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A Libertarian Response to ’35 Founding Father Quotes’

A Libertarian Response to '35 Founding Father Quotes'

John Trumbull’s painting, ‘Declaration of Independence’ (public domain)

This morning, my mother-in-law wrote a heartfelt response to “35 Founding Father Quotes Conservative Christians Will Hate.” This prompted me to read the article for myself and craft my own response.  I don’t answer every single quote. This is partly because some of them are repetitive and partly because I don’t quite get what the quote is supposed to prove.

I also have to preface this with the disclaimer that I am not the neocon this list is clearly aimed at. I consider myself more Libertarian than Conservative, mostly because I’m not convinced that gay marriage and marijuana will be the downfall of western civilization. I am, however, a fundamentalist, creationist believer that the Bible is the inspired inerrant Word of God. That should qualify me, according to Stephen Foster, Jr, to hate these quotes, but I don’t. I actually love the majority of them, and if Americans understood what these meant, we wouldn’t have to keep bothering the Supreme Court, asking them for our Liberties back.

#1 warns against spiritual tyranny. The Founders wanted a nation where people were free from that, but what would you call keeping a child from praying at lunch but spiritual tyranny?

#2: Washington is speaking against denominations (He also spoke against political parties), but he said in his farewell address: “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports”

#3: “A man’s religious tenets will not forfeit the protection of the Laws.” Can we have that again, please? Hobby Lobby anyone?

#6: I’m just amused that manifest destiny is on this list.

#7: This is exactly what we want. We don’t want any one religion or denomination to get preferential treatment; we want true equality of liberty. When all people are free to do as they believe is best, everyone can do their best.

#8: Has it occurred to anyone that this wall of separation protects the church from the state? Also, among the founders, Jefferson was in the minority, spiritually, so relying too heavily on Jefferson only serves to illustrate Jefferson’s biases, not proving that most people thought the way he did.

#11: So, does this mean that Muslims shouldn’t be given rights that Jews don’t have? For example, requiring a school district to serve halal food, but not kosher?

#13: “And we have experienced the quiet as well as the comfort which results from leaving every one to profess freely and openly those principles of religion which are the inductions of his own reason and the serious convictions of his own inquiries.” Absolutely. We don’t want to establish Christianity as a state religion, requiring everyone to go to church or swear allegiance to God. We only want the freedom to “profess freely and openly,” which goes against the way Christians are being silenced in public schools and the military. (Same for 22.)

#14: But, the Declaration of Independence did include “a firm reliance on the protection of Divine providence.”

#15: Madison again emphasizes keeping the state out of the church. We also need to recall the power that the church of England had at that time. Many came to America because they didn’t want their faith to be dictated by the whim of government, but just because Christianity isn’t the “state religion,” that does not mean that there is no place for Biblical principles such as “Thou shalt not steal.”

#19: Are you insinuating that intelligence and Christianity are not compatible? How insulting. Christians founded Harvard and many other universities; of course we value intellect.

#20: As a Libertarian, I assure you, far from calling upon the government for help, I wish the government to leave me and my church alone.

#21 should be put on a billboard or something. That is exactly what happened, and one of the things that made America great. Only now the government is imposing the same kind of restrictive taxes that our founders fought against.

#23 means that I don’t have to pay for someone else’s abortion or photograph their wedding. I agree that we should be “entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience.” That’s the first amendment.

#24: Tax money should not go to churches, and neither should churches pay taxes. That’s what separation of church and state means, right?

#25: If someone is elected in a free and open election, they get to serve. They are free to act according to their conscience, and I’m free to talk about them on Twitter. sounds fair.

#27 again describes why people settled the northern colonies. It was a hard time for a protestant in Europe at the time (because separation of church and state was needed), so they settled in places like Pennsylvania, where there are still strong populations of those old German faiths.

#29 illustrates that, though many of the founders were Christians, they purposefully founded a nation where all people would have liberty, regardless of individual faith. Wow, what nice guys those old, white founders were. I’m even going to quote my mother-in-law on this one: “The founding fathers were aware that people came to this country to have that freedom to believe as they desired. It also stopped anyone from establishing a central national religion that would probably persecute the other religious sects that came here for religious freedom. It’s these men’s high ideals and wisdom that established the great government of freedoms and liberty.” 

