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Americans United for Separation of Church and State
Nashville Chapter
PO Box 210005 . Nashville TN 37221


Quotes


"From this day forward, the millions of our school children will daily proclaim in every city and town, every village and rural school house, the dedication of our nation and our people to the Almighty. To anyone who truly loves America, nothing could be more inspiring than to contemplate this re-dedication of our youth, on each school morning, to our country's true meaning." President Eisenhower concluded: "In this way we are reaffirming the transcendence of religious faith in America's heritage and future; in this way we shall constantly strengthen those spiritual weapons which forever will be our country's most powerful resource, in peace or in war." -
---- [President Dwight Eisenhower] The purpose of inserting "Under God" into the Pledge of Allegiance is described very explicitly in the statement made by President Eisenhower when the inappropriate wording was added. On June 14, 1954, President Dwight Eisenhower signed the Joint Resolution of Congress (Public Law 396) adding the phrase "One Nation Under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance.

"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."
----- [Thomas Jefferson, letter to Danbury Baptist Association, Connecticut. "The Complete Jefferson" by Saul K. Padover, pp 518-519]

"The government ought to stay out of the prayer business."
----- [President Jimmy Carter, Press Conference 1979]

"What influence, in fact, have ecclesiastical establishments had on society? In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of the civil authority; on many instances they have been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny; in no instance have they been the guardians of the liberties of the people. Rulers who wish to subvert the public liberty may have found an established clergy convenient auxiliaries. A just government, instituted to secure and perpetuate it, needs them not."
----- [James Madison, "A Memorial and Remonstrance", 1785]

"Experience witnesseth that ecclesiastical establishments, instead of maintaining the purity and efficacy of religion, have had a contrary operation. During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What has been its fruits? More or less, in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution."
----- [James Madison, "A Memorial and Remonstrance", 1785]

"[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 and doubts on unessential points. The tendency to 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 Gov't from interfence in any way whatsoever, beyond the necessity of preserving public order, and protecting each sect agst. trespasses on its legal rights by others."
----- [James Madison, "James Madison on Religious Liberty", edited by Robert S. Alley, ISBN 0-8975-298-X. pp. 237-238]

"The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg."
----- [Thomas Jefferson]

"When a religion is good, I conceive it will support itself; and when it does not support itself so that its professors are obliged to call for the help of the civil power, 'tis a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one."
----- [Ben Franklin]

"Convinced that religious liberty must, most assuredly, be built into the structural frame of the new [state] government, Jefferson proposed this language [for the new Virginia constitution]: 'All persons shall have full and free liberty of religious opinion; nor shall any be compelled to frequent or maintain any religious institution.' Freedom for religion, but also freedom from religion."
----- [Edwin S. Gaustad, Faith of Our Fathers: Religion and the New Nation, San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1987, p. 38. Jefferson proposed his language in 1776.]

Well aware that the opinions and belief of men depend not on their own will, but follow involuntarily the evidence proposed to their minds; that Almighty God hath created the mind free, and manifested his supreme will that free it shall remain by making it altogether insusceptible to restraint; that all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments, or burthens, or by civil incapacitations, tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and are a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, who being lord both of body and mind, yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as was in his Almighty power to do, but to extend it by its influence on reason alone; 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; . . . that the opinions of men are not the object of civil government, nor under its jurisdiction; that to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency is a dangerous falacy [sic], which at once destroys all religious liberty . . . ; and finally, that truth is great and will prevail if left to herself; that she is the proper and sufficient antagonist to error, and has nothing to fear from the conflict unless by human interposition disarmed of her natural weapons, free argument and debate; errors ceasing to be dangerous when it is permitted freely to contradict them. 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 burdened 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 . . .
----- [Thomas Jefferson, "Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom in Virginia," 1779; Some parts, originally shown in italics, were, according to Edwin S. Gaustad, written by Jefferson but not included in the statute as passed by the General Assembly of Virginia. The bill became law on January 16, 1786. From Edwin S. Gaustad, ed., A Documentary History of Religion in America, Vol. I (To the Civil War), Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1982, pp. 259-261. Jefferson was prouder of having written this bill than of being the third President or of such history-making accomplishments as the Louisiana Purchase. He wrote, as his own full epitaph, "Here was buried Thomas Jefferson, Author of the Declaration of American Independence, of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom, And Father of the University of Virginia."]

