fbpx

A Strict Separationist Speaks

Steven K. Green, formerly of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, is a friendly nemesis. He and yours truly have debated each other on multiple occasions, and we often disagree about how church and state should be related. Yet Green, the Fred H. Paulus Professor of Law and Affiliate Professor of History at Willamette University, is a serious scholar, and his new book shines important new light on 20th century church-state relations.

The Third Disestablishment explores what Green calls “the third transformative era in church-state attitudes and relations”—roughly from 1940 to 1975. It does so primarily by recounting the major Establishment Clause cases from that era, but with an eye to broader cultural conflicts. He makes three distinct claims:

  • “A jurisprudence of ‘strict separationism’ . . . was always more of an ideal than a reality”;
  • “The justices in Everson and McCollum never agreed on the meaning of separation”; and
  • “The Protestant-Catholic conflict in the United States during the 1940s and 1950 was more pronounced than is generally acknowledged today.”  

His main thesis is that “despite the visibility of the Protestant-Catholic conflict of the 1940s and 1950s, that controversy was essentially of secondary importance to the larger debate over the public role of religion in American culture.”

Green begins by providing an overview of Protestant-Catholic relations in the 1920s and 1930s. He contends that the First World War encouraged American Catholics to cooperate across ethnic lines in new and significant ways. They began speaking with increased confidence in the debates of that time, for instance, in favor of censoring sexually explicit or sacrilegious movies.  Protestant leaders often favored similar bans, but Catholic calls for censorship raised, in some minds, the specter of theocracy.

Philip Hamburger, in Separation of Church and State (2002), makes an important argument that advocates of strict separation in the mid-19th to mid-20th centuries were often motivated by anti-Catholic animus. Without engaging in anti-Catholic bigotry himself, Green points out that the concerns expressed—that some Catholic doctrines were inconsistent with American democratic norms—were not in every case unfounded. Most relevant for this study, numerous papal encyclicals were critical of religious liberty and church-state separation. Of course, many American Catholics were unfamiliar with these encyclicals. Other American Catholics, such as the Jesuit John Courtney Murray, actively challenged them. But the Vatican, as if to reinforce its apparent opposition to civil liberty, censured Murray in 1954, and the Jesuit Father General prohibited him from writing about church-state matters.   

The Second World War unified Americans in many ways, but Protestant-Catholic suspicions remained. Shortly after the war, the anti-Catholic polemicist Paul Blanshard began his meteoric rise to fame as a critic of Catholic power. Coinciding with his ascent, an organization with nativist roots challenged a New Jersey program that reimbursed parents for the cost of transporting their children to parochial schools. The Supreme Court’s decision in Everson v. Board of Education (1947) applied the Establishment Clause to the states, and Justices Black and Rutledge agreed that the Establishment Clause must be interpreted in light of the Founders’ separationist views (a problematic historical argument). Remarkably, given his lofty separationist rhetoric, Justice Black’s majority opinion held that the reimbursement program did not violate the Establishment Clause.  

Hugo Black was a onetime member of the Ku Klux Klan, and his son recalled that he “read all of Paul Blanshard’s books.” As well, according to Hamburger, at least seven justices on the Everson court were members of “one Masonic organization or another.” Anti-Catholic animus was obvious in only Justice Jackson’s dissenting opinion in Everson, and Green contends that there is “no causal link between anti-Catholic animus and judicial decision-making.” But he recognizes that distrust of the Catholic Church informed popular Protestant support for separating church and state in this period.    

Eleven days after Everson was decided, Senator Robert Taft (R-Ohio) introduced a federal education bill that would have provided grants to states, which could in turn distribute funds to public and private schools—including religious schools. The possibility of federal funds’ making their way to religious (especially Catholic) schools led James M. Dawson, director of the Baptist Joint Committee, to call a “meeting of Protestant, educational, and fraternal leaders.”  These individuals founded Protestants and Other Americans United for Separation of Church and State in 1948. Catholics could be excused for thinking that the organization was targeting them.

The logic of both the majority and dissenting opinions in Everson points toward the strict separation of church and state, a conclusion seemingly confirmed by the Court’s decision in McCollum v. Board of Education (1948). Here, by an 8 to 1 vote, the Court invalidated an Illinois plan that set aside part of a school day for voluntary religious instruction. A few years later, the justices seemed to take a step back in Zorach v. Clausen (1952) when they upheld a plan that permitted students to be released from school early to receive religious instruction.  

The Supreme Court refrained from deciding additional Religion Clause cases in the 1950s, but passionate debates about church-state relations continued. Green shows that the Catholic Church’s longtime stand against the evils of communism helped build trust with Protestants, as did popular authors and media personalities such as Thomas Merton and Bishop Fulton J. Sheen.  As might be expected, members of Protestants and Other Americans United vigorously opposed the nomination and election of John F. Kennedy as President, but Kennedy’s argument that “I do not speak for my church on public matters—and the church does not speak for me” did much to calm Protestant anxieties. Critically important as well, thanks in part to Father Murray, the Roman Catholic church embraced religious liberty during the Second Vatican Council (1962 to 1965).  

Just as Protestant-Catholic suspicions were abating, the Supreme Court issued a decision that appeared to many to be anti-religious. In Engel v. Vitali (1962), the Court ruled 6 to 1 that teacher-led prayer in public schools was unconstitutional. The decision was widely denounced by Protestant and Catholic groups alike. Not to be deterred, the following year they ruled 8 to 1 against Bible-reading and the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer in public schools. These decisions were opposed by 70 percent of the American public and 49 of the nation’s Governors. Members of Congress proposed 146 separate constitutional amendments to overturn them.  

Without doubt, some Americans have favored the separation of church and state as a matter of  principle. But it is evident that many Protestants supported separationism because they understood it to limit Catholic power; they never imagined that the doctrine would ban or restrict practices favored by them. When the Supreme Court started using the Establishment Clause to declare unconstitutional practices such as school prayer, they rejected separationism. In time, they would come to cooperate with Catholics to oppose what they perceived to be the forces of secularization.

An early manifestation of this cooperation may be seen in Protestant support, after years of opposing governmental aid to religious schools, of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. That law provided federal tax dollars to religious institutions. When challenges to the provision of federal funds under the law reached the High Court, those favoring a wall of separation between church and state often won. Yet the Court moved away from the extreme separationist rhetoric of Everson in favor of balancing tests such as that articulated in Lemon v. Kurtzman (1971). On the surface, the period between 1971 and 1975 was “to be the high point of strict separationism on the Court.” And yet, as with “any long-standing edifice on an increasingly shaky foundation, the dismantling of the wall of separation was not immediately apparent, nor did it occur overnight.”  

By most accounts, Supreme Court justices did not abandon a commitment to the separation of church and state until the 1980s. A skeptical political scientist might attribute more weight to the election of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush and their judicial appointments than Green does. But the dynamics Green describes, especially the perceived attack on religion per se, combined with the realization that Protestants and Catholics should be allies on these and other cultural issues, helped make the election of Reagan and Bush possible. Green’s conclusion that the decline of separationism began “in the mid-1960s, in response to ecumenicalism, social welfare legislation, and the rehabilitation of the Catholic Church,” is more than plausible.

There is much to be admired in The Third Disestablishment. Disagreeing with its author as I do about the proper relationship between church and state, I find little with which to disagree in this balanced and nuanced book. Anyone interested in the church-state relations in mid-20th century America should read it.

Reader Discussion

Law & Liberty welcomes civil and lively discussion of its articles. Abusive comments will not be tolerated. We reserve the right to delete comments - or ban users - without notification or explanation.

on May 16, 2019 at 10:46:26 am

Yes, well, it must be enjoyable to dilate on the major Supreme Court cases, whose subject matter reflects the tip of the iceberg. But the hidden, fatal part of the iceberg comprises things like this: In December, the group asked the city of Ozark south of Springfield to remove a cross from a city-owned park. The complaint led the city to move the structure to privately owned land. Now the Foundation has moved onto its next battle in Camden County near Lake of the Ozarks. The group claims two paintings in the Camden County Clerk’s Office violate the separation of church and state clause in the U.S. Constitution. [https://www.missourinet.com/2019/01/09/separation-of-church-and-state-group-lodges-2nd-missouri-complaint-in-the-last-month/]

And this: The Freedom From Religion Foundation and two of its members filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court, Western District of Texas, Alpine Division, on March 2, 2016, against Brewster County Sheriff Ronny Dodson over his decision to affix Latin cross decals on county patrol vehicles. [https://ffrf.org/legal/challenges/highlighted-court-successes/item/25999-ffrf-sues-texas-sheriff-over-cross-decals]

And this: An organization that promotes the separation of church and state complained recently about a fourth-grade math assignment at Unit 40's Central School that used the lyrics of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” as a lesson in arithmetic. On the flip side of the assignment were “religious metaphors” for each lyric, suggesting that “true love” refers to God, the “partridge in a pear tree” is Jesus, and that “two turtle doves” refers to the Bible's Old Testament and New Testament. [https://www.effinghamdailynews.com/news/local_news/unit-responds-to-complaint-about-religious-message-in-lesson/article_b8137f42-b239-5d15-8707-bfcc69ffce76.html]

I am not of the faith; any faith. But even I can see that what goes by the venerated name of "separation of church and state" is in practice an effort to completely eradicate from view all mentions and symbols of Christianity specifically; to compel all of us to react to the sight of a cross anywhere in our field of vision the same way as we would react to the sight of a swastika.

The growing omnipresence of "the state" in all aspects of our lives means that merely to go out in public wearing a cross is to court a complaint that the state is "establishing" religion; and the fact that the separationist hounds are only ever released on Christian displays demonstrates a sectarianism no less militant than the most severe reformed congregation you can name.

