Tomorrow I Will Be On Up for Debate with Julie Roy – Should Christians Be Nationalists? (UPDATED)

At noon (ET) tomorrow, I will be on the Moody Radio Network program “Up for Debate with Julie Roy” to discuss the question, “Should Christians Be Nationalists?”
The guest taking a contrasting position will be Ken Klulowski who is the Legal Editor at Breitbart News and Senior Counsel & Director of Strategic Affairs at the First Liberty Institute.
I originally wanted to debate whether or not America is a Christian nation.
You can listen online here: https://www.moodyradio.org/upfordebate
As background, see these posts on the subject (here, here, and here)
UPDATE: (7/1/17)
The show went well I think in that both sides had the ability to make important points. I do want to correct or least amend a couple of Ken Klukowski’s claims.
On one occasion he said he didn’t recognize James Madison from my quote of Madison and then said Madision’s views could be discerned by his vote for chaplains in Congress. He also said most of the founders had seminary degrees.
One. my Madison quote is sound and two, Klukowski did not tell the rest of the story on Madison. Later, Madison forcefully disagreed with the funding of chaplains and said so here.
On the founders and seminary degrees, this is a distortion made famous by David Barton. See this piece about that misleading claim.
See also my daily series on the Constitutional Convention:

1787 Constitutional Convention Series

To read my series examining the proceedings of the Constitution Convention, click here. In this series, I am writing about any obvious influences on the development of the Constitution which were mentioned by the delegates to the Convention. Specifically, I am testing David Barton’s claim that “every clause” of the Constitution is based on biblical principles. Thus far, I have found nothing supporting the claim. However, stay tuned, the series will run until mid-September.
Constitutional Convention Series (click the link)
To follow on social media, click the following links:
Facebook (blog posts and news)
Facebook (Getting Jefferson Right – history news)
Twitter

The 1787 Constitutional Convention – Compromise Debated, Madison Raises Issue of Slavery

June 30, 1787 (Click to read Madison’s notes)

Summary

The Connecticut compromise was debated and Madison proposed that the real division of states was between slave and free, not large and small.

Influences on the Delegates

After dispensing with a motion to make a special request for New Hampshire to send delegates, the Convention got back to the dispute over representation in the legislature. Pennsylvania delegate James Wilson opined that the majority would be overrun by the minority under the Connecticut plan. Connecticut’s Oliver Ellsworth argued that Wilson was wrong, very directly invoking the positive model of Britain.

Mr. ELLSWORTH. The capital objection of Mr. WILSON, “that the minority will rule the majority,” is not true. The power is given to the few to save them from being destroyed by the many. If an equality of votes had been given to them in both branches, the objection might have had weight. Is it a novel thing that the few should have a check on the many? Is it not the case in the British Constitution, the wisdom of which so many gentlemen have united in applauding? Have not the House of Lords, who form so small a proportion of the nation, a negative on the laws, as a necessary defence of their peculiar rights against the encroachments of the Commons? No instance of a confederacy has existed in which an equality of voices has not been exercised by the members of it. We are running from one extreme to another. We are razing the foundations of the building, when we need only repair the roof. No salutary measure has been lost for want of a majority of the States to favor it. If security be all that the great States wish for, the first branch secures them.

The delegates did not search for or appeal to a Bible verse or tenet of theology. Rather over and over again, they either lauded Britain or some former republic or criticized the same on behalf of their viewpoint.
Madison rebutted Ellsworth by appealing to European and ancient governments.

Mr. MADISON did justice to the able and close reasoning of Mr. ELLSWORTH, but must observe that it did not always accord with itself. On another occasion, the large States were described by him as the aristocratic States, ready to oppress the small. Now the small are the House of Lords, requiring a negative to defend them against the more numerous Commons. Mr. ELLSWORTH had also erred in saying that no instance had existed in which confederated states had not retained to themselves a perfect equality of suffrage. Passing over the German system, in which the King of Prussia has nine voices, he reminded Mr. ELLSWORTH of the Lycian confederacy, in which the component members had votes proportioned to their importance, and which Montesquieu recommends as the fittest model for that form of government. Had the fact been as stated by Mr. ELLSWORTH, it would have been of little avail to him, or rather would have strengthened the arguments against him; the history and fate of the several confederacies, modern as well as ancient, demonstrating some radical vice in their structure.

Madison then introduced a prophetic but absurd (in my view) idea.

These two causes concurred in forming the great division of interests in the United States. It did not lie between the large and small States. It lay between the Northern and Southern; and if any defensive power were necessary, it ought to be mutually given to these two interests. He was so strongly impressed with this important truth, that he had been casting about in his mind for some expedient that would answer the purpose. The one which had occurred was, that, instead of proportioning the votes of the States in both branches, to their respective numbers of inhabitants, computing the slaves in the ratio of five to three, they should be represented in one branch according to the number of free inhabitants only; and in the other, according to the whole number, counting the slaves as free. By this arrangement the Southern scale would have the advantage in one House, and the Northern in the other. He had been restrained from proposing this expedient by two considerations; one was his unwillingness to urge any diversity of interests on an occasion where it is but too apt to arise of itself; the other was the inequality of powers that must be vested in the two branches, and which would destroy the equilibrium of interests.

