Separation of Church and State III: Making a State Incognizant of Religion

In order to preserve the freedom of conscience I’ve discussed in my previous posts, we must more rigorously maintain a firm wall of separation between Church and State. I believe the logical first step would be to remove religious invocations from government language, property, and practice. For instance:

The Pledge of Allegiance. I’m skeptical that the Pledge of Allegiance serves any meaningful purpose. Given its statist nature and socialist origin, I am perpetually perplexed that so many conservatives make such a fetish of it. But if the Pledge is to continue to be a significant part of our civic tradition, the reference to God (which is not an original part of the Pledge, but a 1954 insertion as part of the Cold War ideological battle against the explicitly-atheist communist world) should be eliminated. The government has no role making any declaration about whom its citizens may or may not believe their nation is under.

Government Oaths. Government has no place declaring in whose name government oaths should be sworn. Whether oaths of office or in court, those swearing people in should not include “so help you/me God” in the recitation. Individuals swearing those oaths are certainly well within their rights of expression to add personal invocations to the higher power of their choice, should they so chose. But making that invocation part of the administration of the oath is an inappropriate institutionalization of religious belief on the part of the state.

Civic Prayer. Government sponsored events, from Presidential inaugurations and Congressional sessions down to city council meetings and public school activities, should not involve prayer as part of the event. Participants who believe in a higher power have every right—indeed, a duty— to implore that power for wisdom and guidance prior to such events, and in their hearts during the proceedings. But government itself should not be establishing a given standard for belief through prayer as part of government events.

The Ten Commandments. Ten Commandments monuments should likewise be removed from any public property. Private individuals or organizations should have the right to erect religious inscriptions such as the Ten Commandments on their own private property. But government should not be giving endorsement or favor to any particular religious beliefs, and so neither religious inscriptions nor religious codes have any place in courthouses, schools, or (despite the recent Supreme Court ruling allowing government to show religious preference) public parks.

Motto and Currency. Government shouldn’t be making decrees regarding what divinities we may or may not trust. Religious inscriptions have only been used on U.S. money for the last century and a half, and then only intermittently. The idea that we should invoke God on our money, a medium regarding which Christ showed little concern, seems a bit bizarre to me; I find it ironic at best, and profane at worst. The official government motto was only adopted about the same time as the inclusion of God in the Pledge, and for the same reasons; I see no reason that the original de facto motto “E Pluribus Unum,” wouldn’t serve better and more closely represent the attitude of the founders in establishing the nation.

Education. Government operated education should not be concerned with promoting any religious tradition, whether a given tradition is the majority or not. It should not involve prayers, or scripture study for religious education, or the promotion of religious doctrine under the guise of “intelligent design.”

A ban on religious invocation would not mean that there can be nothing related to religion in the government sphere. There is a distinction between religious invocation and religious cultural references. For example, in the Department of Justice building there is a statue representing Lady Justice, a Greco-Roman personification of justice. No one would suggest this is state support of Classical polytheism or a literal invocation to a goddess of justice. The sculpture is a cultural reference to a period of history which strongly resonates with our own. Such cultural references are perfectly within the scope of secular institutions: Moses and Solomon are included in a frieze in the South Courtroom of the Supreme Court, along with Hammurabi, Solon, Confucius, Augustus, Muhammad, Charlemagne, and others representing historical “lawgivers.” The library of the university I attended had inscribed above the foyer “With all thy getting, get understanding.” While this is a biblical passage, it is not an invocation of God, but rather a literary reference relevant to the purpose of a library. A number of cities in Massachusetts and in Utah have statues of historical religious leaders because those particular religious leaders played important roles in the history of those states. The Ten Commandments, on the other hand, have no practical relevance to U.S. history, government, or law (the Ten Commandments are hardly the foundation for U.S. law, as some Christian conservatives like to contend; the nation’s jurisprudence owes far more to the Anglo-Saxon folkmoots, Roman legal codification, and the law code of Hammurabi). Their only purpose on public property is to grant a special reverence to one particular religious tradition.

There will, of course, be those who misinterpret the absence of God from government platform as a repudiation of God. This critique is myopic. The absence of positive affirmations of God in our oaths or pledges or currency or buildings would hardly be a denial of the existence of God or a repudiation of religion. It would simply reflect the truth that it is up to us as free individuals to make our own determination about the nature of the divine and to promote those beliefs on their own merits rather than through government support. It would recognize that religion can be a powerful force for good for individuals and society only when religion is spread through personal conviction and not government prescription.

