The Constitutional Principle: Separation of Church and State
Welcome Contents What's New Search this site
View Our Stats
Visitors since 7/15/1998
Links   Guest Book Contact Us
This site is eye friendly: Use your browser's view options to increase or decrease font size

Study Guide to the Pledge of Allegience

First Paragraph

Author, etc.

Would you not think that if one of our nation's founders (James Madison) felt that religious proclamations, chaplains in the military and in the legislatures were unconstitutional that his opinion would give some indication about the constitutionality of a pledge that had the words "under God" in it?

Would you not think that a founder [Jefferson] who wrote the following: "Instead, therefore, of putting the Bible and Testament into the hands of the children at an age when their judgments are not sufficiently matured for religious inquiries, their memories may here be stored with the most useful facts from Grecian, Roman, European and American history." and wrote the following:

The bill for establishing religious freedom, the principles of which had, to a certain degree, been enacted before, I had drawn in all the latitude of reason and right. It still met with opposition; but, with some mutilations in the preamble, it was finally passed; and 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 Infidel of every denomination.

and who, while president, refused to issue any kind of religious proclamations would set some sort of example that would shed light on the constitutionality of a pledge that had the words "under God" in it?

Would you not think that a Baptist minister (Rev. John Leland) and fellow warrior with Jefferson, Madison and others in the struggle for religious freedom and who gave this advice about electing public officials: "...guard against those men who make a great noise about religion..." [complete text here] would give some indication as to just how unconstitutional such words in a Pledge really was?

Do you not think that the following by none other than Timothy Dwight, President of Yale University would give some indication as to intent with regards to this matter of government and religion:

We formed our Constitution without any acknowledgement of God; without any recognition of his mercies to us, as a people, of his government, of even his existence. The [Constitutional] Convention, by which it was formed, never asked, even once, his direction, or his blessing upon his labours. Thus we commenced our national existence under the present system, without God.

Do you not think that if the founders wanted such union between government and religion, they were perfectly capable of making that very clear in the framing of the Constitution, After all, most constitutions of that period very clearly had wording that linked religion and government in some form or fashion?

Don't you think that if a Member of the House of Representatives [Tucker] was able to say in September 1789 "But whether this be so or not, it is a business with which Congress have nothing to do, it is a religious matter, and, as such is proscribed to us." that the statement would have some application about the constitutionality of such words as "under God" in a Pledge that is said in public schools every day?

How about the insights of two men who wrote the following:


The condition of Church and State in America is such as to fill every considerate mind with the most unhappy sensations. In spite of that vanity and fastidiousness which led the Federal Convention, in founding their government, to preclude any connection, it will appear in the end, even by our own deplorable example, that a strict and indissoluble alliance of religion to government has been ordained in the nature of things. Though formally sundered by Constitution and laws; together they decline and together (it would seem) they are likely to perish.

SECOND MAN: [Joseph Story]

The remaining part of the clause declares, that 'no religious test shall ever be required, as a qualification to any office or public trust, under the United States.' This clause is not introduced merely for the purpose of satisfying the scruples of many respectable persons, who feel an invincible repugnance to any test or affirmation. It had a higher object; to cut off for ever every pretence of any alliance between church and state in the national government.

What about the following:

FEBRUARY 11, 1788

When the clause in the 6th Article, which provides that "no religious test should ever be required as a qualification to any office Or trust, etc." came under consideration, I observed I should have chose that sentence, and anything relating to a religious test, had been totally omitted rather than stand as it did; but still more wished something of the kind should have been inserted, but with a reverse sense so far as to require an explicit acknowledgment of the being of a God, His perfections, and His providence, and to have been prefixed to, and stand as, the first introductory words of the Constitution in the following or similar terms, viz.:

We the people of the United Slates, in a firm belief of the being and perfections of the one living and true God, the creator and supreme Governor of the world, in His universal providence and the authority of His laws: that He will require of all moral agents an account of their conduct, that all rightful powers among men are ordained of, and immediately derived from God, therefore in a dependence of His blessing and acknowledgment of His efficient protection in establishing our Independence, whereby it is become necessary to agree upon and settle a Constitution of federal government for ourselves, and in order to form a more perfect union, etc.,

as it is expressed in the present introduction, do ordain, etc. And instead of none, that no other religious test should ever be required, etc.