Madison’s thoughts did not catch on. The delegates went back to debating the matter of representation without another mention of slavery.
Britain came up again as a positive model, this time raised by Deleware’s Gunning Bedford.

Can it be expected that the small States will act from pure disinterestedness. Look at Great Britain. Is the representation there less unequal? But we shall be told again, that that is the rotten part of the Constitution. Have not the boroughs, however, held fast their constitutional rights? And are we to act with greater purity than the rest of mankind? An exact proportion in the representation is not preserved in any one of the States.

Bedford also invokes the example of Athenian politician Solon:

We must, like Solon, make such a government as the people will approve. Will the smaller States ever agree to the proposed degradation of them? It is not true that the people will not agree to enlarge the powers of the present Congress. The language of the people has been, that Congress ought to have the power of collecting an impost, and of coercing the States where it may be necessary.

Angus King of Massachusetts used Britain and Scotland as an example of how states might interact in a union.

As the fundamental rights of individuals are secured by express provisions in the State Constitutions, why may not a like security be provided for the rights of States in the National Constitution? The Articles of Union between England and Scotland furnish an example of such a provision, in favor of sundry rights of Scotland. When that union was in agitation, the same language of apprehension which has been heard from the smaller States, was in the mouths of the Scotch patriots. The articles, however, have not been violated, and the Scotch have found an increase of prosperity and happiness.

On the key division of the day — representation in the legislature — the delegates did not look for guidance from Christian theology or the Bible. Even after Ben Franklin appealed to the delegates to get Heaven involved, the delegates continued to rely on their reason and powers of persuasion. They used Britain, Rome, Athens, and Europe as models, both positive and negative. Contrary to the claims of David Barton and other Christian nationalists, the delegates did not seek a Constitution founded on biblical principles. They sought a plan which was reasonable and fair and would address the flaws in former governments without losing the benefits of republican government.
 

1787 Constitutional Convention Series

To read my series examining the proceedings of the Constitution Convention, click here.  In this series, I am writing about any obvious influences on the development of the Constitution which were mentioned by the delegates to the Convention. Specifically, I am testing David Barton’s claim that “every clause” of the Constitution is based on biblical principles. Thus far, I have found nothing supporting the claim. However, stay tuned, the series will run until mid-September.
Constitutional Convention Series (click the link)
To follow on social media, click the following links:
Facebook (blog posts and news)
Facebook (Getting Jefferson Right – history news)
Twitter

Federal Tax Forms Show Why the Sekulow Family Business Should Be Investigated (UPDATED)

The UK Guardian reported yesterday that two state AG’s (NY and NC) will look into the finances of Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow and his fundraising charities. Examining the federal tax forms from Christian Advocates Serving Evangelism (2015 990), I can see why. Remember CASE is the nonprofit which serves as the fundraising organization for Sekulow’s American Center for Law and Justice, supposedly a religious liberty law firm.
According to the IRS, family relationship on the board of a nonprofit raise a red flag:

Irrespective of size, a governing board should include independent members and should not be dominated by employees or others who are not, by their very nature, independent individuals because of family or business relationships. The Internal Revenue Service reviews the board composition of charities to determine whether the board represents a broad public interest, and to identify the potential for insider transactions that could result in misuse of charitable assets.

It seems obvious that a nonprofit should not be organized like a closely held family company. Now look at the board of Sekulow’s CASE:
CASE 990 Board
Perhaps the name of the organization should be changed to Christian Advocates Serving Sekulows.
The only person on the board who is not named Sekulow is Colby May. However, he cannot be considered an independent board member because his income is dependent on grant money received from CASE/ACLJ.  May runs the ACLJ’s DC affiliate which is completely funded by CASE/ACLJ. A review of ACLJ-DC’s 990 form shows May as the Director.
ACLJ DC May
ACLJ-DC’s income was reported on the 2015 990 as $853,796.
ACLJ-DC 990 income
As can be seen on ACLJ’s 2015 990, a grant of the exact same amount was given to ACLJ-DC.
ACLJ to ACLJ DC
 
I suspect CASE might have to provide more information to the AGs about how executive compensation was decided since none of the board members can be considered independent. Again, the IRS guidelines specify independence in setting compensation.

The Internal Revenue Service encourages a charity to rely on the rebuttable presumption test of section 4958 of the Internal Revenue Code and Treasury Regulation section 53.4958-6 when determining compensation of its executives. Under this test, compensation payments are presumed to be reasonable if the compensation arrangement is approved in advance by an authorized body composed entirely of individuals who do not have a conflict of interest with respect to the arrangement, the authorized body obtained and relied upon appropriate data as to comparability prior to making its determination, and the authorized body adequately documented the basis for its determination concurrently with making the determination.

