Fisking Paszkiewicz — or virtual carnage in Kearny, N.J.

That kid in New Jersey whose town turned on him, on the town’s internet bulletin board, after he ratted out the history teacher who was preaching instead of teaching? He’s still under attack.

The teacher took some time out to defend his odd views in the local paper. His letter is several weeks old, and it’s been fisked by others, but I want my licks. I fisk the letter below the fold.

Mr. Paszkiewicz wrote:

Kearny, NJ, Observer, January 10, 2007

Paszkiewicz defends First Amendment freedoms

To the Publisher:

It is my firm conviction that there is an effort afoot to undermine the very underpinnings of our freedoms. Kearny has been characterized as a backward town inhabited by barbarians. This is unfortunate, because Kearny (the town I love, have chosen to live in and serve) is nothing of the sort. It is made up of intelligent, hard-working, benevolent, tolerant people and it pains me greatly to see it maligned. In light of the current controversy concerning church and state in Kearny, I would like to share some thoughts from our founders.

It may be Mr. Paszkiewicz’s conviction – he’s the ringleader – but it’s a conviction based on denial of the facts, not based on evidence.Remember, he was caught proselytizing to children in his classroom.That’s a violation of the New Jersey teacher standards (see Standards 1 and 3, for example), and a violation of the separation of church and state.Paszkiewicz does not have the right to do that.Stopping his trampling on the religious freedom of children does not violate his rights in any way.

And also remember, that it was the “intelligent, hard-working, benevolent, tolerant people” of Kearney who attacked on the town’s internet discussion board the 12 year-old kid who blew the whistle on Paszkiewicz.Mr. Paszkiewicz may believe them to be tolerant, but their picking on a 12 16 year-old kid is bullying [since turned 17].There are too many bullies in that town – and Paszkiewicz should neither join them nor defend them.

But first let me say this, the words “separation of church and state” cannot be found in our Constitution. The intent of the founders was to limit the government’s encroachment into matters of conscience and religion, not to exclude any discussion of religion from public life.

Balderdash.Separation of church and state is woven throughout the Constitution, as any history teacher should know.The phrase itself is not there – neither could one find phrases like “checks and balances,” “separation of powers,” or “political parties.” Nor could one find specifically named rights such as a right to privacy, or the right to travel, to pick where one lives, or to choose one’s own profession. It is subterfuge to even claim that a given phrase is not in the Constitution.No history teacher should be engaged in such deception.

Separation of church and state is a philosophy and policy of government outlined throughout the Constitution. The phrase itself is not there; the principle is part of the warp and woof of the Constitution, from the Preamble to the 27th Amendment.

One may carefully check:At no place in the Constitution is government given any formal role in governance of any faith; no duty or privilege for government is created or delegated in any faith.Similarly, no church or religious belief is granted any formal role in government, at any level, in any branch.This separation of church and state is complete in the legislature (Article I), executive (Article II), judiciary (Article III), and in and among the states (Article IV).Article VI specifically protects religious freedom with a ban on any requirement for any religious belief in any office in any branch or any level of any government.

It is difficult to imagine any more complete separation of church and state than that.

As Jefferson and Madison understood it, “separation of church and state” simply means that there is no marriage of any church with government at any level in the American republic.Madison best outlined it, perhaps, in his popular petition to secure the separation of church and state in Virginia, in 1785, known as the Memorial and Remonstrance.Every high school history student should know of this document, and every high school history teacher should be able to quote from it, and demonstrate understanding of what it says.

Jefferson specified separation of church and state in law, in the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, which he wrote in 1779.It was enacted into law by the Virginia legislature in 1786 (in response to Madison’s Memorial and Remonstrance). It spells out in ringing language that separation of church and state is essential to good government, and to good religion.The law is still in effect today, unamended since 1786.It is older than our Constitution.Madison’s work to secure the passage of the religious freedom law was the prelude to his work on the Constitution, where he refined the proposal; when Madison later proposed the Bill of Rights, the religious freedom clause was boiled down to a few essential, clear and easy to understand sentences.Separation of church and state is an organic part of the Constitution.

The so called “wall of separation” is mentioned only in a letter to an organization of Baptists in Danbury Conn. in which Jefferson uses that phrase to assure them that he will not restrict their religious liberty. It is unfortunate that this is the only Jefferson quote on the subject that gets attention in the press.

