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TCTA Legal Department -- Blaine Thoughts

Four years ago, the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) adopted new standards, known as TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills), for social studies textbooks in the state’s schools. The process ignited an international media storm. When it was done, even the explicitly conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute gave TEKS a D, on the grounds that it amounted to political and cultural indoctrination, a dash of mindless inclusivity, and brute memorization.  

Now the SBOE is considering what textbook publishers have produced in response to the TEKS requirements. As a result, how students learn history in the Lone Star State is back in the news.  Reviews of these Text Books have not been encouraging. 

The Blaine Amendments came out of  1875 Christian hatred for Catholics. U.S. Grant picked up on this and in his speech he called for a Constitutional amendment that would mandate free public schools and prohibit the use of public money for sectarian schools. Grant laid out his agenda for "good common school education." He attacked government support for "sectarian schools" run by religious organizations, and called for the defense of public education "unmixed with sectarian, pagan or atheistical dogmas." Grant declared that "Church and State" should be "forever separate." Religion, he said, should be left to families, churches, and private schools devoid of public funds.

A Congressman named Blaine answered the call and wrote out an Amendment for the United States Constitution. However, it didn't pass. Most of Congress understood that the public call for this was based on religious hatred and they weren't going to add to it. (Ah, those were the days... A Thinking Congress of Action). 

Well, this didn't stop the hate and the fear. The people went to their Governors. 38 of the 50 states added to their State Constitutions a Blaine Amendment. Texas happened to be one of them who boldly jumped in to protect their citizens from the rise in Catholics teaching school. 

In Texas the two Blaine amendments are:
“No money shall be appropriated, or drawn from the Treasury for the benefit of any sect, or religious society, theological or religious seminary; nor shall property belonging to the State be appropriated for any such purposes.”Texas Const. Art. I, sec. 7

“The permanent school fund and the available school fund may not be appropriated to or used for the support of any sectarian school.”Texas Const. Art. VII, sec. 5(c)

How is Texas going to get its new Social Studies and History Text past this law?. Both of the texts (all of the examples I've discovered so far) are obviously and overtly Christian, and they both project a heavily Christian perspective. The text are based on Faith of truth, not historical fact of truth. For example the only possible textual reference for the lesson which teaches that Moses received the 10 Commandments directly from God is the Old Testament of the Bible. The only documents which quote Jesus are the New Testament of the Bible. The Bible is a religious reference, not a historical document --  what is meant by that is the Bible as a historic/literal text can only be referenced and checked for authenticity by itself which is not acceptable in the historic investigative world. 

For example, if I tell you that George Washington meant to keep religion out of the Constitution when they were writing the document, I'm not just going to give you one or two quotes from his letters or diary. To make this statement credible, I also need other sources of information, such as someone else's letter, describing Washington's actions that day, or perhaps sermons from a local minister, or newspaper articles, or the journal of his wife. Something else needs to be there to back up the claim. Otherwise, you are taking it on Faith, not Fact. In this case we have only a marginal reference of the modern Bible backing us up, -- thus the lesson is clearly from a "religious society, theological or religious seminary" -- So it follows that no money at all can be used by the schools while those text books are in use. 

Are these lessons truly Religious in nature? Well, let's take a look a few of them.

Notes from the Reviewers of the New Texas School Text(Find them Here)

“During their years of wandering in the desert of the Sinai, Moses handed down God’s Ten Commandments to the Hebrews. These commandments now form the bedrock on which the Jewish, Muslim, and Christian codes of behavior are based. The full account of Moses’ life can be found in the Bible’s book of Exodus."
--- Perfection Learning - Basic Principles of American Government

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt – World History The text states: “Because one of Jesus’s basic principles was the equality of all people in the eyes of God, equality before the law became a central belief within the Judeo-Christian tradition.”

Religious influences and Western political thinkers: From Mr. Heaney’s account this chapter seems to me to have simply capitulated to the TEKS requirements, which add up to direct and untenable propositions about Biblical and Christian thought in relation to 18th-century republicanism. 

At worst, the text posits a relationship in terms of “don’t do bad things,” ignoring the point that such an injunction is at the heart of all forms of ethical thinking; the rub is the definition of bad things. Vague generalization at that level holds for the text’s treatment of Thomas Aquinas, John Calvin (whose political thought and practices in Geneva are ignored), the Reformation in relation to the formation of an amorphous “modern world,” and even the Enlightenment, despite the text’s own statement that the Enlightenment “led some to reject all religions.” -- which truly misses the point.

Without any evidence, the text tries to link the Declaration of Independence to Sir William Blackstone, who gets only the barest of mentions in the two most important accounts of the Declaration’s making. I would add, to drive home the absurdity of including Blackstone on the required list, that one of those studies quotes Blackstone’s fairly well-known statement that “there is and must be in every state a supreme, irresistible, absolute, uncontrolled authority,” which is some distance from what the Declaration has to say about the right of an aggrieved people to overthrow a truly oppressive government. 

