"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"...no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish enlarge, or affect their civil capacities." – Thomas Jefferson

Monday, February 19, 2024

Wisdom from the Sage of Mount Vernon

Words of wisdom appropriate to our time.

...from George Washington, America's first President, on President's Day.
(Edited and updated from a previous post)


“A primary object should be the education of our youth in the science of government. In a republic, what species of knowledge can be equally important? And what duty more pressing than communicating it to those who are to be the future guardians of the liberties of the country?”
Eighth Annual Message, December 7, 1796

“There is nothing which can better deserve our patronage than the promotion of science and literature. Knowledge is in every country the surest basis of public happiness.”
First Annual Message to Congress on the State of the Union, January 8, 1790


“Guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism.”
Farewell Address, Sep. 17, 1796


“Associate yourself with men of good quality, if you esteem your own reputation; for ‘tis better to be alone than in bad company.”
Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation


While we are contending for our own liberty, we should be very cautious not to violate the rights of conscience in others, ever considering that God alone is the judge of the hearts of men, and to him only in this case they are answerable.
letter to Benedict Arnold, Sep. 14, 1775


Remember that it is the actions, and not the commission, that make the officer, and that there is more expected from him, than the title.
Address to the Officers of the Virginia Regiment, Jan. 8, 1756


However [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.
Farewell Address, Sep. 17, 1796


Think before you Speak pronounce not imperfectly nor bring out your Words too hastily but orderly and distinctly.
Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation


Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Religious Freedom Day, 2024

Today is Religious Freedom Day, which commemorates the realization of Thomas Jefferson's vision of an end to the state-established church in Virginia.

[This is an edited version of a post originally published on January 16, 2015]


In 1993 President George H. W. Bush declared January 16 to be Religious Freedom Day. January 16 was the date in 1786 when the Virginia House of Delegates passed Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. In 1992, on that date, Virginia Governor L. Douglas Wilder signed the first proclamation to that effect for the Commonwealth of Virginia.

The Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom was a revolutionary document. It ended the state-established church in Virginia and guaranteed religious liberty for all.
Be it enacted by the General Assembly, That no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.
In his proclamation, the first President Bush wrote:
"...we do well to acknowledge our debt to Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. These two men were instrumental in establishing the American tradition of religious liberty and tolerance. Thomas Jefferson articulated the idea of religious liberty in his 1777 draft Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom in Virginia...

James Madison later introduced and championed this bill in the Virginia House of Delegates, where it passed in 1786. Following the Federal Constitutional Convention of 1787, James Madison led the way in drafting our Bill of Rights.

The Virginia Statute became the basis for the First Amendment protection of religious liberty.

Jefferson understood the impact of his Virginia Statute. He understood that many people were against acknowledging religious liberty for everyone. In a 2014 column about Religious Freedom Day, Frederick Clarkson wrote:
Thomas Jefferson was well aware that many did not like the Statute, just as they did not like the Constitution and the First Amendment, both of which sought to expand the rights of citizens and deflect claims of churches seeking special consideration.

So before his death, Jefferson sought to get the last word on what it meant. The Statute, he wrote, contained "within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mohametan, the Hindoo and Infidel of every denomination."
Freedom of belief was for everyone -- religious and non-religious alike -- and, with the passage of the Virginia Statute, and later the First Amendment, it was guaranteed.

Thomas Jefferson considered the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom to be one of the three great accomplishments of his life. He didn't choose to be remembered as Minister to France for the fledgling nation, or as its first Secretary of State, or as its third President. Instead, he chose as his life's three great accomplishments, the Declaration of Independence, the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, and the founding of the University of Virginia, and it was those three things that he wished to be inscribed on his tombstone.


Religious Freedom Day is a mostly unheralded event in the United States. It was begun through the urging of the First Freedom Center, whose mission is:
The mission of the First Freedom Center is to commemorate and educate about freedom of religion and conscience as proclaimed in Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom.
Each President, since the first President Bush in 1993, has issued a proclamation on the occasion of the day.

The quest for freedom of belief is as old as humankind, and it's still ongoing. Recent events have shown us that while human life might be fragile, the conviction of those who would protect the right to free belief is strong.

Americans owe a debt of gratitude to Jefferson, Madison, and all local, state, and national leaders who have worked diligently to uphold the rights protected under the First Amendment.

President Biden's A Proclamation on Religious Freedom Day, 2024 includes the following...
On this day, we recognize that the work of protecting religious freedom is never finished. In our quest to build a more perfect Union, may our faiths and beliefs help us heal divisions and bring us together to safeguard this fundamental freedom guaranteed by our Constitution and to ensure that people of all religions or no religion are treated with dignity and respect.

UPDATED: See also Separating religion and government allows us all to live freely and equally


Tuesday, January 2, 2024

Isaac Asimov, January 2, 1920

On the occasion of Isaac Asimov's 104th birthday, I offer some quotes relevant to today's political and cultural environment.

From Isaac Asimov's Book of Science and Nature Quotations
The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.


From Combatting U.S. Scientific Illiteracy in The Los Angeles Times, March 31, 1989
Increasingly, our leaders must deal with dangers that threaten the entire world, where an understanding of those dangers and the possible solutions depends on a good grasp of science. The ozone layer, the greenhouse effect, acid rain, questions of diet and heredity. All require scientific literacy. Can Americans choose the proper leaders and support the proper programs if they themselves are scientifically illiterate? The whole premise of democracy is that it is safe to leave important questions to the court of public opinion—but is it safe to leave them to the court of public ignorance?


