Monday, February 22, 2010

Thomas Jefferson and James Madison must be spinning in their graves

It gets tossed around a lot these days that the Founding Fathers intended the United States to be a Christian nation. Many of the Founding Fathers had some pretty strong views about religion and government.

Thomas Jefferson, for one, coined the phrase "separation of Church and State". He worked to remove the tax support that the Anglican church received in Virginia, writing the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom. He wrote his nephew and ward, "Fix Reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve the homage of reason than of blindfolded fear."  Jefferson even went so far as to create an edited version of the New Testament that removed all mentions of miracles, the Virgin birth, the resurrection and divinity of Jesus.  

James Madison, co-author of the Federalist papers, worked with Jefferson in Virginia to disestablish the Anglican Church. In his latter years he wrote against the inclusion of Chaplains in the armed forces and Congress, feeling they "produced religious exclusion, but not political harmony."

Indeed many of the framers of the Constitution were Deists. Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin were both heavily influenced by Deism.  So were Madison and Thomas Paine.  While many of the Founding Fathers regularly attended church and professed a belief in God, many of them felt equally strongly about the need to keep the Church out politics.

So what would Madison and Jefferson think to hear a Virginia state representative say this:

“The number of children who are born subsequent to a first abortion with handicaps has increased dramatically. Why? Because when you abort the first born of any, nature takes its vengeance on the subsequent children,” said Marshall, a Republican. "In the Old Testament, the first born of every being, animal and man, was dedicated to the Lord. There’s a special punishment Christians would suggest.”

Bob Marshall, Republican State Delegate, uttered these despicable words at a press conference against state funding for Planned Parenthood. He seems quite taken aback that his statements have made national news, including an online petition calling for his resignation and apology.

Hearing this kind of thing from a politician is more than just disgusting. Taken with the news from Utah, it reminds me of Margaret Atwood's A Handmaid's Tale. 

The Utah law criminalizes a woman's "intentional, knowing, or reckless act" leading to a pregnancy's illegal termination. It specifically says a woman CANNOT be prosecuted for arranging a legal abortion. However, if any of her actions result in a miscarriage, whether that was her intention or not, she could potentially be prosecuted and, if found guilty, receive a sentence up to life in prison. So if a woman remains in a abusive relationship when pregnant and her abuser assaults her and causes her to miscarry, she could be charged under this law. After all, remaining in an abusive relationship is a reckless act.  Such are the fears of opponents to the bill.

Are we moving towards a theocracy?  Those against same-sex marriage, abortion, DADT, and ENDA all use religious thought as a basis for their arguments.  So much of the conservative rhetoric in our country seems grounded in Christianist thought. It rears its ugly head in those who support the anti-homosexuality bill in Uganda as much as it does in those who call Dr. George Tiller's murderer a hero. 

And is absolutely what the Founding Fathers fought against. What Jefferson in particular hated. He fought to free Virginia from laws that denied anyone who proclaimed no faith in God or the Trinity the ability to hold public office.  Now, a Virginia state delegate uses religion to abuse those with disabled children. 

How low we have fallen.

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