Email To Dave Welch


You write:

“If we give any credence to the architects of the structure, it is clear that they believed both design and Designer of our constitutional republic were ‘self-evident.’ They believed that the bedrock upon which rested its posterity is found in – and only in – the pages of Holy Scripture.”

I’ve read the Constitution, notes on the Constitutional Convention and the Federalist Papers and they DO NOT ASSERT THIS. Certainly the Bible was *a* source of inspiration for the Founding Fathers (and even the Donald S. Lutz, et al., study shows the Bible was at its LEAST import when the Federalists WROTE and RATIFIED the Constitution). There were other sources of inspiration as well, in particular the noble paganism of republican Rome. The Founders adopted those surnames NOT Hebraic or biblical ones.

Likewise YOU may be able to connect separation of powers to the Bible. But the Founders DID NOT cite the Bible for the proposition, but rather, as you note, Montesquieu.


Jon Rowe

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32 Responses to Email To Dave Welch

  1. Mark Boggs says:

    For the whole idea of “Christian Nationists” being “bogeymen” ideas that really don’t exist, you sure seem to be finding quite a few examples of that line of thought.

  2. Jon Rowe says:

    Yes there are quite a few of them. Our friend though — knowing him as well as I do — would point out, they all seem to write for WorldNetDaily.

  3. Mark Boggs says:

    And “nobody” reads that, right?

  4. James Hanley says:

    Mark Boggs,

    Nobody but Ed Brayton, who reads it daily, for the “edification” of his readers.

  5. Jon Rowe says:

    Hey I do that too!

  6. Mark Boggs says:

    It must be kinda like the porn industry. Nobody watches and yet they make a million dollars. But I’ll bet WND doesn’t do quite that well and sure as hell isn’t as much fun to look at.

  7. tom van dyke says:

    Well, they are a bogeyman. What’s the essence of Welch’s original post? That Christians should get out and vote for “godly” men, is all. Nothing John Jay didn’t say.

    “Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers, and it is the duty as well as the privilege and interest of our Christian nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers.”

    Now you might not like that, but it was recognized at the Founding that non-Christians could get elected, too. “Providence” gives America that choice.

    The irony is that Jefferson was quite suspect about his Christianity, but won the overwhelming support of evangelical Baptists because he was all for religious pluralism. The weekend he wrote “the Danbury Letter,” he sat in the chambers of the House of Representatives for a Sunday service.

    Do folks like Welch feel a certain hostility to religion from one political party? Ignore all the dispatches from the culture war and the scoffing about Jebusland. No, surely that’s a bogeyman.

  8. Mark Boggs says:


    Sometimes it feels like you’re Steve Martin’s character, Navin R. Johnson, in “The Jerk” where he’s telling people what they win if he can’t guess their weight and he keeps narrowing down the choices until there’s about two inches of shelf space worth of prize to choose from when one wins. “Anything between here and here.”

    It feels like you’ve got the whole definition of what Jon describes down to such an incredibly narrow definition that all of two people could possibly qualify as Christian Nationists, thus making the idea the bogeyman you claim it to be.

    My question, I guess is, what is the logical extension of what Welch is asking for?

  9. tom van dyke says:

    Mark, if you answer your own question honestly, you’ll prove my argument.

  10. Mark Boggs says:


    Help me with what the honest answer is, since you seem to know but you think I might shirk my responsibility to it.

  11. tom van dyke says:

    Mark, these Mexican standoffs are all too common, and a waste of time. One person does all the heavy lifting, the other takes potshots at it. This is not a proper joint inquiry, a discussion.

    You have something in mind; just say it and we’ll see how it stands up. Surely you have some burden of proof, I say this is a bogeyman and by the time we narrow the suspects down, it’s you with an indefensible Navin Johnson shelf.

    The fact is “Christian nationism” is more a sentiment than an agenda. It’s quite rightly, as one of Jon’s targets actually argues [J. Matt Barber]

    It was fashioned within the context and framework of the Judeo-Christian zeitgeist of the time and was further intended to function in harmony with a Judeo-Christian worldview – period. Though leftists may deny this reality, it remains indisputable fact. The historical record is unequivocal.

    …merely a “Judeo-Christian worldview,” one that the Mormon Glenn Beck fits into just fine, and perhaps even “deists” like Thomas Jefferson. Period. That’s what the man said, no more or less.

    No more or less than President Washington’s first thanksgiving proclamation:

    “…and also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions– to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually–to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed–to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord–To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and us–and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.”

    Whatever “true religion” is. Once Mormons and Jews are invited to the party, too, which they are, no “Jebusland” is really possible. This was true at the Founding, with its multitude of Protestant sects, it’s even more so now with a lot more Jews and Catholics around. [Hell, they didn’t even have Mormons yet.]

