I want to preface this article by saying I understand that many will disagree with my conclusions….some even vehemently but I hope we can have a respectful and intelligent discussion. We might each learn something new.
Throughout the history of the United States we see the abuse of the minority by the majority and the oppression of the weaker by the stronger. Our nation was built on oppression by virtue of it’s dealings with the Native Americans. We all know the history of how Black Americans have been treated in this country but what many may not know is that many other groups experienced horrific discrimination at the hands of the majority. The Irish Catholic were hated and reviled even as they helped to build this country:
“Scratch a convict or a pauper, and the chances are that you tickle the skin of an Irish Catholic.”
-the Chicago Post, 1868.
“I am sorry to find that England is right about the lower class of Irish. They are brutal, base, cruel, cowards, and as insolent as base…my own theory is that St. Patrick’s campaign against the snakes is a Papish delusion. They perished of biting the Irish people.”
-a prominent New Yorker, 1863.
The Irish position “is one of shame and poverty. ‘My master is a great tyrant,’ said a Negro lately. ‘He treats me as badly as if I was a common Irishman.’”
-an Irishman writing home, 1851.
The Chinese fared even worse than the Irish even as they became a significant part of the labor force that laid the foundation of the American West:
No variety of anti-European sentiment has ever approached the violent extremes to which anti-Chinese agitation went in the 1870s and 1880s. Lynching, boycotts, and mass expulsions…harassed the Chinese. SOURCE
And we should not forget the disgraceful treatment of the Japanese Americans after the bombing of Pearl Harbor:
Japanese American internment was the forcible relocation and internment of approximately 110,000 Japanese nationals and Japanese Americans to housing facilities called “War Relocation Camps”, in the wake of Imperial Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor. SOURCE
There is always at least one group of people that the majority feel free to oppress and hate…..we see evidence today of the hatred toward homosexuals, Mexicans and Muslims.
Many people honestly believe that the U.S. Government is set up in such a way that majority rules while turning a blind eye to the rights of the minority, but that is not the way our government was intended to work.
As I researched the role of the majority in relationship to the minority I found a number of points of interest. From the U.S. Department of State America Gov. website I find:
In a democratic society, majority rule must be coupled with guarantees of individual human rights that, in turn, serve to protect the rights of minorities and dissenters — whether ethnic, religious, or simply the losers in political debate. The rights of minorities do not depend upon the good will of the majority and cannot be eliminated by majority vote. The rights of minorities are protected because democratic laws and institutions protect the rights of all citizens.
Majority rule is a means for organizing government and deciding public issues; it is not another road to oppression. Just as no self-appointed group has the right to oppress others, so no majority, even in a democracy, should take away the basic rights and freedoms of a minority group or individual. SOURCE
I have on many occasions had the discussion of whether or not we should outlaw same sex marriages and it is my contention that to do so is unconstitutional. It is NOT a matter of what I believe, think, or feel, it is a matter of what is constitutional.
Section 1 of 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution states:
Section. 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
What does the Constitution mean when it says liberty?
In general, in the early years, it meant almost exclusively ”liberty of contract,” but with the demise of liberty of contract came a general broadening of ”liberty” to include personal, political and social rights and privileges.
The decreeing of an action by the majority does not in any way determine whether or not the action is constitutional, just or even in the best interest of the country. The founding fathers were quite aware of that fact and they addressed that issue when they set up the House of Representatives and the Senate. While the House of Representatives’ members are allocated according to population the Senate’s is not….each state is equally represented. Why would the founding fathers set up the legislative body in this manner if they were not aware of the danger of majority rules?
The Senate’s original purpose was to be the stable house in Congress, to take legislation from the House of Representatives and make sure that it was good law, not emotional majority will. SOURCE
Many have argued that same sex marriage is against the tenets of the Christian religion (Christianity being the religious majority of the U.S.). Often the argument that not everyone is a Christian and therefore should not be subjected to the tenets of Christianity is met with the counter argument that this country was founded by Christians. I beg to differ in that the Constitution was written by men who were mostly Deists and not Christians, but whatever they were is really immaterial to the laws of the land.
The first amendment says: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;
If Congress cannot make a law to establish any one religion as being the state sponsored religion than it is equally unable to make laws favoring one religion over another.
Article VI of the Constitution 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.”
Many times the self-proclaimed patriots who support the Constitution of the United States make a religious test their only test when choosing a representative or president…..something which flies in the face of the wisdom of the founding fathers.
I submit that the founding fathers wrote Article VI because they were aware that religion is often corrupted when intermingled with politics and vice versa.
