On September 5, 2003, Rep. Roscoe Bartlett of Maryland gave a speech on the floor of the House to protest the removal of the Ten Commandments from the Alabama’s state judicial building.
His speech ended up being about so much more.
In essence, Rep. Bartlett gave a thumbnail history of prayer and reverence for God, for Jesus Christ, in America.
Although the Ten Commandments issue in Alabama’s courthouse may have been a battle lost for Christian America, the speech given by Rep. Bartlett has many timeless truths about the spiritual heritage of this nation to which we’d be wise to listen:
The text of Rep. Bartlett’s speech can be read here:
PRAYER IN AMERICA
The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr.CARTER). Under the Speaker’s announced policy of January 7, 2003, the gentleman from Maryland (Mr. BARTLETT) is recognized for 60 minutes.
Mr. BARTLETT of Maryland.
Mr.Speaker, this morning we began our session here with a prayer. That was prayer to a God. We did the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag, and in that Pledge of Allegiance we recognized that this was a Nation under God. And inscribed in marble above your chair, Mr. Speaker, are the words ‘‘In God We Trust.’’ Now, while we opened our session with prayer today and recognized God in our Pledge of Allegiance to the flag and recognized there is a God in that inscription in marble above your chair, at the same time we have removed the Ten Commandments that that God wrote from a courthouse in Alabama. Mr. Speaker, we appear to be a Nation conflicted. We pray in this House.
Just at the other end of this Capitol, every day the Senate is opened with prayer. I understand the Supreme Court prays to open their session, and in many public events we have a prayer.
In most athletic events there is a prayer before the event. Our military has chaplains of just about every religion.
But in our society the only place where prayer is conspicuously absent is our schools, another reflection, Mr. Speaker, of the confliction of our society.
To understand how we got here and how we can open our session with prayer and recognize in our Pledge of Allegiance that this Nation is under God and have that inscription above your chair ‘‘In God We Trust,’’ and still to remove the Ten Commandments under court order from a courthouse in Alabama, I think we need to go back and review who we are and how we got here.
Mr. Speaker, freedom is not free.
Five of the 55 signers of our Declaration of Independence were captured and executed by the British. Nine of them died on the battlefields of the Revolutionary War, and another dozen lost their homes, possessions and fortunes to British occupation.
Today, much of what our Founding Fathers fought and died for is at risk of being lost. The major reason for that is that there are three big lies that are about in the land today, and for the next few minutes I want to look back at our history to refute these three lies that I think are the basis for the conflicts in our society which allows us to pray to a God here, recognize him in our Pledge of Allegiance, and is inscribed above your desk, and still to remove the Ten Commandments from the courthouse. These three big lies are that our Founding Fathers were largely atheists and deists, that they wanted to establish a nonChristian Nation, and in that first amendment they sought to erect a big wall of separation between church and State.
This history, of course, begins in 1776 with the Declaration of Independence. In that Declaration of Independence was a radical departure from the norms of the time. We read those words, or recite those words if we have memorized them, and they do not have the same meaning to us as they had to them because we did not come out of the milieu from which they came. Today, of course, our citizens are children of immigrants from every part of the world, but our Founding Fathers came largely from the British Isles and the European Continent. Thinking back to the history at that time, essentially all of those countries were ruled by a king or emperor who incredibly, from our perspective, claimed and was granted divine rights. What that meant was that the rights came from God to the king, and the king or emperor would then give what rights he wished to his people.
Now, in our Declaration of Independence we broke with that, because we said all men are created equal. Notice the reference to a God, a Creator, in that Declaration of Independence, that all men are created equal. That was a startling statement to make because in the countries from which they came, all people were not created equal. They made a break from that and said that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights. Among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Now, 11 years later, and it took 11 years for the promise of the Declaration of Independence to meet the fulfillment of the Constitution, the Constitution was written. In that Constitution they sought to put down in very plain words the fundamental principles that they espoused in the Declaration of Independence, that all men are created equal, that the fundamental rights belong to the people, and they belong to the people because they were given to the people by God.
Our Constitution does not give us any rights. Those rights were given to us by our God. The best that our Constitution can do is to say we are not going to permit another person to take those rights away from us.
But the ink was hardly dry on the Constitution before they wondered if people would really understand that they meant that the fundamental rights, most of the rights belonged to the people, and so they wrote 12 amendments that started through the process of two-thirds of the House and two-thirds of the Senate, and then three-fourths of the State legislatures.
