© 2010 By Jim Fletcher
What historian and educator David Barton is doing is pointing out that the barbarians have been at the gates a good long while now, and we’d better protect ourselves and our families by knowing the foundations of our country.
Happily for us, there is a David Barton, who has the skill set and energy to craft a book like “Original Intent: The Courts, the Constitution, & Religion.” This substantial book, a healthy 552 pages, also contains several helpful appendices, including a list of cases cited, and an index.
Barton’s research is fascinating, as he outlines what the Constitution is (notice the distinction: conservatives interpret the Constitution on what they know it to be; the left considers what the Constitution was, and acts accordingly to reshape it).
As Barton points out, the “judicial micromanagement” is nowhere more harmful than in the treatment of the First Amendment. There, the courts have, among other things, employed a “psychological coercion test, allowing a single dissenter to silence an entire community’s religious expression.”
This kind of madness makes no rational sense, unless one considers that many members of the courts, including the highest, are simply not Christians. They count on the silence of the majority of Americans, who work and pay taxes every day and do not have time to check these things. Fortunately, David Barton does.
The author rightly points out that the founders meant for our country to enjoy the fullest expressions of credible freedom, by limiting the power of government. As it happens today, we have a president who circumvents these original controls and operates by fiat.
Barton has sifted through thousands of primary-source documents to present a clear picture of where we’ve been and where we are now. The goal is to return a sense of sanity to the courts.
An example of how far we’ve strayed from the original intent of the founders is this fascinating paragraph from the last will and testament of John Jay, the original chief justice of the Supreme Court:
“Unto Him who is the author and giver of all goods, I render sincere and humble thanks for His manifold and unmerited blessings, and especially for our redemption and salvation by His beloved Son … Blessed be His holy name.”
Well, if that wouldn’t ruffle the feathers of at least half the current Court, I don’t know what would. Many of them have obviously left their spiritual legacy behind, and this has opened up the Constitution for constant reinterpretation.
In Chapter 16 of this phenomenal book, Barton also examines the notorious “Revisionists,” those who paint over the canvas of history, to present their own versions of it. Think Uncle Joe Stalin having (dead) political rivals airbrushed from official photos.
Barton points out a key strategy of these Revisionists: “Ignoring those aspects of American heritage which they deem to be politically incorrect and overemphasizing those portions which they find acceptable.”
Pay close attention to the last half of that sentence. That is the diabolical nature in a nutshell, is it not? This is called political spin, and it has proven to be very effective in undermining American culture.
Barton also points out that the Revisionists blatantly lie when necessary.
The author cites the case of Robert Ingersoll, a lecturer of the late 19th century, who stated: “Our forefathers retired God from politics. … The Declaration of Independence announces the sublime truth that all power comes from the people. This was a denial, and the first denial of a nation, of the infamous dogma that God confers the right upon one man to govern others. … Our fathers founded the first secular government that was ever founded in this world.”
There are so many falsehoods in that one statement, one wonders where to start. But notice that Ingersoll’s bias drove the multiple lies in his statement.
By the way, it is interesting to note that thinkers like Ingersoll were aided in the propagation of their false views by such Europeans as Herbert Spencer and Friedrich Delitzsch, who were operating at the same time and who promoted their evolutionary views on society – the reinterpretation of the Constitution is handled in the same manner.
In Chapter 14, “Identifying the Spirit of the Constitution,” Barton makes use of several fascinating charts, tracking the moral decline of the last several generations of Americans. This data even speaks to seemingly more benign subjects, such as SAT scores since 1954. Over a period of 40 years, there was a dramatic decline in scores, and Barton clearly makes the case in “Original Intent” that a multitude of factors affect the overall culture of a nation that drifts from its roots.
For those who enjoy – and understand the importance of – mining rich sources of our spiritual heritage, “Original Intent” is a book you can’t be without.