Golden Nuggets from U. S. History

The Blue Quill Series
Concord Learning Systems


Religious test and the Constitution

Contrary to popular belief, the Constitution is a plain text document. Due to a colossal failure of the formal education system in the United States, Americans consider the document an enigma because they were denied an early opportunity to study its efficient prose and simple construction. However, a few short hours of remedial study would correct the deficiency if people studied the document instead of listening to lawyers, the press, and politicians.

The framers of the Constitution had only three things in mind when they cautiously gathered to form a union: (a)Common defense; (b)Foreign and domestic commerce; and (c)Common and uniform justice. The original document was put together as a "check list" of delegated authority for a central government. The colonies designated only the bare minimum of powers necessary to meet pre-determined objectives so that the federal government would have specific powers, but no more. Some delegates and other colonial leaders were pessimistic that the central government would stay within the bounds of the original intent and, therefore, insisted on adding certain rights as a condition of ratification. After ratification, the states quickly approved the Bill of Rights.

Two hundred years later, politicians and many others have a convoluted view of the power structure of the United States. They perceive the nation as a pyramid with the Constitution at the top and power flowing downward to a federal government, and on to the states and then the people. The perception is inverted: exactly upside-down and not in the proper order. The U.S. power structure is like a pyramid, but the people are at the top delegating through the states to a central government, with an instruction manual (Constitution) sent along for guidance. Due to ignorance and incorrect views on how the system was designed to work, the public is regularly duped by its own leaders.

Two recent situations have produced glaring examples of how the general public is hoodwinked on constitutional issues by public people, including the press. In most cases, the press is guilty of deception due to its own blathering ignorance. With politicians and lawyers it is a conspiratorial fraud designed to satiate their own greed for power, money, and advantage -- at the expense of the public.

Of course, one of these occurrences was the election 2000 debacle in Florida. In a democracy, a tied vote is messy but not a crisis. In this case the tie was with the Presidential vote and public officials used the ignorance of the press corp, the low IQ and Constitutional ignorance of the Florida Supreme Court justices, and the public's lack of understanding, to whip the whole thing into a maniacal frenzy.

There is a well defined legal plan in this country to resolve such matters. In this case a small group of moderately trained election officials could have settled the argument with copies of the U.S. Constitution, Title V, U.S.C., and the Florida election statutes. Protests over recounts would have moved forward until the deadline for protests was reached, then the legal contest would have begun. If the matter was not settled by midnight, December 12, the legal contest would have become moot and the Florida legislature would have stepped up to name a slate of electors for the Electoral College. In this case, the legislature was predominately Republican so they would have named a Republican slate. IF the legislature had been controlled by Democrats, then Al Gore could have become President.

But wait! If an election is close enough, could not the trailing candidate create and drag out legal contest so that a legislature of his own party could turn the election for him? ...Yes. And that's exactly the way the system is designed. BUT, if a candidate pulled such a prank, the U.S. Congress is supposed to be honest enough to correct the problem.

Is it unfair if Gore had prevailed while Bush was leading in the Florida vote? Life is unfair. So is politics. But that's not the point. The point is that there was a legal plan in place and it should have been followed without all the side shows. The people who created the farce to bring political questions to the Florida Supreme Court have done the nation a great disservice. These are not leaders, public servants, or statesmen. They are scoundrels! AND THAT IS EXACTLY THE POINT. Now, some people are trying to blame the other side for using the U.S. Supreme Court to shut down the scam and to point out fallacies in the Florida legal system.

Not content with the shambles created in Florida, the hate mongers continue on the airways and are working hard throughout the system. Lets review what happened over the weeks (Jan. 2001) following the Florida fiasco.

To keep and bear arms is one right... Religion is another.

ARTICLE VI; Cl. 3 -- The Constitution of the United States

"The Senators and Representatives..., and the members of the several state legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several states, shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."

