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The Founding Fathers and Blasphemy

Andrew Sullivan writes:

The Concerned Women for America are now publishing articles by writers whose primary identification is with Christian Reconstructionists. The writer is clearly a follower of R.J. Rushdoony, a central figure in Reconstructionism. He backs anti-blasphemy laws. Reconstructionists are people who want to abandon the Constitution and institute Old Testament Biblical law -- stoning adulterers, executing homosexuals, etc. We're often told that the religious right are not theocrats. But CWFA is a mainstream part of the religious right. And if the reconstructionists are not theocrats, who on earth is?
Following this link from above leads us to this anti-blasphemy article:
When the Constitution was adopted, complete with the First Amendment guaranteeing free speech, laws against blasphemy were in force in every state. In some states today -- including Massachusetts, if you can believe it -- blasphemy is still against the law, even though there haven't been any prosecutions for decades. At any rate, it's obvious that our country's founders, at least, never intended free speech to include a right to blasphemy.
This is so easily disprovable it's laughable. First, here's John Adams on the topic, from an 1825 letter to Thomas Jefferson:
We think ourselves possessed, or, at least, we boast that we are so, of liberty of conscience on all subjects, and of the right of free inquiry and private judgment in all cases, and yet how far are we from these exalted privileges in fact! There exists, I believe, throughout the whole Christian world, a law which makes it blasphemy to deny or doubt the divine inspiration of all the books of the Old and New Testaments, from Genesis to Revelations. In most countries of Europe it is punished by fire at the stake, or the rack, or the wheel. In England itself it is punished by boring through the tongue with a red-hot poker. In America it is not better; even in our own Massachusetts, which I believe, upon the whole, is as temperate and moderate in religious zeal as most of the States, a law was made in the latter end of the last century, repealing the cruel punishments of the former laws, but substituting fine and imprisonment upon all those blasphemers upon any book of the Old Testament or New. Now, what free inquiry, when a writer must surely encounter the risk of fine or imprisonment for adducing any argument for investigating into the divine authority of those books? Who would run the risk of translating Dupuis? But I cannot enlarge upon this subject, though I have it much at heart. I think such laws a great embarrassment, great obstructions to the improvement of the human mind. Books that cannot bear examination, certainly ought not to be established as divine inspiration by penal laws. It is true, few persons appear desirous to put such laws in execution, and it is also true that some few persons are hardy enough to venture to depart from them. But as long as they continue in force as laws, the human mind must make an awkward and clumsy progress in its investigations. I wish they were repealed.
And here's Jefferson, from an 1814 letter to a bookseller who had been prosecuted for selling a book that Jefferson himself had bought:
I am really mortified to be told that, in the United States of America, a fact like this can become a subject of inquiry, and of criminal inquiry too, as an offence against religion; that a question about the sale of a book can be carried before the civil magistrate. Is this then our freedom of religion? and are we to have a censor whose imprimatur shall say what books may be sold, and what we may buy? And who is thus to dogmatize religious opinions for our citizens? Whose foot is to be the measure to which ours are all to be cut or stretched? Is a priest to be our inquisitor, or shall a layman, simple as ourselves, set up his reason as the rule for what we are to read, and what we must believe? It is an insult to our citizens to question whether they are rational beings or not, and blasphemy against religion to suppose it cannot stand the test of truth and reason.

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Comments

Where are such men today?

Commies.

Yeah, commies. Why'd we let 'em write the Constitution, anyway?

Dunno. I guess we're just stuck now.

gterr

Just to provide a little additional context, I am politically and theologically conservative -- a Republican and an evangelical Christian, who lives in Dallas, btw. I also think the Reconstructionists (who are obviously theocrats) are COMPLETELY CRAZY, and I would go to great lengths to avoid living in any place they ever managed to control. I believe my views on this subject are the views of everybody I know who has heard of Reconstructionists (which is probably a small percentage of the people I know, for that matter). Reconstructionism is a tiny, lunatic fringe. As boogeymen under the bed go, this is one that doesn't merit much quaking with fear.

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