I only caught the tail end of Jeffress' talk, which was apparently an argument that the First Amendment has been twisted beyond recognition, and that in fact the US is a Christian nation. Jeffress cited Story as holding that
The real object of the First Amendment was not to countenance, much less to advance Mohammedanism, or Judaism, or infidelity, by prostrating Christianity, but to exclude all rivalry among Christian sects [denominations] and to prevent any national ecclesiastical patronage of the national government.What I found interesting was not so much the obvious fact that the founders considered this a Christian nation, and in no way intended the First Amendment to become a weapon against public, even government-sponsored expressions in favor of Christianity, forbidding only the "establishment" of any particular denomination.
No, what made my Catholic ears perk up was Jeffress' argument to his congregation, which was (in close paraphrase): who would you rather accept as an authority in figuring out what the Constitution means, and what its framers intended--a Supreme Court Justice and scholar who was only twenty years out from the passage of the Bill of Rights, and personally knew the Framers of the First Amendment; or the ACLU?
Now the answer to that question is self-evident.
But the mode of argumentation directly echoes St. Thomas More in his writings against the heretics of his day, which was (again paraphrasing):
who should one accept as a sure authority in controversies about doctrinal matters and the deposit of the Faith-- the Holy Fathers who were living and writing in first years after Christ, some of whom knew the Apostles themselves; or Martin Luther and his like, who after 1500 years now purport to have discovered "true Christianity"?Justice Story, of course, is a more authoritative voice for discerning the view and intent of the drafters of the Bill of Rights, than the ACLU (who, in addition to being 200 years after the event have an ideological ax to grind) for the exact same reason the Church Fathers are more authoritative sources for the meaning and understanding of Christian doctrine and practice than a Luther and other "reformers" (who, in addition to being 1500 years after the event had personal, moral, or intellectual axes to grind).