National Catholic Register

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Revising the Founding Fathers

PERSPECTIVE

BY Drew DeCoursey

May 17-23, 1998 Issue | Posted 5/5/99 at 2:00 PM

 

Well, we're at it again in New Jersey.

Events which shape and confound the constitutional landscape have not been dampened by El Niño or the misapplication of the RICO law. In my home state, known to the media for our Turnpike and a cruel rash of newborn baby dumpings in 1997, we still set trends. Here are two.

One involves religious freedom and the classroom; the other a father's concern for his prenatal child. Both episodes were treated predictably in editorials by my local newspaper.

Let's begin at school. A six-year-old boy in Medford, invited by his public school teacher to read aloud for his classmates any story of his choosing, selected his favorite: a story about brotherly love and family reconciliation. Sounds good so far; but young Zachary Hood chose a version of the Esau and Jacob story from Genesis, as presented in The Beginner's Bible.

We can't have that, can we? So young Zachary's teacher employed modernity's interpretation of everyman's constitutional law with required obeisance to political correctness, and censored his choice. Zachary and others are confused: they had heard that Americans oppose censorship and favor choice. But we seem to have it backwards here.

“Fear of God” is no longer what it used to mean. It speaks now not of reverence but of denial. It has become for many Americans a dreadful fear that someone naive or misguided might mention the name of God. This fear, of course, does not apply to the president's inaugural oath, the opening of every session of Congress, the inclusion of God's name on Caesar's coinage, or when Zachary and his classmates stand to recite the Pledge of Allegiance (if they still say “one nation, under God”).

Zachary's folks took the case to court and lost. But the human spirit is an amazing ghost that ascends like smoke to light when it rises above the ashes of discord. The case is under appeal in a federal court in Philadelphia, which in Greek means a city of “brotherly love,” as in Esau and Jacob.

Drew DeCoursey

In an editorial, one local paper showed fear of Zachary more than of God. They wrote: “This was the second incident involving Zachary at … school. In kindergarten, Zachary wrote ‘Thankful for Jesus’ on a poster for a Thanksgiving assignment.”

How un-pilgrimlike!

The second New Jersey event involved an unmarried man who sued to prevent his girlfriend from aborting their 17-week old prenatal child (or fetus; it does not change the reality). The court concluded that the father has “no legal standing” when abortion is at issue; “there are no statutes on the books that deal with a father's right to a say over an abortion.”

Meanwhile, as the wheels of justice cranked along in the court room, the woman visited the abortionist to make it all academic and moot. Yet it is sadly the best argument against corpus deliciti. “Who me? What pregnancy?”

A few years ago, also in New Jersey, a man named Alex Loce was arrested when he attempted to block the abortion of his developing child. He lost too, as did his developing child.

Someone suggested naming those two aborted lives Esau and Jacob. Grim, indeed.

The Declaration of Independence lists “life” as the first unalienable right, while the Constitution orders the first freedom as “religion.” Drafters of those documents breathing life and order into this nation were wise, learned individuals who listed truths by order of precedence, not alphabetically, randomly, or whimsically.

Our founders saw life as the first awakening of all things. Nothing can be if there is not first life. Those founders would not countenance a court system that consigns the taking of innocent human life as another's choice, let alone consider such abridgment a “right.” There is no reference or language in our Constitution authorizing the destruction of innocent human life at any stage. No one, our founders would agree, has a right to kill another innocent, especially the most vulnerable and voiceless.

As to religion, the founders ranked it first among the five enumerated freedoms of the First Amendment because, to them, all freedoms flowed from the spiritual beliefs of their hearts and the proper exercise of reason in their heads.

Two months before the U.S. Constitution was signed in Philadelphia, the Continental Congress created the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 which, in Article III said: “Religion, morality, and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.”

Who among the founders ever suggested the exile of God from a school child's lexicon?

Jefferson's Declaration is replete with references to the Creator and Nature's God. It was Washington who added “so help me God” to the president's inaugural oath. Our founders would be dumbstruck by today's nullification of religion which revisionists attempt to recast as a threat to the community. Such as school kids reading aloud about brotherhood in an American classroom.

Drew DeCoursey, author of Lifting the Veil of Choice, writes from Morristown, New Jersey.