Sunday, June 20, 2010

No Chaplains on govt. dime (Madison, cont.)

[From James Madison's undated essay “Monopolies, Perpetuities, Corporations, Ecclesiastical Endowments.”]

"""""Is the appointment of chaplains to the two houses of Congress consistent with the Constitution, and with the pure principle of religious freedom?

In strictness the answer on both points must be in the negative. The Constitution of the United States forbids everything like an establishment of a national religion. The law appointing chaplains establishes a religious worship for the national representatives, to be performed by ministers of religion, elected by a majority of them; and these are to be paid out of the national taxes. Does not this involve the principle of a national establishment, applicable to a provision for a religious worship for the constituent, as well as of the representative body, approved by the majority, and conducted by ministers of religion paid by the entire nation.

The establishment of the chaplainship to Congress is a palpable [easily noticeable] violation of equal rights, as well as of constitutional principles. The tenants of the chaplains elected shut the door of worship against the members whose creeds and consciences forbid a participation in that of the majority. To say nothing of other sects, this is the case with that of Roman Catholics and Quakers who have always had members in one or both of the legislative branches. Could a Catholic clergyman ever hope to be appointed a chaplain? To say that his religious principles are obnoxious or that his sect is small, is to lift the evil at once and exhibit in its naked deformity the doctrine that religious truth is to be tested by numbers, or that the major sects have a right to govern the minor.

If religion consist in voluntary acts of individuals singly, or voluntarily associated, and it be proper that public functionaries, as well as their constituents should discharge their religious duties, let them like there constituents, do so at their own expence. How small a contribution from each member of Congress would suffice for the purpose? How just would it be in its principle? How noble in its exemplary sacrifice to the genius of the Constitution; and the divine right of conscience? Why should the expence of a religious worship be allowed for the legislature, be paid by the public, more than that for the executive or judiciary branch of the government?""""

Let me put it to you this way (as Walt Becker might say): while we're not so down with the old flag-waving crackerbarrel Americana, Madison's writing at times approaches philosophy of a sort (and I wager he had read Aristotle,et al along with the Lockean indoctrination). His point contra-govt. and military chaplains remains relevant (even for those who consider all American founders Oppressors). The Fundamentalist churches are well-represented in the US Military; there are probably 20 baptist or presbyterian petty dictators for one priest (or imam, or rabbi). Madison insists correctly that religion should never be decided by vox populi, yet in effect that's what happens by allowing ministers to be apportioned via the numbers of the various factions serving in the military. The reasonable solution would be to eliminate funding for ALL religious functionaries, thus saving on govt. spending, and controlling religious enthusiasm as well.

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