Where the preamble [of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom] declares, that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed by inserting the words "Jesus Christ," so that it should read, "A departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion;" the insertion was rejected by a great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mohammedan, the Hindoo and Infidel of every denomination.
----- [Thomas Jefferson, Autobiography; from George Seldes, ed., The Great Quotations, Secaucus, New Jersey: Citadel Press, 1983, p. 363]

"All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will, to be rightful, must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal laws must protect, and to violate which would be oppression."
----- [Thomas Jefferson, "First Inaugural Address," March 4, 1801; from George Seldes, ed., The Great Quotations, Secaucus, New Jersey: Citadel Press, 1983, p. 364.]

"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 and prayer. That is, that I should indirectly assume to the United States an authority over religious exercises, which the Constitution has directly precluded them from. It must be meant, too, that this recommendation is to carry some authority, and to be sanctioned by some penalty on those who disregard it; not indeed of fine and imprisonment, but of some degree of proscription, perhaps in public opinion. And does the change in the nature of the penalty make the recommendation less a law of conduct for those to whom it is directed? I do not believe it is in the best interests of religion to invite the civil magistrate to direct its exercises, its discipline, or its 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 and prayer are religious exercises; the enjoining them an act of discipline. Every religious society has a right to determine for itself the times of these exercises, and 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."
----- [Thomas Jefferson, just before the end of his second term, in a letter to Samuel Miller--a Presbyterian minister--on January 23, 1808; from Willson Whitman, arranger, Jefferson's Letters, Eau Claire, Wisconsin: E. M. Hale and Company, ND, pp. 241-242. ]

He [Jefferson] rejoiced with John Adams when the Congregational church was finally disestablished in Connecticut in 1818; welcoming "the resurrection of Connecticut to light and liberty, Jefferson congratulated Adams "that this den of priesthood is at length broken up, and that a protestant popedom is no longer to disgrace American history and character."
----- [Edwin S. Gaustad, Faith of Our Fathers: Religion and the New Nation, San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1987, p. 49.]

Jefferson wrote voluminously to prove that Christianity was not part of the law of the land and that religion or irreligion was purely a private matter, not cognizable by the state.
----- [Leonard W. Levy, Treason Against God: A History of the Offense of Blasphemy, New York: Schocken Books, 1981, p. 335.]

. . . Jefferson, who as a careful historian had made a study of the origin of the maxim [that the common law is inextricably linked with Christianity], challenged such an assertion. He noted that "the common law existed while the Anglo-Saxons were yet pagans, at a time when they had never yet heard the name of Christ pronounced or that such a character existed . . . . What a conspiracy this, between Church and State."
----- [Leo Pfeffer, Religion, State, and the Burger Court, Buffalo, New York: Prometheus Books, 1984, p. 121.]

It was what he did not like in religion that gave impetus to Jefferson's activity in that troublesome and often bloody arena. Chief Justice Rehnquist believes Madison was seeking merely to restrict Congress from establishing a particular national church. There are three problems with this contention. First, nothing in Madison's acts or words support such a proposition. Indeed, his opposition to the General Assessment Bill in Virginia, detailed in the "Memorial and Remonstrance," contradicts Rehnquist directly. Secondly, all of Madison's writings after 1789 support the Court's twentieth-century understanding of the term "wall of separation." Third, the reference to Madison's use of "national" simply misses his definition of the word. Madison had an expansive intention when he used the term national. He believed that "religious proclamations by the Executive recommending thanksgiving and fasts . . . imply and certainly nourish the erroneous idea of a national religion." He commented in a similar way about chaplains for the House and Senate. Historical evidence lends no support to the Rehnquist thesis. And clearly Jefferson, even though absent from the First Congress, seems a far more secure source of "original intent" than Justice Rehnquist.
----- [Robert S. Alley, ed., The Supreme Court on Church and State, New York: Oxford University Press, 1988, p. 13.]

