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America’s Inauguration: A Retrospective—Thomas Jefferson: Americans “Enlightened by a Benign Religion”

by Robert Morrison

January 15, 2009

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March 4, 1801

Thomas Jefferson would wear no ceremonial swords to his simple swearing-in ceremony. He would ride in no stately coach-and-six, as President George Washington had enjoyed. “Mr. Jefferson,” as the simple Virginia republican preferred to be called, took breakfast at his Washington boarding house with all the other diners on Inauguration Morning, 1801. Then, he walked to the still unfinished Capitol, where he took the oath of office. He was the first President to take office in the new national capital. He was the first sworn in since the death of George Washington in 1799. Jefferson spoke in a barely audible voice (he was never the orator John Adams or Patrick Henry had been). Still, his listeners appreciated the way we soothed the ruffled feathers of a hard-fought election campaign. “We are all Republicans; we are all Federalists.” Jefferson had been elected only after weeks of balloting in the House of Representatives when the Electoral College failed to designate a clear winner. He spoke of religious liberty as one of the great achievements of the young republic. He and his close friend James Madison had blazed that trail with their work on the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom fifteen years earlier, in 1786. Now, Jefferson described God as “an overruling Providence [who] delights in the happiness of man here and his greater happiness hereafter…” He closed his inaugural address with a question: “[W]ith all these blessings, what more is necessary to make us a happy and a prosperous people? Still one thing more, fellow-citizens-a wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned.” These wise words can certainly be treasured by us two hundred years later, when national administrations of both parties are planning to add trillions to the national debt that will weigh down our children and our children’s children. Another point jumps out from Jefferson’s first inaugural address: It’s pretty hard to square his words about God’s “overruling Providence,” His delight in our happiness here and hereafter, with the scurrilous charges thrown at Jefferson during the 1800 campaign. It’s hard to see this man as an “atheist” of any kind.

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America’s Inauguration: A Retrospective—Honest John Adams, Coming and Going

by Robert Morrison

January 15, 2009

Our redoubtable second President, John Adams of Massachusetts, was inaugurated in Philadelphia on March 4, 1797. He followed two terms of the man revered as “Father of Our Country.” The bald and portly Adams was short, but powerfully built. Rising to the occasion, he wore a ceremonial sword for his swearing-in. Some of the senators sniped. “His Rotundity,” they called the man who was a genuine hero of the revolution. Adams, like Washington before him, attributed American independence to “the justice of their cause, and the integrity and intelligence of the people, under an overruling Providence which had so signally protected this country from the first.” While professing no religious ties himself, he said “a decent respect for Christianity [is] among the best recommendations for the public service.” In his diary, Adams later noted that the people who watched him take the oath were weeping. “[W]hether it was from grief or joy, whether from the loss of their beloved President [Washington], or from the accession of an unbeloved one…I know not.” Still, John Adams presided over the first peaceful transfer of political power. This was another of Washington’s great gifts to the nation. Four years later, in 1801, the defeated John Adams did not attend President Jefferson’s inauguration in the new capital of Washington, D.C. He left the vast, empty President’s House-in whose cavernous East Room First Lady Abigail Adams had hung her laundry-before dawn. He took the early coach home to the Bay State. Biographer David McCullough tells us that Adams was not the sore loser history thinks he was. He simply wasn’t invited to Mr. Jefferson’s inauguration. Even in this, however, Adams again made history. This was the first time the government had changed hands in a contested election, the first time the “ins” voluntarily stepped “out.” John and Abigail Adams were the first First Family to live in the President’s House. Leaving, John offered this prayer: “I pray Heaven to bestow the best of blessings on this house, and on all that shall hereafter inhabit it. May none but wise and honest men every rule under this roof.”

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Blogs 4 Life 2009

by Krystle Gabele

January 15, 2009

It’s that time of year again! Blogs 4 Life 2009 will be taking place on Thursday, January 22 from 8:30-11:30 a.m. at the FRC Headquarters in Washington, D.C. B4L will take place on the same day as March For Life, and will provide an amazing opportunity to hear from renowned conservative voices such as: U.S. Senator Sam Brownback, Amanda Carpenter, Jill Stanek, Michael New, Ph.D., Charmaine Yoest, Ph.D., Michael Illions, Chris Gacek, J.D., Ph.D., and Martha Shuping, M.D.