In short, it is the public visibility of Christian symbols that is the sole target of the separationists: sure, practice your religion, display its signs, but not anywhere my gaze may alight.

The complainants do not complain in good faith; they are motivated specifically against Christianity per se, in all its appearances; their animus makes Trump's alleged anti-Muslim animus look like anime.

That is "separationism" in 2019.

read full comment
Image of QET
QET
on May 16, 2019 at 11:29:03 am

"Without engaging in anti-Catholic bigotry himself, Green points out that the concerns expressed—that some Catholic doctrines were inconsistent with American democratic norms—were not in every case unfounded. "

It sounds like Green is trying to explain away anti-Catholic bias. OF COURSE there are/were some doctrines that could have been seen as "inconsistent with American democratic norms", but what religion or other thick, comprehensive set of beliefs DOESN'T? The real question is, was Catholicism seriously advocating the creation of a theocracy, making real threats to establish Catholicism? Was being an American citizen and a Catholic on its own terms inherently unworkable? The answer was no. Green provides Black no excuses

The real point of interest in those inter-Catholic debates between Leo XIII (in Longinqua) is that he calls our system "second best". That's not the same as saying that religious toleration was inadmissible

read full comment
Image of CJ Wolfe
CJ Wolfe
on May 16, 2019 at 12:28:47 pm

I can see that what goes by the venerated name of “separation of church and state” is in practice an effort to completely eradicate from view all mentions and symbols of Christianity specifically; to compel all of us to react to the sight of a cross anywhere in our field of vision the same way as we would react to the sight of a swastika.

The growing omnipresence of “the state” in all aspects of our lives means that merely to go out in public wearing a cross is to court a complaint that the state is “establishing” religion; and the fact that the separationist hounds are only ever released on Christian displays demonstrates a sectarianism no less militant than the most severe reformed congregation you can name.

In short, it is the public visibility of Christian symbols that is the sole target of the separationists: sure, practice your religion, display its signs, but not anywhere my gaze may alight.

After citing three examples of efforts to stop government promulgation of (allegedly) Christian symbols, QET makes a claim that all displays of Christian symbols are being suppressed. The argument would be bolstered by citing examples of courts –

1) Suppressing purely private displays of Christian symbols, and
2) Tolerating public displays of other religion’s symbols.

Where I live, I see plenty of people wearing crosses, and plenty of Christian churches with crosses on the roof. Maybe that’s just a local thing….

read full comment
Image of nobody.really
nobody.really
on May 16, 2019 at 13:17:59 pm

Perhaps, your point would be more credible IF SCOTUS decides in favor of the young christian girl in the case below:

https://pjmedia.com/faith/christian-student-forced-to-write-islamic-conversion-creed-appeals-case-to-supreme-court/

wherein we find that the STATE, yes, THE State acting via its School Boards, has compelled a young Crhistian girl to recite a Islamic Creed WHILE simultaneously PROHIBITING the recitation of any and all Christian prayers.

Wake up, nobody and smell the scent blowing in from the dank quarters inhabited by your Progressive ideologue friends.

I suppose nowadays so long as it is a Mohammedan symbol or prayer, we MUST permit it.

read full comment
Image of gabe
gabe
on May 16, 2019 at 13:52:53 pm

I don't know how you missed my point; I was pretty clear. Considering a public school 4th grade math teacher's use in a lesson of a well-known Christmas song that enumerates items (enumeration being sort of a mathy thing), or a local sheriff's placing of a cross sticker on his patrol car, or a cross monument in a "public park" or a Christian themed painting hung in some municipal office, to be "government promulgation of religion," is ridiculous, frankly, even for a committed atheist (which btw I am not saying you are). I don't limit my field of vision to court decisions only. The plain fact is that such complaints shouldn't ever even see the inside of a courtroom. The process is the punishment. I will put it according to the legal standard: no reasonable person could find these to be "government promulgation of religion." Anyone who suggests that a reasonable person could so deem such things is himself per se unreasonable. Period. It really is that simple.

My claim is that as the presence of the state expands, as it makes itself responsible for more and more decisions and actions of individuals, as we find ourselves more and more in its "presence" (something that does not just "happen" but is a deliberate policy of progressives), then more and more mere appearances of Christian symbols are claimed to have some sort of state "sanction" unless the government uses its power to actively prevent said display.

We have US Senators openly asserting that merely being a confessed Christian is unacceptable in a federal judge. We have a militant gay PA elected representative going out of his way to demean and denigrate, if not outright threaten, one old woman and two teenage girls for praying outside a PP facility (can you imagine if some big bearded guy acted that way around a PP supporter? He would have been accused by the Internet of assault and sexual harassment, and his resignation would have been demanded and he would have been forced into resigning by now).

read full comment
Image of QET
QET
on May 16, 2019 at 14:48:58 pm

Here is the Fourth Circuit decision: http://www.ca4.uscourts.gov/opinions/181430.P.pdf

Please quote the parts you find to be incorrectly reasoned.

read full comment
Image of nobody.really
nobody.really
on May 16, 2019 at 14:49:51 pm

Where shall I start? First, this commentary on Separation of Church & State is tediously predictable with nothing much to recommend it. Unhappily, it underscores the lack of knowledge and understanding of the subject. Second, the other two comments are well-informed and I am glad they preceded mine.

Here is what I have to say:

One: The Origin of the Principle of Separation of Church & State
There are precedents in ancient history because there were so many gods to be worshipped. Rome allowed all religions except those they took to be disruptive of the family & society, or a threat to the Empire. Judaism and Christianity both spent time suffering persecution and acceptance. Jesus' teaching on Taxes, "Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's, and unto God that which is God's", is based on the two tables of the Law: Our Duty to God (1-5) and Our Dity to Man (6-10).
Out of that came the concept that since belief in God is a matter of faith, and faith comes from God, then it is nobody's business but our own what we believe. The First Table of the Law protects Conscience, a sphere that no power on earth has authority from God to interfere with, not even the Church whose duty is to teach religion (The Law & The Gospel) for the benefit of individuals, family, society and the world. The Second Table of the Law protects the lives, liberty, property and happiness of individuals, family and society, so it is the proper sphere of civil government to punish those who violate these laws. Can anyone object to prohibitions against murder, sanctity of the family bonds, theft, perjury or fraud?
The 17th Century Protestant Reformer, Roger Williams, an English cleric who began his education in law by taking notes for Sir Edward Coke, started his career in the Anglican Church as a priest, joined the Puritans, became a Separatist, then a Baptist, and finally abandoned organized religion because church institutions refused to give up what he believed are false teachings. He came to America as a religious exile, was thrown out of just about every place he lived, then went to the woods to trade with the Indians. He translated the English Bible into one of their languages and preached to the colonists that they should pay fair prices for land they received from them. Not surprisingly, he was very unpopular.
Liberty of Conscience was his contribution to the ideas that inspired the American Revolution--the principle that says Freedom of Conscience is God-given, therefore sacred. This is the rule that says every man has a right to worship God according to the dictates of his conscience and no one has a right to interfere.

Two: The Original Meaning of Separation of Church & State
Sepration of Church & State derives from that principle. As Williams' said, it is about protecting the Garden of the Church from the Wilderness of the World. That means this principle is not about taking God out of government. During America's founding era, just about everyone believed that church is necessary for the well-being of individuals, families, and society. Many people believed societies needed a State-ordained church institution to promote this benefit and people should be taxed to support it. This was the status-quo in the colonies, although from one colony to another you would find a multitude of church denominations: Anglican, Congregational, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Baptist, Mennonite, Methodist, and so forth.
After Indiependence, the Anglican Church in America was divided into two branches: the Church of England which no longer had any authority over civil affairs, and the Episcopalian Church, which was identical to the Anglican except that the British Monarch was not its head. Virginians experienced a tremendous upheaval because the various religious factions distrusted one another. They eventually arrived at a solution agreeable to most of them--that there would be no State church, and no church organization would be favored by the government over any other.
However, separating the institutions of the Church from government is one thing, acknowledging God in the public square is another. The First Amendment talks about the"establishment of religion", which means that no religious institution will be established by the federal government as the official church. Since God exists independently of these visible institutions, people may gather for public prayer or invoke His name as they deem appropriate. "God" is the title of the Creator of the Universe, a reference acknowldged by many great religions around the world. Each religion teaches different things about God, but it is amazing how much they have in common with one another. As far as I can tell, all the great religions in the world today teach some form of the Golden Rule, an ancient commandment that says we are to treat other people as we wish to be treated by them.
When time came to set up a new government, and a Bill of Rights was proposed, the debate on religious liberty was intense, Most Americans were Protestants in the Reformed tradition even if they did not attend church regularly or held services in their own livingrooms. There were a few Roman Catholics, Jews and Deists, but atheism was very rare. Among the 250 men who lead the American Revolution, most were members of Protestant denominations. Very few were Deists. Jefferson was called an atheist because he did not subscribe to the teachings of the church, though he remained a communicating member of the Episcopal Church his whole life. All he had to do was confess the Thirty-Nine Articles once a year to retain his membership and celebrate the Lord's Supper, which is what he did, though he also said he was a Deist and did not believe church teachings. Yet, he spoke of God so eloquently that he sounds like an 18th Century American Protestant preacher.
The idea that prayer and bible-reading in schools corrupts society is based on the false premise that people of different faiths or no faith at all cannot pray together for the benefit of the whole. Prayer has a unifying effect. There is much in the Holy Bible about wisdom and virtue, liberty and happiness. Benjamin Franklin thought Congress should open their deliberations with prayer, for, he said, if God is concerned with every sparrow who falls to earth, is it probable that a nation could rise without His aid? People can be taught about God without being required to follow a particular religious doctrine, and who can argue with the Golden Rule?