Source of Information:

Letter written by William Williams to the Printer American Mercury and published in same on February 11, 1788. It was also published in the Connecticut Courant March 3, 1788. The Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution, Vol. III. Ratification of the Constitution by the States, Pennsylvania, Edited by Merrill Jensen, Madison State Historical Society of Wis, 1978, pp 588-590.





Mr. Adams, before taking his oath of office, made a long exordium . . .that, although the constitution makes no distinction in favour of the Christian religion, yet that he (Mr. Adams) in nominating to public offices would always have a special eye to that point. This truth was thereafter sent to the press. In July or August last...in plain terms. when [former Secretary of the Treasury Mr. Alexander Hamilton] came to Philadelphia to vindicate his character by a confession of adultery, this identical and most Christian president invited him to a family dinner with Mrs. Adams. Such is his selection of company for the entertainment of his wife! Oh, Johnny! Johnny!

Source of Information:

American Aurora, A Democratic-Republican Returns The Suppressed History of Our Nation's Beginnings and The Heroic Newspaper That Tried To Report It, by Richard N. Rosenfeld, St. Martin's Press New York, 1997, pp 17





The other papers of this city have chosen to be silent this day, because the President has recommended a fast. We do not follow their example: Because there is nothing in the constitution giving authority to proclaim fasts . . . Because prayer, fasting, and humiliation are matters of religion and conscience, with which government has nothing to do ...And Because we consider a connection between state and church affairs as dangerous to religious and political freedom and that, therefore, every approach towards it should be discouraged ...

Source of Information:

American Aurora, A Democratic-Republican Returns the Suppressed History of Our Nation's Beginnings and the Heroic Newspaper That Tried To Report It, by Richard N. Rosenfeld, St. Martin's Press New York, 1997, pp 113

MAY 3, 1801

The eastern States will be the last to come over, on account of the dominion of the clergy, who had got a smell of the union between Church and State, and began to indulge reveries which can never be realized in the present state of science. If, indeed, they could have prevailed on us to view all advances in science as dangerous innovations, and to look back to the opinions and practices of our forefathers instead of looking forward for improvement, a promising groundwork would have been laid; but I am in hopes their good sense will dictate to them that since the mountain will not come to them, they had better go to the mountain; that they will find their interest in acquiescing in the liberty and science of their own country; and that the Christian religion, when divested of the rags in which they have enveloped it, and brought to the original purity and simplicity of its benevolent instructor, is a religion of all others most friendly to liberty, science, and the freest expression of the human mind.

Source of Information:

Letter written by Thomas Jefferson to Gideon Granger, May 3, 1801, Works, Vol. IV. Pp 395. History of The United States of America During the Administration of Thomas Jefferson. By Henry Adams, Vol I. Library of America, 1986. pp 213

MAY 3, 1801

The clergy, who have missed their union with the state, the anglo men, who have missed their union with England, the political adventurers who have lost the chance of swindling & plunder in the waste of public money, will never cease to bawl, on the breaking up of their sanctuary.

Source of Information:

Quote appears in The Life of John Marshall, By Albert J. Beveridge Vol III, page 15, published 1917. The original source for the quote is Thomas Jefferson to Postmaster- General Gideon Granger, May 3, 1801, Works of Thomas Jefferson : Ford IX, 249.

January 1, 1802


The affectionate sentiments of esteem and approbation which you are so good as to express towards me, on behalf of the Danbury Baptist Association, give me the highest satisfaction. My duties dictate a faithful and zealous pursuit of the interests of my constituents, and in proportion as they are persuaded of my fidelity to those duties, the discharge of them becomes more and more pleasing.

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for is faith or his worship, that the legislative 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 separation between Church and State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.

