The Declaration’s Self-Evident Truths
By FRC Senior Fellow Bob Morrison
The enemy fleet was nearing Philadelphia. Many delegates to the Continental Congress knew that if they were arrested, they would be tried for treason against the British Crown.
The punishment for treason was hanging, drawing and quartering.
Massachusetts’ Samuel Adams was not afraid. He moved that the delegates pray for God’s protection and guidance. But we are not all of one denomination, responded the devout young New Yorker, John Jay. Sam Adams said he could pray with any man who sought his country’s good. With delegates from all the other colonies, Sam Adams prompted America’s first national prayer session. We might even term Adams’s motion the original call to fall (call2fall) on our knees before God.
Within two years, Sam Adams and his cousin John had pressed those delegates toward Independence. We celebrate their Signing with our July 4th holiday.
The Signers put their lives on the line when they affixed their often beautiful signatures to that parchment. “We had better hang together, or we shall all hang separately” is a bit of gallows humor long attributed to wise old Ben Franklin. They vowed to each other their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.
How many of us on this two hundred thirty-fourth birthday of our nation can truly say that we would rather be killed than give up the sentiments embodied in that ancient Declaration?
As a young man, I was unchurched. I was not taught the story of that first prayer session in Congress, but I was thoroughly imbued with the ideals of the Declaration they signed. So when I was running for office and urged to back abortion, I refused to support the slaughter of innocents.
I believed, I still believe, we are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights, that the first of these is the right to life… So, it seemed to me I should not go along with alienating the right to life. “The God who gave us life, gave us liberty at the same time,” wrote Thomas Jefferson just two years before he was chosen to draft the Declaration of Independence.
When did our endowed life begin? That was easy: at conception, when sperm joins with egg. I took Biology 1 at Thomas Jefferson’s University of Virginia. Dr. Howard Hamilton gave us two weeks on human reproduction. There was no mystery in 1963 about when human life begins. There was no mystery in 1859, when medical science widely reported the beginnings of human life.
The confusion has only come about since 1973, when Harry Blackmun wrote his opinion for the U.S. Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade. Suddenly, we began to unknow the truths we had always known. Self-evident truths then became inconvenient.
TIME Magazine’s Joe Klein noted in a 2012 column about Rick Santorum’s “inconvenient truths” that ultra-sound has made it “impossible to deny that that thing in the womb is a human being.” Actually, Joe Klein, all of contemporary liberalism is based on that denial.
Liberals deny the child in the womb is a human being every day. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) infamously answered a question from Sen. Rick Santorum in a colloquy. When did the child become a human being, worthy of legal protection, the Pennsylvanian asked her? When you bring it home from the hospital, she replied. Sen. Boxer gave us the Front Porch Doctrine. Until then, she maintains, it is open season for hunting them.
It gets better. Liberalism now moves from this First Great Denial of a Self-Evident Truth about human life to a Second Great Denial. This time, they deny another phrase from the Declaration: “The Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.” They want us to believe that the coupling of man and man is equal to the union of man and woman. No matter that the union of man and woman has produced seven billion human lives and the coupling of man and man has produced zero. You must chirp their belief and bend the knee to their notion of equality.
In fact, if you don’t go along with that, you are scourged as a “bad person.” Justice Antonin Scalia in his dissent charged the Supreme Court’s majority in Windsor had branded defenders of marriage “hostis humani generis” — enemies of all mankind. That 2013 ruling, penned by Justice Anthony Kennedy, invalidated major portions of the Defense of Marriage Act
How strange. When the author of Windsor blasted marriage defenders for demeaning, hurting, degrading, and otherwise mistreating those who seek to end marriage, he might have gone further. Tony Kennedy might have confessed his own sinfulness.
That’s because when Kennedy married his wife, Mary Davis, in 1963, not he, nor his bride, nor the priest who married them, nor any of the bridesmaids, nor any of the groomsmen, nor any of the guests who attended their wedding, nor even the boys in the band would have recognized marriage as anything but the union of one man and one woman.
Was young Tony Kennedy a bigot? Should he have been driven from his law firm the way Brendan Eich was driven from Mozilla? Yet Tony Kennedy today demands we all join him in condemning all those who defend true marriage. He wants us to call them bigots.
I won’t do it. Perhaps I’m stubborn. Maybe I just hold some truths that are still Self-Evident.
John Adams pressed the Second Continental Congress toward the break with England. He nominated Washington to lead the armies that would fight for independence and tapped Jefferson to draft the document that declared it.
“Facts are stubborn things,” honest John Adams wrote. Indeed they are. Human life begins at conception. That’s a fact. Marriage is the union of one man and one woman. That’s a fact. These facts are stubborn things. We knew these facts at our origin.
Our religious freedom secures our right to state these facts, freely and without fear. As the Library of Congress has noted of our origins:
The first national government of the United States, was convinced that the “public prosperity” of a society depended on the vitality of its religion. Nothing less than a “spirit of universal reformation among all ranks and degrees of our citizens,” Congress declared to the American people, would “make us a holy, that so we may be a happy people.”
Today’s a good day to reflect on these enduring Self-Evident Truths. We can remember Sam Adams’s prophetic words, too:
“If ever a time should come, when vain and aspiring men shall possess the highest seats in Government, our country will stand in need of its experienced patriots to prevent its ruin.”
We can declare our own Independence — from those vain and aspiring men whose words mean whatever they want them to mean. And we can emancipate ourselves from the politically correct nostrums of the left. Independent we can remain. John Adams’s last words of encouragement for a long ago Fourth of July were: “Independence Forever!”
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