Page 1 of 51 12311 ... LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 505

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

  1. #1
    Guru
    pinqy's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    Location
    Northern Virginia
    Last Seen
    Today @ 08:32 AM
    Gender
    Lean
    Centrist
    Posts
    4,775

    Why Jefferson wrote "separation of Church and State"

    Many people like to point out that the words "Separation of Church and State do not appear in the Constitution. Which seems odd to me, because I'm not aware of anyone who claims they do. But, just as "right to a fair trial" is not explicitly stated, but is still a fundamental cornerstone of our legal system, separation of Church and State is a fundamental cornerstone of our Government.

    So where did the phrase come from, and what did Jefferson mean?

    The State of Connecticut was founded as a religious colony by the Congregationalist Church. The Church elders had firm control over the legislature and until 1816 Congregationalism was the established church, and attendance and taxes to support the Church were mandatory unless you provided documentation that you belonged to, attended, and paid for the support of a different church. The government and the Church were firmly intertwined and non-Congregationalists were in effect second-class citizens.

    Now, Thomas Jefferson was well known to be opposed to established religions, to the point where his opponents denounced him as an atheist during his Presidential campaign. After he won, the Danbury Baptist Association wrote him a letter congratulating him on his victory and expressing the hope of his positive influence on the states.
    From the Danbury Baptist Association:
    Our Sentiments are uniformly on the side of Religious Liberty—That Religion is at all times and places a Matter between God and Individuals—That no man aught to suffer in Name, person or effects on account of his religious Opinions—That the legetimate Power of civil Goverment extends no further than to punish the man who works ill to his neighbour: But Sir, our constitution of goverment is not specific. Our antient charter, together with the Laws made coincident therewith, were adopted as the Basis of our goverment, At the time of our revolution; and such had been our Laws & usages, & such still are; that religion is consider’d as the first object of Legislation; & therefore what religious privileges we enjoy (as a minor part of the State) we enjoy as favors granted, and not as inalienable rights: and these favors we receive at the expence of such degrading acknowledgements as are inconsistant with the rights of freemen. It is not to be wondred at therefore; if those, who seek after power & gain under the pretence of goverment & Religion should reproach their fellow men—should reproach their chief Magistrate, as an enemy of religion Law & good order because he will not, dares not assume the prerogative of Jehovah and make Laws to govern the Kingdom of Christ.

    Sir, we are sensible that the President of the united States, is not the national Legislator, & also sensible that the national goverment cannot destroy the Laws of each State; but our hopes are strong that the sentiments of our beloved President, which have had such genial Effect already, like the radiant beams of the Sun, will shine & prevail through all these States and all the world till Hierarchy and tyranny be destroyed from the Earth


    In his ]url=https://jeffersonpapers.princeton.edu/selected-documents/draft-reply-danbury-baptist-association]Draft Reply to the Danbury Baptist Association, Jefferson wrote:
    Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man & his god, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; thus building a wall of [eternal] separation between church and state. Congress thus inhibited from acts respecting religion and the Executive authorised only to execute their acts, I have refrained from prescribing even [those] occasional performances of devotion prescribed indeed legally where an Executive is the legal head of a national church, but subject here, as religious exercises only to the voluntary regulations and discipline of each respective sect.

    Upon advice from Levi Lincoln, Jefferson removed that last sentence out of fear it would offend people who thought the President should pronounce days of Thanksgiving or prayer, especially those in New England, where such practice was common.

    While your mileage may vary, my take is that Jefferson understood the Constitution to create a wall of separation by not allowing the government to use religion, or any religion to use the government, to support its own ends, but rather to keep the two spheres separate.
    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.

  2. #2
    Tavern Bartender
    Constitutionalist
    American's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Location
    SE Virginia
    Last Seen
    Yesterday @ 11:23 AM
    Gender
    Lean
    Conservative
    Posts
    81,630

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

    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.
    "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

  3. #3
    Guru
    pinqy's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    Location
    Northern Virginia
    Last Seen
    Today @ 08:32 AM
    Gender
    Lean
    Centrist
    Posts
    4,775

    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.
    "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?
    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.

