A parent in Loudoun County, Va., speaks up in support of free speech. (Photo credit: YouTube/The Blue Oak Project)
One thing was for sure: they didn’t come to be quiet. The parents of Loudoun County, Va. who were packed into every available chair at Tuesday’s school board meeting were angry. For months, they’d been warring with the district over its woke curriculum in a feud so bitter that it made the national news. But it was the suspension of Tanner Cross, a P.E. teacher who spoke out about a new transgender policy, that turned the local temperature from hot to boiling.
For new superintendent Scott Ziegler, who watched the room slowly unravel, it was not what he had imagined for his first day. Ziegler had been on the job as the interim boss, but Tuesday’s fireworks were nothing like he’d experienced. One parent after another stormed to the microphone to object to either Cross’s treatment or the district’s string of radical policies. At one point, a dad slammed down a copy of the First Amendment, looked up to the dais, and bellowed, “I’m going to leave this here, and I hope you learn something.” For four hours, they took turns telling the board to stop “instilling progressive Left ideas [in] our children.” “It’s not appropriate,” one mother said, “to silence, bully, or dismiss our views as parents.”
Waving dozens of signs that read “You’re fired!” or “Stop Critical Race Theory!” they were the picture of the new conservative uprising. Right now, one dad insisted Loudoun County Public Schools “is ground zero for parents like me to protect our kids and take back our schools.” And if Tuesday night is any indication, they’ll do anything they can to make the district listen. If that means going door-to-door in 90 degree weather to recall school board members, they’ll do it. If it means filing lawsuits against the schools’ curriculum, they’ll do that too. If it means showing up at rallies for a Christian teacher who wants his students to know the truth, they’ll bring their friends.
It’s a snapshot of what’s happening in school districts all across America. Parents are awake, they’re engaged, and they’re lighting a fire under local communities to stand up and fight back. In Rapid City, South Dakota this week, local families were so frustrated by the indoctrination in their district that they organized a boots-on-the-ground campaign — a lot like the parents of Southlake, Tex. did — and managed to sweep all four open seats on the school board with conservatives. Like their counterparts in Loudoun, they refuse to take this radical takeover lying down. And when people speak out — like Tanner did — it gives others the courage to do the same.
Cross’s attorney at Alliance Defending Freedom said they talked to a lot of teachers at the school who agree with Tanner, but they’re scared to come forward. Thanks to Circuit Judge James E. Plowman Jr., they don’t have to be afraid anymore. In a reproachful ruling Tuesday, Plowman ordered Loudoun County to reinstate Cross, calling what the district did “an unnecessary and vindictive act.” It was an “unconstitutional” action, he wrote, and it has “silenced others from speaking publicly on the issue.”
The order to reinstate Tanner was cheered by the district’s biggest critics, who argued at Tuesday’s meeting that no teacher should ever be punished for advocating for the good of their students.
“What we need,” Tanner’s ADF attorney, Tyson Langhofer, argued on “Washington Watch,” is more teachers “engag[ing] in the political process.” Look, Tyson said, “the First Amendment hasn’t changed. The principles [of free speech and religious freedom] are still here — and if they’re willing to stand, we can win this battle. But we can’t win if they won’t stand. We can cancel Cancel Culture if people have the courage to stand. And I will encourage them to do what Tanner did, simply speak the truth and then the truth will set you free. You will prevail eventually.” And here’s the thing, he pointed out. “I’ve represented a lot of clients like Tanner, and none of them have ever told me that they regret taking the stand. That doesn’t mean that they didn’t pay some price. But what they gained out of it was far more valuable than anything that they lost.”
As for Tanner, he’s just excited to get back in the classroom before the summer ends. But he hopes his case gives many people in the district something to think about before next fall.
“I don’t want any teacher — or anyone who lives in this great country — to not be able to express how they feel about any policies in their workplace that might be harmful…I would encourage teachers to just express themselves freely.” Hopefully, he added, they won’t be punished. But if they are, we’ve learned one thing: the local community will have their back.
Tony Perkins is president of the Family Research Council.
(CNS News) — On Tuesday, the Circuit Court for the County of Loudoun, Va., ruled to reinstate Byron Tanner Cross to his teaching position after the Loudoun County Public Schools suspended him for voicing his concerns at a school board meeting that a transgender policy under consideration violated his beliefs and was harmful to children.
Tanner is a physical education teacher at the Leesburg Elementary School in Loudoun County. He has been a teacher for 15 years.
“The Court finds that the Plaintiff’s speech and religious content are central to the determination made by the Defendants to suspend Plaintiff’s employment,” reads the decision, and Cross was granted a temporary injunction.
While the case is still being litigated, Judge James E. Plowman Jr. directed the Loudoun County Public Schools to reinstate Tanner to his position and stop banning him from school property.
“I will not affirm that a biological boy can be a girl and vice versa because it is against my religion,” Cross stated on May 25 during the public comments portion of the meeting. “It’s lying to a child. It’s abuse to a child. And it’s sinning against our God.”
Two days later, he was placed on administrative leave, with LCPS claiming he caused “significant disruption” at the school “including multiple complaints and parents requesting that Mr. Cross have no interaction with their children because of his comments,” according to a LCPS representative.(Getty Images)
“This case is not about how schools should treat students who struggle with gender dysphoria,” the Alliance Defending Freedom, representing Cross, stated in the official complaint. “It is about whether public schools can punish a teacher for objecting, as a private citizen, to a proposed policy, in a forum designated for the purpose of considering whether to implement such policies, where the policy would force him to express ideas about human nature, unrelated to the school’s curriculum, that he believes are false.”
The hearing took place on June 4, where ADF attorney Logan Spena and Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer represented Cross. Afterwards, at a rally for Cross, Langhofer told CNS News that he believed the judge conducted a fair hearing, and he was hopeful for a ruling in their favor.
The ADF stated in a press release announcing Cross’ victory, “With this ruling, the court sent a clear message to the school board: ‘You are not above the law.’”
The court ruling said, “Upholding constitutional rights serves the public interest. Affirming the unconstitutional action taken against [Tanner] which has silenced others from speaking publicly on this issue, serves the public interest. The public’s knowledge that [Tanner’s] speech was permissible, is encouraged, and is free from governmental oppression serves the public interest. Governmental bodies being held in check for violating a citizen’s constitutional rights, serves the public interest.”
Just two weeks after GraceLife Church’s Pastor James Coates was released from serving 35 days in prison for not adhering to COVID-19 restrictions and just two weeks back in the pulpit, a convoy of about a dozen Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) vehicles assisted in erecting fencing around the property of GraceLife Church early Wednesday morning.
The Edmonton Journal reported that Alberta Health Services (AHS) released a statement saying it has “physically closed GraceLife Church (GLC) and has prevented access to the building until GLC can demonstrate the ability to comply with Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health’s (CMOH) restrictions.”
AHS announced on Tuesday they were going back to step 1 of their public health restriction framework to slow the continuing spread of the COVID-19 virus. Premier Jason Kenny said, “The only responsible choice to save lives and to protect our health-care system is to take action.”
The heightened restrictions will still allow for area churches to meet as long as they adhere to only 15% capacity, mandatory face coverings, and social distancing.
In their statement, AHS said they have “attempted to work collaboratively with GLC to address the ongoing public health concerns at the site,” but that the church “has decided not to follow these mandatory restrictions, nor have they attempted to work with AHS to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission.” Those actions led to authorities taking drastic measures to ensure at least the GLC building would not as a facility to spread the virus.
Kenney shared his fears of Alberta becoming the home to a dominant COVID-19 strain within the next week.
Eza Levant from Canada’s Rebel News posted a video on Twitter and said, “I count thirteen vehicles as part of this police raid on a church. They’re erecting steel fences around it like China does when they uncover an illegal ‘house church.’ Except this is in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. The same church whose pastor was thrown in prison for 35 days.”
Pastor James Coates’ wife Erin posted on her Instagram page a photo of the fence around GLC’s building saying, “They are putting up a private screen on the inside fence. I’ve heard there is a tactical and de-escalation team behind the building because AHS thinks this will cause anger and uproar with our people. Oh @albertahealthservices have you not learned who we are by now? Our pastor walked himself to the RCMP headquarters and turned himself in. We have openly and privately prayed for you and our government. We’ve honoured and respected the RCMP every step of the way. Why create a narrative to make us look evil? Anyone who shows up on our property taking their moment of fame with MSM and is not inline with how our elders conduct themselves is not a representative of GLC.”
VIDEO: Christians Tear Down Fences Surrounding Canadian Evangelical Church
Hundreds of Christians gathered outside a Canadian church that has been locked down by the government and whose pastor was arrested for defying government leaders.
