Saturday, June 03, 2006
Infidels of Every Denomination
But the book tour, etc. she's doing just keeps producing these scary stories of the wannabe theocrats. In this example, she tells of the time Congress intended to have a Hindu priest give an invocation, as it has some priest or minister do to open every session. The number of Hindus in America is small, between 700,000 and 1.1 million, but Congress has catered to smaller groups. Goldberg quotes the reaction from the Family Research Council, a spin-off of Focus on the Family:
While it is true that the United States of America was founded on the sacred principle of religious freedom for all, that liberty was never intended to exalt other religions to the level that Christianity holds in our nation’s heritage. Our founders expected that Christianity and no other religion would receive support from the government, as long as that support did not violate people's consciences and their right to worship. They would have found utterly incredible the idea that all religions, including paganism, be treated with equal deference.While it is true that the United States of America was founded on the principle of economic freedom for all, that liberty was never intended to exalt flying in the air to the level that sailing ships hold in our nation’s heritage.
There are a lot of things that the Founders of our country would have found incredible about the world today but they, unlike some minds too small to be able to deal with change of any sort, anticipated that the world would not remain static and deliberately fashioned our founding documents to set out broad principles with room enough for each generation to adapt them to their needs.
But even beyond that, it is not at all clear that the people of that time were as narrow of mind as some today. As Goldberg notes, The Virginia Act For Establishing Religious Freedom, authored by Jefferson, was the likely inspiration for the inclusion of the Establishment clause in the First Amendment. Jefferson wrote of the Act in his Autobiography:
The bill for establishing religious freedom, the principles of which had, to a certain degree, been enacted before, I had drawn in all the latitude of reason & right. It still met with opposition; but, with some mutilations in the preamble, it was finally passed; and a singular proposition proved that it's protection of opinion was meant to be universal. Where the preamble declares that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed, by inserting the word "Jesus Christ," so that it should read "a departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion." The insertion was rejected by a great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of it's protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan, the Hindoo, and infidel of every denomination.