Ten of them made it through that process, and we call those the Bill of Rights. If Members look through the first through the tenth, in many of them, the rights of the people are specifically mentioned; but where the rights of the people are not mentioned in those words, it is clearly the rights of the people that are being protected by these amendments.
Now how did we go from a government, a Constitution that was created by God-fearing people who recognized God in their Declaration of Independence and who sought in their Constitution and those first 10 amendments, to make sure that those God-given rights were never taken from us, how did we come to a society so conflicted as we are today?
I think it is because of the three great lies that are about in our country today: that our Founding Fathers were atheists and deists, that they sought to establish a nonChristian Nation, and they wanted to erect a big wall of separation between church and State.
What I want to do now for the next few minutes is to go back into our history and let our Founding Fathers speak for themselves.
Let us see what the courts said. We will take a brief look at some things which the Congress did and said, and then we will look at our schools and what they were at the beginning of our country.
We can look all we want in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution for those words, a wall of separation between church and State or separation between church and State.
Those words do not appear in either the Declaration of Independence or in our Constitution. And so we looked in constitutions to see where we could find those words, and we do find them.
We find them in the Constitution of the United Soviet Socialist Republic, article 124. It says there, “In order to ensure citizens’ freedom of conscience, the church in the USSR is separated from the state and the schools from the church.”
Those words may appear in their constitution, but they do not appear in our Constitution anywhere, so how did we get here? To refute these lies then that our Founding Fathers were atheists and deists, and they sought to establish a nonChristian nation, let us let the Founding Fathers speak for themselves.
Patrick Henry is called the firebrand of the American Revolution. His words ‘‘Give me liberty or give me death’’ every school child knows, but I would submit that the textbook from which those words appear for your child in his school have been bled dry of any reference to the Christian church origin of these words. These were spoken in St. John’s Church, Richmond, Virginia, on March 23, 1775. This is what Patrick Henry said. ‘‘An appeal to arms and the God of hosts is all that is left us, but we shall not fight our battle alone, there is a just God that presides over the destinies of nations. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone. Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery, forbid it, Almighty God. I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death.’’
Was Patrick Henry a Christian? The following year, 1776, he wrote this. ‘‘It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great Nation was founded not by religionists but by Christians, not on religions but on the gospel of Jesus Christ. For that reason alone, people of other faiths have been afforded freedom of worship here.’’
Benjamin Franklin was said to be a deist. Now a deist is said to be a person who believes that there is a God but does not bother praying to him, and this God is very powerful, he created the universe and he created this world, and he also set in place certain physical laws, and your destiny will be determined by how you relate to those laws, so do not bother praying to God. That is what a deist is.
Let me read something about Benjamin Franklin and you tell me, Mr. Speaker, if you think he was a deist. The year is 1787. We are in Philadelphia and the Constitutional Convention is deadlocked. There may not be a constitution.
One of the issues was how to prevent big States from abusing the small States, and Benjamin Franklin, 82 years of age, the Governor of Pennsylvania, perhaps the oldest and most revered person in that Constitutional Convention, rose to speak. And this is what that deist said, and I cannot image how Members could conclude he is deist from these words:
‘‘In the days of our contest with Great Britain when we were sensible of danger, we had daily prayer in this room for divine protection. Our prayers, sir, were heard and they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of superintending providence in our favor. To that kind providence, we owe this happy opportunity to establish our Nation. And have we now forgotten that powerful friend? Do we imagine we no longer need his assistance? I have lived, sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth, that God governs in the affairs of men. If a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that a new Nation cannot rise without his aid? We have been assured, sir, in the sacred writings that except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it. I therefore beg leave to move that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of heaven and its blessings on our deliberations be held in this assembly every morning before we proceed to any business.’’
That precedent, Mr. Speaker, we honor today because we began today our session with prayer. Every day we do that.
Thomas Jefferson was also said to be a deist. This is what he said:
‘‘I am a real Christian. That is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus. I have little doubt that our whole country will soon be rallied to the unity of our creator, and I hope to the pure doctrine of Jesus, also.’’
On slavery, Jefferson wrote, ‘‘Almighty God has created men’s minds free. Commerce between master and slave is despotism. I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just and his justice cannot sleep forever.’’
George Washington, our first President: ‘‘It is impossible to govern the world without God and the Bible. Of all of the dispositions and habits that lead to political prosperity, our religion and morality are the indispensable supporters. Let us with caution indulge the supposition, that is, the notion or idea, that morality can be maintained without religion. Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that our national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.’’