Serious students of U.S. history first hear the phrase “separation of church and state” and have it compared to a wall from the founders of Rhode Island, a hundred years before the American Revolution.Rhode Island was founded on the principle of religious freedom, to protect the Baptists (some of whom were under death penalties for having practiced adult baptism in Massachusetts), as every U.S. history teacher knows.

It was a Baptist congregation in Danbury, Connecticut, who wrote to President Jefferson in late 1801, asking for his aid or assurance against the State of Connecticut’s infringing on their religious freedom. The Danbury Baptist Association feared the state of Connecticut would take their religious freedom, not Jefferson (the Congregationalists may have feared Jefferson, but that is a different story, also mis-cited by Mr. Paszkiewicz).

In the letter from the church in Danbury fearing for its religious freedom, Jefferson saw the need for an official proclamation on what was the national law on religious freedom.In close consultation with Attorney General Levi Lincoln, Jefferson determined a letter would be a good form to use to make the proclamation.Lincoln and Jefferson wanted a short, simple statement – and after several drafts, they sent the Danbury Baptists a letter of assurance that government would not take away their religious freedom, not government at any level.The letter was an official proclamation of the President of the United States, collected in the official papers of the president.It was intended as a resource for future government officials, and it was fitting and proper for the Supreme Court to cite it when looking at the issue of religious freedom and religious entanglement with government.

Nor is it the only “Jefferson quote” that gets attention in the press.In the Jefferson Memorial, around the rotunda, is engraved Jefferson’s response to a letter from Benjamin Rush about clergy who opposed Jefferson, thinking Jefferson to be too much an advocate of religious freedom.It is difficult to get more public than that.

During the election campaigns of 1796 and 1800, Federalists had charged that Jefferson, whom they labeled an atheist, would confiscate Bibles, if he was elected.While about half of American voters were convinced Jefferson was atheist, according to biographer Dumas Malone, they voted for Jefferson anyway, preferring religious freedom under an atheist to the threat of religious impingement promised under the Alien and Sedition Acts of the Adams administration (every history teacher knows this, of course).

In the course of all of this politicking about religion, Rush and Jefferson kept up a life-long correspondence, including discussions about religion and politics.In one letter, Rush wrote that clergy in the northeast were concerned that Jefferson would somehow oppress them.In a humorous response, Jefferson said first that he was no enemy to religion, but instead defended free religious exercise.But, he allowed, clergy probably should fear him, since they were not dedicated to religious freedom as much.Clergy should fear Jefferson, he said, because “I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal opposition to every form of tyranny over the mind of man.”That is what is engraved around the rotunda of the Jefferson Memorial.

Somehow, when the fundamentalists and historical revisionists get to talking about Jefferson and religion, they always forget to mention that he was foursquare opposed to forcing religion on innocent children in schools, or that he considered most organized religion oppressive, that is, “tyranny over the mind of man.”

Allow me to share some more. The first group I’d like to share concern Jefferson’s beliefs.

“I am a real Christian, that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus.” (Letter to Benjamin Rush April 21, 1803).

See?There he quotes from the correspondence between Jefferson and Rush, but he does it out of context.He fails to quote the parts of that letter in which Jefferson complains about the perversions of Christianity perpetrated by people who would turn a history class into a proselytizing session.

Worse, he misquotes Jefferson.What is quoted by Paszkiewicz does not appear in the letter to Benjamin Rush of April 21, 1803.Instead, we must assume he intended to quote this passage:“To the corruptions of Christianity I am, indeed, opposed; but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus himself.I am a Christian, in the only sense in which he wished anyone to be; sincerely attached to his doctrines, in preference to all others; ascribing to himself every human excellence; and believing he never claimed any other.” (Jefferson himself emphasized the word “human,” in contrast to “divine.”)

Jefferson, you see, thought the clergy had corrupted Jesus’ philosophy; Jefferson did not believe Jesus was divine, nor that Jesus had ever claimed to be divine.So, a “real Christian” in Jefferson’s view as pronounced in this letter, denies the foundation of the faith Mr. Paszkiewicz claims, that Jesus is the Son of God, and divine.

You be the judge on that one:Was Mr. Paszkiewicz deceptive in changing the quotation to make it appear as though Jefferson were a Bible-thumping Christian?

