Vail Valley Voices: Founders weren’t Christian |

Vail Valley Voices: Founders weren’t Christian

Henry BornsteinVail, CO, Colorado

Editor’s note: Henry Bornstein, a retired attorney who handled constitutional cases and studies the Constitution from a historical as well as legal perspective, replies in several parts to a recent Valley Voices column by Dick Gustafson addressing the separation of church and state. This is the fourth part. Prior to Dick Gustafson’s misinterpretation and distortion of Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists Association, he makes this statement: “Thomas Jefferson, a longtime proponent of ‘religious liberty’ for all Christians …” First, Jefferson was not a Christian, nor were Washington, Madison, Franklin, Adams, Monroe J.Q. Adams or Jackson. All were deists save Adams, who was a Unitarian. All of them believed very strongly in the concept of the separation of church and state, before and after the creation and ratification of the First Amendment. All one has to do is read anything written by or about these individuals and their beliefs and their statements on these issues and this will be immediately clear. Mr. Gustafson should research the Jefferson Bible, also known as “The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth.” Jefferson took a razor and cut out and rearranged the four Gospels. He eliminated all references to angels, genealogy, prophecy, miracles, the Trinity, anything supernatural, the resurrection of Jesus, the Nativity, and walking on water. Maybe this is why the current Texas State Board of Education has essentially caused the removal of anything about Jefferson from the first to 12th grade history books. Jefferson’s abhorrence of all organized religion is legendary. According to Jim Walker in the journal Early America Review’s summe 1997 edition: “The most convincing evidence that our government did not ground itself upon Christianity comes from the very document that defines it — the United States Constitution. “If indeed our framers had aimed to found a Christian republic, it would seem highly unlikely that they would have forgotten to leave out their Christian intentions in the supreme law of the land. In fact, nowhere in the Constitution do we have a single mention of Christianity, God, Jesus, or any supreme being. There occurs only two references to religion and they both use exclusionary wording. The First Amendment’s states, ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion …’ and in Article VI, Section 3, ‘… no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States. …’ “Some religious activists try to extricate the concept of separation between church and state by claiming that those words do not occur in the Constitution. Indeed they do not, but neither does it exactly say ‘freedom of religion,’ yet the First Amendment implies both.”The Virginia Statute For Religious Freedom was drafted by Jefferson in 1777. As governor, he proposed it to the Legislature in 1779. A dramatic speech by James Madison to the Virginia General Assembly, called “A Memorial and Remonstrance,” swayed support for Jefferson’s bill. After some amendments, it became law on January 1786, seven years after its initial introduction. Here are some portions quoted from the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom: “That the impious presumption of legislators and rulers, civil as well as ecclesiastical, who, being themselves but fallible and uninspired men, have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible, and as such endeavoring to impose them on others, hath established and maintained false religions over the greatest part of the world and through all time: That to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical …””That our civil rights have no dependance on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry …” “We the General Assembly of Virginia do enact that no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer, on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.”Twenty-one months before the Constitution was executed, the colony of Virginia accepted the concept of freedom of and freedom from religion and the separation of church and state. James Madison, perhaps the greatest proponent of the separation of church and state and whom many refer to as the father of the Constitution, also held similar views which he expressed in his letter to Edward Livingston, 10 July 1822: “I observe with particular pleasure the view you have taken of the immunity of Religion from civil jurisdiction, in every case where it does not trespass on private rights or the public peace. This has always been a favorite principle with me; and it was not with my approbation, that the deviation from it took place in Congress, when they appointed Chaplains, to be paid from the National Treasury. It would have been a much better proof to their Constituents of their pious feeling if the members had contributed for the purpose, a pittance from their own pockets. “Notwithstanding the general progress made within the two last centuries in favour of this branch of 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 Government & Religion neither can be duly supported. Such indeed is the tendency to such a coalition, and such its corrupting influence on both the parties, that the danger cannot be too carefully guarded angst. …”Every new & successful example therefore of a perfect separation between ecclesiastical and civil matters, is of importance. And I have no doubt that every new example, will succeed, as every past one has done, in shewing that religion & Govt. will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together. “It was the belief of all sects at one time that the establishment of Religion by law, was right & necessary; that the true religion ought to be established in exclusion of every other; And that the only question to be decided was which was the true religion. …”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.”

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