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Spring 2001
David Barton - 03/2001

A New Tone in Washington

During its first five months, the new presidential administration has successfully re-injected faith issues into public discussions on a number of fronts. For example, when was the last time a nominee for Attorney General was criticized for his outspoken faith convictions?

Also, it has been some time since an inauguration was so faith-filled. First, President-elect Bush stopped at St. John's church (see cover) for a time of personal prayer before proceeding to the inauguration. Then the Rev. Franklin Graham opened the inauguration with a powerful Christ-centered prayer. (In fact, that prayer was even attacked in a West Coast editorial, wherein university educator William Edelen decried Graham's prayer as "disgusting" because "he dedicated the inauguration to Jesus Christ.") The inaugural benediction by the Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell was equally powerful. (The text of these two prayers appears at www.freerepublic.com/forum) Then, following the inauguration, President Bush announced a National Day of Prayer and Thanksgiving, declaring in part:

Nearly 200 years ago, on March 4, 1801, our young Nation celebrated an important milestone in its history, the first transfer of power between political parties, as Thomas Jefferson took the oath of office as President. On this bicentennial of that event, we pause to remember and give thanks to Almighty God for our unbroken heritage of democracy, the peaceful transition of power, and the perseverance of our Government through the challenges of war and peace, want and prosperity, discord and harmony.
President Jefferson also wrote, "The God who gave us life gave us liberty at the same time" and asked, Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are of God?" Indeed, it is appropriate to mark this occasion by remembering the words of President Thomas Jefferson and the examples of Americans of the past and today who in times of both joy and need turn to Almighty God in prayer. Times of plenty, like times of crisis, are tests of American character. Today, I seek God's guidance and His blessings on our land all our people, I ask all Americans to join with me in prayer and thanksgiving.
Now, Therefore, I, George W. Bush, President of the United States of America, by the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim . . . a National Day of Prayer and Thanksgiving. . . .
(To see the entire text of this proclamation, go to www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/20010123-2.html.)

Yet another faith aspect of the Bush administration was the opening of an Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives (OFBCI), with coordinating offices subsequently opened in five cabinet level departments (Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Labor, Justice, and Education). The purpose is to allow government to enjoy the benefits achieved by faith-based organizations (e.g., Prison Fellowship's successful criminal rehabilitation programs; Teen Challenge's successful drug rehabilitation programs; Project Zero's successful church programs to help individuals exit welfare; etc.).

The Framers would have strongly supported this proposal. As Framer Oliver Ellsworth (CT), a member of the Constitutional Convention and the third Chief-Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, explained:

The primary objects of government are the peace, order, and prosperity of society. . . . To the promotion of these objects, particularly in a republican government, good morals are essential. Institutions for the promotion of good morals are therefore objects of legislative provision and support: and among these . . . religious institutions are eminently useful and important.

Signer of the Constitution Abraham Baldwin (GA) similarly declared:

A free government. . . . can only be happy when the public principles and opinions are properly directed. . . . by religion and education. It should therefore be among the first objects of those who wish well to the national prosperity to encourage and support the principles of religion and morality.

While the President's faith-based goals are highly commendable, some nevertheless fear that such programs might compromise the messages of faith-institutions that choose to accept federal assistance. President Bush, however, understands this danger and has pledged to try to prevent such compromise from occurring. As he correctly points out, faith-based organizations are effective because of, not in spite of, the religious element; to remove that element would be to remove the reason for the programs' successes and make the programs just as unsuccessful as many government programs.

President Bush instituted similar faith-based programs in Texas several years ago, and the religious message of those groups has remained intact throughout that time. In fact, in a similar program in Arkansas (one of 13 States that has now enacted faith-based programs), Gov. Mike Huckabee is able to demonstrate that following the adoption of these faith-friendly initiatives, many religious organizations were actually freed from pre-existing State intrusiveness rather than vice versa.

President Bush's current proposal is excellent and conforms with both original intent and early American practice. However, it is still premature to endorse the federal proposal; the specific details of the program have not yet been formulated and delivered to Congress. As the old adage correctly notes, often "The devil is in the details." But even if the White House proposal is completely entanglement free, it still must survive what undoubtedly will be a plethora of amendments offered in the House and the Senate.

Only when the legislative process is complete will it be known whether the plan can be embraced or rejected. Nevertheless, the current proposal is praise worthy, as is the attempt of this administration to lessen and remove government hostility toward religion. (For more details about the President's faith-based office, go to www.whitehouse.gov/news/reports/faithbased.pdf.)

The Changing Face of American Culture

It appears that many cultural values are continuing their shift towards a Biblical perspective. You may recall the overall improving values of college students (see the Fall 1999 WallBuilder Report, and that support for abortion among students has reached its lowest level since 1966. Recent polls affirm that a similar shift is also occurring throughout the nation at large:

  • Fifty-one percent now believe that abortion destroys a human life and is manslaughter, with only thirty-five percent rejecting that position.
  • Only nineteen percent oppose school prayer.
  • Sixty-nine percent state that religion is the best way to strengthen moral behavior and family values.
  • Seventy-four percent say that "it's a bad idea for families to raise children without any religion."
  • Sixty-four percent are dissatisfied with the media's overall treatment of religion, and fifty-six percent believe that journalists are biased against believers.