What would he have thought of removing the Ten Commandments from that courthouse in Alabama? In Washington’s prayer book, he wrote:
‘‘O eternal and everlasting God, direct my thoughts, words and work, wash away my sins in the immaculate blood of the lamb, and purge my heart by thy Holy Spirit. Daily frame me more and more in the likeness of thy son, Jesus Christ, that living in thy fear and dying in thy favor, I may in thy appointed time obtain the resurrection of the justified unto eternal life. Bless, O Lord, the whole race of mankind and let the world be filled with the knowledge of thee and thy son, Jesus Christ.’’
John Adams, our second President, was also President of the American Bible Society and this is what he said:
‘‘We have no government armed with the power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and true religion.’’
And now listen to these words:
‘‘Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.’’
What would he say about removing the Ten Commandments from that courthouse in Alabama?
John Jay, our first Supreme Court Justice:
‘‘Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers, and it is the duty as well as the privilege and interest of our Christian Nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers.’’
That is our first Supreme Court Justice.
What would he say about the refusal of our Supreme Court today to hear this case?
John Quincy Adams, son of John Adams, also President of the American Bible Society and, by the way, he told his friends that he valued his presidency of the American Bible Society above his presidency of the United States. These are his words:
‘‘The highest glory of the American revolution was this. It connected in one indissolvable bond the principles of civil government with the principles of Christianity. From the day of the declaration, they, that is, the founders were bound by the laws of God which they all acknowledged as their rules of conduct.’’
And then somewhat later on, Calvin Coolidge, Silent Cal, a President of very few words. He was known for this. I understand that at one banquet a lady sat next to him, and she told the President that she had made a wager with one of her friends that she could get the President to say at least three words that evening. He responded to her and his response was the only
words that he uttered that evening and those words were, ‘‘You lose.’’
Calvin Coolidge said, ‘‘America seeks no empires built on blood and forces. She cherishes no purpose save to merit the favor of Almighty God.’’
He later wrote, ‘‘The foundations of our society and our government rest so much on the teachings of the Bible that it would
be difficult to support them if faith in these teachings would cease to be practically universal in our country.’’
We could quote from a great many more of our Founding Fathers. Essentially all of them made comments like this. But let us turn now to our courts, to the Supreme Court.
In 1811, there was a case the People v. Ruggles. This was a person who had publicly slandered the Bible. This case got to the Supreme Court and this is what they said:
‘‘You have attacked the Bible. In attacking the Bible, you have attacked Jesus Christ. In attacking Jesus Christ, you have attacked the roots of our Nation. Whatever strikes at the root of Christianity manifests itself in the dissolving of our civil government.’’
What would that court say about the removal of the Ten Commandments from the courthouse in Alabama?
In 1845, there was a case Vida v. Gerrand. This was a lady teacher who was teaching morality without using the Bible. I have no idea how that case got to the Supreme Court, but it did, and this is what they said:
‘‘Why not use the Bible?’’
This is the Supreme Court.
‘‘Why not use the Bible, especially the New Testament? It should be read and taught as a divine revelation in the schools. Where can the purest principles of morality be learned so clearly and so perfectly as from the New Testament?’’
And then in 1892, the Church of the Holy Spirit had made the contention that Christianity was not the faith of the people and that came to the Supreme Court and this is what they said:
‘‘Our laws and our institutions must necessarily be based upon and embody the teachings of the redeemer of mankind. It is impossible that they should be otherwise; and in this sense and to this extent our civilization and our institutions are emphatically Christian.’’
This is the Supreme Court.
‘‘No purpose of action against our religion can be imputed to any legislature, State or national, because this is a religious people. This is historically true. From the discovery of this continent to this present hour, there is a single voice making this affirmation.’’
The justices went on citing 87 different legal precedents to affirm that America was formed as a Christian Nation by believing Christians.
In 1947, a Supreme Court enlarged by Franklin Delano Roosevelt from seven to nine did a 180-degree about-face, and they epudiated 160 years of precedents in a ruling which talked about this wall of separation between church and State. They misunderstood as many today what our Founding Fathers hoped to accomplish by that first amendment.
We might spend a moment looking at why that was the first amendment. Our Founding Fathers did not come here to get rich. As a matter of fact, many of them left riches to come here to get freedom.
Freedom from what?
