Backyard Skeptics' "Treaty of Tripoli" Billboard Advocates Separation of Church and State

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Having screwed the pooch on a billboard with an atheist-friendly misquote from Thomas Jefferson has not stopped Fountain Valley-based Backyard Skeptics from going to the inkwell again.

This time, above a Costa Mesa mattress store, it's a 48x14-foot "Treaty of Tripoli" billboard that boldly states, "The United States in in not any sense, founded on the Christian religion."

That quote comes from Article 11 of what was formally called the Treaty of Peace and Friendship between the United States of America and the Bey and Subjects of Tripoli of Barbary. The first (and otherwise rather routine) diplomatic treaty concluded between the U.S. and Tripolitania was signed at Tripoli on Nov. 4, 1796, re-signed for a third-party witness in Algiers on Jan. 3, 1797, and submitted by President John Adams to the U.S. Senate, which ratified it on June 7, 1797. Adams signed it into law on June 10, 1797.

The quote in full:

As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion,--as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen,--and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

For years, atheists have pointed to the Treaty of Tripoli being proof that America was not founded as a Christian nation, while others have used it to strengthen the argument for a separation of church and state. But for about just as long it has been disputed by religious scholars who say Article 11 was a poor Arabic-to-English translation and/or that it appears solely in the English version of the treaty.

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Backyardskeptics.com
You can guess which side Bruce Gleason, founder of the Backyard Skeptics group of atheists, non-theists and freethinkers, falls on in the debate. As he writes in an email announcing the new billboard, he believes the separation of church and state "is one of the fundamental concepts our constitutional authors had when penning the Constitution: 'Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.'"

Were it for this separation, he argues, "America might have only one state-sponsored religion much like other countries, and the 36,000 Christian sects now in existence would have never been able to exist."

Of course, his stunts on behalf of Backyard Skeptics are aimed less at members of Christian sects than they are people who do not believe at all. They need a voice as Gleason and others perceive the Religious Right infiltrating our political system and having laws not based on constitutional law but biblical law. 

The billboard will formally be unveiled at 4 this afternoon at 1526 Newport Blvd,, on the northeast corner of Industrial Way in Costa Mesa, above Newport Bedding.


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18 comments
Managed IT Services
Managed IT Services

Like all mattress manufacturers, Stearns and Foster changes the names of its collections on a seeming monthly basis. It isn't the only manufacturer that does this. Many change names, call them completely different names when there is basically no difference between them, and create unique collection names for specific stores. This is done to make it almost impossible for the consumer to compare one against another. So when doing a review of Stearns and Foster mattresses ignore 'collections' and concentrate on the basic constituents of the mattress.

Jim Lippard
Jim Lippard

They got the quote accurate this time, and it is the English version of the treaty which the Senate ratified and President John Adams signed into law in 1797, not the Arabic version.  But Backyard Skeptics has screwed up once again by claiming that the treaty was "Signed unanimously by Congress."  First of all, Congress doesn't sign treaties, and the House of Representatives isn't involved at all.  The Senate ratifies them, and the President signs them.  Second, although this was ratified unanimously by the Senators who were present, they weren't all present--it was 23 of 32 Senators who voted to ratify it.  This treaty was quickly broken in 1801 by Tripoli, and then replaced by the 1805 Treaty of Tripoli, which no longer contained the quote in question.

scott
scott

If the US of A was really based on Christian values, especially the 10 commandments as many Christians state, then why is legal to be a Muslim or Sikh or Hindu?

"I am the lord thy God...thou shalt have none other gods before me."

And isn't capitalism built around the idea of purposefully breaking the commandment against coveting?

909Jeff
909Jeff

HA! You all act like the Government has never lied in a treaty before... Ask the Injuns! 

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averii
averii

"But for about just as long it has been disputed by religious scholars who say Article 11 was a poor Arabic-to-English translation and/or that it appears solely in the English version of the treaty."

So what? Did John Adams only read the Arabic version? The English one wasn't ratified by Congress? Not bloody likely.

ZingMoo
ZingMoo

Now there is a dude that really seems to know what the deal is. WOw.Total-Privacy[dot]US

Corey
Corey

"The United States of America should have a foundation free from the influence of clergy."  ~ George Washington

.......

"Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise." - James Madison

......

"Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites." ~Thomas Jefferson

.......

The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter." ~ Thomas Jefferson wrote, in a letter to John Adams (April 11, 1823)

.......

"The Christian god is a three-headed monster, cruel, vengeful and capricious. If one wishes to know more of this raging, three-headed beast-like god, one only needs to look at the caliber of people who say they serve him. They are always of two classes: fools and hypocrites."  ~ Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)

......

"It is from the bible that man has learned cruelty, rapine, and murder, for the belief in a cruel god makes a cruel man, and the bible is a history of wickedness that has served to corrupt and brutalize mankind"  ~ Thomas Paine (1737-1809)

............

"All national institutions of churches whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit. … My own mind is my own church." ~ Thomas Paine 'The Age of Reason' (1794)

......

“As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.” ~ Tripoli of Barbary. Art. 11. – Authored by American diplomat Joel Barlow in 1796, the following treaty was sent to the floor of the Senate, June 7, 1797, where it was read aloud in its entirety and unanimously approved. John Adams, having seen the treaty, signed it and proudly proclaimed it to the Nation.

......

"The world is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion". ~ Thomas Paine

.........

"The number, the industry, and the morality of the Priesthood and the devotion of the people have been manifestly increased by the total separation of the Church and the State." ~ James Madison a.k.a. 'The Father of the Constitution of the United States of America

mitch young
mitch young

There is quite a bit of difference between stating 'the Government of the United States of America was in no sense founded upon the Christian Religion", and the outright hostility to Christianity --the majority religion in 1797 as it is today -- that some would have it practice now. There were, after all, states with truly Established (state supported) churches when this treaty was signed, yet the federal government did not move to stop that practice.

dkrnet
dkrnet

It doesn't matter if the verbiage is in the Arab language version or not. What does matter is that it was in the version that was ratified by the United States Senate and signed into law by the President of the United States.

sunburned
sunburned

"But for about just as long it has been disputed by religious scholars who say Article 11 was a poor Arabic-to-English translation and/or that it appears solely in the English version of the treaty."

I notice that they neglected to point out that the *poor translation* was the text that was passed and signed into law.

dkrnet
dkrnet

Where is the outright hostility to Christianity in denying Christians superior status and making them play ball by the same rules as everyone else?

Ricky Bobby
Ricky Bobby

Dude they need you over at the FSM site... stat!

mitch young
mitch young

Oh, the Mount Soledad cross case, for example. 

Bill T.
Bill T.

Do you believe the government should build and maintain Moslem, Buddhist, Shinto, or other religious monuments? Separation of church and state directly protects all of our religious freedom.

averii
averii

The one where the judge said, "This result does not mean that the Memorial could not be modified to pass constitutional muster nor does it mean that no cross can be part of this veterans’ memorial. We take no position on those issues." Man I feel the hostility.

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