History is on Hayden's side

I’m sorry I can’t attend Monday night’s Flower Mound Town Council meeting, where I understand a contingent of lathered-up residents is planning to express their displeasure with Mayor Hayden’s proclamation.

I’m sure it will be quite the spectacle, with a vocal minority claiming to be deeply, personally offended by the proclamation – as if he called their children ugly, or as if anything a mayor says has any bearing on their daily lives whatsoever.

Please…you’re not offended.  You just don’t like it.  You have a visceral reaction to PDC: Public Displays of Christianity. 

Fair enough.  I suppose if Flower Mound ever elects a practicing Muslim as mayor and (presumably) he decides to issue a proclamation for the “Year of the Koran,” my eyebrows would rise a bit.  I’d probably say, “well, I shoulda seen that coming,” then promptly forget about it move on to the next article in the paper.

(By the way, where was the outrage when Mayor Hayden declared May 1, 2013 “Falun Dafa Day” in Flower Mound?  I must have missed that Town Council meeting.)

I have no doubt that tomorrow night the phrase “separation of church and state” will be invoked repeatedly (albeit inaccurately) as a weapon by many of these supposedly offended souls, as if our nation simply does not condone public “proclamations” of faith by our elected representatives in their official capacities.

The non-establishment clause of the U.S. Constitution has been cut-and-pasted several times over the past few days, so presumably we all now are reminded what the Constitution does (and doesn’t) say.

One of the cool things about the Internet is that you can find things, like 200-year-old presidential speeches, with just a few keystrokes.  While watching football today, I decided to do a little research to see what our Founding Fathers really had to say in their inaugural addresses and other important speeches about God, Christianity, religion, etc.  After all, many of you seem to be under the impression that these men would never have allowed their religious beliefs to leak into their official acts. (For the record, I realize many of our Founding Fathers were not Christians in the sense that they would be so recognized today.  Many were Deists.  That’s not the point. )  The point is, what did they say, in public, while in office and speaking in an official capacity.  Specifically, did they ever “pull a Hayden?”

Here’s a little stroll through U.S. history, for those who’ve forgotten, weren’t paying attention or weren’t living here in your younger days. 

You be the judge…Did Flower Mound’s mayor set a dangerous, disrespectful or divisive precedent in issuing his non-official proclamation last month? 

George Washington’s 1st Inaugural Address:  “It would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official Act, my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the Universe, who presides in the Councils of Nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that his benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the People of the United States…In tendering this homage to the Great Author of every public and private good I assure myself that it expresses your sentiments not less than my own… No People can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand, which conducts the Affairs of men more than the People of the United States. Every step, by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation, seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency.

Thomas Jefferson’s 1st inaugural address, final sentence: “And may that Infinite Power which rules the destinies of the universe lead our councils to what is best, and give them a favorable issue for your peace and prosperity.”

Jefferson’s 2nd inaugural address, final sentences: “I shall need, too, the favor of that Being in whose hands we are, who led our fathers, as Israel of old, from their native land and planted them in a country flowing with all the necessaries and comforts of life; who has covered our infancy with His providence and our riper years with His wisdom and power, and to whose goodness I ask you to join in supplications with me that He will so enlighten the minds of your servants, guide their councils, and prosper their measures that whatsoever they do shall result in your good, and shall secure to you the peace, friendship, and approbation of all nations.”

John Adams, in “Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States:” “The experiment is made, and has completely succeeded: it can no longer be called in question, whether authority in magistrates, and obedience of citizens, can be grounded on reason, morality, and the Christian religion, without the monkery of priests, or the knavery of politicians.”

Alexander Hamilton: “In my opinion, the present constitution is the standard to which we are to cling…. Let an association be formed to be denominated ‘The Christian Constitutional Society,’ its object to be first: The support of the Christian religion. Second: The support of the United States.”

