Friday, January 20, 2012

"... marks you as an idiot. A hayseed even"

Commentor anonymous, on my bucolic insistence that the text of the Constitution has meaning:

Explain what the Establishment clause means using only the "actual text of the U.S. Constitution". Insisting on strict textual interpretation of the Constitution marks you as an idiot. A hayseed even.
I did grow up in a rural area, where "hayseed" was not necessarily derogatory. We countryfolk believe that words have meanings, and that the meanings matter in the way in which words are understood.

"Establishment of religion" means a government church-- a formally recognized and legislated national religion-- such as the Church of England or the Lutheran Church in Sweden or Islam in Saudi Arabia.

"Establishment" doesn' t mean religious speech by someone employed by the government. Presidents don't Establish a national religion when they mention God in speeches. Congress doesn't Establish a national religion when they put those speeches on national monuments. Groundskeepers don't Establish a national religion when they put crosses and Stars of David on graves at Arlington National Cemetary. Teachers don't Establish a national religion when they put up a prayer mural in an auditorium wall.

So text of the Constitution matters, and not just to us countryfolk. But anonymous is partially right-- the text certainly has to be interpreted in context.

Anonymous won't, however, like the context. The context of our manifestly Christian nation is that our civic contract derives from Christian ideas-- "Created equal... endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights..."--  all that stuff. Our Rights make no sense if they have no Source.

Here's a nice comment on anonymous' context argument, by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who hails from the more rural parts of Washington D.C.:

In holding that the Establishment Clause prohibits invocations and benedictions at public-school graduation ceremonies, the Court—with nary a mention that it is doing so—lays waste a tradition that is as old as public-school graduation ceremonies themselves, and that is a component of an even more longstanding American tradition of nonsectarian prayer to God at public celebrations generally. As its instrument of destruction, the bulldozer of its social engineering, the Court invents a boundless, and boundlessly manipulable, test of psychological coercion, which promises to do for the Establishment Clause what the Durham rule did for the insanity defense. See Durham v. United States, 94 U.S.App.D.C. 228, 214 F.2d 862 (1954). Today’s opinion shows more forcefully than volumes of argumentation why our Nation’s protection, that fortress which is our Constitution, cannot possibly rest upon the changeable philosophical predilections of the Justices of this Court, but must have deep foundations in the historic practices of our people. (Robert E. LEE, Individually and as Principal of Nathan Bishop Middle School, et al., Petitioners, 1992)
Justice Scalia understands that the word Establishment has a meaning, and that it must be understood in the deep historical principles of our people, not on the "philosophical predilections" of Christianity's pharisaical despisers.

Unfortunately for atheists like anonymous, Americans are largely hayseeds. We regularfolk think God gave us our Rights, and our Constitution must be interpreted in light of that.

That's how it works, in these here parts.

26 comments:

  1. Mickey the hick from the sticks. Who knew?

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  2. "Hayseeds" and "Rednecks" are legitimate targets of bigotry these days.

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  3. Come on, Dr. Egnor, all the sophisticated people know that words don't mean what the person who said or wrote them was intending to convey, but rather whatever the interpreter wants to hear! For instance, when anonymous says "Insisting on strict textual interpretation of the Constitution marks you as an idiot," perhaps the real meaning of his words is "I like apple pie!" And who *doesn't* like apple pie? Apparently you, Dr. Egnor, you ignorant anti-American hick, that's who!

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  4. "Establishment of religion" means a government church-- a formally recognized and legislated national religion

    You fail utterly. You see, you didn't use "only the actual text of the Constitution". You interpreted it to mean something specific, and not something that was contained in that actual text. And not only that, a meaning that is at odds with what founders like Madison and Jefferson thought it meant.

    "Establishment of religion" is not the same text as "no national church". Every time you bleat about how you must only look to the text of the Constitution, you destroy your own argument.

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    1. "'Establishment of religion' is not the same text as 'no national church'."

      That's exactly what it means.

      "You interpreted it to mean something specific, and not something that was contained in that actual text."

      It's the meaning of the word. If you want to call that "interpretation", then fine.

      Let's say for example, that the Constitution prohibits the establishment of a military. That would be no national military, right?

      Would anyone argue that a military was established, if for example, the following things occurred?

      1) a high school valedictorian mentions the military in her graduation speech.
      2) The President invokes the military in an address.
      3) A military hymn was sung in school.

      Nope. Because establishing a military would mean forming an army, navy and an air force, not TALKING about an army, navy and air force.

