Friday, February 24, 2012

Christian America? My Letter to the Editor

Ken O’Brien

The following letter appeared in today’s Southbridge Evening News:

To the Editor:
OK, Mr. Steeves, I hear you ranting.
 I hear you loud, but not clear.
 You have written two editorials within the last week that make loud and inflammatory statements. I am a dedicated local guy. I am trying to help the community in whatever way I can. People know me and know what kind of a citizen I am. I am also a devout Christian. I would love to address your concerns and misconceptions, but frankly I’m not wholly sure what they are.
 Please use your next editorial to explain, in better detail, what it is that you believe is the problem with this being a Christian nation — which, by the way, is exactly what our founding fathers established us to be.
 You are absolutely right that any religion that is used to coerce, manipulate and otherwise hinder freedom(s) is wrong.
 However, truth is truth. The truth must be acknowledged and adhered to, without overstepping boundaries of compassion, mercy, justice and inalienable rights. Please give me some examples, specifics, of this oppression and manipulation you vaguely refer to and I will gladly discuss them with you.
Bob Chernisky

As one who is becoming tired of the interminable injection of religion into politics at all levels, I could not resist the need to respond.

Most particularly, my objection is to the relentless characterization of the claimed “fact” that the founding fathers intended America to be a Christian nation.

Herewith my response.

To the Editor:
With all due respect to Mr. Bob Chernisky, I have to profoundly disagree with his representation of American history.
In your February 24 edition you published a letter from him stating, “…this being a Christian nation — which, by the way, is exactly what our founding fathers established us to be.”
In May of 1797 President John Adams sent to the Senate the Treaty of Tripoli where it was ratified unanimously on June 7.
Article 11 of that treaty reads as follows, “As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion,-as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen,-and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.”
Kenneth M. O’Brien

I doubt that there are many people who would argue that neither John Adams nor those who were U. S. Senators in 1797 (10 years after the adoption of the U. S. Constitution) are entitled to be enumerated among our “founding fathers”.

NOTES: The terms Musselmen and Mehomitan were contemporary terms for Muslims and Islamic.
Mr. Barlow, who negotiated the treaty, was appointed to do so by none other than George Washington.
This was only the third time that the U. S. Senate had voted unanimously. As a comparison, this treaty was the 339th roll call vote in the U.S. Senate since its inception.


  1. Ken,

    Thanks for this. I too have far too long been fighting the fight that this is NOT a Christian Nation. Was it founded on Judeo Christian ideas and ideals, yes, but the Country was founded as pluralistic and has remained such since its founding.

    The founders went to great lengths to ensure the seapration of the state from the church and the church from the state, hence the establisment clause. As a matter of course many of the founders, including President Adams were Humanists and not Christians. Yes they belonged to the Church of England, but they had too.

    If more people took the time to read the writing of our "fouding father" they would see what they were thinking. And being Christian was not one of them.

    As a person of religion I will tell you God does not care about countries, God is only concerned for you a person. God created humanity in His image and likeness not countries.

    I would also submit that it does a disservice to all of the people in this country of ours that are not Christians.

    Just some of my random thoughts.

  2. Fr. Peter.
    Thank you.
    However, insofar as you were someone who blogged substantially against the decision by Secretary Sibellius regarding the requirement that religiously affiliated institutions offer health insurance for contraception and related family planning matters, what is your opinion of the compromise offered by President Obama that would transfer these costs to insurance companies and relieve such institutions of the onus of sponsoring them?
    Please address this, and not the overriding issue of the Affordable Health Care Act, about which I suspect we may disagree.

  3. I have to laugh when I hear all of this religous/political rhetoric about the contraceptive theory on how the government is trying to force religous institutions to bascially go against their faith. Keep in mind the Pill is also used to regulate periods, control flow, and a wide variety of physical ailments as well as prevent pregnancies. The argument does not hold water. For instance, you can get Viagra and Cialis on these plans. As John Stewart said last night what do you think men taking these medications plan on doing wtih them? Will these same institutions ask if these men are married or plan to have sex with women which last time I checked is a sin if you are not married. I have no problem with religous institutions preaching to the faithful but until these same institutions start helping families with issues like unwanted children, streamlining the adoption process, or just helping folks in need that are already struggling to feed the kids they have, this will continue to be lip service. Perhaps they should follow Father Peter's lead and try to help without preaching. At least he walks it like he talks it.

  4. Ken,

    For me this is not an issue of contraception or not contraception with is about religious liberty. Up until this point Churches and other religious institutions have been allowed to not cover certain things that they find objectionable becasue of the faith. We also have the right not to hire people based on religion. So this is not an issue, for me anyway, and issue of insurance or not. I will say that when one is hired by a church organization they are told what is expected. If you want contraception coverage then don't work for a Roman Catholic Institution.

    As far as the so called compromise, I will never compromise on my faith. So I have a fundamental issue with it.

