Through unnamed sources involved in the proceedings, these notes were smuggled out of the Celestial Courtroom, where the ongoing evaluation of the Nations takes place in Committee Hearings in preparation for the Final Judgment. St. Peter was the presiding Chairman, Senator Screwtape the first witness.
St. Peter: We are here to receive an update on the State of the Nation in the USA. I’ve been hearing some unpleasant rumbling about recent developments in secularization there. I call the first witness to the stand, Senator Screwtape. [His earthly name is blacked out in the document]
Sen. Screwtape: Thank you for the travel provision to allow me to come and testify here. I beg the court’s forgiveness for the dark glasses. It’s much too bright here for these eyes of mine. I am more accustomed to the darkness.
St. Peter: I understand, Senator, no apology necessary. Please give us an update on the situation in the U.S. now.
Sen. Screwtape: Well, I must say, we are delighted with our success in the secularization of America. My Father Below was thrilled with the Supreme Court Ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act—and that from so many Catholic judges! You must admit we are having great success in unraveling your archaic notions of a marriage between a man and a woman.
[Shouts of protest from the courtroom gallery]
St. Peter: Order! [pounds gavel] Order in the courtroom! I’m not happy to hear that news either, but we must maintain civility here.
Sen. Screwtape: We had a setback in Texas, when the people trying to move back the time for legal abortions managed to get the vote rescheduled for reconsideration. But I have good reason to hope that we can keep the tempo on abortions moving just as briskly as ever.
St. Peter: I heard reports that your collaborators were quite bold. Is it true that they interrupted our people singing “Amazing Grace” by shouting “Hail Satan”?
Sen. Screwtape: Yes, it is true. Actually I’m quite proud of them, but it was a bit more forthright than we like to operate. I’ve told them to tone it down. We also had a notable success with the first atheist monument in Florida. When they couldn’t get the granite version of the Ten Commandments (phew, spukkk) removed, [he spits] these enterprising atheists decided to build their own monument. A first for us in the USA.
St. Peter: How did you like our high school valedictorian who tore up his speech and prayed the Lord’s Prayer instead? You could hear the cheers through all of Heaven that day.
Sen. Screwtape: Vile little upstart! He had some nerve. We would have had him expelled, or maybe even silenced in an unfortunate car accident, but it was too late.
St. Peter: Mind your tongue, Senator. You are here to give an appraisal of the state of the American soul. Is the nation becoming secularized?
Sen. Screwtape: Oh good Lord, yes. We have people so cowed they’re afraid to pray over a meal in a restaurant unless they are in some backwater Bible Belt town. The government is rolling back the realm of faith on the health front, as you know, quite successfully through the Affordable Care Act. We are hobbling faith-based nonprofits, using IRS tax exemption, licensing for adoption, and hiring rules. Just wait till you see what redefining marriage does! The television industry is completely in our hands, and most of the film and music industry too. We’ve had the universities under our governance for some time now, except for a handful of unimportant renegades, and of course public schools are totally subservient. The businesses are happily exploiting workers and silencing any whiff of faith. The malls are full of mindless consumers who want more. Most of the churches are caving in on the gender and sex-related issues. And the electronic media are sucking the mind-time of most of the populace, even the people on your side. All in all, I would say we are doing quite well in the secularization project. Eat your heart out.
St. Peter: I won’t argue with your bleak evaluation, although there are small pockets of genuine resistance. We hear their prayers daily asking for strength.
I would say that the United States is approaching a watershed. Just this most recent Fourth of July, there were two full-page ads in the New York Times and many other papers throughout the country laying out the opposing positions as the nation celebrated its beginning: the secularists versus the people who believe in One Nation, Under God.
Sen. Screwtape: Yes indeed. For the few people who bothered to think about anything beyond hot dogs and fireworks that day, we had a showdown. May I present the court the evidence? The Hobby Lobby owners titled their page “In G—God [he coughs with a gagging sound] We Trust.” They filled it with quotes from the Founding Fathers like George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison, and Supreme Court Justices, and other deluded people, all claiming that the founding of America had something to do with morality and G… G…… gggg…. I’m sorry, I just can’t say that profane word again. A lot of claptrap in my opinion, but there you have it.
[He is interrupted by loud rumbling from the courtroom gallery of spectators]
St. Peter: [pounding the gavel] Order in the court! All right, calm down and behave with respect. Let’s hear what else he has to say. Please do continue, Senator. What was in the other ad in the New York Times you thought was indicative of the spiritual state of the nation?