  4. #4
    Mod Conspiracy Theorist
    rocket88's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Location
    A very blue state
    Last Seen
    Yesterday @ 11:41 PM
    Gender
    Lean
    Independent
    Posts
    34,274

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

    The most interesting (interestingly stupid) interpretation that I've seen right here at DP is that the First only forbids Congress from starting a new religion, and since Christianity already exists they could make it the official religion.


    Quote Originally Posted by Jetboogieman View Post
    This issue has been plowed more times than Paris Hilton.
    Quote Originally Posted by James972 View Post
    After 50,000 years slavery ended when America began!. Do you understand?

  5. #5
    Temp Suspended
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Last Seen
    12-08-18 @ 01:14 PM
    Gender
    Lean
    Independent
    Posts
    61,313

    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?
    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. It doesnt say anything about any government entity separating itself from religion. It merely says that government cannot establish an official religion. No Church of America. No religious control over government. Nothing more. Nothing less.

  6. #6
    Banned
    Join Date
    Jul 2014
    Location
    Los Angeles area
    Last Seen
    07-19-17 @ 01:15 PM
    Gender
    Lean
    Conservative
    Posts
    9,868

    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?
    I agree with the view taken by several justices of the Supreme Court, most recently Justice Thomas. That is, roughly, that the states meant the Establishment Clause to prevent the new federal government from interfering with their authority to make religious establishments. Therefore, according to this view, the Court grossly misinterpreted the Establishment Clause by incorporating it into the Fourteenth Amendment and making it a limitation on the states, because that brought about the very thing the clause was designed to prevent. Thomas makes this argument in his concurring opinion in Elk Grove Unified School Dist. v. Newdow, a 2004 case involving the phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance, and I think it is a good one. His purpose was to suggest a way to straighten out the Court's Establishment Clause jurisprudence, which was--and still is--an incoherent, contradictory mess.

  7. #7
    Banned
    Join Date
    Jul 2014
    Location
    Los Angeles area
    Last Seen
    07-19-17 @ 01:15 PM
    Gender
    Lean
    Conservative
    Posts
    9,868

    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. It doesnt say anything about any government entity separating itself from religion. It merely says that government cannot establish an official religion. No Church of America. No religious control over government. Nothing more. Nothing less.
    I agree with you in general, but I think the question is not quite as simple as you suggest. The Supreme Court has made clear in several of its Establishment Clause decisions that the clause means something more than just to prevent Congress from establishing an official national religion. What it has not been able to make very clear, ever since it first interpreted the clause in Everson v. Board in 1947, is how much more.

  8. #8
    Guru
    pinqy's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    Location
    Northern Virginia
    Last Seen
    Today @ 08:32 AM
    Gender
    Lean
    Centrist
    Posts
    4,775

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

    Quote Originally Posted by rocket88 View Post
    The most interesting (interestingly stupid) interpretation that I've seen right here at DP is that the First only forbids Congress from starting a new religion, and since Christianity already exists they could make it the official religion.
    Wow. I missed that one. That would have been....interesting.
    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.

  9. #9
    Sometimes wrong
    ttwtt78640's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Uhland, Texas
    Last Seen
    Today @ 10:49 AM
    Gender
    Lean
    Libertarian
    Posts
    44,056

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

    Where things get tricky is with blue laws, dry counties, chaplains on the government payroll and national holidays (holy days?) like Christmas (Christ's mass?). We seem to pretend that these religiously based (inspired?) laws are really secular since no particular religious sect is specifically mentioned but it does not take more than common sense to say that government mandated "day of rest" (that just happens to coincide with the Christian sabbath) and for only certain (sinful?) business activity is not anything secular.
    “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists to adapt the world to himself.
    Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” ― George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman

  10. #10
    Guru
    pinqy's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    Location
    Northern Virginia
    Last Seen
    Today @ 08:32 AM
    Gender
    Lean
    Centrist
    Posts
    4,775

    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. It doesnt say anything about any government entity separating itself from religion. It merely says that government cannot establish an official religion. No Church of America. No religious control over government. Nothing more. Nothing less.
    By inference, the government cannot establish an unofficial religion either. If the majority of a community is religion X, and laws universally support religion X over other religions, and religious expression is left to majority vote (so that only religion X would ever be represented) then what is the practical difference between that and making religion X official?

    And not establishing a religion and protecting free exercise cannot reasonably be interpreted as anything but separating government from religion.
    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.

Page 1 of 51 12311 ... LastLast

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •