Judge Jones flunks history and philosophy as well as law and science
As has been often written, our Founding Fathers were children of The Enlightenment. So influenced, they possessed a great confidence in an individual's ability to understand the world and its most fundamental laws through the exercise of his or her reason. And that reason was best developed, they clearly believed, by a broad based liberal arts education that caused its recipients to engage the world by constantly questioning and persuading others.
Ironically, but perhaps fittingly for my purposes today, we see the Founders' ideals quite clearly, among many places, in the Establishment Clause within the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. This of course was the clause that I determined the school board had violated in the Kitzmiller v. Dover case. While legal scholars will continue to debate the appropriate application of that clause to particular facts in individual cases, this much is very clear. The Founders believed that true religion was not something handed down by a church or contained in a Bible, but was to be found through free, rational inquiry. At bottom then, this core set of beliefs led the Founders, who constantly engaged and questioned things, to secure their idea of religious freedom by barring any alliance between church and state.
For starters, Jones' above statements are self-contradictory. He is essentially saying that the real purpose of the establishment clause -- which was supposed to prohibit the govennment from establishing a religion -- was to establish the founding fathers' "true religion" (i.e., their belief that "true religion was not something handed down by a church or contained in a Bible, but was to be found through free, rational inquiry") as the official state religion!
Also, Jones was stereotyping and misrepresenting the religious and philosophical beliefs of the founding fathers. The founding fathers were mostly not philosophers or theologians -- they were just mostly lawyers, planters, merchants, etc.. I believe that Jefferson was the only founding father who left behind much in the way of philosophical writings about religion, and he apparently gave no indication that his advocacy of the separation of church and state was even partly based on the one motivation that Judge Jones stated above. Also, it appears that the teleological argument of design was part of Jefferson's religion of Deism. As Bill Dembski said, "Who among our nation’s founding fathers believed that the essence of religion is an Enlightenment rationalism that eschews design? None of them. Even Jefferson would be on the ID side in the current debate." Also, the signers of the Constitution were not just big names like Washington, Madison, Franklin, and Hamilton, but included lesser-known men about whom much less is known (39 delegates signed the Constitution, and 16 did not sign). Presumably the signers of the Constitution had a broad range of views about religion. As for the Federalist Papers which promoted the Constitution, Federalist No. 84, by Alexander Hamilton, actually opposed a bill of rights.
Jones essentially said that the religious purpose of establishing this "true religion" of the founding fathers was their main if not their sole purpose for adding the establishment clause to the Bill of Rights. But the establishment clause at least had "legitimate secular purposes which were not a sham" -- the founding fathers were obviously aware that theocracies and the doctrine of the divine right of kings were threats to liberty, and the establishment clause was also consistent with and supportive of the free exercise clause. Some of the American colonies -- Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Pennsylvania -- were founded by people seeking escape from religious persecution. Contrary to Jones' speech, it is doubtful that the establishment clause was solely, mainly, or even partly intended to promote abstract philosophical ideas about religion. And the founding fathers certainly did not intend the establishment clause to be used for the suppression of scientific ideas. The suppression of scientific ideas would not have met with the approval of Jefferson, who said, "I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man." It was wrong of Judge Jones to insinuate that the founding fathers would have approved of his Kitzmiller v. Dover decision.
Jones made no bones about the fact that his speech was just a self-serving effort to defend his Kitzmiller decision by wrapping himself in the mantle of the founding fathers. One wonders if Judge Jones' statements in his commencement address would have earned him a passing grade in an undergraduate history or philosophy course at his alma mater. Such is the supposedly great mind who wrote the supposedly brilliant Kitzmiller opinion.
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