Were Our Founding Fathers Religious And What Was Their Original Intent? Foundations of Freedom Thursday.

Were Our Founding Fathers Religious And What Was Their Original Intent?  It’s Foundations of Freedom Thursday, a special day of the week where we get to answer questions from you, the listeners! Always answering from those constitutional and foundational principles! Tune in today as we answer your questions and so much more, right here on WallBuilders Live!

Air Date: 04/06/2017


Guests: David Barton, Rick Green, and Tim Barton


  • WallBuilders | American historical events, founding fathers, historical documents, books, videos, CDs, tapes, David Barton’s speaking schedule.

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Transcription note:  As a courtesy for our listeners’ enjoyment, we are providing a transcription of this podcast.  However, as this is transcribed from a live talk show, words and sentence structure were not altered to fit grammatical, written norms in order to preserve the integrity of the actual dialogue between the speakers.  Additionally, names may be misspelled because of the difficulty in understanding the speaker at times. We apologize in advance.

Welcome

President Calvin Coolidge:

President Calvin Coolidge said, “The more I study the Constitution, the more I realize that no other document devised by the hand of man has brought so much progress and happiness to humanity. To live under the American Constitution is the greatest political privilege that was ever accorded to the human race.”

Rick:

I love hearing Founding Fathers quotes and I love hearing them through the voices of children, that’s just fun stuff. It’s Foundations of Freedom Thursday, that’s the one day a week we share some of those with you.
Welcome to WallBuilders Live, it’s the intersection of faith and the culture. We’re always talking about the hottest topics of the day from policy and faith and how they interact with culture. Always from a Biblical, historical, and constitutional perspective.

We’re here with David Barton, he’s America’s premiere historian and the Founder of WallBuilders. And my name is Rick Green, I’m a former Texas rep, a national speaker, and author.

Our organization is a pro-family organization that presents America’s forgotten history and heroes with an emphasis on that religious, moral, and constitutional heritage that we’re so blessed to have here in America. Visit our websites today at WallBuilders.com and WallBuildersLive.com.

Thursday is a little bit different from the rest of the week because it gives us a chance to dive into those foundational principles based on your questions.

Send them into [email protected]. David, of course, with the Supreme Court nominee we’ve had several questions on that one. Our first from today’s going to be specifically about that.

David:

That’s going to be fun too because this is a big thing in the news right now. It could be a big thing in the history of the nation. History will look back and see but the possibility of being able to have an originalist in there, somebody who understands constitutional intent, could be a big deal. This guy is good at history, he’s good at natural law, he’s good a lot of things. And so Gorsuch, I mean, this is a big time in our history right now.

Rick:

This is not somebody we have to guess about. He’s had so many opinions and dealt with so many of the hot topics of the day in those opinions that we get a pretty good picture of what he’s really all about.

My Opinions Don’t Matter, What Does The Law Say

The first question we’re going to take on today comes from Zach. It comes after watching some of the hearings, he said, “In the hearings, Justice Gorsuch was questioned by Senator Feinstein and was asked about a statement made by the late Justice Scalia. The senator asked-

David:

By the way, I have to say that he really did a good job because she went into a monologue in her hearing talking about how an absolutely established constitutional right that is immovable is Roe v. Wade. “You cannot move that.”

What do you mean you can’t move it? You guys created it just because you created it that made it permanent? Well, she kept on about how this “permanent” kind of right and she kept going over that over and over that really trying to set him up and then leading him into it.

Then she said, “So what do you think about it.” he said, “It doesn’t matter what I think about it. What I think about it is irrelevant. What the law is is what matters.” So he did such a good job of saying, “My opinions count not, what matters is the law and the Constitution.”

From that standpoint, she kept going back and kept trying to get his feelings on it, what he thinks about it. I just really appreciated the fact that he would not back down on that. And so she finally said, “Fair enough.” It’s like what are you going to say? That the law shouldn’t guide what we do? And so he really put her in a box and had her back off and I was really impressed with how he did that, it was really good.

