Civil Discourse Now

Where the far left and far right overlap for fun and enlightenment

Separation of church & State. History is a complex thing.

Tuesday at 8 p.m. on “Mouthwash,” a FB podcast, minister Micah Beckwith and I shall debate separation of church and State. Mr Beckwith claims to be a “constitutionalist” and seems to believe the original intent of the founders of this country was this country be Christian.

1) If we discuss The Constitution, the people who wrote it are called The Framers. This is not mere word play. The National Archives calls the 55 delegates “Framers,” as delegates referred to themselves as building a frame for a house, the details to be filled in later.

Founders of this country are more numerous, some 90%+ of the populace. Only white, male landowners could be, or vote for, delegates to the Convention. Left out are women, indigenous peoples, and slaves. Arrogance somehow blinds the few to the existence of everyone else.

2) The concept of “original intent” is bunk. The Constitution itself is the first place one looks to construe the document’s meaning. Mr Beckwith, as an originalist, should join me in saying the obvious. God is not mentioned in the original Constitution.

3) If the meaning is not clear, intent of The Framers helps little. The delegates entered a pact not to speak of their deliberations. Madison, Hamilton and Jay wrote The Federalist Papers, a series of pro-ratification essays after the Convention adjourned.

Otherwise, delegates’ writings are limited. There were 55 who attended, but only 39 present at signing. Three who were present refused to sign, though two recanted. (Rhode Island was totally absent.) 73 (or 74) delegates were chosen. Perhaps there is meaning in absence.

4) State ratification conventions help little. The votes in four States were surplusage after the nine required ratified. Few had records of their debates. North Carolina held two conventions, ratifying after the second. Religion was a topic.

At the first convention, delegates worried. If no religious test was required, “pagans, deists, and Mahometans might obtain offices among us, and that the senators and representatives might all be pagans.” Others voiced concerns over Jews and Catholics.

This country was as diverse (though less populous) in 1787 as it is today. A big difference is that in 1787, only white, male landowners mattered in the official count. Even then, the delegates chose a government to be separate from religion.

Of course The First Amendment was just that: an amendment. The Convention only suggested, as a compromise, that a Bill of Rights could be added, as it was in 1791 by Congress, many of whom had served as delegates.

I shall blog before the debate tomorrow evening at 8. We should not be tied to the intent of a small percentage of people long-dead, at least 20 of whom claimed ownership over other human beings and who had little problem with “clearing the land” of the people who lived here.

I have made clear my “secret plan” for the debate. I rely on The Constitution, documents related to it, historical facts, and reason. And I have my Antifa Secret Decoder Ring!

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