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Thread: Why Jefferson wrote "separation of Church and State"

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    Re: Why Jefferson wrote "separation of Church and State"

    Quote Originally Posted by American View Post
    Funny how every atheist or non-religious person takes Jefferson's Danbury letter like the Gospel from God, but can't seem to accept the plain text of the 1st Amendment.
    Where in that amendment is a prohibition on churches mentioned? Please, just quote the part.


    The 1st Amendment prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion.

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    Re: Why Jefferson wrote "separation of Church and State"

    Some far right evangelicals would like to get the U. S. government off of Wall Street's back and into every American bedroom,controlling every American's private life.And they'd like to have complete control over that government.

    That's not going to happen.Not today,not tomorrow,not ever.

    Wait and see.
    Last edited by shrubnose; 06-23-17 at 01:29 PM.

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    Re: Why Jefferson wrote "separation of Church and State"

    The Danbury letter is descriptive in that it adds detail to the 1st amendment. Just about everyone understands 'wall of separation' and its interpretative equivalent 'separation between church and state'. However, what tends to get overlooked, especially by secular progressives, is the intent of the letter (both the initial inquisition sent by the Danbury Church) and Jefferson's response.

    First, the back and forth enforces the idea that there should be no national religion. I wonder if Bernie Sanders understood this when he asked a recent Trump appointee about his religious views in a Senate confirmation hearing. The point here is that the federal government is prohibited from favoring a specific religion. However, from the letter, it should be clear that actions may be legislated and this is true even if religiously motivated. From Jefferson's response, "that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only and not opinions".

    The most important aspect of this letter though is the implication that runs throughout the discussion. Jefferson is making it clear to the Danbury congregation that the federal government would impose a national religion, the people of Connecticut, but the state legislature was free to continue as it had been. Indeed, the 1st amendment notes specifically, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..." which does not preclude any state government from taking such a course. What the Danbury letter should confirm to all is how independent state governments are in our federalist system. In fact, federalism implies a separation of powers and equality between the states and central government. Jefferson implies as much when he, essentially, tells the Danbury congregation not to worry.

    Why do I worry? After all, I am an atheist. So, why do I care that secular government has been imposed gradually over the states to the point where all legislation must now be filtered through the secular lens? One would expect me to celebrate. To celebrate would be to ignore the terrible acrimony of our body politic. The us v. them mentality which is stoked by the leviathan like expansion of the federal government, forcing the collapse the unique cultural and communal expressions which don't conform with the views of whomever controls the central government. In this environment, the political parties don't just fight for ideas, but battle for the rights of large swaths of people to maintain their very identities. Is it any wonder that the fighting has become so nasty and even violent? To win a local or state election is almost meaningless if you have lost at the national voting box since all legislation, now, comes from Congress and the federal court system. States have been relegated to powerless entities confined to managing our daily state of affairs in the form of potholes and administrative tasks. Some states make symbolic gestures which penalize its own citizens because the vitriol towards the national law makers is so great. Consider CA's own legislature which recently passed global warming legislation which won't be more than a symbolic gesture, but will cost its own citizens billions over the next ten years.

    The Danbury letter should serve as an example for all of us on how to live in a diverse nation with diverse views. Certainly, from what we think we know about Jefferson, he couldn't have approved of how Connecticut imposed a specific religious view on its people. However, he was wise enough to understand that our union cannot exist if we try to force conformity through top-down government. Out union isn't stronger by eliminating the federalist principles it was founded upon.

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    Re: Why Jefferson wrote "separation of Church and State"

    Quote Originally Posted by shrubnose View Post
    The 1st Amendment prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion.
    Right, and churches can't make law last time I checked. Take some deep breaths.
    "He who does not think himself worth saving from poverty and ignorance by his own efforts, will hardly be thought worth the efforts of anybody else." -- Frederick Douglass, Self-Made Men (1872)
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    Re: Why Jefferson wrote "separation of Church and State"

    Quote Originally Posted by pinqy View Post
    "Congress shall make no law regarding an Establishment of Religion." meaning no national church. The 14th amendment incorporates the Bill of Rights and applies them to the States, so no state churches either. And, of course, "or prohibiting the free exercise thereof" which naturally also means the government can neither compel someone to participate in religion or restrict their (private) exercise.