The CASE/ACLJ 990 form indicates the Sekulows and CASE/ACLJ engaged in four sizable mutual transactions as well as a major one involving a company half-owned by Jay Sekulow. See below:
CASE CLAG
Given the fact that none of the board members can be considered independent, how could this board prevent conflicts of interest as defined by the IRS?

B. Conflicts of interest. The directors of a charity owe it a duty of loyalty. The duty of loyalty requires a director to act in the interest of the charity rather than in the personal interest of the director or some other person or organization. In particular, the duty of loyalty requires a director to avoid conflicts of interest that are detrimental to the charity. Many charities have adopted a written conflict of interest policy to address potential conflicts of interest involving their directors, trustees, officers, and other employees. The Internal Revenue Service encourages a charity’s board of directors to adopt and regularly evaluate a written conflict of interest policy that requires directors and staff to act solely in the interests of the charity without regard for personal interests; includes written procedures for determining whether a relationship, financial interest, or business affiliation results in a conflict of interest; and prescribes a course of action in the event a conflict of interest is identified.

According to the 990, a third party expert reviewed the 5-million payment to Sekulow’s law firm and said it was all fine. I hope the AGs get to interview that third party. In the spirit of transparency, I call on Sekulow and company to disclose the identity of the expert and the basis on which the transaction is reasonable.
I hope the attention Sekulow is now getting will shine a light on the disgusting fund raising practices too many Christian charities use. Many such charities flaunt the very values and beliefs they claim to be upholding.

The 1787 Constitutional Convention – The Connecticut Compromise Takes the Stage

photo-1474663898126-6f6f19a48b1d_optJune 29, 1787 (click to read Madison’s notes)

Summary

On this day in Convention, the delegates decided on proportional representation in the House of Representatives and postponed a vote on representation in the Senate. Connecticut delegate Oliver Ellsworth introduced the Connecticut Compromise for consideration.

Influences on the Delegates

The delegates picked up on June 29 as if Franklin had never made his call to prayer.  They resumed the debate over representation in the legislature straightaway. The first words of Madison’s notes reflect the divisions over the power of states and how they should be represented in the national legislature.

In Convention. —  Doctor JOHNSON. The controversy must be endless whilst gentlemen differ in the grounds of their arguments; those on one side considering the States as districts of people composing one political society: those on the other, considering them as so many political societies. The fact is, that the States do exist as political societies, and a government is to be formed for them in their political capacity, as well as for the individuals composing them.

However Connecticut’s William Johnson laid some groundwork for a compromise.

On the whole he [Johnson] thought, that, as in some respects the States are to be considered in their political capacity, and in others as districts of individual citizens, the two ideas embraced on different sides, instead of being opposed to each other, ought to be combined; that in one branch the people ought to be represented, in the other the States.

Madison used Britain as a point of comparison. The new government would be better for the states than the British arrangement.

According to the views of every member, the General Government will have powers far beyond those exercised by the British Parliament when the States were part of the British Empire. It will, in particular, have the power, without the consent of the State Legislatures, to levy money directly from the people themselves; and therefore, not to divest such unequal portions of the people as composed the several States of an equal voice, would subject the system to the reproaches and evils which have resulted from the vicious representation in Great Britain.

Madison then pointed the delegates to the European experience.

His [Madison’s] great fear was, that their Governments would then have too much energy; that this might not only be formidable in the large to the small States, but fatal to the internal liberty of all. The same causes which have rendered the old world the theatre of incessant wars, and have banished liberty from the face of it, would soon produce the same effects here. The weakness and jealousy of the small States would quickly introduce some regular military force, against sudden danger from their powerful neighbours. The example would be followed by others, and would soon become universal. In time of actual war, great discretionary powers are constantly given to the Executive magistrate. Constant apprehension of war has the same tendency to render the head too large for the body. A standing military force, with an overgrown Executive, will not long be safe companions to liberty.

And then, adding to what had become a familiar formula, Madison referred to the results of flaws in the system of Rome.

The means of defence against foreign danger have been always the instruments of tyranny at home. Among the Romans it was a standing maxim, to excite a war whenever a revolt was apprehended.

He closed by suggesting there was something for the delegates to learn from Britain and Europe.

Throughout all Europe, the armies kept up under the pretext of defending, have enslaved, the people. It is, perhaps, questionable, whether the best-concerted system of absolute power in Europe, could maintain itself, in a situation where no alarms of external danger could tame the people to the domestic yoke. The insular situation of Great Britain was the principal cause of her being an exception to the general fate of Europe. It has rendered less defence necessary, and admitted a kind of defence which could not be used for the purpose of oppression. These consequences, he conceived, ought to be apprehended, whether the States should run into a total separation from each other, or should enter into partial confederacies. Either event would be truly deplorable; and those who might be accessary to either, could never be forgiven by their country, nor by themselves.

Although vague, Hamilton’s reference to miracles bears notice.