James Madison, “Father of the Constitution” in closing his first inaugural address: “In these my confidence will under every difficulty be best placed, next to that which we have all been encouraged to feel in the guardianship and guidance of that Almighty Being whose power regulates the destiny of nations, whose blessings have been so conspicuously dispensed to this rising Republic, and to whom we are bound to address our devout gratitude for the past, as well as our fervent supplications and best hopes for the future.”

Moving forward in history…

Lincoln’s 1st inaugural address: “Intelligence, patriotism, Christianity, and a firm reliance on Him, who has never yet forsaken this favored land, are still competent to adjust, in the best way, all our present difficulty.”

FDR’s 1st inaugural address (best known for “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”):  “In this dedication of a Nation we humbly ask the blessing of God. May He protect each and every one of us. May He guide me in the days to come.”

Ronald Reagan (taken from Wikipedia, so you know it has to be true): “1983 was designated as the national Year of the Bible by President Ronald Reagan by Proclamation 5018, made on February 3, 1983 at the annual National Prayer Breakfast. President Reagan was authorized and requested to so designate 1983 by Public Law 97-280 (Senate Joint Resolution 165], 96 Stat. 1211) passed by Congress and approved on October 4, 1982.

The law recited that the Bible “has made a unique contribution in shaping the United States as a distinctive and blessed nation and people” and that, quoting President Andrew Jackson, the Bible is “the rock on which our Republic rests”. It also acknowledged a “national need to study and apply the teachings of the Holy Scriptures.” “Can we resolve to reach, learn and try to heed the greatest message ever written, God’s Word, and the Holy Bible?” Reagan asked. “Inside its pages lie all the answers to all the problems that man has ever known.”

Of course, as we all know, almost every president has placed his hand on the Bible while taking the oath of office.  One thing I didn’t know: Washington and most others through Harry Truman KISSED the Bible following the oath.

I don’t recall these leaders being accused of representing only those that shared their faith.  I don’t remember them being mocked for their words, or told to take up preaching instead of politics.  I don’t remember rabbis accusing them of trying to be the “Bishop of the United States” instead of the President.

By the way, here’s the Preamble to t
he Texas Constitution: “Humbly invoking the blessings of Almighty God, the people of the State of Texas, do ordain and establish this Constitution.”

I can’t remember a State of the Union Address, or most any presidential speech for that matter, that didn’t end with these, or similar, words (pulled from Obama’s 2013 SOTU speech): “Thank you, God bless you, and God bless these United States of America.”

Hmm.  It seems that one of the time-honored rewards of elected office in the U.S. is having a platform for expressing – dare I say, proclaiming – your religious beliefs.   Call it pandering, call it brave, call it politically incorrect, call it ineffectual if you like.  Just don’t call it unconstitutional.

I realize it’s inconvenient to recognize these truths about the very blurred lines between our “church and state” and the foundational role Christianity and Judeo-Christian principles have played in our history, and even the current government of the United States.  But the facts are incontrovertible.  If you don’t like it, it’s certainly your inalienable right to fight it, or, I suppose, to pretend it doesn’t exist. 

This much I know: Virtually none of you that claim to be so terribly offended by the mayor’s proclamation would choose to live in another country.  In fact, some of you have fled or left nations whose governments and societies are based on other, often extremist, religions.  Some nations, like North Korea, forbid the practice of religion altogether.  In my experience, none of those countries top the lists of “best places to live,” or are even considered popular tourist destinations. 

Maybe we’re onto something here…

So if you’re going to rant about the mayor’s dastardly “Year of the Bible” proclamation, at least be intellectually honest in your rant.  It’s not unconstitutional, or even unusual.  You just don’t like it. 

Here’s a suggestion:  Ignore it, just like you and I ignored dozens of other proclamations, including “Motorcycle Safety Month” and Mayor Hayden’s proclamation – on behalf of the Town of Flower Mound and the Town Council – declaring May 1, 2013 “Falun Dafa Day.”

Ladd K. Biro
Flower Mound, TX


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