Posts Tagged ‘thomas jefferson’

Behold in all its horrible glory: Fox & Friends interviews “Thomas Jefferson”

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Matt Birk, of the Baltimore Ravens, seems to be having an ongoing debate with a team-mate on the issue of gay marriage. He’s against it, and he wants to make sure you know that, and also make sure you know that not all football players support same sex marriage. Admittedly, his argument against gay marriage (primarily: think of the children!) is less hateful and bigoted than most, and for that he deserves credit.

But, I have yet to see anything which supports the notion that children raised by two loving mothers or two loving fathers are in any way disadvantaged over those raised by two opposite sex parents. Nor is there any reason to believe (and indeed plenty of reasons to disbelieve) that a child will be better off raised by a single parent rather than two, if those two happen to be of the same sex. The “think of the children” argument just falls flat. There is nothing there. Birk writes:

Same-sex unions may not affect my marriage specifically, but it will affect my children — the next generation. Ideas have consequences, and laws shape culture. Marriage redefinition will affect the broader well-being of children and the welfare of society. As a Christian and a citizen, I am compelled to care about both.

Though I disagree, this is perfectly fair, and I do give him quite a bit of credit for the part I’ve bolded. That seems to be a point that most who oppose same sex marriage can’t quite grasp.

I am speaking out on this issue because it is far too important to remain silent. People who are simply acknowledging the basic reality of marriage between one man and one woman are being labeled as “bigots” and “homophobic.” Aren’t we past that as a society?

In Birk’s case, no, it does not seem that his argument as much as I disagree with it is based in bigotry or (to a much lesser extent) homophobia. But many, I would think most in fact, are. Very much so. Until we are past that as a society, we won’t be past pointing it out. Freedom of speech comes with consequences, and making a bigoted argument can and should result in your being labelled a bigot.

I don’t think Birk makes anything remotely close to a compelling case in his editorial, but in the last two paragraphs he completely gives up the game. First:

A defense of marriage is not meant as an offense to any person or group. All people should be afforded their inalienable American freedoms. There is no opposition between providing basic human rights to everyone and preserving marriage as the sacred union of one man and one woman.

This necessarily implies that marriage is not a basic human right. Otherwise, how could there be “no opposition between providing basic human rights to everyone and preserving marriage as the sacred union of one man and one woman”. But if that is so, and marriage is not a basic right, then it is a right granted by whom? The church? That’s fine, but it has no bearing on public policy (I know, I know, but it shouldn’t). The government? Legally that’s the case. But what then could possibly be the basis for granting it to one group over another? I see none. Birk presumably sees the protection of children as a legitimate basis for that discrimination, but the burden of proof lies on him, and he has failed it. I certainly agree with Birk (and Thomas Jefferson) that all people have inalienable rights. Birk would do well to finish reading that sentence! I’ll remind him:

they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men

As Birk himself argues, all people should be afforded their basic American rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The freedom to marry whomever you like, in my opinion, would fall under liberty, and it would most certainly fall under pursuing happiness. But by citing the declaration, not only does Birk inadvertently argue in favor of allowing same sex couples to marry, he argues that government should ensure that right! We have instituted government not to deny these rights, as Birk supports via a traditional marriage amendment, but to secure them.

Birk closes:

I hope that in voicing my beliefs I encourage people on both sides to use reason and charity as they enter this debate. I encourage all Americans to stand up to preserve and promote a healthy, authentic promarriage culture in this upcoming election.

I agree, wholeheartedly, with the entirety of this paragraph. I can’t imagine what could possibly be more pro-marriage than allowing people to get married.

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IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America, When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good. He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them. He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only. He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures. He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people. He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within. He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands. He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers. He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries. He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance. He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures. He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power. He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation: For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us: For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States: For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world: For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent: For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury: For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies: For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments: For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever. He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us. He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people. He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation. He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands. He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people. Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends. We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

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Jefferson on Religion

A friend flagged a quote that she found on Facebook today pushing back against the idea that Thomas Jefferson should be treated as some kind of  hyper-Christian, super-conservative hero of the tea party. I don’t want this post to be a thesis on the political opinions of Thomas Jefferson, so instead I’d simply like to point out several of Jefferson’s writings on the subject of religion. I provide them without commentary, in order for you to best reflect on them without my opinions getting in the way.


 “Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.” – Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptist Association of Connecticut, Jan 1, 1802


“To the corruptions of Christianity I am indeed, opposed; but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus himself. I am a Christian, in the only sense in which he wished any one to be; sincerely attached to his doctrines, in preference to all others; ascribing to himself every human excellence; and believing he never claimed any other.” – Thomas Jefferson to Benjamin Rush, April 21, 1803


“They [Jesus’s teachings] have been still more disfigured by the corruptions of schismatizing followers, who have found an interest in sophisticating and perverting the simple doctrines he taught, by engrafting on them the mysticisms a Grecian sophist, frittering them into subtleties, and obscuring them with jargon, until they have caused good men to reject the whole in disgust, and to view Jesus himself as an impostor. Notwithstanding these disadvantages, a system of morals is presented to us, which, if filled up in the style and spirit of the rich fragments he left us, would be the most perfect and sublime that has ever been taught by man. The question of his being a member of the God-head, or in direct communiation with it, claimed for him by some of his followers, and denied by others, is foreign to the present view, which is merely an estimate of his doctrines.” – Thomas Jefferson to Benjamin Rush, April 21, 1803


Jefferson wrote frequently on the subject, and these are but a few samples. If you’re interested in Jefferson’s views on this and other issues, Monticello’s website has some good resources for reading.

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The question of how to handle historic structures in the heart of urban downtown areas is a tough one. The land they occupy would likely be more valuable (financially speaking) as retail or office space, but would the economic gain be worth the cultural/historic loss? Or do the tourism dollars generated by the history make up for the loss in rent? I don’t really have an answer for this, just wanted to point out something interesting to you. A good example of the differing approaches to this question is the fate of the places occupied by Thomas Jefferson when he lived in Philadelphia. Hidden City Philadelphia has a brief article on a couple of these.While Jefferson was writing the Declaration of Independence, he was renting space on what is now 7th and Market St. Here’s what the corner looks like today (or in 2009, via google streetview):
On the right, we can see where Jefferson lived, and on the left we can see where he would have ordered a crappy cup of coffee. (OK, so the house is a recreation, the original structure no longer exists. But the Dunkin’ Donuts is authentic!).Later, Jefferson moved to a house on the Schuylkill River in Grey’s Ferry (south Philly). That structure no longer stands, either. Via Hidden City Philadelphia, here’s what it looks like today. Granted, the house in which the Declaration was drafted is much more historically significant than a place Jefferson rented for awhile, but its interesting nonetheless.

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