    In the end, “Christian nationists” aren’t saying any more than Jay or Washington did. This may seem scandalous in our more secular 21st century, but Jay and Washington might have found our current secularism scandalous, or at least insufficient for a healthy republic.

    So there, I made an affirmative argument anyway, although the burden of proof is really on the “Christian nation” bogeyman and Navin Johnson. Fire away.

  12. Jon Rowe says:

    “Hell, they didn’t even have Mormons yet.”

    But they did have my favorite analogy to them, the Swedenborgs whom they seemed to accept as just another “Protestant” sect.

  13. Michael Enquist says:

    “The “no religious test” clause does not, obviously apply to the individual in the voting booth. But if it’s an important enough principle to enshrine in the Constitution, then it may be a good idea for each voter to voluntarily apply it to him/herself.”

    Here’s the irony of that statement: If a voter believes that their religion requires them to judge the actions of others on how closely or not those actions conform to the voter’s religious beliefs, then if the voter does NOT apply their personal religious test to the candidates, then the voter is violating their own religious morals.

    The “no religious test” is perfect to apply to how the government can define the rules for who can or cannot be a candidate, but is a bad idea expect free individuals to use for their own, personal, voting selections.

    Every person who meets some minimum legal requirements (fewer than we have now, at least in Washington state) should be allowed to get their name on the ballot, including all the right-wing nutters, squishy liberals, tree-huggers, anti-science whackos, and writers and commentors of this blog that I would never vote for “in a million years,” and every voter should use whatever criteria they see fit to choose among those candidates.

  14. Mark Boggs says:


    You seem to have a lot more faith in the intentions of the people that Jon criticizes. And I can only guess you’re arguing that these folks make up a small enough percentage that their electoral chances are nearly nil or that they will be so diluted in the legislative framework as to be emasculated of whatever hopes they have of enacting their “agendas.” Although it also seems as though you perceive their agendas as rather innocuous. I tend to disagree. If that makes it a Mexican standoff, so be it. And my apologies to your back for having to do all the heavy lifting. But I do note that there tends to be more of these innocuous folks running for office and winning election than when I was growing up in the 80’s. Anecdotal observation to be sure although it does tend to align with the rise of the Christian Coalition.

    And as far as inviting Mormons and Jews to the party, that seems to only goes as far as they are electorally handy, as was evidenced when Romney tried to run as a religious conservative to the chagrin of the Huckabee wing of the GOP.

  15. tom van dyke says:

    At some point, Mark, it’s incumbent on you to make your charges specific about what the bogeymen would do if they could. So far they’re no more a threat to the republic than was George Washington.

  16. Mark Boggs says:

    But I actually think, based on the kinds of things you guys do at American Creation that Washington was a hell of a lot more tolerant of all views than some of the bogeymen are.

  17. Jon Rowe says:


    That’s a great point. One of my missions is to get the “bogeymen” to see how tolerant GW was, and perhaps, get them charitably to deal with folks like GW did. GW, for instance, seemed to have no personal theological problem with either the Swedenborgs (the closest thing to the Mormons from that era) or the Univeralists who taught universal salvation.

  18. tom van dyke says:

    You have to separate when they’re speaking politically or theologically. Many of these “bogeyman” have explicitly used the term “Judeo-Christian” when speaking politically. It goes without saying they have theological differences with Jews.

    One of the most religious Founders, Patrick Henry, an Episcopalian—who was a supporter of the religious assessments struck down by the Virginia Statute on Religious Freedom—was also a lawyer for two Baptists charged by the church/state establishment for, crudely put, “preaching the Gospel without a license.”

    There is simply no political suppression of opposing theological views being advocated by the lion’s share of so-called “Christian nationists.” For as Madison well argued, someday the bell will toll for thee.

  19. Jon Rowe says:

    I dunno Tom, I think we are crossing into the line of rejecting what government in principle stands for, regardless of what the policy yeilds. I’ve struggled with this myself: As a libertarian, it doesn’t matter whether government, says “under God,” “under the Trinity,” “under Allah,” “under the Arians,” “under the Socinians” as long as, when the rubber meets the road, government ends up treating everyone equally.

    Words are just words, right? As Jefferson said, neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.

    To make an analogy, there is a school of thought that says give gays everything right that marriage has, but don’t call it “marriage.” Reserve it for OS couples only.

    Words are just words right?

    I’m more about exploring the greater symbolic meaning in all this. I see GW accepting these outsiders because he was personally, at the very least, doctrinally lax, and theologically undetermined on the specifics.

  20. tom van dyke says:

    Well, you’re going to have to build back up to gay marriage. Too big a leap here.

    The point about Patrick Henry is more informative, a man of strong beliefs defending the rights of others with different beliefs. That’s mighty, that’s true religious pluralism.

    When you try to drag it any further than that, in the end your argument becomes that relativism is the only true tolerance, that the only permissible beliefs are those we ignore.