One might wonder how a teacher would ethically ever find himself in such a discussion with a student during class, in which a teacher would be trying to convince the student that Jefferson was a conservative Christian.One hopes that, were such a discussion ever to happen, the teacher would not misquote the author of the Declaration of Independence and impute to Jefferson views that Jefferson did not hold.

Jefferson also favored religious rights for everyone of every faith, or of no faith.One might expect a U.S. history teacher to be familiar with the story of the passage of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom.Jefferson returned to Virginia after writing the Declaration of Independence, and served terms as governor of Virginia before the Confederation called him to be ambassador to France.During his gubernatorial terms, he wrote about 150 laws which, he thought, formed the blueprint for a self-governing, more democratic government than any monarchy or other republic known.

Religious freedom was necessary for such a government, if the government was to be good, Jefferson concluded.Jefferson had worked with the great George Mason in drafting the Virginia Bill of Rights, the clear forerunner to the U.S. Bill of Rights – and Jefferson was present when a young James Madison carefully but forcefully convinced Mason to add a religious freedom clause.But even that was not strong enough, Jefferson concluded.And so he drafted a new law, in 1779.Some of Jefferson’s 150 proposals were adopted almost immediately; the religious freedom proposal lay dormant until 1785.

In 1785, after the American Revolution, after the Treaty of Paris officially ended hostilities, after the colonies had a couple of years to try to recover from the war, Patrick Henry proposed to roll-back the disestablishment of the state church in Virginia.He proposed that the state pay a salary to clergymen, so that they could teach in the schools as well as preach.To many, the bill seemed a re-establishment of the Anglican Church, though Henry denied that intent.In any case, Madison persuaded the Virginia legislature that the selection of a state church was an important thing, too important for the legislature to do without consulting with the people of Virginia.The bill was put over to the 1786 session.Madison drafted a petition that thousands of Virginians signed, urging religious freedom instead of re-establishment.

When the legislature reconvened, sentiment was overwhelmingly opposed to re-establishment – so strong, in fact, that the legislature took up instead Jefferson’s proposal for religious freedom forever.They passed it, and it became law.

The Virginia Assembly passed it, after one particular motion to amend was defeated.Jefferson discussed this in his Autobiography:

“Where the preamble declares, that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed by inserting the word “Jesus Christ,” so that it should read “a departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion;” the insertion was rejected by a great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan, the Hindoo, and Infidel of every denomination.”

Regardless Jefferson’s own religion, regardless the religion of Washington (who endorsed the law), Madison (who shepherded it to passage), Franklin (who agreed with it), Adams (who said it was a great idea and worked to get Massachusetts to do something similar), the fact remainsthat the founders wrote the laws to establish a secular government free from entanglement with religion.This freedom from entanglement works both ways.

God who gave us life gave us liberty. And 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 a gift from 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, and that His justice cannot sleep forever.” (Notes on the State of Virginia, 1781).

Again, Paszkiewicz manages to mangle his quoting of a founder.The first line is not Jefferson’s – Jefferson did not write, in this discussion, “God who gave us life gave us liberty.”In misquoting Jefferson, Paszkiewiczagain engages subterfuge to mask the views of Jefferson.

This quoted passage comes from Notes on the State of Virginia, sure enough, from “Query XVIII, The particular customs and manners that may happen to be received in that state?” In his answer to the query, Jefferson addresses slavery: “The whole commerce between master and slave is a perpetual exercise of the most boisterous passions, the most unremitting despotism on the one part, and degrading submissions on the other.”Jefferson discusses, rather after Quaker George Fox, how slavery degrades both slave owner and slave.Jefferson thinks slavery rots the moral foundations of a people, and it is in that context that he wrote most of what Mr. Paszkiewicz quotes; but Jefferson’s meaning becomes clear when we clean up the subterfuge.Here is what Jefferson really wrote:

“With the morals of the people, their industry is also destroyed.For in a warm climate, no man will labor for himself who can make another labor for him.This is so true, that of the proprietors of slaves a very small proportion indeed are ever seen to labor.And 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 a gift of God?That they are not to be violated by with His wrath?Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever; that considering numbers, nature, and natural means only, a revolution of the wheel of fortune, an exchange of situation is among possible events; that it may become probably by supernatural interference!”