Three: The Benefits of Religious Expression in the Public Square
It has a civilizing affect.
Some people say certain religions teach bigotry and violence, and that is true. But, the religious tradition that animated the American colonists in the days of the Revolution was not one of them. Christianity teaches Peace, yet we are told Christians are the cause of pesecutions and violence against non-believers. That is because God does not control individuals or society. We are given moral freedom to do right or wrong, and held accountable here and/or in the hereafter for our choices. Those who do violence to others are not following God's laws, they are following their own. I am not saying this to excuse people who do evil in the name of God or churches that endorse these things. I am saying those that do these things do not represent Jesus Christ or his teachings.

Four: Separation of Church & State came from the Judeo-Christian Tradition
To discover this, you have to go beyond the usual superficial discourses by academics who apparently read only one another's works. My opinions do not come from any one source, or any one school of thought. If you want to open up a whole new world of 18th Century American Political Philosophy, start here:

"The Holy Bible", many editions: Geneva Bible; Matthew Bible; Luther's Bible; King James Version 1611 and 1760s KJV from Cambridge and Oxford, Douay-Rheims, Latin Vulgate, Hebrew Bible, Septuagint, and so forth. The famous Robert Aitken Bible approved by Congress for distribution to the Continental soldiers used the Cambridge KJV. Americans read the Bible for religious instruction AND history AND what it says about wisdom, virtue, Liberty, happiness, and government.

"Institutes of the Christian Religion" by John Calvin. 1559 edition translated by Beveridge (Eerdmans)

Sir Edward Coke, commentaries on the Law. (Liberty Fund)

"A Theory of Moral Sentiment" by Adam Smith, 1759. (Liberty Fund)

Anthologies of primary sources from the Founders are available from Liberty Fund, Chicago University Press, and other publishers. Look for George Washington, John Adams, John Witherspoon, John jay, Patrick Henry, Benjamin Franklin, and so forth. If you read broadly enough you will see that these and other men were among the great political philiosophers of history, and sadly overlooked by academics and popular histories.

Liberty Fund has several books that are very high on my list:

"The Roots of Liberty"
"History of the Natural Law"
"Chrisianity and Classical Culture"
"Political Sermons of the American Founding Era"
"American Political Writing during the Founding Era"
"The Lamp of Experience"

And then there is "Magna Carta" by Dan Jones.

read full comment
Image of Standing Fast
Standing Fast
on May 16, 2019 at 16:28:00 pm

Easy:

Lemon is a *lemon*.

Also, when similar devices, i.e., Christian "lessons" as *history* have been attempted, they were struck down.

Then again, a Large Cross with a clear and traceable history to WWI, is considered as both 'offensive" and as evidence of government "establishment..."....
And you expect us to believe that there is bias present; no *animus* (apparently only present for cakemakers -ha!).

Once again, nobody hits the rail switch to send us down another spur - but we are having none of it.

And BTW:

How bloody long do you think it will take for your execrable and hateful Progressive friends to start demanding that people of faith hide their crucifixes, medals, etc?

Oh wait - not that long at all as evidenced by that flaming faggot (that's right, I said faggot for this vile miscreant) the esteemed Legislator from Pennsylvania who belittled, frightened and threatened a fragile old woman engaged in peaceful prayer. THIS is what we may expect from the tolerant Left.

Their modus operandi is Bullying and Intimidation. It is high time that we provided like treatment to these sociopaths.

read full comment
Image of gabe
gabe
on May 16, 2019 at 16:29:33 pm

Oops:
Should read:
And you expect us to believe that there is no bias present

read full comment
Image of gabe
gabe
on May 16, 2019 at 16:59:56 pm

I don’t know how you missed my point; I was pretty clear.

Indeed you were. You said, “[W]hat goes by the venerated name of ‘separation of church and state’ is in practice an effort to completely eradicate from view all mentions and symbols of Christianity specifically….” And, as I pointed out, this is quite clear—and quite clearly false. Again I attest, in my neighborhood plenty of people wear crosses and plenty of churches display them. I don’t know how to reconcile these observations with your statement.

[N]o reasonable person could find these to be “government promulgation of religion.”

Well, we might agree on this much: Nobody.really finds (some) of this to reflect government establishment of religion.

Honestly, what purpose does it serve to put crosses on police cars? If a fundamentalist Christian saw that she was being pulled over by a police car bearing Islam’s crescent moon and star, wouldn’t that provoke needless anxiety? What purpose would government have in doing that to someone?

Likewise, I find little surprising about people filing goofy lawsuits. They happen all the time. Doubtless some are anti-Christian, some pro-Christian, some unrelated to Christianity. This demonstrates that in a nation of 300+ million, you’ll find some goofy people—but what else? Gabe, to his credit, cites a potentially noteworthy fact: Not only did someone file a claim, but a court has ISSUED A RULING. Now, I rather doubt that gabe read the ruling, but it at least provides us something (potentially) noteworthy to discuss.

read full comment
Image of nobody.really
nobody.really
on May 16, 2019 at 17:02:15 pm

That said, while I reject the blanket argument against Establishment Clause cases, I likewise don’t embrace them all. And with many I struggle.

1. Existing religious symbols vs. new religious symbols. Any governmental effort to erect a Ten Commandments Monument today smacks of Establishment of Religion. But attacking monuments that were erected decades ago—as part of the promotion for the film The Ten Commandments, for example--is a harder case, and more likely to provoke animosity. Likewise, adding religious murals to government buildings today seems like a bad idea—but trying to remove them would seem like a practice designed to provoke needless divisions. Given the degree of biblical literacy in the population, I suspect few people would be able to recognize most biblical imagery anyway.

2. Teaching music is tough, ‘cuz the history of documented Western music is heavily church music. The choice to exclude teaching church music is a choice to exclude teaching a big block of musical history.

3. Regarding the “Twelve Days of Christmas”: Last I’d read, no one really knows what the “Twelve Days of Christmas” means. Yes, follows a pattern of other contemporary songs that arguably DO convey a Christian message. But the folk history about the meaning of the Twelve Days seems to have arisen long after the song did. Thus, to me, the song’s reference seems entirely cultural. Of course, my view is influenced by the next topic….

4. Regarding Christmas in general: The bulk of Christmas traditions seem entirely secular.
What does the “War over Christmas” reflect? I sense it reflects tribalism: People who identify as a certain flavor of Christian like to see their tribe win.
First, as a matter of theology, I question whether placing great emphasis on symbolic “winning” reflects the best way to follow in the path of a man who surrendered himself to die at others’ hands. Moreover, contemporary Christmas reflects an orgy of consumption—again, a doubtful way to commemorate a man who asked the rich to surrender their riches and take up the cross.

I note that some Christian faiths reject Christmas. No religious authority can identify December 25 to the date of Christ’s birth. Rather, it appears the date was picked to enable the early Christians to celebrate inconspicuously as the rest of the Roman Empire celebrated the Saturnalia—a harvest festival that correlated with the new year. And, indeed, throughout history various civilizations have held harvest festivals—permitting people to feast when food is the most plentiful (and storage space most scarce), and when the demand for labor has waned. So when people as “What is the reason for the season?,” it almost certainly has nothing to do with Christ (except to the extent that he might be the reason for EVERY season.)
Also, the very name—Christ-Mass—suggests a Catholic origin that would not have found favor with the Protestant majority in the New World. The Puritans did not recognize the day (and objected to others who did!) And even today, the Jehovah’s Witnesses—who have played such a vital role in creating Establishment/Free Exercise jurisprudence—regard Christmas as a kind of burlesque performed using their most cherished religious symbols.

And this creates a problem: Yes, I conclude that much of Christmas reflects a cultural phenomenon, and thus public facilities should be able to recognize it and display many of its symbols—trees, wreaths, lights, many carols, snowmen (er, snowPERSONS)—without violating the Establishment Clause.

But I cringe to imagine how this plays on the sensibilities of those with sincere faith. I know a clergyman who objects to secular stories exploiting Christmas—say, A Christmas Carol, or Amahl and the Night Visitors—even if they promote a wholesome message.

This blurs into our Cultural Appropriation discussion, so I’d better cut this discussion off here before it metastasizes.

read full comment
Image of nobody.really
nobody.really
on May 16, 2019 at 17:11:13 pm

nobody.really: Please quote the parts you find to be incorrectly reasoned.

gabe: [blah blah blah]

Can I help you with the definition of "quote"?

read full comment
Image of nobody.really
nobody.really
on May 16, 2019 at 17:11:28 pm

The best way to show people the error of their ways is not to mimic them. Otherwise we are no better than they are. Also, I have yet to see anyone who has done me harm get the message if I do as they do. The Bible teaches us to do good our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. A Peacemaker is someone who practices and teaches the Ten Commandments & Golden Rule. It means if we need to resolve this in a political way, it should be done lawfully, through legislation. And with respect for the rights of those who disagree with us.

It is possible for people of many faiths to come together in a common cause of religious liberty for all. I live in a city where this is the order of the day. We respect religious symbols of many faiths for public displays and so far as I know nobody gets offended. it is almost the only virtue we have.

read full comment
Image of Standing Fast
Standing Fast
on May 16, 2019 at 18:16:36 pm

Definitely separation of church and state had nothing to do with anti-semitism, since there was no anti-jewish bias in the 1940s. No one was limiting the number of Jews at yale, or asked Jews to close on Sunday, or told Jews to take off their yarmulkes in the army.

No siree, the only anti-religious bigotry involved anti-catholicism. The Jews have always been treated with equal respect and dignity in America and on social media.

read full comment
Image of Milo Y
Milo Y
on May 16, 2019 at 18:26:42 pm

On your second point: It sounds like the only reading you’ve done is John Barry’s hagiographic history of Williams published in 2012. It’s not a bad book but Barry doesn’t know much about what was going on in England and the Bay Colony in the mid-17th Century.