Late in his life [therefore in the 1830s?] he [Madison] wrote to his friend Robert Walsh with whom Madison conducted a steady correspondence: "It was the Universal opinion of the Century preceding the last, that Civil Government could not stand without the prop of a Religious establishment, and that the Christian religion itself, would perish if not supported by a legal provision for its Clergy. The experience of Virginia conspicuously corroborates the disproof of both opinions. The Civil Government, tho' bereft of everything like an associated hierarchy, possesses the requisite stability and performs its functions with complete success; whilst the number, the industry, and the morality of the Priesthood, and the devotion of the people have been manifestly increased by the total separation of the Church from the State."
----- [Robert L. Maddox, Separation of Church and State: Guarantor of Religious Freedom, New York: Crossroad Publishing, 1987, p. 39.]

At age eighty-one [therefore, in 1832?], both looking back at the American experience and looking forward with vision sharpened by practical experience, Madison summed up his views of church and state relations in a letter to a "Reverend Adams": "I must admit moreover that it 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 and doubts on unessential points. The tendency of a usurpation on one side or the other, or to a corrupting coalition or alliance between them, will be best guarded by an entire abstinence of the Government from interference in any way whatever, beyond the necessity of preserving public order, and protecting each sect against trespass on its legal rights by others."
----- [Robert L. Maddox, Separation of Church and State: Guarantor of Religious Freedom, New York: Crossroad, 1987, p. 39.]

"It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it was by the indulgence of one class of the people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that those who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it, on all occasions, their effectual support."
----- [George Washington, letter to the congregation of Touro Jewish Synagogue, Newport, Rhode Island, August, 1790. From Gorton Carruth and Eugene Ehrlich, eds., The Harper Book of American Quotations, New York: Harper & Row, 1988, p. 500.]

"[The] manifest object of the men who framed the institution of this country, was to have a State without religion and a Church without politics--that is to say, they meant that one should never be used as an engine for the purposes of the other. . . . For that they built up a wall of complete partition between the two."
----- [Jeremiah S. Black, noted constitutional advocate, Essays and Speeches, D. Appleton and Co., 1885. As quoted by Leo Pfeffer, "The Establishment Clause: The Never-Ending Conflict," in Ronald C. White and Albright G. Zimmerman, An Unsettled Arena: Religion and the Bill of Rights, Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1990, p. 72.]

"Whatever else it might turn out to be, the Constitutional Convention would not be a "Barebone's Parliament." Although it had its share of strenuous Christians like Strong and Bassett, ex-preachers like Baldwin and Williamson, and theologians like Johnson and Ellsworth, the gathering at Philadelphia was largely made up of men in whom the old fires were under control or had even flickered out. Most were nominally members of one of the traditional churches in their part of the country - the New Englanders Congregationalists and Presbyterians, the Southerners Episcopalians, and the men of the Middle States everything from backsliding Quakers to stubborn Catholics - and most were men who could take their religion or leave it alone. Although no one in this sober gathering would have dreamed of invoking the Goddess of Reason, neither would anyone have dared to proclaim that his opinions had the support of the God of Abraham and Paul. The Convention of 1787 was highly rationalist and even secular in spirit."
----- [Clinton Rossiter, American historian, "The Men of Philadelphia," 1787: The Grand Convention, New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1987 (first ed., 1966), pp. 147-148.]

