Thursday, January 31, 2008

Myths About The Founders And Religion

By Michael P. Tremoglie

Misotheists like to claim that the Founding Fathers were deists who never wanted a religious society. They maintain that there is substantial evidence proving they were not Christians. One repeatedly referenced is the Treaty of Tripoli of 1797. This is proffered as absolute proof that the Founding Fathers did not want the United States to be a religious nation.

This is sheer sophistry. If all the evidence the misotheists have that the Founders wanted to bowdlerize religion from America is a meaningless symbolic phrase of an obscure unconscionable treaty, then they have no evidence at all.

John Adams signed this treaty and it was ratified by the Senate even though it included this clause: "As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion ..." Yet, here are some facts about the treaty:

* It was later revoked.

* The clause was not included in the original version. It was mysteriously, perhaps fraudulently, inserted by Joel Barlow, the Algerian Consul, who was a contemnor of Christianity.

* The original Arabic version, which states several times the phrase "Praise be to God," is on file at the State Department, although it is Barlow's English version that was ratified by the Senate and signed by Adams.

* The treaty was made primarily to save the lives of American hostages. One can conclude that if the treaty said the moon were made of green cheese, it would have been ratified by the Senate and signed by Adams.

* A Spanish translation of this treaty references treaties with Christian nations - meaning in this case the United States.

When one considers these facts about the treaty, the assertion that it is evidence that the Founders eschewed religion and Christianity is not true.

Other evidence they say proves the Founders wanted a completely secular nation includes the claim that George Washington and Benjamin Franklin were deists. This is not true. There is a church in Philadelphia, St. Peter's Episcopal, that indicates the pew used by Washington when he attended services there. (Ironically, Stephen Decatur, the hero of the Battle of Tripoli, is buried in this same churchyard.). Benjamin Franklin is buried in the Old Christ's Church burial ground. This would be an odd place if he were an irreligious person.

Misotheists like to refer to various quotes from Thomas Jefferson to deny his religiosity - including the separation of church and state quote. However, they ignore his 1816 letter to Charles Thomson in which he said, "I am a real Christian."

They like this quote of Adams: "I almost shudder at the thought of alluding to the most fatal example of the abuses of grief which the history of mankind has preserved - the cross. Consider what calamities that engine of grief has produced!" Yet, they ignore Adams' 1797 inaugural speech (the same year as the treaty they revere) during which he said, "Consider .... Christianity among the best recommendations for the public service."

Conversely, Misotheists ignore evidence that America is a religious nation. The opinion by the New York Supreme Court in the 1811 case of People v. Ruggles is such piece of evidence. The Chief Justice of the New York Supreme Court was James Kent, author of Commentaries on American Law. He wrote in his opinion, "We are a Christian people. ... Christianity, in its enlarged sense, as a religion revealed and taught in the Bible, is not unknown to our law."

Another court case is the 1892 United States Supreme Court opinion in Holy Trinity Church v. United States. This involved the hiring of an English pastor that was prevented by immigration officials because of a prohibition against foreign laborers. The U.S. Supreme Court determined that the prohibition did not apply to pastors because "this is a Christian nation." The justices cited the People v. Ruggles opinion.

There are too many religious practices and symbols associated with the United States to claim that the Founders were not religious or wanted to exclude religion from America. Indeed, at least one signer of the Constitution was an ordained minister.

It is unfortunate that despite the evidence to the contrary, myths that the Founders were irreligious or wanted to ban religion from the public square are considered fact. This is a function of the tendentious scholarship and revisionism taught by schools and colleges. Americans need to be reeducated about their religious heritage.


Terrorist Tort Travesty

By John Yoo

War is a continuation of politics by other means, the German strategist Carl von Clausewitz famously observed in his 19th-century treatise, "On War." Clausewitz surely could never have imagined that politics, pursued through our own courts, would be the continuation of war. Last week, I (a former Bush administration official) was sued by Jose Padilla-- a 37-year-old al Qaeda operative convicted last summer of setting up a terrorist cell in Miami. Padilla wants a declaration that his detention by the U.S. government was unconstitutional, $1 in damages, and all of the fees charged by his own attorneys.

The lawsuit by Padilla and his Yale Law School lawyers is an effort to open another front against U.S. anti-terrorism policies. If he succeeds, it won't be long before opponents of the war on terror use the courtroom to reverse the wartime measures needed to defeat those responsible for killing 3,000 Americans on 9/11.

On Thursday, a federal judge moved closer to sentencing Padilla to life in prison. After being recruited by al Qaeda agents in the late 1990s, Padilla left for Egypt in 1998 and reached terrorist training camps in Afghanistan in 2000. American officials stopped him at Chicago O'Hare airport in 2002, based on intelligence gained from captured al Qaeda leaders that he was plotting a dirty bomb attack.