  21. Mark Boggs says:

    I’ll be honest, I really wish we could get the folks that I would term as the bogeymen to have their way in dragging religion to the forefront of all discussions that also relate to what is acceptable politically because, whereas Tom you give them the benefit of the doubt and make it seem like they speak of the two things separately (politically and theologically), I’m willing to bet that many of them would not be willing to make that separation when push comes to shove. And the reason I’d like them all to get it out in the open is to figure out just where this push comes to shove.

    As we saw with Romney and Huckabee, the evangelical wing of the GOP is mostly intolerant of Romney, not because of his views but because of his religion. And it is the particulars of his religion with which they find problems. To me, this is where the bogeyman rears its head. And ultimately Tom, why I might agree that these bogeymen’s influence comes to naught, but not without causing a great deal of rancor and chaos first. Let them get into a tit for tat about theological idiosyncracies and how or what effect that has on politics or, more importantly, policy. I realize that when the terms are vague enough and general enough, these various bogeymen can find consensus, but when it comes down to who gets to drive the bus, then I think you see a deterioration about who believes what and why and whether that makes them acceptable or unacceptable. And its why I was so disappointed in Romney’s speech about his religion; he tried to have it both ways. He tried to deflect discussion away from his particular religion while emphasizing the importance, almost to the point of exclusion, of being religious in terms of leadership.

  22. tom van dyke says:

    whereas Tom you give them the benefit of the doubt and make it seem like they speak of the two things separately (politically and theologically), I’m willing to bet that many of them would not be willing to make that separation when push comes to shove.

    Well, I’ve acquainted myself with their thinking. As you know I’m not an evangelical, not one of “them.”

    But as you rightly note, a lot of this “Christian nation” stuff is rhetoric and sentiment: once push came to shove, the actual theological differences would come to the forefront and concerted action would be impossible. And again, keep in mind 25% of the country is Catholic, which splits 50-50 between the parties. One might agree it’s a “Christian nation” but when the rubber meets the road, no Catholic wants to be ruled by fundies.

    And the white evangelical vote splits only 70-30 or so, less monolithically than black evangelicals or Jews. [There certainly is a black evangelical agenda, allied with the 30% of whites, which takes the form of liberalism and “social justice.” My “pluralist” position is that that’s just fine, too, that people vote their religious conscience that way.]

    As for Romney, I’m sure he took a hit from some evangelicals for his Mormonism, but could have made it up with non-evangelical GOPers. But I think you really hit the nail on the head, that Romney talks out of all 3 sides of his mouth, and that’s why he finished way behind in a rather weak field.

  23. Chris says:

    Tom, I’d take your assertion that these “Christian nationists” are, as represented by “secularists, mere bogemen, if it weren’t for the fact that their anti-Muslim stances increasingly make them look like “Christian nationalists.” Witness David Barton.

  24. tom van dyke says:

    Mark, I happened to run across that last night. Barton [whom I don’t particularly enjoy defending] explicitly said being a Muslim didn’t disqualify Keith Ellison from office. His opposition was based on values and policy.

    Let’s stay real—a Muslim will tend to vote for Ellison for those very reasons, values and policy. Social gospel Christians and tikkun Jews will vote Democrat for their congeniality to their theological positions.

    The sub rosa question here is how much we should ask our reading of history to accommodate current politics. Those who oppose the “Christian nation” rubric charge it’s an anti-history, but I wonder just who’s doing the revisionism.

    For my part, I’d love to see some small-government Muslims running, telling the whole world that we are all endowed by Allah with certain unalienable rights. That would be really cool, and much better than that “Christian” “God hates fags” lunatic.

  25. Mark Boggs says:

    That’s an extremely charitable reading of what Barton had to say about Ellison. He seems to begrudgingly accept the fact that Ellison was elected according to the normal processes but that his faith should cause us all great concern. In particualr because he was sworn in on Jefferson’s Koran.

    “Yet, that being said, is there still an understandable element of concern with Ellison’s election? Certainly. After all, America and Americans are currently the target of attacks by members of the same Islamic faith that Ellison professes; and while Ellison may not hold the same specific beliefs as America’s enemies, he nevertheless holds the same religion. That America might be concerned about Ellison because of the behavior of others in his religion may seem unfair, but it is reality.”

  26. tom van dyke says:

    OK, Mark, this is cool. But Barton explicitly said that Islam didn’t disqualify Ellison, no “charitable” reading needed.

    And Barton’s a partisan, stipulated.

