Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Rebutting Sally

Tyler Douse, a research assistant at the US Senate, offers the following rebuttal to some of the quotations used by Sally Kern in her "Oklahoma Citizen's Proclamation for Morality":

John Adams
"It is Religion and Morality alone, which can establish the Principles upon which Freedom can securely stand.”
• The quotation says nothing about the powers of the federal government to influence religion
• Furthermore, the U.S. Senate ratified, and John Adams signed the Treaty of Tripoli, in which Art. 11 states: 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 Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, 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.

James Madison
"We have staked the whole of all our political institutions upon the capacity of mankind for self-government, upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God."
• This statement appears nowhere in the writings or recorded utterances of James Madison and is completely contradictory to his character as a strong proponent of the separation of church and state. ( (

Benjamin Franklin
"Freedom is not a gift bestowed upon us by other men, but a right that belongs to us by the laws of God.”
• Franklin was never as outspoken on this issue and Jefferson or Madison, but he did leave behind a quote that lets us in on what he thought: Writing to his friend Richard Price on Oct. 9, 1780, Franklin expressed his dismay with government-imposed religion. Observed Franklin, “When a Religion is good, I conceive that it will support itself; and, when it cannot support itself, and God does not take care to support, so that its Professors are obliged to call for the help of the Civil Power, ‘tis a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one.”
• Long known as a deist and a champion of the European enlightenment, Franklin was also famous for his religious tolerance and his desire to see all faiths live together in peace. “I have ever let others enjoy their religious sentiments without reflecting on them for those who appeared to me unsupportable and even absurd,” he wrote at age 84. (

Thomas Jefferson
"God who gave us life gave us liberty and can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the Gift of God.”
• The quotation says nothing about the powers of the federal government to influence religion. The quotation is taken out of context. Yes, Jefferson said this, but it has nothing whatsoever to do with the issue of separation. This quotation is taken from a famous letter in which he argues against slavery; Jefferson believed that slavery violated a person's God-given freedom. This does not imply that Jefferson thought that the state had the power to aid religion.

Joseph Story
"Whether any free government can be permanent, where the public worship of God, and the support of Religion, constitute no part of the policy or duty of the state.”
• The quotation says nothing about the powers of the federal government to influence religion and is taken completely out of context. Story did believe in support of religion on the state level, but he rejected federal power over religion; this quote leaves the opposite impression.

Patrick Henry
"This great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians"
• Another spurious quotation. These words appear nowhere in the writings or recorded utterances of Patrick Henry.

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