Rick:

I wish the guy’s at Bad Lip Reading would take Senator Feinstein’s monologue there and just replace every time she says Roe v. Wade with Dred Scott.

David:

Yeah.

Rick:

And then let people see, “Well yeah, I mean, if the court says that black people have no rights that a white man is not willing to respect that. That’s the settled law. We have to leave it that way from now on.”

David:

Well, on her behalf, why don’t we take Citizens United put in there as well?

Rick:

Yeah.

David:

That’s a case she doesn’t like. So why isn’t it settled law if Roe v. Wade is? Because she likes it and because she doesn’t like Citizens United as a settled law. That would be fun if someone would do something like that, especially with Dred Scott. That’s a great thought.

Were The Drafters Of The Constitution Sexist And Racist

Rick:

So Zach goes on, he says,  “The senator asked, ‘Do you agree with Justice Scalia’s statements, that originalism means that there is no protection for women, for gays, and lesbians, under the equal protection law because this was not the intent or understanding of those who drafted the 14th Amendment in 1868.”

Zach kind of paraphrases, “Justice Gorsuch then responded in his response and gave a statement that I found disturbing. He stated that when it comes to the equal protection of the laws it matters-

David:

Wait a minute, he’s quoted Gorsuch statement here. This is not Zach’s statement. What Zach is doing is, this is what he said he did not like that Gorsuch said so. Everybody can’t see the quote marks here, but there are quote marks around what Gorsuch said and this is what disturbs Zach.

Rick:

Good point. So here are judge Gorsuch’s  exact words, “When it comes to the equal protection of the laws it matters not a whit wit that some of the drafters of the 14th Amendment were racist or sexist. The law they drafted promises equal protection of the law to all persons.”

So Zach asked the question, “Even though Judge Gorsuch claims to be constitutionalist. It bothers me that he appears to have a worldview that is based on the claims that a portion of the drafters was racist and sexist.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on his statement and if you could bring some light on the idea of originalism? A big fan, truly grateful for all that you all do. Keep up the good work and God bless.”

David, however, you want to take that. First of all, it’s a question of if Gorsuch believes that some of the drafters were racist or sexist. Should that affect our opinion of him if he’s saying what he cares about as is the law?

Then just in general, what does it mean to say that I’m an originalist? What is originalism? We’ll be back with David’s answers to those questions when we return. Stay with us, you’re listening to WallBuilders Live!

Outro:

Samuel Adams said, “The liberties of our Country and the freedom of our civil Constitution are worth defending against hazards. And it is our duty to defend them against all attacks.”

Moment From American History

This is Tim Burton from WallBuilders with another moment from American history. Alexis Tocqueville, a political official from France, traveled to the United States in 1831 and pined his observations in the now famous book, “Democracy In America.”

Being from France, what he found in America was completely unexpected to him. He reported, “Upon my arrival in the United States, the religious aspect of the country was the first thing that struck my attention. And the longer I stayed there the more I perceived the great political consequences resulting from this. In France, I had almost always seen the spirit of religion and the spirit of freedom marching in opposite directions. But in America, I found that they were intimately united and that they reigned in common over the same country.”

Did Tocqueville recognize that it was Biblical Christianity and the morals it produced that made America great? For more information about Alexis Tocqueville and the positive influence of Christianity in early America go to WallBuilders.com.

Intro:

Thomas Jefferson said, “The Constitution of most of our states and of the United States asserts that all power is inherent in the people that they may exercise it by themselves that it is their right and duty to be at all times armed. That they are entitled to freedom of person, freedom of religion, freedom of property, and freedom of press.”

What Was The Intent Of The 14th Amendment

Rick:

Welcome back to WallBuilders Live, Foundations of Freedom Thursday today. We’re on a question from Zach, a two-part question. David, the first one on Judge Gorsuch and his statement and then we’ll get to originalism a little later. But your response on Judge Gorsuch’s  statement.

