Sunday, May 11, 2014

2: Establish Justice 10/9/15



            Like the other goals in the preamble, most references to “establishing justice” refer to legislators plus their gods providing--not the people providing. Readers would correctly think that is what I want to change. It seems to me (maybe not Lincoln) that I subscribe to Abraham Lincoln’s vision that only the people can provide justice, but I modify his thought to "a civic people," meaning those who use the preamble. It is my hope that a supermajority of citizens, at least 70 %, will personally commit to providing domestic justice, by collaborating for civic morality in no-harm personal liberty and domestic goodwill--PL&DG.
            Born Baptist but falling in love with a Louisiana-French Catholic woman, I surmised at one point one would join the other’s religion. But in our twenty-fifth year of marriage, it occurred to me that I appreciate her so much I do not want to change anything about her: I would fight for her opportunity to live according to her preferences. Most assuredly I do not want to force on her protestant prayer or any kind of prayer she does not wholly support. I discovered I felt the same way toward myself. I do not want to convince myself again to try to adopt any idea I do not accept.  Thus, my bride helped me crash through indoctrination to understand that I am and always tried to be a person of faith in the objective truth of which much is undiscovered and some is understood. For all I know, whatever is in control knows best and my earnest plea to change what is happening is defiant and arrogant: Prayer seems arrogant. Public prayer is forbidden by the scripture that recommends prayer! If what may happen seems bad to me, only I have the power to react.
            Consider the documents that invoke justice as a function of governance and a god. Then imagine the people accepting the noble goals they have heretofore expected governments and a god to fulfill. Imagine the people of South Carolina preventing their legislators from declaring secession from the Union and having their militia fire on Fort Sumter over “more erroneous religious opinion” among other complaints. Imagine the people rebuking President Bush for his intentions to follow Bush's god’s influence for the invasion of Iraq. Imagine the preamble to the United States Constitution serving as mediator for civic governance of self and supervision of both state and nation. Imagine passing by every place of worship, because you don’t have a competing god, and also not having to brook legislative prayer, the act of elected officials proclaiming divine authority at government meetings. Imagine the preamble used to both open and close solemn ceremonies in governance at all levels.
 
America has a flat tire and it is time to fix it
            The Salem “witch” executions (20 plus another six died in prison) were enough to alert colonial America that church and state cannot be mixed. But god traditions are hard to defeat.             
            Consider slavery, for example. Thomas Paine, on March 8, 1775, objected to the injustice of slavery, imposed on the colonies by England along with other Atlantic Slave Traders, joined later by some colonies. He castigated “Christianized people” who participated. “Most shocking of all is alledging the sacred scriptures to favour this wicked practice.” After describing the reckoning that perpetrators face, Paine closed with “These are the sentiments of justice and humanity.” Yet the Supreme Court in a 2014 decision, Greece v Galloway, takes for granted tyranny in the governance of both theistic and non-theistic inhabitants: 244 million people and 73 million people, respectively.
            Theism—Christianity--is embedded in the American definition of “religion.” The Virginia Declaration of Rights (June, 1776) narrowly defines “religion” as “the duty which we owe to our Creator,” and foretells human-rights claims in the Declaration of Independence’s second paragraph (discussed below). The Virginia Act for Religious Freedom (1786) elaborates the definition, “Well aware that Almighty God [is] the Holy Author of our religion.” Thus, non-theists and others who disagree with that narrow definition of religion are excluded from the legislative act: 
        [N]o man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or 
        ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burdened in his body or 
        goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; . . . all men        shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion,        and . . . the same shall in nowise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.
James Madison added to the affront to civic governance in “Memorial and Remonstrance,” June 20, 1786, “It is the duty of every man to render to the Creator such homage and such only as he believes to be acceptable to him.” Worse yet, he wrote, "Before any man can be considered as a member of Civil Society, he must be considered as a subject of the Governour of the Universe." I was born here and have no competitor in the god wars and am not about to devise a god. Today, about 23% of the population or 73 million Americans do not pay homage to a creator. These are the seeds of tyranny and the source of the flat tire America suffers. For example, so many fundamentalists struggle for creationism to suppress the theory of adaptation to changing environments, or evolution.