In some ways one might think these items to be somewhat superficial and trivial. Words inscribed on our money or casually recited in a pledge have very little real-world impact on our lives. I don’t think we can discount ways in which these official government appeals and endorsements exert pressure on society to conform—that is, after all, why certain entities have pressed for such appeals and endorsements in the first place. furthermore, the government acknowledgment and sanction of religion which these invocations represent gives government tacit license to further promote, prefer, and define religion in the public sphere. Many groups would like to further intermingle Church and State; the Constitution Party is perhaps most explicit in stating that it’s goal is to “restore American jurisprudence to its Biblical foundations,” and erroneously claiming that “The U.S. Constitution established a Republic rooted in Biblical law,” but many other groups share the same sentiment and desire to infringe upon true freedom of conscience. By drawing a strong line at these seemingly minor transgressions on freedom of conscience, we make it easier to resist the more hazardous infraction: the legislative codification of religious belief and practice.

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29 Responses to “Separation of Church and State III: Making a State Incognizant of Religion”

  1. Tom Grover Says:

    Nice post.

    These issues serve as an effective rallying cry for conservative politicians. You are much more likely to get people to care about these simple hot button cultural issues than some of the more substantive, technical (and boring) issues that actually steer the direction of the country.

  2. Lorian Says:

    Hear, hear. Excellent post, Derek.

  3. Billy Waller Says:

    Wow, you are an idiot.

  4. cynthia Says:

    very well written derek, you made some great points that conservatives and liberals need to become aware of and need to analyze. to much of tradition is involved i think.

  5. Donald L. Barriger, Jr. Says:

    Can we say that your writings reflect another Biblical statement…that being
    “Give unto Ceasar that which is Ceasar’s and give unto me, that which is mine”?

  6. Enna Says:

    Hey Derek, I’ve been meaning to jump over to your blog, and the fact that you’re a librarian did me in :) But your 400+ book recommendations on your librarything page is a bit overwhelming. How about the top 2 to start out?

    Your statement that, “I don’t think we can discount ways in which these official government appeals and endorsements exert pressure on society to conform” seems to be your main reason for the removal of these items from the public arena.

    At first glance I agree with the statement, but as I’ve thought about it, I’m not sure. Our government does things all the time that I disagree with and I don’t feel any real pressure to step up and fall in line. It’s hard to say because I haven’t lived in another country, and therefore haven’t had the experience of the little things effecting me over a lifetime, but it doesn’t seem likely that a “In Allah We Trust” statement on our currency would pressure me to convert to Islam…

  7. Derek Staffanson Says:

    Sorry about the volume of my book listings, Enna. The risk of being a librarian, I’m afraid :) I’ll email you privately about the books.

    I believe that the use of religious trappings in government is much like peer pressure. It can be subtle and indirect, but it can be very powerful. We don’t recognize it as much because we are within the tradition of those trappings. For those who chose to live outside that tradition, the pressure is a bit more obvious.

    Additionally, I see this as quite a bit like the discussion we’re currently having on FMH. There is at least the potential for great harm by allowing the mingling of government and religion–if for no other reason that it is the nose of the camel for those like the Eagle Forum, the Constitution Party, and the acolytes of Skousen. It weakens the foundation for the sort of purely secular government necessary to impartially protect freedom of conscience. And do these religious trappings in government provide anything positive, any meaningful benefit?

  8. Enna Says:

    I think they speak to our culture at a certain time, and I don’t necessarily see that as a bad thing. But a positive, meaningful benefit? I don’t think so.

    I think my hesitation with this issue is that I do have a hard time seeing it as a serious pressure (like you say, not living outside the tradition myself) so it just feels petty and like a waste of money in lawsuits. It doesn’t matter to me if statements about God or religion are or are not on our currency, so I suppose I’d rather fight for more important changes… but I can see your point. I’d like to live in another country that has a religious history for the perspective, really.

    Have you read Elder Oaks talk on religious freedom yet? (http://newsroom.lds.org/ldsnewsroom/eng/news-releases-stories/religious-freedom) He spent quite a while setting up the importance of keeping state and church separate, so as to protect the beliefs of those in the minority, and I half expected it to be a talk espousing views similar to your post, but he lost me at the end…

  9. Derek Staffanson Says:

    Honestly, I don’t expect there to be any headway whatsoever on these issues. Like Tom mentioned earlier, they are hot-button issues which would meet ferocious and reflexive resistance if anyone were to make any serious efforts. I’m not about to invest any time in what would essentially be a lost cause. But I posted this because, in the context of this series on the Separation of Church and State, I thought it was important to outline what would be an ideal situation in which to incubate freedom of conscience.