In fact, Williams was a run of the mill Puritan Independent and the Independents had been equating liberty of conscience with freedom of religion since 1615. The epicenter of this movement was John Robinson’s exiled English Congregation in Leiden. The Pilgrims were part of Robinson’s Leiden congregation and Williams pick up most of his separatist arguments from William Brewster, who was an elder in the Leiden Congregation.

Barry is way off base in his defense of Williams against the magistrates in the Bay Colony. In fact, the magistrates in the Bay had always negotiated with the Indians about where they would settle and they always paid for the land they settled on.

Further, Williams was not unpopular but he was dangerous. Civil war was brewing in England and the New England settler’s Independent sponsors in Lords and Commons did not want provoke a response from the Crown over the question separation in New England.

Further still, Williams was a latitudinarian who helped frame Cromwell’s policy of broad toleration but he had no problem banning Catholics because they were a threat to the civil government and banning the early Quakers because they were a common nuisance.

Both Barry and yourself make a mistake in removing Williams from the context of his times.

read full comment
Image of EK
EK
on May 16, 2019 at 18:32:13 pm

And simply because there is a difference of both dogma and practice amongst the various christian sects DOES NOT, I repeat DOES NOT in any way justify the abridgement of the conscience rights of those that profess one or the other of the various doctrines.

Again, nobody leads us down another distant rail spur.

BTW: Did read the decision. As I disagree with Lemon, I think the emtire opinion is a LEMON.

Rather, I agree with an earlier commenter that the root cause of the problem is government entangling itself in every aspect of citizens lives AND a legal profession that is all too willing to accommodate the "silly-ass" childish complaints of the perennially aggrieved and victimized.
Incidentally, it is this willingness of the Bar to do so and a rather compliant and similarly educated Judiciary that has fostered an attitude, indeed a deep-seated belief that all who complain are not only justified but morally assured. consequently, we observe an elected Representative, who, in his belief that those, like he, who practice abnormal sexual relations, is justified in threatening an old woman for HER exercise of conscience rights.
Heck, the Old Gal was not even protesting against homosexuals. So why is it that this exemplar of modern morality saw fit to abuse her?

I repeat, it is high time to stop turning the other cheek. all it has resulted in is un-punished assaults upon little old ladies, or South Korean tourists who mistakenly wear a MAGA Hat.

Enough already!

nobody really believes that this is justified.

read full comment
Image of gabe
gabe
on May 16, 2019 at 19:34:31 pm

Well, thank you for reading my comments. My reading of Williams goes way beyond Barry's biography, which incidentally actually quotes extensively from Williams own works. and includes much on his predecessors, contemporaries, and those who came after. Because of Barry I have a much clearer idea of Williams' religious beliefs, something that other writers sail over without even comprehending the subject. Nobody else talked so much or so well about Liberty of Conscience or Separation of Church & State. He may not meet your criteria for a champion of liberty, but he was certainly not "run-of-the-mill".

read full comment
Image of Standing Fast
Standing Fast
on May 16, 2019 at 20:04:07 pm

BTW: Did read the decision.

Delighted to hear it. Did you also perchance read where I said “Please quote the parts you find to be incorrectly reasoned”? I’m happy to discuss matters with you, but I weary of providing both sides of the argument.

[T]he root cause of the problem is government entangling itself in every aspect of citizens lives AND a legal profession that is all too willing to accommodate the “silly-ass” childish complaints of the perennially aggrieved and victimized.

Incidentally, it is this willingness of the Bar to do so and a rather compliant and similarly educated Judiciary that has fostered an attitude, indeed a deep-seated belief that all who complain are not only justified but morally assured.

I’m sorry; who was it who cited the case of an 11-yr-old who didn’t want to do her homework, and so appealed the case to the United States Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals? Maybe you should call up her lawyers and tell them that they’re all too willing to accommodate the silly-ass childish complaints of the perennially aggrieved and victimized.

(You could deliver the same message to Fox News while you’re at it….)

Alternatively, maybe you could acknowledge that different people have different viewpoints, and that the ability to seek legal redress is a cherished right beloved of free people everywhere—and that this right necessarily entails permitting people you DON’T agree with to have access to courts, too.

And the complaint that government goes TOO FAR by entangling itself in "every aspect of citizens' lives" by operating public parks, public schools, and police departments--since when did you become a libertarian? Are you seriously suggesting government should get out of the business of running public parks, schools, and police? I suspect not.

But once we acknowledge that government WILL be in those activities, then we need to acknowledge that Constitutional limits will apply to those activities.

(Arguably we should get government out of "every aspect of citizens' lives" by getting them out of running the Transportation Security Administration, 'cuz the Constitution forbids unreasonable search & seizure. Yet here we are....)

read full comment
Image of nobody.really
nobody.really
on May 16, 2019 at 23:51:01 pm

I agree with you and against EK on this one. If Williams was so "run of the mill" what was the dispute between Williams and the Puritans of Mass. that led to them kicking him out to found Rhode Island all about? I thought it was the fact that he challenged their notion of a theocratic Christian commonwealth and instead argued for liberty of conscience which was for the most novel during the time.

We can look at the Massachusetts Body of Liberties (1641) and see the theocratic language which was the very opposite of liberty of conscience and against which Williams railed. Further, the Calvinists at this time were still supporting what Calvin did to Servetus and arguing against Williams (personally, by name) for promoting liberty of conscience.

read full comment
Image of Jonathan Rowe
Jonathan Rowe
on May 16, 2019 at 23:58:47 pm

I think you are mistaken on Jefferson, however. He was indeed formally and nominally affiliated with the Anglicans/Episcopalians his whole life, but I don't think there's any evidence that he was a communicant during his adult life. He did not, like George Washington leave a record (from what I recall) of scandal for systematically avoiding communion in said church.

But he did reject every single doctrine of Christian orthodoxy -- while continuing to believe in an active personal God (not a cold distant watchmaker). The unitarians who, like Jefferson rejected the doctrine of the atonement, tended not to commune because they rejected what the act stood for: the atonement, Christ's Godhood.

Jefferson also UNLIKE Washington refused to become a godfather in the church precisely because he would have to affirm oaths that endorsed the doctrine of the Trinity, a doctrine which Jefferson vehemently railed against.

read full comment
Image of Jonathan Rowe
Jonathan Rowe
on May 17, 2019 at 00:15:53 am

"Most Americans were Protestants in the Reformed tradition even if they did not attend church regularly or held services in their own livingrooms. There were a few Roman Catholics, Jews and Deists, but atheism was very rare. Among the 250 men who lead the American Revolution, most were members of Protestant denominations. Very few were Deists. "

We could probably unpack this a bit. If "reformed" means Calvinists, yes, they were well represented; but there was WAY more sectarian diversity simply within Protestantism at the of time in America. There were also Arminians of both the evangelical stripe and liberal unitarian types, the latter mainly in the New England but also sprinkled throughout the entire colonies and overrepresented among elites at the time.

Likewise, being formally connected to a Protestant church with an orthodox creed doesn't quite tell us what a particular person believed because plenty of folks were nominal members and had deistic or unitarian leanings. It wasn't just Jefferson. There were very few outspoken hard deists of the time who wished to distance themselves from Christianity and revealed religion entirely.

read full comment
Image of Jonathan Rowe
Jonathan Rowe
on May 17, 2019 at 05:02:15 am

Aren't the only separation of church and state cases that we "lost" were the education ones that expanded school choice? (Zelman v. Simmons-Harris)

I mean, the courts have kept prayer and the ten commandments posters out of the schools.
No one claims that public schools or universities are indoctrinating their children on religion, politics, culture, etc. Since Everson, universities have done nothing but encourage intellectual diversity with the students they admit, the staff that they hire, the courses required for graduation, the books that are assigned in class, and the speakers they let on campus.

College graduates today are the most intellectually-diverse cohort in world history, all because we got rid of school prayer and thereby ended indoctrination.

read full comment
Image of Devlin
Devlin
on May 17, 2019 at 09:00:26 am

Nobody:

You are incorrigible. AND ONCE AGAIN, you thrust us on to another detour.

Where did I say argue that the government should get out of public transport, parks, air traffic safety, etc?

Simply because one recognizes (and asserts) that the gubmint does too much, it does not follow that the speaker also argues that the gubmint should do nothing.

C'mon, you are better than this; and it does grow tiresome.
Clever tactic, of course BUT it has grown stale.

And no, as you well know: I am NOT a libertarian. Just a curmudgeon Marxist (Groucho, that is) who opined, "Whatever it is, I am against it."

read full comment
Image of gabe
gabe
on May 17, 2019 at 09:22:19 am

Just a curmudgeon Marxist (Groucho, that is) who opined, “Whatever it is, I am against it.”

Wait--that was YOU? I didn't recognize you in that glasses/nose/mustache disguise! I mistook you for Captain Spalding.

read full comment
Image of nobody.really
nobody.really
on May 17, 2019 at 11:24:37 am

It is possible, as then Cardinal Ratzinger wrote, in 1969, that "... Men in a totally planned world [all persons neatly sorted by then-allowed identity, inborn or assumed; regulated by ever-mutating legal requirements] will find themselves unspeakably lonely."

It is possible, after a God-free secular paradise has been established (the end will justify the means), that this will not bring the desired results. "... when politics want to bring redemption, they promise too much. When they propose to do God's work, they do not become divine but diabolical."

If such a result should occur (factual evidence exists for the possibility) then, some isolated persons may discover the history of those who, in the distant past, sought to identify and separate good desires, those which increased human flourishing, from evil desires, so temporarily appealing, so ultimately harmful. They may reject their perfect freedom to fulfill desires as they appear and will seek a format to refine those desires. They might discover, for example, the classic virtues; a promising beginning.

