Careful what you presuppose

Yesterday we brought you how apparently confused poor Rich Lowry's brain is, trying to read a judicial opinion. Today, our friends colleagues over at Powerline point us to another astonishing display of hackery on the ten commandments cases over at the Weekly Standard. Feel free to read the whole thing if you want; a lot of it is the same sort of "oh, save us from this confusion" alarmism that Rich was doing. But the Weekly Standard goes Rich one better:

The Court could usefully set aside its many tests and instead consider what various majorities have affirmed on no fewer than five occasions since 1952, to wit: "We are a religious people whose institutions presuppose a Supreme Being."

Whoa whoa whoa!  Hold on there guys.  I didn't know that.  All this time, I've been trusting the implication of that pesky old Constitution, the (pre-amendment) body of which doesn't mention religion at all except to say this:

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

Surely if our "institutions presuppose a Supreme Being," the founding fathers, deists though most of them were, would have thought fit to mention that.  Let's take a look at the preamble of the Constitution, and look at what words it does not include:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Compare this to the Preamble to the Constitution of the State of Alabama:

We, the people of the State of Alabama, in order to establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, invoking the favor and guidance of Almighty God, do ordain and establish the following Constitution and form of government for the State of Alabama:

Which does, as you can see, "invok[e] the favor and guidance of Almighty God." 

I quote the two because of course the authors of the US Constitution could have invoked the favor and guidance of God if they had wanted to.  They did not.

Interestingly, Alabama's constitution contains similar phrasing on the religious test:

That no religion shall be established by law; that no preference shall be given by law to any religious sect, society, denomination, or mode of worship; that no one shall be compelled by law to attend any place of worship; nor to pay any tithes, taxes, or other rate for building or repairing any place of worship, or for maintaining any minister or ministry; that no religious test shall be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under this state[.]

So here's the evidence: the founders didn't mention God in the Constitution, and their only mention of religion is to say that it should have no bearing on one of these institutions that our Weekly Standard friends colleagues think presuppose an Almighty Being.  They could have mentioned God, because the writers of the Alabama constitution did.  But even there, there is surely no "presupposition of an Almighty Being" in their institutions, because they seem to be happy with atheists, Muslims, and Hindus working for them. 

So the Weekly Standard and Rich Lowry can keep living in their fantasy world, but maybe two of the more prominent conservative publications in the country should try reading the document they claim to be so enamored of one of these days. 

-- Michael

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