Furthermore, not only did the Constitution forbid the establishing of a state religion, a treaty signed in 1797 by President John Adams, states unequivocally that the United States is NOT a “Christian nation”:
JUNE 10, 1797
ARTICLE 11. 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 Mussulmans; and, as the said States never entered into any wars, 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. ¹
In 1800 in what may have been one of the nastiest elections of all times Thomas Jefferson was reviled for his lack of belief in the Christian religion. In a pamphlet entitled SERIOUS CONSIDERATIONS ON THE ELECTION OF PRESIDENT ADDRESSED TO THE CITIZENS OF THE UNITED STATES ², Rev. William Linn wrote of Thomas Jefferson:
To the declarations of disinterestedness and sincerity already made, I think it proper to add, that I have no personal resentment whatever against Mr. Jefferson, and that it is with pain I oppose him; that I was never in his company, and I would hardly know him; that I honor him in holding a high office in government; that I admire his talents and feel grateful for the services which he has been instrumental in rendering to his country; and that my objection to his being promoted to the Presidency is founded singly upon his disbelief of the Holy Scriptures, or in other words, his rejection of the Christian religion and open professions of Deism.
I find it mind boggling that the author of the Declaration of Independence and one of the most notable influences in the penning of the Constitution was not “qualified” to be President of the United States by virtue of his rejection of the Christian religion. This man who subsequently became president virtually doubled the size of the United States, commissioned the Lewis & Clark expedition and in 1807 convinced Congress to pass a law prohibiting the importation of slaves into areas under the U.S. jurisdiction after January 1808. Yet in the eyes of many he was not a Christian and therefore unfit to be president.
One of my favorite quotes concerning religion and politics is from John Leland.³
. . . Disdain mean suspicion, but cherish manly jealousy; be always jealous of your liberty, your rights. Nip the first bud of intrusion on your constitution. Be not devoted to men; let measures be your object, and estimate men according to the measures they pursue. Never promote men who seek after a state-established religion; it is spiritual tyranny–the worst of despotism. It is turnpiking the way to heaven by human law, in order to establish ministerial gates to collect toll. It converts religion into a principle of state policy, and the gospel into merchandise. Heaven forbids the bans of marriage between church and state; their embraces therefore, must be unlawful. Guard against those men who make a great noise about religion, in choosing representatives. It is electioneering. If they knew the nature and worth of religion, they would not debauch it to such shameful purposes. If pure religion is the criterion to denominate candidates, those who make a noise about it must be rejected; for their wrangle about it, proves that they are void of it. Let honesty, talents and quick despatch, characterise the men of your choice. Such men will have a sympathy with their constituents, and will be willing to come to the light, that their deeds may be examined. . . .SOURCE
I do not believe the Christian church’s commission is to regulate behavior through legislation and I do not believe that religion can be legislated. Legislation is a worldly answer to a spiritual concern and I don’t believe it has ever worked. Coercion was never part of the Christian plan.
When tempted to take the shortcut of government legislating religious tenets it is advisable to remember the old saying…If you lie down with dogs you get up with fleas.
¹ Source of Information:Treaty of Peace and Friendship Between The United States And The Bey And Subjects of Barbary. Communicated to the Senate, May 26, 179, American State Papers, Class I, Foreign Relations, Volume, II, Page 154). (The treaty was made under the administration of George Washington, and was signed and sealed at Tripoli on the fourth Day of November, 1796, and at Algiers the third day of January, 1797, by Hassan Bashaw, Dey of Algiers, and Joel Barlow, Counsul-General of the United States. American State Papers Bearing On Sunday Legislation, Revised and Enlarged Edition, Compiled and Annotated by William Addison Blakely, Revised Edition Edited by Willard Allen Colcord, The Religious Liberty Association, Washington D.C. 1911, pp 153.*It was ratified by the U.S. Senate June 7, 1797 and signed into law by President John Adams June 10, 1797.* SOURCE
² Source of Information: Linn, William, 1762-1808. Serious Considerations on the Election of a President: Addressed to the Citizens of the United States. New-York: Printed and sold by John Furman, at his blank, stamp, and stationary shop, opposite the City hall, 1800. Reproduced in the Microbook Library of American Civilization, fiche LAC 40066 (Chicago: Library Resources Inc., 1971)SOURCE
³ John Leland (1754-1841) was a Baptist preacher whose life involved writing about and preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ and about the proper relationship between religion and government. In the latter passion, Leland agreed with the position of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, both of whom he knew personally. Leland spent approximately 14 years in Virginia from 1776 to 1790-91. He was a major leader of the Baptists in Virginia. He helped Madison by rounding up support for the defeat of the assessment bill in Virginia in 1784-86, and by supporting the ratification of the new constitution (only after being assured that Madison did favor the addition of a bill of rights), He worked to get Madison elected (over Patrick Henry’s hand-picked James Monroe) to the House of Representatives of the First Federal Congress. He returned to his home state of Massachusetts in the winter of 1790-91, where he remained an active minister and champion of separation of church and state and disestablishment till his death in 1841. He wrote articles against establishment while in Massachusetts and testified before the Massachusetts legislature on at least one occasion.