The body of the U.S. Constitution contains only this one single reference to the word "religion" or to any variation of the word. There are no other usages in the document. "Freedom of religion," is guaranteed in the First Amendment which was added after the Constitution had been ratified (adopted) by the states.

The First Amendment reads as follows:

AMENDMENT I

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

That is the entire Amendment.

The "no religious test" mandate of Article VI," along with the "Freedom of Religion" clause of the First Amendment, were not included by accident. Each was adopted only after long debate and deep consideration. Madison was an important instigator for the "no religious test" clause and his feelings were well grounded from his study of European history and his own personal experiences in the Virginia legislature. The two clauses, in context with contemporaneous writings, provide a sound basis for the Supreme Court's long held rulings that the Constitution dictates a "separation of church and state." There are no other references to religion anywhere in the U.S. Constitution or in any of its Amendments.

Therefore, the original intent was, and still is, that "...no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."

As with ALL elements of the Constitution, the "no religious test" must be parsed carefully to fully grasp its meaning, especially the unusual insertion of the adverb "ever." The Framers were not prone to include extraneous and superfluous words... Each word in the document was evaluated, re-evaluated, and hotly debated as may be seen in the transcripts of the Constitutional Convention. The adverb "ever" in the text has a special emphasis and literally means: never, not under any conditions, in no case, no matter what the circumstances, not in any form, etc., etc. In fact, this is the ONLY use of the adverb "ever" in the entire Constitution including all Amendments. There are instances of the adjective "every" as in -- every year, every bill, every state -- but no other use of the emphatic adverb "ever." There are usages of compound conjunctions, pronouns, and adjectives such as "whenever," "whatever," "whatsoever," but no other use of "ever."

The Bill of Rights does not emphasize one right over another, yet we consider each absolute. Some scholars suggest that the order of appearance, i.e., (1)religion, (2)speech, (3)press, etc., signifies an order of importance but there is no documented basis for such reasoning. If enumerated rights without emphases are considered absolute, then it is reasonable to conclude that a Constitutional mandate prefixed with an explicit, emphatic, adverb means exactly what it says: "...no religious test shall EVER be required..."

--------------------------------

During the week ending Friday, January 19, 2001, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee held confirmation "hearings" on President George W. Bush's nominee, John Ashcroft, to become U.S. Attorney General. Throughout the first two days of hearings, Ashcroft's religion, faith, and ideology WAS tested, questioned, pilloried, and ridiculed by committee members and by witnesses before the committee. Early in the first day Ashcroft warned a Democratic Senator about the restriction in Article VI but the caution was ignored. There was not a single instance where a witness was interrupted, cautioned, or warned that a religious test was off-limits. Instead, Democratic members and adverse witnesses joined in incessant harangues against Ashcroft's faith.

Then, on Friday, much time was consumed by both Republican and Democratic Senators making speeches that what had transpired was not a religious test, but instead, was an examination of Ashcroft's record and political views. With this twisted logic, Article VI, Clause 3, has no use and may as well be stricken from the Constitution. The questioning did not follow political lines... It was specific, into religious beliefs, especially on the points of how Ashcroft would conduct himself in matters where his religion and public policy came into conflict. This point was questioned, re-questioned, and re-re-questioned. In many cases the Senators stated flatly that they didn't believe him (Ashcroft), that he could be impartial, and asked what his religion would dictate under certain hypotheticals.

In an effort to mitigate the obvious unconstitutional conduct, Democrats later hit the airways with "spin doctors," some of whom took the posture that Article VI means that a test may not be made as to whether a person has a religion or is an atheist. This Clintonesque spin assumes that the rest of us can read only at First Grade level. The Founders and framers were not intellectually challenged; they knew how to write and how to express themselves quiet well. The Constitution says what it says... "...no religious test shall EVER be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States." If the framers intended something else they would have said so. The Framers meant what they said; there shall not be an examination to determine if a person has a religion, what that religion is, the tenets of the religion, etc.

