Coach Dave Daubenmire, former London, OH high school football coach and now National Director of Minutemen United and Founder of Pass the Salt Ministries, held a rally in Danbury, Connecticut Tuseday. Other religious conservatives in attendance were Bill Federer of Amerisearch, Rev. Flip Benham of Operation Save America, Greg Thompson of America Asleep kNOw More, Rev. Bob Schenck of National Clergy Council, Rusty Thomas of Elijah Ministries, Peter Wolfgang, Family Institute of Connecticut, and Mike Heath of Christian Civic League of Maine.
Danbury was the home of the Baptist church that wrote President Thomas Jefferson in 1802 about their concern with the lack of religious liberty in the state of Connecticut. The Baptist complaint was that the Connecticut state constitution did not prohibit the state from legislating about religious matters. As a consequence, they argued:
“…what religious privileges we [Baptists] enjoy (as a minor part of the state) we enjoy as favors granted, and not as inalienable rights: and these favors we receive at the expense of such degrading acknowledgements as are inconsistent with the rights of freemen.”
Context of Danbury Letter
Daubenmire stated in his press release:
Standing on the 1st Amendment promise that ‘Congress shall make no law,’ we declare that Christians, and the Christian God will no longer be pushed back into the church. We believe, as the Founders did, in ‘the free exercise’ of our Faith, unhindered by the unconstitutional restrictions of government. It is our belief that no court decision in the history of America has had a greater impact on the moral condition of this nation than that issued by Justice Black in Everson case of 1947. For sixty years, the mouth of the church has been silenced, as we bought the lie that the church had no voice in the moral/political issues of our day.
News Conference: ‘Separation of Church and State’ Experts Prior to Rally
Yes, Daubenmire is against a ruling that upheld reimbursements for bus rides for private sectarian school students and those reimbursements have caused morality to collapse and for Christians to be locked in their churches….
Oh, sorry, of course the coach and all religious conservatives complain about the section of the Everson decision that used the concept of the “wall of separation” from Jefferson’s letter. As I noted in my last post, that use of the letter and the legal theory it spawned caused Christians to finally lose their special status intertwined within the government and our schools.
The ‘establishment of religion’ clause of the First Amendment means at least this: Neither a state nor the Federal Government can set up a church. Neither can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another. Neither can force nor influence a person to go to or to remain away from church against his will or force him to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion. No person can be punished for entertain- [330 U.S. 1, 16] ing or professing religious beliefs or disbeliefs, for church attendance or non-attendance. No tax in any amount, large or small, can be levied to support any religious activities or institutions, whatever they may be called, or whatever from they may adopt to teach or practice religion. Neither a state nor the Federal Government can, openly or secretly, participate in the affairs of any religious organizations or groups and vice versa. In the words of Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect ‘a wall of separation between Church and State.’ Reynolds v. United States, supra, 98 U.S. at page 164.
Everson v Board of Education (1947)
Of course Everson wasn’t the first Supreme Court case to evoke Jefferson’s words about church and state:
Accordingly, at the first session of the first Congress the amendment now under consideration was proposed with others by Mr. Madison. It met the views of the advocates of religious freedom, and was adopted. Mr. Jefferson afterwards, in reply to an address to him by a committee of the Danbury Baptist Association (8 id. 113), took occasion to say: ‘Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God; that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship; that the legislative powers of the government reach actions only, and not opinions,-I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between church and State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore man to all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.’ Coming as this does from an acknowledged leader of the advocates of the measure, it may be accepted almost as an authoritative declaration of the scope and effect of the amendment thus secured. Congress was deprived of all legislative power over mere opinion, but was left free to reach actions which were in violation of social duties or subversive of good order.
Reynolds V. U.S., 98 U.S. 145 (1878)
It is not the first time that Daubenmire has tried to rewrite history. Looking at his bio on Minutemen United has this bit:
Dave Daubenmire, a veteran 25 year high school football coach, was spurred to action when attacked and eventually sued by the ACLU in the late 1990’s for allegedly mixing prayer with his coaching. After a two year battle for his 1st amendment rights and a determination to not back down, the ACLU relented and offered coach an out of court settlement. God honored his stand and the ACLU backed off. Coach’s courageous stand, an inspiration to Americans everywhere, demonstrated that the ACLU can be defeated.
Who Are the Minutemen?
Well in the stories reported at the time, the ACLU offered the London, OH school district an out for the obvious religious activities the coach and his staff made the football team participate in. The district agreed to prohibit future acts of religious indoctrination and established a system for reporting violations of the agreement to the United States District Court in Columbus. The settlement also called for the principal of London High School to report all complaints of religious activity not only to the district superintendent, but also to the ACLU.
According to the ACLU press release at the time of the settlement which came one day before a trial was set to begin in Federal court:
During discovery depositions held in the last two weeks, Head Coach David Daubenmire admitted to leading the football team in the Lord’s Prayer after games, passing out a scriptural verse to team members, allowing ministers to lead the team in prayer, and to using Bible stories as a part of certain team meetings. Daubenmire denied having engaged in such misconduct after November 1997, although witnesses told the ACLU that such conduct persisted into the fall of 1998.
ACLU Declares Victory in Ohio School Where Football Coach Led Prayers, Read Scripture (10/19/1999)
Also reported in the Columbus Dispatch as “Coach Must Keep Prayer Off Feld” (10/19/1999)
The ACLU didn’t back down and it was not a victory for the coach. The district saw the potential of losing the case and getting a worse outcome.
The coach resigned his position in 2000 and also sued the parents and community members who complained about his religious activities for libel and slander. The coach lost that lawsuit on appeal in March of 2004.