Were you aware that the religion clauses of the First Amendment boil down to “the right of public religious expression” or that the Second Amendment is “the biblical right of self defense”? If not, you probably didn’t catch David Barton’s radio program, Wallbuilders Live, last week’s three-part series on the Constitution and “the principles of limited government.”
The series provides additional insight into what he is likely to teach members of Congress when he appears before the tea party caucus for their Constitutional seminar. Barton is one of the very best examples of the way in which the tea party is about much more than taxes and he’s been at the center of its rise in influence. Promoted by Glenn Beck, he also travels the country with his Constitutional Seminars and sells materials promoting his views to churches, civic organizations, Christian schools and Christian home-schoolers. And, of course, he is now promoted by tea party leader Michelle Bachmann.
But while some of the tea partiers argue they are not really about religion and embrace what they consider to be a benign “God and country” patriotism, the tea party’s “historian” made explicit, once again, last week how he understands the place of religion in government and civil society.
I’ve noted on numerous occasions that the spectrum of activists calling themselves “constitutionalists,” ranging from avowed Reconstructionists to tea partiers, read the Constitution in the context of the Declaration of Independence to invoke the authority of the Creator in an otherwise godless document. (The Reconstructionist Tolle Lege Press is giving out free copies of their republished “pocket version” of the two documents.) The first of Barton’s 3-part series lays out exactly how this works.
Barton says that our “original national founding document” lays out both a philosophy of government and an articulation of its purpose. Reading the Declaration of Independence’s “first forty-six words,” Barton writes, asserts that the founders believed there were a handful of rights (the most important of which are life, liberty and property) that come directly from God and that the purpose of government (and therefore the Constitution they wrote) is limited to securing those rights. Any other perceived rights, not understood as coming from God, cannot be legitimately protected by the civil government.
Rooted in the three-part division of authority popularized by Rushdoony and the Reconstructionists, Barton argues that the Bible (which he believes the Founders read in the same way he does and upon which they based the Constitution) limits the jurisdiction of civil government.
The Declaration listed life, liberty and property as being “among” the God-given rights, Barton argues, to leave room for the articulation of more rights derived from God as it was “incorporated” into the Constitution. According to Barton this is most clearly seen in the Bill of Rights, “the capstone” to The Constitution. “They said we’re going to name some other inalienable rights just to make sure that government does not get into these rights…When you look at the ten amendments that are the Bill of Rights, those are God granted rights that government is not to intrude into.”
He listed examples that included some unique interpretations of the rights protected in the first Ten Amendments. Thus, as noted earlier, the First Amendment religion clauses became “the right of public religious expression”; the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms is “what they called the biblical right of self defense”; and the Third Amendment prohibiting the coerced quartering of soldiers became the biblical and constitutional protection of the “the sanctity of the home.”
Finally, all the protections against unjust prosecution in the Fifth Amendment are reduced to the protection of “the right to private property.” So much for trying to understand what the revered Founders literally intended. It leaves you wondering how he comes up with this stuff.