Appearing on Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, Newsweek managing editor Jon Meacham agreed that the founding fathers would have disapproved of -- as host Bill O'Reilly termed it -- the ACLU's opposition to the "Pledge of Allegiance ... God, Christmas icons." Further, Meacham did not dispute O'Reilly's characterization of the ACLU as engaged in a "jihad ... against Judeo-Christian tradition in this country."
On the April 11 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly asked Newsweek managing editor Jon Meacham what the founding fathers would have thought of the American Civil Liberties Union's (ACLU) opposition to the "Pledge of Allegiance ... God, Christmas icons." Meacham, the author of a new book, American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation (Random House, April 2006), responded, "They would have been against it." O'Reilly later asked him, "So you're firmly convinced, based upon your research, that the founders would not approve of the ACLU jihad ... against Judeo-Christian tradition in this country?" Meacham agreed with O'Reilly's characterization of the ACLU as engaged in a "jihad," saying, "I think that what they wanted was religion in the country."
Media Matters for America has documented O'Reilly's numerous previous attacks on the ACLU, including his descriptions of the organization as a "terrorist group" made up of "terrorist allies" and his claims that it is "going out of its way to help Al Qaeda" and that "Hitler would be a card-carrying ACLU member."
From the April 11 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
O'REILLY: What do you think Benjamin Franklin and George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and James Madison would have thought about the ACLU, all right -- Pledge of Allegiance, no God, Christmas icons out of the public arena -- what do you think those guys would have thought about that?
MEACHAM: They would have been against it. They would have been against the ACLU taking on the elimination or pushing for the elimination of religious references in the public square. There's no question.
O'REILLY: When you say there's no question, how do you know that? Give me a concrete example.
MEACHAM: Because the Declaration of Independence, our founding document, grounds the fundamental human rights and the cause for which we went to war against the world's mightiest empire in rights that were the gift of nature's God and endowed by their creator.
O'REILLY: But that wasn't in the Constitution. Once the ACLU spits at you -- if they wanted that, they would have put it in the Constitution.
MEACHAM: But you have to read the documents together. You can't be secular and read the Constitution and eliminate the Declaration, nor can you be on the right and read the Declaration and ignore the Constitution.
O'REILLY: So you have to take the two together to form the picture of what the founders wanted? That's your point of view. You know that will be disputed by the far left. You know that?
MEACHAM: Sure, they call it the godless Constitution. But it also says it was written in the year of our lord 1787.
O'REILLY: All right. So you're firmly convinced, based upon your research, that the founders would not approve of the ACLU jihad, pardon the pun, against Judeo-Christian tradition in this country?
MEACHAM: No, I don't think so at all. I think that what they wanted was religion in the country. They didn't want it coercive. They did not want it forced on people, because largely for religious reasons. The religious argument for religious freedom is that if God himself did not compel obedience, then no man should try.
O'REILLY: OK, Why did they want religion in the country in the public square, not just the synagogues, and churches?
MEACHAM: Because, as John Adams said, man is by nature a religious creature. Homer said -- they were following Homer -- that all men need the gods. George Washington clearly understood that the victory in the revolution -- he said, "I can only attribute it to the hand of providence." These were men of intense, private, often complicated faith. Not simple Christianity in many cases.
O'REILLY: All right. So it was just a benevolence on their part. They thought religion was good for them; it would be good for everybody else.
MEACHAM: Good for morality.