I reciprocate your kind prayers for the protection and blessing of the common Father and Creator of man, and tender you for yourselves and your religious association, assurances of my high respect and esteem.

Thomas Jefferson

[The emphasis indicated in capital letters below was indicated in the original document.]

Religious Proclamations Unconstitutional written by Thomas Jefferson to the Rev. Mr. Millar

WASHINGTON, January 23, 1808

I have duly received your favor of the eighteenth, and am thankful to you for having written it, because it is more agreeable to prevent than to refuse what I do not think myself authorized to comply with. I consider the government of the United States as INDICATED BY THE CONSTITUTION FROM INTERMEDDLING WITH RELIGIOUS INSTITUTIONS, THEIR DOCTRINES, DISCIPLINES, OR EXERCISES. (2) This results not with religion. only from the provision that no law shall be made respecting the establishment or free exercise of religion, but from that, also, which reserves to the States the powers not delegated to the United Certainly, no power to prescribe any religious exercise, or to assume authority in religious discipline, has been delegated to the general government. It must, then, rest with the States, as far as it can be in any human authority. But it is only proposed that I should RECOMMEND, not prescribe a day of fasting and prayer. That is, that I should INDIRECTLY assume to the United States an authority over religious exercises, WHICH THE CONSTITUTION HAS DIRECTLY PRECLUDED THEM FROM. It must be meant, too, that this recommendation is to carry some authority, and to be sanctioned by some penalty on those who disregard it; not, indeed, of fine and imprisonment, but of some degree of proscription, perhaps in public opinion. And does the change in the nature of the penalty make the recommendation less a law of conduct for those to whom it is directed, I do not believe it is for the interest of religion to invite the civil magistrate to direct its exercises, its discipline, or its doctrines; nor of the religious societies, that the general government should be invested with the power of effecting any uniformity of time or matter among them. Fasting and prayer are religious exercises; the enjoining them, an act of discipline.

Every religious society has a right to determine for itself the times for these exercises, and the objects proper for them, according to their own particular tenets; and this right can never be safer than in their own hands, WHERE THE CONSTITUTION HAS DEPOSITED IT.

Source of Information:

American State Papers Bearing on Sunday Legislation, compiled and annotated William Addison Blakely, Revised Edition Edited by Willard Allen Colcord. The Religious Liberty Association (1911) pages 174-175) (Original publication of letter, Works of Thomas Jefferson, ed. Ford. Vol. 5, Pages 236-37).


To the 1st Article of the amendments of the Constitution of the United States, we may very well refer to ascertain the then acknowledged sense, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." This was, the general law for all the union, as standing under the legislation of Congress. There could be no union of church and state; no religion established by law; nor could there be any law prohibiting any man from worshiping God as he pleased." South Carolina Supreme Court 1846, in the Case Known as City of Charleston v Benjamin.

September 17, 1856

The manifest object of the men who framed the institutions of this country, was to have a State without religion, and a Church without politics -- that is to say, they meant that one should never be: used as an engine for any purpose of the other, and that no man's rights in one should be tested by his opinions about the other. As the Church takes no note of men's political differences, so the State looks with equal eye on all the modes of religious faith. The Church may give her preferment to a Tory, and the State may be served by a heretic. Our fathers seem to have been perfectly sincere in their belief that the members of the Church would be more patriotic, and the citizens of the State more religions, by keeping their respective functions entirely separate.

For that reason they built up a wall of complete and perfect partition between the two.

Source of Information:

"Religious Liberty," an address to the Phrenakosmian Society of Pennsylvania College, Delivered at the Annual Commencement, 17 September 1856, U.S. Attorney General Jeremiah S. Black, Essays and Speeches of Jeremiah S. Black (New York: D Appleton, 1885), 53. As quoted in "Sowing Useful Truths and Principles: The Danbury Baptists, Thomas Jefferson and the ‘Wall of Separation'", By Daniel L. Dreisbach, Journal Of Church and State, Volume 39, Summer 1997, Number 3, pp 492.

