On Friday morning, Feb. 27, 2015, I saw Chris Cuomo pontificating on TV with a fellow CNN host, Michael Smerconish.
They were talking about the annual Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) conference, and at one point, Cuomo seemed to suggest that a majority of those attending the meeting in Washington, D.C., supposedly favored establishing Christianity as the national religion.
Cuomo then said that here we are, in modern America, dealing with religious extremism abroad – presumably a reference to ISIS, the Islamic State. Yet we have our own extremists here in America, too – presumably those “whacko Christians” who want to impose a theocracy on the rest of us.
Cuomo also said that the founders left God’s name out of the Constitution by design. Ergo, our framers established a secular nation by design.
This echoes his claim of a few weeks ago that our rights in America are not derived from God. That came in Cuomo’s now-famous exchange with Chief Justice Roy Moore of Alabama’s Supreme Court.
Cuomo is wrong. The founders were clear that there shall be no established religion at the federal level in this country, and I’m positive the majority of CPAC members are in agreement with that point.
But God is the source of our rights in this country – and the founders were equally clear on that. They recognized that what government gives, government can take away. The only true basis for lasting rights was their origin in God Himself.
We have a national birth certificate – the Declaration of Independence – which states that our rights come from the Creator. It is the duty of governments to respect those God-given rights.
Because the king of England was messing with those rights, Thomas Jefferson (the Declaration’s main author) gave a laundry list of such oppression – in essence declaring that the king had “unkinged” himself. Jefferson’s motto was “Resistance to tyrants is obedience to God.”
In his book, “A History of the American People,” Paul Johnson notes: “America had been founded primarily for religious purposes, and the Great Awakening [in the 1730s and 1740s] had been the original dynamic of the continental movement for independence. The Americans were overwhelmingly churchgoing, much more so than the English, whose rule they rejected. There is no question that the Declaration of Independence was, to those who signed it, a religious as well as a secular act.”
When the founders met in what we now call the Constitutional Convention 11 years later, they dated that document “in the year of our Lord” 1787, also noting that it was the 12th year of Independence. The Constitution is predicated on the Declaration – which mentions God four times.
In 1955, President Eisenhower said this: “Without God, there could be no American form of government, nor an American way of life. Recognition of the Supreme Being is the first – the most basic – expression of Americanism. Thus the Founding Fathers of America saw it, and thus with God’s help, it will continue to be.”
Did the founders suddenly cast off their religiosity at the Constitutional Convention? Alexander Hamilton was there, and he noted of the document they produced, “For my own part, I sincerely esteem it a system which without the finger of God, never could have been suggested and agreed upon by such a diversity of interests.”
Cuomo and all of us who love freedom can thank one person above all others for the freedom to speak our mind – even when we’re wrong. That would be: Jesus, whom Jefferson refers to as “the holy author of our religion.”
Thomas Jefferson wrote the document that is often viewed as a key forerunner to the First Amendment’s guarantees of no nationally established church and of freedom of religion. Jefferson’s document (written 1777, passed 1786) is the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom.
Note the theological basis for such freedom. He writes: “Almighty God hath created the mind free. … all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments … are a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, who being lord both of body and mind, yet choose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as was in his Almighty power to do, but to exalt it by its influence on reason alone. …”
In other words, freedom of thought and conscience comes directly from Jesus, “the holy author of our religion,” who instead of forcing belief offers a choice. Who are we to offer less?
I do not believe America should be a theocracy. But it is disingenuous of modern secularists, like Chris Cuomo, to say that those of us trying to preserve what’s left of our Christian heritage actually want to create a theocracy.
Without God, there would be no America and no American freedom.