December 7 in freethought history…

December 7, 1787 – Delaware becomes the first state to ratify the United States Constitution, which had been proposed to replace the deeply flawed Articles of Confederation.

ulyssesgrantDecember 7, 1875 – President Ulysses S. Grant, in his seventh and final annual message to Congress, calls for taxation of church property and for continued enforcement of separation of church and state. Calling the failure to tax church property on a equal footing with other property “an evil that, if permitted to continue, will probably lead to great trouble in our land,” Grant proposed exempting only cemeteries and “church edifices” from taxation. Grant ended his message with advice to his successors on five issues of “vital importance,” which included: “No sectarian tenets shall ever be taught in any school supported in whole or in part by the State, nation, or by the proceeds of any tax levied upon any community,” and “Declare church and state forever separate and distinct, but each free within their proper spheres.”

December 7, 1928 – Philosopher and linguist Noam Chomsky is born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He is a staunch defender of free speech, believing that “there are basically two positions: you defend it vigorously for views you hate, or you reject it and prefer Stalinist/fascist standards.” While Chomsky concedes that religion has done some good historically and can provide people with comfort, he states, “I am a child of the Enlightenment. I think irrational belief is a dangerous phenomenon, and I try to consciously avoid irrational belief.” Lamenting the intense religiosity and denial of science in the United States, Chomsky said America is “like Iran in the degree of fanatic religious commitment.”

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