We should run every risk in trusting to future amendments. As yet we retain the habits of union. We are weak, and sensible of our weakness. Henceforward, the motives will become feebler, and the difficulties greater. It is a miracle that we are now here, exercising our tranquil and free deliberations on the subject. It would be madness to trust to future miracles. A thousand causes must obstruct a re-production of them.

If he had made this statement at another time, I might not mention Hamilton’s skepticism. However, it seems noteworthy because his statement about “madness to trust to future miracles” came the day after Ben Franklin urged the delegates to seek heaven’s assistance. Willing to acknowledge that the Convention was an improbable event, he didn’t believe the delegates should expect any more such miracles.
Near the end of the session, Ellsworth of Connecticut offered a compromise. In this oration, he mentioned the example of Holland to support his point. I include the whole speech because it formed the basis for our present system.

 Mr. ELLSWORTH moved, “that the rule of suffrage in the second branch be the same with that established by the Articles of Confederation.” He was not sorry, on the whole, he said, that the vote just passed had determined against this rule in the first branch. He hoped it would become a ground of compromise with regard to the second branch. We were partly national, partly federal. The proportional representation in the first branch was conformable to the national principle, and would secure the large States against the small. An equality of voices was conformable to the federal principle, and was necessary to secure the small States against the large. He trusted that on this middle ground a compromise would take place. He did not see that it could on any other, and if no compromise should take place, our meeting would not only be in vain, but worse than in vain. To the eastward, he was sure Massachusetts was the only State that would listen to a proposition for excluding the States, as equal political societies, from an equal voice in both branches. The others would risk every consequence rather than part with so dear a right. An attempt to deprive them of it was at once cutting the body of America in two, and, as he supposed would be the case, somewhere about this part of it. The large States he conceived would, notwithstanding the equality of votes, have an influence that would maintain their superiority. Holland, as had been admitted (by Mr. MADISON), had, notwithstanding a like equality in the Dutch confederacy, a prevailing influence in the public measures. The power of self-defence was essential to the small States. Nature had given it to the smallest insect of the creation. He could never admit that there was no danger of combinations among the large States. They will like individuals find out and avail themselves of the advantage to be gained by it. It was true the danger would be greater if they were contiguous, and had a more immediate and common interest. A defensive combination of the small States was rendered more difficult by their greater number. He would mention another consideration of great weight. The existing Confederation was founded on the equality of the States in the article of suffrage, — was it meant to pay no regard to this antecedent plighted faith. Let a strong Executive, a Judiciary, and Legislative power, be created, but let not too much be attempted, by which all may be lost. He was not in general a half-way man, yet he preferred doing half the good we could, rather than do nothing at all. The other half may be added when the necessity shall be more fully experienced.

 

1787 Constitutional Convention Series

To read my series examining the proceedings of the Constitution Convention, click here.  In this series, I am writing about any obvious influences on the development of the Constitution which were mentioned by the delegates to the Convention. Specifically, I am testing David Barton’s claim that “every clause” of the Constitution is based on biblical principles. Thus far, I have found nothing supporting the claim. However, stay tuned, the series will run until mid-September.
Constitutional Convention Series (click the link)
To follow on social media, click the following links:
Facebook (blog posts and news)
Facebook (Getting Jefferson Right – history news)
Twitter

The 1787 Constitutional Convention – Ben Franklin's Call to Prayer

photo-1467912407355-245f30185020_optJune 28, 1787 (click to read Madison’s notes on the day)

Summary

For students of religion at the Constitutional Convention, today is one of the most eventful days of the summer. Two hundred and thirty years ago today, in the midst of strong and passionate debate about the way states would be represented in the new government, Ben Franklin rose to call the Convention to prayer. After brief discussion, the delegates adjourned without a vote on Franklin’s call and a companion motion by Edmund Randolph calling for a Fourth of July sermon followed by daily prayers. As Madison recorded the next day, the Convention did not return to either motion. Prayers were not conducted at the Convention. Franklin later wrote, “The convention, except three or four persons, thought prayer unnecessary.”

Franklin’s Call for the Assistance of Heaven

Franklin’s statement confirms that the delegates did not seek assistance from the Bible or religion to form the Constitution (the entire speech is reproduced at the end of the post). He began:

Doctor FRANKLIN. Mr. President, The small progress we have made after four or five weeks close attendance and continual reasonings with each other — our different sentiments on almost every question, several of the last producing as many noes as ayes — is, methinks, a melancholy proof of the imperfection of the human understanding. We indeed seem to feel our own want of political wisdom, since we have been running about in search of it. We have gone back to ancient history for models of government, and examined the different forms of those republics which, having been formed with the seeds of their own dissolution, now no longer exist. And we have viewed modern states all round Europe, but find none of their constitutions suitable to our circumstances. (emphasis added)

As I have documented, the models, both positive and negative, came from Britain, Europe, Greece and Rome, rather than Israel and Christian theology. Franklin then suggested that the delegates call on God.

In this situation of this Assembly, groping as it were in the dark to find political truth, and scarce able to distinguish it when presented to us, how has it happened, Sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of lights, to illuminate our understandings?