David:

Well, there’s several ways I can read that. One way I can read it that he is throwing them something that they already believe about the 14th Amendment. They believe that the framers of that amendment were racist, sexist, etc. That’s what they say in their law schools all the time.

So he said, “It doesn’t matter if they were, it doesn’t matter who they were, it doesn’t matter if some of these guys were racist which they probably were. Doesn’t matter if some of them were sexists, which they probably were. It doesn’t matter. What matters is the intent of the amendment. The intent of the 14th Amendment was to make sure that all former slaves had the same right to all the state constitutional protections that anybody else in the state had.”

It doesn’t matter if you’re a racist and voted for that, it doesn’t matter if you were anti-racists and voted for it, what matters is what the intent was of the amendment when it was ratified.

I can see it that he could be giving them a bone or it could be that maybe he does think some of them are racist. I think that probably some of them were because at that point in time the Democrat Party and their platform was openly racist. And you actually had some Democrats who voted for this amendment. So I can see that that’s very possible that they would have been.

What About LGBTQ And Women’s Rights

So, it doesn’t make me think less of him. I admire the fact that he keeps going back to, “Who cares who framed it?” What matters is what they said and the language of the 14th Amendment is such that it gives civil rights to former slaves and the same degree that it has to non-slave. Well, that did not include women’s rights, it did not include gay rights.

There’s no question that that is not part of the 14th Amendment, never has been. The 14th Amendment was never used to apply the Bill of Rights against the states. It was only to make sure, for example, if you have the right to keep and bear arms in your state, you can’t say that a former slave doesn’t have that same right. If you have the right to vote in your state you can’t say a former slave doesn’t have the right to vote.

This was all about the black codes that were happening in the 11 southern states that had been part of the Confederacy. They were saying, “Well, blacks may be free, but they can’t get married, they can’t get educated, and they can’t vote, amd they can’t own guns.” That’s what was going on. So, the 14th Amendment was designed to correct that. It was not designed to say that homosexuals get rights and women get rights. That was not the thing. It was whatever rights you give to any other group, then than former slaves get those same rights.

Rick:

That really brings us to the originalism question in terms of what was the intent of the law that was passed, or the constitutional amendment that was passed, not just what did that individual do outside of influencing that particular amendment, but what did the amendment do?

We’ll be right back, gotta take a quick break. We’ll get David’s answer that second part of the question when we return on this Foundations of Freedom Thursday on WallBuilders Live.

Outro:

Thomas Jefferson said, “ In questions of power then let no more be heard of confidence in the man that bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.”

Constitution Alive

Have you ever wanted to learn more about the United States Constitution but just felt like, man, the classes are boring or it’s just that old language from 200 years ago or I don’t know where to start? People want to know. But it gets frustrating because you don’t know where to look for truth about the Constitution either.

Well, we’ve got a special program for you available now called Constitution Alive with David Barton and Rick Green. It’s actually a teaching done on the Constitution at Independence Hall in the very room where the Constitution was framed. We take you both to Philadelphia, the Cradle of Liberty and Independence Hall and to the WallBuilders’ library where David Barton brings the history to life to teach the original intent of our Founding Fathers.

We call it the QuickStart guide to the Constitution because in just a few hours through these videos you will learn the Citizen’s Guide to America’s Constitution.  You’ll learn what you need to do to help save our Constitutional Republic. It’s fun! It’s entertaining! And it’s going to inspire you to do your part to preserve freedom for future generations. It’s called Constitution Alive with David Barton and Rick Green. You can find out more information on our website now at WallBuilders.com.

Intro:

Thomas Jefferson said, “The Constitution of most of our states and of the United States asserts that all power is inherent in the people that they may exercise it by themselves that it is their right and duty to be at all times armed. That they are entitled to freedom of person, freedom of religion, freedom of property, and freedom of press.”

Our Founding Fathers Original Intent

Rick:

Welcome back to WallBuilders Live, Foundations of Freedom Thursday today, taking your questions. And if you’ve got one you can send it into [email protected]. The one we’ve been talking about today so far is from Zack, it had to do with some of the Gorsuch comments in the hearings.