Sen. Screwtape: The Freedom from Religion Foundation ran a magnificent ad with the headline “Celebrate Our Godless Constitution.” Those words are music to my ears. The FFRF is the nation’s largest organization of agnostics and atheists working to keep religion out of government. The full-page ad has quotes from George Washington, James Madison, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine, and John Adams, all derisive of religion, claiming it has nothing to do with America. “In Reason We Trust,” our people say.
St. Peter: That’s very interesting, since both sides are quoting from the same people. We may need to call the sources themselves to get to the bottom of this and see what the Founders actually intended.
Sen. Screwtape: Not to be disrespectful, Your Honor, but what difference does it make what their intention was at the time of the Founding? We have most of America convinced that the roots of the nation are secular and that religion is a pernicious and divisive influence. Every dimwit on the street is sure that the “separation of church and state” is written in the Constitution somewhere. Just ask them! We have been very effective in repeating it so often that it sticks.
[Thomas Jefferson enters, accompanied by a very large Guardian Angel with a flaming sword]
St. Peter: Mr. Jefferson, we know this necessitated a hiatus from Purgatory to be with us here, and we thank your Guardian Angel for accompanying you on your furlough, since you could not travel unaccompanied. We hope that making the acquaintance with miracles in preparation for meeting the Son of God has not been too onerous.
Jefferson: Your Honor, I am a chastened man. I continue to be amazed at that which I had not held possible. The limitations of reason are being made painfully clear to me.
St. Peter: Is it true that you penned the phrase, “separation of church and state?”
Jefferson: Yes, Your Honor. I wrote those words.
St. Peter: Could you please tell the court under what circumstances you coined that phrase?
Jefferson: In a private letter in correspondence with the Danbury Baptists in 1802.
St. Peter: Not in the First Amendment? Not in the Constitution?
Jefferson: No, sir.
St. Peter: What else did you write in that letter?
Jefferson: Let me read it to you. I have a copy here. “Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & 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 & State.”
Sen. Screwtape: Aha! See, there you have it! Out with the Church and up with the State!
St. Peter: Wait a minute. Mr. Jefferson, you meant the wall of separation would protect the free exercise of religion? That’s not what people remember about your letter now. I’m getting a totally different story from contemporary sources.
Jefferson: Yes, your honor. I didn’t share their belief in miracles, but I respected the freedom of Christians to practice their religion. In fact I held prayer meetings and Sunday worship in the Capitol when I was President, to set a good example.
St. Peter: Yes, we all found that quite amusing, with you carrying your big red prayer book.
[Soft laughter ripples through the courtroom]
Jefferson: I had no idea that people would misconstrue that to mean that all traces of religion should be banished from the public square.
St. Peter: Let me read you a quote: “God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever.”
Are these your words now carved in the monument in Washington D.C. that is dedicated to you?
Jefferson: Yes, they are.
[Booing and jeering from the observers who have crowded into the gallery. “Hypocrite!” “Liar”]
St. Peter: Order in the courtroom! [pounds gavel] If you are not quiet, you are about to be ejected into a very dark, hot place you will not like! Silence!
That will do for now, Mr. Jefferson. I am sure you understand now that your trembling was well justified. Thank you, you may step down.
The committee now calls John Adams.
[Jefferson leaves with his Guardian Angel. John Adams enters.]
St. Peter: Take a seat please, Mr. Adams. Please give my regards to your wife, Abigail. I just saw her on the HBO reruns of the film based on the McCullough biography, and I must say she came across as much more wise and prudent than you ever were.
[Chuckles ripple through the courtroom]
Adams: That’s not the first time I have heard that, Your Honor. There are some things you just never live down hundreds of years later. I’m sure I am less vain and cantankerous now, after the Purgation treatment.
St. Peter: Well, we will have to be the judges of that. [Faint titters and chuckling]
Now to the business at hand. You were quoted in the ad I am holding here as saying this: “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” Do you claim these words as your own?
Adams: Yes, indeed, I believed them then and I stand by them now.
St. Peter: And that was your opinion at the time of the founding of the United States? Even when you and the New Englanders were Puritans, while the Virginians were mostly Anglicans, and there were Deists like Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Franklin, and even Catholics like Charles Carroll among the Founding generation?
Adams: Our concern was to prevent one federal religion being imposed on all the states, although it was up to the individual states to decide on establishing a church or not. If I recall correctly, several of the states did have established churches at the time of the Founding. I believed then as now that the morality of the heart governed internally by faith in God is the surest source of civic order. No law or arms can accomplish the same.
