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From Kennedy to Romney: 47 Years of Judicial War Against American Freedom of Religion

On Sunday, I appeared on ABC News’ “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” to comment on what I am calling a bureaucratic coup d’etat, that is the new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran released earlier this week. I’ll give you my take on it in a minute, but first, I wanted to share with you that while I was getting ready to appear, it occurred to me that all the historical comparisons being made between presidential candidate Mitt Romney‘s speech last week and President John Kennedy’s speech in 1960 are wrong in a fundamental way.

After my appearance, I listened to some of the program’s political analysts criticize former Massachusetts Republican Gov. Romney for pointing out the current, judicially-driven effort to drive faith and God from America’s public square — something Kennedy didn’t do.

The Kennedy-Romney comparisons are fundamentally false because President Kennedy spoke at a time when Americans had a fundamentally different understanding of faith in the public square. He gave his speech almost two years before the Supreme Court decision Engel v. Vitale outlawed school prayer in 1962.

Kennedy Did Not Have the Burden of Defending Faith in the Public Square

Kennedy spoke 11 years before the 1971 Supreme Court decision in Lemon v. Kurtzman, in which the court devised its most stringent standard of legal secularism.

Kennedy spoke 20 years before the 1980 Supreme Court decision in Stone v. Graham, which found that the state of Kentucky could not post copies of the 10 commandments in public school classrooms.

Kennedy spoke 32 years before the 1992 Supreme Court decision in Lee v. Weisman, which held that non-sectarian invocations and benedictions at public school graduation ceremonies were unconstitutional.

Kennedy spoke 40 years before the 2000 Supreme Court decision in Santa Fe School District v. Doe, in which the court found that brief, nonsectarian, student-led prayer before football games (which no one is forced to attend, and where no one is forced to pray) is unconstitutional.

In the forty-seven years since Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kennedy delivered his historic speech, the courts have been increasingly hostile toward public religious expression and increasingly tolerant of anti-religious bigots and their agenda to remove all references to and acknowledgement of God from public life.

‘The Rights of Man Come Not from the Generosity of the State, But From the Hand of God’

As Callista and I point out in our new DVD, Rediscovering God in America, public expressions of faith and God are central to America’s past and critical to our future. President Kennedy certainly understood this.

Consider what Kennedy said in his inaugural address. He began by reminding us that he had just “sworn before you and Almighty God the same solemn oath our forbears prescribed nearly a century and three-quarters ago.” He went on to reassert Jefferson’s premise in the Declaration of Independence that we are all “endowed by [our] Creator with certain unalienable rights” by saying that “the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe-the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God.”

Kennedy concluded his inauguration speech with these words, asking Americans to aspire to something greater than ourselves “with a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own.”

You can read the entire Kennedy inaugural address here. You can listen to it here.

It is indeed true, as President Kennedy made plain, that our rights do indeed come to us from God, not from government, and they belong to all Americans — believers and unbelievers alike.

What is different today is that we are living in an America that has suffered from 47 years of a judicial war against American freedom of religion. Gov. Romney deserves credit for defending American religious freedom — and defending it well.

A Bureaucratic Coup D’etat: How Our Intelligence Bureaucracy Is Threatening Our National Security

A handful of highly partisan State Department bureaucrats wrote a document that is so professionally unworthy, so intellectually indefensible and so fundamentally misleading that it is damaging to our national security.

The NIE appears to be a deliberate attempt to undermine the policies of President Bush by members of his own government by suggesting that Iran no longer poses a serious threat to U.S. national security because we apparently have credible reports that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003.

As a matter of fact, if you read it carefully, you see that the NIE’s first sentence and subsequent headline around the world — “We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Teheran halted its nuclear weapons program.” — is rendered meaningless in its intended importance by much of the rest of the report.

Take, for example, the second sentence of the report, which says, “We also assess with moderate-to-high confidence that Teheran, at a minimum, is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons.”

As I explained to an audience at the Institute of World Politics last week, the NIE authors also acknowledge that Iran has a massive domestic program to enrich uranium, which is a key step in the production of fuel for a nuclear weapon and for a civilian nuclear power plant. But the Iranians have no civilian need for such uranium enrichment. The Russians can provide access to all the fuel Iran needs for its nuclear power plant. Nowhere does the NIE analyze the reasons Iran is enriching uranium, how quickly Iran could convert this enriched uranium for nuclear weapons purposes, and why Iran is defying binding United Nations resolutions that call for a halt of its uranium enrichment.

Then there is this additional sentence from the NIE that is cold comfort for those who want to believe Iran is no longer a threat: “We also assess with high confidence that, since fall 2003, Iran has been conducting research-and-development projects with commercial and conventional military applications — some of which would also be of limited use for nuclear weapons.”

