Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Christian Right's Misapropriation of James Madison

The website known as Classical Liberals
provides a synopsis of a brouhaha that happened a few years ago between a David Barton who heads up a group called Wall Builders and an Atheist who was challenging the Constitutionality of Congressional Chaplains. As Classical Liberal quotes Madison:

Is the appointment of Chaplains to the two Houses of Congress consistent with the Constitution, and with the pure principle of religious freedom? In strictness the answer on both points must be in the negative. The Constitution of the U. S. forbids everything like an establishment of a national religion. The law appointing Chaplains establishes a religious worship for the national representatives, to be performed by Ministers of religion, elected by a majority of them; and these are to be paid out of the national taxes. Does not this involve the principle of a national establishment, applicable to a provision for a religious worship for the Constituent as well as of the representative Body, approved by the majority, and conducted by Ministers of religion paid by the entire nation?

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 evil 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 tight to govern the minor.

I gotta ask: What is it about us Christians when we see the word "Atheist" connected to denial of someone's being canonized as a Christian, we get our undies in a wad, as if God needs us to go to anyone's defense?

Couldn't it be possible that this person is right on that issue?

And what makes us get so defensive of these things as if our Faith depends on it?


More & more I like the idea of Christians seeing our citizenship as in heaven. Or at least Primarily so!

More information: (Contains links to several of Madison's writings.)

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