I'm from Missouri

This site is named for the famous statement of US Congressman Willard Duncan Vandiver from Missouri : "I`m from Missouri -- you'll have to show me." This site is dedicated to skepticism of official dogma in all subjects. Just-so stories are not accepted here. This is a site where controversial subjects such as evolution theory and the Holocaust may be freely debated.

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My biggest motivation for creating my own blogs was to avoid the arbitrary censorship practiced by other blogs and various other Internet forums. Censorship will be avoided in my blogs -- there will be no deletion of comments, no closing of comment threads, no holding up of comments for moderation, and no commenter registration hassles. Comments containing nothing but insults and/or ad hominem attacks are discouraged. My non-response to a particular comment should not be interpreted as agreement, approval, or inability to answer.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Originalism poisons the "Is the U.S. a Christian Nation?" debate

The debate is here on a website titled "Opposing Views." IMO a better title of the debate would be "Was the U.S. founded as a Christian nation," because that is the main topic of the debate. IMO we would not even be having this big debate were it not for the cockamamie doctrine of "originalism," the notion that court decisions should be controlled by the beliefs of the Founders. Many originalists believe that the Founders beliefs should be controlling even when those beliefs are not expressed, implied, or even suggested in the Constitution. Even if we could agree about the beliefs of the individual Founders, there would still be the problem of which Founders' views to emphasize -- for example, the religion-related views (I use the term "religion-related" because some Founders who supported the establishment clause might have been very religious) of Washington have been conveniently ignored while the religion-related views of Jefferson and Madison have been emphasized. The originalists have never even explained why court decisions should give the Founders' beliefs extra weight, let alone explained why the Founders' beliefs should be controlling. In the area of the establishment clause, originalism has completely destroyed objectivity in the study of the Founders' beliefs about religion and church-state separation -- e.g., as a result of originalism, the Founders have been portrayed as everything from a bunch of bible-pounding holy-rolling fundies to a bunch of godless blasphemous atheists.
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As I have said many times, one of the worst examples of originalism is Judge John E. Jones III's statement in his Dickinson College commencement speech that his Kitzmiller v. Dover decision was based on his cockamamie notion that the Founders based the establishment clause upon a belief that organized religions are not "true" religions. Ironically, he gave the speech while standing behind the Dickinson College seal, which was designed by USA Founders Benjamin Rush and John Dickinson and which contains a picture of an open bible and the college motto in Latin, "religion and learning, the bulwark of liberty."

IMO the history of American colleges and universities is a better indication of the probable religion-related beliefs of the founding generation than are quote mines of individual Founders. The website of the University of Virginia says (boldness added),

The University of Virginia was founded as a secular university, with no religious affiliation or denominational identity. In contrast, Georgia, UNC, South Carolina, Vermont, Blount College (which became the University of Tennessee), and others chartered as state universities had denominational sponsorship.

Chapel attendance was not required of students at the University of Virginia. Other universities, public and private, required their students to attend church services. In fact, Harvard did not do away with the chapel requirement until late in the 19th century.

For Jefferson, the college experience should take place within an "academical village," a place where shared learning infused daily life. Plans were developed for ten Pavilions—stately faculty homes with living quarters upstairs and classrooms downstairs—attached to two rows of student rooms and connected by an inward-facing colonnade.

At the head of the shared lawn would stand the library (not, as in most other colleges and universities of the time, a chapel), . . . .

U.Va. could be exaggerating here because it has an ax to grind -- it wants to give itself an image of being an innovator in higher education. Still, though, I think the above claims about religion's influence in higher education -- particularly at public universities -- are worth checking out. BTW, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was the first public university in the USA and was founded in 1789, the same year in which North Carolina ratified the Bill of Rights, which of course contains the establishment clause. It is noteworthy that the best-known buildings at the Air Force Academy and the US Military Academy at West Point are the chapels -- in fact, the chapel is regarded as a symbol of the Air Force Academy.

I have no general interest in whether the USA is a Christian nation or not, or in whether it was founded as a Christian nation or not. I just don't like to see the establishment clause being misused the way that Darwinists are misusing it.
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