      "Every time you bleat about how you must only look to the text of the Constitution, you destroy your own argument."

      I guess your argument is that those exact words are not in there, and therefore the argument that the words "separation of church and state" are not in there, also fails.

      The difference here is that Dr. Egnor's words are a faithful interpretation, where as the "separation" is not. Establishing a religion has a meaning. It does not mean "Students may not talk about God in their graduation speech" just the same way it doesn't mean "People may not take their dogs for a walk in a public park". Your argument seems to be "But you're intepreting too!" But so what? Are all interpretations correct, or are some of them patently false?

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    2. The difference here is that Dr. Egnor's words are a faithful interpretation, where as the "separation" is not.

      No, Egnor's interpretation is not. You see, the men who authored the first Amendment could have said "no national church". They did not. They said no establishment of religion. Then, when called upon to explain what that meant, Madison, Jefferson, and others explained that it meant far more than merely "no national church".

      The interpretation of "establishment of religion" to mean "national church" is both contrary to established jurisprudence, and fatally for the "originalism" argument, contrary to history.

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    3. "And not only that, a meaning that is at odds with what founders like Madison and Jefferson thought it meant."

      Define "founder".

      Jefferson was the (primary) author of the Deceleration of Independence. It's a wonderful document, but it isn't a document of law. In it, he argues that we are endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights. Dropping the "by our Creator" is de rigeur ever since Obama started doing it.

      Jefferson had literally nothing to do with the Constitution, the very document that this doctrine of "separation" supposedly comes from. He was the American ambassador to France at the time. So his contribution to the founding was in the Declaration. Even his famous "Letter to the Danbury Baptists" is taken wildly out of context.

      let's put it this way. The purpose of the Constitution is to protect the people from the government. The religion clauses are to protect people of faith from governmental intrusion. It's not to protect the government from people of faith. Oddly enough, people of faith see this current interpretation (the separation) as a weapon wielded against them. And they are right. And the most fervant supporters of the seperation is the anti-God brigade that wants to be protected from ever hearing a whisper of religion from their neighbors, or having their religiously inspired morals "forced" on them.

      Even Madison warned only of a theocracy. And good for him, I don't want a theocracy either. A theocracy would mean that the church and the government were the same, ie an establishment of religion, EXACTLY as the Constitution said.

      Think about it like this. During the long, hot summer of 1789, a delegation of men met in Philadelphia and pounded out the Bill of Rights. They argued over every word. They labored, compromised, shouted, and finally delivered a final product.

      If the founders had meant, "There shall be an absolute separation of church and state; all bodies of government shall be prohibited from endorsing or participating in religion in any way", that's what they would have written. But they didn't say that. The words they settled on are the words that come down to us from that age. They were silent about prayers on school walls, or about small crosses on the flag of Los Angeles County, or about crosses being erected on Marine Corps bases. What they voiced was an opposition to the "establishment" of religion.

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    4. It's so cute when atheists pretend to believe that the Constitution forbids all public facilities at all levels from allowing any positive mention of God. They can convince themselves of just about anything.

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    5. It's so cute when someone who took his user name from a euphemism for "shit" thinks he has anything useful to say on any subject at all.

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  5. This is getting stupid. The argument seems to be that even to say that the prohibition against "establishment of religion" is also interpretation. And since Dr. Egnor is interpreting, then they should be free to interpret too. And because they are free to interpret, that must be that no interpretation can be wrong.

    How about this? The 13th Amendment abolishes slavery in the United States. I interpret that to mean that the 13th Amendement REQUIRES slavery in the United States. Hey, we're both interpreting, right? Who are you to tell me that I'm wrong? Are you arrogant enough to believe that only your interpretation is correct?

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    1. Don't let yourself get too worked up. It's not that the majority of atheists are too stupid to see the obvious, it's that they're liars, because they don't have a moral system under which lying is wrong and truth inherently good. And since they're liars, no amount of logic or pointing out of the obvious is going to get them to admit anything that's inconvenient to their position, no matter how obvious, even if they have to pretend not to understand simple English and logic. They're stupid, but the stupidity is self-imposed.

      They don't really think that prayer murals in public schools and the like violate the Establishment Clause. Both the judges who make those rulings and the atheists who support them are fully aware that their "interpretation" is just something pulled out of thin air, with no relation to the intent of the writers.

      They just say otherwise because "I'm just trying to uphold the Constitution our fathers fought and died for!" makes better press than "I'm a totalitarian at heart who is easily offended by expressions of views divergent from my own, and I want to make them to go away using whatever excuse I can."