            Theism served the war of independence, with “Nature’s God” pitted against the King’s “god.” Domestically, Deism plus Christianity served well. When the Continental Congress met in Philadelphia in September, 1774, a call for prayer was controversial because so many Christian sects were represented. However, relief came when someone asked an Anglican, Jacob Duché, to lead opening prayers. Nearly thirteen years later, in Philadelphia, Benjamin Franklin’s motion to open daily sessions with prayer did not receive a second. I think the delegates made a statement: we have seen too much division over gods, and having won independence, we will act for the civic people (some disagreed, wanting to favor the states). All wanted secrecy, but delegate William Samuel Johnson was a minister, or Franklin himself could have led prayers. The signers provided a constitution predicated on civic governance. However, the First Congress changed that, I think unconstitutionally, hiring ministers for their use in May, 1789. The First Amendment and its religion clauses came a month later. But the traditional definition of religion has not changed: it was defined during the 1776 decade. The tradition was upheld in Greece v Galloway as legislative prayer--none of the people's business.
            I plan to discuss controversial points of national governance represented in the Declaration of Independence (1776) below. Therein, stating incentives for independence, the States complained that the king “obstructed the Administration of Justice” and “our British brethren” have denied “native justice and magnanimity.” The Declaration is unjust toward Native Americans, slaves, free Africans, and non-theists; it thus has a biased brand of “justice.”
            The Articles of Confederation (1777) is a perpetual agreement between the thirteen states, who agree, to encourage neighborliness:
        [T]he people of the different States in this Union, the free inhabitants of each of these States,
        paupers, vagabonds, and fugitives from justice excepted, shall be entitled to all privileges and
        immunities of free citizens in the several States [emphasis mine].
 After specifying privileges, the states agree that anyone fleeing “from justice” will be returned to “the State having jurisdiction of his offense.” They agree on selection of delegates for Congress, its duties, maintaining militia and apportioning taxes. Personnel for a navy are to be drafted “in proportion to the number of white inhabitants in such State,” with exceptions in case of shortage.
            One of four hopes in George Washington’s June 8, 1783 farewell address to the continental army is his appeal for “our Federal Government” for “A Sacred regard to Public Justice.” The Continental Congress was tempted to renege on past-due pay to both soldiers and officers as well as assistants who “shed their blood or lost their limbs in the service of their Country.” He elaborated on the issues excepting one, which he felt people would take as stated:
        The prevalence of that pacific and friendly Disposition, among the People of the United States,
        which will induce them to forget their local prejudices and policies, to make those mutual
        concessions which are requisite to the general prosperity, and in some instances, to sacrifice
        their individual advantages to the interest of the Community.
Washington's communitarianism seems justifiable, because he was addressing European-colonial Protestant men. He directly appealed to his god.             Whatever it meant to Washington, their god has become ceremonial in the Supreme Court’s opinion. Today, Americans are extremely diverse and every citizen has “equal” standing with respect to citizenship, but not with respect to consequences, which no one can warrant or guarantee. Washington’s appeal to “forget . . . local prejudices and policies,” still holds, especially for the non-theistic minority, about 73 million Americans. Non-theists are expected to accept that they live among a majority who are theists. No other minority suffers such an onerous oppression. And the cost of theism's lawsuits and violence--one theist suing another of theism, born equally by non-theists, over 226 years of tradition is staggering!
            Washington was called out of retirement to be a delegate and preside over the Constitutional Convention. Some anti-Federalist delegates to the Constitutional Convention refused to sign:  Only 71% of states’ delegates signed on September 17, 1787. Other than in the preamble, the only use of “justice” is in the tile “Chief Justice.” The preamble has been held as merely an introduction. However, it states the Constitution's purpose, aims, and justification. 
            The Federalist Papers reveal why: the elite members of society do not trust the people to discover and adopt good conduct among themselves. Clearly the “elite members of society” are the legislators and other elected officials. What is new in this proposal of a civic people who use the preamble is that the people themselves, by virtue of direct communications--talk--would provide the coercive element that is essential and necessary in governance.
            Federalist 10, by James Madison, November 22, 1787 provides direct insight. It is about keeping an interest group, such as a political or religious association, from dominating society. A strong federal government would keep interests so diverse that particular factions that might dominate a state could not overrule society. Madison especially wanted to protect the wealthy from the people:  A rage for . . . an equal division of property . . . will be less apt to pervade the whole body of the Union than a particular member of it.” The individual person is omitted from consideration. Madison enumerates the evil of democracy, and then asserts that the problem is solved by the republican constitution:
        to refine and enlarge the public views, by passing them through the medium of a chosen body
        of citizens, whose wisdom may best discern the true interest of their country, and whose 
        patriotism and love of justice will be least likely to sacrifice it to temporary or partial         
        considerations.
