Jon Rowe has an excellent post once again blasting David Barton for his utterly irrational historical revisionism in regard to religion and the constitution. He points to a document I’ve never seen before, an affidavit that Barton filed in the McCreary ten commandments case. You have to read this document. The illogic is absolutely breathtaking. He points again and again to early colonial laws that were completely opposed to freedom of thought and religion as being the key to understand the nation’s founding. For instance:
In an effort to substantiate this position historically, critics often point to the Rhode Island Colony under Roger Williams and its lack of civil laws on the first four commandments to “prove” that American society was traditionally governed without the first “tablet.” However, they fail to mention that the Rhode Island Colony was the only one of the thirteen colonies that did not have civil laws derived from the first four divine laws -the so-called first “tablet.” Significantly, every other early American colony incorporated the entire Decalogue into its own civil code of laws.
Which is true, but it actually conflics with his argument. The US constitution absolutely forbids such laws from being passed today. Just look at the examples he cites:
The Ten Commandments are a smaller part of the larger body of divine law recognized and early incorporated into America’s civil documents. For example, the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut-established in 1638-39 as the first written constitution in America and considered as the direct predecessor of the U. S. Constitution -declared that the Governor and his council of six elected officials would “have power to administer justice according to the laws here established; and for want thereof according to the rule of the word of God.”
Yes, he is seriously arguing that a state constitution that gave the government authority to enforce Biblical law is the “direct predecessor” of a constitution that absolutely forbids such laws 150 years later. And he cites other blatantly theocratic and oppressive provisions in colonial charters and constitutions from long before the US constitution established religious freedom as the touchstone of American law:
A subsequent 1641 Massachusetts legal code also incorporated the thrust of this command of the Decalogue into its statutes. Significantly, the very first law in that State code was based on the very first command of the Decalogue, declaring:
1. If any man after legal conviction shall have or worship any other god but the Lord God, he shall be put to death. Deut. 13.6, 10, Deut. 17.2, 6, Ex. 22.20.
Can you think of anything more contrary to the US constitution than a law of this type? It’s precisely the sort of barbaric and liberty-destroying law that our constitution was intended to overthrow and explicitly forbids. Yet Barton cites this as important in interpreting the constitution itself as pro-theocracy document. How does one make such an irrational argument with a straight face, for crying out loud? He continues with yet another example and a conclusion:
22. The 1642 Connecticut law code also made this command of the Decalogue its first civil law, declaring:
1. If any man after legal conviction shall have or worship any other god but the Lord God, he shall be put to death (Duet. 13.6 and 17.2, Ex. 22.20).
23. There are numerous other examples affirming that the first commandment of the Decalogue indeed formed an historical part of American civil law.
No David, this demonstrates that the first commandment was an important part of early colonial law, not American law. There was no America in the 1640, there was only a bunch of separate colonies, most of them with brazenly theocratic and oppressive governments that literally hung people or burned them to death for being the wrong religion, even the wrong brand of Christianity. The constitution is completely contrary, demanding and establishing religious freedom, something that was non-existent in those religious dictatorships you love so much. You would be no more ridiculous if you quoted King George himself on how our constitution should be interpreted.