There were two tyrannies that they came here to escape, some one, some the other, and some both.
One was the tyranny of the church. In England, the Episcopal Church was empowered by the state so it could oppress other religions. On the European continent, it was the Roman Church that was empowered by the state so that it had the power to oppress other religions.
And then, of course, there was the tyranny of the crown, this divine right of kings and emperors.
I think it is no accident that in 1791 when our Founding Fathers wanted to make crystal clear what they meant in the Constitution, they wanted to say explicitly in those first 10 amendments what was implicit in the Constitution, that the first two addressed these two tyrannies from which they sought to protect themselves. It is very interesting that the establishment clause of the first amendment, that Congress should enact no law relative to the establishment of a religion, that a major architect of that was a Roman Catholic, Charles Carroll, for whom Carroll Creek in Frederick County is named, for whom Carroll County in northern Maryland is named.
You see, in old Virginia, Roman Catholics could not vote and in colonial Maryland, not only could Roman Catholics not vote but Jews could not vote. To their great credit, our Founding Fathers recognized when it came time to write the Constitution, and those first 10 amendments, that that is not what they came here to do, to discriminate, to deny, and so they chose a person who had been discriminated against, a Roman Catholic, to be a major architect of that first amendment.
Clearly what they wanted to do, and they say it over and over, and the courts have said it, that what they wanted to do was to prevent the State from empowering any one religion so that it could oppress others. They had no fear of religion itself. They had no concern about people of religion being in government. They had no concern about God being in government. They mentioned God in the Declaration of Independence. We have ‘‘In God We Trust’’ on our coins today and every bill that you carry in your purse. We began this day with prayer. The Pledge of Allegiance to the flag, we recognize there is a God. ‘‘In God We Trust’’ is in marble over the chair of the Speaker.
Clearly these are the roots of our country.
How could we have wandered so far away?
Ever since 1947, no Supreme Court has ever gone back for any verdict dealing with this subject that repudiated 160 years of precedents before that.
Let us move now to the Congress and look at a couple of things that the Congress did and said.
The first of these is in 1854. Humanism and Darwinism were sweeping the country and there was an assertion that America was not a Christian Nation. The Congress studied this for a year and after a year, on March 27 of 1854, the Senate Judiciary Committee issued its final report.
These words are from that report:
‘‘The first amendment clause speaks against an establishment of religion. The Founding Fathers intended by this amendment to prohibit an establishment of religion such as the Church of England presented or anything like it but they had no fear or jealousy of religion itself nor did they wish to see us an irreligious Nation.’’
This is the Congress.
I love these next words. With the time we spend in front of the television set, we no longer have a vocabulary or the ability to produce these kinds of phrases:
‘‘They did not intend to spread over all the public authorities and the whole public action of the Nation the dead and revolting spectacle of atheistic apathy. Had the people during the revolution,’’ and this is the Congress, the Senate, ‘‘had the people during the revolution had a suspicion of any attempt to war against Christianity, that revolution would have been strangled in its cradle.’’
At the time of the adoption of the Constitution and the amendments, the universal sentiment was that Christianity should be encouraged, just not any one sect or denomination. The object was not to substitute Judaism or Islam or infidelity but to prevent rivalry among the Christian denominations to the exclusion of others.
‘‘Christianity must be considered as the foundation on which the whole structure rests. Laws will not have permanence or power without the sanction of religious sentiment, without the firm belief that there is power above us that will reward our virtues and punish our vices.’’
Consistent with this philosophy, the Continental Congress bought 20,000 Bibles to distribute to their new citizens, and for 100 years, at the beginning of our country, this Congress appropriated money to send missionaries to the American Indians.
Let me read further from this report from the Congress:
‘‘In this age, there can be no substitute for Christianity. By its great principles, the Christian faith is the great conserving element on which we must rely for the purity and permanence of our free institutions. That was the religion of the Founding Fathers of the Republic and they expected it to remain the religion of their descendants.’’
Let us turn now to our schools. And the Congress in 1854 made this statement about our schools. It said: ‘‘The Congress of the United States recommends and approves the Holy Bible for use in our schools.’’
Consistent with that, it was used.
The New England Primer was used for over 200 years. Notice how they taught the alphabet.
‘‘A. A wise son makes a glad father but a foolish son is heaviness to his mother.