St. Peter: Is this opinion original with you?
Adams: Oh no, I think not. Edmund Burke said much the same when he asserted, “Liberty does not exist in the absence of morality.” Gouvernor Morris put it this way: “Religion is the only solid base of morals and morals are the only possible support of free governments.” And my esteemed son, John Quincy Adams, who brought joy to my heart as his father when he became a diplomat and the sixth president of the nation, gave us these fine words: “Is it not that the Declaration of Independence first organized the social compact on the foundation of the Redeemer’s mission upon earth? – That it laid the cornerstone of human government upon the first precepts of Christianity?”
St. Peter: Fine words indeed. Now it says here in the Freedom From Religion Foundation ad of July 4, 2013 that you did not believe in miracles, prophecies, eternal damnation, or demonic possession. What do you say to that?
Adams: It is a miracle that I am standing here, which I do only through the grace of my Savior, whose coming was prophesied throughout sacred Scripture. I have seen those worthily cast into damnation and it is clear to me that those working ruin in my nation have been influenced by those who are possessed by demons, including this vile Senator standing here.
[Shouting, scuffling, and fisticuffs erupt throughout the courtroom. Sen. Screwtape lunges for Adams.]
St. Peter: ORDER! Stop this moment! Do I have to call in St. Michael and the Archangels to restore peace in this courtroom?? Sit down, Senator. Settle down, all the rest of you in the gallery. Mr. Adams, I see that your purgation has not sufficiently dulled the sharpness of your tongue. I do thank you for your candor, however. And I thank you for joining the hearings.
I must say it was unkind of the members of the first Congress to refer to you as “Your Rotundity.” Your heavenly body seems to have slimmed your shape quite admirably.
Adams: [blushing while scarcely audible muttering] Thank you, St. Peter.
St. Peter: Would James Madison please take the stand?
[John Adams leaves the room, James Madison enters.]
St. Peter: Mr. Madison, you are cited July 4, 2013 by the Foundation for Freedom from Religion as an opponent of the “legal establishment of Christianity,” while you are quoted the same day in the Hobby Lobby ad “In God We Trust” as saying: “Before any man can be considered as a member of civil society, he must be considered as a subject of the Governor of the Universe.” What is your true position?
Madison: Those of us deliberating at the time of the founding of America were certain that an understanding of man’s right relation to God constitutes his truest citizenship, rendering him capable of felicitous relations to others in civic order. But we were equally certain that the historical precedent of establishing a state church for the entire nation was fraught with peril and abuse. We wanted to prevent that in any case. But we knew that the fruits of the spirit were necessary to make men governable. In Virginia, George Mason crafted the language for the Virginia Declaration of Rights in 1776, with my assistance. We said there that religion is the duty we owe our Creator, and that “all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience. It is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian forbearance, love and charity toward each other.”
Sen. Screwtape: [face turns dark and twisted] Ugkkkk….phewie…gagkkkkhhh. [He spits on the floor in disgust.]
St. Peter: I beg you, restrain yourself, Senator. Remember your place here as a temporary guest. Thank you, Mr. Madison, for clarifying your position so eloquently. You may step down. And as our last witness, I call George Washington.
[James Madison leaves, George Washington enters.]
Washington: I stated my position plainly in my Farewell Address when I said, to the best of my recollection, “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. Let us with caution indulge the supposition, that morality can be maintained without religion. Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”
St. Peter: Well, that seems clear enough. You say it is impossible to maintain political prosperity without morality, and you can’t maintain morality without religion.
Washington: My conclusion exactly.
St. Peter: Well I have no further questions. Let me add that I admire your very nice teeth, Mr. Washington. I see the heavenly set replaced your wooden ones quite handsomely. The health services here function quite well and the care is provided equitably without a federal law.
[laughter in the courtroom as Screwtape cringes.]
St. Peter: Now now, Sen. Screwtape, we know you are just doing your job in Washington.Well, I think that will do for the update on the United States. Let’s turn to Canada now. What is the situation with secularization there?
Sen. Screwtape: Allow me to introduce my nephew, Minister Wormwood, who has been working in Canada.
Wormwood: I’m happy to report that we have made enormous progress in the secularization of Canada. In fact it is quite advanced there. We have succeeded in mandating that all schools, including homeschooling parents, must teach their children that there are six genders.
St. Peter: What? How do you get…I mean which……oh, thunder and damnation…….
The text is torn at this point, without the record of the subsequent discussion on Canada. We will report back if more information becomes available from our source.