FFRF’s ‘Celebrate Our Secular Constitution’ Ad Appears in Indiana Newspaper

Tuesday is Constitution Day (which, I guess, is a thing) and the Freedom From Religion Foundation is celebrating with a full-page ad in today’s Bloomington Times-Herald newspaper in Indiana:

And unlike Hobby Lobby’s ads featuring the Founding Fathers, these quotations are legitimate.

The ad documents that not only is the U.S. Constitution entirely secular — with no reference to a deity — but that there was no prayer during the Constitutional Convention. The Constitution’s primary architect, Madison, opposed government days of prayer, congressional chaplaincies and even “three pence” of tax dollars used in support of religion. The ad includes a website link that not only documents the quotations, but takes the reader to the original script in most cases.

It’s Indiana, so I’m sure no one will have an overreaction.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • flyb

    Great. And as a a gentle reminder, they need to send it to all the courts in the US. Including the Supreme Court.

  • Steve UK

    Just waiting for the raving fundies to crawl out of their holes and attack! Thankfully, we only have a few here in the UK!

  • Buckley

    The fundies will go nuts, but as Bloomington is a University town, it might have a welcome response.

  • Rain

    And unlike Hobby Lobby’s ads featuring the Founding Fathers, these quotations are legitimate.

    Hobby Lobby and everyone else can quote all they want. But it doesn’t change the words in the Constitution.

    • C Peterson

      That’s true. But the words alone do not stand without interpretation, and the statements of wise men are part of the foundation of interpretation applied to the Constitution.

      • Rain

        Good point. Some of the words in there aren’t exactly the most clear-cut words ever written, lol. The “wise men” bit always makes me nervous because it hints at exceptionalism or chauvinism. What an amazing coincidence that a big bunch of wise men were all in the same place at the same time.

        • C Peterson

          I don’t think there were more wise and brilliant men during the Enlightenment. Rather, the social conditions of the time encouraged free thought, and intellectualism was respected. Quite unlike today, where intellectuals are viewed with suspicion and respect is reserved for outlandish performers and those who can kick inflated bladders the farthest.

  • Mommiest

    I want these made into Xmas cards. I pledge to buy them.

  • joey_in_NC

    Not too many people realize the original intent of the US Constitution and of the Founding Fathers was to maintain state sovereignty such that each state could decide their own laws regarding religion without federal government interference. That means a state could be ruled as a theocracy if the citizens of that state desired, so long as the state government didn’t infringe on the federal Constitution. In fact, a number of states, such as Massachusetts, still had their own official churches when the US Constitution and Bill of Rights were ratified.

    Inconvenient truth.

    • 3lemenope

      Right (more or less) but the 14th amendment upended that arrangement. So, it makes little sense to hearken back to a time to see how the thing worked when they were working under fundamentally different constitutional conditions.

      It’s like reading the comment notes on a program intended for MSDOS to figure out why a later version won’t run properly under Windows 7. It’s never, strictly speaking, bad to know how the earlier version worked with the earlier operating system, but it is practically guaranteed *not to be pragmatically applicable*.

      • joey_in_NC

        Right (more or less) but the 14th amendment upended that arrangement. So, it makes little sense to hearken back to a time to see how the thing worked when they were working under fundamentally different constitutional conditions.

        I understand that. I just wanted to point out this knowledge of the original intent of the Founding Fathers kinda lessens the impact of the poster’s usage of men who died well before the ratification of the 14th Amendment.

        • TnkAgn

          A state theocracy could and would never square with the “Free Exercise” Clause of the 1st Amendment. It’s worth noting that while some states of the northeast, like Mass. and Conn. were theocratically inclined, while southern states, Virginia (homes to Jefferson and Madison) in particular, were more liberal in their interpretation of religious freedom. But time, we see, has changed this bit of religious geography.

          • 3lemenope

            Er, technically a state theocracy squares just fine with the original text of the Free Exercise clause, since the primary active clause of operation says ‘Congress shall make no law…’, which even if read expansively only covers the Federal government. The part of the original+BoR Constitution most difficult to square with a full-on state theocracy would be Article VI, Section 3 (the “no religious test” clause), where although a strict reading still only constrains the Federal government, is easier to fudge because the prefatory clause detailing ‘oath or affirmation’ mentions both state and federal officers.

            • TnkAgn

              Er, your arguments to the contrary imply some bona fides in this department, yet I am not at all convinced. I think that such landmark cases as Yoder v. Wisconsin belie and betray your argument.

              • David S.

                Did you miss the comment about the 14th Amendment? Yoder v. Wisconsin and all its kin rely on using the 14th Amendment to apply the Bill of Rights to the states, a line of legal argument not valid before the post-Civil War 14th Amendment.

                • 3lemenope

                  And, just for a bit more evidence, such an incorporation was attempted, and failed, prior to the 14th in Barron v. Baltimore.

                • TnkAgn

                  And duly noted as well.
                  I still think, had the Civil War and the passage of the 14th Amendment never happened, that the courts would have evolved to a similar understanding of the 1st Amend. Weak gruel, perhaps, but there it is.

                • TnkAgn

                  Duly noted.

              • 3lemenope

                Yeah, my bona fides are political science was my primary field of study and I’m a wicked American law nerd. :)

                If you need more evidence, the original text of what ended up becoming the 1st amendment, as introduced by Madison, was far more expansive and did not restrict its target of action to Congress. This was changed rather early in the discussion & debate process. Additionally, the committee added an amendment that Madison didn’t propose, what is now the 10th amendment, which quite explicitly narrows the scope of the document to the Federal government and the powers explicitly delegated to it.

                The 14th amendment upended this with its relevant language here:

                All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.[italics added]

                Thus applying the Constitution’s restrictions on government power (mostly contained in the BoR) explicitly to the states. It took SCOTUS and the other federal courts a little while to actually apply it in this way, but the decisive break was there.

    • TnkAgn

      Not so fast, joey. “Federalism” was leavened with a healthy dose of supremacy of the federal government in our Constitution, in many, many ways. This constitutional supremacy has been affirmed and reaffirmed time and again by the SCOTUS. You sense of “originalism” seems similar to Justice Scalia’s faulty and inconsistent views, IMO.

      • joey_in_NC

        This constitutional supremacy has been affirmed and reaffirmed time and again by the SCOTUS.

        What does constituitonal supremacy have to do with what I just said? For the greater part of the Constitution’s first century of existence, constitutional supremacy and state sovereignty were notions that were not considered mutually exclusive. What do you think the 10th Amendment was all about?

        • TnkAgn

          The states have a lousy 10th Amendment case record, do they not?

  • Matt

    I want this as a poster for my wall. It’s really a beautiful conversation piece.

  • Steve M

    Bloomington is probably the most progressive town in the entire state to the presence of Indiana University. I would be surprised if there is a massive reaction. Indianapolis Star would have been a better target.

  • the_human_meshnet

    the TL;DR religion. for someone who is too stupid to read 10 books of science that have been repeatedly re-questioned and reconfirmed over time, we have THE ONE BOOK. the lazy man’s guide to wrong answers, just because you have a brain, doesnt mean that they are obliged to use it. :P

  • Hermit Ladee

    I live in a rural county of less than 50,000 residents just south of Bloomington. And so I was shocked to see this in our local paper also! I was estatic, but shocked.

    Too bad some traveling evangelical doomsday group had also been putting ads in our paper. For two weeks they will be at our county fair grounds exposing the antichrist and helping people prepare for the end times.

    Thank you FFRF for giving me at least one day’s joy while reading our paper!