Beyond such polls, however recent voting trends in typically liberal New England suggest that the winds of change may be blowing ever there:

  • In Maine, a State represented by some of the more liberal Members of Congress, voters recently rejected physician-assisted suicides and special-rights for homosexuals.
  • In Vermont, seventeen incumbent State legislators who had supported homosexual marriages or civil unions were voted out of office, but not one legislator who opposed civil unions lost his seat.

All of this demonstrates that those values which critics so often attach to "the radical religious right" are actually the mainstream values of the overwhelming majority of Americans!

Specific Bible Knowledge Declining

The Bible is the unrivaled all-time bestselling book in the world, and Americans hold that book in high esteem:

  • Ninety-two percent of Americans own a Bible.
  • Two-thirds of Americans say that the Bible holds the answers to the basic questions of life.

However, as pollster George Gallup point out, apparently "We revere the Bible, but we don't read it." That is, while general esteem of the Bible is high among Americans, knowledge of its basic content as well as the specific use of the Bible are on the decline:

  • Less than half of Americans can name the first book of the Bible.
  • Two-thirds do not know who delivered "The Sermon on the Mount."
  • One-fourth do not know what event is celebrated on Easter.
  • Twelve percent of Christians thought Noah's wife was Joan of Arc.
  • Eighty percent wrongly thought that the phrase, "God helps those who help themselves" was found in the Bible. (It is actually from Benjamin Franklin's writings.)
  • Over the past two decades, those who read the Bible, at least occasionally, has dropped from seventy-three percent to fifty-nine percent.
  • Only fifteen percent of Americans participate in Bible studies.
  • Two-thirds of Americans say that they are just plain "too busy" to read the Bible.

This growing Biblical illiteracy causes pastors too much time explaining common Bible stories to parishioners rather than teaching what those stories mean for daily living. Pastor Andy Dzurovcik of Faith Lutheran Church in Clark, New Jersey, is on target when he declares, "The Bible is the bestselling, least read, and least understood book." As he correctly notes in an adage posted on the church's sign, "A Bible that is falling apart usually belongs to a person that isn't."

Our early American leaders understood the benefits which resulted from knowing God's word. Chief-Justice John Jay (NY) therefore urged:

The Bible is the best of all books, for it is the Word of God and teaches us the way to be happy in this world and the next. Continue, therefore, to read it and to regulate your life by its precepts.

In fact, the guidance once offered by John Quincy Adams (MA) is still pertinent today:

I have myself, for many years, made it my practice to read through the Bible once a year. I have always endeavored to read it with the same temper and spirit of mind which I now recommend to you: that is, with the intention and desire that it may contribute to my advancement in wisdom and virtue.

If you are part of that group of two-thirds of Americans who say they are "too busy" to read the Bible, I urge you to rearrange your priorities. As Jesus reminds us in Luke 9:25, "What benefit is it if a man gains the whole world but loses his soul?"

Not only do we need to spend time in God's word, we also need to make sure that our children do so as well; they are the leaders of the next generation and need to be firmly rooted and grounded in God's word.

How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed to your word. . . . Your word I have hidden in my heart that I might not sin against you.Psalm 119:9, II

The Continuing Effects of Election 2000

As noted in the January 2001 WallBuilder Report, because of the delay in declaring a presidential winner, significant evidence of voter fraud surfaced in several States. As a result, many States initiated efforts to correct the problems--including Alabama, where just a decade ago, voter records showed that more than 100 percent of the adult population was registered to vote!

Alabama just removed from its voter rolls 117,000 names of individuals who could not be located, whose addresses could not be confirmed, or who were registered to vote in two or more counties at the same time. This effort to prevent future voter fraud is a continuing positive fallout of Presidential Election 2000.

And speaking of purging dubious registrations from voter rolls, Paul Bettencourt, County Clerk in Harris County, Texas (Harris County, which includes Houston, is the largest county in America and has a population larger than 23 of the 50 States!), has recently removed 171,000 names from the rolls and suspended another 429,000 names due to incorrect addresses.

And while we are on the issue of how easily fraud can occur, a recent undercover "sting" by Congressional investigators at gunshows found that false IDs and fake drivers licenses could be easily obtained, thus enabling individuals to elude the mandatory background checks. This "discovery" caused congressional Democrats to call for identifications other than drivers licenses to be used when buying a gun. Yet, if fake drivers licenses are so easy to obtain, then perhaps those congressional members should similarly call for the elimination of motor voter registration and halt to the use of drivers' licenses as the basis for voting. Surely, protecting the integrity of the vote is as important as protection the integrity of background checks on potential gunbuyers!

A New Flag for An Old State

Georgia, one of the original thirteen colonies, now has a new State flag.

Following years of criticism because of its inclusion of the "Stars and Bars" as a primary visual element of the State flag, Georgia legislators decided to make a change. Their new flag was to feature the Great Seal of Georgia in the middle with a banner below showing miniatures of the five different flags that have flown over Georgia.

State Representative James Mills, however, proposed one additional element: adding the words "In God We Trust" below the five-flag banner. When some objected that the new flag would then be too busy, Mills responded, "If it's too busy to include 'In God We Trust,' then maybe we need to slow down."

When his proposal came to a vote, it passed overwhelmingly by a margin of 102-67, and "In God We Trust" has officially become part of the new Georgia State flag.



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