    (I would find these religious trappings more endearing in speaking to our culture at a particular time if they were relics of the founding era. Given that they are from a time less than a century away, and mostly reactionary, I don’t even find any historical charm. Oh well.

    As to Oaks’ talk, I’m sure you’ve seen my reaction on FMH. I agree with your general idea. I find it frustrating how often we talk about freedom of religion, and then come to a conclusion which is the exact opposite.

  10. calico1cat Says:

    I’m late in reading this, not having visited in a while. But it made me remember something that made me very uncomfortable. . . .

    I direct a community children’s play in one Cache Valley town and our sister theater is in another Cache Valley town. Because they are our sister theater and I’m friends with the director, I know where their funding comes from — city government and the Utah Arts Council. So, this has nothing to do with the Church. Nothing. It is a city- and state-sponsored endeavor.

    In “my” play, I have always, always made a point of not favoring members of the LDS Church; everyone in town already knows these kids are “non-Mormons” and I don’t want them to feel left out of the play because of it, even if they might feel left out at school or wherever else. The play is a safe place for everybody, or that’s what I hope, anyway. You have just as much chance of getting a speaking part in my play, whether you are a nonmember or member. Likewise, I make a special effort to include all the parents, whatever their religion. And if anyone ever tried to open a practice or performance of our town play with a prayer, I would put a stop to it. It would make me very unpopular with some people, but I would totally put a stop to it. Fortunately, it hasn’t been an issue for us.

    So, for the last two years (my term as a director), as I have attended our sister theater’s play, I sat through the usual announcements: “Before the play starts, let me remind you all that the fun run starts at 5:00 a.m. tomorrow, followed by the pancake breakfast at 7:00 a.m.” and so on. This, so far, is just the same thing that happens in my own town. But then a city councilman will turn the mike over to someone who will invariably say a blatantly LDS prayer. I cringe every time, although the content is not necessarily doctrinal or even offensive to me (please help the kids remember their lines, let us all return home safely, etc.). It’s the fact that a prayer is said at all.

    But if you MUST say a prayer, why not say somebody else’s type of prayer once in a while? Cache Valley is no longer 70% Mormon (as it was when I was a teenager). More like 50% now. So, why are we saying only Mormon prayers at city functions? But I would rather not say a prayer at all. I don’t like to have religion sneaked in on me, even if it’s my own.

    I don’t mean to blame the director, my friend — it may not be her choice whether they start with the prayer or not. And where it’s not my town and I don’t live there, I haven’t raised a ruckus about it. But really. Shouldn’t people know better by now?

    And when they come to my play, do they think we’re all athiests? I doubt it. I’ll bet they don’t even notice the lack of a prayer. And the kids, who are all standing backstage and sweating and practicing lines and putting on makeup and praying their own religion’s prayers (should they be religious) don’t feel distracted and left out by being subjected to it, either.

  11. Knowledge Czar Says:

    We already have a state religion- Atheism. When we mention any religion is schools we have to immediately follow it up with the atheist viewpoint. We don’t follow atheist teachings up with religious ones EVER because we are all being taught to blindly accept atheism. When we can’t acknowledge all religions equally we necessarily have to put one above the others, and our current state religion is atheism. It’s the atheists that want this more than anyone, though I don’t like having any other religion pushed on me or my kids, but atheism is the most pervasive, pernicious, and accepted as the state religion. The Founders added God into the divinely inspired documents for a reason. Separation of church and state came later. No one religion is to be put above another is what is in the original documents. Atheism has filled the void. Satan wants that.

  12. Derek Staffanson Says:

    Czar, perhaps you can point to me where the Founders added God into the Constitution?

  13. Derek Staffanson Says:

    If you need a hint, you can read my first essay in this series on the Separation of Church and State.

  14. Lorian Says:

    Czar, leaving God out of government allows each individual the freedom to practice religion in the manner which bests follows his or her own conscience. That means you, too. Adding God INTO government (which, as Derek points out, is something the founding fathers specifically chose NOT to do) would compel each of us to believe and practice religion only in the manner that government might choose to dictate at any given time.

    The lack of religion in government does not by any means equate to atheism. It, rather, constitutes respect for the rights of individuals like you and me to practice the religion of our own choosing. It is the very basis of religious freedom.