This is a great opportunity for bloggers to network and grow in their knowledge of how internet technology can be used to promote life and bring ideas into action in a post-Roe America.

If you are unable to make B4L will also have a webcast that will be live streaming on FRC’s website. Additionally, there will be a Twitter hashtag devoted to B4L (#B4L) for those who are interested.

I hope to see you there.

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Daily Buzz

by Krystle Gabele

January 15, 2009

Here’s what we are reading this morning.

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Change Watch Backgrounder: Dawn Johnsen

by Chris Gacek

January 14, 2009

POSTION:  Assistant Attorney General, Office of Legal Counsel

NOMINEE:  Dawn Johnsen                                                   

Education:  summa cum laude B.A. in economics and political science, Yale, 1983; J.D. Yale, 1986, Article & Book Review Editor, Yale Law Journal

Family:  N/A

Experience: law professor, Indiana University School of Law-Bloomington, 1998-present; Acting Assistant Attorney General, Office of Legal Counsel, United States Department

of Justice, Washington, D.C., 1997-1998; Deputy Assistant Attorney General, 1993-1996; Legal Director, National Abortion & Reproductive Rights Action League (currently

NARAL Pro-Choice America), Washington, D.C., 1988-1993; Law Clerk to the Honorable Richard D. Cudahy, United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, Chicago, Illinois, 1986-1987

Clinton White House: From 1993 to 1998 she worked in the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), including a stint as Acting Assistant Attorney General heading the OLC

Obama Campaign:  After election, named to Obama transition’s Department of Justice Review Team.

Affiliations:  American Constitution Society for Law and Policy, National Board Member; National Co-Chair of Project on The Constitution in the 21st Century; Co-Chair of Separation of Powers/Federalism Issue Group. NOTE: This group is the relatively new Leftist answer to the Federalist Society.

From her article on fetal rights:

In recent years, however, courts and state legislatures have increasingly granted fetuses rights traditionally enjoyed by persons.  Some of these recent ‘fetal rights’ differ radically from the initial legal recognition of the fetus in that they view the fetus as an entity independent from the pregnant woman with interests that are potentially hostile to hers.” D. Johnsen, “The Creation of Fetal Rights:…”, 95 YALE L.J. 599 (1986).

Until recently, the law did not recognize the existence of the fetus except for a few very specific purposes.”  D. Johnsen, “The Creation of Fetal Rights:…”, 95 YALE L.J. at 601.

In thus treating the fetus, courts have glossed over crucial differences between fetuses and persons, and have lost sight of the interests that narrow legal recognition of the fetus traditionally has attempted to protect.  They have ignored alternatives to equating the fetus with a person that would have more appropriately served their goals.”  D. Johnsen, “The Creation of Fetal Rights:…”, 95 YALE L.J. at 610.

Granting rights to fetuses in a manner that conflicts with women’s autonomy reinforces the tradition of disadvantaging women on the basis of their reproductive capability.  By subjecting women’s decisions and actions during pregnancy to judicial review, the state simultaneously questions women’s abilities and seizes women’s rights to make decisions essential to  [*625]  their very personhood.  The rationale behind using fetal rights laws to control the actions of women during pregnancy is strikingly similar to that used in the past to exclude women from the paid labor force and to confine them to the “private” sphere. 

D. Johnsen, “The Creation of Fetal Rights:…”, 95 YALE L.J. at 624-25.

On Alito Hearings:

We have squandered a rare opportunity for public education. The Senate’s focus on the formal status of Roe, while understandable, masks the extent to which the court has already gutted the right to choose and what the confirmation of Alito most immediately would mean for reproductive liberty.

            D. Johnsen, Slate, “The Outer Shell: The hollowing out of Roe v. Wade,” Jan. 25, 2006.

On Reducing the Number of Abortions:

My point was that the kind of legislative initiatives that come out of the “Republican coalition” you were discussing does not actually accomplish a reduction in abortions.  (And that the primary prochoice organizations do work hard toward that goal.)  That may also well reveal that some (not all) such political forces are more interested in objectives other than reducing the number of abortions.  Among them may be controlling the nature and understanding of motherhood and diminishing women’s equality and sexual freedom (and even where those are not objectives, they may provide strong influences).  For the many who sincerely would like to reduce the number of abortions, that desire provides the basis for education about the true effects of the legislation and the possibility for instead forging common ground policies that promote pregnancy prevention and healthy childbearing.

