Skip to comments.Separation of Church and State : origin?
Posted on 03/30/2002 5:26:51 AM PST by AD from SpringBay
Thomas Jefferson on Separation of Church and State
The Danbury Baptist Association, concerned about religious liberty in the new nation wrote to President Thomas Jefferson, Oct. 7, 1801.
Sir, Among the many millions in America and Europe who rejoice in your Election to office; we embrace the first opportunity which we have enjoyd in our collective capacity, since your Inauguration, to express our great satisfaction, in your appointment to the chief Majestracy in the United States; And though our mode of expression may be less courtly and pompious than what many others clothe their addresses with, we beg you, Sir to believe, that none are more sincere.
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 ought to suffer in name, person, or effects on account of his religious Opinions - That the legitimate Power of civil government extends no further than to punish the man who works ill to his neighbor: But Sir our constitution of government is not specific. Our ancient charter together with the Laws made coincident therewith, were adopted on the Basis of our government, at the time of our revolution; and such had been our Laws & usages, and such still are; that Religion is considered as the first object of Legislation; and 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 expense of such degradingacknowledgements, as are inconsistent with the rights of freemen. It is not to be wondered at therefore; if those, who seek after power & gain under the pretense of government & Religion should reproach their fellow men -- should reproach their chief Magistrate, as an enemy of religion Law & good order because he will not, dare not assume the prerogatives 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, and also sensible that the national government cannot destroy the Laws of each State; but our hopes are strong that the sentiments of our beloved President, which have had such genial affect already, like the radiant beams of the Sun, will shine and prevail through all these States and all the world till Hierarchy and Tyranny be destroyed from the Earth. Sir, when we reflect on your past services, and see a glow of philanthropy and good will shining forth in a course of more than thirty years we have reason to believe that America's God has raised you up to fill the chair of State out of that good will which he bears to the Millions which you preside over. May God strengthen you for the arduous task which providence & the voice of the people have cald you to sustain and support you in your Administration against all the predetermined opposition of those who wish to rise to wealth & importance on the poverty and subjection of the people.
And may the Lord preserve you safe from every evil and bring you at last to his Heavenly Kingdom through Jesus Christ our Glorious Mediator.
Signed in behalf of the Association.
Stephen S. Nelson
Baptists in Danbury, Connecticut were persecuted because they were not part of the Congretationalist establishment in that state. On January 1, 1802, in response to the letter from the Danbury Baptist Association, Thomas Jefferson wrote:
The affectionate sentiments of esteem and approbation which are so good 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 his faith or his worship; that the legislative powers of the 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 man to all of his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.
I reciprocate your kind prayers for the protection and blessings of the common Father and Creator of man, and tender you and your religious association, assurances of my high respect and esteem.
Sources: Robert S. Alley, Professor of Humanites, Emeritus, University of Richmond, from his article, "Public Education and the Public Good," published in William & Mary Bill of Rights Journal, Vol. 4, Issue 1, Summer 1995. And Lipscomb, Andrew and Bergh, Albert, The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Vol. 16, pp. 281-282.
I do know of what was once a small small frontier town in Arizona that had a local law that bars were closed on Sunday and then on election day.
Why? At the time the ONLY building big enough to host church service and election was the ONLY saloon.
That's an answer for one town.
Historically the locals say that whether or not liquor is sold on Sundays or Election Day doesn't seem to make a darn difference on either soul saving or the quality of politicians. Not then, not now.
If you couple the above statement with the decision Not to allow taxation by the Church in America, then I think most of what is now called seperation of Church and State can be traced to these two concepts.
Actually, the origin was an 1876 Supreme Court case that first referred to the letter and coined the phrase, separation of church and state. The biggest problem here is the Jefferson had as much to do with the writing of the first amendment as I did. He was in France at the time it was written, and even stated in a letter that his involvement had been overstated.
It cannot be emphasized to strongly or too often
that this great nation was founded, not by religionists
but by Christians, not on religions,
but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ
For this very reason people of other faiths
have been afforded asylum, prosperity,
and freedom of worship here.
Now put the Ten Commandments back up!!
"It was in 1947, however, in an aside not necessary to his ruling, that Justice Hugo Black laid down the rules for governments in relation to religions. He thought the first Amendment required at least the following:
Neither a state nor the Federal Government ca set up a church. Neither can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another. Neither can force or influence a person to or remain away from church againts his will or force him to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion. No person can be punished for entertaining or professing religious beliefs or disbeliefs, for church attendance or non-attendance. No tax in any amount, large or small, can be levied to support any religious activities or institutions, whatever they may be called, or whatever form they may adopt to teach or practice religion. Neither a state nor the Federal Government can, openly or secretly, participate in the affairs of any religious organizations or groups and vice versa. In the words of Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law intended to erect "a wall of separation between church and state."
This orbiter dictum had no more standing than a randomly stated opinion, when Justice Black uttered it. In the ensuing years, however, the courts have accepted these words as if they had been written in the Constitution.
Anyway, the origin of the words are still the same. They trace back to Jefferson, but perhaps not in the manner that Jefferson intended.