Franklin then made a case for the following motion which was seconded by Roger Sherman.

I therefore beg leave to move — that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the clergy of this city be requested to officiate in that service.

Delegates Declined to Pray for Heaven’s Assistance

Madison recorded the reaction of the delegates:

Mr. SHERMAN seconded the motion.
Mr. HAMILTON and several others expressed their apprehensions, that, however proper such a resolution might have been at the beginning of the Convention, it might at this late day, in the first place, bring on it some disagreeable animadversions; and in the second, lead the public to believe that the embarrassments and dissensions within the Convention had suggested this measure. It was answered, by Doctor FRANKLIN, Mr. SHERMAN, and others, that the past omission of a duty could not justify a further omission; that the rejection of such a proposition would expose the Convention to more unpleasant animadversions than the adoption of it; and that the alarm out of doors that might be excited for the state of things within would at least be as likely to do good as ill.
Mr. WILLIAMSON observed, that the true cause of the omission could not be mistaken. The Convention had no funds.
Mr. RANDOLPH proposed, in order to give a favorable aspect to the measure, that a sermon be preached at the request of the Convention on the Fourth of July, the anniversary of Independence; and thenceforward prayers, &c. to be read in the Convention every morning. Doctor FRANKLIN seconded this motion. After several unsuccessful attempts for silently postponing this matter by adjourning, the adjournment was at length carried, without any vote on the motion.

As noted above, Franklin later wrote that the reason for the lack of interest in his motion was that the delegates, “except three or four persons, thought prayer unnecessary.”

Don’t Expect Interference of Heaven

As we shall see, the delegates continued their debates using “ancient history,” Britain, and the rest of Europe for their models and authorities. Rarely did anyone reference religion in the formation of the Constitution. In fact, just days later on July 2, delegate Gouverneur Morris, as if to answer Franklin’s motion for assistance from heaven, said to the Convention:

Reason tells us we are but men; and we are not to expect any particular interference of Heaven in our favor.

I have written in more detail about Franklin’s call to prayer in the past (here, here, and here). Eric Metaxas made the call to prayer a main focus of his recent book If You Can Keep It (see my review of that book here). Metaxas uses the story to imply that the call somehow set the Convention on the path toward solution and compromise. However, a daily reading of Madison’s notes paints a different picture. Instead of supporting the Christian nationalist notion of a Christian republic, I think the reaction to Franklin’s call to prayer undermines the claim that the delegates sought to create a Constitution based on biblical principles.

1787 Constitutional Convention Series

To read my series examining the proceedings of the Constitution Convention, click here.  In this series, I am writing about any obvious influences on the development of the Constitution which were mentioned by the delegates to the Convention. Specifically, I am testing David Barton’s claim that “every clause” of the Constitution is based on biblical principles. Thus far, I have found nothing supporting the claim. However, stay tuned, the series will run until mid-September.
Constitutional Convention Series (click the link)

To follow on social media, click the following links:

Facebook (blog posts and news)
Facebook (Getting Jefferson Right – history news)
Twitter
Franklin’s entire speech:

Doctor FRANKLIN. Mr. President, The small progress we have made after four or five weeks close attendance and continual reasonings with each other — our different sentiments on almost every question, several of the last producing as many noes as ayes — is, methinks, a melancholy proof of the imperfection of the human understanding. We indeed seem to feel our own want of political wisdom, since we have been running about in search of it. We have gone back to ancient history for models of government, and examined the different forms of those republics which, having been formed with the seeds of their own dissolution, now no longer exist. And we have viewed modern states all round Europe, but find none of their constitutions suitable to our circumstances.
In this situation of this Assembly, groping as it were in the dark to find political truth, and scarce able to distinguish it when presented to us, how has it happened, Sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of lights, to illuminate our understandings? In the beginning of the contest with Great Britain, when we were sensible of danger, we had daily prayer in this room for the divine protection. Our prayers, sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a superintending Providence in our favor. To that kind Providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity. And have we now forgotten that powerful friend? Or do we imagine that we no longer need his assistance? I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth — that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings, that “except the Lord build the house they labor in vain that build it.” I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel. We shall be divided by our little partial local interests; our projects will be confounded; and we ourselves shall become a reproach and by-word down to future ages. And what is worse, mankind may hereafter, from this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing governments by human wisdom, and leave it to chance, war, and conquest.
I therefore beg leave to move — that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the clergy of this city be requested to officiate in that service.

The Guardian Finds Skeletons in Trump Lawyer Jay Sekulow's Closet

I hope you go read this article by the Guardian on Jay Sekulow’s fund raising tactics.  I had been aware of the massive amounts of money he has raised through fear mongering but I didn’t know about the actual tactics. This is obscene.
Sekulow has a company that manipulates Christians into giving money they can’t afford to give. Reminds me of K-LOVE. Here is a script:
Sekulow CASE
I hope reporting like this helps dry up the money flow to these people. Most charities of this size simply don’t need your money.
 