Madison considers the possibility that representatives may be evil but dismisses the possibility by saying that chances are less with a federal government. His entire argument is based on the assertion that people cannot overcome their self-interest. However, trust in and commitment to the goals in the preamble is a transcendent self interest, and Madison did not promote that idea. Perhaps that is because he could not imagine a society beyond European, theist, men. Or perhaps Madison considered all citizens equal, but some more equal than others (Animal Farm). As a non-theist, I respectfully consider Madison a despot. And after two and a quarter centuries, the government he set up has turned to liberal democracy bemused by Christian religion as the accepted political practice. However, by taking the preamble seriously, a civic people can establish a cooperative republic that cultivates the law to accommodate the diverse views of liberty and goodwill that just citizens hold. Abraham Lincoln envisioned such a development, but allowed political ambition to spoil his chance to initiate it.
            Like so many people with a Baptist church in their background, Lincoln saw the evil of slavery, but could not, in the mid nineteenth century, offer a solution better than “freeing” the slaves on an island. Also, his attitude toward Native Americans was unjust. He used gods as a political tools, yet suffered so much as President and within his immediate family, that there is a noticeable change from his First Inaugural Address to the second. In the first, with 3628 words, he seems to attribute higher power to the people:
         If the Almighty Ruler of Nations, with His eternal truth and justice, be on your side of the
         North, or on yours of the South, that truth and that justice will surely prevail by the judgment of          this great tribunal of the American people.
Politicians’ traditional citations, “God,” “Providence,” and “Lord” became "Almighty Ruler of Nations," which seems like "Supreme Judge of the world," a phrase in the  Declaration of Interdependence, and “heaven” appears once. “People” appears 20 times and “party,” as a person, once. Lincoln closes, citing “the better angels of our nature,” adapting words of Charles Dickens.[1]             But in the Second Inaugural Address, with only 698 words, “God” appears 6 times, “Lord” one, “Almighty” one; “people” is not used, but “party,” as warring side, or reference to it, occurs 4 times; “insurgents” is singularly there, but “heaven” and “Angels” are not. Thus, on March 4, 1865, Lincoln did not express the confidence in the people that he did on November 19, 1863 at Gettysburg: “We here highly resolve that . . . government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.” The people have never accepted that resolve, as they continue to leave it to government and their gods. In fact, we don't think any people wants governance by any people: We think collaboration for civic morality is achievable and the consequence would be no-harm personal liberty and domestic goodwill--PL&DG.
            In 1857, the Dred Scott decision, rendered by Chief Justice Roger Taney, placed Lincoln, president of the Republican Party, in opposition to his government. Slaves were held to be non-citizens. Lincoln could have lobbied for amendment of the constitution for the USA to free the slaves and declare them citizens. However, he chose to trump the constitution by citing the Declaration of Independence’s controversial thought, “all men are created equal.” The historic intent of that phrase is, that the elite patriots are equal to the king, but in no way can it be construed that the writers were expressing that slaves are equal people.
            As a profound statement, it must mean that each human is equally of the highest species of animals. A Clintonian might even debate that it depends on the definition of "men" or "human." Additionally, the American slaves were human. 
            Lincoln carried this revisionist trumping of the US Constitution throughout his presidency, and codified the preeminence of the Declaration when he admitted Nevada as a state.  Congress approved Lincoln’s condition. Quoting the March 12, 1864 Act of Congress: “Provided, That the constitution, when formed, shall be republican, and not repugnant to the constitution of the United States, and the principles of the Declaration of Independence.” Nevada was the 36th State, so 15 of 50 states were admitted with this stipulation. John Eastman in “The Declaration of Independence As Viewed From the States,” March 27, 2014, suggests what those principles are:
  • First, that all men, all human beings, are created equal, a proposition portrayed in the Declaration as self-evidently true, knowable both by human reason and by divine revelation (the “nature and nature’s God” of the Declaration’s opening paragraph);
  • Second, that all human beings are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights merely by virtue of the fact that they are equally created by God as human beings and not as lesser animals;
  • Third, that among these unalienable rights are the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, which was Thomas Jefferson’s eloquent rephrasing of John Locke’s statement of the fundamental rights in life, liberty, and property that at once elevated and expanded Locke’s conception of rights;
  • Fourth, that the sole purpose of government is to secure these unalienable rights;
  • Fifth, that the only just governments are those founded on the consent of the governed, which means that ultimately political power originates from the people; and
  • Sixth, that whenever government becomes destructive of the ends for which it was formed, namely, the securing of the people’s unalienable rights, the people have the right to alter or abolish the government, replacing it with a new government that they believe will be most likely to secure their rights.
