How things used to be:
How things are now:
United States, 2015
Independence Day is upon us. Often we are so busy barbecuing hamburgers and hot dogs that we forget why we celebrate this day. Most Americans can recall that July 4 commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. But do we recall the key words of that declaration?
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
We should remember the concept of God-given rights when our elected representatives pass without reading them massive bills like ObamaCare, which will control virtually every aspect of our daily lives and grant wide powers to the president – a president who already is exceeding the scope of his powers, as witness amnesty.
And now comes another massive bill – ObamaTrade, which is rumored to include climate-change and amnesty provisions, but which many members of Congress haven’t read. The only two copies of the bill are kept in locked rooms, where members of Congress may see them but not copy them or even make handwritten notes. Of course, the public is completely in the dark. And no doubt there will be further steps, as the government is enlarged and the individual is diminished still further.
Add to this a compliant Supreme Court, which gives great deference to laws passed by Congress, even if Congress neither wrote nor read the law before passing it. The Supreme Court is, in fact, giving deference not to Congress, but to nameless special interests and staffers who wrote the law and who see the public as “stupid.” This is a mockery of the representative government our Constitution guarantees. And so we have ObamaCare.
It is an exaggeration, but not a large one, to state that Congress is bit-by-bit imitating the Reichstag. In 1933 the German legislature passed the Enabling Act, which handed Hitler vast powers. A better translation of Ermächtigungsgesetz is Empowering Act, which gives a clearer picture of the law.
Did the German constitution allow the legislature to surrender all its powers to der Führer? Probably not, but they did it. Does the U.S. Constitution allow Congress to surrender many of its powers to the president? Clearly not, but they are doing it. The ultimate protection of liberty is not what constitutions allow, but what the people allow.
Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it; no constitution, no law, no court can even do much to help it.
− Judge Learned Hand
To liberal activists, “choice” means only one thing – abortion up to the ninth month, for any reason whatever. But the choice of what dishwashing detergent to buy, what light bulbs or toilets to use, what size sodas to drink, how to feed our babies, what school our children will attend, what they will eat for lunch, or whether to own a gun for self-protection? No way! All these choices, and more, must now be made by government bureaucrats – for our own good, of course. But what are we – citizens or subjects?
What would our Founders say about all this? The king against whom they rebelled, George III, would be aghast at such sweeping powers. Hunger for power is never satisfied. Like hunger for drugs, the dose keeps increasing, regardless of the consequences, unless there is an intervention.
True, we call our leader “president” and not “Führer.” But unless we wake up, the difference may be mainly semantic. When we no longer believe that our nation is “under God,” the state becomes almighty. You say it can’t happen here? That’s exactly what people in Europe said as Nazism was on the rise. They believed that their traditions and good intentions protected them. But the traditions were being undermined, and not everyone has good intentions.
In his First Inaugural Address, Jefferson said this:
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. This is the sum of good government…
Can you see the relation between believing that God gives us rights, and believing that the government should intrude as little as possible on those rights? Can you see why conservatives tend to favor a smaller government and lower taxes?
Our nation is founded on a document that mentions rights derived from the “Creator.” It also mentions “Divine Providence” and “God.” The use of these words in a public document would never be tolerated in today’s politically correct atmosphere. But these words are essential to the meaning of the Declaration.
How else could the authors express the idea that human rights are not a gift from the government, which could as easily take them away? How else could they indicate that rights are inherent in all human beings and are not dependent on the whims of officials?
What about the “wall of separation between church and state”? This phrase first appears in a letter from Jefferson to the Danbury Baptists. But Jefferson was also the chief author of the Declaration. Did he contradict himself?
No. In the letter, Jefferson was reassuring the Baptists, who were unpopular, that a “wall” would protect them from government actions that might inhibit them from practicing their religion. And in the Declaration, Jefferson was ensuring that human rights were established on the firmest possible foundation. Far from contradicting himself, Jefferson was enunciating two important and related aspects of freedom − freedom to worship as we choose, and freedom from an intrusive government that disrespects our rights.
Those who want to remove all traces of religion from our public life object to “In God We Trust” on coins and “Under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance. These people emphasize the “wall of separation,” but that phrase appears nowhere in our founding documents. Jefferson, like many early presidents, attended weekly Sunday services in the Capitol building. Didn’t Jefferson know about his own “wall”? (See Michael Novak’s “On Two Wings.”) Services were even held in the Supreme Court chambers. You’ll never learn that from the ACLU or liberal professors.
But, liberals argue, God is not mentioned in the Constitution. True, but so what? We have confused a table of organization with a mission statement. A table of organization details how an organization is constructed, and how the parts relate to one another. But alone, a table of organization would be useless − it tells us how to do things, but it leaves us clueless about what to do, or why.
A mission statement, on the other hand, describes what the organization is intended to accomplish. Without a mission statement, a table of organization becomes a sterile, legalistic document. This is exactly what many courts have done with the Constitution. But without a table of organization, the mission statement would also be useless − we would be clueless about how to achieve the mission. Both a mission statement and a table of organization are necessary.
The Constitution is our table of organization. Like the owner’s manual of my car, it describes how the car is constructed. But it doesn’t teach me how or where to drive. That I must learn elsewhere.
The Declaration of Independence is our mission statement. It lays out where we come from and where we hope to go. It proclaims that all people are endowed by God with inalienable rights – that is, rights they cannot give away, even if they want to give them away, and even if the government is eager to take them away.
If we read only the Constitution, we conclude that it gives us rights. And what the government gives, it can take away. If this were so and the Bill of Rights were repealed – or made meaningless by sweeping new laws or court decisions – we would have no rights. Only by also reading the Declaration of Independence do we learn that rights are God-given, and hence are not revocable by men.
The Constitution doesn’t mention God, but this doesn’t mean that God has no place in our public life. That a document doesn’t contain an item does not mean the item is unimportant – it means only that the item is mentioned elsewhere.
Those who want to drive a wedge between church and state, and simultaneously weaken religion, will leave only the state. That’s precisely what the Nazis and communists did. Theirs is not an example we should follow.
We have two choices. We can treasure our Judeo-Christian heritage. Or we can throw our heritage into the trash. But if we continue to undermine the foundation of our republic, it does not take a prophet to foresee that the future will not be a happy one.
Hamburgers and hot dogs are delicious, and fireworks displays are exciting. But if we want to observe July Fourth appropriately, we should respect what was proclaimed on that day. At the very least, we should remember that it is not called Dependence Day. We should insist that we do not need and will not tolerate an Enabling Act. We know where the power should reside – with us.
Freedom is never an achieved state. Like electricity, we’ve got to keep generating it, or the lights go out.
– Wayne LaPierre
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