Founding fathers separated church, state |

Founding fathers separated church, state

Ilene Zusi


Vicki Bates letter of June 27, “Whose church?” was thoughtful, insightful, eloquent and long overdue. I would like to further support the points she makes regarding the great care our founding fathers took to maintain a separation of church and state by quoting some important words of two of the greatest of these patriots, Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence and James Madison, author of the Bill of Rights.

“Because religious belief, or nonbelief, is such an important part of every person’s life, freedom of religion affects every individual. State churches that use government power to support themselves and force their views on persons of other faiths undermine all our civil rights. Moreover, state support of the church tends to make the clergy unresponsive to the people and leads to corruption within religion. Erecting the ‘wall of separation between church and state,’ therefore, is absolutely essential in a free society.”

– President Thomas Jefferson in a speech to the Virginia Baptists (1808)

“The settled opinion here is, that religion is essentially distinct from civil Government, and exempt from its cognizance; that a connection between them is injurious to both;”

– James Madison: Letter to Edward Everett, March 18, 1823

Neither Jefferson nor Madison in the above quotes or in any of their other voluminous writings meant to hinder religion or diminish the role of religion in society. What they intended to do was establish a non-religious or secular government whose sole purpose was to administer earthly matters, while matters of religion were to be left purely to the churches and related institutions. Why then do so many Americans today believe they are wiser then these, the wisest of our founding fathers?

Thank you, again, Vicki.