            D. Johnsen, Slate, “Reducing Abortions,” March 22, 2008.

In his book, Bearing Right, William Saletan notes that in the late 1980s, Dawn Johnsen and Marcy Wilder, top lawyers at NARAL, “drew a hard line on parental involvement” in abortion decisions.  Saletan quotes an internal NARAL memo by Johnsen and Wilder:  “In practice, both consent and notification laws amount to a parental veto power over a minor’s decision to an abortion.  Do not, as part of an affirmative legislative strategy, introduce even a liberalized version of a parental consent or notification law.”

William Saletan, Bearing Right, p. 289 (Memo, Dawn Johnsen and Marcy Wilder to NARAL Staff and Consultatns, “Pro-Choice Legislative Strategy for Minor’s Access to Abortion Services,” 9/5/89).

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America’s Inauguration: A Retrospective—”The Sacred Fire of Liberty”

by Robert Morrison

January 14, 2009

George Washington was keenly aware that he “walked on untrodden ground.” Everything he did would create a precedent, for good or ill. He had to borrow money to make the journey from his beloved Mount Vernon to New York City, where the new government made its temporary headquarters. Washington’s inaugural route was a great celebration. He passed under flowered bowers, past cheering throngs, and saluted by thirteen white-clad maidens, each one representing one of the original states. Thirteen strong rowers conveyed the new President across the river from the Jersey shore to New York. The Federal Building in lower Manhattan had been specially refurbished by Maj. Pierre L’Enfant, a French immigrant, for the occasion of the first Presidential Inauguration. It would be held on April 30, 1789.

Washington did not wear the blue and buff uniform he had worn as commander of the Continental Army. He had been firm in resigning his military commission to Congress meeting at Annapolis more than five years earlier. Instead, he wore a new brown suit, made for him from American fabric by American tailors.

With our recent flap about prayers at a Presidential Inauguration in mind, it’s interesting to speculate on what today’s atheizers-those people who want to impose their atheism on the rest of us—-would make of Washington’s Inauguration. Appearing on the balcony before a large crowd, Washington added to the Presidential Oath of Office four significant words. They don’t appear in the oath as it is written in the Constitution. But every President since George Washington has followed his leading: “So help me God.”

Then, in the full view of a cloud of witnesses, Washington kissed the Bible.

Inside Federal Hall, Washington delivered his Inaugural Address. He openly prayed to God as “that Almighty Being who rules over the Universe, who presides in the Councils of Nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect” Washington asked God for “his benediction [which] may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the People of the United States, a Government instituted by themselves…” Even the precious gifts of Independence and free government Washington attributed to the hand of Providence. In fact, he spoke of “the sacred fire of liberty” being entrusted to Americans.

That sacred fire is now handed down to us. With the Inauguration of Barack Obama, we have the forty-fourth President in direct line from George Washington. Ours is the oldest constitutional government in the world. Yet we still recognize that our government is what Washington called it: an experiment. And it needs our prayers and our earnest efforts to sustain it.

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Daily Buzz

by Krystle Gabele

January 14, 2009

Here’s what we are reading today.

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Remembering Richard Neuhaus

by Robert Morrison

January 14, 2009

Richard Neuhaus offered many lapidary phrases to enliven our public debates. He’s credited, of course, with the influential book, The Naked Public Square. His title and his arguments have influenced the views of many religious and political thinkers for a generation.

We see evidence of the ceaseless demand for such nakedness in the silly lawsuit filed to prevent prayers from being offered at President Obama’s Inauguration later this month. We see it more menacingly in the offhanded godlessness of the new Capitol Visitor Center, whose vast empty spaces are almost literally a naked public square. Rev. Neuhaus warned of what might come to fill that space if religiously derived principles were ruled out of order. Public life would not remain a vacuum. Predictably, we have seen that void filled with political correctness and unprincipled concessions to what can be termed soft jihadism.

