“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” – Constitution, First Amendment
Senator Harbin has been actively promoting the role of religion in politics since his election awhile back. He does not seem to understand either how this nation was formed during the “Age of Enlightenment” or that the Constitution, Article 6 states: “The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the members of the several state legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several states, shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”
Is Harbin trying to rewrite the history of the nation, turning us into a theocracy? From his public stands, one has to wonder.
For instance, let’s examine his July 4th ads in various local papers. He heads the ads “In God we trust,” a phrase that no founding father ever asked to be on our coins. These words were not put onto American coins until the Civil War, and then only because a misnamed lobbying group called the National Reform Association wanted to rewrite the preamble to the Constitution and include God and Jesus, which Abraham Lincoln rejected.
Then, Harbin’s ad shows four founding fathers and their quotes discussing the role of God. The four he shows are George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, and John Adams. He also shows Ronald Reagan. Weirdly, that picture and quote are twice the size of the others. Despite Harbin’s beliefs, no recognized historians put Reagan on the same level as the four others, and for good reason. Reagan accomplished some positive things, like lowering the inflation rate and being generally a genial person when dealing with opponents. He also did some very bad things, like pushing through tax cuts without corresponding expenditure decreases, increasing the national deficit substantially and trading guns to Iran for hostages (Iran-Contra).
So, why did Harbin make Reagan out to be more significant than the others? Is it his eagerness to play the “See, I’m a real conservative card” or his lack of historical knowledge?
In any case, what Harbin did was to cherry-pick what he wished to convey, regardless of history. And, that is the mark of an activist trying to rewrite history, not a conservative trying to preserve it.
For example, in 1787 Jefferson also wrote, “Question with boldness even the existence of a god.” And, in Notes on the State of Virginia, “But it does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are 20 gods, or no god.” And, in a letter to John Adams, “The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus by the Supreme Being in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter.”
Adams was a Unitarian who also did not believe in the Trinity, stating, “The government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.” And, “This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it.”
As for Franklin, he wrote, “Lighthouses are more helpful than churches”, “The way to see by Faith is to shut the Eye of Reason”, “I have found Christian dogma unintelligible. Early in life, I absenteed myself from Christian assemblies”, and “To Follow by faith alone is to follow blindly.”
Washington was somewhat more religious than the rest, stating, “Let us raise a standard to which the wise and honest can repair; the rest is in the hands of God.” In other words, God helps those who help themselves. Washington also instructed his agent when hiring people to build Mounty Vernon, “If they be good workmen, they may be from Asia, Africa, or Europe; they may be Mohammedans, Jews, or Christians of any sect, or they may be Atheists.”
Harbin also did not choose to pick out quotes from founding fathers like Thomas Paine and Ethan Allen who were not believers in traditional religion or Christianity. Paine wrote “The Age of Reason,” and Allen wrote “Reason: the Only Oracle of Man.” Both promoted deism.
Let’s get back to the Fourth of July. Jesus once said, “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.” That same thought is incorporated into our own Declaration of Independence, which says, “to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” Senator Harbin needs to read both documents more closely and stop his religious activism.