The comment about even if some of the drafters of the 14th Amendment were racist or sexist it doesn’t change what was actually drafted and adopted. That brings us to the second part of the question about originalism.

David, I was thinking on the break, it’s the same thing to say, “Well, what if they were a drunk? Or a philanderer or whatever else, I mean, not saying those things are good of course, but it doesn’t change what the law was that passed. People that make laws are sinners and do bad things. But it doesn’t change the law that’s actually passed.

David:

Well, it’s the thing that what the Supreme Court has done for a number years is they like to take the exception and not the rule. I say that to help establish original intent because I can take James Madison’s detached memoranda that was discovered in the 1946-47 period and in it, James Madison very clearly says, “We should not have had chaplains in Congress.” He very clearly says we should not have national proclamations calling for days of prayer and fasting.

He goes to this list of what we shouldn’t have.

The problem with that is he is the guy who voted for chaplains in Congress in the very first Congress. The problem with that is he’s the guy who called for days of prayer and fasting and Thanksgiving. So what he’s doing is repudiating himself.

Now, I can suddenly take James Madison and make him as the only spokesman on constitutional intent. But the problem is he’s not the only spokesman on constitutional intent.

The first Congress framed the First Amendment with 90 different Founding Fathers. He’s one of the 90. Unless you can show me that there are another 45 that agreed with him and made it 46 out of the 90. If I get 46 out of the 90 then I know what their original intent was because that’s the majority and they passed it.

The fact I can find an exception here or there does not mean that that’s what the rest of them agreed with. So when they pass the the the First Amendment there was no thought of them not having chaplains or having days of prayer and fasting because on the day they passed the First Amendment they asked George Washington to declare a national day of prayer and proclamation.

They also then as part of that first Congress said, “We need paid chaplains.” They had been doing that since way back in 1774. So the fact that Madison may disagree, or the fact that some of the guys who framed the 14th Amendment might be racist, that doesn’t negate the intent of the amendment itself. And that’s what you’re looking for. So on the question of originalism, the Founders really got this very well.

Let me just read you four of their quotes on what originalism means and how you define it. Let me start with for example Thomas Jefferson.

Rick:

Oh but, Jefferson, what kind of source is that? Are you saying he was like around in the Revolutionary Period and in the founding of the country? Was he a good source for this?

Thomas Jefferson Was Not A Part of the Bill Of Rights Nor The Constitution

David:

Well, according to the modern Supreme Court, he and James Madison are the only two guys that wrote the Constitution or the Bill of Rights. Now, the problem with that is that Jefferson was not involved in either the Constitution or the Bill Rights.

But they say that he and Madison are the two guys that did it. So let’s give them their due. We’re going to take the guys that they think most significant and let’s just use those two guys for just a minute.

Rick:

Who, of course, we do respect for a lot of great things. We don’t want to miss apply some of the things that they might have done or didn’t do. But certainly, here’s the guy that gave us the Declaration, early president, you know, very involved in the philosophy upon which our nation was built. So what did he have to say about it?

David:

And by the way, I don’t have any trouble using Founding Fathers like Madison and like Jefferson when I think they reflect what those guys wanted. And a great example is just a couple of weeks ago I was with a history professor and he said, “Well, you just don’t nuance your things right. The truth is the Founding Fathers were not very religious they were deists.”

And I just looked in front of the group and said, “Ok, let’s solve this right now. You name a non-religious Founding Father and for every non-religious one, you name I’ll name five religious ones. Let’s see who runs out first. Let’s see which one really portrays the better intent of the Founding Fathers.” He got two, well I can give you 40, 50, 60, 80, 100 on the other side.

So I don’t mind using Jefferson, Franklin, or Madison, as the least religious the Founding Fathers. Or Thomas Paine for that matter, or Henry Dearborn, or Charles Lee, or Ethan Allen, or other irreligious Founding Fathers I can name. I can still get you five or ten to one on the other side.