President Bush declared Padilla an enemy combatant and ordered him sent to a naval brig in South Carolina. After a federal appeals court rejected Padilla's plea for release, the government transferred him to Miami for trial for al Qaeda conspiracies unrelated to the dirty bomb plot. Federal prosecutors described Padilla as "a trained al-Qaeda killer," and a jury convicted him of conspiring to commit murder, kidnapping and maiming, and of providing material support to terrorists.

Now Padilla and his lawyers are trying to use our own courts to attack the government officials who stopped him. They claim that the government cannot detain Padilla as an enemy combatant, but instead can only hold and try him as a criminal. Padilla alleges that he was abused in military custody--based primarily on his claim that he was held in isolation and not allowed to meet with lawyers.

But enemy prisoners in wartime never before received the right to counsel or a civilian trial because, as the Supreme Court observed in 2004, the purpose of detention is not to punish, but to prevent the enemy from returning to the fight.

Under Padilla's theory, the U.S. is not at war, so any citizen killed or captured by the CIA or the military can sue. In November 2002, according to press reports, a Predator drone killed two al Qaeda leaders driving in the Yemen desert. One was an American, Kamal Derwish, who was suspected of leading a terrorist cell near Buffalo. If Padilla's lawsuit were to prevail, Derwish's survivors could sue everyone up the chain of command--from the agent who pressed the button, personally--for damages.

Padilla's complaints mirror the left's campaign against the war. To them, the 9/11 attacks did not start a war, but instead were simply a catastrophe, like a crime or even a natural disaster. They would limit the U.S. response only to criminal law enforcement managed by courts, not the military. Every terrorist captured away from the Afghanistan battlefield would have the right to counsel, Miranda warnings, and a criminal trial that could force the government to reveal its vital intelligence secrets.

America used this approach in the 1990s with al Qaeda. It did not work. Both the executive and legislative branches rejected this failed strategy. In the first week after 9/11, Congress passed a law authorizing the use of military force against any person, group or nation connected to the attacks, and recognized the President's constitutional authority "to deter and prevent acts of international terrorism against the United States."

In the spring of 2002, I was a Justice Department lawyer asked about the legality of Padilla's detention. There is ample constitutional precedent to support the detention of a suspected al Qaeda agent, even an American citizen, who plans to carry out terrorist attacks on our soil. During World War II, eight Nazi saboteurs secretly landed in New York to attack factories and plants. Two of them were American citizens.

After their capture, FDR sent them to military detention, where they were tried and most of them executed. In Ex Parte Quirin, the Supreme Court upheld the detention and trial by military authorities of American citizens who "associate" with "the military arm of the enemy" and "enter this country bent on hostile acts." If FDR were president today, Padilla might have fared far worse than he has.

None of that matters to the anti-war left. They failed to beat President Bush in the 2004 elections. Their efforts in Congress to repeal the administration's policies have gone nowhere. They lost their court challenges to Padilla's detention. The American public did not buy their argument that the struggle against al Qaeda is not really a war.

So instead they have turned to the tort system to harass those who served their government in wartime. I am not the only target. The war's critics have sued personally Donald Rumsfeld, John Ashcroft, Robert Gates, Paul Wolfowitz and other top government officials for their decisions in the war on terrorism. Other lawsuits have resorted to the courts to attack the telecommunications companies that helped the government intercept suspected terrorist calls.

It is easy to understand why CIA agents, who are working on the front lines to protect the nation from attack, are so concerned about their legal liability that they have taken out insurance against lawsuits. Worrying about personal liability will distort the thinking of federal officials, who should be focusing on the costs and benefits of their decisions to the nation as a whole, not to their own pockets. Even in the wake of Watergate, the Supreme Court recognized that government decisions should not be governed by the tort bar.

In a case about warrantless national security wiretaps ordered by Nixon's attorney general, John Mitchell, the court declared that executive branch officials should benefit from qualified immunity. Officials cannot be sued personally unless they had intentionally violated someone's clearly established constitutional rights.

The Padilla case shows that qualified immunity is not enough. Even though Supreme Court precedent clearly permitted Padilla's detention, he and his academic supporters can still file harassing lawsuits that promise high attorneys' fees. The legal system should not be used as a bludgeon against individuals targeted by political activists to impose policy preferences they have failed to implement via the ballot box.

The prospect of having to waste large sums of money on lawyers will deter talented people from entering public service, leading to more mediocrity in our bureaucracies. It will also lead to a risk-averse government that doesn't innovate or think creatively. Government by lawsuit is no way to run, or win, a war.