Alberta Health Services said it “physically closed” GraceLife Church and will be preventing access to the building until “GraceLife can demonstrate the ability to comply with Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health’s restrictions.”
Police erected surrounded the church property with chain-link fencing and stationed officers around the area to stop parishoners from gathering.
But the Body of Christ would not be deterred by the China Virus or the Canadian government.
Video shows the faithful gathering outside the building to sing hymns and spiritual songs. Others physically removed the fencing that had been erected to keep out the Christians.
Nationally-syndicated radio host Todd Starnes had called on Christians across Canada to tear down the fences last week.
“Christians must respond forcefully when the government shuts down our church houses,” Starnes said. “We must be happy warriors and peaceful. But we cannot remain silent while our fellow believers face persecution.”
James Coates, the pastor of GraceLife Church, had been arrested and held for 35 days because he refused to comply with the government. He was charged with violating the Public Health Act.
Coates is a graduate of The Master’s Seminary – a ministry of Grace Community Church in Southern California.
Pastor John MacArthur said there has been a massive outcry against the Canadian government for their attack on the church.
“This is a first for the western world to have a government lock out believers from a church,” MacArthur told his California congregation on Sunday.
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After Christians tore down a fence around an Edmonton church that was erected by police, the government sent 200 officers in riot gear to stop today’s service
On July 26, 1775, Benjamin Franklin became the first Postmaster General of the United States, a position he held under the British Crown before the Revolution.Franklin’s public career began when he organized Pennsylvania’s first volunteer militia during threaten attacks from Spanish and French ships.Read as PDF …
Franklin then proposed a General Fast, which was approved by the Colony’s Council and printed in his Pennsylvania Gazette, December 12, 1747:”As the calamities of a bloody War … seem every year more nearly to approach us …there is just reason to fear that unless we humble ourselves before the Lord & amend our Ways, we may be chastized with yet heavier Judgments,We have, therefore, thought fit … to appoint … a Day of Fasting & Prayer, exhorting all, both Ministers & People, to observe the same with becoming seriousness & attention, & to join with one accord in the most humble & fervent Supplications;That Almighty God would mercifully interpose and still the Rage of War among the Nations & put a stop to the effusion of Christian Blood.”
Franklin published the sermons of Great Awakening preachers, such as evangelist George Whitefield, which helped spread the Revival.Franklin established a volunteer fire department, a circulating public library, an insurance company, a city police force, a night watch and the first hospital in America.
He set up the lighting of city streets and was the first to suggest Daylight Savings Time.
He invented bifocal glasses, the Franklin Stove, swim fins, the lightning rod, and coined the electrical terms “positive” and “negative.”
In 1754, Franklin wrote a pamphlet, “Information to Those Who Would Remove to America,” for Europeans interested in sending their youth to this land:”Hence bad examples to youth are more rare in America, which must be a comfortable consideration to parents.To this may be truly added, that serious religion, under its various denominations, is not only tolerated, but respected and practised.Atheism is unknown there; Infidelity rare and secret; so that persons may live to a great age in that country without having their piety shocked by meeting with either an Atheist or an Infidel.And the Divine Being seems to have manifested his approbation of the mutual forbearance and kindness with which the different sects treat each other; by the remarkable prosperity with which he has been pleased to favor the whole country.”
On September 28, 1776, as President of Pennsylvania’s Constitutional Convention, Benjamin Franklin signed the State’s first Constitution, “the most radically democratic Frame of Government the world had ever seen.”
Pennsylvania’s Constitution stated:”Government ought to be instituted … to enable the individuals … to enjoy their natural rights … which the Author of Existence has bestowed upon man;and whenever these great ends…are not obtained, the people have a right … to change it, and take such measures as to them may appear necessary to promote their safety and happiness …”
It continued:”All men have a natural and unalienable right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences …Nor can any man, who acknowledges the being of a God, be justly deprived or abridged of any civil right …No authority … shall in any case interfere with … the right of conscience in the free exercise of religious worship.”
Pennsylvania’s Constitution required:”And each member … shall make … the following declaration, viz:I do believe in one God, the Creator and Governor of the Universe, the Rewarder of the good and the Punisher of the wicked. And I do acknowledge the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be given by Divine Inspiration.And no further or other religious test shall ever hereafter be required.”
Pennsylvania’s Constitution had in Section 45:”Laws for the encouragement of virtue, and prevention of vice and immorality, shall be … constantly kept in force … Religious societies … incorporated for the advancement of religion … shall be encouraged.”
At the end of the Revolutionary War, Franklin signed the Treaty of Paris, September 3, 1783, which began:”In the name of the Most Holy and Undivided Trinity.”
As Pennsylvania’s President (Governor), Ben Franklin hosted the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, where on June 28, 1787, he moved:”That henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessing on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning.”
In 1785, Ben Franklin was elected president of America’s first anti-slavery society, Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery.
Pennsylvania’s opposition to slavery began with the Quakers’ Germantown Petition of 1688.
Anthony Benezet, a French Protestant Huguenot who joined the Quakers, convinced them in 1758, at their yearly meeting in Philadelphia, to officially go on record as opposing slavery.
Benezet wrote in 1766, “A Caution and Warning to Great Britain … of the Calamitous State of the Enslaved Negroes”:“Slavery … contradicted the precepts and example of Christ …Bondage … imposed on the Africans, is absolutely repugnant to justice … shocking to humanity, violative of every generous sentiment, abhorrent utterly from the Christian religion.”
Benjamin Franklin opposed slavery, publishing several essays:
An Address to the Public (1789);
A Plan for Improving the Condition of the Free Blacks (1789); and
Sidi Mehemet Ibrahim on the Slave Trade (1790).
In his last published letter (Federal Gazette, March 23, 1790), Franklin satirically condemned Southern States for continuing to defend slavery by using the same arguments as Muslim Barbary states of North Africa:”If we cease our cruises against Christians, how shall we … make slaves of their people … to cultivate our land … to perform common labors … Must we be our own slaves: And is there not more compassion due to us as Mussulmen than to these Christian dogs.
… We have now about 50,000 slaves in and near Algiers … If we then cease taking and plundering the infidel ships and making slaves of the seamen and passengers, our lands will become of no value for want of cultivation.”
Franklin, on February 3, 1790, sent a petition to end slavery to the first session of the U.S. Congress:”For promoting the Abolition of Slavery … relieving from bondage a large number of their fellow Creatures of the African Race … promote mercy and justice toward this distressed race.”
The petition was introduced in the House on February 12, 1790, and in the Senate on February 15, 1790.Southern states immediately denounced it, claiming that the Constitution limited Congress for 20 years from prohibiting the importation or emancipation of slaves.
Two months later, Franklin died on April 17, 1790, at the age of 84.
After 20 years, President Jefferson supported the Act to end the slave trade, stating in his annual message, December 2, 1806:”I congratulate you, fellow-citizens, on the approach of the period at which you may interpose your authority constitutionally, to withdraw the citizens of the United States from all further participation in those violations of human rights which have been so long continued on the unoffending inhabitants of Africa, and which the morality, the reputation, and the best interests of our country, have long been eager to proscribe.”
On March 2, 1807, Congress officially passed the Act Prohibiting the Importation of Slaves.The U.S. Navy and Coast Guard were sent to enforce the ban on importing slaves by seizing many slave trading ships. Unfortunately, slavery was not abolished until 1865 with the 13 Amendment.
Benjamin Franklin wrote April 17, 1787:”Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom.As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.”
Franklin had composed for his epitaph:
“THE BODY of B. FRANKLIN, Printer. Like the cover of an old book, Its contents torn out, And stripped of its lettering and gilding, Lies here, food for worms; Yet the work itself shall not be lost, For it will as he believ’d appear once more, In a new, and more beautiful edition, Corrected and improved By The AUTHOR.”—
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Proposal described as launching ‘new era of McCarthyism’
March 18, 2021
A California state lawmaker wants to ban from service police officers and police officer candidates who are members of “hate groups” or have used “hate speech” in the past, even in private discussion forums.
The news curator Press California reported the bill’s broad definition of the term “hate” could apply the ban to “police officers expressing conservative religious or political views on abortion, marriage, and gender or with membership in a political party or a church that does.”
Pacific Justice Institute Senior Staff Attorney Matthew McReynolds said the bill would usher in a “new era of McCarthyism” that would target Muslims, Catholics, evangelicals and even registered Republicans.
“Under the guise of addressing police gangs, the bill at the same time launches an inexplicable, unwarranted, and unprecedented attack on peaceable, conscientious officers who happen to hold conservative political and religious views,” he said.