Some see here Jefferson’s warning of civil war; others see simply a desire to end slavery, a desire that Jefferson could not accomplish even for himself.In any case, this passage cannot be misconstrued as a justification for a teacher to proselytize students contrary to Jefferson’s views on separation of church and state.I cannot imagine what Mr. Paszkiewicz’s point was in quoting this passage from Jefferson.

These next quotes concern Jefferson’s thoughts on the courts. I’m sharing these because they seem to have been prophetic. Jefferson’s worst nightmare has come true! The courts have been used to strip us of our liberty!

“The Constitution is a mere thing of wax in the hands of the judiciary, which they may twist and shape into any form they please.” (Letter to Spencer Roane Sept. 6, 1819).

“You seem to consider the judges as the ultimate arbiters of all Constitutional questions; a very dangerous doctrine indeed, and one which would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy … The Constitution has erected no such single tribunal … knowing that to whatever hands confided, with corruptions of time and party, its members would become despots.” (Letter to William Jarvis Sept. 28, 1820).

It is abundantly clear to me that popular conceptions of our First Amendment freedoms have drifted far from what the founders intended. Jefferson is often quoted by the enemies of religious freedom who appeal to the decisions of tyrannical courts rather than the will of the people, the minds of the founders or the Constitution. Jefferson would be appalled if he were alive today!

“Enemies of religious freedom?”You mean, like a self-proclaimed Christian who hijacks a public school history class to illegally proselytize a captive audience of children by telling them false tales of the founders?As noted earlier, there is no right to trample the religious rights of children.Consequently, it is erroneous to call people who defend the rights of the kids “enemies” of religious freedom, when what they do instead is defend the freedom.

Mr. Paszkiewicz has confused himself badly here.He thinks he is a victim because one of his victims called him on the carpet.What chutzpah!

Nothing quoted from Jefferson suggests any drift from Jefferson’s views of religious freedom, and if it is true that Jefferson viewed the courts as a bit tyrannical (consider he was the target of the ruling in Marbury v. Madison by his cousin John Marshall), one might be excused if one were to think Jefferson might applaud a bit of tyranny from the courts in re-establishing the religious freedom Jefferson thought more important that good courts.

George Washington, the venerated father of our beloved country, also had some interesting thoughts on the subject: “What students would learn in American schools above all is the religion of Jesus Christ.” (Washington’s speech to the Delaware Indian Chiefs May 12, 1779).

Oh, this should make any serious student of history ill.Washington’s letter to the Delaware tribe is part of a sad chapter of U.S. history.The Delawares had converted to Christianity well before the American Revolution.In order to cement their brotherhood with the Americans, they sent their firstborn sons to the capital to learn the ways of the primarily English colonists, as a badge of friendship and cooperation.Washington was merely restating what the Delawares had asked.His restatement should not be mistaken for his own, personal religious belief, nor especially should it be confused for an endorsement of government-sponsored religion.It was neither.

Worse, to lay out this statement without context distorts U.S. history and its sad result:Within 24 months colonists turned on the Delawares, made a sneak attack on their village and slaughtered them.The trust the Delawares had put into the Americans and their “Christian” philosophy was fatally misplaced.

What does Mr. Paszkiewicz mean to suggest when he uses this example, saying that Washington’s thoughts are “interesting?”The safest thing to conclude is that Mr. Paszkiewicz simply does not know history, and does not know that he cites a slaughter of innocents as an example of behavior.

“It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits and humbly to implore his protection and favors.” (Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation Oct. 3, 1789).

Washington’s religious views are interesting.Serious students of history, and of Washington, know that he would be uncomfortable with modern evangelical, fundamentalist Christian ideas in many areas, on many issues. Washington endorsed the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, in part because of the strife the drive for passage created.Washington did not enjoy such fights.Nor did Washington enjoy people pushing religion on others.When he dispatched part of the Continental Army to invade Canada, he issued strict orders that the religious rights of Canadians be strictly tolerated and honored.

When membership in the Anglican Church was required to be active in Virginia politics, Washington was a member of his local vestry.When that requirement was removed from Virginia law in 1776, Washington’s participation slumped.Generally he attended church when Martha did – but he refused Christian communion his entire adult life.When the church in Philadelphia complained that others followed his example of abstaining from Christian communion, Washington took to leaving the service when communion was served.Others followed his example again, and the clergy asked him to do something else – he stopped going to services when communion was served.