Eastman reviews that many states incorporated such principles in their Constitutions before Congress required it. I quote Eastman, but do not agree with his tacit assertion that “nature and nature’s God” is evident “by divine revelation,” except as an intellectual construction or art form. My points are that 1) there is no evidence beyond existence of the universe that gods are more than an intellectual construct and 2) nature is discovered based on evidence and is not a divine revelation. However, Eastman has made it clear that the Congress, as of 1864, holds the Declaration of Independence as a founding document.
            I oppose Congress using the Declaration to trump the US Constitution, especially with the “god” emphasis presented by Eastman. The Declaration was a document to announce separation from England and to state the reasons for that separation. It contained the tacit statement:  Our god will beat your god. That is, “Nature’s God” is stronger than the British Protestant god of 1776. There is no reason to continue the errors of Jefferson and Locke: each person should collaboratively discover their personal view of happiness. The Constitution was written by people representing the Continental Congress, who were in compact for perpetuity; so if injustice is discovered after independence, it is internal injustice and governance is revised toward justice, but the government is not abolished! One sects’ god is not pitted against another, because citizens are one group--one culture--that transcends the privacy of religion. The Confederacy tried division over religious opinion and look at the results: One party’s god did not defeat the same god:  Soldiers overcame injustice by their countrymen. 
            There is no evidence that humans are created, and after they are born, their consequences directly depend on their caretakers until the children are aware enough to act for themselves. From then on, the consequences of their lives depends on how well they comprehended the objective truth and how closely civic opinion conforms. The purpose of governance is stated in the preamble to the constitution for the USA, and nine goals are involved. In just governance, people who flee justice suffer the law whether they consent or not. It is up to a civic people, as defined in the preamble, to undo Abraham Lincoln’s harm to the constitution for the USA. And the harm is obvious in 2015 in Supreme Court decisions.
            For example, on May 4, 2014, the Supreme Court decided that Christian prayer consistently conducted at Greece, NY monthly town board meetings do not equate to worship of Jesus: they are ceremonial, much like the legislative prayer conducted by Congress or insertion of the prayer “under God” in the pledge of allegiance. The court doesn’t seem to care that ceremonialization of Jesus may seem like blasphemy to some believers and is an affront to most non-believers’ citizenships. The opinion was well dissented by four justices. I respectfully expect that the decision will become as regrettable to the Court as Dred Scott became. Justice Kagan wrote “is”, in response to a regrettable remark by the majority:
        The content of Greece’s prayers is a big deal, to Christians and non-Christians alike. A person’s
        response to the doctrine, language, and imagery contained in those invocations reveals a core
        aspect of identity—who that person is and how she faces the world.
Kagan very well described the oppression the non-believer suffers under such legislative prayer. Reading the case, a citizen gets the impression that in the Supreme Court’s opinion, decisions must glorify national legislators and state legislators, regardless of the people. Further, maintaining harmful tradition is more important than advancing toward justice.
            And good grief: Christianity teaches that prayer should be conducted in your closet! Why should the government mimic church hypocrisy? That question was answered by Machiavelli in 1513, and I paraphrase: when theism is accepted, the legislators do whatever they want and the citizens do not care; the citizens anticipate reward from their god. I join Kagan’s objections and go beyond to object to Congress’s abuse of religion.
            It is time to end the tradition of legislative prayer and all other mixing of religious ceremony into American governance and require that public meetings be made solemn by recitation of the preamble to the constitution for the USA, read to the legislators by a humble citizen who attests to being of  a civic people as defined in the preamble to the constitution for the USA.
            It seems to me I have written plenty to prompt a group of interested citizens to ponder the preamble’s phrase “establish justice” and reach consensus as to whether or not it remains a noble goal in 2015 or if it deserves revision in some way, such as “continue domestic justice,” if that seems true. After that, I would like to see them present a problem and reach consensus on compromise for a civic people as defined by the preamble. 

Copyright©2014 by Phillip R. Beaver. All rights reserved. Permission is hereby granted for the publication of all or portions of this paper as long as this complete copyright notice is included. Revised October 9, 2015