#30: Amen

#31: That Thomas Paine, his works should be required reading.

#32: And he acknowledges that both are ordained by God.

#35: They should pass no law about religion, but no where does it imply that they should not consider their own conscience when passing laws.

I think #29 really is the most important. It’s true that our founders did not want to establish a theocracy. They wrote the Constitution and the Bill of Rights so that all Americans would have individual liberties. They could have broken away from England and set George Washington up as king, but understanding that power corrupts, they made a system of checks and balances. They dedicated their lives to freedom, and now some consider them no better than terrorists.

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5 thoughts on “A Libertarian Response to ’35 Founding Father Quotes’

  1. The more I read of my birth country’s history, the more I understand (ha ha!) about the religious issues which led to so many leaving the country and embarking on such a dangerous journey. Since 1533, Englishmen had forced to follow Christian religion according to the dictates of the country’s monarch – or ruler – of the time. Henry VIII’s children caused the most problems, since the country went Protestant, Catholic, Protestant, but it didn’t stop once Elizabeth I died.

    Oliver Cromwell was considered a Puritan, but showed leniency to some denominations in some places (but not Catholicism in Ireland, for example). He used his position and power to attempt to reform England spiritually and morally. During the reign of Charles II, everyone was forced to attend the Anglican/Episcopalian church. John Bunyan was imprisoned during this time, as was William Penn. The next monarch, James II, was Catholic so it was all change again. At first, James forbade the so-called Dissenters. Later, he declared they were free to worship as they wished which displeased some Anglicans. Meanwhile, he gradually replaced his Anglican advisers with Catholic ones. He was eventually overthrown by his protestant niece Mary and her husband William. It was a mess.

    The ‘separation of church and state’ meant that no one could be forced to worship in a particular way according to the ruler of the country. No matter that ruler/leader’s politics and religious preferences, the people could worship how they chose and not be persecuted or fined (taxed) for doing so, as had also been the case in Great Britain. Furthermore, it meant that the fledgling American government could not hold that one Christian sect was more important than any other.

    I find it a shame that many Americans don’t know the historical background to the separation or the First Amendment. And isn’t it funny how some only take the 1st A to mean that religion cannot interfere with Government…

  2. FYI you don’t pay for anyone’s abortions. No money planned parenthood receives goes towards ABORTION. If you knew the law you wouldn’t pretend to use that as an argument. And NO business owner has the right to be in someone’s house, bedroom, or family planning choices thanks. So your argument their is ridiculous. The founder’s provided the Right to Bear arms to Protect ones privacy.. Your claims on taxation are the typical FLAWED unpatriotic kind. If Politicians whose Oaths and Duties to the Constitution were fulfilled the corporations and wealthy would be paying their share and The Middle Class wouldn’t have the lions share of taxation burden.. A child or anyone can pray to them self. But Government money funded school or other organized prayer IS unconstitutional.. And just because SOME of the Founder’s were Christian Does NOT make us a Christian Nation NOR does it allow for the uber religious to attempt to legislate their moral views or discrimination upon OTHER Americans in violation of the First endment. You claim you don’t want that. And maybe you personally don’t BUT many Evangelicals DO and ARE committing these egregious attacks on others Fundamental Freedoms and Constitutional liberties.. For ALL IS NOT only for Believers…

    • Hi, thanks for commenting. It has been almost two years since I wrote this, so some issues have evolved since then, as has my understanding of them. For example, I can tweak the wording of #23 to indicate that state and federal funds are used to run Planned Parenthood, an organization that makes enough money that they can comfortably donate millions of dollars to Democrats such as Hillary Clinton over the years and which also performs abortions. You can pretend that there is a separate fund for the equipment and staff for when they are killing babies instead of distributing low-grade birth control or sending women to community health centers for mammograms, but that’s not really how money works. PP could continue to exist as a business even if their taxpayer dollars went instead to community health centers, but of course, then they wouldn’t have as much money to donate to politicians.

      Though I’m a libertarian, I am not one of those “all taxation is theft” types. I do agree that individuals and businesses should pay taxes, and I even agree that closing some loopholes would be good. However when government is using taxes and fines to squash some businesses and promote others, that is beyond the patriotic redistribution of wealth and becomes corruption.

