ACLU response to the Oklahoma citizen's proclamation for morality

Oklahoman Modified: July 2, 2009 at 5:06 pm •  Published: July 2, 2009
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Editor's note: The ACLU of Oklahoma has issued the following response to the proclamation. Their responses to individual portions of the proclamation are in bold.

We the People of Oklahoma, Invoking the guidance of Almighty God, in order to secure and perpetuate the blessing of Liberty; to secure just and rightful Government; to promote our mutual Welfare and Happiness, do establish this proclamation and call upon the people of the great State of Oklahoma, and our fellow Patriots in these United States of America who look to the Lord for guidance, to acknowledge the need for a national awakening of righteousness in our land.

WHEREAS, “It is Religion and Morality alone, which can establish the Principles upon which Freedom can securely stand” (John Adams); and

ACLU: The complete quote is “Statesmen, my dear Sir, may plan and speculate for liberty, but it is religion and morality alone, which can establish the principles upon which freedom can securely stand. The only foundation of a free Constitution is pure virtue, and if this cannot be inspired into our People in a greater Measure than they have it now, they may change their rulers and the forms of government, but they will not obtain a lasting liberty.”

John Adams was not a framer of the Constitution and this quote does not relate to the federal or state government and whether the government should influence religion.

WHEREAS, “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by Religion and Morality” (John Adams); and

ACLU: The complete quote is “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."

John Adams was speaking to the officers of the first brigade of the 3rd division of the militia of Massachusetts October 11, 1798. Again, this quote does not relate to whether government should be influenced by religion. This quote is taking out of context to enhance a view point[1]

It is also important to know that as President, Adams signed the Treaty of Tripoli. Article 11 states: As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Musslumen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

WHEREAS, “Our Constitution was made only for a Moral and Religious people” (John Adams); and

WHEREAS, “We have staked the whole future of American civilization, not upon the power of government…but upon the capacity of mankind for self-government, upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God” (James Madison); and

ACLU: This quote has caused a lot of controversy. “It was first introduced in David Barton’s The Myth of Separation in 1989. However, Madison enthusiasts and the editors of the Papers of James Madison have stated that they have not found anything in their files to suggest Madison said these words. The author David Barton has agreed that this quote is unconfirmed.”[2]

Madison objected to state-supported chaplains in Congress and to the exemption of churches from taxation. He wrote: "Religion and government will both exist in greater purity; the less they are mixed together."

WHEREAS, “Freedom is not a gift bestowed upon us by other men, but a right that belongs to us by the laws of God (Benjamin Franklin); and

ACLU: This quote is incomplete and is intentionally misleading. The complete quote is actually “Freedom is not a gift bestowed upon us by other men, but a right that belongs to us by the laws of God and nature."

WHEREAS, “God who gave us life gave us liberty and can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the Gift of God” (Thomas Jefferson); and

ACLU: This quote is a combination of 2 quotes made at two different times found on Jefferson’s Memorial. The first “But let them [members of the parliament of Great Britain] not think to exclude us from going to other markets to dispose of those commodities which they cannot use, or to supply those wants which they cannot supply. Still less let it be proposed that our properties within our own territories shall be taxed or regulated by any power on earth but our own. The God who gave us life gave us liberty at the same time; the hand of force may destroy, but cannot disjoin them.” This quote Jefferson is giving a summary A Summary View of the Rights of British America.

The second part of the quote is taken from Jefferson’s notes on Virginia. “For in a warm climate, no man will labour for himself who can make another labour for him. This is so true, that of the proprietors of slaves a very small proportion indeed are ever seen to labor. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep for ever . . ."[3]

WHEREAS, “Whether any free government can be permanent, where the public worship of God, and the support of Religion, constitute no part of the policy or duty of the state” (Joseph Story); and

ACLU: The complete quote is “It yet remains a problem to be solved in human affairs whether any free government can be permanent where the public worship of God, and the support of religion, constitutes no part of the policy or duty of the state in any assignable shape…“Thus, the whole power over the subject of religion is left exclusively to the state governments, to be acted upon according to their own sense of justice, and the state constitutions; and the Catholic and the Protestant, the Calvinist and the Arminian, the Jew and the Infidel, may sit down at the common table of the national councils, without any inquisition into their faith, or mode of worship.

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