The text goes on to cite the Bible, Aquinas, and Luther as the prime shapers of American ideals, completely in defiance of evidence and ignoring the point that none of them endorsed anything resembling “American-style democracy.” It also suggests that “many” clergy raised their voices on political matters during the era. The point is correct, but they raised their voices on both sides of both the debate about Independence and the debate about the Constitution a decade later. On the latter count, “many” clergy opposed the Constitution because the word God does not appear in it.
--- History Text Review World History (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

These lessons developed from the TEKS requirements would seriously upset the Founding Fathers, who went to a great deal of trouble to keep the words God or Jesus or Christianity out of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. They were very clear about how they felt about mixing Religion(any) and Civic Government. To a man, they agreed that Christianity, or any other religion for that matter, needed to be out of the room. Some of those men were Christians, some of them deeply religious -- but it is clear that they saw the need and accepted the arguments that Church and State must be separate.

Here are some examples of what they had to say about Christianity being the driving force behind the Government of the United States. 

“The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe in blood for centuries.
[Letter objecting to the use of government land for churches, 1803]” 
James Madison

“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 [Muslims],—and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan [Mohammedan] 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.
[Adams submitted and signed the Treaty of Tripoli, 1797]” 
John Adams, Thoughts On Government Applicable To The Present State Of The American Colonies.: Philadelphia, Printed By John Dunlap, M,Dcc,Lxxxvi

“The government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.” 
George Washington

“When the government puts its imprimatur on a particular religion it conveys a message of exclusion to all those who do not adhere to the favored beliefs. A government cannot be premised on the belief that all persons are created equal when it asserts that God prefers some.” 
Harry A. Blackmun

“Besides the danger of a direct mixture of religion and civil government, there is an evil which ought to be guarded against in the indefinite accumulation of property from the capacity of holding it in perpetuity by ecclesiastical corporations. The establishment of the chaplainship in Congress is a palpable violation of equal rights as well as of Constitutional principles. The danger of silent accumulations and encroachments by ecclesiastical bodies has not sufficiently engaged attention in the U.S.” 
James Madison

“Every new & successful example therefore of a perfect separation between ecclesiastical and civil matters, is of importance. And I have no doubt that every new example, will succeed, as every past one has done, in shewing that religion & Govt. will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together.
[Letter to Edward Livingston, 10 July 1822 - Writings 9:100--103]” 
James Madison, Writings

“If I could conceive that the general government might ever be so administered as to render the liberty of conscience insecure, I beg you will be persuaded, that no one would be more zealous than myself to establish effectual barriers against the horrors of spiritual tyranny, and every species of religious persecution.” ~George Washington, letter to the United Baptist Chamber of Virginia, May 1789

 “Of all the animosities which have existed among mankind, those which are caused by a difference of sentiments in religion appear to be the most inveterate and distressing, and ought to be deprecated. I was in hopes that the enlightened and liberal policy, which has marked the present age, would at least have reconciled Christians of every denomination so far that we should never again see the religious disputes carried to such a pitch as to endanger the peace of society.” ~George Washington, letter to Edward Newenham, October 20, 1792

 “The Government of the United States is not in any sense founded upon the Christian religion.” ~John Adams, as stated in the signed Treaty of Tripoli in 1797

“The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature; and if men are now sufficiently enlightened to disabuse themselves of artifice, imposture, hypocrisy, and superstition, they will consider this event as an era in their history. Although the detail of the formation of the American governments is at present little known or regarded either in Europe or in America, it may hereafter become an object of curiosity. It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of Heaven, more than those at work upon ships or houses, or laboring in merchandise or agriculture; it will forever be acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses.” ~John Adams, “A Defense of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America” (1787-88)

“It is only when the people become ignorant and corrupt, when they degenerate into a populace, that they are incapable of exercising the sovereignty. Usurpation is then an easy attainment, and a usurper soon found. The people themselves become the willing instruments of their own debasement and ruin. Let us, then, look to the great cause, and endeavor to preserve it in full force. Let us by all wise and constitutional measures promote intelligence among the people as the best means of preserving our liberties.” ~James Monroe, First Inaugural Address, 1817

 “I could not do otherwise without transcending the limits prescribed by the Constitution for the President and without feeling that I might in some degree disturb the security which religion nowadays enjoys in this county in its complete separation from the political concerns of the General Government.” ~Andrew Jackson, statement refusing to proclaim a national day of fasting and prayer, 1832

“We admit of no government by divine right, believing that so far as power is concerned the Beneficent Creator has made no distinction amongst men; that all are upon an equality, and that the only legitimate right to govern is an express grant of power from the governed.” ~William Henry Harrison, Inaugural Address, 1841

“My earlier views of the unsoundness of the Christian scheme of salvation and the human origin of the scriptures, have become clearer and stronger with advancing years and I see no reason for thinking I shall ever change them.” ~Abraham Lincoln, Letter, 1862(Not a Founding Father,but an example that our Presidents didn't move far from the original thoughts up to Abraham Lincoln's day)

