Last week’s column on getting the state out of marriage prompted some follow-up questions, which in this week’s piece I will attempt to answer.
Question—Did the Founding Fathers intend for the government to regulate marriage?
The answer is no, since marriage licenses weren’t issued by governments in this country until the mid-1800s. However, the Founding Fathers did intend for government to enforce marriage.
The founding vision of the country was largely based on a New Testament understanding of the role of government—which is that in a fallen, post-Eden world God allows human governments merely as a means to encourage good by punishing evil.
Whether you’re talking about the Catholic Christopher Columbus or the Protestant pilgrims, from the very genesis of these United States of America the founding generations of this country (to some extent or another) were heavily influenced by Biblical teaching. This explains the repeated references to “the laws of Nature and Nature’s God” in our founding documents, beginning with The Declaration of Independence. All of the 13 original colonies were charted by Christian denominations. All of the Ivy League schools were originally founded on Christian principles. And the first official textbook of the 13 colonies was the New England Primer, which used the Scriptures to teach academic skills as fundamental as the alphabet itself to all school aged children.
Because they understood the proper role of government as ordained by the Creator, the Founding Fathers left matters for the church to the church, and matters for the state to the state. Therefore, marriage was the exclusive jurisdiction of the church. But then to encourage good by punishing evil, all of the 13 colonies had laws criminalizing adultery, sodomy, and homosexuality—behaviors that threatened the purity and prosperity of an institution vital to sustaining the civilization. This was still true at the time the Constitution was ratified, and was still true well into the 19th century. So the church promoted good (marriage) while the state punished evil (immoral behavior).
These are facts most liberals and even some libertarians would prefer not to be true, so they have concocted a revisionist history of America to reconcile their differences with the founding of the country they live in. But extreme preference does not truth make.
QUESTION—Weren’t the Founding Fathers really anarchists that opposed all authoritarianism?