Rick:

Not to mention even the irreligious ones supported all the things that we’re fighting for today in terms of religious liberty and freedoms of conscience and all that.

David:

That’s right. There’s actually a guy at the U.S. Capitol who is pretty much in charge of the Capitol there and he really dislikes me because I said, “Look, by today’s standards Thomas Jefferson would be part of the radical religious Right.”

He just went through the roof and he said, “I know nothing about it.” Then I showed the treaty that Jefferson funded with federal funds to missionaries for preaching the gospel. Where he with federal funds on numerous occasions granted land extensions so they could have a place to propagate the Gospel to the Indians. I can show what he did with helping facilitate the Church of the Capitol and how he went there himself for eight years. I can show what he did by putting the Bible in public schools in D.C.

By today’s standards, that would make him part of the radical religious right. But that really offended this guy who runs the U.S. Capitol. “That shows you know nothing about history because Jefferson wasn’t religious.” “I didn’t say he’s religious. I said what he did as the least religious of the Founding Fathers is so much further Right than where we are today for the religious folks.”

So, I have no trouble using these Founding Fathers on any of this. But here’s what originals are. Why don’t we take a break, when we come back find out about originalism from the Founding Fathers themselves.

Now we’ve put it in the context that if you want originalism it doesn’t matter one or two or three of them said, it matters what the body intended when they did that particular act. And that’s what Gorsuch was explaining. And that’s what the Founding Fathers themselves set as the standard to use in determining originalism or constitutional intent.

Rick:

That’s a great point. That’s the difference in us being a republic, not a monarch, not some aristocracy where just two or three people decide, we’re a republic where all these guys came together and there had to be something that was actually adopted by them and approved by the people. Stay with us, we’ll be right back on WallBuilders Live!

Outro:

George Washington said, “The Constitution approaches near to perfection than any other government instituted among men.”

Bring A Speaker To Your Area

Tim:

Hey, this is Tim Barton with WallBuilders.  And as you’ve had the opportunity to listen to WallBuilders Live, you’ve probably heard a wealth of information about our nation, about our spiritual heritage, about the religious liberties, and about all the things that make America exceptional. And you might be thinking, “As incredible as this information is, I wish there was a way that I could get one of the WallBuilders guys to come to my area and share with my group.”

Whether it be a church, whether it be a Christian school, or public school, or some political event, or activity, if you’re interested in having a WallBuilders speaker come to your area, you can get on our website at www.WallBuilders.com and there’s a tab for scheduling. If you’ll click on that tab, you’ll notice there’s a list of information from speakers bio’s, to events that are already going on. And there’s a section where you can request an event, to bring this information about who we are, where we came from, our religious liberties, and freedoms. Go to the WallBuilders website and bring a speaker to your area

Intro:

President Calvin Coolidge said, “The more I study the Constitution, the more I realize that no other document devised by the hand of man has brought so much progress and happiness to humanity. To live under the American Constitution is the greatest political privilege that was ever accorded to the human race.”

Proof Our Of Our Founding Fathers Religious Intent

Rick:

Welcome back to WallBuilders Live, Foundations of Freedom Thursday today, taking your questions. We’ve been on Zach’s question I think most of the day if not all the day but it’s been such a good one and gotten us on a great topic of originalism which is certainly fitting for our Foundations of Freedom Thursday.

So, David, you were explaining before the break what that really means and why it’s important to listen to the collective body of the Founding Fathers that passed something and you had several quotes from Founders you were going to share.

David:

Let’s start with Thomas Jefferson. Thomas Jefferson said, “On every question of construction.” And that’s what the court says it does it looks at constitutional construction to know how to interpret it.

Ok, Jefferson says, “On every question, the construction carries ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted. Recollect the spirit manifested in the debates and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text or invented against it conform to the probable meaning in which it was passed.” That’s the deal.

What was the intent of it when it was passed? And that’s what Gorsuch said with the Fourteenth Amendment. Didn’t matter what a racist here or sexist there said. It matters what the Fourteenth Amendment was intended to do when they passed it.

