Founding Fathers and Separation
This being my first day off for the week, I got some more study done this morning. In my first hour after waking, before I even finished my first cup of coffee, I found yet another writing by Thomas Jefferson, supported by James Madison, which supports the Wall. It’s getting more and more plain to me that Rep. Paul is not the scholar that he professes himself to be, and anyone who denies that at least some of the Founding Fathers had intense interest in Separation is just plain ignorant, fooling themselves, or trying to fool others.
In 1777, Thomas Jefferson drafted an act called “An Act for Establishing Religious Freedom“, which he then proposed to the General Assembly of Virginia after becoming Governor of Virginia in 1779. This bill predicts the future Establishment clause and gives yet more clues as to how these two Founding Fathers (Jefferson and Madison) felt about the separation of civil and religious themes. Section I of the bill has a lot of good stuff:
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 to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical; that even the forcing him to support this or that teacher of his own religious persuasion, is depriving him of the comfortable liberty of giving his contributions to the particular pastor whose morals he would make his pattern, and whose powers he feels most persuasive to righteousness
- our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions
This Act resolves that:
SECT. II. 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.
The Act for Establishing Religious Freedom has one other telling aspect: it was the first time that a western government put into law an act to protect the religious freedom of all of it’s citizens, it it did that by ensuring a wall of separation between religion and civil government. Not only did Jefferson believe in and write favorably on the separation of church and state, he pioneered this worthy cause by bringing it into law in Virginia.
The Act for Establishing Religious Freedom is one of the reasons why the government of Virginia was a template for the Federal government, and is it not surprising that it found a partner in the First Amendment when the Bill of Rights was ratified in 1791.