Archive for Thomas Jefferson

Government and Religion

Posted in Atheist, culture, freethought, Government, history, life, politics, random, religion, thoughts with tags , , , , , on October 17, 2009 by chouck017894

Thomas Jefferson—chairman of a committee of five to prepare a draft of the Declaration of Independence from England, elected to the Continental Congress in 1775 and 1776, Secretary of State under the first President of the United States, and himself the third President—was adamant that church and state must be kept separate.

Jefferson wisely rejected advice from religious representatives who sought to pressure him to institute days of prayer, and said that he believed that government officials did not have legal justification to call people to pray.  Jefferson spelled out his position and that of the nation’s Constitution with this observation:

  • “I consider the government of the United States as interdicted by the Constitution from intermeddling with religious institutions, their doctrines, discipline or exercises.”   He further clarified this, saying, “Every religious society has the right to determine for itself the times for (religious) exercises and the objects proper for them, according to their own particular tenets, and this right can never be safer than in their own hands, where the Constitution has deposed it.”

One of the numerous milestones during Jefferson’s two terms as president was the definition of treason by the Supreme Court—in the Justus Erich Bollman case (1807) which established an important precedent in the law of writ of habeas corpus and the crime of treason.  The principle laid down was that an actual levy of war, and not merely an intention to levy war, must be established to convict a person of treason.  Today we must ponder finer points of habeas corpus and treason, and whether this precedent covers the deliberate lying to lead the nation into an unnecessary war. 

A friend and colleague of Jefferson, James Madison, was an American statesman now recognized as the “Father of the Constitution,” and he served as the fourth president of the United States.  Madison had made the notable contribution to the Virginia State Constitution in a clause granting a “free exercise of religion”—one of the earliest provisions for religious freedom in American law.  Features of the Virginia constitution were later incorporated into the Constitution of the US.

Events led Madison to recognize the danger of too much central authority in a democratic government.  And being familiar with the Dark Age history of Europe, he recognized as well the danger to democracy of religion being mixed into government.  After he had been manipulated by religious representative into issuing a few religious proclamations, he found himself bitterly regretting that he had done so.  He later wrote, “There is not a shadow of right in the general government to intermeddle with religion.  Its least interference with it would be a most flagrant usurpation.”

Today we in the United States find a relentless move by extreme religious factions to take advantage of the religious freedom that Jefferson and Madison championed, and they brazenly attempt to subjugate true democratic principles that elevated the nation to a world power. 

  •  Related post: Corporations Shaft America, Sept. 19, 2009.
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Corporations Shaft America

Posted in Atheist, culture, Government, history, politics, random, thoughts with tags , , , on September 18, 2009 by chouck017894

Back in 1816 Thomas Jefferson—who wrote the Declaration of Independence and later served as the third president of the United States—was understandably suspicious of the rise of corporations.  He felt that such business structures would function as a perpetual threat to democracy and therefore had to be strictly limited.  Jefferson stated his fears regarding corporations assuming power saying of the looming threat that governing policies must “…crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of the country.”

 Today the United States is bound in shackles to corporations, and they have proven what Jefferson had feared: corporations are, just as are all organized religions, inherently antidemocratic and are presided over by a wealthy select few who have no concern for “the masses.”  Over the decades corporate shysters have underhandedly and intentionally chipped away at the noble democratic principles set down by the nation’s founding fathers to indulge themselves in amassing vast sums of money through corporate stealth, then use that wealth to elevate their private interests over the nation’s common good.  In the process they have managed to tangle laws for citizens protection—such as price controls, monopoly laws, etc.—so that those who invest in their shady work are absolved of any personal responsibility carried out under the umbrella of their corporations. 

Of course the Constitution gives no recognition to corporation rights, stating in that noble document the sovereignty and right of self-governing to “The People.”  Nowhere was there made allowance for corporate exercise of power over the citizens that we see in the U.S. today.  But oil, pharmaceutical, insurance, coal and similar conglomerates hold the nation in ransom with absolutely no regard for equality and fair exchange that makes democracy work.  And this abuse of corporate power has been aided and abetted by none other than the U.S. Supreme Court!

Especially the John Roberts Court.  Roberts, we should remember, held political jobs in both the Reagan and Bush I administrations, and he was active in crafting policy aimed at curbing personal privacy rights and religious liberty rights.  In fact, he authored a brief for the Bush administration that proposed allowing clergy-led prayers at public school events! 

Under the “guidance” of Roberts and abetted by Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, Antonio Scalia, and Samuel Alito—all Catholic, all Republican sponsored—and antidemocratic elements have lurched forward with stunning favoritism toward corporate power and radical right religious trickery.  With their brand of  “justice” the nation’s workforce, taxpayers, environment, etc. have been repeatedly spurned in favor of corporate law-breaking and theocratic notions.

 This antidemocratic stance of the Supremes has been obvious from at least 1998 (thus even before Roberts), which then set about actually rewriting long standing laws.  In that year the Court rejected  legal precedent to rule that a woman claimant had no valid claim to antidiscrimination by a tire firm because she had not filed her disparity of pay suit within 180 days of first suffering the discrimination.  Totally ignored by the Supremes was that the claimant had not been aware that men holding an equal position had been earning forty percent more for years.  Snickering up their judicial sleeves, the Justices brushed her off and democracy suffered still more loss of integrity.  This is the same Court that struck down the majority wishes in the 2000 national election to put oil men Bush-Cheney in control of government.  That tramping upon the elective process revealed the extent of their alleged “impartial” judgment.

Thanks Supreme Court for giving the U.S. eight historical Bush years.  We’re still paying for it.