Saturday, December 14, 2013

Jefferson, Washington and Separation of Church and State

by Len Hart, The Existentialist Cowboy

There may be millions of people in the United States who do not share our founders' reverance for what Thomas Jefferson called the "wall of seperation" between church and state. Many throughout the ranks of the religious right wing, for example, are eager to court bigots and fanatics, promising them a "theocracy" in exhange for their "souls". The following excerpt is typical of a "movement" to create an American Theocracy:
If conservatives are smart, we will make the GOP a relic of the past, and will go to the polls and vote the "Jesus Christ" line...Search out the spiritual life of every candidate, and eliminate those who do not follow the one true God.Long before November, we should have all of the members of our churches and their families commit to EVERYONE voting... Done properly, the turnout should be about 10% liberal and 90% conservative/Christian/ Tea-Party/etc. It would speak very loudly to have this kind of turnout.

--John Stone, comment left on "The Batavian"

Now George Washington is reputed to have been a "man of faith". But many others were not. As many if not more are described as "deists", better described as a philosophical view of a supreme being as opposed to an organized religion.

The bottom line is this: nowhere may be found any reference to "God" or deities of any sort in the Constitution. The fact of the matter is that our founders were prominently and most often not very religious. Some were Deists, some may have been atheists, and some probably did not care. That there is no clause in the Constitution that bases our nation on an "establishment of religion" is to be expected.

The single most effective challenge to would be theocrats is Thomas Jefferson's famous letter to the Danbury (Connecticut) Baptists:
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 separation between church and state.

--Thomas Jefferson, Letter to the Danbury Baptists

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