From Foundation
Never let your sense of morals prevent you from doing what is right.


From Foundation
Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.


From an Interview by Bill Moyers on Bill Moyers' World Of Ideas
Science doesn't purvey absolute truth. Science is a mechanism. It's a way of trying to improve your knowledge of nature. It's a system for testing your thoughts against the universe and seeing whether they match. And this works, not just for the ordinary aspects of science, but for all of life. I should think people would want to know that what they know is truly what the universe is like, or at least as close as they can get to it.

From The Roving Mind
I believe in evidence. I believe in observation, measurement, and reasoning, confirmed by independent observers. I'll believe anything, no matter how wild and ridiculous, if there is evidence for it. The wilder and more ridiculous something is, however, the firmer and more solid the evidence will have to be.


Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Keep your nose on

Advice from my mother, "Don't cut off your nose to spite your face."


We've been told that to keep society running smoothly, people should work to earn money...to fuel the economy. That's why they are always so quick to fund (or advocate for) job providers (aka the business community) through tax breaks, tax rebates, tax refunds, and lower taxes (which are, btw, mostly unavailable to the average worker).

What happens, however, when people can't work? They have to go on welfare, which is apparently bad. We shouldn't have to pay for someone who won't work -- and there are too many people who are "gaming the system" by collecting welfare without working.

Our education system should teach students to be "contributing members of society." We need to raise our children so they can take their place in the workforce and not be a burden on the rest of us by going on the aforementioned welfare. Furthermore, we need to hire competent people to teach and care for our children.

What happens then, when schools and childcare facilities haven't got enough funding to function and can't find qualified people who will do the hard work of teaching or caring for children? The pay is too low. The hours are too long. The social cost is too great. Do we "let the market decide" about keeping schools and childcare facilities open? If we do that, what happens when those privately run churches and companies need more money to operate? Do they charge more? Or do they just close?

Is the profit motive sufficient to keep us teaching and caring for our children?

Living in a civilized country (and I know that I'm making an assumption here) means that we should ensure that parents can care for their children from the moment they take their first breath.

What happens, however, when the ability to earn money conflicts with the ability to educate and care for children? What happens when a family with two parents needs two workers and there is no one else to stay home to care for the kids? What happens when there is only one parent in a family, who must work to feed, clothe, and house her children, but there is no one to watch her kids when she's at work? We saw what happened when schools struggled to stay open during the COVID-19 pandemic. Do we want that to continue?

Oh, would that we could return to the time when everyone lived in a two-parent family, with one worker (the father) and a "homemaker" (the mother) like in the "good old days."

Sadly, those "good old days" never really existed for many folks.


You'd think that the Indiana General Assembly would do its best to ensure that everything was in place so that people who are raising young children would be able to find jobs that paid enough to feed, clothe, and house their families and that they would be able to find an affordable place, with competent staff, where their children would be cared for and helped to grow while they were at work.

You'd think that...but unfortunately, you'd be wrong, because, Indiana, like so many other states, is a place that apparently really hates it's children. It's a place that apparently doesn't care whether workers can get to work and leave their children in a safe place. It's a place that apparently isn't interested in growing the economy by making sure people have enough money to fund services, businesses, and government.

Uncertain future for providers as child care crisis looms
One national think tank estimates that 3.2 million children may lose their child care as federal grant funding expires at the end of the month. Those dollars helped many centers keep their doors open during the economic tumult of the pandemic but Congress’ stalemate on spending might mean it’s too late for some providers.

“That (funding) helped stabilize the child care program to an extent and it made it possible for these programs to stay open,” Ailen Arreaza, the executive director of ParentsTogether, said. “But it was sort of like a Band-Aid on a big, open wound. And now that Band-Aid has been taken away.”

The stakes

Century Foundation, a progressive think tank, estimates that 70,000 child care programs nationwide would be impacted, roughly one-third of all the country’s providers. The organization predicts that nearly 49,000 Hoosier children will lose child care and just over 1,000 programs will close — triggering a $132 million loss in worker productivity and $120 million in lost wages for parents.
Ok, so it's not just Indiana...it's the whole damn country. That doesn't surprise me either. As a nation, the US doesn't seem to have the inclination or the foresight to provide for its children...or to plan for the future.
A 2023 survey from Arreaza’s organization found that 59% of parents reported cutting back on hours or leaving a job because they couldn’t find reliable, affordable child care. After losing that source of income, families often cut back on other expenses. Forty-four percent of families said they reduced food costs and over half, 55%, said they couldn’t save while shouldering the cost of child care, which rivals the cost of full-time, in-state college tuition in Indiana and elsewhere. [emphasis added]
What happens when people can't find or afford childcare? Do they give up their children so they can work? No, they ration their prescription drugs or stop taking them altogether, they cut back on food and health care, they juggle bills and risk legal problems, they go without and risk their lives and health, and they don't contribute to the economy. The economy slows...and stagnates...the need for welfare increases...which hurts us all.

...even people who make our laws about public funding of education and childcare!

Do we want to have a society that functions well or do we like having citizens living in economic crisis mode? Do we want a robust economy where everyone is well cared for and happy or do we like economic stagnation and desperate citizens? Do we want to prepare our children for the future or are we going to continue to shortchange them and then let them try to repair the damage as they get older?

Are we ever going to find the will to support our children through fully funded childcare and "a general and uniform system of Common Schools, wherein tuition shall be without charge, and equally open to all"?

Or are we going to continue to "cut off our nose to spite our face?"