"One of the embarrassing problems for the early nineteenth-century champions of the Christian faith was that not one of the first six Presidents of the United States was an orthodox Christian."
----- [Mortimer Adler, 1902- , American philosopher and educator, ed. "Chapter 22: Religion and Religious Groups in America," The Annals of America: Great Issues in American Life, Vol. II, Chicago: Encyclopedia Brittanica, 1968, p. 420.]

"In the eighteenth century the American principle of separation of Church and State was indeed an audacious experiment. Never before had a national state been prepared to dispense with an official religion as a prop to its authority and never before had a church been set adrift without the support of the state. Throughout most of American history the doctrine has provided freedom for religious development while keeping politics free of religion. And that, apparently, had been the intention of the Founding Fathers."
----- [Carl N. Degler, Out of Our Past: The Forces That Shaped Modern America [Revised ed.], New York: Harper & Row, 1970, p. 96.]

"So fluid had been the conditions of American life toward the end of the eighteenth century, and so disorganizing the consequences of the Revolution, that perhaps as many as ninety percent of the Americans were unchurched in 1790."
----- [Richard Hofstadter, Anti-Intellectualism in American Life, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1974, p. 82.]

"In the mid-eighteenth century, America had a smaller proportion of church members than any other nation in Christendom. American religious statistics are notoriously unreliable, but it has been estimated that in 1800 about one of every fifteen Americans was a church member . . ."
---- [Richard Hofstadter, Anti-Intellectualism in American Life, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1974, p. 89.]

"The group which, along with Calvinist Congregationalists, made the greatest contribution to American cultural and political development was one that in 1787 could be called religious only by a most generous definition of the term. Variously called deists, humanists, and rationalists, they accepted the existence of God so long as He kept His hands out of human affairs. Strongly anti-clerical, they were at best indifferent to organized religion. One indication of their influence on the course of American development is the fact that none of the first seven Presidents was at the time of his election a member of any church, and, perhaps even more important, that the two basic documents of American freedom, the Declaration of Independence, and the Bill of Rights, breathe the spirit of deistic humanism."
----- [Leo Pfeffer, God, Caesar and the Constitution: The Court as Referee of Church-State Confrontation, Boston: Beacon Press, 1975, pp. 7-8.]

The phrase "establishment of religion" must be given the meaning that it had in the United States in 1791, rather than its European connotation. In America there was no establishment of a single church, as in England. Four states had never adopted any establishment practices. Three had abolished their establishments during the Revolution. The remaining six states - Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Maryland, South Carolina; and Georgia - changed to comprehensive or "multiple" establishments. That is, aid was provided to all churches in each state on a nonpreferential basis, except that the establishment was limited to churches of the Protestant religion in three states and to those of the Christian religion in the other three states. Since there were almost no Catholics in the first group of states, and very few Jews in any state, this meant that the multiple establishment practices included every religious group with enough members to form a church. It was this nonpreferential assistance to organized churches that constituted "establishment of religion" in 1791 and it was this practice that the Amendment forbade Congress to adopt.
----- [C. Herman Pritchett, Constitutional historian, 1977, as quoted by John M. Swomley, Religious Liberty and the Secular State: The Constitutional Context, Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1987, pp. 26-27.]

"The United States have adventured upon a great and noble experiment, which is believed to have been hazarded in the absence of all previous precedent�that of total separation of Church and State. No religious establishment by law exists among us. The conscience is left free from all restraint and each is permitted to worship his Maker after his own judgement. The offices of the Government are open alike to all� The Mahommedan, if he will to come among us would have the privilege guaranteed to him by the constitution to worship according to the Koran; and the East Indian might erect a shrine to Brahma if it so pleased him... Such is the great experiment which we have tried, and such are the happy fruits which have resulted from it; our system of free government would be imperfect without it."
----- [John Tyler, 10th President of the United States, in a letter dated July 10, 1843]

"I do not believe that any type of religion should ever be introduced into the public schools of the United States."
----- [Thomas Edison]