Quotes: History, Church, and State

Dinner Topics for Tuesday

Month-Defining Moment

keyWashington warned that if religious principles were separated from public institutions such as our courts of justice, then citizens would no longer have a secure basis for property, life, or freedom. ~David Barton, Separation of Church and State: What the Founders Meant, p.11

Defining Moment: Church and State—where do you draw the line?

pilgrimprayingresize Many Pilgrims left the land of their birth, because of government interference in their religious rights. Following are some quotes from David Barton’s excellent book on Church and State.

Book Review—Separation of Church and State: What the Founders Meant

By David Barton

Part 1—History

America

Washington warned that if religious principles were separated from public institutions such as our courts of justice, then citizens would no longer have a secure basis for property, life, or freedom. ~David Barton, Separation of Church and State: What the Founders Meant, p.11

Very simply, the Founders understood the numerous societal benefits produced by Biblical precepts and values and had no intention of expunging those principles from the public square. They even believed that American Government would not function properly if separated from religious principles. ~David Barton, Separation of Church and State: What the Founders Meant, p.9

There is no country in the whole world in which the Christian religion retains a greater influence over the souls of men than in America—and there can be no greater proof of its utility, and of its conformity to human nature, than that its influence is most powerfully felt over the most enlightened and free nation of the earth. Alexis de Tocqueville

In this great country of ours has been demonstrated the fundamental unity of Christianity and democracy. ~Harry Truman

The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were. . .the general principles of Christianity. ~John Adams

One great object of the colonial charters was avowedly the propagation of the Christian faith. ~John Marshall

Let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education. . .reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle. ~George Washington

Men, in a word, must necessarily be controlled either by a power within them or a by a power without them, either by the Word of God or by the strong arm of man, either by the Bible or by the bayonet. ~Robert Winthrop

All the miseries and evils which men suffer from vice, crime, ambition, injustice, oppression, slavery, and war, proceed from their despising or neglecting the precepts contained in the Bible. ~Noah Webster

In contemplating the political institutions of the United States, [if we remove the Bible from schools] I lament that we waste so much time and money in punishing crimes and take so little pains to prevent them. ~Benjamin Rush

Wall between Church and State

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God,. . .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 (emphasis added)

In his letter, Jefferson made clear that the “wall of separation” was erected not to limit public religious expressions but rather to provide security against governmental interference with those expressions, whether private or public. (On numerous other occasions, Jefferson repeatedly affirmed that the sole purpose of the First Amendment was to ensure that the federal government could not interfere with public religious expressions.) ~David Barton, Separation of Church and State: What the Founders Meant, p.13

When should government interfere?

Note: Some people actually commit murder in the name of their religion. This is where you draw the line; where civil government should interfere. But such is the confusion today that government is denying liberty to Christians, while some other religions are getting away with indoctrination, murder, and violence in the name of freedom of religion. ~C.A. Davidson

[T]he rightful purposes of civil government are for its officers to interfere [with religion only] when its principles break out into overt acts against peace and good order. In th[is]. . .is found the true distinction between what properly belongs to  the Church and what to the State. . .Congress was deprived of all legislative power over mere [religious] opinion, but was left free to reach [religious] actions which were in violation of social duties or subversive of good order. (1878 Supreme Court Case Reynolds v. United States, emphasis added) ~David Barton, Separation of Church and State: What the Founders Meant, p.13

Since the federal government was only to inhibit religious expressions that were subversive of good order” or “broke out into overt acts against peace and good order,” that Court (and other courts, including in commonwealth v. Nesbit and Lindenmuller v. The People) provided examples of the types of “religious” acts into which the government did have legitimate reason to intrude—acts such as human sacrifice, concubinage, incest, polygamy, injury to children, etc. tut in traditional religious practices (whether public prayer, the use of the Scriptures, etc.), the government was never to interfere. This was the clearly understood meaning of Jefferson’s “separation” letter and the manner in which it was applied for a century-and-a-half. ~David Barton, Separation of Church and State: What the Founders Meant, p.13

[W]we have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. . .Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other. ~John Adams (emphasis added)

Unfortunately, in recent decades activist courts have dramatically redefined the word “religion” in the First Amendment, giving it a definition found in no dictionary (except the Court’s own privately written one). The result is that the First Amendment is now used to prohibit the very religious activities that the Founders themselves once encouraged under that same Amendment.

Clearly, the use of the Bible in public school classrooms did not violate Fisher Ames’ view of the First Amendment—and he was one of the Framers most responsible for the wording of that Amendment. Ironically, the Amendment he helped write now prohibits the very activities he once encouraged under that same Amendment. ~David Barton, Separation of Church and State: What the Founders Meant, p.8

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