    What then is your interpretation of the "plain language" of the 1st amendment?
    The key word is Congress. There are no restrictions placed on churches. It doesn't even say President. Last time I checked the Dept of Education was under the President, but they still won't allow a prayer at a high school graduation. What they've done is bastardize the entire amendment.
    "He who does not think himself worth saving from poverty and ignorance by his own efforts, will hardly be thought worth the efforts of anybody else." -- Frederick Douglass, Self-Made Men (1872)
    "Fly-over" country voted, and The Donald is now POTUS. #MAGA

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    Re: Why Jefferson wrote "separation of Church and State"

    Quote Originally Posted by American View Post
    The key word is Congress. There are no restrictions placed on churches. It doesn't even say President. Last time I checked the Dept of Education was under the President, but they still won't allow a prayer at a high school graduation. What they've done is bastardize the entire amendment.
    Ok, so if it's not Congress banning any prayer, there's no issue, either, by your own argument. If only Congress is restricted from establishing a religion, then only Congress is prohibited from denying free exercise.
    Therefore, since the world has still/Much good, but much less good than ill,
    And while the sun and moon endure/Luck's a chance, but trouble's sure,
    I'd face it as a wise man would,/And train for ill and not for good.

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    Re: Why Jefferson wrote "separation of Church and State"

    Quote Originally Posted by pinqy View Post
    Ok, so if it's not Congress banning any prayer, there's no issue, either, by your own argument. If only Congress is restricted from establishing a religion, then only Congress is prohibited from denying free exercise.
    That's right.

    Congress can't pass any religious law, either establishing or controlling religion. It's that simple.
    "He who does not think himself worth saving from poverty and ignorance by his own efforts, will hardly be thought worth the efforts of anybody else." -- Frederick Douglass, Self-Made Men (1872)
    "Fly-over" country voted, and The Donald is now POTUS. #MAGA

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    Re: Why Jefferson wrote "separation of Church and State"

    Quote Originally Posted by American View Post
    That's right.

    Congress can't pass any religious law, either establishing or controlling religion. It's that simple.
    Then you have no problem with bans on school prayer. So, what exactly is your complaint?
    Therefore, since the world has still/Much good, but much less good than ill,
    And while the sun and moon endure/Luck's a chance, but trouble's sure,
    I'd face it as a wise man would,/And train for ill and not for good.

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    Re: Why Jefferson wrote "separation of Church and State"

    Quote Originally Posted by VanceMack View Post
    Congress shall make no law establishing religion or banning the free practice thereof. Sounds pretty straight forward...right? It doesnt say anything about communities engaging in religious practice.
    Communities are allowed to engage in religious practices.

    City, state and federal governments are not.


    It doesnt say anything about any government entity separating itself from religion. It merely says that government cannot establish an official religion.
    It also protects the freedom of belief for individuals, did you forget?

    It is also routine to rely on exactly these types of materials to determine the intent of the law or Constitutional provision in question. Have you never appealed to intent, or the Declaration of Independence, or Federalist Papers, in a discussion about constitutional law? You do know that is standard practice, across all ideological positions, yes?



    No Church of America. No religious control over government. Nothing more. Nothing less.[/QUOTE]

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    Re: Why Jefferson wrote "separation of Church and State"

    Quote Originally Posted by American View Post
    The key word is Congress. There are no restrictions placed on churches. It doesn't even say President. Last time I checked the Dept of Education was under the President, but they still won't allow a prayer at a high school graduation. What they've done is bastardize the entire amendment.
    Actually, the key word is incorporation, which is the legal process by which most of the Bill of Rights is extended to the states.

    Contrary to your claim, preventing student prayer at a public high school graduation as part of the proceedings makes perfect sense. It is sending a clear message to all that the state is sponsoring a religious activity, and that is precisely what is barred by the First Amendment. The school still can set aside a private area for attendees to make religious observances; they just can't have someone on stage, as part of the ceremony, leading people in prayer.

    We should also get real, and recognize that most Americans would be infuriated if the student was praying to Allah, instead of engaging in Christian prayers....

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