The 1787 Constitutional Convention – Political Philosophers on Parade

a570af34_optJune 27, 1787 (click the link to read Madison’s notes)

Summary

There were no votes on substantial issues today. The “highlight” was a speech of “over three hours” by Luther Martin on the need for each state to have an equal vote in the national government. The backdrop for this assertion was the continual tension between large and small states. The smaller state delegates were worried that the larger states would have the upper hand in the new republic.

Influences on the Delegates

Martin’s speech was condensed to the essence by Madison. In so doing, Madison recorded the influences on Martin’s thinking.

In order to prove that individuals in a state of nature are equally free and independent, he read passages from Locke, Vattel, Lord Somers, Priestly. To prove that the case is the same with states, till they surrender their equal sovereignty, he read other passages in Locke and Vattel, and also Rutherford. That the States, being equal, cannot treat or confederate so as to give up an equality of votes, without giving up their liberty. That the propositions on the table were a system of slavery for ten States. That as Virginia, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, have forty-two ninetieths of the votes, they can do as they please, without a miraculous union of the other ten. That they will have nothing to do but to gain over one of the ten, to make them complete masters of the rest; that they can then appoint an Executive, and Judiciary, and Legislature for them, as they please.

All of these philosophers were known to the delegates and they were all influenced by a rational Christianity which called into question supernatural claims in Scripture. For instance, Priestley declared the trinity and doctrine of the atonement to be blasphemous (see page 54, Joseph Priestley, Socrates and Jesus Compared. (Philadelphia: J. Byrne, 1803). According to Locke scholar Greg Forster, Locke “fought hard for the position that people could be saved in Jesus while denying the Incarnation, the Trinity and the Atonement.” For the most part, these political philosophers were enlightenment Christians who were outside or on the edges of orthodoxy. If one wanted to take these influences as evidence of a Christian foundation for the U.S., the next step would be to acknowledge their brand of Christianity (for the most part) bears little resemblance to evangelicalism of today. Thus far, there is no evidence that biblical principles are foundational to “every clause” Constitution as David Barton claimed.
In any case, Martin’s view was only partly represented in the final Constitutional product. As we know, all states have the same number of members in the Senate, but the House of Representatives apportions members according to the population of the state.

1787 Constitutional Convention Series

To read my series examining the proceedings of the Constitution Convention, click here.  In this series, I am writing about any obvious influences on the development of the Constitution which were mentioned by the delegates to the Convention. Specifically, I am testing David Barton’s claim that “every clause” of the Constitution is based on biblical principles. Thus far, I have found nothing supporting the claim. However, stay tuned, the series will run until mid-September.
Constitutional Convention Series (click the link)
To follow on social media, click the following links:
Facebook (blog posts and news)
Facebook (Getting Jefferson Right – history news)
Twitter

Supreme Court Decision: Should Public Funds Help Build Church Playgrounds?

photo-1473261912432-55081882c1fb_optThe Supreme Court today said yes: if other nonprofits are eligible for state funds to refurbish a playground, a church shouldn’t be denied the same funds on account of being a church. In Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia MO v. Comer, the Court decided 7-2 that states may not discriminate when awarding such funds (read decision).
At issue was a ministry of Trinity Lutheran — their daycare — and funds which they wanted from MO for placing a rubber surface on the space. MO had a rule which eliminated churches on antiestablishment grounds. The court said the state could not refuse to provide funds to a nonprofit just because it was a church.
On the surface, this may seem like a win for churches, but I am not so sure what strings may be attached, nor does it seem wise for tax dollars to go to a church, even if the church uses those funds for playground resurfacing. Eventually, those dollars aid the church in religious purposes, it seems to me, which might not seem so bad when it is your church but might seem to be a problem when it isn’t.

The 1787 Constitutional Convention – The Senate Continued

June 26, 1787

Summary

The delegates decided today in Convention that Senators should serve six-year terms with compensation for their public service. Madison spent some time outlining two views of the Senate.

Influences on the Delegates

Madison spoke at length about the role of the Senate in a republican government.

In all civilized countries the people fall into different classes, having a real or supposed difference of interests. There will be creditors and debtors; farmers, merchants, and manufacturers. There will be, particularly, the distinction of rich and poor. It was true, as had been observed (by Mr. PINCKNEY), we had not among us those hereditary distinctions of rank which were a great source of the contests in the ancient governments, as well as the modern States of Europe; nor those extremes of wealth or poverty, which characterize the latter. We cannot, however, be regarded, even at this time, as one homogeneous mass, in which every thing that affects a part will affect in the same manner the whole. In framing a system which we wish to last for ages, we should not lose sight of the changes which ages will produce. An increase of population will of necessity increase the proportion of those who will labor under all the hardships of life, and secretly sigh for a more equal distribution of its blessings. These may in time outnumber those who are placed above the feelings of indigence. According to the equal laws of suffrage, the power will slide into the hands of the former. No agrarian attempts have yet been made in this country; but symptoms of a levelling spirit, as we have understood, have sufficiently appeared in a certain quarter, to give notice of the future danger. How is this danger to be guarded against, on the republican principles? How is the danger, in all cases of interested coalitions to oppress the minority, to be guarded against? Among other means, by the establishment of a body, in the government, sufficiently respectable for its wisdom and virtue to aid, on such emergencies, the preponderance of justice, by throwing its weight into that scale. Such being the objects of the second branch in the proposed Government, he thought a considerable duration ought to be given to it.

