 1806, by treaty of June, 4, 18051
    8 Stat. 154; Treaty Series 3582

    ARTICLE 11

    As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion,4 - as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility 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.

  2. Dear Editor:

    There has been much talk about the placing of the Ten Commandments Monument at our State Capitol: some talk for and some talk against. But have we truly considered the message of the Ten Commandments? That is the issue to be extolled.

    By way of a quick reminder, the context of the Ten Commandments is the revolt of slaves from Egypt with the aid of the God before whom we should have no other gods. The message of the Exodus event is that the Ten Commandments are the work of the God of justice, mercy and revolution.

    What the gleeful Ten Commandments waving Republicans need to recognize is that cutting funding for public schools, mental health services, nutrition programs, etc is to violate the nature of the God of the Exodus. In short, the monument to the Ten Commandments serves to remind the Republican lawmakers that they represent the repressive policies of Pharaoh and not the liberating God of the Exodus. So, be careful for what you pray for, you may get just the opposite.


    Jeff Hamilton
    Midwest City, OK


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