And finally:

Don't you think that a president [James Madison] who vetoed THREE [ two regular vetoes and one pocket veto] Acts of Congress because he said it violated the Establishment Clause, and who wrote the following would give some direction for lawmakers to follow, yet they seem totally blind to all of that.

3. Because it is proper to take alarm at the first experiment on our liberties. We hold this prudent jealousy to be the first duty of Citizens, and one of the noblest characteristics of the late Revolution. The free men of America did not wait till usurped power had strengthened itself by exercise, and entangled the question in precedents. They saw all the consequences in the principle, and they avoided the consequences by denying the principle. We revere this lesson too much soon to forget it.

Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other Religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other Sects? that the same authority which can force a citizen to contribute three pence only of his property for the support of any one establishment, may force him to conform to any other establishment in all cases whatsoever?

4. Because the Bill violates the equality which ought to be the basis of every law, and which is more indispensable, in proportion as the validity or expediency of any law is more liable to be impeached. If "all men are by nature equally free and independent," all men are to be considered as entering into Society on equal conditions; as relinquishing no more, and therefore retaining no less, one than another, of their natural rights,

Above all are they to be considered as retaining an "equal title to the free exercise of Religion according to the dictates of Conscience." Whilst we assert for ourselves a freedom to embrace, to profess and to observe the Religion which we believe to be of divine origin, we cannot deny an equal freedom to those whose minds have not yet yielded to the evidence which has convinced us.

If this freedom be abused, it is an offence against God, not against man: To God, therefore, not to man, must an account of it be rendered. As the Bill violates equality by subjecting some to peculiar burdens, so it violates the same principle, by granting to others peculiar exemptions. Are the Quakers and Menonists the only sects who think a compulsive support of their Religions unnecessary and unwarrantable? can their piety alone be entrusted with the care of public worship? Ought their Religions to be endowed above all others with extraordinary privileges by which proselytes may be enticed from all others?

We think too favorably of the justice and good sense of these denominations to believe that they either covet pre-eminences over their fellow citizens or that they will be seduced by them from the common opposition to the measure.

Also see:

Under current events: The Pledge

For an overall foundation see:

Faith-Based Charities unconstitutional, says the father of the Constitution and Bill of Rights

Remembering on the the National Day of Prayer

Study Guide for Separation of Church and State

A Study Guide for the Words/Concept: "Separation of Church and State"

A Study Guide to the History of United States Symbols and Mottos This also contains the history of the PLEDGE

Representative Tucker on the Church and State

Chaplains and Congress

Chief Justice Burger, I Would Like You To Meet Mr. Madison


The Political Move That Backfired

Duche's Letter To Washington

A Critical Response to Bernard Katz On Our Founding Fathers by Robert Nordlander

Madison's vetoes: Some of The First Official Meanings Assigned to The Establishment Clause

Treaty of Tripoli, 1796: Little-Known U.S. Document Signed by President Adams Proclaims America's Government Is Secular

"Joel Barlow And The Treaty With Tripoli: A Tangled Tale of Pirates, A Poet And the True Meaning of the First Amendment" by Rob Boston, Church & State Magazine, June, 1997

Joseph Story's ongoing war with Thomas Jefferson

Joseph Story's Commentaries of the Constitution

Two Views: James Madison's and Joseph Story's

First major attempts to amend the Constitution 1863 - 1880

Proposed Christian Amendment

Nine Demands of Liberalism

Religious Freedom Amendment

The Practical Separation of Church and State

Chronology of Religious Measures Introduced in Congress between 1888 - 1910

Religious Measures in Congress 1888 - 1949

The NRA (National Reform Association) and the Christian Amendment

In God We Trust

A Bill Establishing a Provision for Teachers of the Christian Religion (1784)

James Madison's Memorial and Remonstrance (June, 1785)

Jefferson's Bill for Religious Freedom (Passed December, 1785)

Excerpts from James Madison's Detached Memoranda (written after 1817)

Historical Data Against "Vouchers"

Some Thoughts on Religion and Law

Religious Freedom vs Religion

All Those Christian Presidents

Nedstat Counter