    Bob I have no problem with coverage, the problem I have is under the new plan contraception has to be given free of charge, no co pay, but yet the medications my parents need to stay alive they have to pay a co pay on. Make it fair. But again if you work for a religious institution then you know the rules before you take the job. And the medical evidence is not conclusive on the medical benefits of contraception.

    Ken, Did this answer your question?

  5. Fr. Peter:
    You write, “We also have the right not to hire people based on religion.”
    That is not true. Churches and church sponsored facilities (such as Sunday schools) have this right, but not church affiliated institutions such as universities and hospitals. The churches and their sponsored facilities are also exempted from this insurance requirement. But the affiliated organizations that receive state and federal funding are not required to provide it, the insurance companies are.
    I agree it is a matter of religious liberty, and the liberty being asserted is that non-Catholics who work for church affiliated organizations cannot be compelled to check their own conscience and human liberty at the door.

  6. As regards the issue of such coverage being provided for free, that is a straw man.
    Insurance companies prefer to offer contraception coverage because the cost of the consequences that arise from not providing contraceptive coverage are far more costly to them.

  7. Finally, if fairness is the issue, how much do churches pay in taxes?

  8. Let’s face what is going on here.
    If there was a Muslim University of America or a medical facility called The Hospital of the Prophet Mohammed that subjected its employees and students or patients to the dictates of Sharia Law the outrage would be relentlessly echoed from all sides.
    What is being defended is a favored religious philosophy being allowed to implement a creeping form of theocracy.

  9. Padre,

    I could not agree more as there needs to ba level playing field, and people should be paying for the meds whatever the script. As a man of the cloth I understand your reticence and respect it. You know how I feel on this issue and if more people of the faith followed your example we might not be having this conversation or see it elevated to the heights of political hypocrisy. That is what I have a real problem with.

  10. The invocation of the phrase “people of faith” is another of those loaded, right wing neologisms.
    It implies that those who disagree with the most conservative religious views are without faith.
    Prior to his death Pope John XXIII appointed a papal commission to study the issue of contraception. They came back with a recommendation that the use of the birth control pill (which was the focal issue at the time) be allowed. Were these papal advisors without faith?
    The commission’s advice was rejected by Pope Paul VI. Under the doctrine of papal infallibility that became the church orthodoxy.
    One has to wonder what St. Paul’s commentary on any doctrine of papal infallibility would have been given his frequent disagreements with the first pope.

  11. The doctrine of papal infallibility was adopted by the First Vatican Council in 1870. Criticisms of this doctrine, particularly by Gladstone, led to Cardinal Newman’s famous “Letter to the Duke of Norfolk”.

    In that Newman remarks, “It seems, then, that there are extreme cases in which Conscience may come into collision with the word of a Pope, and is to be followed in spite of that word. Now I wish to place this proposition on a broader basis, acknowledged by all Catholics, and, in order to do this satisfactorily, as I began with the prophecies of Scripture and the primitive Church, when I spoke of the Pope's prerogatives, so now I must begin with the Creator and His creature, when I would draw out the prerogatives and the supreme authority of Conscience.”

  12. This is church sponsored sexism, pure and simple. If the Catholic Church espoused the same controlling doctrine towards men's sexuality, they would raise similar issues with prescriptions for viagra. They also might get a little more disciplinary when it comes to pedophilia amongst their ranks. "Condoms and birth control pills bad! Artificial boners good! Child rape... shhhh, nothing to see here."

    1. aka Jester

      Came across this article captioned: “WHERE DID YOU WEAR IT?”

      As Submitted by: Jill Blocker, Komo Communities Reporter
      Thursday, Feb. 23rd, 2012, 1:29pm

      “High-tech condoms allow students to “check-in” their activities.

      College students around Western Washington are getting high-tech condoms, as part of National Condom Week and a social media experiment by Planned Parenthood.

      Health centers at local schools, including the University of Washington, Highline Community College and Green River Community College, received the condoms that have a QR code on the wrapper.

      The codes can be scanned by phones, allowing someone to “check-in” their safe sex activity on the website”

  13. Ken keep in mind that Pope Paul VI died not long after and under some speculation that the Curia might have had a hand in it. Since the body was interred within 24 hours an autopsy was never done. Funny how after he died the findings were "overturned" by more moderate members of the Curia and the sucessor Pope. Funny thing history.

  14. You're thinking of Pope John Paul I, not Paul VI. John Paul I died suddenly after only 33 days as Pope.

  15. P.S. John Paul I came after Paul VI. So any conspiracy had nothing to do with this matter.

  16. I’ve just been watching the Journal Editorial Report on Fox News. The commentators were discussing the role of social issues in the Presidential race. To a person they repeatedly used the phrase that “Obama was forcing the Catholic Church to pay for medical services they oppose”.
    Would somebody please tell me what the Catholic Church is being compelled to pay for? Any contraceptive coverage is being paid for, willingly, by the insurance companies. This is just another example of Fox distorting facts to suit their conservative agenda.


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