      As long as we’re pointing out each other’s flawed statements, no, not all children are uniformly allowed to pray silently at school. Due to overzealous teachers trying to uphold that wall of separation, this comes up every school year, and while the student usually is granted the freedom of thought, the fact that they are even harassed about it is really disgraceful. It is equally disgraceful for fundamentalists to try to subvert the law due to their own beliefs. Maybe this will be the year that people get so fed up with the two-party system and give Libertarian ideas a chance.

  3. In public schools, children are not forbidden from prayer – they just can’t force others to pray with them. There was a time when I was in school, where we started every morning with both the pledge and prayer – that is problematic in schools paid for by the state to provide a general education. I have groups of students who pray regularly – however, my school has students with very diverse backgrounds – would you be happy if your child was encouraged by peers to recite a Jewish or Muslim prayer, you would be extremely upset. prayed in school is NOT state sponsored – if you want a school where your child is LED in prayer daily, then the only option is a private, religious school. The public school system is charged with educating ALL students, regardless of background. The public school system is NOT responsible for spiritual development of the child. That responsibility falls to the parent (parents must take some responsibility for raising their children, nor do we, as a society, want the state to dictate religious instruction – that is part of what prompted the separation of church and state!). School districts do NOT prohibit private, silent prayer, some settings will allow religious groups to congregate in groups – BUT, they cannot proselytize. Many secondary schools have The Fellowship of Christian Athletes – this is a VOLUNTARY group. So – in response that the public schools PROHIBIT players – WRONG!! it cannot be adult led and must be private and voluntary – because public schools serve ALL students, Catholics, Protestants, Budists, Hindi’s, Muslims, Scientologists, Athiests, Wiccans, etc. – as such, there can be no adult-led prayer!

    • Hi, I’m not really sure how you stumbled upon this blog, but I hope I can help you understand Libertarian thought a little bit. Your assertion that I wouldn’t want my children exposed to other religions by their peers is way off base. When I was growing up, I (protestant), had friends who were Catholic, Jewish, and Hindu, and I was allowed to go to their homes and places of worship where they shared their cultures freely. In public school, I had great teachers who taught us about world religions (in the appropriate historical context), and I think everyone should have that opportunity, but I never said I think teachers should be teaching the Bible or leading in prayer. I definitely want my kids to grow up in an America where kids are allowed to bow silently over their lunch if they choose or gather in after-school groups that reflect their own values, as long as they aren’t actually violent. I am aware that for the vast majority of public schools, this is reflected in school policy. It seems that you are part of such a school, and that’s great.

      I by no means meant to imply that many or most schools disallowed prayer. I stated that “a child” who had been kept from praying at lunch. At the time I wrote the original article, there was a viral news story about just that situation. http://radio.foxnews.com/toddstarnes/top-stories/dad-teacher-told-my-kid-to-stop-lunchtime-prayer.html Yes, the situation was settled eventually, but this is just one example of teachers trying so hard to keep church and state separate that a child’s constitutional right was infringed. Here’s one from this year. http://www.wsaz.com/content/news/Students-say-prayer-interrupted-by-teacher-375618741.html Every year, around graduation time, kids and parents and teachers and school boards have to hash out whether a valedictorian can mention God in her speech. More often, these days, students are asked to refrain from displaying their religion because someone else might find such a display offensive. In most cases, the administration settles the situation, but the fact that it happens annually makes it quite clear that the First Amendment is seriously misunderstood in many places.

      Even when I was a child in the ’80s, I was asked to modify my flamenco demonstration for the school talent show to remove the sign of the cross from the dance routine because one administrator said we couldn’t have such religious symbolism at a school program. I had to have my mom explain that one to me, because I had no idea it had any religious significance at all. My dance teacher hadn’t been trying to indoctrinate us, merely share her culture; she helped me make the modification, but why was it necessary? Who would have been harmed by that moment of rapid arm movement?

      Anyway, I am sorry I don’t have more essays on Libertarian thought to share with you today, but I can point you to our 2016 party platform. Feel free to read it; section 1.2 covers religious liberty. https://www.lp.org/platform

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