  15. Knowledge Czar Says:

    I once believed that too, but it’s not right. Granted, you are right that God is not in the Constitution directly but what I said is that He is in the founding documents, which includes the Declaration of Independence. God having given us our inalienable rights is the foundation statement of the Declaration of Independence, those rights as outlined there were the basis for the writing of the Constitution. According to President Benson, if we don’t allow God to be the giver of rights then we assume that government is the giver of rights, and then our rights are all in jeopardy. My argument is that we have created a state-run religion by advocating atheism above all other religions, and that IS in the Constitution as a NO-NO. Government should keep its nose out of advocating any religion over others, but not by advocating atheism over all others in the name of sep-of church and state. Separation of church and state is NOT in the founding documents at all. What is there is no one religion will be advocated over any other, and that is exactly what has happened with atheism.

  16. Knowledge Czar Says:

    Please don’t advocate atheism over equality for all religions, as a Mormon. It’s dangerous ground.

  17. Derek Staffanson Says:

    Czar, the Declaration refers to a Creator, but it does not establish Christianity as the religion of the State. As I explain in in the first essay in this series, Jefferson’s religious sentiments were extremely unorthodox, and he would never have put something in that document endorsing or supporting Christianity.

    Your assumption that not explicitly supporting religion is implicitly “creating” an atheist religion or advocating atheism over equality for all religion proves my point about the conservative inability to distinguish between keeping the state separate from religion and endorsing atheism. They are completely separate actions, the first being vital for the strength of true religion.

    No, the Separation of Church and State is not explicitly described in the Constitution, but as I note in the first essay in this series, it absolutely was a critical principle among some of the most prominent of the Founders–and as I note in the second essay, it is a principle which was crucial in allowing the LDS faith to be born and to grow.

  18. Jason Bentley Says:

    Though you and I agree on many issues regarding “seperation of church and state” such as gay marriage and with your overall point that the founding fathers were not the hearalding christian defenders the moral majority want us to believe they were, I find it odd you continue to quote the founders to recommend practices none of them (not even Jefferson and Madison) would condone.

    Religion was a state issue. The first amendment reads something to the effect “Congress shall make no law regarding the establishment of religion, nor prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” It simply banned congress from doing anything regarding establishing religion but left the states free reign. This view was even respected Madison and Jefferson. (A good quick read on this is Akhil Amar Bill of Rights the chapter on our first amendment) Although Jefferson and Madison were both purists at the national level, they did not hold such secular views at the state level and you don’t mention that when you quote them, thus making it appear that they would also be against the ten commandments in a public building when there is plenty of evidence to support that so long at it was a local government location they wouldn’t have cared.

    Although I’m aware the 14th amendment incorporated the first there is nothing in the first amendment which says that there shouldn’t be 10 commandments in local parks. And the especially odd one is the need to stop praying before we open the session of congress. This tradition was done while Madison was in the House of Representatives and the only thing he objected to was the fact that federal dollars paid whomever was chosen to say the prayer. (Madison was stingy with tax payer dollars while he was in congress. If it wasn’t expressedly written in the constitution he would not appropriate funds.) So the only objection was financial.

    You routinely point out God is not mentioned in the Constitution but fail to mention that by default it is. The oath of Presidential office was originally written without the words, “so help me God” , but Washington inserted those words himself and every U.S. President since then has said those exact words. (Incluiding Madison and Jefferson).

  19. Derek Staffanson Says:

    Jason, I discussed the opinions of these men at a fair bit of length in the first of this series of posts. if you read the papers of Madison, you will find that he initially wanted the Bill of Rights to be enforced on the states and for Congress to have a “veto” on state law to keep the states from infringing on our rights of conscience. He chose not to fight those battles because he soon realized it was a politically impossible proposition. But that does not change the fact that he and Jefferson both fervently believed in keeping religion and state separate and at all levels, including in many of the ways I proposed.

    I’m familiar with Amars work. I loved The Contitution: A Biography.

    Yes, the tradition of prayer was part of the Congress in which Madison was apart. That doesn’t mean he approved. I’ve not read anything by him on that specific matter, but since we do have evidence that he disregarded and dismissed the Franklin’s suggestion at the Constitutional Convention that prayer be given in the sessions to try to generate a more collaborative and humble atmosphere, I suspect he was no more fond of the prayers in Congress.

