The James Wilson Foundation on Natural Rights and the American Founding

“Reordering the Public Square” –Gunnar Gundersen in First Things

In an article for First Things titled “Reordering the Public Square”, Gunnar Gundersen defends the government’s role in promoting the common good.  Responding to both liberal and conservative advocates of government neutrality, Gundersen reaches into history to shed light on America’s deep Christian roots.  He finds no legal footing for rigid constitutional interpretations which retool the Establishment Clause to scrub religion from the public square.  Instead, he points to both the Declaration of Independence and the majority’s opinion in Church of the Holy Trinity v. United States (1892), both of which demonstrate not only government’s ability to enforce morals, but more importantly, its obligation to do so.  By sketching a detailed history, Gundersen calls on legislators, jurists, and citizens alike to recognize law’s place in the cultivation of morals.

Some excerpts from the piece:

“In the ongoing intra-conservative debates, some have argued that it is the role of government to enforce and protect moral truths in the public square to promote the common good. Others have objected, skeptical of the idea of using government to ‘reorder’ the public square. But this objection is inconsistent with the founding; moreover, it ignores how the left is already radically and arbitrarily exercising authority to reorder the public square.”

“The congruity between the American and Christian perspectives on government is no coincidence. America is a Christian country. In Church of the Holy Trinity v. United States (1892), the Supreme Court pointed out that Christianity—not just religion—is at the center of the American story.”

“The idea that this country’s laws—that have incorporated so many religious principles and are explicitly founded on God’s laws—require neutrality between religion and irreligion is laughable. What is not laughable is that a leftist hermeneutic—which results in judgments favoring leftist policy goals—is masquerading as neutral legal judgments. Neutrality has been exposed for what it really is: a post hoc interpretation of the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses—with no significant roots in the founding or Civil War eras—that is useful for producing pro-left judgments. It is brute force masquerading as law.”

Read the whole essay here.

Law and liberty cannot rationally become the objects of our love, unless they first become the objects of our knowledge.
— James Wilson, Lectures on Law, 1790