Cardinal Ratzinger wrote (again in 1996): "Why, in brief, does the faith still have a chance. I would say the following: because it is in harmony with what man is. Man is something more than what Kant ... wanted to see and concede. Kant himself must have recognized this in some way with his postulates. In man there is an inextinguishable yearning for the infinite. ...".

This "yearning for the infinite" has and will assume many forms. One more thought from the future Pope Benedict: "Reason will not be saved without the faith but the faith without reason will not be human." Reason without faith; faith without reason - both have caused great suffering and harm

read full comment
Image of Latecomer
Latecomer
on May 17, 2019 at 11:53:30 am

I have also read Barry and as I said it's a good book. Part VI on soul liberty is particularly good except that Barry writes as if Williams was the first one to fully articulate the idea. He wasn't. He was standing on the shoulders of giants whom neither Williams nor Barry took the trouble to acknowledge. Williams was a very smart, very personable egotist who seemed uninterested in taking his own advice by considering the possibility he might be less right on one point or another than someone else. That could be something he picked up from his association with Coke.

Williams' soul liberty or liberty of conscience had been a central tenet of the Independent theology that emerged within the Church of England after 1600. Independent Reformed theology differed from Presbyterian Reformed theology chiefly on the point of church governance. The Independents held that each congregation must be autonomous and self-governing. In effect, each Independent congregation was also a church. Independents would join in communion with other congregations only if the other congregation met their definition of a true church. In the end, Williams never could find a congregation that suited him and he wound up being the only member of his congregation and church.

Almost all Independents agreed with Williams on the point of persecution of other sects. Much like Dreher's "Benedict Option", Independents would segregate themselves if they were in the minority or segregated others if they were in the majority. They were broadly tolerant of most sects along the lines of the notion of religious liberty expressed in the second paragraph of the Rhode Island charter granted by Charles II in 1663; which was precisely the formulation Henry Vane, the Younger, Oliver Cromwell and Williams came up with in between 1643-45.

Link to the charter of 1663: http://avalon.law.yale.edu/17th_century/ri04.asp

Barry says that this was all Williams' doing. It wasn't. Toleration, or latitudinarianism, was chiefly the work of Oliver Cromwell. After 1642, Cromwell began packing the officer corps of his regiments in the Eastern Association with Independents. In England, Independents were usually called "sectaries" by Presbyterians and high church Anglicans. He did the same when the New Model Army was formed in 1645. Broad toleration of Reformed sects was the glue that held the New Model Army and Cromwell's coalition of Independent sects together and religious toleration led them to victory over first the Anglican monarchists and then over the Presbyterian Parliamentarians.

You might like Michael Winship's recent "Godly Republicanism" (2012). It gets into the weeds on the finer points of Independency and argues that New England Congregationalism has its roots in covenant of John Robinson's congregation in Leiden and the Synod of Dort.

read full comment
Image of EK
EK
on May 17, 2019 at 12:55:58 pm

'@ J Rowe

Williams was banished from the Bay Colony because he had the tendency to speak forcefully, persuasively and authoritatively without knowing all the facts. It also seems he had no idea how delicate the Bay's political position was in England or how physically precarious its position was in the New World. The stealing the Indians' land bit was typical of Williams. He recanted all of these statements because they were not true, but nobody remembers that.

If anything, Williams was actually more of a theocrat than Nathanial Ward, John Cotton or Thomas Dudley and the least theocratic person in the colony was John Winthrop, the perennial governor of the Bay. In the end, Williams was the only member of his congregation and the only citizen in his personal republic.

Of course the Bay Colony was a theocracy. But it was a constitutional democrat-republican theocracy because it placed ultimate sovereignty in God and secular authority in the godly and where both the godly's churches and their secular governments were based on quite sound constitutional democratic-republican principles.

Eric Nelson's "The Hebrew Republic" (2010) explores the origins of godly republicanism.

If you are referring to paragraph 94, the "Capitall Laws" in the Liberties, they were written by John Cotton and the reliance on the Old Testament was an artifact of the circumstance that while the Bay recognized that it could enact no law contrary the laws of England, as was specified in the Charter of 1628, the Bay denied that any appeal from its decisions could be taken to the Crown. The Bay considered itself to be a free state with only notional allegiance to the Crown and so they cited the Bible as authority for its criminal laws.

If you read paragraph 95 concerning the liberties of the churches in light of my reply to Standing Fast you will see that the Bay was indeed an Independent theocracy and paragraphs 1 through 93 show that the Bay was indeed a secular constitutional democratic republic.

Finally, Independents were English Reformed not calvinist. Most of their Calvinism is reflected in Calvin's model of church governance. English Independency was heavily influenced by early Lutheranism and Zwingli's Zurich church and it was always open to influence from the Family of Love, old Lollards and the Dutch, German, Polish and Italian Reformed congregations. The differences between the partially reformed CoE, the Reformed Presbyterians and the Reformed Independents go back to different Reformations envisioned by Anne Boleyn, Thomas Cromwell and Thomas Cranmer in the 1530s.

read full comment
Image of EK
EK
on May 17, 2019 at 13:51:21 pm

"Williams’ soul liberty or liberty of conscience had been a central tenet of the Independent theology that emerged within the Church of England after 1600. Independent Reformed theology differed from Presbyterian Reformed theology chiefly on the point of church governance. "

If you are right that Independent reformed theology of which Williams was part of should get the credit for liberty of conscience, as opposed to Williams himself, then liberty of conscience arguably becomes the biggest difference as opposed to church governance.

The Presbyterian reformers, even the ones who are good on resistance to tyrannical rulers, were still defending what Calvin did to Servetus and writing diatribes against Williams for his notion of liberty of conscience.

read full comment
Image of Jonathan Rowe
Jonathan Rowe
on May 17, 2019 at 16:41:44 pm

"universities have done nothing but encourage intellectual diversity with the students they admit, the staff that they hire, the courses required for graduation, the books that are assigned in class, and the speakers they let on campus."

By that comment, I assume that you are referring to a "diversity" of leftist views. I suppose it IS diverse when one considers that we have African Studies, Middle East Studies, gay studies, lesbian studies, trans studies, anti_patriarchy studies, transhuman studies, etc etc etc.
How much more diverse can the university become?

Oh wait, there is a whole field of studies from the other side of the political spectrum AND, one might add, a plethora of speakers from the other side that could conceivably be invited on to a university campus WITHOUT fear of bodily harm, slander or protest.

But that would interfere with the university's determined efforts to end indoctrination - Yeah, right!

read full comment
Image of Guttenburgs Press and Brewery
Guttenburgs Press and Brewery
on May 17, 2019 at 17:43:17 pm

This comment is addressed to everyone in this conversation. It is apparent to me that many of you do not understand the difference between principle (i.e.: a truth, an ideal, a rule) and practice (i.e.: how a principle is interpreted, applied, amended), and between society in general and individuals in particular.

Separation of Church & State was a principle intended to eliminate injustice, not perpetrate it. The fact that individuals, society & governments were slow on the uptake is not the fault of the truth behind it. The bigotry referred to is an example of a failure to understand and apply it properly by society in general and individuals in particular. Just because some people who espouse a particular religion harbor ill-will towards people of other religions does not mean they are carrying out the teachings of their religion.

The proper interpretation of Separation of Church & State is for government to (a) refrain from adopting a particular religion, religious denomination, or religious organization as the official State religion or Church; (b) favor one religion, denomination or organization over any and all others; (c) require citizens to support any religious organization for any purpose; and (d) interfere with religious expression, whether public or private as long as it doesn't violate the God-given rights of others.

God-given rights mean Equal Right to Life, Equality before the Law, Individual Sovereignty, Freedom of Conscience, Freedom of Assembly, Freedom of Association, Freedom of Movement, Security of Persons & Property, Self-Defense, Property and Pursuit of Happiness. These are otherwise known as Natural Rights. Or, at least the Founders thought so.

This means that even if it offends you to see someone praying in public, your rights are not being violated so you are not being harmed. But, if anyone, or any group of people, or government, tries to stop you from praying in public or causes you bodily harm in any way, or makes false accusations against you, then you are being harmed. That would mean they are violating the principle of Separation of Church & State.

When prayer was taken out of public schools, crime went up. Juvenile delinquency went up. Literacy dropped. Out-of-wedlock births went up. When the Federal Government got involved in education, indoctrination in leftist ideology began in earnest and persecution of Christians began. Things have deteriorated so badly now that society has no way to resolve social problems without use of force. Separation of Church & State, properly applied, will not lead to this kind of social chaos.

I am not offended if other people disagree with me. I am dismayed that so many of you can read what I write and not understand what is being said.

read full comment
Image of Standing Fast
Standing Fast
on May 17, 2019 at 20:11:31 pm

Yes, you are correct. There were also other issues on theology and doctrine where Williams parted company with Puritans. One of these was infant baptism. This issue was always a controversy because there is no biblical basis for it. Williams did not believe in it, which is why he headed in the direction of the Baptists.

The controversy came as the result of Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic tradition. Martin Luther believed in infant baptism. John Calvin supported it because so many couples were brought up to believe baptism conferred salvation had a hard time waiting to see if their children came to the faith later in life. This meant confusion regarding the celebration of the Lord's Supper. There was controversy there, too. Williams believed that it was simply a memorial to Jesus Christ and the bread and wine were symbols of his body and blood, each of which symbolized something else--the Word of God and the Life Everlasting. This went against orthodoxy and lead to all kinds of other differences of opinion about the Christian faith.

Christians are still arguing about these things. But faith is about one thing and one thing only: Do you believe in the One True Living God and that Christ has the power to save lost sinners?

read full comment
Image of Standing Fast
Standing Fast
on May 18, 2019 at 09:12:07 am

This comment encourages me to think that all is not lost - yet.