 “The United States government must not undertake to run the Churches. When an individual, in the Church or out of it, becomes dangerous to the public interest he must be checked.” ~Abraham Lincoln, The Religious Beliefs of Our Presidents by Franklin Steiner, page 143 

I am persuaded, you will permit me to observe that the path of true piety is so plain as to require but little political direction. To this consideration we ought to ascribe the absence of any regulation, respecting religion, from the Magna-Charta of our country.
-- George Washington, responding to a group of clergymen who complained that the Constitution lacked mention of Jesus Christ, in 1789, Papers, Presidential Series, 4:274, the "Magna-Charta" here refers to the proposed United States Constitution

If they are good workmen, they may be of Asia, Africa, or Europe. They may be Mohometans, Jews or Christians of any Sect, or they may be Atheists.
-- George Washington, letter to Tench Tilghman asking him to secure a carpenter and a bricklayer for his Mount Vernon estate, March 24, 1784, in Paul F Boller, George Washington & Religion (1963) p. 118, quoted from Ed and Michael Buckner

Among many other weighty objections to the Measure, it has been suggested, that it has a tendency to introduce religious disputes into the Army, which above all things should be avoided, and in many instances would compel men to a mode of Worship which they do not profess.
-- George Washington, to John Hancock, then president of Congress, expressing opposition to a congressional plan to appoint brigade chaplains in the Continental Army (1777)

 “We should begin by setting conscience free. When all men of all religions … shall enjoy equal liberty, property, and an equal chance for honors and power … we may expect that improvements will be made in the human character and the state of society.”
~John Adams, letter to Dr. Price, April 8, 1785, 

Vote of No Confidence -- James Madison's thoughts about Christian Rule

The argument about whether or not the Founding Fathers were Christian or not has been going on for some time. Christians have even resorted to falsifying information in pseudo-history books in an attempt to make the issue more clear. Why? Because of the argument of Church and State and whether those two should be separate. 

I really don't know how many pseudo-history websites I've been to, as I searched for information on this subject, only to find out that the information there was not attested to anywhere else, and then discovering that others had already discovered the deceptions. As a Christian I find these tactics to be appalling, but I also find them to be in line with the nature of religious people. It's as if they suddenly forget that God knows what he is doing, and get into a mind set that 'whatever it takes' to win. It really doesn't matter if the Founding Fathers were Christian or not, but rather how they intended the Government of the United States to be. They pushed back their own beliefs and composed using their best reason and logic.

It never crosses the mind of today's Christians that perhaps it is not God's will for this to be a Christian Nation. Or if it does, ego blacks it out. 

As I read James Madison's booklet - Vices of the Political System, I couldn't help but feel the same actions have been going on with Christians for a very long time. These tricks and sins were old even in his day. In his case, his day is in the spring of 1787.  This thin book was Madison's attempt to  work out basic problems facing the New Constitution. In addition, his letters to Jefferson (19 Mar. 1787), Randolph (8 Apr. 1787), and Washington (16 Apr. 1787) contained “the first shoot in his thoughts of a plan of Federal Government” (Adair, ed., “James Madison’s Autobiography,” WMQ, 3d ser., II [1945], 202). These letters were the basis of those resolutions submitted by Governor Randolph to the convention on 29 May 1787 which became known in history as the Virginia Plan.

As I understand it, Madison is about to enter into the fray of creating a Constitution and he is mentally going over the "sins" of the States and searching for ways of dealing with them. 

He speculated about ways to prevent the injustices that seemed to disfigure republican governments. Could religion, Madison asked himself, "be a sufficient restraint? It is not pretended to be such on men individually considered. Will its effects be greater on them considered in an aggregate view? quite the reverse." Madison repeated these views in a speech in the Federal Convention on June 6, 1787, adding that not only was "little to be expected" from religion in a positive way but that it might become "a motive to persecution and oppression." He aired them for a third time in Federalist 10, published November 22, 1787. In that famous essay Madison inquired how "the public good, and private rights," might be secured against tyrannical majorities. "We well know," he answered, "that neither moral nor religious motives can be relied on as an adequate control. They are not found to be such on the injustice and violence of individuals and lose their efficiency in proportion to the number combined together." These are extraordinary statements, betraying a pessimism about the social value of religion so extreme that they separate Madison from all other Founders, Jefferson included.

Here is the passage in full from Vices of the Political System

...will Religion, the only remaining motive, be a sufficient restraint? It is not pretended to be such on men individually considered. Will its effect be greater on them considered in an aggregate view? quite the reverse. The conduct of every popular assembly acting on oath, the strongest of religious Ties, proves that individuals join without remorse in acts, against which their consciences would revolt if proposed to them under the like sanction, separately in their closets. When indeed Religion is kindled into enthusiasm, its force like that of other passions, is increased by the sympathy of a multitude. But enthusiasm is only a temporary state of religion, and while it lasts will hardly be seen with pleasure at the helm of Government. Besides as religion in its coolest state, is not infallible, it may become a motive to oppression as well as a restraint from injustice. 
    -- James Madison's views on the possibility of Religion being an effective guide for State Government - from Vices of the Political System

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