Ever the devout Mason, Washington was careful to avoid offense to others in religion, or to avoid offending his view of faith.When others wrote speeches or letters for him, he was careful to edit to be sure the word “Jesus” did not appear contrary to his views.When Congress sent Washington a resolution calling for a day of thanksgiving, in 1789, Washington edited out the name “Jesus” and made the resulting proclamation one that could be followed equally well by people of any faith, or no faith.

Does Mr. Paszkiewicz acknowledge this history at all?When he quotes Washington, do you get the idea that Paszkiewicz wants you to believe that Washington would endorse Paszkiewicz’s religious indoctrination of innocent students on government money?Nothing in Washington’s writing or life would lead a good student of history to agree with that conclusion.

I would be remiss to fail to include quotes from another icon of the anti-freedom of religion crowd, Benjamin Franklin:

“God governs in the affairs of man. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid? We have been assured in the sacred writings that except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it. I firmly believe this. I also believe that, without His concurring aid, we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel” (Constitutional Convention 1787).

“In the beginning of the contest with Britain, when we were sensible of danger, we had daily prayers in this room for divine protection. Our prayers, Sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered … do we imagine we no longer need His assistance?” (Constitutional Convention, Thursday June 28, 1787).

That’s an old trick of the high school sluggard: When faced with only one source, break up the quote, cite it slightly differently, and try to make it look like two sources: Both of those Franklin lines are from the same speech.

But perhaps worse for Paszkiewicz, it’s a famous speech from the most famous non-Christian in America, Ben Franklin, designed to embarrass errant and warring Christians to better behavior.And while it appears to have worked on that level, the pragmatic result was this:The Convention disapproved the idea of prayer.

If only Franklin’s words would sting the Paszkiewiczes of the world to better behavior!

In June of 1787 the convention in Philadelphia was at an impasse, nearing a fatal deadlock, especially on the issue around the big state/small state controversy. Generally, the convention was mean. Catholics raged against Protestants, who returned the favor.Congregationalists raged against Anglicans.It was a scene of disbrotherhood, if anything.At this point, on the afternoon of a rancorous day, Franklin rose and made his motion for prayer.Coming from the most famous deist in the world, it was designed to tweak the other members to live up to the standards they espoused in their churches.

Most of the convention members were suitably embarrassed, some were probably even angered.Shortly after Franklin’s speech the convention adjourned for the day. When they returned to business, the motion was dispatched – voted down or failed for a second, my library is unclear. There was some talk about how the convention could not afford a pastor to pray, but there were dozens of clergy in Philadelphia who would have done the task for free, and some among the convention delegates probably could have prayed on their own (there were pastors among them).So, the reasons given for no opening prayers as Franklin urged, on the surface, do not really explain why no prayers were given, or why Franklin’s motion did not pass.

In any case, within a few days the convention reached a compromise, giving proportional representation in the House of Representatives and equal representation for each state in the Senate, and the deadlock was avoided. No other mention of prayer was made.

So, what is Paszkiewicz’s point? Does he mean to suggest Franklin was a good Christian? That’s wrong, denied by Franklin’s express words.Does he mean to suggest the Philadelphia convention prayed daily? That’s also wrong, as the journals clearly show.

Does Mr. Paszkiewicz mean to suggest that, like the founders, we can ignore pleas for prayer? Or does Paszkiewicz even know the history he claims to represent to us?

In any case, this does not justify public employees abusing their positions to advance their own religion.

In 1749, Franklin put a plan together for public education in Pennsylvania and he insisted that schools teach “the excellency of the Christian religion above all others, ancient or modern.”

Balderdash. Franklin’s words are ripped badly out of context. In that anonymously-published piece, Franklin was urging Pennsylvanians to get off their duffs and make schools. Surely he didn’t want to offend Christians, but to suggest he urged Christians proselytizing is going way too far. Franklin’s outline for schools included these things:

  • Boarding, away from home.
  • Lots of physical exercise, and labor
  • Arithmetick (sic), “accounts,” geometry and astronomy
  • English, with heavy emphasis on literature, and declamation (oration), and lots of writing
  • History, always and everywhere; translations of the Greek and Roman histories (though he also urged students to read them in the original languages), more contemporary history writings
  • Geography, especially what we now call “human geography”
  • Art
  • Morality, especially as revealed in history (conspicuously not mentioning religion or scripture here)
  • History of oratory
  • History of art
  • Watch carefully how Franklin phrased this part of history, history of religion, the part Paszkiewicz cites: “History will also afford frequent Opportunities of showing the Necessity of a Publick Religion , from its Usefulness to the Publick; the Advantage of a Religious Character among private Persons; the Mischiefs of Superstition, &c . and the Excellency of the CHRISTIAN RELIGION above all others antient or modern.”
  • History of government and politics: “History will also give Occasion to expatiate on the Advantage of Civil Orders and Constitutions, how Men and their Properties are protected by joining in Societies and establishing Government; their Industry encouraged and rewarded, Arts invented, and Life made more comfortable: The Advantages of Liberty, Mischiefs of Licentiousness, Benefits arising from good Laws and a due Execution of Justice, &ampc. Thus may the first Principles of sound  Politicks be fix’d in the Minds of Youth.”
  • More history
  • Languages: Latin and Greek for the ministers; Latin, Greek and French for the physicians; Latin and French for lawyers; French, German and Spanish for business majors; more English for all
  • Natural history, including all the sciences
  • Gardening and farming, and
  • History of commerce, trade and manufacturing

Franklin’s plan was nothing if not ambitious, and it was not a plan to educate kids in Christianity, by any stretch. By omission, Mr. Paszkiewicz relates a very skewed view of what Franklin proposed, and what Franklin thought about Christianity.

In no way can Franklin’s proposal for a high school or college be construed honestly as a claim that Christians have more rights than others under the Pennsylvania Constitution (which was broadly tolerant of all faiths or lack of faith, being written to accommodate Quakers, the faith of the founder, William Penn).

In contrast, we know that Franklin did not claim to be a Christian himself.He supported a wide range of philosophical inquiry and study, which included his often attending various church services if he wanted to hear what the preacher said, and also included his financial support for lectures on religion.But Franklin’s support of Christianity was just a part of his support for all thought, in an extremely ecumenical fashion.In France, he spent much time with Anton Mesmer, and was considered the American expert on “Mesmerism” and “animal magnetism.”An acquaintance, Ezra Stiles, asked Franklin his views on Jesus, a few weeks prior to Franklin’s death.Stiles was the president of Yale College.

Franklin wrote, on March 9, 1790:

I believe in one God, creator of the universe. That he governs it by his Providence. That he ought to be worshiped. That the most acceptable service we render to him is doing good to his other children. That the soul of man is immortal, and will be treated with justice in another life respecting its conduct in this. These I take to be the fundamental principles of all sound religion, and I regard them as you do in whatever sect I meet with them.

As to Jesus of Nazareth, my opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think the system of morals, and his religion, as he left them to us, the best the world ever saw, or is likely to see; but I apprehend it has received various corrupting changes, and I have, with most of the present dissenters in England some doubts as to his divinity; tho’ it is a question I do not dogmatize upon, having never studied it, and think it needless to busy myself with it now, when I expect soon an opportunity of knowing the truth with less trouble. I see no harm, however, in its being believed, if that belief has the good consequence, as it probably has, of making his doctrines more respected and better observed; especially as I do not perceive that the Supreme takes it amiss, by distinguishing the unbelievers in his government of the world with any particular marks of his displeasure.

I shall only add, respecting myself, that, having experienced the goodness of that being in conducting me prosperously thro’ a long life, I have no doubt of its continuance in the next, though without the smallest conceit of meriting such goodness. My sentiments on this head you will see in the copy of an old letter enclosed, which I wrote in answer to one from a zealous religionist, whom I had relieved in a paralytic case by electricity, and who, being afraid I should grow proud upon it, sent me his serious though rather impertinent caution.

P.S…. I confide that you will not expose me to criticism and censure by publishing any part of this communication to you. I have ever let others enjoy their religious sentiments, without reflecting on them for those that appeared to me unsupportable and even absurd. All sects here, and we have a great variety, have experienced my good will in assisting them with subscriptions for building their new places of worship; and as I have never opposed any of their doctrines, I hope to go out of the world in peace with them all.

Franklin died on April 17, 1790, about five weeks later.

1787, he helped found Benjamin Franklin University. It was dedicated as “a nursery of religion and learning, built on Christ, the cornerstone.”

Hooey.Franklin’s been misquoted. See Franklin’s plan for education above — he’s not trying to make Christian converts, nor give Christianity a boost over other faiths.