I will re-read all comments posted here, using the frame of reference you have provided in order to distinguish "between principle ... and practice ... and between society in general and individuals in particular.

If all commentators would define their terms as a starting point for discussion, that too would aid understanding and civil, informed discussion.

In the passage I posted yesterday, Pope Benedict seemed to predict just how far this tide needs to come in before there can be any possibility of recession. We can hope that he was mistaken - but the "signs of the times" are not good.

read full comment
Image of Latecomer
Latecomer
on May 18, 2019 at 16:16:28 pm

Your comments lifted my spirits, and I am especially pleased that you brought up Pope Benedict's statement about "reason without faith; faith without reason". This is an old idea. I think God Himself was referring to it when he said, "Come, let us reason together."

Faith is knowledge and trust. Knowledge of God and trust in Him. If we know Him, we know He wants to bless us, so we can be happy. If we trust Him, we will listen to what He says. The Ten Commandments are the rules we are to follow in order to earn those blessings. They are not unreasonable, and the outcomes are not arbitrary. They are for everybody, for anybody who wants to follow them. Faith is not unreasonable at all, if what we believe is true.

The Ten Commandments of God are rooted in universal, eternal laws of cause and effect, the blessings for obedience and punishments for disobedience being predictable consequences like the law of gravity in the physical universe. I didn't grasp this until I was in my early fifties. When I was young, I thought God played favorites with the people my parents called hypocrites, that His blessings were granted in an arbitrary fashion, that I would never be blessed because I didn't belong. Imagine my surprise when it finally dawned on me that the Commandments, taken together or one by one, allow those who follow them to avoid making themselves and others miserable.

Sometimes people take great offense when this is pointed out. Usually they say I am trying to force my religion on them, which is not true. I am just telling them something I think is important. I am discovering that a lot of people who object to them have little or no idea what they are about. One person even said that they were all, or mostly all, irrelevant to the modern world, that two or three could be kept but the rest were outdated. I wondered which two or three he meant. I can count six that have to do with our relationships with other people, and none which specify adherence to a particular religion.

Does anyone in this conversation think we should not show respect for our parents--even if they don't deserve it? This commandment does not require us to respect them, God knows some parents are abusive, neglectful, unreasonable, and so forth. But, even bad parents usually teach their kids some good things and we would do well to listen to them. But, this does not mean if they tell us to do something wrong we should do it. When they are old, our respect means they do not need fear being abandoned. In prehistoric times, elders would go off into the wilderness to die alone or their families would abandon them. Later, as human society became civilized, children were required to support their parents if they had no source of income. This prevented elders from dying in the streets. As the underlying principle of these commandments is summed up by the Golden Rule, it means that by the same token, parents should not be abusive or neglectful to their children. The blessings that flow from following the Fifth Commandment are numerous, not the least of which is security. This commandment is meant to strengthen the family bond.

The Sixth Commandment says we shouldn't murder. Is there anyone who objects to this? If we aren't safe in our homes, our comings and goings, our assemblies, our associations, our pursuits of the things we think will bring us well-being, contentment, prosperity and joy, then society is in a state of anarchy. And tyranny is not far behind.

The Seventh Commandment says we should not commit adultery. Why not? Because children have a right to know who their father is and parents who are loyal to one another are likely to raise happier children who are capable of having a healthy marriage, which of course leads to a more stable home environment where children can trust their parents. The consequences of cheating on one's spouse are long-lasting: the bond of trust between husband and wife affects the children who then will never be able to trust their parents or their own spouse. Divorce is more likely in both cases, and this is even more damaging to individuals, to families and to society. But those who follow this commandment will never have reason to regret it even if it means giving up something we think we need in order to be happy. If we are the cause of other people's misery, how can we be happy?

The Eighth Commandment says we shouldn't steal. Should we say otherwise? This commandment is all about respect for other people's things--including personal possessions, real estate and our God-given and civil rights. Can you tell me what would happen if everybody followed this rule? Can you tell me what would happen if everybody didn't? This is the one that makes it possible for individuals to improve themselves, poor people to move up in the world, for rich people to invest in worthwhile endeavors, for communities to develop strong social institutions for the benefit of all. Without this commandment, human society would be impossible.

The Ninth Commandment says we should not bear false witness. Does anyone believe we whould lie under oath or falsely accuse others of wrongdoing? We call it perjury which is classified as a felony for good reason. This commandment has also been interpreted to mean we should always tell the truth, something that can be challenging at times but a good rule to live by. If people can trust you to tell them the truth, then even your enemies will respect you.

The Tenth Commandment says we should not covet other people's things. So, what if we do, what's wrong with that? Well, covet means envy, the intense desire for them, maybe resentment or avariciousness which means we might even go so far as to defraud, steal or murder to get them. Envy channels our energies into destructive behavior, so compelling that we become toxic to those around us. This in addition to the undesirable consequences of committing the other offenses. Our courts are filled with people who violate this commandment.

These are not religious rules, they are social rules. Anybody can live by them because they are not about religion. But, I've studied the first four commandments carefully and do not see anything in them that tells us what religion to follow. I have a friend who is an atheist who says a friend of his knew a Jewish Rabbi that somewhat jokingly asserted that even atheists can obey all ten of the commandments because having no god, they cannot put any other god before the Lord. I'm supposing the One True Living God has a sense of humor. But, human beings being what we are, it is more likely we will place a god of our own making above the Author of Life and Liberty. I think one of the purposes of the First and Second Commandments is to help us keep our priorities straight. God gave us Life and Liberty so we could pursue Happiness, and His Laws so we could find it.

Reality, to me, is the Truth that the Creator of the Universe is in control and we aren't, that He governs his creation by His laws, which are not arbtrary but based on the principle of Cause & Effect which He established in the first place. People who have their priorities straight are less likely to wander off into a ditch. I'm not in control and I have ended up in many a ditch out of ignorance and stupidity. But, if I live by His commandments I will have better outcomes from my decisions and the people around me will be a lot happier. I do not have to make other people do anything to make a better world. I do not even have to like them. Just treat them with the same respect that I want them to show me. Mind my own business, and let them mind theirs.

The Third Commandment says we should not take God's name in vain. Many people believe this just means don't cuss or swear oaths, or speak of Him profanely. Others think that although that is indeed a desirable virtue, this rule is about not misleading others about God or His Will. Probably sends chills up some people's spines, because it means religious leaders and their followers are being held accountable to a very high standard. The need for humility when it comes to talking about eternal things never seemed more important. So, I have to say that this is what I believe to be true, but if I am wrong about anything I'm saying I sincerely pray that it will not lead anyone astray.

The Fourth Commandment says we are to work six days and rest on the Seventh, to remember that God made the universe in six days and rested on the Seventh. This is the most religious of all the commandments, but it does not require us to convert to Judaism or Christianity to follow it. In traditional America, Saturday was a day of rest for Jews and Sunday was a day of rest for Christians. On the Sabbath Day, most people went to church or synagogue and spent the rest of they day at home with their families or visited friends for the day. Some families would visit museums, parks, or go for a drive in the country. It was almost always a quiet day, peaceful, hardly any traffic. I remember when most businesses were closed on Sunday. When I first decided to follow this commandment it was surprisingly difficult. But, I did find that this day of rest was good for me, and it became a special day of contemplation and rest, a kind of retreat from the everyday world and its demands. It is a blessing to me in many ways. And, on Sunday night I would actually go to bed looking forward to getting back to my usual work. Me, who once hated Sunday nights because I'd have to go to work the next day.

There is something about these commandments that is usually overlooked. The obedience commanded by God is meant to be voluntary. He offers us a choice, to obey or not to obey. And, when we disobey, whether intentionally or unintentionally, if we recognize our mistake and are sorry for doing wrong, He will forgive us. This does not entitle us to a "get out of jail free" card because society has the right to protect vulnerable adults and children, and punish murderers, sexual predators, thieves, perjurers, and con artists.

Faith in the outcome of obedience to these commandments can be likened to faith in the law of gravity. The consequence of our voluntary obedience to these commandments is Peace, Justice, Freedom and Independence, Prosperity, Blessing, and Happiness.

read full comment
Image of Standing Fast
Standing Fast
on May 19, 2019 at 13:58:03 pm

Re your point 3: The 12 days of Christmas are from Christmas Day to the Feast of the Epiphany. Always check Wiki first.

read full comment
Image of EK
EK
on May 19, 2019 at 15:10:42 pm

'@ Standing

Puritans came in two flavors; Presbyterians and Independents. Infant baptism was one of the points where Presbyterians insisted upon it and Independents usually considered it a matter of indifference, that is each independent congregation was free to decide the matter for themselves. Most Independent congregations allowed for infant baptism as a matter of tradition and because recording births was one of the civil functions of the parish church in the established CoE and baptism was the event that generated the official record of birth.

Baptist congregations usually required re-baptism upon being admitted to a particular congregation. In the 1650s this point was the subject of extended debate in the Bay Colony. Henry Dunster, the first president of Harvard, resigned from his position because he disagreed with the Magistrates' decision on this point. Dunster was an Independent Baptist.

After 1700, the now antiquated and fossilized New England Congregationalists divided into old light Congregationalists (who were indistinguishable from Presbyterians, except on the point of church governance), Northern Baptists and Unitarians. The division reflected economic classes. The rural working class tended towards Baptist, the middle class stayed Congregationalist and the educated upper class, like John Adams, tended towards Unitarianism.

I want to be clear on one point, all American low church Protestants, except for Presbyterians, are Independents by definition. Any Protestant denomination that has bishops, such as the Methodists and the LDS, are not English Reformed Independents because popes and bishops are inconsistent with independent self-governing congregations. But Congregationalists, the Church of Christ, Baptists, Quakers, Unitarians, Nazarenes and most other American low church congregations are Independents.

