The American Vision: A Biblical Worldview Ministry

Two Centuries of Family Values

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Barbara Ehrenreich, author of a number of books pushing Marxist ideology and articles hostile to the role of Christianity and politics, claims that the “fear of governmental tyranny kept the Founding Fathers from proscribing anything like ‘family values.’ Homosexuality was not unknown 200 years ago; nor was abortion. But these were matters, like religion, that the founders left to individual conscience.”[1] This is a remarkable assertion since the thirteen colonies that became our nation’s first thirteen states had laws on the books making sodomy a crime. In some cases sodomy was punished by death![2] In Bowers vs. Hardwick, the court remarked:

Sodomy was a criminal offense at common law and was forbidden by the laws of the original 13 States when they ratified the Bill of Rights. In 1868, when the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified, all but 5 of the 37 States in the Union had criminal sodomy laws. In fact, until 1961, all 50 States outlawed sodomy, and today [1986], 25 States and the District of Columbia continue to provide criminal penalties for sodomy performed in private and between consenting adults.[3]

Sodomy has never been tolerated in our nation’s history. The law codes of fifty states prove it.

At a General Court Marshall, on March 10, 1778, a Lieutenant Enslin was “tried for attempting to commit sodomy with John Monhort.” He was also tried for “Perjury in swearing to false Accounts.” Enslin was “found guilty of the charges exhibited against him, being breaches of 5th. Article 18th. Section of the Articles of War.” He was dismissed from the service “with infamy. His Excellency the Commander in Chief [George Washington] approve[d] the sentence and with Abhorrence and Detestation of such infamous Crimes order[ed] Lieutt. Enslin to be drummed out of the Camp . . . by all the Drummers and Fifers in the Army never to return.”[4]

Ehrenreich also wants us to believe that there were no laws prohibiting abortion until the Christian Right came along. This is nonsense. She needs to be reminded that abortion was legalized in 1973—nearly two-hundred years after the ratification of the Constitution. Prior to the Roe vs. Wade decision, abortion was outlawed in all fifty states and the District of Columbia, with exceptions only for life endangerment of the mother.[5] Isn’t this a perfect example of the “family values” which Ehrenreich tells us were not legislated?

Ehrenreich and her liberal peers are determined to ignore the historical record and to remake the founders in their own image. Both Jefferson and Washington believed that without religion, America’s civil life would be chaotic. The legal decisions and public pronouncements of this nation attest to this fact: the “family values” that the liberal left disdain are rooted deeply in our heritage and are based on nothing other than principles of God’s Word.


[1] Barbara Ehrenreich, "Why the Religious Right Is Wrong," Time (September 7, 1992), 72.
[2] “Trials for sex crimes [in early Massachusetts] were occasionally noted but there was only one recorded execution.” (Edwin Powers, Crime and Punishment in Early Massachusetts, 1620–­1692: A Documentary History [Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1966], 300).
[3] Bowers vs. Hardwick , 478 US 186, 92 L Ed 2d 140, 106 S Ct 2841, reh den (US) 92 L Ed 2d 779, 107 S. Ct 29., 147-48. The plaintiff in the Hardwick case was caught engaging in the act of sodomy only after the police entered the house on an unrelated case.
[4] The Writings of George Washington, Bicentennial Edition (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1934), (March 1 through May 31, 1778), 11:83-84.
[5] David Granfield, The Abortion Decision (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1969), 78-80. Ehrenreich signed, along with more than 400 other pro-abortionists, an amicus curiae brief in the 1989 Webster v. Reproductive Health Services. The purpose of the brief was to demonstrate historically that “Through the nineteenth century American common-law decisions uniformly reaffirmed that women committed no offense in seeking abortions.” The assertion is false. See Ramesh Ponnuru, “Aborting History,” National Review (October 23, 1995), 29–32. Also see Marvin Olasky, Abortion Rites: A Social History of Abortion in America (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1992).

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