“Indeed, this is one of the most undisguised and appalling attempts we have ever seen, in more than 20 years of monitoring such legislation, on the freedom of association and freedom to choose minority viewpoints.”
The sponsor of AB 655 is Bay Area Assemblyman Ash Kalra, a Democrat from San Jose.
The plan would require police candidates to receive a background check for “official membership in a hate group, participation in hate group activities, or other public expressions of hate,” noted Press California, which was founded by a former CNN.com and NYT Digital multimedia journalist.
Police officers could be fired as a result of a complaint from the public.
But the bill’s definition of “hate” is unclear.
“‘Hate group’ means an organization that, based upon its official statements or principles, the statements of its leaders, or its activities, supports, advocates for, or practices the denial of constitution constitutional rights of, the genocide of, or violence towards, any group of persons based upon race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, or disability,” it states.
Kalra said a “public expression of hate” means “any explicit expression, either on duty or off duty and while identifying oneself as, or reasonably identifiable by others as, a peace officer, in a public forum, on social media including in a private discussion forum, in writing, or in speech, as advocating or supporting the denial of constitution constitutional rights of, the genocide of, or violence towards, any group of persons based upon race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, or disability.”
McReynolds told Press California that among the unanswered questions are whether “hate groups” include churches that oppose abortion or that define marriage as the union of a man and a woman. And would Muslims be banned from being officers because they attend a mosque that has ‘spoken out against homosexuality or gender equality?
The California Republican Party officially states that a two-parent family is the best for children, so “it is important to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman.”
“The rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution have been the topic of intense political debate for 200 years, and especially over the last several decades since the Supreme Court found a right to abortion in the Constitution in 1973,” Greg Burt of California Family Council noted in the report.
“Should the state now ban from public service qualified, fair-minded people who happen to hold religious or political views that conflict with controversial Supreme Court decisions on marriage and abortion? This is a blatantly unconstitutional violation of religious liberty and freedom of speech. It is also a tyrannical abuse of power from a politician seeking to ruin the lives of those he disagrees with.”
On February 25, the House of Representatives passed the Equality Act, a bill that is touted as a step forward for civil rights in the United States. If enacted, the bill would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the federally protected classes that cannot be discriminated against and would expand where such protections are applied. While expanding such protections is not necessarily widely opposed (Mormon Republican Chris Stewart has introduced the Fairness for All Act as an alternative bill), the act explicitly says that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 cannot be invoked, and this has generated tremendous concern that both private businesses and religious institutions will be forced to toe the current cultural line regarding sexual and gender ideology, or else face discrimination suits and be sued into oblivion.
Organizations such as the Heritage Foundation and Christianity Today have argued against the bill on the basis of its effects on religious institutions, private schools, the legal rights of parents, and women’s athletics. While a discussion of such effects is important, the conversation has largely been missing the broader context of where this legislation and the numerous other proposals like it emerge from.
In his important essay “The Balance of Power in Society” sociologist Frank Tannenbaum argues that “society is possessed by a series of irreducible institutions, perennial through time, that in effect both describe man and define the basic role he plays.” These perennial institutions are the state, the church, the family, and the market. These institutions have eternally striven against each other to gain dominance and become what sociologist Robert Nisbet would call the primary reference group for its members, meaning the primary way in which they understand themselves and shape their beliefs and actions. At various times we can see one group coming to dominate the others, such as when the “trustee” form of family dominated social life in clan-based societies, or when the Roman Catholic Church exhibited tremendous power over the political affairs of Europe. Currently, we live in an epoch where the state has come to dominate social life to an extent never previously seen in human history.
It is useful to analyze the Equality Act from this perspective to truly understand its full implications. State hostility towards religion and the religious institutions through which religion is exercised is not driven solely, or in some cases even primarily, by the current secular zeitgeist. Rather, religion and religious institutions represent a major obstacle to the exercise of state control and the centralization of social power. In the Western context, orthodox Christianity especially poses a threat to this agenda due to its adherents’ membership in a kingdom “not of this world.” It is difficult for the immanent state to compete to be the primary reference for people who, by virtue of their religion, are members of a transcendent order.
However, it cannot be denied that the state has been very successful in undermining and sapping the power of religious institutions through two different means. The first is by expropriating those mundane areas of social responsibility and function that have traditionally been the purview of the church, such as charity and education. While churches are still involved in such things, the state has supplanted them as the primary social institution that provides them.
As Nisbet argues in his book The Quest for Community, a social group cannot survive for long if its chief functional purpose is lost, and unless new institutional functions are adapted, the group’s “psychological influence will be minimal.” No doubt the state has succeeded in centralizing so much power due to its success in poaching the historical functions of the church and family.
I noted above that in the Western context the emphasis of orthodox Christianity on transcendental concerns has proven to be a stumbling block to the state when it comes to becoming citizens’ primary reference group. However, the state has also attempted to muscle into that territory as well. Earlier I classified the state and the church as being two different institutions with separate functions. While this is often true, especially in the West due to the Augustinian formulation of the City of God and the Earthly City, in various times in history the functions have been unified.
In his work The Political Religions, political theorist Eric Voegelin explored this idea and traced its earliest sophisticated formulation back to Amenhotep IV/Akhenaton, a fourteenth-century BC pharaoh who temporarily upended Egyptian civilization by abolishing the old deities and introducing the monotheistic worship of the sun god Aton. By abolishing the old gods (references to traditional deities were eradicated and Amenhotep changed his name so that it no longer referenced the old god Amon), the newly named Akhenaton also abolished the old priesthood as well. What was new and innovative about Aton was that he was not just a limited god of Egypt, but in fact the god of the universe, who speaks and acts through his son, the Pharaoh. By obliterating the old gods such as Osiris, Voegelin argued that Akhenaton abolished those aspects of the Egyptian religion that were of the utmost importance to individuals, such as judgment and life after death, and replaced them only with a collective political religion of empire. This inability to fulfill the spiritual needs of the people, combined with the reaction of the defrocked priestly caste, led to backlash and restoration of the old order after the death of Akhenaton, when it was his turn to be obliterated from history.
Voegelin traces this idea of political religion through the ages and argues that Christianity, through the work of Augustine, seriously upended “the cosmos of the divinely analogous state” by subordinating the political-temporal sphere to the spiritual one. For hundreds of years this understanding dominated medieval Europe, but with the advent of the Enlightenment began to crack apart under a succession of philosophers, most notably Thomas Hobbes with his conception of the Leviathan state. However, Voegelin notes that over time, as the world has secularized, the political religions have closed themselves off to claims of being the conduit for God’s action on earth and instead have come to embody immanent forces such as “the order of history” or “the order of blood.” Metaphysics and religion have been banished in favor of a vocabulary of “science” that is “inner-worldly” and therefore closed off to what Voegelin would call the ground of being through which humans experience transcendent reality.
In the United States, our political religion takes the form of progressivism, which itself is the product of Protestant clergy who abandoned orthodoxy in the nineteenth century in favor of an immanent ideology in which the US would serve as the instrument to build God’s kingdom on earth. In his essay “The Progressive Era and the Family,” Murray Rothbard traces this movement to the rise of what he terms “evangelical pietism” and the way in which it altered traditional doctrine to require that man work for his own salvation by working for the salvation of the rest of the world through its immanent reformation.
The song “Battle Hymn of the Republic” was one product of this way of thinking and, in the words of one Voegelin scholar, its author “transforms Christ’s redemptive mission—which is not of this world—into the world immanent social activism of the Anti‑Slavery movement.” Rather than waiting for Christ to return, when he shall establish a new heaven and a new earth, the progressive creed held that it is the job of every true Christian to redeem the fallen world and to build God’s kingdom on earth right now. The Civil War was understood as one such redemptive episode (complete with a martyr in the form of Abe Lincoln), as was the First World War. In his book The War for Righteousness, historian Richard M. Gamble documents the way in which Progressive Protestant clergy led the charge to bring the US into the war with hopes of redeeming the world. Like Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson was perceived as a tragic martyr for the cause and was viewed with clearly religious veneration.
While the American political religion began by attempting to build the kingdom of God on earth, it has, in Voegelin’s term, ended up as an “inner-worldly” religion that does not even attempt to maintain a connection to the transcendent order of reality, and instead justifies itself as being the conduit through which the inexorable march of “progress” flows forth. Democracy and equality, not the return of Christ, are the new end of history.
The end result is that the state seeks to not only supplant religious institutions by usurping their mundane functions but by usurping their spiritual functions as well. Like the priests of Akhenaton’s day, American religious institutions, especially orthodox Christian ones, are both a competing pole of social power and the manifestation of a rival religion that must be subdued if the “State-God,” in the words of J.R.R. Tolkien, is to prevail.
