- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 7, 2002

Mr. Jefferson's 'wall' legacy, right or wrong

Thank you for the excellent article pointing out that the concept of a wall separating church and state was the fictional construction of Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black and not the intent of the Founding Fathers ("Church, state 'wall' not idea of Jefferson," Page 1, Monday). To perpetuate his own religious prejudices, Justice Black used a single letter by Thomas Jefferson to form the basis of the concept of a wall of separation, even though it is contrary to other writings and actions of many of our Founding Fathers, Jefferson included.

Yet it is preposterous that, even if Jefferson wanted to totally separate church and state (let alone religious belief from politics), his opinion would have any bearing upon the First Amendment. After all, Jefferson was not one of the framers of the Constitution. Although his ideas and correspondence, especially to James Madison, were important to its formulation, Jefferson was Minister to France at the time and was not present during the drafting and ratification of the Constitution. Further, although he helped inspire it, the Bill of Rights was passed by Congress but not fully ratified prior to Jefferson's return from France in November 1789.

By divining the intent of the framers of the Constitution from a single letter written by someone who did not help draft it, Justice Black demonstrated supreme arrogance and deceit. For future good governance, it is vital that such arrogance and deceit be exposed and repudiated. The Washington Times did its job. Will law schools and jurists do theirs?

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Fairfax, Va.

Opponents of church-state separation have tried for years to minimize the impact of Thomas Jefferson's famous 1802 "wall of separation" letter to the Danbury Baptists. First, they tried to downplay the importance of Jefferson himself. When that failed, they began asserting that Jefferson really did not mean what he plainly states in the letter. The Washington Times' report on the latest "new" research is merely the latest round in this tiresome game.

A little perspective is helpful. The Supreme Court did not cite the "wall" metaphor favorably for the first time in 1947's Everson vs. Board of Education decision but rather in 1879's Reynolds vs. U.S. decision. In that ruling, the court declared that the metaphor "may be accepted almost as an authoritative declaration of the scope and effect of the [First] Amendment."

Furthermore, Everson can hardly be called an anti-Catholic ruling, since the majority gave the Catholic parents what they sought: state-funded bus transportation to parochial schools. Yet the majority also agreed with Justice Hugo Black about the importance of the church-state wall. Among those signing on to this purportedly anti-Catholic opinion was Justice Frank Murphy, a Roman Catholic himself.

Academic opponents of Jefferson's wall have puny weapons in their arsenals. Over the years they have fired them all, yet Americans still see the wall as a necessary structure ensuring the rights of all. Now theocracy-minded forces have resorted to smear campaigns, to the extent of actually arguing that the Ku Klux Klan built the wall. What's next? Perhaps next week we'll see a headline in The Times proclaiming, "Adolf Hitler, not Jefferson, created wall of separation."


Executive director

Americans United for Separation of Church and State


Cheap talk on free trade

I have a couple of comments to make regarding Richard W. Rahn's column "Pursuit of economic literacy" (Commentary, yesterday). In that piece he listed several "untrue" beliefs that Americans have about how economics work in a market economy. I can agree with some but not all of his assertions for the following reasons.

First, my business is in a recession. (Half of our work force has been laid off.) Since the public policy organizations for which Mr. Rahn "works" are not in a recession, obviously we out in the workplace are mistaken.

Second, this so-called panacea called free trade is responsible for my business having lost a million-dollar ratchet-handle contract for Stanley Tool Works to Taiwan, where workers live on a fraction of what it takes to keep an American family going. Mr. Rahn can educate our laid off workers all about free trade, but their newfound literacy will not feed their families.

Third, the aforementioned Stanley Tool Works decided to move its headquarters offshore to escape the onerous corporate tax burden. Upon what contingent of American workers should the burden of "saved tax dollars" enjoyed by such corporate defections fall? If they are unwilling to pay the full price for the protections and benefits of our domestic governments, they should move all their operations to a Third World tax haven and sell products exclusively to the natives.

In short, policies that sound great to the policy analysts in Washington think tanks often clang something awful in the ears of those who suffer their consequences.


North Adams, Mich.

Digging deep for 'heroes'

I selectively read The Washington Times, essentially every weekday morning. What bugs me recently is the tone of coverage of the rescue of the nine miners. First The Times ("Old time religion at bottom of the mine," Nation, July 30) and now the president ("Bush lauds 9 rescued coal miners who represent 'best of our country,'" Nation, yesterday) are celebrating these guys as some sort of heroes.

Yet not one is a hero. They had no choice but to wait or die. Rats would have had the same option. The difference is that rats would not be paid $150,000 each to sell their story to Disney, which will no doubt embellish it to produce a smash hit. In the meantime, the Disney payoff is contingent upon the miners not speaking to the media about their ordeal. So much for the inspirational value to the public that President Bush ascribed to them.

Of course, it won't do so, but Disney should pay the miners' rescuers for their story. If any people qualify as heroes in that situation, the rescuers did. National heroes are people who actually do something of value for our country, who volunteer to be in a dangerous situation, who suffer the training that prepares them for high risk, and who do it all with no expectation of anything beyond a ribbon of cloth, a sincere handshake or a congratulations of "well done" from a grizzled old mentor who has been there before.


Fredericksburg, Va.

Happy Purple Heart Day

Suzanne Fields' Monday Op-Ed column, "George Washington gets a facelift," was certainly timely. It was George Washington, as commander in chief of the Army, who, on Aug. 7, 1782, established the Purple Heart decoration (known then as the Badge of Military Merit) while he was encamped up the river from West Point. Today, Purple Heart Medal recipients, under the auspices of the Military Order of Purple Heart, will be commemorating Purple Heart Day. Locally, Greater Washington Chapter 353 of the Military Order of the Purple Heart of the U.S.A. will be holding a commemorative ceremony at Mount Vernon starting at 11:45 a.m. The public is welcome to join in this special remembrance of Washington, the father of our country and the Purple Heart Medal.

With more than 1.5 million Purple Heart Medals having been awarded over the years (and with about 550,000 recipients still living), many efforts are being made in communities of our nation by the Military Order of Purple Heart (MOPH) to remember George Washington's mighty contributions to America.

For example, MOPH is aiming to establish Purple Heart Trails for walking and biking in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the District. In Virginia, a trail is planned to cross the Purple Heart Memorial Bridge over the Occoquan River and continue beside Interstate 95 and I-64, plus bits of U.S. 1, most of Virginia Route 3 and the Mount Vernon Parkway.


Purple Heart recipient


Greater Washington Chapter 353

Military Order of the Purple Heart of the U.S.A.

Reston, Va.

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