Thursday, May 05, 2005

By George! Checking Facts and Balancing History

Part of what it means to reclaim citizenship and faith is to reclaim a sense of American history from those who would distort or erase it for their own worldly gain. When a theocrat presents a distorted view of American history, it is important for defenders of democracy not only to repudiate the distortion, but to remind folks of the facts.

The Rev. Pat Robertson showed a peculiar perspective on American history when he stated on the May 1, 2005 broadcast of ABC's "This Week With George Stephanapoulos" that he regards judges as "the most serious threat America has faced in nearly 400 years of history."

Most students of American history would agree that judges who place the rule of law above any private religious beliefs pose no threat to our nation. Indeed, our country's first president held judges in high esteem, and valued their impartial character and ability to defer to the rule of law as a pillar of our democracy.

For example, President George Washington called judges "the pillar upon which our political fabric must rest" when he penned a letter on September 30, 1789, addressed to his nominees for federal district judgeships.

Washington did not overstep the bounds of his presidential power in appointing judges. He relied on the Senate's wisdom and approval. He noted that he was enclosing a commission as a federal judge "which Office I have nominated and, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, have appointed you."

Washington didn't mention religion in the letter, but instead appreciated the importance of the judiciary in bringing "stability and dignity" to a nation which had recently undergone a revolution. (And it is likely that Washington was also mindful of the fact that France was engaged in its own revolution in 1789.)

On the same day, Washington wrote a letter to several justices whom he had nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court. (Those who accepted the nomination included John Rutledge, James Wilson, William Cushing, and John Blair.)

In his letter to Supreme Court nominees, Washington wrote, "Considering the Judicial System as the chief Pillar upon which our national Government must rest, I have thought it my duty to nominate, for the high Offices in that department, such men as I conceived would give dignity and lustre to our National Character; and I flatter myself that the love which you bear to our Country, and a desire to promote general happiness, will lead you to a ready acceptance of the enclosed Commission, which is accompanied with such Laws as have passed relative to your Office."

In that single sentence, Washington again revered the judiciary as the "chief pillar" of federal governance; highlighted the ability of judges to enhance America's national reputation; reminded judges of the importance of loving our country and promoting "general happiness" for all the people therein, not just a favored group; and finally, he reminded the justices that their decisions should be constrained by the rule of law.

You could check it out for yourself, and search George Washington's writings by keyword, in The writings of George Washington from the original manuscript sources, 1732-1799, edited by John C. Fitzpatrick (U. S. Govt. Print. Off., Washington, 1931-44). URL:


Blogger Frederick Clarkson said...

Excellent. Reclaiming faith and citizenship means reclaiming our history -- and not abandoning the field to the historical revisionists of Christian nationalism.

5:47 PM  
Blogger Frederick Clarkson said...

Indeed : Pat Robertson, cultural relativist -

"Religious Right leader Pat Robertson argued on ABC's This Week that the "runaway" federal judiciary constitutes the gravest threat to American life. According to Robertson, the "tyranny" of the federal judiciary is a bigger threat to America than the Nazis during World War II and the Civil War and poses a "more serious [threat] than a few bearded terrorists who fly into buildings," referring to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, in which nearly 3,000 Americans were killed.

Roberson was interviewed by "This Week" cohost George Stephanopoulos, who asked Robertson if federal judges are really the biggest threat facing America.

"George, I really believe that," Robertson said.

....Stephanopoulos interjected, "But, sir, let me just stop you there. How can you say that these judges are a more serious threat than Islamic terrorists who slammed into the World Trade Center?"

Robertson never blanched. He replied, "It depends on how you look at culture."

Indeed it does, Mr. Robertson, indeed it does.

7:10 PM  
Blogger pastordan said...

It depends on how you look at culture? That strikes me as mighty, erm, relativistic from someone who claims to believe in Biblical absolutes.

Wonder if he's been reading too much Foucault lately?

10:30 PM  
Blogger Frederick Clarkson said...

Might Pat Robertson even be a bit French ? That would be to his credit but for the bizarre clash between Robertson's Biblical absolutism (which - in turn - rests on his claim that clear messages emanate from the Bible) and his love of relativistic ethical and moral approaches.

11:07 PM  

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