    Let’s look at the whole story, then, from your own listed source:

    Muslims saw Ellison’s election and swearing-in as a great victory. For example, he recently spoke to a cheering crowd of 3,000 at a national convention of the Muslim American Society and the Islamic Circle of North America. At that event (described as being aimed “at revival and reform”), Ellison admonished his fellow Muslims: “You can’t back down. You can’t chicken out. You can’t be afraid. You got to have faith in Allah, and you’ve got to stand up and be a real Muslim! . . . On January 4, I will go swear an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States. I’ll place my hand on the Quran!” The crowd responded with enthusiastic applause, cheering “Allahu akbar!”

    Heh heh. Sounds like the Muslim version of Glenn Beck’s recent rally, although more sectarian.

    Now there were a number of folks on the secular left who had a big problem with Beck’s rally, were there not? Does the door swing both ways here?

  27. Mark Boggs says:

    My problem will always come when there are sentiments expressed by any number of people that their way is the only way, so much so that, if they had it in their power they would literally ensconce their way into law. So whether it be Beck’s throngs or Ellison’s throngs, I’m always disturbed by people who think their religion trumps our Constitution. But I also understand with freedom of conscience to believe whatever one wants, these two things (religious proscriptions and prescriptions v. Constitutional limits) will always be in friction to some degree.

    Of course, I’m not religious, so that may explain my bias.

  28. tom van dyke says:

    It would be interesting to discuss the totality of what Barton wrote there. Every step of the way, he says that Ellison was elected according to the Founding principles, including the electorate rejecting Christianity and/or electing a Muslim. The Founders saw the whole thing coming and said so be it.

    I prefer not to defend Barton chapter and verse—he is a partisan afterall, and also has been guilty of sloppy scholarship. But he quite fairly states the position of Founder Benjamin Rush here [and I might add, states it more fairly than Barton’s opponents often state his]:

    Rush was strongly committed to Christianity and sought to incorporate its principles throughout society (he started the Sunday School movement in America, founded America’s first Bible Society, endorsed the Bible in public schools, started a number of religious schools and universities, etc.); yet, he preferred having any religion in a society rather than no religion.

    And although Barton’s a partisan, both Christian and GOP, adds:

    In fact, even Muslims (with the exception of Ellison – at least based on his state legislative voting record) are pro-life, pro-traditional marriage, pro-creation science and Intelligent Design, pro-inalienable rights, etc.; secularists are opposed to every one of these and other traditional moral and religious values.

    I’m not big on the creation/intelligent design thing either, but Barton’s clearly trying to reconcile “Muslim” values with his own preferred “Judeo-Christian” ones.

    So, thx for the discussion, Mark, and I do hope you or whatever readers are left will read Barton’s entire piece, which although “advocacy” and therefore suspect, is on the whole accurate. [IIRC, Jefferson picked up the Quran when he began his study of law, not to “know your enemy,” since Islam had and has quite a developed system and philosophy of law.]

    At no point does Barton advocate anyone being denied their rights—his argument is “soft,” no different than John Jay’s that I cited at the very beginning of all this. If anyone has a problem with Jay’s or Barton’s argument—fairly stated—fine, but clarity is necessary first.

  29. Mark Boggs says:

    Yeah, I understand that Barton gave his blessings to the idea that Ellison was elected according to process but then spent a good deal of ink trying to warn us all about the dangers of Ellison’s faith.

    Do I also understand that he tried to claim John Randolph was the first Muslim legislator? You’re far more fluent than most in this, is he right? I’ve read that this is extremely dubious.

  30. tom van dyke says:

    I have no idea about Barton on Randolph, Mark. I don’t read Barton except when he’s challenged in these culture war things, to sort out the heat from the light for myself.

    I’m not sure I own a history book, except Colin McEvedy’s maps and facts. [Cheap!] [Very! They will change your life!]

    No Gordon Wood or Mark Noll or anybody. Never saw HBO’s John Adams. I just watch the battles and if there seems to be a key point in question, I hit the original documents. If Barton quotes a Founder, I hit the original doc to see if he left…something out…with an ellipsis, or took it out of context. Like the Roger Williams thing the other day.

    As I just wrote over at American Creation, my interest has always been in the theory of “rights.” It just so happens philosophy, theology and metaphysics all came together in one time and place with the “endowed by their creator” thing, 1776.

    [The Barton essay we’ve been discussing is really quite potent, agree or not with its conclusions. I’m fond of saying, use such things as a compass, not a map. Check it all for yrself.]

  31. Chris says:

    If Barton’s stance on Islam were limited to one politician, that’d be one thing. His larger stance on Islam is very different. And again, I say that when a person spends so much of his time and energy arguing that this is a Christian nation, his attacks (and through his radio show, they are just that) on members of another religion become something more than the usual right wing fear mongering and xenophobia.

  32. tom van dyke says:

    Well, we’re into the usual cant now, clearly straying from Barton’s actual remarks, which seem to be fine with Muslims who share traditional “Judeo-Christian” values.

    Just for the record, some left-wing fear-mongering and xenophobia. Enjoy.

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