Freedom From Religion Foundation attorney Andrew Seidel recently published a letter in the Herald explaining why the recent North Dakota law pertaining to the posting of the Ten Commandments in public schools is both un-American and unconstitutional.
Seidel also wrote that the First Commandment conflicts with “the secular values on which the United States was founded.” This led to an expression of “astonishment” from local attorney Ronald Fischer, who argued that this was incorrect although he did not attempt to refute any of Seidel’s specific reasons.
Indeed, the gist of Fischer’s riposte seems to be based upon the argument that because most who signed the Constitution were Christians, the country could not be founded on “secular values.” Notably absent from Fischer’s letter were any examples or contrasts of Christian versus secular values, and examples of where they may, or may not appear in the founding documents.
In contrast, Seidel’s letter gave several reasons why the Ten Commandments conflict with the Constitution, and in his book “The Founding Myth,” (which I have read) he gives many more. It is quite evident that Mr. Fischer is not familiar with those arguments.
While I certainly don’t claim to be an academic historian, my (hopefully) intelligent layperson interpretation of the published history of this country has persuaded me that the founding principles of the modern USA were the Enlightenment values espoused by contemporary philosophers such as John Locke. These included principles such as the rule of law, due process, separation of powers, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and perhaps most pertinent here, freedom of religion and separation of church and state (i.e., secular government).
None of this is hostile to Christianity, or to religion in general, and the fact that religion thrives in the USA should sufficiently illustrate that point.
In contrast, I would argue that what is hostile to the Constitution is the Christian Nationalist’s efforts to subvert our secular republican form of government into some sort of Christian theocracy. If this seems to be a hyperbolic claim, then Herald readers can simply judge for themselves by Googling “Project Blitz.” There they will find the Christian Nationalist playbook from whence the North Dakota Ten Commandments law originated. Defending it will likely cost North Dakota taxpayers a lot of money.
James R. Whitehead, East Grand Forks