B. Better is little with the fear of the Lord than abundance apart from him.
C. Come unto Christ, all you who are weary and heavily laden.
D. Do not do the abominable thing, which I hate, sayeth the Lord.
E. Except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.’’
The ‘‘McGuffey Reader,’’ used for 100 years. Not too many years ago it was brought back to some of our schools when for a number of years the achievement scores had considerably dropped and we graduated over 1 million people who literally could not read their high school diplomas, and, out of desperation, they brought the ‘‘McGuffey Reader’’ back to some of the schools, because when we had that in our schools, the graduates could read when they graduated from school.
The ‘‘McGuffey Reader.’’
This is what it says: ‘‘The Christian religion is the religion of our country. From it our derived our notions on the character of God and on the great moral Governor of the universe.’’
This is the author of the ‘‘McGuffey Reader″: ‘‘On its doctrines are founded the peculiarities of our free institutions. From no source has the author drawn more conspicuously than from the sacred scriptures. For all of these extractions from the Bible I make no apology.’’ That is the author of the ‘‘McGuffey Reader.’’
Of the first 108 schools in our country, 106 were distinctly religious. The first of these was Harvard University, named after a beloved New England pastor, John Harvard.
This is what they said in their student handbook: ‘‘Let every student be plainly instructed and earnestly pressed to consider well the main end of his life and studies is to know God and Jesus Christ, which is eternal life, John 17:3; and therefore to lay Jesus Christ as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and learning.’’
For over 100 years, more than 50 percent of all of the graduates of Harvard University were pastors.
We now expose these three great lies: the wall of separation, those words appear only in the Constitution of the Soviet Republic.
They are not in our Constitution, they were not intended by our Founding Fathers. Their only intent was to make sure that the state never empowered any one religion so that it could oppress others.
Clearly in letting the Founding Fathers and the courts and the Congress and the schools speak, it is very clear that our Founding Fathers were not atheists and deists, that they did intend to establish a religious Nation.
We have changed. What have we reaped?
America 100 years ago had the highest literacy rate of any nation on Earth. Today we spend more on education than any other nation in the world, and yet since 1987 we have graduated more than 1 million high school students who cannot even read their diplomas.
We spent more money than any other nation in the industrialized world to educate our children, yet SAT scores fell for 24 straight years before finally leveling off at the bottom in the 1990s, and there they remain, if you watch your papers. There they remain at the bottom.
In a 1960 survey, 53 percent of America’s teenagers had never kissed and 57 percent had never necked, that is to hug and kiss, and 92 percent of teenagers in America said they were virgins in 1960.
Just a little personal anecdote. I got my doctorate at the University of Maryland in 1952, just in this time period, in a little building at the highest point on the campus there, Memorial Hall, a brick building that still stands.
Just over the hill from there were girls’ dormitories, and the dean of women would not let the girls go barefoot because she said it was too sexy.
How have we changed? Today, instead of that, we have coed dorms, and I am afraid far too many coed rooms at the University of Maryland.
By 1990, just 30 years after 1960, 75 percent of American high school students are sexually active by 18. In the next 5 years, we spent $4 billion to educate them how to be immoral through trumpeting the solution of safe sex, and it worked. One in five teenagers in America today loses their virginity before their 13th birthday, and 19 percent of America’s teenagers say they have had more than four sexual partners before graduation.
Every day 2,700 students get pregnant, 1,100 get abortions, 1,200 give birth.
Every day another 900 contract a sexually transmitted disease, many incurable.
AIDS infection among high school students climbed 700 percent between 1990 and 1995.
We have 3.3 million problem drinkers on our high school campuses, over half a million alcoholics in any given weekend in America.
Thirty percent of the students population spends some time under the influence of alcohol.
A couple of years ago a young woman in a high school in Oklahoma wrote this poem as a new school prayer:
“Now I sit me down in school
Where praying is against the rule.
For this great nation under God,
Finds mention of him very odd.
If scripture now the class recites
It violates the Bill of Rights.
Any time my head I bow
Becomes a Federal matter now.
Our hair can be purple, orange, or green.
That’s no offense; it’s a freedom scene.
The law is specific, the law is precise.
Only prayers spoken out loud are serious vice.
For praying in a public hall
Might offend someone who has no faith at all.
In silence alone we must meditate,
God’s name is prohibited by the State.
We are allowed to cuss and dress like freaks,
And pierce our noses, tongues and cheeks.
They have outlawed guns, but FIRST the Bible.
To quote the Good Book makes me liable.
