July 11, 2013

James P. Byrd’s Outlook commentary “Was the American Revolution a holy war?” [July 7] is an example of how partisans in our culture wars cherry-pick U.S. history, presenting a semi-accurate story to support their desired outcome. It is certainly true that, as Mr. Byrd said, Thomas Paine used religious arguments to attack the monarchy. What Mr. Byrd omitted was the ugly, bigoted use of religion during the revolution. In “Common Sense,” Mr. Paine continually linked England to Catholicism, directly appealing “to the Protestant ethos of the colonists” and warning that “monarchy in every instance is the popery of government.” The First Continental Congress similarly attacked Catholicism as a religion that “dispersed impiety, bigotry, persecution, murder and rebellion.”

Mr. Byrd concluded his piece by writing, “We are, it seems, one nation under God after all.” The way we became “one nation” under the Constitution was through the Framers’ understanding that the new U.S. government needed to be evenhanded in matters of religious conscience. As President George Washington wrote, “[H]appily, the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.”

Michael I. Meyerson, Ellicott City

James P. Byrd wrote that in the early years of the American Revolution, our leaders relied heavily on the Bible to support their causes. He said President John Adams once referred to the Bible as the world’s “most Republican book.”

Mr. Byrd concluded, “Whatever century it is, our leaders often include some suggestion of the same biblical themes that filled revolutionary-era sermons . . . .

Let’s hope he’s right when it comes to the immigration bill now before Congress. It would be nice if today’s leaders, when voting on this bill, take under consideration the following passage:

“When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt” (Leviticus 19:33-34).

I know this is not an easy issue, but reasonably tightening our borders and turning the aliens among us into citizens is what our forefathers would have done. We were all aliens once.

John Maney, Springfield