In support of a longer term for Senators, Madison again appealed to the “ancient governments, as well as the modern states of Europe” as models for the new republic. Madison’s wisdom here is impressive. He calls the delegates to think about an America with diversity and advanced population growth. Madison viewed the Senate as a voice of moderation and virtue, dedicated to justice for all, even minorities.
Although not a fan of republican government, Hamilton agreed with Madison and added his own perspective using Rome and Britain as examples.

It was certainly true, that nothing like an equality of property existed; that an inequality would exist as long as liberty existed, and that it would unavoidably result from that very liberty itself. This inequality of property constituted the great and fundamental distinction in society. When the Tribunitial power had levelled the boundary between the patricians and plebeians, what followed? The distinction between rich and poor was substituted. He meant not, however, to enlarge on the subject. He rose principally to remark, that Mr. SHERMAN seemed not to recollect that one branch of the proposed Government was so formed as to render it particularly the guardians of the poorer orders of citizens; nor to have adverted to the true causes of the stability which had been exemplified in Connecticut. Under the British system, as well as the Federal, many of the great powers appertaining to government, particularly all those relating to foreign nations, were not in the hands of the government there.

Gerry advised again that America is not like Britain and the longer termed deliberative body envisioned by Madison and Hamilton may run afoul of the wishes of the people.

Our situation was different from that of Great Britain; and the great body of lands yet to be parcelled out and settled would very much prolong the difference. Notwithstanding the symptoms of injustice which had marked many of our public councils, they had not proceeded so far as not to leave hopes that there would be a sufficient sense of justice and virtue for the purpose of government. He admitted the evils arising from a frequency of elections, and would agree to give the Senate a duration of four or five years. A longer term would defeat itself. It never would be adopted by the people.

James Wilson hoped the Senate would have a permanence which could inspire confidence among foreign powers.

The Senate will probably be the depository of the powers concerning the latter objects. It ought therefore to be made respectable in the eyes of foreign nations. The true reason why Great Britain has not yet listened to a commercial treaty with us has been, because she had no confidence in the stability or efficacy of our Government. Nine years, with a rotation, will provide these desirable qualities; and give our Government an advantage in this respect over monarchy itself.

 

1787 Constitutional Convention Series

To read my series examining the proceedings of the Constitution Convention, click here.  In this series, I am writing about any obvious influences on the development of the Constitution which were mentioned by the delegates to the Convention. Specifically, I am testing David Barton’s claim that “every clause” of the Constitution is based on biblical principles. Thus far, I have found nothing supporting the claim. However, stay tuned, the series will run until mid-September.
Constitutional Convention Series (click the link)
To follow on social media, click the following links:
Facebook (blog posts and news)
Facebook (Getting Jefferson Right – history news)
Twitter

The 1787 Constitutional Convention – The Senate Debated

photo-1467912407355-245f30185020_optJune 25, 1787 (click the link to read Madison’s notes)
 

Summary

Today, the delegates decided that state legislatures would elect Senators and that they minimum age to be a Senator would be 3o.

Influences on the Delegates

Charles Pinckney from South Carolina opened this day with a tribute to Great Britain but warned that the system of Britain would not work out in the United States.

Much has been said of the Constitution of Great Britain. I will confess that I believe it to be the best constitution in existence; but, at the same time, I am confident it is one that will not or cannot be introduced into this country for many centuries. If it were proper to go here into an historical dissertation on the British Constitution, it might easily be shown that the peculiar excellence, the distinguishing feature, of that government cannot possibly be introduced into our system — that its balance between the Crown and the people cannot be made a part of our Constitution, — that we neither have nor can have the members to compose it, nor the rights, privileges and properties of so distinct a class of citizens to guard, — that the materials for forming this balance or check do not exist, nor is there a necessity for having so permanent a part of our Legislative, until the Executive power is so constituted as to have something fixed and dangerous in its principle. By this I mean a sole, hereditary, though limited Executive.
That we cannot have a proper body for forming a Legislative balance between the inordinate power of the Executive and the people, is evident from a review of the accidents and circumstances which gave rise to the peerage of Great Britain. I believe it is well ascertained, that the parts which compose the British Constitution arose immediately from the forests of Germany; but the antiquity of the establishment of nobility is by no means clearly defined. Some authors are of opinion that the dignity denoted by the titles of dux and comes, was derived from the old Roman, to the German, Empire; while others are of opinion that they existed among the Germans long before the Romans were acquainted with them. The institution, however, of nobility is immemorial among the nations who may properly be termed the ancestors of Great Britain. At the time they were summoned in England to become a part of the national council, the circumstances which contributed to make them a constituent part of that Constitution, must be well known to all gentlemen who have had industry and curiosity enough to investigate the subject. The nobles, with their possessions and dependents, composed a body permanent in their nature, and formidable in point of power. They had a distinct interest both from the King and the people, — an interest which could only be represented by themselves, and the guardianship of which could not be safely intrusted to others. At the time they were originally called to form a part of the national council, necessity perhaps, as much as other causes induced the monarch to look up to them. It was necessary to demand the aid of his subjects in personal and pecuniary services. The power and possessions of the nobility would not permit taxation from any assembly of which they were not a part: and the blending of the deputies of the commons with them, and thus forming what they called their parler-ment, was perhaps as much the effect of chance as of any thing else. The commons were at that time completely subordinate to the nobles, whose consequence and influence seem to have been the only reasons for their superiority; a superiority so degrading to the commons, that in the first summons, we find the peers are called upon to consult, the commons to consent. From this time the peers have composed a part of the British Legislature; and, notwithstanding their power and influence have diminished, and those of the commons have increased, yet still they have always formed an excellent balance against either the encroachments of the Crown or the people.