We can elect a pregnant Senior Queen,
And the ’unwed daddy’ our Senior King.
It is inappropriate to teach right from wrong,
We are taught that such ’judgments’ do not belong.
We can get our condoms and birth controls,
Study witchcraft, vampires and totem poles.
But the Ten Commandments are not allowed,
No word of God must reach this crowd.
It is scary here I must confess,
When chaos reigns the school’s a mess.
So Lord, this silent plea I make:
Should I be shot, my soul please take.’’
Our Nation, which used to lead the world in every arena, now leads the world in these areas:
We are number one in violent crime, number one in divorce, number one in teenage pregnancies, number one in abortion, number one in illegal drug abuse, and we are number one in the industrialized world for illiteracy.
Alexis de Tocqueville, who toured this country for 5 years, asked what was there about America that made it so special. He summed up his lengthy visit in 1831: ‘‘I sought for the key to the greatness and genius of America in her great harbors, her fertile fields and boundless forests; in her rich minds and vast world commerce; in her universal public school system and institutions of learning. I sought for it in her democratic Congress and in her matchless Constitution.
‘‘But not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because America is good; and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.’’
Would Alexis de Tocqueville understand why we took the Ten Commandments out of that courthouse in Alabama?
In 1863, Abraham Lincoln declared a National Day of Humiliation, and these are his words:
‘‘We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and powers as no other nation has ever grown.’’
And, Mr. Lincoln, the growth from then on has been uninterrupted and today we are something that you could not even have imagined then.
‘‘But we have forgotten God,’’ he says. ‘‘We have forgotten the gracious Hand, which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched us; and we have vainly imagined in the deceitfulness of our hearts that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own.’’
Could you have a clearer description of where largely we are today in our attitudes?
‘‘Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving Grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us. It behooves us then to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.’’
Abraham Lincoln said this to our Nation. We need to hear it again:
‘‘It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us, that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion, that we here highly resolve that hese dead shall not have died in vain, that this Nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom.’’
Most of this present generation have not forgotten from whence we came. They never knew. Our textbooks have been bled dry of any reference to the Christian heritage of our country.
Abraham Lincoln understood that this Nation was a new experiment, that it might not be successful, because four score and seven years later, and if you do the arithmetic that takes you back to the Declaration of Independence, four score and seven years ago our fathers founded on this continent a new Nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. We are now engaged in a great war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure.
Then he went on to say they were met on a great battlefield of that nation and we come here to dedicate that to those who fought and died here.
Then he ends that Gettysburg Address with almost a prayer: ‘‘This government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the Earth.’’
Let me end with where I started. We opened our day’s business today in this House with prayer; we did the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag, in which we recognized that we are in a Nation under God; and over the Speaker’s Chair inscribed in marble in large letters are the words ‘‘In God We Trust.’’
And yet at the same time we now have required the removal of His commandments from that courthouse in Alabama.
I submit that if our textbooks had not been bled dry of the Christian heritage of our country, if in fact our leaders today would go back and read the Federalist Papers to understand the milieu in which our Constitution was written, that they would understand very clearly that our Founding Fathers never could have imagined that we would have interpreted that Establishment Clause as requiring freedom from religion, and that is what they are trying to do. They clearly meant it to assure freedom of religion.
Those are two very different concepts, Mr. Speaker, and my prayer is, my hope is, that our leaders today will go back for a refresher course in our history, look again at our Founding Fathers and who they were and what they stood for and what they fought and what they died for and what they said and what they did in their Congress and what they did in their Supreme Court and what we taught in our schools.
If we did that, Mr. Speaker, those Ten Commandments would be hauled back as quickly as one could to that courthouse in Alabama, because their presence there clearly is not at any variance with any of the principles of our Founding Fathers.
As a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker, they would be appalled that we had so misinterpreted their assurance that never should the State empower any religion so that can could oppress others.
They would ask us, How could you have misunderstood? Didn’t we make itclear to you that we were talking about an establishment of religion?
Wasn’t it clear from all of our personal statements, from all of what we did in our courts, from what we said in our Congress, that we believed that God was essential in our Nation?
Certainly children should pray in schools.
Certainly the Ten Commandments should be in public places.
We are a Christian Nation, established by Christian people, and I hope, Mr. Speaker, that our leadership in our courts and in our Congress and in all of our States go back and review our history so they can understand from whence we came, because if we do not, Mr. Speaker, go back and understand from whence we came, I am concerned about where we are going.