House Un-American Activities: Founding Fathers Refute Bigoted Congressman

Juan Cole -- or rather, the Founding Fathers of the United States -- take down the bigoted belchings of U.S. Representative Virgil "Uber-Goober" Goode, in this essential piece. Excerpts:

Republican Representative Virgil Goode of Virginia wrote his constituents: "The Muslim representative from Minnesota was elected by the voters of that district and if American citizens don't wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran . . ."

...Goode is first of all confused. The issue of freedom of religion for American Muslims has nothing to do with immigration. Congressman Keith Ellison is not an immigrant-- his family has been here since the 1700s, perhaps longer than Goode's...Goode's position is not only un-American and bigotted, but it is also actually unconstitutional.

A reader points out, "Virgil Goode should also consider, from the last paragraph of Article VI of the Constitution of the United States: ' religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.'" Moreover, the First Amendment of the US Constitution (which perhaps Goode doesn't like very much?) says:

'Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.'

....Nor would the framers of the constitution have agreed with his attitude. George Washington asked in a March 24, 1784, letter to his aide Tench Tilghman that some craftsmen be hired for him: "If they are good workmen, they may be of Assia, [sic] Africa, or Europe. They may be Mahometans, [Muslims] Jews, or Christian of any Sect - or they may be Atheists ..."

Ben Franklin, the founding father of many important institutions in Philadelphia, a key diplomat and a framer of the US Constitution, wrote in his Autobiography concerning a non-denominational place of public preaching he helped found "so that even if the Mufti of Constantinople were to send a missionary to preach Mohammedanism to us, he would find a pulpit at his service."

...Thomas Jefferson wrote in his 1777 Draft of a Bill for Religious Freedom:

"that our civil rights have no dependance on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry; that therefore the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him an incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages to which, in common with his fellow citizens, he has a natural right . . . "

I also once pointed out that John Locke had already advocated civil rights for non-Christians in his Letter on Toleration:

"Thus if solemn assemblies, observations of festivals, public worship be permitted to any one sort of professors [believers], all these things ought to be permitted to the Presbyterians, Independents, Anabaptists, Arminians, Quakers, and others, with the same liberty. Nay, if we may openly speak the truth, and as becomes one man to another, neither Pagan nor Mahometan, nor Jew, ought to be excluded from the civil rights of the commonwealth because of his religion. The Gospel commands no such thing."

[Here is Jefferson again]: "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." -- Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, 1781-82

The US Senate, full of founding fathers, and the Adams government, approved the Treaty with Tripoli (now Libya) of 1797, which included this language:

"As the Government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Musselmen; and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries."

The treaty is important for showing the mindset of the fashioners of the American system. So Virgil Goode should consider emigrating himself, to someplace where his sort of views might be welcome. They certainly aren't in the United States of America. And they never have been part of this country's values and principles.