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To: jda
Here is a point by point rebuttal of your argument.

- The words “separation of church and state” do not appear in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights.

Correct. However, neither does the phrase “right to privacy” appear in the Constitution or the bill of rights. Those are both phrases that capture the overall meanings of provisions in the Constitution and the bill of rights. Sidebar, I hate the phrase bill of rights. The first ten amendments do not tell us what our rights are but places limits on what government can do.

- The 1st Amendment says: “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; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” {emphasis added}

This is correct and it also only applied to the federal government until the 14th amendment and the incorporation principle.

- The words “separation of church and state” originate from a letter Thomas Jefferson wrote to the Danbury Baptist Convention who feared a state run religion would be implemented much like the church of England. They wanted to be assured they would not be forced by the state to practice any certain form of Christianity. Jefferson assured them they would be able to practice their brand of Christianity without state intervention. That letter has been twisted 180 degrees to prevent public displays of Christianity. It was never Jefferson’s intent.

I would disagree with your interpretation of Jefferson’s intent. Here is a quote from a letter he wrote while president discussing national days of prayer or celebration;
I consider the government of the United States as interdicted by the Constitution from intermeddling in religious institutions, their doctrines, discipline, or exercises. This results not 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 States. 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 & prayer. That is, that I should indirectly assume to the US an authority over religious exercises which the Constitution has directly precluded them from.... I do not believe it is for the interest of religion to invite the civil magistrate to direct it's exercises, it's discipline, or it's 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 & 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, & 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. I am aware that the practice of my predecessors may be quoted.... Be this as it may, every one must act according to the dictates of his own reason, & mine tells me that civil powers alone have been given to the President of the US and no authority to direct the religious exercises of his constituents.
— Thomas Jefferson, to Samuel Miller, January 23, 1808

Clearly he believed that the first amendment restricted him from making a religious proclamation as president. Even though his two predecessors had done so. In my opinion every president that does so is not following a strict reading of the constitution.

- It wasn’t until the early 1960’s that prayer in public school was “outlawed” by a new interpretation of the U.S. Constitution.

I disagree with you on this. It was not a new interpretation but a return to the correct interpretation. Since the great awakening in the early 1800’s the protestant majority in America had used governmental power to enforce a generic brand of Protestantism within public schools.
Also you are wrong that it wasn’t till the early 1960’s that prayer and bible reading was found to be unconstitutional in this country. Many of the first attempts were by catholics who objected to their children reading the king james version of the bible.
In 1890 the Wisconsin supreme court ruled that reading the king james version of the bible in public schools violated the Wisconsin constitution. Now this was a state supreme court ruling on their state constitution. This case was never appealed to the supreme court so they did not get to rule on it. From my study of the history of the US supreme court cases against prayer and bible reading in public schools did not start coming to their attention until the mid 1900s. This is of course when we began to be more diverse as a nation in our religious beliefs and practices.

- The history of the U.S. includes prayer and Bible readings in all sorts of public places, including schools and Congress.

You are absolutely right on this. However I attribute this to the same disconnect the founders had to the idea that all men are created equal while at the same time allowing slavery. In fact James Madison had this to say on congressional chaplains;
Is the appointment of Chaplains to the two Houses of Congress consistent with the Constitution, and with the pure principle of religious freedom? In strictness the answer on both points must be in the negative. The Constitution of the U S forbids everything like an establishment of a national religion. The law appointing Chaplains establishes a religious worship for the national representatives, to be performed by Ministers of religion, elected by a majority of them, and these are to be paid out of the national taxes. Does this not involve the principle of a national establishment...?
— James Madison, “Essay on Monopolies” unpublished until 1946
Now you can see that this wasn’t published until 1946. Why might that be?

- In 1782, the United States Congress passed the following resolution: “The Congress of the United States recommends and approves the Holy Bible for use in all schools.”

See post above and comment on the disconnection.

- William Holmes McGuffey, the author of the McGuffey Reader (used ofr over 100 years in U.S. public schools), declared: “The Christian religion is the religion of our country. From it are derived our notions on the character of God, on the great moral Governor of the universe. On its doctrines are founded the peculiarities of our free institutions. From no source has the author drawn more conspicuously than from the sacred Scriptures. From all these extracts from the Bible I make no apology.”

One man’s personal opinion.

