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Social Issues: Letters

From: bryandianeolson{at}
Sent: Saturday, July 19, 2003

To: Star and Tribune Editorial Department

This is a response to Dr. Fred Slocum’s editorial dated July 19th, 2003 entitled “Ten Commandments courthouse display out of line”. Dr. Slocum of Mankato State addressed a letter to the editor by Mr. Todd Ojala. I had also written a letter on the same subject, but mine was edited of an important quote. It seems the whole basis of Dr. Slocum’s argument is that the courts have ruled in certain ways in the recent past on prayer, and moments of silence. I acknowledge that the courts have ruled against many “religious” issues over the years. The important points that Dr. Slocum and the editor did not address are what did the founders intend by the Constitution’s establishment clause, and how did the founders view the Ten Commandments. James Madison as chief author of the Constitution, revealed his intentions by his public life as President of the United States. The following is the proclamation he issued during the war of 1812.

Proclamation of a Day of Public Humiliation and Prayer

by James Madison

A Proclamation. By the President of the United States of America

“Whereas the Congress of the United States, by a joint resolution of the two Houses have signified a request, that a day may be recommended, to be observed by the people of the United States, with religious solemnity, as a day of public humiliation and prayer:

And whereas such a recommendation will enable the several religious denominations and societies so disposed, to offer, at one and the same time, their common vows and adorations to Almighty God..,

I do therefore recommend a convenient day to be set apart, for the devout purposes of rendering the Sovereign of the Universe, and the Benefactor of Mankind. The public homage due to His holy attributes; of acknowledging the transgressions which might justly provoke the manifestations of His divine displeasure; of seeking his merciful forgiveness, and His assistance in the great duties of repentance and amendment; and, especially, of offering fervent supplications, that, in the present season of calamity and war, He would take the American people under His peculiar care and protection; that He would guide their public councils, animate their patriotism, and bestow His blessing on their arms.., , He would hasten a restoration of the blessings of peace.”

Given at Washington, the 9th day of July, A. D. 1812

This proclamation is far more “offending” than having the 10 Commandments posted outside a court of law. If Madison was not shy about using the office of the President to make this decree, he would disagree with Dr. Slocum’s assessment of Judge Moore.

As far as the Ten Commandments, what did John Adams, our second President, think?

“The moment the idea is admitted into society, that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence. If "Thou shalt not covet," and "Thou shalt not steal," were not commandments of Heaven, they must be made inviolable precepts in every society, before it can be civilized or made free.”
(Source: John Adams, The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States, Charles Francis Adams, editor (Boston: Charles C. Little and James Brown, 1851), Vol. VI, p. 9.)

Even Ben Franklin one of the most “liberal” founders implored God’s blessing on the Federal Convention of 1787 which he was a part.

I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth, that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the Sacred Writings, that "except the Lord build the House, they labor in vain that build it." I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without His concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better, than the Builders of Babel: We shall be divided by our partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall become a reproach and bye word down to future ages. And what is worse, mankind may hereafter from this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing governments by human wisdom and leave it to chance, war and conquest. I therefore beg leave to move that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one of more of the clergy of this city be requested to officiate in that service.
(Source: James Madison, The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787, Max Farrand, editor (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1911), Vol. I, pp. 450-452, June 28, 1787.)

How dare Franklin say this in light of what Dr. Slocum’s says is the proper use of religion in America.

The courts may have ruled against the display of the Ten Commandments and Dr. Slocum and the Star and Tribune agree, but they have done so by ignoring history. That Dr. Slocum tried to silence opposition by labeling anyone who disagrees as the “religious right” is regrettable.

Bryan Olson
14513 Bowers Drive NW
Ramsey, MN 55303
Occupation: Public School Teacher

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