It is certainly a legitimate question to ask if a potential office holder can separate religious beliefs from public policy, but the Constitution makes it clear that a detailed test, point-by-point, of that religion is far out of bounds. If the Supreme Court can find "separation of church and state" in the few words of the First Amendment, it is much simpler to see that Article VI completely bans any test along religious grounds. The Judiciary Committee had before them thirty years of Ashcroft's public record to test his qualifications, yet they choose to delve into his religion as the primary area of inquiry. According to the Senators, Ashcroft would have great difficulty enforcing laws that conflicted with his religion. If that reasoning is correct, we could not have police officers, judges, lawyers, etc., until they were subjected to a religious test.

Those who jumped in the streets with joy during the Ashcroft hearings must consider the other side of the coin. What happens when there is an all conservative Judiciary Committee which wants to examine a Catholic, Hindu, Buddhist, an atheist, a Jew, or a different branch of the Christian faith. Is that the time to step in and restore the Constitutional mandate of hands-off?

A few of the Democrats on the Judiciary Committee were so upset with the possibility of Ashcroft serving as Attorney General that they lost all common sense and common decency. Members revealed an ignorance of the tenets of the Constitution. Notable among these was Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts.

In one exchange between Kennedy and Ashcroft, Kennedy accused Ashcroft of "treason" because Ashcroft at one time had stated that the right to bear arms was a guard against the "tyranny of government." Kennedy, red-faced and shouting, denounced such an utterance as "that is treason!" No one corrected him, demonstrating that the committee's capacity for Constitutional enlightenment was largely untapped.

How does the Constitution define treason? ARTICLE III, Section 3., First Clause: "Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort."

That is the entire constitutional definition of treason.

Notice the word "only." Again, the document means what it says: "...ONLY in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort." That's it. It does not say that a Senator from Massachusetts may dream up new grounds for treason or extend the meaning of the words used in the document.

Jane Fonda traveled to North Vietnam during the Vietnam War and provided considerable "aid and comfort" to an enemy of the United States. She may well have committed a treasonous act, but Senator Kennedy was completely silent at the time on the subject of treason and in fact, consistently support her efforts and METHODS to end the Vietnam War.

The Democrats on the Senate Judiciary decided that two days of religious testing was insufficient to serve their purposes and demanded that the "hearings" be dragged out for another two weeks. They unabashedly admitted that Ashcroft had the votes for confirmation but wanted to have the weekends to make their "case" on TV talk shows and to conduct a "fishing expedition" into Ashcroft's record. In other words, to see if they could find something to use against him.

On Wednesday, January 31, Joe Biden of Delaware, decided that he would not allow Kennedy to win the ignorance award, and repeated his announcement that he would not support Ashcroft by saying, "I wish he had been nominated for the Department of Transportation, or Energy, or the Department of Defense, where his beliefs wouldn't matter. Then I could vote for him." Probably among the most bigoted statements ever uttered in a public hearing by a member of the Senate.

Senator Joseph Lieberman, (D-Conn.) and Vice-Presidential running mate of Al Gore, is an Orthodox Jew. Jews in America generally abide by the Jewish faith in one form or another but orthodoxy is practiced by a minority and considered extreme by many Jews. MOST Americans consider Lieberman's faith extreme, yet his VP candidacy was accepted without public animus. On Thursday, February 1, Lieberman took to the Senate floor to denounce Ashcroft with a speech of open and frank hostility. Lieberman's words were tortuous as he attempted to correlate, twist, and otherwise explain his objections to Ashcorft's public record but he was unable to make his true objections coincide with Ashcort's public service. It became clear that his primary problem was Ashcroft's faith. Certainly, Lieberman will expect public tolerance for his own faith to continue.

