|The Constitutional Principle: Separation of Church and State|
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I wrote this essay using mostly Thomas Jefferson quotes to demonstrate his and the Constitution's position on Separation of Church and State and how we, as a country, have deviated far from a secular government and free people.
I think a lot of people should know exactly what one of our nation's greatest Forefathers had to say on the issue, and how it differs from today's reality.
Thomas Jefferson was religious, and his beliefs gave him great cause to be wary of any established religion's power and its danger to human freedom:
"The clergy...believe that any portion of power confided to me [as President] will be exerted in opposition to their schemes. And they believe rightly: for I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man. But this is all they have to fear from me: and enough, too, in their opinion."
--Thomas Jefferson to Benjamin Rush, 1800. ME 10:173
What would Thomas Jefferson do? If he isn't already, he would be spinning in his grave with outrage--outrage that the government for which he fought so hard to be secular:
"We have solved, by fair experiment, the great and interesting question whether freedom of religion is compatible with order in government and obedience to the laws. And we have experienced the quiet as well as the comfort which results from leaving every one to profess freely and openly those principles of religion which are the inductions of his own reason and the serious convictions of his own inquiries."
--Thomas Jefferson: Reply to Virginia Baptists, 1808. ME 16:320
The government he fought so hard to push for individual rights and everybody's freedoms:
"One of the amendments to the Constitution... expressly declares that 'Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press,' thereby guarding in the same sentence and under the same words, the freedom of religion, of speech, and of the press; insomuch that whatever violates either throws down the sanctuary which covers the others."
--Thomas Jefferson: Draft Kentucky Resolutions, 1798. ME 17:382
The country for which he fought has carelessly let the fox--religion--unlawfully into government's henhouse, and thus every house, and every school, and every governmental institution:
"The clergy, by getting themselves established by law and ingrafted into the machine of government, have been a very formidable engine against the civil and religious rights of man."
-- Thomas Jefferson to Jeremiah Moore, August 14, 1800--- Ford 7:454 - 55
Some people ask, "Why bother with so much controversy over a few words?" Those words alone are merely the tip of the iceberg. The problem is when an entire section of our government stands up to protect one monotheistic sect and no others:
"I am for freedom of religion, and against all maneuvers to bring about a legal ascendency of one sect over another."
--Thomas Jefferson to Elbridge Gerry, 1799. ME 10:78
The problem is with those who would threaten the lives of their fellow citizens and their children to keep a throwback to the McCarthy era in the pledge, and when our government itself considers belief in God a requirement to be a "true" patriot, and the belief in God necessary by and large to hold public office:
"The proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him an incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolument unless he profess or renounce this or that religious opinion is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages to which, in common with his fellow citizens, he has a natural right."
--Thomas Jefferson: Statute for Religious Freedom, 1779. ME 2:301, Papers 2:546
The problem is when an entire lawmaking body prays on tax-payer's time:
"To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical."
--Thomas Jefferson: Bill for Religious Freedom, 1779. Papers 2:545
The problem is when a government puts the rights of most of its citizens before the rights of ALL its citizens:
"No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor... otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief... All men shall be free to profess and by argument to maintain their opinions in matters of religion, and... the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities."
--Thomas Jefferson: Statute for Religious Freedom, 1779. ME 2:302, Papers 2:546
Something in this nation is wrong: The fox is in the henhouse. It is now our duty to shoot the fox or drive it away. Thomas Jefferson knew that religion was never a proper excuse to break the law:
"Whatsoever is lawful in the Commonwealth or permitted to the subject in the ordinary way cannot be forbidden to him for religious uses; and whatsoever is prejudicial to the Commonwealth in their ordinary uses and, therefore, prohibited by the laws, ought not to be permitted to churches in their sacred rites...this is the true extent of toleration."
--Thomas Jefferson: Notes on Religion, 1776. Papers 1:547
Afterwards, the damage must be repaired, but how many hens have died because of our carelessness?
We may either officially endorse all religions or none at all. Should we choose to endorse all religions, we must equate Satanism with Christianity, and Christianity with Islam, and Islam with Buddhism, and Buddhism with Paganism, and so the list would continue until all 55 plus religions existent in the USA are mentioned. The only feasible way to re-achieve the government Thomas Jefferson invisioned is to endorse no religion at all:
"[When] the [Virginia] bill for establishing religious freedom... was finally passed, ...a singular proposition proved that its protection of opinion was meant to be universal. Where the preamble declares that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed, by inserting the word "Jesus Christ," so that it should read "a departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion." The insertion was rejected by a great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend within the mantle of its protection the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan, the Hindoo and [the] infidel of every denomination."
--Thomas Jefferson: Autobiography, 1821. ME 1:67
Freedom OF religion, is, by definition, freedom FROM religion, for no one person rightly practices, at any one time, more than one religion, leaving all other religions to impress themselves upon this person, from which the practioner may be saved, by law, from these other religions, and free to practice his or her own system of beliefs.