In this context, with legislation like the Equality Act the state is not only seeking to further erode the social power of religious institutions by making religious education or adoption more difficult, but it is also advancing a rival religious doctrine at the same time by foisting progressive sexual and gender ideology on society.
It is likely that the Equality Act will not manage to pass the Senate in its current form, but the reality of the situation is that as long as the progressive political religion remains a potent force in American life, independent repositories of social power such as the family and the church will continually be under sustained attack. We can only hope that one day progressivism will meet the same fate that Aton did after the passing of Akhenaton, but until then, those who do not adhere to the cult of the “State-god” can only resist its impositions as best we can.
While studies show most Americans support religious freedom as a core component of American cultural values, Pastor John MacArthur of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, said he doesn’t support it because it allows idolatry.
During his State of the Church address Wednesday, which replaced his Shepherds’ Conference for men in church leadership that was postponed due to “ongoing litigation” and “threats” from the state, MacArthur urged evangelicals to stop forming alliances with non-Christian groups to promote religious freedom because they don’t need it.
“The Gospel offends the sinner and seeks to break the sinner’s comfort and contentment by bringing him into stark realization of the eternal judgement of God. Evangelicals have become like Peter. They are looking for alliances with Satan that they think somehow can aid the Kingdom,” MacArthur said.
“I told our congregation a few weeks ago that I could never really concern myself with religious freedom. I wouldn’t fight for religious freedom because I won’t fight for idolatry. Why would I fight for the devil to have as many false religions as possible and all of them to be available to everyone?” he asked.
The megachurch leader, who has famously challenged local government and state officials over the right of his congregation to have in-person services during the coronavirus pandemic, noted that even with religious freedom Christians have continued to be the target of “the hostility of sinners.”
“Well, people would say that’s a terrible thing to say. What about Christianity? Christianity advances whether there is religious freedom or not. And there’ll always be religious freedom for all the lies. Every false religion is going to be free because it’s linked to the kingdom of darkness that operates in the world. And Christians, whatever the label of religious freedom might be in its broadest sense, Christians are always the target even with religious freedom, of the hostility of sinners,” MacArthur said.
“The Apostles turned the world upside down with no help from it. No social action. No alliances. The evil kingdom of darkness hates what God loves and loves everything that God hates, and the kingdom of darkness is never a friend to the light,” he continued. “Even rulers have exchanged the truth of God for a lie. … They function under the liar Satan himself who [is] the liar and father of lies. There is absolutely no reason for us to make any alliance with him,” he said.
To support his argument, MacArthur cited several Scriptures which he said spells out the Church’s mandate, including Ephesians 5: 5-8.
“For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them. For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord,” the NIV version of the Scripture says.
“Do not be partakers with them,” he said, repeating verse 7. “You have no alliance with the kingdom of darkness.”
A 2019 study from the Becket Fund for Religious Freedom, a nonprofit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions, showed that a majority of Americans strongly support religious freedom even if the views expressed are deemed “discriminatory.”
“The central finding from this first year’s Index is that broad public support for religious freedom has survived the culture wars. After years of religious freedom being pushed to the center of polarizing debates, rather than reveal a partisan 50-50 split, at 67[%], the Index scored in the upper third on the scale of favorability toward robust religious freedom protections,” Becket said in an announcement to The Christian Post at the time.
“Across dimensions, we saw public support well above 70 percent on many issues, indicating that the concept of religious freedom maintains its place as a core component of American cultural values. The study also found evidence for a preference for a hands-off government approach and support for a culture of accommodation of religious beliefs and practices,” the nonprofit noted.
“While much changed in 2020, religious freedom continues to garner support across demographics through each of the Index’s six dimensions, as reflected by this year’s composite score of 66 on a 100 point scale,” researchers said. “Our findings present a picture of Americans relying on religion and religious freedom to deal with the challenges of 2020, both reactively and proactively.”
Experts explain Supremes’ decision on New York’s lockdowns
Dec 44, 2020
By Mary Margaret Olohan Daily Caller News Foundation
Last week’s Supreme Court ruling against New York’s restrictions on religious organizations sends a message that churches may not be treated as second class citizens, legal experts told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
The Supreme Court sided with religious organizations challenging Cuomo’s coronavirus restrictions the night before Thanksgiving, calling the New York Democrat’s measures “discriminatory” in its injunction for emergency relief.
Conservative justices, including Justice Amy Coney Barrett, sided with religious organizations in the 5-4 ruling, while Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the liberal justices. It was the first time Barrett was a deciding factor as the court’s newest justice after replacing the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg — and Judicial Crisis Network President Carrie Severino said it showed “the critical importance of Justice Barrett’s confirmation.”
Cuomo’s restrictions limited the number of people who can attend religious services to 10 in areas where the threat of coronavirus is highest, regardless of a church or synagogue’s capacity. In areas with slightly less risk, attendance is limited to 25 people.
“The Court’s majority made clear that the First Amendment’s Free Exercise clause is not to be carelessly trampled upon but rather vigorously protected,” Judicial Crisis Network’s Carrie Severino told the DCNF.
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty represented the religious organizations in asking the Supreme Court to consider whether Cuomo’s executive order violated the Free Exercise Clause when it “disfavors worship” and “when the official who issued it made clear through unambiguous statements that the order was targeted at a religious minority’s practices and traditions.”
Becket counsel Joe Davis noted to the DCNF that the ruling was important not only in regards to coronavirus restrictions on religious freedom, but also for religious freedom more broadly.
“This is really the court laying down a marker that the First Amendment does not go away even in the circumstances of this pandemic,” Davis told the DCNF, noting that this is something that has been questioned in legal rulings since March.
“You can’t tell people they have to stay home from church but they can shop,” Davis said.
Alliance Defending Freedom senior counsel Ryan Tucker also emphasized the disparity between restrictions on houses of worship and restrictions on other businesses, calling it not only “nonsensical” but also “unconstitutional” that “individuals can gather in places that governors deem essential but those same people can’t gather in a religious gathering as well.”
The ruling sends a message to governors and other officials that “they can’t treat the church like a second class citizen,” Tucker added.
In deciding to grant the temporary injunction relieving the religious organizations from Cuomo’s restrictions, the justices looked at how Cuomo’s restrictions might cause irreparable harm to the religious organizations, Heritage Foundation’s Emilie Kao told the DCNF.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn had also filed an emergency application against Cuomo in November, writing that Cuomo’s order “expressly singles out ‘houses of worship’ by that name for adverse treatment relative to secular businesses.
Kao noted that one instance of irreparable harm that the justices noted was the impact of Cuomo’s restrictions on daily Catholic masses.
“Unlike Cuomo,” she said of the justices, “they looked at the restrictions, caps, the size of the buildings.”
Synagogues and cathedrals hold upwards of 1,000 people, Kao noted, and the “arbitrary” limits on the number of those who could gather to worship were “totally unrelated to the size of the buildings.”
Kao, who is the Heritage Foundation’s director of the Richard and Helen DeVos Center for Religion & Civil Society, emphasized that the ruling will probably influence lower courts, setting the tone for future cases on COVID restrictions and religious freedom.
“There’s a lot of reasons for optimism from the court’s opinion,” Kao added, “but it is a temporary injunction, so it’s not a final decision as to the litigants, but a very encouraging development.”
On Thursday, the Supreme Court also ruled against Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s restrictions on worship services during the coronavirus pandemic.
Justices tossed out an order from a Central District of California court that had upheld Newsom’s restrictions on houses of worship, CBS News reported Thursday. In light of last week’s Supreme Court ruling, the justices sent the dispute back to a lower court for further review.
400 years ago this month, a weary band of Christians from England came ashore in New England after a grueling 66-day voyage aboard the Mayflower.
The Pilgrims came for one purpose, which they spelled out in writing: “for the glory of God and the advancement of the Christian faith.”
It was all about religious freedom. They wanted to worship Jesus in the purity of the Gospel.
150 years after the Pilgrims came, the founders of this nation enshrined religious freedom in our national charter, the Constitution.
When the Constitution was first written, there were some hesitations toward ratifying it. Many of those who accepted it did so upon the assurance that religious freedom would be guaranteed. Thus, the founders amended the Constitution with the Bill of Rights, the document’s first ten amendments.
First and foremost among these was religious freedom. The first two freedoms enshrined in the First Amendment deal with religious liberty. In effect, these liberties were understood to mean there would be no national denomination, and people were free to practice their faith as they saw fit. Implied in that is that the non-believer would be free to practice his lack of faith.
Jump forward to today, 400 years after the Pilgrims arrived, and in the land for which they sought refuge, religious freedom is at risk. With tongue and cheek, one wag asked, “Can we uninstall 2020 and install it again? This version has a virus.”
That virus, Covid-19, has been the excuse many anti-Christians bigots have used to try to hamstring churches. We have seen in the last several months an unprecedented assault on religious freedom.
Just consider a few examples:
•Last week a judge in California ruled that strip clubs should be allowed to re-open, despite the pandemic, because the First Amendment is not nullified by a virus. And yet at the very same time, officials in California insist churches must be closed or severely limited because of the pandemic.
•The Supreme Court ruled in the Calvary Chapel v. Sisolak case (July 24, 2020) out of Nevada that it was okay for the state to limit how many people could attend worship services, but the casinos were allowed to operate more freely. In his dissent on this case, Justice Neil Gorsuch declared, “…there is no world in which the Constitution permits Nevada to favor Caesars Palace over Calvary Chapel.”
•Abortion clinics have been deemed “essential services” by a number of liberal governors, while churches are categorized as “non-essential.”
Rev. John MacArthur is one of the most listened-to and respected Bible teachers in our time. His church is in the greater Los Angeles area. He is generally not one to speak out on political matters. But after months of the pandemic and the way many state officials impair churches because of it, MacArthur decided that enough is enough. He reopened his church—despite threats from state and local officials.
Jenna Ellis, MacArthur’s attorney from the Thomas More Society, said “Our position has been that L. A. County shutting down churches indefinitely amid a virus with a 99.98% survival rate, especially when state-preferred businesses are open and protests are held without restriction, is unconstitutional and harmful to the free exercise of religion.
Kelly Shackelford of First Liberty, which also fights for religious freedom, told D. James Kennedy Ministries: “All people have to do is look at the ‘experts’ saying, ‘Well, you can’t sing at church, but oh yeah, the [BLM and Antifa] protests, we’re okay with that because that’s important.”
It would appear that Christophobic bigots are using the pandemic to curb religious freedom in a country that was born for religious freedom.
Author and speaker Bill Federer once told me in a TV interview: “Tolerance was an American Christian contribution to the world. Just as you drop a pebble in the pond, the ripples go out, there was tolerance first for Puritans and then Protestants, then Catholics, then liberal Christians, and then it went out completely to Jews. Then in the early 1900s, tolerance went out to anybody of any faith, monotheist or polytheist. Finally, within the last generation, tolerance went out to the atheist, the secular humanist and the anti-religious. And the last ones in the boat decided it was too crowded and decided to push the first ones out. So now we have a unique situation in America, where everybody’s tolerated except the ones that came up with the idea. And so when people say Christians are intolerant, we really need to correct them and say, ‘No, we’re the ones that came up with the idea of tolerance.’”
The Pilgrims sacrificed everything they had to practice religious freedom. It would be horrible to see the gift they bequeathed to the world uprooted in our time by secular fundamentalists.
This year marks the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrims’ arrival at Plymouth, Massachusetts, in 1620, an event which President John Quincy Adams described as the “birthday” of our nation. You might expect this seminal moment in world history to be commemorated with great fanfare. But don’t get your hopes up.
Even if the coronavirus hadn’t cancelled the celebration, the left’s cancel culture would have. The same wokesters who are busytopplingstatues and banningliterature have unfairly maligned our Pilgrim fathers and reframed the history of the nation they founded.
“There appear to be few commemorations, parades, or festivals to celebrate the Pilgrims this year, perhaps in part because revisionist charlatans of the radical left have lately claimed the previous year as America’s true founding,” Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) said last week in a speech honoring the Pilgrims’ 400 anniversary.
The “revisionist charlatans” he was referring to are the authors of the New York Times’ “1619 Project,” which commemorates the year that the first ship arrived in the Virginia colony carrying African slaves. Recognizing the significance of the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery is certainly worthwhile, but the 1619 Project’s authors went beyond recognition and sought to “reframe” all of American history around the events of 1619. For this, they havebeenroundlycriticizedbyhistorians who decry their many inaccuracies and revisionist interpretations (including, for example, their claim that the American Revolution was fought in order to preserve slavery in the colonies).
Most of the criticism has focused on the Project’s controversial claim (which was later scrubbed from the New York Times’ website) that 1619 is the year of “our true founding,” not 1620 when the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth and planted the seed of our democracy that ripened in 1776.
In a Times op-ed rebutting the critics, Nicholas Guyatt argues that “the 1619 Project radically challenges a core narrative of American history” by refuting the notion that “the story of the United States [is] a gradual unfolding of freedom.” Instead, the Project’s authors “describe a nation in which racism is persistent and protean. White supremacy shapeshifts through the nation’s history, finding new forms to continue the work of subjugation and exclusion.”
In other words, they think Abraham Lincoln got it wrong when he said our nation was “conceived in Liberty.” They think it was conceived in racism.
And now there is a push to incorporate the 1619 Project into school curriculums to assist the woke revisionists who are already hard at work rewriting our history one school kid at a time, just as they’ve been busy for years now “reframing” the history of the Pilgrims and Thanksgiving.
Ann Coulter gave an excellent summary of the new woke interpretation of Thanksgiving: “As every contemporary school child knows, our Pilgrim forefathers took a break from slaughtering Indigenous Peoples to invite them to dinner and infect them with smallpox, before embarking on their mission to fry the planet.”
She’s not joking. America’s teachers have “begun a slow, complex process of ‘unlearning’ the widely accepted American narrative of Thanksgiving,” Education Weekreported last year. To unlearn the “myth” of Thanksgiving, educators are seeking ways “to help students appreciate colonial oppression of Natives and the violence that ensued from it.” The article helpfully includes a video of PBS NewsHours’ Judy Woodruff explaining that the “quintessential feel-good holiday” of Thanksgiving actually “perpetuates a myth and dishonors Native Americans.”
The story of Thanksgiving fares even worse on college campuses, where students are taught that it should be commemorated as a “National Day of Mourning,” not a day off for food, family, and football.
“It’s kind of just based off the genocide of the indigenous people,” one student at Minnesota’s Macalester College told the College Fix. “The history of the holiday is obviously not the best. It’s very violent and oppressive,” said another.
Sorry, no. This left-wing “narrative of Thanksgiving” is historically inaccurate garbage. We know who the Pilgrims are and what they did because they meticulously documented everything for posterity.
Our Founding Myth
Our knowledge of the Pilgrims comes from two primary sources. The earliest account is from Edward Winslow, whose report on the founding of the Plymouth settlement was published in London in 1622, just two years after the Pilgrims arrived in the New World. The more detailed and authoritative account comes from the Pilgrims’ second governor, William Bradford, whose poignant and eloquent history Of Plymouth Plantation, written between 1630 and 1651, tells the story of the community from their formation in England to their exile in Holland and their eventual founding of the Plymouth Colony.
Any fair reading of the primary source documentation will give you all the evidence you need to understand why we chose the Pilgrims’ arrival at Plymouth as the date of “our true founding” and the basis of our founding myth.
But before I examine that record, let me make clear what I mean by the term founding myth. To call an event a founding myth is not to denigrate it or to question its historical accuracy. The fact that Americans don’t understand this is an indictment of our education system, which longer teaches the classics.
Our nation’s Founders understood what a founding myth meant. They used the term – just as I am now using the term – in the way the ancient Greeks and Romans understood it. A nation’s origin myth isn’t a falsification of history meant to deceive. Quite the contrary! It is a story rooted in history that reflects a nation’s most sacred values, rituals, and identity. To call something your founding myth is to state: This is who we were, this is who we are, and this is who we aspire to be.
An origin myth often describes the emergence of a new civilization out of the ashes of an older one.
Take, for example, the Aeneid, Virgil’s epic poem recounting the founding myth of ancient Rome. In one of the most memorable passages, Virgil provided us with a perfect reflection of the Roman concept of pietas, which means a religious and familial duty. Virgil described his hero, Aeneas, fleeing the burning city of Troy while grasping the hand of his young son and carrying on his back his elderly father who is cradling in his arms their family’s household gods. In that beautiful tableau, Aeneas reflects all the values the Romans held most sacred: He is protecting his family and honoring his gods, as he flees the fall of one civilization and courageously sets out to found another, greater one in Rome.
There is a reason why we chose the Pilgrims and their establishment of the Plymouth Colony in 1620 as our origin myth, not the Virginians who settled in Jamestown over a decade before that date. Our reasoning had everything to do with the Pilgrims’ lack of racism. Americans always aspire to be on the side of righteousness, and the Pilgrims were nothing if not righteous.
Their story embodies our most sacred American values. Like Aeneas fleeing the fall of Troy, the Pilgrims saw themselves as fleeing a cataclysmic conflagration about to engulf Europe. And like the Roman hero, they too hoped to build a new civilization with a spark from the dying embers of the old one.
This is exactly how John Quincy Adams viewed the story of the Pilgrims. In a beautiful speech in 1802 commemorating the landing at Plymouth, Adams described the Pilgrims as America’s origin myth; but unlike other nations, the heroes of our founding myth were clearly known to us by their historical record, and they were defined by their virtue, not by their conquest.
“In reverting to the period of [their] origin, other nations have generally been compelled to plunge into the chaos of impenetrable antiquity, or to trace a lawless ancestry into the caverns of ravishers and robbers,” Adams told his American audience. “It is your peculiar privilege to commemorate, in this birthday of your nation, an event ascertained in its minutest details; an event of which the principal actors are known to you familiarly, as if belonging to your own age; an event of a magnitude before which imagination shrinks at the imperfection of her powers. It is your further happiness to behold, in those eminent characters, who were most conspicuous in accomplishing the settlement of your country, men upon whose virtue you can dwell with honest exultation.”
What’s more, Adams explained that the Pilgrims were the antithesis of cruel or racist conquers seeking to vanquish and plunder. Instead, they “were illustrious by their intrepid valor no less than by their Christian graces … Their glory has not been wafted over oceans of blood to the remotest regions of the earth. They have not erected to themselves colossal statues upon pedestals of human bones, to provoke and insult the tardy hand of heavenly retribution. But theirs was ‘the better fortitude of patience and heroic martyrdom.’ Theirs was the gentle temper of Christian kindness; the rigorous observance of reciprocal justice; the unconquerable soul of conscious integrity.”
So, who were these heroes who engendered such praise?
Let me tell you their story using their own words. You will see why we chose their arrival as the date of “our true founding” and why that decision says everything about who we were, who we are, and who we aspire to be.
Saints and Strangers
The Pilgrims were devout Christians, and much like evangelical Christians today, these Englishmen and women sought to live by a simpler Biblical-based faith modeled after the early church of the Apostles.
They wanted to live as a community that worshipped and worked together, but England and its established Church enacted laws that forbade religious gatherings in private houses. These laws basically thwarted the Pilgrims’ ability to practice their faith as a community. So, in 1608, faced with the threat of imprisonment for their faith, the small community fled England and settled in Holland, which was known as a refuge for Protestant dissenters.
But after living a decade among the Dutch, they realized it was time to leave the Old World altogether. In 1618, Europe was on the cusp of one of the most violent periods in its history. The conflict, which became known as the Thirty Years War, would pit Protestant and Catholic European powers against each other. For the Pilgrims, the impending cataclysm seemed like the beginning of Armageddon. They felt the best course of action was to leave the Old World behind and try to establish some holy remnant in the new one.
Getting there was the hard part. The small community was not wealthy. They were humble working class folks. They were pious husbands and wives with children seeking a place where they could worship in peace, not adventurers seeking treasure and conquest on behalf of a monarch. Nevertheless, the congregation pooled its resources and obtained a land patent from the Plymouth Company to settle in an area at the northernmost tip of the Virginia Company’s colony. They would eventually receive financing from London bankers who offered to back their venture with the understanding that the Pilgrims would repay these debts with their labors in the New World.
A merchant vessel called the Mayflower was charted for them, but the London financiers made it clear that the Pilgrims weren’t going to be the only passengers. The investors insisted that a rag tag crew of non-religious settlers—who the Pilgrims referred to as “the Strangers”—were also coming along for the ride, and that would soon become a source of awkwardness. But that was the least of their worries, really.
The ‘Embarkation of the Pilgrim Fathers’ from England in September 1620, as they commence their journey on the Mayflower to the New World. (Archive Photos/Getty Images)
By the time the Mayflower left Plymouth, England, on September 6, 1620, with 102 passengers onboard, they were setting sail way too late in the year for a successful journey. Trans-Atlantic sea voyages were a frightening and often fatal endeavor. It was comparable to going to the Moon or Mars. Even the best crossing was perilous, and that would be in springtime when the weather was more moderate. To set out in September meant they were arriving in winter … But wait, it got worse…
The Mayflower at sea
After 65 days—and two deaths—at sea, the Mayflower made landfall on November 9, 1620.
“Having found a good haven and being brought safely in sight of land, they fell upon their knees and blessed the God of Heaven who had brought them over the vast and furious ocean, and delivered them from all the perils and miseries of it, again to set their feet upon the firm and stable earth, their proper element,” Bradford wrote of that moment.
But the jubilation was short lived. They soon discovered they were over 200 miles off-course. They were nowhere near Virginia. And what’s worse, it was almost winter—inMassachusetts.
“Having thus passed the vast ocean, and that sea of troubles,” the Pilgrims “had no friends to welcome them, nor inns to entertain and refresh their weather-beaten bodies, nor houses — much less towns — to repair to,” Bradford wrote:
As for the season, it was winter, and those who have experienced the winters of the country know them to be sharp and severe, and subject to fierce storms, when it is dangerous to travel to known places, — much more to search an unknown coast. Besides, what could they see but a desolate wilderness, full of wild beasts and wild men; and what multitude there might be of them they knew not!
…Summer being done, all things turned upon them a weather-beaten face; and the whole country, full of woods and thickets, presented a wild and savage view.
So, why didn’t they just turn around and head south for Virginia? Because the Mayflower’s captain told them that he couldn’t spare any more provisions. He needed to keep stores saved for his own return voyage to England. So, they had to shove off and muddle onshore as best they could because he wasn’t hanging around forever, and if they didn’t get a-move on he might just dump them onshore and abandon them to the elements before they even had time to build a shelter.
Again, Bradford, writing in third person, explained the situation the Pilgrims found themselves in:
If they looked behind them, there was the mighty ocean which they had passed, and was now a gulf separating them from all civilized parts of the world. If it be said that they had their ship to turn to, it is true; but what did they hear daily from the captain and crew? That they should quickly look out for a place with their shallop, where they would be not far off; for the season was such that the captain would not approach nearer to the shore till a harbour had been discovered which he could enter safely; and that the food was being consumed apace, but he must and would keep sufficient for the return voyage. It was even muttered by some of the crew that if they did not find a place in time, they would turn them and their goods ashore and leave them.
The Mayflower in Plymouth harbor, painting by William Formby Halsall (Library of Congress)
The Kernel of Our Democracy
A new conflict arose before they could even get started. They had no governing agreement binding them. Their charter was for Virginia, not wherever this place was.
The “Strangers”—who weren’t especially civil or pious—felt no allegiance to the Pilgrims or to each other. They figured it was every man for himself. But with winter setting in and with dangerously few provisions to speak of, the Pilgrims knew that if they didn’t all stick together, they would all die.
Edward Winslow explained what happened next:
This day before we came to harbor, observing some not well affected to unity and concord, but gave some appearance of faction, it was thought good there should be an association and agreement that we should combine together in one body, and to submit to such government and governors as we should by common consent agree to make and choose, and set our hands to this that follows word for word.
Thus, they wrote out and signed what became known as the Mayflower Compact, the first governing document of the Plymouth Colony—and the first document to establish self-governance in the New World.
Here are the words:
IN THE NAME OF GOD, AMEN. We, whose names are underwritten, the Loyal Subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord King James, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, &c. Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith, and the Honour of our King and Country, a Voyage to plant the first Colony in the northern Parts of Virginia; Do by these Presents, solemnly and mutually, in the Presence of God and one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil Body Politick, for our better Ordering and Preservation, and Furtherance of the Ends aforesaid: And by Virtue hereof do enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions, and Officers, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general Good of the Colony; unto which we promise all due Submission and Obedience. IN WITNESS whereof we have hereunto subscribed our names at Cape-Cod the eleventh of November, in the Reign of our Sovereign Lord King James, of England, France, and Ireland, the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth, Anno Domini; 1620
The signatures on the Mayflower Compact, including William Brewster, William Bradford, Myles Standish, and Edward Winslow. (Three Lions/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
The Signing of the Mayflower Compact in 1620, painting by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris, 1899 (Wikimedia Commons)
It was clear to them that the only thing binding them to this governing document was their own consent as the ones being governed by it.
“What they did was enact social compact theory that had been sort of kicked around in Europe, especially in Britain, for a while,” University of Oklahoma historian and author Professor Wilfred McClay told Breitbart News. “They created a body politic out of the consent of those who were aboard the ship, and they had the foresight to realize they should and could do that.”