Pinckney traced the government of Great Britain back through “the forests of Germany” with a nod to the Romans. Pinckney, like other delegates then referred to ancient republics.

The people of this country are not only very different from the inhabitants of any state we are acquainted with in the modern world, but I assert that their situation is distinct from either the people of Greece or Rome, or of any states we are acquainted with among the ancients. Can the orders introduced by the institution of Solon, can they be found in the United States? Can the military habits and manners of Sparta be resembled to ours in habits and manners? Are the distinction of patrician and plebeian known among us? Can the Helvetic or Belgic confederacies, or can the unwieldly, unmeaning body called the Germanic Empire, can they be said to possess either the same, or a situation like ours? I apprehend, not. They are perfectly different, in their distinctions of rank, their constitutions, their manners, and their policy.

Religious liberty was a matter of significant concern to Pinckney. His mention of religious liberty here was a rare reference to religion in this Convention:

Our true situation appears to me to be this, — a new extensive country, containing within itself the materials for forming a government capable of extending to its citizens all the blessings of civil and religious liberty — capable of making them happy at home. This is the great end of republican establishments. We mistake the object of our Government, if we hope or wish that it is to make us respectable abroad. Conquests or superiority among other powers is not, or ought not ever to be, the object of republican systems. If they are sufficiently active and energetic to rescue us from contempt, and preserve our domestic happiness and security, it is all we can expect from them, — it is more than almost any other government insures to its citizens.

Pinckney again returned to his theme that America can’t be governed like Britain:

For a people thus circumstanced are we, then, to form a Government; and the question is, what sort of government is best suited to them?Will it be the British Government? No. Why? Because Great Britain contains three orders of people distinct in their situation, their possessions, and their principles. These orders, combined, form the great body of the nation; and as in national expenses the wealth of the whole community must contribute, so ought each component part to be duly and properly represented. No other combination of power could form this due representation but the one that exists. Neither the peers or the people could represent the royalty; nor could the royalty and the people form a proper representation for the peers. Each, therefore, must of necessity be represented by itself, or the sign of itself; and this accidental mixture has certainly formed a Government admirably well balanced.
But the United States contain but one order that can be assimilated to the British nation — this is, the order of Commons. They will not, surely, then, attempt to form a Government consisting of three branches two of which shall have nothing to represent. They will not have an Executive and Senate [hereditary], because the King and Lords of England are so. The same reasons do not exist, and therefore the same provisions are not necessary.
We must, as has been observed, suit our Government to the people it is to direct. These are, I believe, as active, intelligent and susceptible of good government as any people in the world. The confusion which has produced the present relaxed state is not owing to them. It is owing to the weakness and [defects] of a government incapable of combining the various interests it is intended to unite, and destitute of energy. All that we have to do, then, is to distribute the powers of government in such a manner, and for such limited periods, as, while it gives a proper degree of permanency to the magistrate, will reserve to the people the right of election they will not or ought not frequently to part with. I am of opinion that this may easily be done; and that, with some amendments, the propositions before the Committee will fully answer this end.

Recall that Pinckney introduced his own plan of government near the beginning of the Convention. His oration here set the stage for a consideration of that plan.
 

1787 Constitutional Convention Series

To read my series examining the proceedings of the Constitution Convention, click here.  In this series, I am writing about any obvious influences on the development of the Constitution which were mentioned by the delegates to the Convention. Specifically, I am testing David Barton’s claim that “every clause” of the Constitution is based on biblical principles. Thus far, I have found nothing supporting the claim. However, stay tuned, the series will run until mid-September.
Constitutional Convention Series (click the link)

To follow me on social media, click the following links:

Facebook (blog posts and news)
Facebook (Getting Jefferson Right – history news)
Twitter