This is a mere sampling of what was on the minds of our founders as they formed this great nation of ours. May we walk worthy of the great heritage they left us. Let us remember that it is in this context that we have preserved the freest nation on earth!

The “heritage they left us?” Let us all avoid Christian communion for our adult lives, as Washington did?Let us all tweak Christians into behaving, like Franklin did (that would require that Paszkiewicz change his own behaviors, though, wouldn’t it?). Let us all drive clergy out of the schools, as Jefferson did at the College of William and Mary, and in the planning for the University of Virginia?Let us all vote down clergy praying to legislatures on the basis that it would be an abuse of public funding, as the Constitutional Convention did?

I would ask Mr. Paszkiewicz to make his own walk more in accord with what the founders professed. I am convinced he does not have a clue.

The heritage the founders left us, and the walk they made, included the elimination of religious proselytizing in schools, the very thing Mr. Paszkiewicz is accused of doing (and the thing he seems bent on confessing to).

In closing, with regard to this town being made up of unintelligent barbarians … if that is true, it is only because they share the same thinking as Jefferson, Washington and Franklin!

David A. Paszkiewicz, Kearny

Did someone say the town is made up of unintelligent barbarians?That may have been hyperbole – but some observers might think it so, when a town gangs up against a 1216-year-old kid who stands up for his Constitutional rights.Surely he is being sarcastic when he says that unintelligent barbarians share the same thinking as Jefferson, Washington and Franklin.Either that, or he is under the grotesque misapprehension that the founders agreed with him that public employees should abuse their positions and trust to advance their own religions at the expense of the public, at the expense of the education of the children they are supposed to be teaching, and in violation of the separation of church and state they carefully crafted in the founding of this nation.

Perhaps it is both.Perhaps he is being sarcastic, and ignorant at the same time.

This civil heresy is not a crime, but it’s contrary to the duty he has as a teacher.It’s contrary to the curriculum in New Jersey (so he’s insubordinate – something Washington would have regarded as tantamount to treason). It’s contrary to good sense.It’s contrary to history.

Evil triumphs when good people do nothing to stop it.Ignorance triumphs when those who know better don’t speak up.

Let the record show that we spoke against Mr. Paszkiewicz’s distortions of history, misunderstanding of law, and misappropriation of Christian faith.I hope Kearney, New Jersey, gets a great awakening and comes to its senses.

I’m not sure such a change is worth wagering on.When a 1216-year-old kid speaks up for the Constitution and gets shot at by those who should join him in raising and saluting the flag, including a misguided history teacher, what rational hope has any patriot?Without rational hope, faith that things will work out is the best we have.Mr. Paszkiewicz demonstrates that such faith can be perverted.

God save us.It is clear Kearney probably will not.

12 Responses to Fisking Paszkiewicz — or virtual carnage in Kearny, N.J.

  1. […] That kid’s at it again The kid in Kearny, New Jersey, who caught his U.S. history teacher peddling religion instead, is at …. […]


  2. Kevin says:

    An exact quote from might be appropriate here:

    “In fact, just about every quote Paszkiewicz offers up that is attributed to one of the nation’s Founding Fathers appears to have come directly from the WallBuilders website”

    It seems the bad scholarship isn’t even his own (as I’m sure we all suspected).

    Keep up the good work!


  3. Ed Darrell says:

    Paul, thanks for dropping by. I’ve corrected the age in the original post.

    I hope your son understands that he did the right thing. He has my respect and admiration.

    By the way, is he a Boy Scout, per chance? This could count toward part of the Citizenship in the Community merit badge.


  4. Paul says:

    Ed, thank you for an excellent piece, which I just read. I am the student’s father, and have only one correction to offer. My son was 16 when this occurred, and is now 17.


  5. Ed Darrell says:

    No, the law does not endorse teachers telling kids they should be homosexual or they will burn in hell, nor does the law allow teachers telling students they must be socialists or they will burn in hell.

    I think you fail to appreciate the differences between studying a topic and open proselytizing.

    I don’t criticize Mr. Paszkiewicz for teaching about America’s religious heritage. I criticize him for failing to teach it, and preaching instead. Mr. Paszkiewicz did not merely “remotely mention Christianity.”

    If Christians feel that their rights are violated because the school system does not deliver young school boys to them trussed up and ready for baptism, those Christians should be disciplined with all the force of the law.