You also refer to the true presence controversy in the Lord's Supper. Since at least 1540, all English Reformed Christians have denied the true presence in the sacrament of communion. If you answered that question wrong during the reign of Henry VIII it could have cost you your head. Henry was strongly in favor of the true presence.

If your interested in this stuff, no one has covered it better than Diarmaid McCulloch in "The Reformation" (2004). McCulloch is an Anglican priest from a long line of Anglican priests.

read full comment
Image of EK
EK
on May 19, 2019 at 15:23:38 pm

This message is for Jonathan Rowe: Thank you for elaborating! I didn't mention the complexity of Protestantism in America because I wanted to keep my comments short. The diversity of the Protestant denominations, sects and views is one of the interesting things about America. In the 18th Century, it was the main thing that made a State Church impossible. The debate over this subject lead to the eventual solution: grant each church organization equal status, and don't tax the people to support even the ones they belong to. That took years, but the First Amendment paved the way.

But, for those who are unfamiliar with Christianity, Protestantism, or the diversity of opinion among the various churches, you should know this has been the case since Jan Hus first stood against the Roman Catholic Church. Roger Williams was one of the first to stand against persecution of Christians by other Christians, or Indians by anybody.

read full comment
Image of Standing Fast
Standing Fast
on May 19, 2019 at 16:42:54 pm

In the Anglo-sphere the separation of church and state was a reaction the essentially Lutheran model adopted by Henry VIII and confirmed by Elizabeth I. In between Henry and Elizabeth, the short reign Edward VI made the Reformation an essential but not defining element of the CoE and the disastrous reign of Mary I made a return to the Catholic communion impossible.

It was not a matter of principle but of practice because the ecclesiastical courts of high commission exercised a good deal of what we would consider civil authority in the name of the Crown. The established church levied its own taxes, operated its own courts, levied its own fines and imprisoned and executed people for violation of church laws and and heresy.

On the other hand, after 1650 the magistrates in the Bay Colony began exercising a good good deal of religious authority in the name of the state. Happy medians on this point are always hard to find.

By the 1620s in England, people had had quite enough of the parallel laws and courts that had been merged under the Crown in the Supremacy Act of 1534. Coke's crusade against the extensive jurisdiction of the ecclesiastical courts after 1620 was one of his greatest contributions to Anglo-American jurisprudence. Have you read Allen D. Boyer's "Sir Edward Coke and the Elizabethan Age" (2003)?

All that being said, even John Lilburn, a radical Independent and guiding light of the Leveller movement, conceded that the civil state does need to foster a consistent set religious and moral principles for purposes of national harmony and that an established church was an appropriate vehicle to do it. However Lilburne, like all Independents, denied that the state church should have any secular power to enforce its indoctrination. For Lilburne that meant no fines for skipping church and no one way trips to Tyburn Hill for denying the true presence.

That is my starting point for discussions about the separation of church and state.

read full comment
Image of EK
EK
on May 19, 2019 at 17:08:45 pm

Interesting discourse. Not sure I agree with you on a number of things:

First, as I understand it, Baptists were a separate denomination because they did not believe in infant Baptism. I am unaware of any Baptist organization that does this. Also, Presbyterians are not Puritans, though they share theology and doctrine with low church and Congregationalist organizations. This is because they have a different type of church organization and some differences in interpretation.

Second, churches that do baptize infants do not necessarily re-baptize adults who have been baptized as children. My family went to a Lutheran church when I was a kid before I came to the faith and as an adult I've attended various evangelical, Presbyterian, Reformed, Seventh Day Baptist, Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Greek Unity (Greek-speaking Roman Catholics), and so forth. Never to my knowledge did I ever see an adult who was baptized as an infant/child be re-baptized as an adult. Because I was baptized already, not one of any of the churches I joined would baptize me again even though I felt I had missed out on something.
I was baptized when I was nine or ten years old. To take Communion, I was required to graduate from Catechism class at which time I would have been "confirmed" as a member of the Body of Christ and the church organization. I did not graduate because mastering the Luther catechism seemed daunting to me. When I joined the Reformed church, we took a new members class that covered their articles of faith. It made sense to me, but I was an adult then with a pretty good background in the subject.
Also, some or all of the churches I mentioned had "christening" or other ceremonies where the infant would be given their Christian name soon after their birth, and that would be recorded. It isn't necessary to baptize infants for a church to record their birth. I know there is/was a big controversy among the churches over re-baptizing, too, but I am not familiar with the practice.

Third, I've read Diarmid MacCullough's history of the reformation. So has my husband. He likes it, me not so much. We had many conversations about it. It was neither the first thing either of us read on the subject, nor the last. If you are interested in the subject, my advice is to read more than one history and more than one biography of the men and women who are covered in his book. Wycliffe, Hus, Luther, Calvin, Knox, Rogers, Williams, Cotton, and so forth. Few outsiders understand Calvinism, so my advice is to read what Calvin wrote. His "Institutes of the Christian Religion" 1559 translated by Henri Beveridge is the best one I've read. Have a good old Oxford English Dictionary handy, and if you can read French, get a Grand Larousse.

Fourth, if you read enough books about the Christian church, and all its various denominations, sects, and particulars along with the groups that broke away from the tradition creeds of Christianity, eventually you will see there is a common denominator, layers of agreement and disagreement. Some writers make the mistake of viewing everything from the position of the Roman Catholic Church only, or the Anglican Church only, or the Congregational Church only, etc. This prevents one from proper understanding of the many issues that must be addressed before you can get a grip on the subject. There is only one true faith, but many interpretations of the Law and the Gospel.

Fifth, these are books I recommend:

"The Pilgrim Chronicles: An Eyewitness History of the Pilgrims and the Founding of Plymouth Colony"
Rod Gragg (Regnery, 2014). Has an excellent introduction covering the early Reformation that preceded the Mayflower crossing. Best resource I've seen, with lively narrative and wonderful illustrations from the historic record. Would make a great movie.

"Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America"
David Hackett Fischer (Oxford University Press, 1989). Covers 1607-1783 with sections on the various religious views & customs of colonists in different regions.

"Revival & Revivalism: The Making and Marring of American Evangelicalism 1750-1858"
Iain Murray (Banner of Truth, 1994). Murray knows the subject from the inside out, the best book I've ever read on the subject with excellent background for an understanding of Separation of Church & State. Among other things.

"Religion and the Founding of the American Republic"
James H. Hutson (Library of Congress, 1998). Interesting to read, very good summary of the subject.

"Church and State in Revolutionary Virgina, 1776-1787"
Thomas E. Buckley, S.J. (University Press of Virginia, 1977). Again, an excellent introduction covering the issues raised during the early Reformation and the development of the various denominations of the Protestant churches, especially in America. Virginia's experience would make a great movie.

Popular slogan of the American Revolution:
"Stand Fast in the Liberty wherewith Chris hath made us free and be not entangled within the yoke of bondage."
Galatians 5:1

read full comment
Image of Standing Fast
Standing Fast
on May 19, 2019 at 17:36:14 pm

Interesting! You make some good points. But, I don't agree with certain of your observations.

It may not have been a matter of principle to some people that the Church of England exercised authority over church practice, but others were martyred because of principle, not practice. Roger Williams was exiled because Separation of Church & State is a principle based on biblical authority from both the Old and the New Testaments.

This principle was so radical at the time that it was hard for people to absorb its powerful message. So, first we ask the State church to reform its theology, doctrine, and practices, and we make the Holy Bible available to everyone. Then we insist that government be divided into two separate spheres: Church and State--the Church would have no authority to execute anyone for failure to conform and the State would have no authority over Church theology, doctrine, practices, appointments, etc.--and we extend religious freedom to a greater number of people. Then we insist that there be no government-sanctioned official church or religion and we extend religious freedom to everyone.

It took 500 years to go from one State Church to religious freedom for everyone. And only 150 years to go from religious freedom for everyone back to religious freedom for everyone except those who are anathema to the State.

read full comment
Image of Standing Fast
Standing Fast
on May 20, 2019 at 11:03:49 am

You may or may not enjoy this article I wrote on the difference between Williams and Winthrop's Puritan Mass. It was published a number of years after I wrote it. And they spelled my first name wrong. But they paid me.

There are a few things I would change now. "Nature's God" is a much more nuanced understanding of the deity than what I write, quotating Walter Berns.

http://libertymagazine.org/article/liberty-for-all1

read full comment
Image of Jonathan Rowe
Jonathan Rowe
on May 20, 2019 at 15:31:38 pm

3. Regarding the “Twelve Days of Christmas”: Last I’d read, no one really knows what the “Twelve Days of Christmas” means. [T]he folk history about the meaning of the Twelve Days seems to have arisen long after the song did. Thus, to me, the song’s reference seems entirely cultural.

Re your point 3: The 12 days of Christmas are from Christmas Day to the Feast of the Epiphany. Always check Wiki first.

That may be a fair description of the twelve days of Christmas—but not so much of the familiar song “Twelve Days of Christmas,” as Wikipedia makes plain.

Wikipedia observes that “[i]n the northern counties of England, the song was often called the ‘Ten Days of Christmas’, as there were only ten gifts.” So if the song is unavoidably associated with the traditional “Twelfth Night” period, how to account for this “Ten Days” version? Moreover, Wikipedia notes that the song is thought to have originated in French, and proceeds to cite a French version based on the twelve months of the year. Again, this begs the question about the relationship between the song and Twelfth Night.

More to the point, gabe cited people complaining that the lyrics might convey a religious meaning. As Wikipedia observes, no one can agree about the lyrics—let alone about their meaning. After reviewing various secular analyses of the lyrics dating from the 1860s, Wikipedia observes the following:

In 1979, a Canadian hymnologist, Hugh D. McKellar, published an article, "How to Decode the Twelve Days of Christmas" in which he suggested that "The Twelve Days of Christmas" lyrics were intended as a catechism song to help young Catholics learn their faith, at a time when practising Catholicism was criminalised in England (1558 until 1829).[48] McKellar offered no evidence for his claim. Three years later, in 1982, Fr. Hal Stockert wrote an article (subsequently posted on-line in 1995) in which he suggested a similar possible use of the twelve gifts as part of a catechism.[49][50] The possibility that the twelve gifts were used as a catechism during English and Irish Catholic penal times was also hypothesized in this same time period (1987 and 1992) by Fr. James Gilhooley, chaplain of Mount Saint Mary College of Newburgh, New York.[51][52] Snopes.com, a website reviewing urban legends, Internet rumours, e-mail forwards, and other stories of unknown or questionable origin, also concludes that the hypothesis of the twelve gifts of Christmas being a surreptitious Catholic catechism is incorrect. None of the religious concepts allegedly symbolized by the enumerated items would distinguish Catholics from Protestants, and so would hardly need to be secretly encoded.[39]

In the absence of any credible basis to interpret the “Twelve Days of Christmas” as conveying a religious message, I find no Constitutional ground to bar public schools from singing it.

read full comment
Image of nobody.really
nobody.really
on May 20, 2019 at 16:00:29 pm

'@J. Rowe

That was a nice piece of writing. I don't agree with much of it because I think your understandings of who the Puritans were and what the Bay Colony was all about are inaccurate but it was a nice piece of writing. I'm reminded of a pathologist examining a tissue sample looking for and so finding and describing signs of disease but silent on signs of health because. . . well . . . pathologists are paid to look for disease.

A few years ago I began looking for the sources of the republicanism and self-government that is said to be fundamental to the American experience. I think I can safely say that reading American history should begin in 1534 with the dissolution of the monasteries and the Act of Supremacy and that our history should be read forward from that point and not backwards from the present.

American history actually began in 1620 when Coke, after having been humiliated by James I, entered Parliament, aligned himself with the Puritan faction and began attacking Stuart notions of the divine right of kings and broad assertions of the royal prerogative. This culminated in the Petition of Right Parliament of 1628-9. The Massachusetts Bay Charter was also issued in 1628-9 and the Petition of Right is last constitutional document we share with the British.

What the Winthrop migration did was to establish a republic where ultimate sovereignty was placed in God, not the king, and where the voters were sovereign. In 1630, the franchise to vote was limited to members of congregations but, in the case were almost all of the settlers soon became members of a congregation, this was not restrictive but rather the broadest possible extension of the franchise since it was not based on property or civil status. Six years later, Thomas Hooker and John Haynes took the more conventional approach and limited the franchise in the Connecticut Colony to 40 shilling free holders. Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Vermont followed Connecticut. Nevertheless, throughout American history this difference in the franchise does not seem to have made much difference at all in New England history.

Special circumstances allowed the colonization to succeeded. The settlers were a stratified sample of English middle-class religious enthusiasts who shared a common culture and common vision for the future. They arrived in a land that had been depopulated in the 1610s and where the surviving Massasoits were in imminent danger of annihilation from unaffected tribes to the north, south and west. The surviving Algonquins from the Massachusetts Bay to the Connecticut River viewed cooperation with the Winthrop party as the best way to prevent further depredations and incursions from the Abenakis to the north, the Mokawks to the west and the Naragansitts, Pequods and Wampanoags to the south. The Puritans' attitude towards the Massasoits and their affiliated clans in south-central New England was paternalistic and, to an extent, condescending but it was never intentionally cruel or exploitative. It appears that ultimately the Puritans' Indian allies were not extirpated but rather assimilated.

Read this way, the Puritans are not dour religious ideologues and bigots dressed in sad colors who spend all their time quoting scripture, hanging witches and Quakers and branding nice young girls with scarlet "A's". They become radical constitutional democratic-republicans who overthrew kings, established popular sovereignty, representative government and set men free. To an unhealthy extent the good the Puritans did was buried with them but that which was not so good has lived on and become a cartoon of evil.

read full comment
Image of EK
EK
on May 20, 2019 at 18:43:39 pm

EK: Well, you think I am off-base in my understanding of Puritans and the Massachusetts Bay Colony. But, at least I know the differences among an Anglican, a Puritan, a Separatist, a Congregationalist, a Presbyterian and a Baptist. I've studied the writings of William Bradford, John Winthrop, Roger Williams, William Penn and others. I have books & stuff that they wrote and books that they read. I have Liberty Fund's "Colonial Origins of the American Constitution", their five-volume "Founders' Constitution", "The American Republic: Primary Sources", "The Sacred Rights of Conscience", "The Roots of Liberty", "Christianity & Classical Culture", "Crisis of the Seventeenth Century", "The Seventeenth Century Commonwealthman", "Selected Writings of Sir Edward Coke", and many other books. I have Calvin's 1559 edition of "The Institutes of the Christian Religion", Gragg's "Pilgrim Chronicles", Blackstone's "Commentaries on the Law", Kevin Phillips' "The Cousin's Wars", Michael Barone's "Our First Revolution", most of Gaustad's books on religion in America, and Antonia Fraser's biography of Oliver Cromwell, which I think is still the best. I have facsimiles and reprints of the bibles they read. I like to go back to the beginning to start my research so the first primary source of my Judeo-Christian Natural Law library is the "Epic of Gilgamesh". I have to get the new edition, I hear there is a complete translation of it now. I'm finding few writers who are worth their salt, most are hopelessly lost in the superficial and mind-numbing jungle of academic discourse and spend most of their time arguing about how many chickens it takes to cross a road.

Jonathan Rowe: I read your article. I thought you started out really well. But, kind of got bogged down later on. I would like to address several points you made that I disagree with:

The concept of unalienable rights does not come from the Enlightenment, but derives from traditional teachings on the Ten Commandments and Cicero's writings. Although they come from two different traditions, the principles are not incompatible. The teaching on the Ten Commandments says they were given by the Power that created the Universe whose authority supersedes any and all earthly powers. And from these commandments it is possible to infer precisely what these rights are and that they are given by God. As God is the Author of Life, Liberty and the Laws which govern the Universe, including mankind, we can say that they are unalienable. Cicero refers to a Divine power whose authority is also supreme and whose word is Law. He wrote that in order to be just, man's laws must be consistent with God's law.

These ideas came together in the Early Christian Church. To understand this tradition, it is necessary to study the ancient documents of the pagan world, the Torah, the Sermon on the Mount, Greek and Roman law, The Holy Bible, The Code of English Common Law, Magna Carta, the Protestant Reformation and Resistance Movement, the Mayflower Compact, the English Civil War, the Thirty-Nine Articles, the English Bill of Rights, the confessions of the various denominations & sects of Protestants, and America's founding documents. After which you can begin reading the writings of the individuals who played a part in the establishment of this tradition, and be able to place them in the context of what they knew. That way, the development of these ideas is much easier to track. Who knew what and when did they know it?

Roger Williams' religion places him outside of the Puritan fold, although for awhile he was a member of this sect. He started out as a communicating member of the Church Of England, was later ordained in the Anglican Church (Protestant in that the Pope was not the head of the church, but theology was Roman Catholic), then joined the Puritans (Low-Church Anglicans because they followed Protestant Reformed tradition and refused to use the Book of Common Prayer but believed the monarch should be the head of the church), then he joined the Separatists (exiled Puritans who did not believe the monarch should be the head of the church), then joined the Baptists (exiles and independents who came out of the Reformed and other Protestant traditions but did not believe civil government should have any power over matters of Conscience), left the Baptists because he disagreed with them on important points of theology, doctrine and church practice. More than any other individual on either side of the water, he championed Liberty of Conscience and Separation of Church & State. His influence has been under-rated by historians because they read what his enemies wrote without understanding what the arguments were about.

John Locke was influenced by Williams, Milton, Penn, Coke and others. And he, in turn, influenced Trenchard & Gordon. Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, John Adams, John Witherspoon, Thomas Paine, and the rest of the 18th Century American Political Philosophers. But, they were also influenced by people who neither knew Locke nor agreed with him.

read full comment
Image of Standing Fast
Standing Fast
on May 20, 2019 at 19:24:55 pm

Oh, well! How fun! So, I had to go see what Michael Stephenson's "The Christmas Almanac" (Oxford University Press) says about the Twelve Days of Christmas. This is an authoritative source which says that is a 16th Century French children's counting song. Which sounds about right to me.

read full comment
Image of Standing Fast
Standing Fast
on May 20, 2019 at 19:39:52 pm

For those with inquiring minds who want to know, all you have to do is read the confessions of the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches that were adopted before independence, and the ones that changed after independence. You'll be wanting copies of the American Episcopalian, Congregationalist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Baptist, Dutch Reformed, German Reformed, Mennonite, Methodist, Quaker, Unitarian, Universalist, Roman Catholic, Anglican, and Greek Orthodox. Can't remember what others.

I guarantee there will be some surprises.

For a close-up look at what kind of difficulties people faced reagrding the reconciliation of their religion with their politics, check out Thomas Buickley's "Church and State in Revolutionary Virgina 1776-1787".

read full comment
Image of Standing Fast
Standing Fast
on May 21, 2019 at 16:52:02 pm

Thank you EK and Standing Fast for your thoughtful responses to my piece. Instead of further clogging up Dr. Hall's comment thread, I reproduced both of your comments at American Creation (one of Dr. Hall's favorite sites if he doesn't mind me noting) with a brief response.

Feel free to comment there.

read full comment
Image of Jonathan Rowe
Jonathan Rowe

Law & Liberty welcomes civil and lively discussion of its articles. Abusive comments will not be tolerated. We reserve the right to delete comments - or ban users - without notification or explanation.