People v. Ruggles 1811: Christianity and Government

[W]hatever strikes at the root of Christianity tends manifestly to the dissolution of the government… because it tends to corrupt the morals of the people, and to destroy good order… [O]ffenses against religion and morality… strike at the root of moral obligation and weaken the security of of the social ties. (People v. Ruggles)

What is the proper relationship between religion and the government?

Is it the complete separation between church and state? Even Thomas Jefferson in his letter to the Danbury Baptists didn’t completely define the “wall” he talked about.  The wall itself seems to be penetrated at times by Jefferson’s own words in the Declaration of Independence which reveals that the source of life, freedom, and man’s ability to be happy comes from the Creator.

In 1787, the Northwest Ordinance allowed for the creation of five states, of which, Ohio was first. The ordinance states, “No person, demeaning himself in a peaceable and orderly manner, shall ever be molested on account of his mode of worship or religious sentiments, in the said territory.” This predates the First Amendment to the US Constitution which was adopted in 1791. This ordinance provided for religious freedom in the territory. It further states that religion and morality are to be taught. Article three says, “Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.” From reading the ordinance, it is obvious that this “religion and morality” was taught in public schools and paid for with public taxes.

The constitution of Massachusetts written in 1780 by John Adams asserts, “As the happiness of a people and the good order and preservation of civil government essentially depend upon piety, religion, and morality, and as these cannot be generally diffused through a community but by the institution of the public worship of God and of the public instructions in piety, religion, and morality.” It goes on to instruct that groups, political bodies, and religious societies should carry out this public worship authorized through the legislature.

Are these legal documents breaching the “wall of separation” that Jefferson talks about? Do they violate the First Amendment? Or do these writers and framers of legal documents and constitutions understand better than we do the proper relationship between church and state? A comparison of public scenes from the 18th century and today shows us that the former had greater religious freedom than the modern people of today. I postulate that this wall of separation as is thought of in the modern sense actually inhibits the freedom of expression and freedom of worship. If you doubt my statement and begin to invoke the undefined “wall”, consider if you will ever hear in your lifetime, a speech from a government official with these words:

“I congratulate the people of the United States on the assembling of Congress at the permanent seat of their government; and I congratulate you, gentlemen, on the prospect of a residence not to be exchanged. It would be unbecoming the representatives of this nation to assemble for the first time in this solemn temple without looking up to the Supreme Ruler of the universe and imploring his blessing. You will consider it as the capitol of a great nation, advancing with unexampled rapidity in arts, in commerce, in wealth, and in population, and possessing within itself those resources which, if not thrown away or lamentably misdirected, will secure to it a long course of prosperity and self-government. May this territory be the residence of virtue and happiness! In this city may piety and virtue, that wisdom and magnanimity, that constancy and self-government, which adorned the great character whose name it bears, be forever held in veneration! Here, and throughout our country, may simple manners, pure morals, and true religion forever flourish.”

–  John Adams, November25, 1800, the year the first Congress opened session in the Capitol.

I submit to you, the reader, we have lost some freedom when any religious expression in public places and public institutions is allowed to be defeated by a “wall”.

The Real Issue With Prop 8

On November 4th, 2008, seven million Californians vote to define marriage as only between a man and a woman. On August 4th, 2010, the United States District Court for the Northern District of California struck down the decision declaring it unconstitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal protection clause and the right to due process.

The moral issue of homosexuality need not be addressed here. What will be addressed is the Court’s continual use of equal protection to take basic cultural decisions out of the hands of the people. The Court is a legal institution, but it undertakes to decide hot button issues of culture and politics that are, strictly speaking, none of its business. The Supreme Court, aided by the lower federal courts and many state courts, has usurped the powers of the people and its elected representatives. Our democratic system gives the people the power, if they are persuaded that the policies of the past should not be the policies of the present, to change the laws as they see fit. The system is destroyed if the policies of each age is taken out of the democratic process and written into the constitution. It’s ironic that the Court criticizes the ways of our ancestors when at least our ancestors left us free to change. The same cannot be said of this Court-dictatorship which has chosen to inscribe into law, one by one, the current preferences of society and in some cases the counter-majority preferences. The court has become a supreme law maker beyond the reach of the ballot box.

In conclusion, the decision by one Judge Walker to usurp the power of the California voters of more than seven million and overstep his bounds was wrong. One against seven million. Every American, gay or not, should be alarmed at those numbers, strip the courts of their cultural and political influences, and put the issue to a vote. Whatever the decision, at least we would have the power to change down the road.

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