      There's no point in trying to convince them and getting frustrated when they refuse to recognize the nose in front of their faces, because they won't. They're arguing in bad faith, and as such they're to be called out, ridiculed, and marginalized, not persuaded by reason. Save your energy for the very few that are interested in truth-seeking.

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    2. Dumbest comment ever on Egnor's blog.

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    3. They don't really think that prayer murals in public schools and the like violate the Establishment Clause. Both the judges who make those rulings and the atheists who support them are fully aware that their "interpretation" is just something pulled out of thin air, with no relation to the intent of the writers.

      Well, you know, except for the very clear statements on the issue made by writers like Madison. Too bad reality is at odds with your inane rant.

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    4. "Every new and successful example, therefore, of a perfect separation between the ecclesiastical and civil matters, is of importance; and I have no doubt that every new example will succeed, as every past one has done, in showing that religion and Government will both exist in greater purity the less they are mixed together " - James Madison

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  6. Anonymous,

    Please tell me what Madison had to say about the separation. I'm listening. I want to hear you out.

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  7. But while I'm waiting, let me ask anonymous three questions.

    Do you think that the separation doctrine has been used as a weapon against people of faith? Do you think it SHOULD be used as a weapon against people of faith? Is that the purpose of it?

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  8. Please tell me what Madison had to say about the separation.

    Madison opposed Congressional chaplains, thought that Presidential prayer proclamations violated the Establishment clause, and generally maintained that any entanglement was a violation of the First Amendment. But you don't have to take my word for it. You can read what he had to say in his letter and presidential statements.

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  9. Reminds me of Matthew 5-13:

    You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.

    Christians are the salt. Atheists are without saltiness.

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  10. The context of our manifestly Christian nation is that our civic contract derives from Christian ideas-- "Created equal... endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights..."-- all that stuff. Our Rights make no sense if they have no Source.

    It must be a source of never ending frustration to you that this language is not found in the Constitution. Instead, when it came to actually set forth the rights to be protected and form the government, the founding fathers identified the source of those rights as the people. Not some supernatural source. In fact, the Constitution doesn't attribute any of its provisions to anything other than the people.

    Too bad the facts get in the way of your ranting.

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  11. Do you think that the separation doctrine has been used as a weapon against people of faith?

    Give an example of it being used as a weapon against people of faith. Not an example of it being used against a government entity. Against people.

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  12. @anon:

    All judicial censorship of civic religious expression a violation of the rights of the people (who are the government in a democracy) to free exercise of religion.

    It would be analogous to a judge declaring that the Constitution required that all civic/government expression of criticism of the President be censored, and only private expression permitted, because this was necessary to guarantee freedom of speech for all.

    "Free exercise" means FREE, not censored, and the Constitution makes no distinction between civic/public and private acts. The only kind of religious expression prohibited by the Constitution is the establishment of a government church, like the Church of England.

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  13. All judicial censorship of civic religious expression a violation of the rights of the people (who are the government in a democracy) to free exercise of religion.

    You haven't given an example of the Establishment clause being used as a weapon against "people of faith". The government is not "people of faith".

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  14. The only kind of religious expression prohibited by the Constitution is the establishment of a government church, like the Church of England.

    Tell it to James Madison:

    "The establishment of the chaplainship to Congs is a palpable violation of equal rights, as well as of Constitutional principles: The tenets of the chaplains elected [by the majority shut the door of worship agst the members whose creeds & consciences forbid a participation in that of the majority. To say nothing of other sects, this is the case with that of Roman Catholics & Quakers who have always had members in one or both of the Legislative branches. Could a Catholic clergyman ever hope to be appointed a Chaplain! To say that his religious principles are obnoxious or that his sect is small, is to lift the veil at once and exhibit in its naked deformity the doctrine that religious truth is to be tested by numbers or that the major sects have a right to govern the minor."

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  15. ...the Constitution makes no distinction between civic/public and private acts.

    I think you need to reread the 14th Amendment.

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  16. Those rabid atheists like Rev. Donald Anderson sure are horrible aren't they?

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  17. What is interesting here is that the lying sack of shit Egnor makes a big deal out of a reference to "hayseed" and how it is those "hayseed" God-fearing Americans who he is lining up with without mentioning that the hayseed reference was made by one of his fellow theists, and that the comment he is making a big deal out of with this post was merely responding to the original insult.

    But lying is okay when you do it in Jesus' name. Which explains why Egnor is nothing more than a lying sack of shit.

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