And if the Iranians did indeed halt their formal nuclear weapons program in 2003, is it still halted today? Has it restarted? Is it a permanent halt? The NIE addresses this question: “We do not have sufficient intelligence to judge confidently whether [Iran] is willing to maintain the halt of its nuclear weapons program indefinitely while it weighs its options, or whether it will or already has set specific deadlines or criteria that will prompt it to restart the program.”

In non-bureaucratic language: We don’t know.

Lastly, what about long-term Iranian political intentions? If in fact the formal Iranian nuclear weapons program was halted in 2003, does it represent a change in heart and a fundamental policy shift away from nuclear weapons or simply a smart, temporary tactical shift? The NIE also considered that question, and its response hasn’t been focused on by those who are ready to declare Iran a peaceful nation:

“We assess with moderate confidence that convincing the Iranian leadership to forgo the eventual development of nuclear weapons will be difficult given the linkage many within the leadership probably see between nuclear weapons development and Iran’s key national security and foreign policy objectives, and given Iran’s considerable effort from at least the late 1980s to 2003 to develop such weapons. In our judgment, only an Iranian political decision to abandon a nuclear weapons objective would plausibly keep Iran from eventually producing nuclear weapons — and such a decision is inherently reversible.”

For a realistic estimation of the Iranian threat, read Michael Ledeen’s The Iranian Time Bomb: The Mullah Zealots’ Quest for Destruction.

The NIE Is the Tip of the Iceberg: A North Korean-Syrian Nuclear Site?

The individuals who wrote the NIE so that it would generate the headline that Iran has halted its secret nuclear weapons program did a fundamental disservice to the American people. Their actions are a sign that the U.S. intelligence community is wildly out of control and in need of fundamental reform.

Sen. John Ensign (R.-Nev.) has called for a commission comprised of equal numbers of Republicans and Democrats to investigate the accuracy of the NIE and whether politics play a role in how it was written. I support this idea.

But the NIE is just the tip of the iceberg.

Last summer, you may recall, the Israelis bombed a site in Syria. Today, there is a public rumor that the site was a North Korean-Syrian nuclear site. But the thing is nobody is talking about this. No one in the administration will tell the American people if this is true and, if so, what this means to our national security.

It is a fundamental disservice to us as Americans to have such potentially threatening activity going on and not to be told the truth about it. We need an intelligence community that we can trust to tell us the truth.

Or we need leadership that will insist on this minimal standard from its intelligence bureaucracy.

In either case, we need more than we’re getting.

Speaker Pelosi Refuses to Protect the Salvation Army — Even at Christmas

For me and, I suspect, many of you, Christmas time is synonymous with the Salvation Army — those volunteers in Santa hats ringing bells for donations in red kettles. The many Americans who give and the many Americans who are helped every year during the holiday season are, for me, what the Salvation Army is all about.

Which is why it is so unbelievable to me that, as I write this, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D.-Calif.) continues to refuse to protect the Salvation Army from being sued by the United States government for requiring its employees to speak English on the job.

In an attempt to appease anti-English radicals in the House, Speaker Pelosi is holding up a bill that would protect employers such as the Salvation Army for being harassed by the government for simply requiring that they employees speak our common language. You can read my past commentaries on this issue here and here.

So, on behalf of the majority of Americans who want to see the English language encouraged and protected as our common language, my message to Speaker Pelosi is this: “‘Tis the season, Madame Speaker. Give the gift that keeps on giving. Protect American charities from being sued for requiring that their employees speak English on the job.”

P.S. — Callista and I had the privilege of seeing the Rockettes and the Radio City Christmas show. It is the 75th anniversary of the Christmas show (which began optimistically at the depths of the depression in 1933). It was particularly exciting for us because our niece, Holly Evans, is in the show, and we recommend it highly as part of your Christmas celebration.

P.P.S. — In case you missed it, ABC’s George Stephanopoulos used one of my Premium Podcasts from Newt.org to ask a question to Sen. Joe Biden (D.-Del.) on “This Week” on Sunday. To get your own podcast every week, just to go newt.org and sign up for Premium Membership.

There’s also still time to order personalized autographed books from the newt.org store.

P.P.P.S. — My latest book, Real Change, won’t be out until January. But you can pre-order your copy now at Amazon.com.

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Mr. Gingrich is the former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and author of To Save America: Stopping Obama's Secular-Socialist Machine, Real Change: From the World That Fails to the World That Works and Winning the Future (published by Regnery, a HUMAN EVENTS sister company).

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