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The Pledge of Allegiance Decisions
by
Lester S. Garrett


(continued from previous page)

Henry's bill was tabled.  In its place Madison skillfully secured the passage of Jefferson's "Act for establishing Religious Freedom" which Virginia codified in 1786.  Quoting in part:

"that to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves, is sinful and tyrannical. . .

that our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry. . .

Thirty-three years later, in a letter to Robert Walsh dated 2 March 1819, Madison wrote:

"[T]he number, the industry, and the morality of the Priesthood, & the devotion of the people have been manifestly increased by the total separation of the Church from the State [my emphasis]."

Three years thereafter, in a letter to Edward Livingston dated 10 July 1822, Madison wrote:

"Notwithstanding the general progress made within the two last centuries in favour of [religious] liberty, & the full establishment of it, in some parts of our Country, there remains in others a strong bias towards the old error, that without some sort of alliance or coalition between Govt. & Religion neither can be duly supported.  . . .Every new & successful example therefore of a perfect separation between ecclesiastical and civil matters, is of importance. . . .  [My emphasis.]

"We are teaching the world the great truth that Govts. do better without Kings & Nobles than with them.  The merit will be doubled by the other lesson that Religion flourishes in greater purity, without than with the aid of Govt.  [My emphasis.]

And still 10 years later, at the age of 83 Madison wrote to Rev. Jasper Adams:

"[I]t may not be easy, in every possible case, to trace the line of separation between the rights of religion and the Civil authority with such distinctness as to avoid collisions & doubts on unessential points.  The tendency to a usurpation on one side or the other, or to a corrupting coalition or alliance between them, will be best guarded agst. by an entire abstinence of the Govt. from interference in any way whatever, beyond the necessity of preserving public order, & protecting each sect agst. trespasses on its legal rights by others."  [Emphasis added.]

It would appear that James Madison, Father of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and fourth President of the United States, was overlooked by Mr.Snyder when he created his most-familiar-Founders reading list.

In 1802, sixteen years after his "Act for establishing Religious Freedom" became the law in Virginia, and just one year after becoming the new nation's third president, Thomas Jefferson wrote a letter to the Danbury Baptist Association in which he characterized the First Amendment's establishment clause as "building a wall of separation between church and State":

"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 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."  [My emphasis.]

Six years later in a letter to Rev. Samuel Miller dated 23 January 1808 Jefferson, now in his second presidential term, wrote that, "no power to prescribe ANY religious exercise [my emphasis], or to assume authority in religious discipline, has been delegated to the general government."  (With the passage of the 14th Amendment, following the Civil War, that prohibition applied both to the federal government and to the several states.)

President Jefferson was so adamant about keeping religious affairs out of the hands of government that he even refused to recommend a national day of fasting and prayer.  Quoting further from the letter above,

"But it is only proposed that I should recommend [sic], not prescribe a day of fasting & prayer.  That is, that I should indirectly [sic] assume to the U.S. 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.  . . .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.

". . .[E]very 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. [sic] and no authority to direct the religious exercises of his constituents."

It would seem that when he created his most-familiar-Founders reading list Mr. Snyder must also have missed the writings of Thomas Jefferson whose "wall of separation" phrase would subsequently be cited by the U.S. Supreme Court in Reynolds v. US (see below).

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