God did not pen the Constitution
I was not surprised that Rick Geise (“True patriotism in America,” Daily Mail, July 4) took the occasion of Independence Day to once again proselytize for his faith, and to again attempt to tie religion to the events surrounding the American Revolution and the foundation of our country.
It is disappointing, though, to also see his penchant for historical inaccuracy on display when he proffers “evidence” to support his viewpoint.
I was thrown, first, by his description of those who fought for American independence, “as a bunch of farmers with the Book (Bible) in one hand a musket in the other …”
I grew up in the Boston area, and traveled the Freedom Trail so many times as a child that I could have given the tour myself. I saw the Minuteman statutes in Concord and Lexington, as well as many others, and those statues, which certainly featured revolutionaries bearing muskets, never portrayed their subjects as holding Bibles as well.
But most misleading is Mr. Geise’s account of Benjamin Franklin’s request to open sessions of of the 1787 Constitutional Convention with a prayer. Mr. Geise falsely characterizes the effect of Franklin’s speech.
He baldly claims that the “Convention was in danger of breaking up …” and that the “fledgling nation” was in danger of dying stillborn” until 81-year-old Benjamin Franklin stood” and urged that the Convention turn to prayer. Such a construction implies two false conclusions: That the Convention would have failed without this intervention by Franklin, and that the chastened Convention henceforth began its sessions with prayer. Both of these implications are patently false.
In fact, the delegates didn’t even put Franklin’s suggestion, which was criticized on a number of grounds, to a vote. Nor did the sessions afterward begin with a prayer.
Few delegates saw Franklin’s speech as particularly helpful. The subject was abandoned. Nonetheless, the Convention somehow brought forth the Constitution, which was ratified by the states.
The Constitution did not, and does not, mention God whatsoever. This was by design: the Framers created a secular government that would treat persons of all, or no, faith equally. They had seen the grisly results of governments that demanded forced obediance to official religions. They instead insisted that every citizen should be allowed to follow his or her own conscience in matters of faith free from government or majority coercion.
Mr. Geise is free to follow and exercise his faith all he wants. He cannot falsely suggest that we would have no Constitution had the delegates not looked to the divine for guidance, and expect no one will call him on it.
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