The Mayflower Compact wasn’t an elaborate political and legal charter establishing a system of government, like our Constitution. Nor was it a treatise establishing a governing philosophy, like our Declaration of Independence. It was little more than a paragraph. But within that paragraph we have the kernel of our democracy.
This true historical event, taking place nearly two centuries before the signing of the Declaration of Independence, embodied a fundamental American value: the belief that government is based on the consent of the governed.
Our First Dark Winter
Having signed a governing agreement, the Plymouth settlers then elected their first governor, John Carver. During their first forays ashore, the settlers discovered that the area was largely desolate.
In the years prior to their arrival, the population of the local Indian tribes had been decimated by civil wars and by a plague brought by European fisherman. The disease had wiped out whole villages, where the settlers found only scattered bones, left to the elements because no one survived to bury them.
They decided to build their settlement on the ruins of an abandoned Indian village called Patuxet, where once as many as 2,000 Indians had lived before the plague ravaged the area.
So, finally on December 18, 1620, with the Mayflower anchored a mile offshore, the Pilgrims came ashore in the bitter cold, with rain and sleet pouring down on them, to build their settlement.
The Landing of the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock, painting by P.F. Rothermel (Library of Congress)
The Pilgrims make camp at Plymouth Colony in December of 1620, as the Mayflower lies anchored in the bay and a Native American watches furtively from the trees. (MPI/Getty Images)
Is it any wonder that they lost over half their numbers that winter?
They were ill-equipped. The weather was impossible. Many of them didn’t even leave the Mayflower, and eventually the ship was turned into a makeshift hospital for the sick and dying. Those who settled in the village lived in constant fear of being attacked by hostile Indian tribes.
During the course of the winter months, so many members of the Plymouth Colony died that they were afraid to bury their dead lest the Indians realize how thinned out their numbers had become. At one point, Winslow wrote that they propped up the corpses against the trees surrounding the settlement and placed muskets in their arms to disguise the dead to look like sentries guarding the perimeter of the colony.
By the time March came around, the settlers were barely holding on, but the captain and crew of the Mayflower were ready to leave for the return voyage to England. This was a make-or-break moment for the Plymouth Colony. Would they survive on their own with their last tie to England gone and no hope of return?
Samoset and Squanto
At that providential moment, an Indian named Samoset of the Wampanoag Tribe walked into the Plymouth camp and astonished the Pilgrims by greeting them in English, which he had learned from interacting with various contingents from the Virginia Colony.
Samoset of the Wampanoag Tribe entered the Plymouth settlement and called out a greeting of ‘Welcome’ in English. (Archive Photos/Getty Images)
The settlers learned from Samoset that this area was the Wampanoag Tribe’s territory, but the tribe had been so weakened by the plague that their leader, Massasoit, felt increasingly at the mercy of enemy tribes, who also happened to be the same ones menacing the Pilgrims.
As Winslow recounted:
[Samoset] discoursed of the whole country, and of every province, and of their sagamores, and their number of men, and strength. The wind being to rise a little, we cast a horseman’s coat about him, for he was stark naked, only a leather about his waist, with a fringe about a span long, or little more; he had a bow and two arrows, the one headed, and the other unheaded. He was a tall straight man, the hair of his head black, long behind, only short before, none on his face at all; he asked some beer, but we gave him strong water and biscuit, and butter, and cheese, and pudding, and a piece of mallard, all which he liked well, and had been acquainted with such amongst the English. He told us the place where we now live is called Patuxet, and that about four years ago all the inhabitants died of an extraordinary plague, and there is neither man, woman, nor child remaining, as indeed we have found none, so as there is none to hinder our possession, or to lay claim unto it.
Six days later, Samoset returned to the village with the Wampanoag leader Massasoit. After entertaining their visitors with food and sport, the Pilgrims and the Wampanoags negotiated a mutually beneficial agreement. They would defend each other in the event of an attack by the hostile tribes. And later on, they would establish trade with each other. To help the settlers survive the next winter, an Indian by the name of Tisquantum, or Squanto, stayed with the settlers to show them how to plant their spring crops.
Circa 1621, Massasoit, chief of the Wampanoag Tribe, pays a friendly visit to the Pilgrims’ camp at Plymouth Colony with his warriors, after signing the earliest recorded treaty in New England with Governor John Carver. (MPI/Getty Images)
Massachusetts and Virginia
Squanto’s story offers us a good opportunity to explain the difference between the Plymouth and Virginia colonies.
Squanto spoke English because in 1614, six years before the Pilgrims arrived, an expedition from the Virginia Colony led by Captain John Smith (of Pocahontas fame) charted the area around Cape Cod and Massachusetts Bay.
One of the commanders with Smith, a man named Thomas Hunt, decided to make extra money by kidnapping Indians and selling them into slavery. Squanto was among the victims Hunt trafficked to England, which is how he learned English. He eventually regained his freedom after his final captor, an English explorer named John Dermer, died during an expedition to the Wampanoag territory.
The tragic irony is that, had Squanto not been taken against his will across the ocean, he would have died with the rest of his village when Patuxet was wiped out by the plague. You see, Squanto was the sole survivor of the Patuxets—the people whose deserted village the Pilgrims had built their settlement upon.
And yet this man, who had so many reasons to curse the English, worked side by side with the Pilgrims that spring of 1621, showing them how to plant crops and assisting them in establishing trade with the surrounding tribes. Without his help, the Plymouth Colony would have failed.
Squanto (aka Tisquantum) of the Patuxet Tribe pointing out a coastal rock while serving as guide and interpreter for the Pilgrims. (Kean Collection/Getty Images)
From their encounters with Squanto and the other Indians, the men and women of Plymouth came to respect the Native people and feel shame for the treatment they had endured at the hands of other Englishmen.
Historian Nathaniel Philbrick explains one encounter:
At Cummaquid they encountered disturbing evidence that all was not forgotten on Cape Cod when it came to past English injustices in the region. An ancient woman, whom they judged to be a hundred years old, made a point of seeking out the Pilgrims “because she never saw English.” As soon as she set eyes on them, she burst into tears, “weeping and crying excessively.” They learned that three of her sons had been captured seven years before by Thomas Hunt, and she still mourned their loss. “We told them we were sorry that any Englishman should give them that offense,” Winslow wrote, “that Hunt was a bad man, and that all the English that heard of it condemned him for the same.”
And that was just one tale of the atrocities committed by European explorers before the Pilgrims even arrived in the New World. In fact, even before hearing these tales, the Pilgrims were distrustful of the attitude of the other English settlers
The title page of John Smith’s account his exploration of New England, published in 1616.
Before they left England, the Pilgrims were looking for a military commander for their settlement. By far the most qualified man for the job was Captain John Smith (again, of Pocahontas fame). No one knew the whole region better than Smith. He literally drew the map of it. But the Pilgrims didn’t like him. They found him arrogant and too worldly and figured they could just make do with his maps without hiring the map-maker.
The dislike was mutual; Smith despised the Pilgrim’s piety and later mocked their refusal to hire him. He would dismissively describe them as “humorists” (meaning religious fanatics) and would write that the Pilgrims refused “to have any knowledge by any but themselves, pretending only religion their governor and frugality their counsel.” And he meant that as an insult!
Smith was right that the Pilgrims could have saved themselves a lot of grief if they had hired someone who knew where he was going. But in the end, the Pilgrims survived thanks to their fortitude, the grace of God, and the help of their new friends.
And, yes, they did indeed regard the Indians as their friends. As Winslow recounted that year, “We have found the Indians very faithful in their covenant of peace with us; very loving and ready to pleasure us; we often go to them, and they come to us.”
Far from being judgmental or superior to them, the Pilgrim Winslow described their Native allies as “a people without any religion or knowledge of God, yet very trusty, quick of apprehension, ripe-witted, just.”
Nearly two centuries later, John Quincy Adams would state that “no European settlement ever formed upon this continent has been more distinguished for undeviating kindness and equity toward” the Native Americans than the Pilgrims at Plymouth.
And that brings us to the Thanksgiving story.
Our First “Quintessentially Feel-Good Holiday”
With the help of Squanto, the Pilgrims had a successful harvest in the fall of 1621. They had come through the first winter, after losing 60 percent of their group. But rather than mourn the 60 percent lost, they rejoiced that 40 percent still lived and gave thanks to God.
They began now to gather in the small harvest they had, and to fit up their houses and dwellings against winter, being all well recovered in health and strength and had all things in good plenty. For as some were thus employed in affairs abroad, others were exercised in fishing, about cod and bass and other fish, of which they took good store, of which every family had their portion. All the summer there was no want; and now began to come in store of fowl, as winter approached, of which this place did abound when they came first (but afterward decreased by degrees). And besides waterfowl there was great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison, etc. Besides, they had about a peck of meal a week to a person, or now since harvest, Indian corn to that proportion.
