Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Wall Between Church and State Spoke Only of Federalism

Some liberal talking points extol how founding fathers would stand against conservative contemporary issues, which remains pointless conjecture. Unlike the liberals of today our founding fathers were pragmatists and did not adhere to any one political agenda; as a matter of fact they just about defined cognitive dissonance. For one Jefferson has a abolitionists yet owned (and bedded) slaves. Jefferson also spoke of glowing of native American culture, but savagely drove Indians west and said of those that resisted  "we will never lay it down till that tribe is exterminated, or is driven beyond the Mississippi." Jefferson, the slave owner, continued, "in war, they will kill some of us; we shall destroy all of them". Jefferson was also so devoted to Christianity he wrote his own deist version of the New Testament.

The letters written by Jefferson were generally a discussion of Federalism, not a demonisation of religion; the protections from government in the original Bill of Rights only pertained to the Federal government not the states;  it was believed that the states could create whatever government or religion it wanted as long as it recognized and respected federal authority. What the first Amendment protections addressed was "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof", IOW a prohibition from  Federal government creating a national religion. If a state wanted to establish a religion as part of their government process they would have been free to do so; the idea being no one would be trapped or force to endure what you believed to be a tyrannical state, as you could simply move to another, but that was not the fact if the Federal government established a religion. Today, because of the 14th Amendment all states must adhere to these Federal prohibitions, but that was not the case when the Constitution was written. The Federal Constitutional convention in Philadelphia in was convened in 1787, but the 14th Amendment was not ratified until 1886, 60 years after Jefferson died.

"Jefferson's wall, as a matter of federalism, was erected between the national and state governments on matters pertaining to religion and not, more generally, between the church and all civil government. In other words, Jefferson placed the federal government on one side of his wall and state governments and churches on the other. The wall's primary function was to delineate the constitutional jurisdictions ofthe national and state governments, respectively, on religious concerns,
 such as setting aside days in the public calendar for prayer, fasting, and thanksgiving. Evidence for this jurisdictional or structural understanding of the wall can be found in both the texts and the context of the correspondence between Jefferson and the Danbury BaptistAssociation".

John T. McGreevy, "Thinking on One's Own: Catholicism in the American Intellectual Imagination, 1928-1960," Journal of American History, Vol. 84 (June 1997), pp. 97-131, and Philip Hamburger, Separation of Church and State (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2002).

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