- Of the first 108 universities founded in America, 106 were distinctly Christian, including the first, Harvard University, chartered in 1636.

Any one can found a college on their religious beliefs in this country. Freedom of religion.

- In the original Harvard Student Handbook, rule number 1 was that students seeking entrance must know Latin and Greek so that they could study the Scriptures: “Let every student be plainly instructed and earnestly pressed to consider well, the main end of his life and studies is, to know God and Jesus Christ, which is eternal life, (John 17:3); and therefore to lay Jesus Christ as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and learning. And seeing the Lord only giveth wisdom, let every one seriously set himself by prayer in secret to seek it of him (Proverbs 2:3).”
{Certain excerpts from}

See post above.

There have been people since this country was founded that believed the constitution provided a separation of church and state. With the majority of Americans being some form of protestant they were absolutely fine with imposing a generic protestantism in the public schools. As the people with power are want to do. It wasn’t until the country became much less homogenous in its religious make-up and the protestant majority lost the power to enforce there view that people starting protesting that prayer was being outlawed in public school.

This of course is nonsense. What the supreme court outlawed was the government, in the form of your local school board, forcing students to say a certain prayer or read a certain bible. I think conservatives can agree that we do not want the government in any form to be forcing religion on children. This is the sole purview of their parents.

Students are allowed to pray in schools, as long as it is not disruptive. They are also allowed to form religious groups that meet before or after school.

68 posted on 02/15/2011 11:14:42 AM PST by armordog99
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To: armordog99
You obviously miss the whole point.

In regard to Jefferson's letter to the Danbury Baptist Church, I suggest that, instead of disagreeing with what you think his intentions were, you read more about him and the other Founders (yes, all of them). Here are a few more Jefferson quotes:

"[N]o power over the freedom of religion . . . [is] delegated to the United States by the Constitution." Kentucky Resolution, 1798

"In matters of religion, I have considered that its free exercise is placed by the Constitution independent of the powers of the general [federal] government." Second Inaugural Address, 1805

"[O]ur excellent Constitution . . . has not placed our religious rights under the power of any public functionary." Letter to the Methodist Episcopal Church, 1808

"I consider the government of the United States as interdicted [prohibited] by the Constitution from intermeddling with religious institutions . . . or exercises." Letter to Samuel Millar, 1808

"[T]he clause of the Constitution which, while it secured the freedom of the press, covered also the freedom of religion, had given to the clergy a very favorite hope of obtaining an establishment of a particular form of Christianity through the United States; and as every sect believes its own form the true one, every one perhaps hoped for his own, but especially the Episcopalians and Congregationalists. The returning good sense of our country threatens abortion to their hopes and they believe that any portion of power confided to me will be exerted in opposition to their schemes. And they believe rightly."Letter to Bejamin Rush, 1800 [8]

Furthermore, if the 1st Amendment is intended to keep religion out of government (i.e., freedom from religion as opposed to freedom of religion:

- Why do the Congressional Records from June 7 to September 25, 1789, the months of discussions and debates of the ninety Founding Fathers who framed the First Amendment never mention the phrase "separation of church and state." It seems logical that if this had been the intent for the First Amendment – as is so frequently asserted - then at least one of those ninety who framed the Amendment would have mentioned that phrase; none did. Incidentally, Jefferson was not one of the 90 framers of the 1st Amendment.

- Why did the Constitutional Congress appoint chaplains for each house of Congress?

- Why did the Constitutional Congress, and every Congress since, open with prayer?

- Why did Ben Franklin, during a particularly contentious debate, recommended that they stop and pray before proceeding?

- Why was the Capitol used for church services before it was occupied by Congress?

- Why did both houses of Congress approve the use of the Capitol for church services ... in 1800?

- Why are there so many references to Chritianity (quotes, pictures, and even the Ten Commandments) throughout government buildings in D.C.?

- Why does the Declaration of Independence reference the "Creator" as the source of our unalienable rights?

- Why did Congress authorize and fund the printing of Bibles in 1782?

I could go on and on, but the point is that, yes, there are a few references which, when taken out of context, indicate that we should be free from religion, but there are orders of magnitude more that show the intent that we have freedom of religion, as the 1st Amendment says: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; . . ."

69 posted on 02/15/2011 12:46:32 PM PST by jda ("Righteousness exalts a nation . . .")
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