Monday, May 10, 2010

Sarah Palin -- historian and constitutional law scholar

The former Half-Governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin, believes there are evil elements in our society trying to write God out of the founding of, this, His favorite country:  the U. S. of A.  As Palin explained recently on Bill O'Reilly's show, "Go back to what our founders and our founding documents meant -- they're quite clear -- that we would create law based on the God of the bible and the ten commandments."  This sounds rather Jewish to me, but Palin insists that we are, in fact, a Christian nation.


I'm no lawyer (though I was a law school "wife" in the mid-90s) and my undergraduate political science degree has become quite rusty over the last two decades; but, if memory serves, our Founding Fathers broke away from a decidedly "Christian nation" to found a new entity that, among other things, established religious freedom for Christians and non-Christians alike and forbade the kind of state-sponsored religion that existed (and still exists) in the Mother Country.

I also think Palin would also be surprised to learn that -- with the exception of separating the state and the church -- American law continues to be fundamentally based on English common law.  To the extent that the Judeo-Christian belief structure permeated English law, it continued to permeate American law.  The same can be said for pre-Judeo-Christian ethics and morality, Greek law, Roman law, as well as the many waves of influence on English law following the christianization of the British Isles, including the Saxon, Danish and Norman law.

To suggest that the Founders threw all this overboard to return to some sort of Old Testament type of divine law (not that those of the more Puritan tradition wouldn't have loved it) betrays an ignorance of history because a) the Judeo-Christian influences were already there, which meant b) there was no reason toss it aside.  However, to translate this continuity of tradition as an acknowledgement of or as a desire to purify America's Christianity -- without mentioning our break with a religious state or our subsequent separation of state and church -- is deeply disingenuous and purposefully misleading.

Either way, Palin's wrong.  If she's truly blind to this, it's certainly lamentable, but ultimately forgivable.  If she's not, I'd love to be a fly on the wall at her Day of Judgment.