If you go to James Madison he says almost the exact same thing, “I entirely concur in the propriety of resorting to the sense in which the Constitution was accepted and ratified by the nation. In that sense alone it is the legitimate Constitution. And if that be not the guide in expanding it, there can be no security for consistent and stable, much more than a faithful exercise of its powers.”

In other words, if you don’t do it the way it was intended do then you won’t be doing it the right way, you won’t faithfully exercise powers and there won’t be stability and consistency there.

Rick:

You said that was Madison?

David:

Madison.

Staying True To Intent

Rick:

Even though he might have said those things you talked about earlier later in life and disagreed with what they had done as a body, he would have still said, “But that’s how we adopted the Constitution, that’s the originalism we put in it. I can’t change it just because I’m older now and I got a different opinion.”

David:

That’s right. And he said, “I don’t think, I don’t think.” Well, it doesn’t matter what you think. Here’s what the body did. There were 90 members of Congress. Here’s what those 90 members did. And you were one of the 90 at the time, by the way.

So, a great point, Rick. It doesn’t matter what he individually said, it matters what they did. And the fact that he now late in life, shortly before he dies, comes out with this position doesn’t change the fact of what the intent of the First Amendment and the Constitution was.

Here’s another one. This is from James Wilson, Wilson is a signer of the Constitution. He is the second most active member of the Constitutional Convention. He started the first organized legal training in America and in his law books this is what a justice on the US Supreme Court, put there by George Washington, this is what he said.

He said, “The first and the governing maxim in the interpretation of a statute is to discover the meaning of those who made it.” Real simple. What was the intent when it was passed? That’s the first thing you look for before you start trying to apply it.

As Jefferson has said, “Before we try to start trying squeezing out a meaning or invent a meaning against it.”

Then Joseph Story, who wrote probably the most famous commentaries on the Constitution, he was put on the Supreme Court by James Madison. He’s the youngest justices on the court, served the longest time as justice. Here’s what he said in his law books, “The first and the fundamental rule in the interpretation of all documents is to construe them according to the sense of the terms and the intention of the parties.” That’s original intent. Go back to what they intended and what they mean. Don’t try to contort yourself into something to figure out a new meaning or don’t try to find two or three guys who had a different interpretation and you’re going to use that to overthrow what everybody else intended. And I think that’s where Gorsuch was really headed with this 14th Amendment comment.

Rick:

It’s great a great lesson. We’ve talked a lot about sometimes some of these national events happen and it’s a chance for the nation to get educated. So I’m thrilled that the subject of originalism came up. That people are having to think about this and say, “Ok, what does that really mean and how should we determine what the Constitution said?”

Your best-selling book, “Original Intent” that’s what the whole focus of it was to say, “Not how do we necessarily feel about certain words in the Constitution, or what we think it might ought to do. But what was the original intent of the people that actually adopted it because that’s how you define the meaning of that particular phrase of the Constitution.”

David:

By the way, if we don’t like that meaning anymore then we’ll pass a constitutional amendment to come up with something different as we have with several times in the Constitution. We’ve even amended the Constitution but we don’t let the judges tell us what they think it means and that now is the new interpretation for 330 million people. That makes them the equivalent of the Constitution. They are not. They’re supposed to interpret it according to its original intent. And when you do that then the people who are still in charge.

Rick:

Which is why we like what Judge Gorsuch said because he’s basically saying even if my opinion is different that doesn’t matter. I’ve got to uphold the law and the original intent of how that law was passed.

Folks, thanks for listening today! You can send your questions into [email protected]. We’ll hopefully get to them on a Thursday where we do Foundations of Freedom. You’ve been listening to WallBuilders Live!

Abraham Lincoln:

Abraham Lincoln said, “We the people are the rightful masters of both Congress and the courts. Not to overthrow the Constitution, but to overthrow the men who pervert the Constitution.”

2017-04-12T17:20:41+00:00 April 6th, 2017|Constitution & Legal|0 Comments

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