Deceitful parenting

I knew, just from reading the title, that I would be sputtering with indignation if I clicked through to read "Is a taste of deceit with carrots so bad for kids?" I clicked. Consider yourselves warned.

I must be totally out of step with other parents, because I cannot even conceive of asking such a question, much less giving it serious consideration. While the article focuses on sneaking healthful foods into children-something I've never really had to worry about-the crux of the matter comes up deep in the rationalizing:
But in diet as in all things, I firmly believe in parental privilege. Loopholes exist. I see no problem, for instance, in telling my kids that the DVD player in our family minivan only works on long drives on the freeway. I don't see anything at all wrong with a friend briefing his son on the federal law that prohibits boys under the age of 13 from owning pocket-knives. And I believe it was an act of inspiration when a mom I know told her daughter that the "Live Nude" sign near her school is in fact a French-language affirmation with a missing accent on the "e" that actually reads "live new day."
So, "parental privilege" for Christopher Noxon-the author of this bilge-apparently means stringing together lie after lie for one's children. And it isn't even justified solely on the basis of that overused excuse, protection-notice that his own example is simply for his convenience. Another presumably rests on the mother's embarrassment at the mere thought of naked bodies; how ever is she going to explain to her daughter the shameful fact that babies come into the world naked?

Can we really wonder how so many of today's children come to unthinkingly accept the lies of the state, when they've had years of such tripe shoved into their heads by their parents? How can someone not develop explanations that depend on "magic" or authority when they're told things that defy logic, not to mention the laws of physics, by the people they count on most to help them learn how to deal with the world? Actually, I wonder if they even bother to try to develop explanations; after passing some threshold of nonsense of this sort some kids must decide that the world is simply too arbitrary and unpredictable to try to comprehend, and instead uncritically accept whatever they're told. And thus is another generation of herd monkeys readied to step on to the job-consume treadmill ...

This kind of parenting is emblematic of what I see as the major problem today: too many parents have little or no respect for their children. Instead, they shove their convenient feeding times, their ideas of the proper amount of food, their notions of what's best in all things, on to a child beginning at birth. But even a neonate can tell when it's hungry, and full, and will signal those states to its parents if they would just respect the baby, and pay attention to it. Not face time, not play time, but that simple act of focusing upon another person and observing his or her rhythms and preferences. In our rush-rush society, that may seem like a luxury ... but we're talking about the most basic, vital relationship two individuals can have! How can learning one's child's nature be a luxury? But, tragically, it seems to be so for lots of parents.

Perfection isn't an option in parenting; that isn't the standard I am comparing these ideas against. But to build a relationship with one's child on deceit ... that is unfathomable and unconscionable to me. It's a casual dismissal of the child's humanity-his or her basic intellect and its need to be rationally engaged, so that the child stands a chance of becoming a self-directing, mature person. Even saying something like, "I don't think you're responsible enough for a pocket knife yet," or "I'm uncomfortable talking about what's going on in that business," is better than invoking a nonexistent federal law or faux French. Of course, such responses will almost invariably continue the conversation, rather than stop it; and that seems to be what such parents want-a way to avoid possible conflict or unpleasantness. So, how exactly are these protected children going to learn to deal with the inevitable conflicts and unpleasant situations that will arise in life?

In the physical world, loopholes don't exist; if one appears to, it's because some information is missing. In the social world, loopholes exist to the degree that a society's individuals accept the idea that some individuals "deserve" better or worse than other individuals, and perpetuate interactions based on such ideas. In such societies, those loopholes eventually wind up becoming nooses of some sort or other.

Anyway, just for thoroughness' sake, I'll answer the question: Yes, deceit is bad for kids. When served to them by their parents, it's poison. Other parents may see no problem in this, since "the dose makes the poison"; but, recalling my own disappointment and subsequent mistrust when I discovered my parents had lied to me, I'm unwilling to risk any titration.


The Next Legal Frontier

One reason to follow Canadian politics is that Canada's hyper-activist courts often function as a kind of test kitchen, in which the legal left can experiment with concepts before advancing them in the US. Here's the current brainwave:

Two Canadian legal groups, Amnesty International Canada and the British Columbia Civil Liberties Union, are litigating right now to assert that Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms should apply to Afghan nationals in Afghanistan. As one of the lawyers for Amnesty and the BCCLU puts it:
"If detainees are just protected by international law, only the general decides; if the Charter applies, the courts can overrule the generals. The real difference is who can supervise the generals."
Courts supervising armed forces in the field - there's a glimpse of things to come. And it may well be coming to the US too, depending on what happens in November.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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