Senator Charles "Chuck" Schumer, D-NY, exhibited pure unabashed hatred throughout the "hearings." He didn't even try to hide his distaste for Christians of any ilk. Schumer has openly stated that he has an agenda to outlaw private ownership of guns and he despises anyone who does not hold the same philosophy, especially gentiles. Schumer is a bigot of the highest order. Also he embraces the ultra liberal notion that -- pro-life, right to bear arms, anti-busing of students, parental choice for students -- are all extreme views; out of the mainstream. In short, as with Ted Kennedy, if one does not agree with Schumer, they are extreme.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

[Concord Learning Systems does not necessarily endorse John Ashcroft for U.S. Attorney General. Others could be named who may better fit our job description. However, we did not win the Presidency; George W. Bush did, and the President picked a nominee totally consistent with his personal views enunciated well before the election. Having won the election, Bush is entitled to the A.G. of his choice unless the full Senate finds that person otherwise not qualified.]

......................Concord Learning Systems

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

We are not alone in our conclusion that an ignorant Judiciary Committee should take lessons to understand the U.S. Constitution, although we strongly believe that the hard, far left ideology of many would inhibit their ability to absorb the concepts contained therein.

To Keep and Bear Arms

--------------------------------

Column from the op-ed page of:

The Charlotte Observer
Wednesday, January 24, 2001

A DEFENSE AGAINST TYRANNY

-----------
The Constitution's Framers were wise to preserve our right to bear arms.
-----------
by Walter E. Williams
Creators Syndicate

During last week's Senate confirmation hearings, Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., laid into President Bush's attorney general nominee, John Ashcroft, about his strong support for the U.S. Constitution's Second Amendment. Kennedy demanded that Ashcroft apologize to the American people.

For what did Kennedy think Ashcroft should apologize?

In a speech Ashcroft said that the reason the Framers demanded a constitutional protection for "the right of the people to keep and bear arms" was to provide a measure of protection against tyranny in government.

Kennedy demonstrated gross ignorance about the founding of our nation. To throw such an intemperate, public hissy-fit, he must have counted on -- and correctly so -- the ignorance of his senatorial colleagues, the news media and most Americans.

Ashcroft didn't bother to defend himself. He might have figured that Kennedy and his colleagues were uneducable, and possibly feared that producing facts would have brought on even greater ire.

Let's you and I look at the Framer's words to see whether they gave us the Second Amendment so we could go deer and duck hunting or, as Ashcroft said, to protect against tyranny in government.

Thomas Jefferson said: "No man shall ever be debarred the use of arms. The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government." Jefferson made it even more explicit when he said: "And what country can preserve its liberties, if its rulers are not warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants."

Writing in the Federalist Paper No. 46, James Madison said, "The Constitution preserves the advantage of being armed which Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation (where) the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms." In Federalist Paper No. 28, Alexander Hamilton said, "If the representatives of the people betray their constituents, there is no recourse left but in the exertion of that original right of self-defense which is paramount to all forms of positive government."

Richard Henry Lee said, "To preserve liberty it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them." Tench Coxe said, "Congress have no power to disarm the militia. Their swords, and every other terrible implement of the soldier, are the birthright of an American. The unlimited power of the sword is not in the hands of either the federal or state governments, but, where I trust in God it will ever remain, in the hands of the people."

Noah Webster said, "The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword, because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops." George Washington said, "Firearms stand next in importance to the Constitution itself. They are the American people's liberty teeth and keystone under independence." George Mason settled the question of militia by asking and answering: "Who are the militia? They consist of the whole people, except a few public officers."

When the history of the 20th century is finally written, one of its key features will be the wanton slaughter of more than 170 million people, not in war, but by their own government. The governments that led in this slaughter are the former Soviet Union (65 million) and the People's Republic of China (35-40 million). The point to remember is that these governments were the idols of America's leftists. Part of the reason for these and other tyrannical successes was that the people were first disarmed.

-----------
Dr. Walter E. Williams is chairman of the economics department at George Mason University.
Write him c/o Creators Syndicate
5777 West Century Blvd., Suite 700
Los Angeles, CA 90045.
-----------

[Walter E. Williams is a nationally syndicated columnist.]

Philosophos Historia


1999-2001
Concord Learning Systems, Concord, NC. All rights reserved.