The Frauds of the Clergy
by Thom Hartmann
Why would a multi-multi-millionaire Senator, who consistently votes to harm the hungry and the poor who so concerned Jesus, join forces with religious fundamentalists to stack this nation’s highest courts? Could it be because he and his wealthy Republican friends see huge financial benefits for themselves and their corporate patrons in a compliant court?
At the “Justice Sunday” event hyped to national prominence by Bill Frist’s appearance, Chuck Colson told America that we should read the Federalist Papers to understand the intent and the mind of the Founders.
Apparently Colson overlooked Federalist 47, published by James Madison on February 1, 1788. Titled, “The Particular Structure of the New Government and the Distribution of Power Among Its Different Parts,” Madison wrote about how important it was that the different branches of government serve as checks and balances on each other.
“No political truth is of greater intrinsic value, or is stamped with the authority of more enlightened patrons of liberty,” wrote Madison of the concern about any one particular group dominating all branches of government. He added, “The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.”
A paragraph later, Madison quotes the Enlightenment thinker Montesquieu, inserting his own capital letters for emphasis:
“‘When the legislative and executive powers are united in the same person or body,’ says he [Montesquieu], ‘there can be no liberty, because apprehensions may arise lest THE SAME monarch or senate should ENACT tyrannical laws to EXECUTE them in a tyrannical manner.’
“Again: ‘Were the power of judging joined with the legislative, the life and liberty of the subject would be exposed to arbitrary control, for THE JUDGE would then be THE LEGISLATOR. Were it joined to the executive power, THE JUDGE might behave with all the violence of AN OPPRESSOR.’”
Or perhaps Colson could read Federalist 48, in which Madison quotes from Thomas Jefferson’s “Notes on the State of Virginia.”
“All the powers of government, legislative, executive, and judiciary, result to the legislative body,” wrote Jefferson in this commentary quoted in Federalist 48. “The concentrating of these in the same hands, is precisely the definition of despotic government.
“It will be no alleviation, that these powers will be exercised by a plurality of hands, and not by a single one. One hundred and seventy-three despots would surely be as oppressive as one.”
Jefferson added, “An ELECTIVE DESPOTISM was not the government we fought for; but one ... in which the powers of government should be so divided and balanced among several bodies of magistracy, as that no one could transcend their legal limits, without being effectually checked and restrained by the others.
“For this reason, that Convention which passed the ordinance of government [the Constitution], laid its foundation on this basis, that the legislative, executive, and judiciary departments should be separate and distinct, so that no person should exercise the powers of more than one of them at the same time.’’
Unless, of course, you are a Republican sponsored by massive corporate interests and willing to invade people’s bedrooms to score political points with religious extremists.
The real power of the Republican Party is held by the corporatists - who Vice President Henry Wallace called “the American fascists” - whose loyalty is to hereditary wealth and corporate rule. (As the 1983 American Heritage Dictionary noted, fascism is: “A system of government that exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership, together with belligerent nationalism.”)
But this is such a small minority of Americans that Frist’s wealthy fascists had to bring along somebody else. They chose the religious fundamentalists for their unholy alliance.
The fundamentalists want to replace the Constitution with their unique and particular interpretation of Christian scripture. Their main assertion is that this nation’s first laws were based on the Ten Commandments.
The Founders disagree. As Jefferson famously wrote in his “Notes on Virginia”:
“The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”
In fact, Jefferson said, the idea that this nation was founded in Christianity, or that the Ten Commandments were a pattern for the Constitution, was a “fraud of the clergy.”
“Christianity was not introduced [to England] till the seventh century,” wrote Jefferson in a February 10, 1814 letter to Dr. Thomas Cooper, “the conversion of the first Christian king of the Heptarchy having taken place about the year 598, and that of the last about 686. Here, then, was a space of two hundred years, during which the common law was in existence, and Christianity no part of it. ...
“In truth, the alliance between Church and State in England has ever made their judges accomplices in the frauds of the clergy; and even bolder than they are.”
But the bottom line for the corporatists is that if the religious conservatives - whipped into a frenzy by the thought that a woman may deign to control her own body - can change the courts to be more “conservative,” the corporatists can be sure that the “conservative” judges are both opposed to abortion, and also radically in favor of corporate interests and hereditary wealth.
By helping out religious extremists, Frist’s corporate fascists will have much greater power to put into place judges who won’t overturn laws that deny the working class access to bankruptcy courts, the right to sue as a class when harmed, and will give multinational corporations the freedom to import, pollute, and profit at the expense of small businesses and communities. They’ll get judges who will outlaw birth control at the same time they outlaw unions and the minimum wage.
It’s nothing new, really. Most recently, the Saudi royal family made a similar deal with their religious conservatives. The oil barons gave the fundamentalists the power to enforce their religious agenda, stacking the courts with fundamentalist judges, who in turn acted as enforcers to preserve the oil barons’ political and economic power.
It worked for two generations, until the fundamentalists became so powerful that they decided the oil money should be theirs. The religious movement to take control of Saudi Arabia’s wealth was led by none other than Osama Bin Laden, who suggested that oil should sell for $200 a barrel, with the proceeds subsidizing evangelism around the world.
The House of Saud was appalled and threw him out of the country, so he went back to Afghanistan and hooked up with the Taliban, men after his own heart, and decided to take on the power that he felt was propping up the royal family - America.
Thus the ultimate irony, that a radical Catholic speaker at Sunday’s telecast would complain that his bunch was perceived by many as “America’s Taliban.” All while George W. Bush had moved over a billion taxpayer dollars to churches through his “faith based programs,” and fundamentalists avoided paying billions in taxes by promising to stay out of politics.
As Jefferson said in a June 5, 1824 letter to Major John Cartwright, “What a conspiracy this, between Church and State!”
Frauds of the clergy in the Middle East brought us 9/11, an explosion of Muslim conservativism, and a fourfold spike in terrorist incidents worldwide, while enriching the Saudi oil and Afghan heroin industries, and helping George W. Bush lead the world to the brink of war.
The merger of corporatist Republicans and the new “frauds of the clergy” could bring this nation to an even more terrible crossroad, unless Americans of good conscience contact their members of the Senate to support Jefferson’s and Madison’s ideal of democracy.
The number to reach any member of the Senate is 202-224-3121.
Thom Hartmann (thom at thomhartmann.com) is a Project Censored Award-winning best-selling author, and host of a nationally syndicated daily progressive talk show and a morning progressive talk show on KPOJ in Portland, Oregon. www.thomhartmann.com His most recent books are “The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight,” “Unequal Protection,” “We The People,” “The Edison Gene”, and “What Would Jefferson Do?”
Originally published on Common Dreams News Center and reprinted with permission of the author.