The famous Thanksgiving harvest feast that we’ve come to cherish is from Winslow:
Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after have a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors; they four in one day killed as much fowl, as with a little help beside, served the company almost a week, at which time amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest King Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain, and others. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.
And there you have it! The Pilgrims gathered for a harvest feast, and the Wampanoags joined them and brought venison to add to feast, which lasted for three days and included sports (no word on whether it was football).
Let the record show that this first Thanksgiving actually was a “quintessentially feel-good holiday.”
Thanksgiving at Plymouth, painting by Jennie Augusta Brownscombe, 1925 (National Museum of Women in the Arts)
Why Lincoln Chose 1620 to Rebuke 1619
So why did Abraham Lincoln choose to make this account of Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863?
Our origin myth was still a matter of some debate up until that time. Throughout the early nineteenth century, Americans hotly debated whether the nation’s founding should be celebrated as the Jamestown Colony in Virginia or the Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts. The decision to favor Plymouth was helped along by the rediscovery of Bradford’s beautiful diary, Of Plymouth Plantation.
Bradford’s manuscript had disappeared from the New World in 1777 when the last royal governor of the colony took it from the Old South Church in Boston and carted it across the Atlantic to England. He probably meant this as a final insult to the patriotic New Englanders who were reviled by the British as traitors and brigands fomenting rebellion.
The first page of William Bradford’s ‘Of Plymouth Plantation’ (State Library of Massachusetts)
For nearly a century Bradford’s manuscript was lost to Americans, until one Boston scholar happened to see a passage in another book quoting Bradford’s journal. He eventually discovered that the manuscript had been housed all that time in the library of the Bishop of London. (Yes, I know, the irony — the Pilgrim Bradford’s journal was being held by a bishop of the very Church that forced Bradford’s persecuted community to flee from England.)
For decades, the Brits refused to return the manuscript to its proper owners in the United States. (They really know how to hold a grudge.)
But in 1856 the British allowed a special edition of Bradford’s journal to be published, and that inspired a renewed appreciation for the Pilgrims and their history.
The publication came right at a time when our nation was on the cusp of a great conflagration—as bloody and catastrophic for us as the war that caused the Pilgrims to flee Europe. It was a fight over our most basic and sacred values: the right of all men—not just Englishmen—to live in freedom and enjoy the fruits of self-governance.
So, is it any wonder that in the midst of the bloodiest year of our Civil War—just one month before he delivered his Gettysburg Address—Abraham Lincoln decided once and for all that our nation’s founding should harken to Plymouth, not Virginia?
Of course, Lincoln chose to honor the ancestors of the New England abolitionists, not the rebellious slaveowners of Virginia.
On October 3, 1863, our 16th president declared that Thanksgiving would be commemorated as a national holiday every year on the last week in November in honor of the Pilgrim fathers.
In this sense, Lincoln chose the events of 1620 as our true founding in order to repudiate the events of 1619.
We chose the Pilgrims as our founding myth because they embodied our most cherished ideals. They were the best of us.
They endured despite the odds; and through trial and error, they established the principles of self-governance, private property, a common defense, and peaceful commerce as a means of coexistence. They even established the practice of religious tolerance and pluralism with the “Strangers” among them, who became friends.
John Alden with his wife, Priscilla, at the Plymouth Colony. Alden is said to be the first person from the Mayflower to set foot on Plymouth Rock in 1620. Painting by George H. Boughton, circa 1884. (Frederic Lewis/Archive Photos/Getty Images)
What’s more, the decision to embrace the Pilgrims as our true founders was made at a time when Americans were most keenly aware of the scourge of slavery because they were fighting a bloody civil war to eradicate it. These Americans understood that slavery was not just a moral blight; it was a deadly contradiction that we couldn’t live with and still pretend to uphold the self-evident truth that all men are created equal. The generation that suffered the most to abolish slavery chose the Pilgrims as our founders because the Pilgrims embodied the ideals that inspired them to free the slaves. They wanted us to know that our nation was founded on God-given freedom, not racism.
This sentiment was made clear in the speech Massachusetts Gov. Roger Wolcott delivered in 1897 at the official ceremony to accept the return of Bradford’s manuscript by England to its rightful owners in America.
The Plymouth settlement was “the birthplace of religious liberty, the cradle of a free Commonwealth,” Wolcott said:
In the varied tapestry which pictures our national life, the richest spots are those where gleam the golden threads of conscience, courage, and faith, set in the web by that little band [of Pilgrims]. May God in His mercy grant that the moral impulse which founded this nation may never cease to control its destiny; that no act of any future generation may put in peril the fundamental principles on which it is based — of equal rights in a free state, equal privileges in a free church, and equal opportunities in a free school.
Equal rights, equal privileges, equal opportunities – that is what Americans have always aspired to uphold. Conscience, courage, faith – that is what the Pilgrims stood for and what they prayed their descendants would stand for.
To honor the founding of Plymouth in 1620 is not to ignore the horrific history of American slavery that began in 1619 in Virginia. And to celebrate Thanksgiving is not to dismiss the atrocities committed against our Native communities, even sadly at the hands of the Pilgrims’ descendants. On Thanksgiving, we acknowledge that the Pilgrims and the Natives did, in fact, come together in peace in November 1621.
We celebrate their story—and the ritual reenactment of it with a turkey feast and prayers of thanksgiving—to acknowledge our highest aspirations, not to whitewash our history or minimize our mistakes. Thanksgiving affirms who we want to be because it commemorates who the Pilgrims actually were.
The National Monument to the Forefathers in Plymouth, Massachusetts. The 81-foot-tall statue (center) was dedicated in 1889. The monument’s inscriptions include a dedication panel (left), a list of the Mayflower passengers (top right), and an inscription from William Bradford’s manuscript (bottom right). (Wikimedia Commons)
“There is a kind of audacity about these people,” Professor McClay told Breitbart News. “The journeys were dangerous. The habitats into which they were coming were brutal. They lost many lives, and yet they had this sense—and [the Puritan leader John] Winthrop says it in his sermon—that they were on a mission from God, that ‘the eyes of all people are upon us’—which, when you think about it, this is like somebody going to the Moon—the dark side of the Moon—and saying, ‘The eyes of all people are upon us.’ Well, actually you’re on the Moon. Nobody’s watching! And yet they were so deeply committed to the vision of what they were doing, and that was the germ of what became ultimately a great nation.”
Actually, they knew that God was watching and all the future generations of their children.
In Of Plymouth Plantation, Bradford described the fateful moment when the Pilgrims realized that they had landed in an unsettled area and there was no way to turn back:
What, then, could now sustain them but the spirit of God, and His grace? Ought not the children of their fathers rightly to say: Our fathers were Englishmen who came over the great ocean, and were ready to perish in this wilderness; but they cried unto the Lord, and He heard their voice, and looked on their adversity.
… Let them therefore praise the Lord, because He is good, and His mercies endure forever. Yea, let them that have been redeemed of the Lord, show how He hath delivered them from the hand of the oppressor. When they wandered forth into the desert-wilderness, out of the way, and found no city to dwell in, both hungry and thirsty, their soul was overwhelmed in them. Let them confess before the Lord His loving kindness, and His wonderful works before the sons of men!
Amen. And Happy Thanksgiving.
Rebecca Mansour is Senior Editor-at-Large for Breitbart News. Follow her on Twitter at @RAMansour.
On Thanksgiving Day Christian leader Rev. Franklin Graham posted to Facebook he is thankful for President Donald Trump’s appointment of three conservative Supreme Court Justices.
Graham reflected on the High Court’s ruling Wednesday night “in favor of churches and against government overreach in the state of New York.”
In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court granted an injunction against New York Democrat Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s restrictions on worship services. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn and Agudath Israel of America, an Orthodox Jewish group, had filed a request for an emergency injunction against the governor’s pandemic directives that restricted worship services to ten people in some areas and 25 people in others.
Newly confirmed Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett joined the conservative majority, while Chief Justice John Roberts joined with the liberal wing of the Court.
“Justice Neil Gorsuch strongly criticized the court’s previous approach,” Graham posted, citing Gorsuch’s concurring opinion:
It is time—past time—to make plain that, while the pandemic poses many grave challenges, there is no world in which the Constitution tolerates color-coded executive edicts that reopen liquor stores and bike shops but shutter churches, synagogues, and mosques.
Senior editor at the Federalist Mollie Hemingway tweeted a “deleted and bigoted” tweet about the decision from the New York Times‘ Elizabeth Williamson:
“May God protect our nation from the storms that are on the horizon,” Graham concluded.