Consider the case of Georgetown University. Some time ago, we saw a celebration of Georgetown’s $15 million Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding with a full-page, four-color ad in The Washington Post. Georgetown’s great old Gothic spires topped by the cross were depicted under a night sky in which the Crescent Moon and five-pointed star of an ascendant Islam stood out most starkly.

Meanwhile, Georgetown’s law faculty went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court with a lawsuit challenging the Solomon Amendment. That law requires that institutions of higher education which accept federal funds must permit military recruiters to have access to students. Georgetown profs joined thousands of others from the nation’s leading universities in protesting this requirement. They were outraged by the U.S. military’s “don’t ask/don’t tell” policy on homosexuals. The Supreme Court slapped down their suit by a vote of 9-0. The best law professors in the nation had crafted an appeal so devoid of merit that it could not even command the assent of Justices Breyer and Ginsburg.

Still, no one asked Georgetown profs how they could deny our Armed Forces while welcoming on their campus Saudi Arabia’s Prince Alaweed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding. After all, have the Georgetown Hoyas ever inquired about the status of homosexuals in the Saudi military? It’s safe to say, the Saudi authorities don’t ask; Saudi homosexuals don’t tell. And Georgetown doesn’t care.

The public square, when stripped of its Judeo-Christian raiment, will not long remain naked. We need only consult French and British police, many of whom fear to enter some neighborhoods in their largest cities. There, shari’ah holds sway.

Perhaps my favorite Neuhaus formulation is the phrase “welcomed in life and protected in law.” That was his way of describing the goals of the pro-life movement. We want a country where unborn children are, indeed, safely born and provided with the protections of law before and after birth.

There has been, frankly, too much emphasis on “creating a culture of life” as a precondition to passing protective laws. This lets half-hearted politicians neatly off the hook. Father Neuhaus certainly recognized the need for legal protections. He marched with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King in Selma, where all the freedom demonstrators needed legal protection. Dr. King himself famously pointed to the need for protective laws: “I know a law cannot stop a racist from hating me; but it can stop him from lynching me. And his chances of learning to love me are a lot better if he has not lynched me first.” Lynching was stopped in this country because federal law led to federal protection. The law led the culture.

That idea leads to the second function of the law: its teaching function. The inauguration of President Barack Obama would have been inconceivable had not Dr. King and Richard Neuhaus and so many others marched for the passage of good and just laws-laws that taught all Americans that it was wrong to judge our fellow Americans by the color of their skin and not by the content of their character.

There is nothing wrong and everything right with a culture of life. It can only be wrong if we argue that we must first create a culture of life before we can pass protective laws. Unless the laws teach us that life is to be protected, children will not be welcomed.

When young Pastor Neuhaus was marching with Dr. King, I was a college student at the University of Virginia. I had been shocked to find that though the University was de-segregated, the city of Charlottesville was not. When the Civil Rights Act of 1964-that

great charter prayed and labored for by Dr. King and Fr. Neuhaus-passed Congress overwhelmingly, a small number of Charlottesville’s restaurants and swim clubs resisted integration. Overnight they became “private clubs.” Anyone with five dollars and a white face could join one of these “exclusive” clubs. Some of my fellow students brazenly showed off their membership cards.

That bravado soon faded. Within a single year, all of those segregated clubs had folded. The good people of Charlottesville refused to patronize them. Membership in them was considered an indecent thing to do. Because the law taught us that racial discrimination was wrong, the racists quietly folded their tents.

It is not clear that such would have been the reaction if America in those days had had a naked public square. Richard Neuhaus was a leading clergyman even then, but his efforts to support Dr. King were joined by millions of believers, clergy and lay people alike. America’s great achievement in civil rights would have been impossible without them and without the religiously grounded motives upon which they acted.

So, we should understand Richard Neuhaus’ powerful formulation. Shall unborn children be welcomed in life? Yes, pray God they will be so welcomed. But they are more likely to be welcomed if they have not been slain first. The protection of law will teach all of us to extend that welcome. “Welcomed in life,” of course, “and protected in law.”

That is the legacy from my friend Father Richard Neuhaus that I will cherish. May he rest in peace in the richly adorned public square of Heaven.

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Daily Buzz

by Krystle Gabele

January 13, 2009

Here’s what we are reading this morning:

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