    It is neither liberty nor justice that would allow Mr. Paszkiewicz to preach on the public’s dollar, but injustice and tyranny. It’s not a subtle difference.

    And, wherever did you get the idea that Mr. Paszkiewicz was teaching accurate history? Certainly not here.


  6. Asty says:

    I suppose it comes from a frustration many feel, that a teacher can be openly Gay, or openly Socialist, but can not be openly Christian. Teachers can tell students to watch “Democracy Now” or study Noam Chomsky, or keep an open mind about experimentation with alternate sexualities and be acceptable, but should they dare mention that most of the signers of the constitution were some flavor of Christian, and many of their principles of liberty were derived from a Christian world view, they’ve stepped over the line, they must be disciplined.

    To be sure, the founding fathers understood that adopting a particular religion as a state standard would only serve to corrupt that regligion and imbalance the state. This is the founding reason for the requirement of separation, but this did not include segregating anything remotely mentioning Christianity (including history) from anything remotely related to the state or state funding.

    Many Christians end up feeling that the US has come to a point where many a perversion can be flaunted in the street but Christianity must be confined to the privacy of the bedroom, and kept away from children. Is that liberty and justice for all?


  7. Ed Darrell says:

    Actually, no, most of our laws are not based in religion. Some of them parallel religion, but most of our laws have histories quite separate from any faith tradition. In fact, many of our better laws, those that increase our collective societal morality, were opposed by some or all faith traditions, such as our laws against child abuse, spousal abuse and general domestic violence. Sometimes, the less educated one is, the more it shows that one could benefit from a study of history.

    No one is arguing that virtue should be removed from government. But history shows that a marriage of government and religion tends to produce corruption in both government and the church (as Madison noted in the Memorial and Remonstrance — see the link above, it would make a good study in non-religious morality). Separating the church from the state is like trying to keep the water pure, not like trying to remove an element from it. (Another thing education does is give one a better view of which analogies are apt for the topic.)

    I resent your denigration of my flag-waving patriotism, and I’ll take you on any day in a contest of who has sworn to uphold the Constitution more often, with more sincerity, and served to do it. This nation is a no sinking ship, unless you’re drilling holes in the hull, from the inside. If you are, stop it.


  8. david samora says:

    this is seen in many instances in life. Sometimes the more “educated” you are, the harder it is for you to understand simple truths; truths that even a child can understand. The laws and morals we are all governed by are based in religion. To try to remove religion from government is like asking for water without oxygen. People like you have distorted our Constitution into your communist political correctness. You are part of the reason our country… is a sinking ship.



  9. A truly wonderful job. If someone were putting out an anthology of ‘best blog posts of the year’ this would belong next to writers like Glann Greenwald and Orcinus.

    Ironically, I grew up in Jersey, attended religious (Catholic) schools for most of my pre-college education, and can say that ANY teacher — priest, nun, or layperson — who had ignored or twisted facts this badly would have been fired — if ‘lay’ — or reassigned IMMEDIATELY. (And, in passing, they would have fiercely defended religious freedom, because, as Catholics, they knew it was needed, and — to cover another topic — evolution because, even in the pre-Vatican II days, this was the position of the church.) The farthest they would have gone in history would have been to favor Queen Mary over Queen Elizabeth in discussions of Tudor England.

    One minor quibble — I wouldn’t have used the phrase ‘shot at’ in a metaphorical sense here because it could be misunderstood as literally true. (It isn’t, is it?) Sadly, there are enough crazies on the Christian side that it could have been.


  10. Chris says:

    One of the best blog posts I have read. Thanks Ed!


  11. Steve Beach says:

    Wow. I’m a high school physics and math teacher, and if I my knowledge of my content area was as bad as the Kearny school allows, there is no way I could ever get a job. His history teaching is equivalent to saying that light and sound move at the same velocity, or that x and x squared are the same thing.

    I thank you kindly for your masterful dissection. All too often, those of us out of the field can say that the argument is wrong, while being unable to pin-point the problem. A real historian, like a real scientist, makes the difficult look easy.


  12. Shanley says:

    OMG, it just makes me sick to see a teacher practice such shameless quote-mining. I think I’m going to be ill . . . right now.


Please play nice in the Bathtub -- splash no soap in anyone's eyes. While your e-mail will not show with comments, note that it is our policy not to allow false e-mail addresses. Comments with non-working e-mail addresses may be deleted.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: