But the long-standing American tradition of prayer at official ceremonies displays with unmistakable clarity that the Establishment Clause does not forbid the government to accommodate it. The narrow context of the present case involves a community’s celebration of one of the milestones in its young citizen’s lives, and it is a bold step for this Court to seek to banish from that occasion, and from thousands of similar celebrations throughout this land, the expression of gratitude to God that a majority of the community wishes to make. The Weisman case fully illustrates the anti-religious bias which now dominates much of the Court’s current jurisprudence. In fact, public expressions of prayer have been such a consistent loser over the past three decades that the district judge who issued the original ruling in the Weisman case had concluded:
The Constitution as the Supreme Court views it does not permit it prayer. Unfortunately, in this instance there is no satisfactory middle ground. Those who are anti-prayer have thus been deemed the victors.
These eight representative cases, selected from scores of similar cases, confirm that the current First Amendment is unlike the one originally delivered by the Founders. In its remaking of the First Amendment over the past three decades, the Court has created four different standards: the “Establishment Test” 1947, the “Lemon Test” 1971 discussed in the following chapter, the “Endorsement Test” 1985, and the psychological “Coercion Test” 1992 now called the “Outsider Test”. Observing these changes, one is reminded of Thomas Jefferson’s warning: The Constitution is a mere thing of wax in the hands of the judiciary which they may twist and shape into any form they please.
Under the influence of the judiciary, the Constitution has indeed taken on a new “form,” and even if an individual had absolutely no knowledge of our heritage or constitutional history, one must wonder at the logic behind the current interpretation. The First Amendment’s wording is explicit: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”
David Barton - Believers and nonbelievers are asking these questions, "Who am I? What is the meaning of life? Where am I going? How can I get help in this relationship? How can I forgive this person?
Clearly, prominent Founders saw the Ten Commandments and religious codes in general – as the foundation of American civil law. In fact, the belief was clear that public adherence to religious principles was the greatest source of security for civil government:
The Holy Scriptures can alone secure to society, order and peace, and to our courts of justice and constitutions of government, purity, stability, and usefulness. In vain, without the Bible, we increase penal laws and draw entrenchments protections around our institutions. James McHenry, Signer of the Constitution
Men, in a word, must necessarily be controlled either by a power within them or by a power without them; either by the Word of God or by the strong arm of man; either by the Bible or by the bayonet. Robert Winthrop, Speaker of the U.S. House
Human legislators can undertake only to prescribe the actions of men; they acknowledge their inability to govern and direct the sentiments of the heart. It is one of the greatest marks of Divine favor bestowed upon the children of Israel that the legislator God gave those rules not only of action, but for the government of the heart. John Quincy Adams
We seek to prevent in some measure the extension of the penal code by inspiring a salutary and conservative principle of virtue and of knowledge in an early age. By general instruction we seek, as far as possible, to purify the whole moral atmosphere and to turn the strong current of feeling and opinion, as well as the censures of the law and the denunciations of religion, against immorality and crime. Daniel Webster
Had I a voice that could be heard from New Hampshire to Georgia, it should be exerted in urging the necessity of disseminating virtue and knowledge among our citizens. On this subject, the policy of the eastern States is well worth of imitation. The wise people of that extremity of the union never form a new township without making arrangements that secure to its inhabitants the instruction of youth and the public preaching of the gospel. Hence their children are early taught to know their rights and to respect themselves. They grow up good members of society and staunch defenders of their country’s cause. David Ramsay, Revolutionary Surgeon; Member of the Continental Congress
David Barton - How can I have my deepest and most profound needs met?" There is some overlap there. There are also some unique things that are different for the believer and the nonbeliever but there are many things that bleed together.
The sanctions of religion compose the foundations of good government. Dewitt Clinton, introduced the Twelfth Amendment; Governor of New York City; U.S. Senator
I do not believe that the Constitution was the offspring of inspiration, but I am as perfectly satisfied that the Union of the States in its form and adoption is as much the work of a Divine Providence as any of the miracles recorded in the Old and New Testament. Benjamin Rush, Signer of the declaration
God grant that in America true religion and civil liberty may be inseparable and that the unjust attempts to destroy the one may in the issue tend to the support and establishment of both. John Witherspoon, Signer of the Declaration
However, the Court was not particularly interested in the Founders’ views on this subject; in fact, it openly acknowledged its contempt for America’s heritage when it remarked: That New York prayer seems relatively insignificant when compared to the governmental encroachments upon religion which were commonplace 200 years ago.
The Court also claimed that to approve any specific wording made the prayer constitutionally infirm an argument effectively dismantled by Justice Potter Stewart in his dissent:
The Court today says that the State and federal governments are without constitutional power to prescribe any particular form of words to be recited by any group of the American people on any subject touching religion. One of the stanzas of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” made our National Anthem by Act of Congress in 1931, contains these verses:
“Blest with victory and peace, may the heav’n rescued land Praise the power that hath made and preserved us a nation! Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just, and this be our motto ‘In God is our Trust.’ ” In 1954, Congress added a phrase to the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag so that it now contains the words “one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all”. Since 1865 the words “In God We Trust” have been impressed on our coins. Countless similar examples could be listed, but there is no need to belabor the obvious. I do not believe that this Court, or the Congress, or the President has by the actions and practices I have mentioned established an “official religion” in violation of the Constitution. And I do not believe the State of New York has done so in this case.
David Barton - I want to ask you a question here folks. How many of you like to cook? Do you enjoy cooking? Come on, guys, gals, OK. Now those of you who like to cook, I am sure, if you are like our family, you have had people into your home as guests.
I desire to bless and praise the name of God most high for appointing me my birth in a land of Gospel Light where the glorious tidings of a Savior and of pardon and salvation through Him have been continually sounding in mine ears. Robert Treat Paine, Signer of Declaration
Pardon, we beseech Thee, all our offences of omission and commission; and grant that in all our thoughts, words, and actions, we may conform to Thy known will manifested in our consciences, and in the revelations of Jesus Christ our Saviour. Timothy Pickering, Revolutionary General; Secretary of State
I am at last reconciled to my God and have assurance of His pardon through faith in Christ, against which the very gates of hell cannot prevail. Fear hath been driven out by perfect love. John Randolph of Roanoke, U. S. Congressman; U. S. Diplomat
My only hope of salvation is in the infinite transcendent love of God manifested to the world by the death of His Son upon the Cross. Nothing but His blood will wash away my sins. I rely exclusively upon it. Come, Lord Jesus! Come quickly! Benjamin Rush, Signer of Declaration
I believe that there is one only living and true God, existing in three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, the same in substance equal in power and glory that the scriptures of the old and new testaments are a revelation from God and a complete rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy Him. I believe that the souls of believers are at their death made perfectly holy and immediately taken to glory: that at the end of this world there will be a resurrection of the dead and a final judgment of all mankind when the righteous shall be publicly acquitted by Christ the Judge and admitted to everlasting life and glory, and the wicked be sentenced to everlasting punishment. Roger Sherman, Signer of the Declaration; Signer of the Constitution
David Barton - Right? When you cook food for your guests, usually you are more thoughtful and creative in the way you serve the food. Maybe you use a table decoration and place mats.