    As to the addition of “So help me God” to the Presidential oath of office, we have no evidence whatsoever that Adams, Madison, or Jefferson included it. We have only hearsay that Washington did. And we know for certain that it was not a regular inclusion until sometime in the 20th century (I believe it was FDR who began the modern trend).

  20. George J Says:

    My first read of your blog…and your thinking is clear and I find myself in agreement on this Separation topic (I didn’t read the first 2). Except for this:

    America is more or less a Christian nation. Born in Judeo-Christian tradition, miraculously liberated with faith in God, and blessed by God.

    In a democracy founded on the principle of non-partisan equality and religious freedom, government favoritism has no place, because the majority ought not to be able to dictate to the minority.

    But the problem is, America is a country and does not operate in a vacuum. The interest of the country comes first. And America usually likes to seek the moral high ground (right or wrong). And when there is a national emergency we want everyone to rally around the flag. And when we send our son(s) off to war, we don’t want them to die protecting some academic standard of perfect democracy – no we want to know that OUR country is aligned with the forces of good, and for most that means aligned with God. So God, aside from the fact that He is there and formed and prospered and blessed America to become the cradle of the Restoration and the greatest nation in the history of the world, also helps serve as the glue that helps hold the (Christian) nation together. But no document talks about who God is, Allah or Buddah or …, just God. Yes in this Christian nation there is a leaning towards Christianity. And yes it can get oppressive. And no I don’t want the Government writing prayers for my kids to say in school every morning. But on the whole, leaving God in the national view seems to me very good – because it reflects reality and because it helps unite the nation. Athiests are not happy with this – but in the balance, it seems to me to be better that than the other. The problem with and genius of democracy American style is that it only improves (or gets worse) by successive approximation, and never seems to get it just right! I’m rushed or I’d say more -

  21. Elton Says:

    You are a Wilsonian Progressive. :(

  22. Derek Staffanson Says:

    Ironic you would say that in response to this series, in which I justify a state incognizant of religion by the arguments of Jefferson and his primary disciple, James Madison, and given that Wilson was himself very much a proponent of a “Christian nation.”

    Strictly speaking, I don’t necessarily consider myself either; I abhor Wilson’s interventionist agenda, and I think Jefferson naïve about the vulnerability of the poor and disadvantaged to the depredations of the rich and powerful if government does not erect barriers to protect labor, consumers, the poor, and the environment.

  23. solsrchr Says:

    It is clear the Contsitution is based upon Christian values. The Founding Fathers intended it to be so.

    The current state of our government is due to a lack of adherence to moral principles by our elected officials. The pressures of governing must be balanced by moral integrity to ensure the will of the people is executed. Yet the very thing, Christian Values, that instills strength of character and morality which aid a person in maintaining ethical standards are attacked at every opportunity.

    Many are starting to seek acceptance from other nations to validate America. The fact that we never needed validation of other nations is what enable our leadership in the world community. Though our actions may at first be circumspect the end results are not.

    WWI, WWII, Iraq are examples. Why were/are we there. To free oppressed people and make sure their oppressors are not allowed to oppress those on American soil.

  24. Derek Staffanson Says:

    Clear based on what, Solschr? What evidence is there to support that claim? Anything in the Constitution itself?

    No, I’m afraid you’re incorrect. If you read my first essay in this series on the Separation of Church and State, or do some reading of historical sources, you will find that the Constitution was in no way based on specifically Christian principles. It was founded on what the Founders saw as universal moral principles, many of which are included in Christian values (as they are in most all sets of moral values), but state recognition and promotion of God were not among them.

    And if you believe that the most prominent of the Founders would have supported military adventurism, even under the pretext of “liberation,” you should again read the historical sources of the opinions of Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Madison, and others regarding foreign policy.

  25. Jason Bentley Says:

    Sorry it’s been so long since I stopped by the site. You are correct that Madison proposed (what ironically was) the Fourteenth Amendment, but the phrase “freedom of conscience” is rather vague, and if you liked Amar’s “The Constitution a Biography” you’ll love the Bill of Rights, and it had fairly shocking evidence (to me, I always imagined both Jefferson and Madison to be hostile to organized religion on all levels) that on state and local levels they were much more tolerant of religion intermingling with the state.

    That said, you could point out that it was the Jefferson/Madison Republican Party that pushed on the state level to get citizens to seperate their state sponsorship in places like Conneticuit, Massachusetts, etc. etc. So yes they were deffinently on the secular side of the debate on all levels.

    That said I think you’re argument has two flaws:

    1- You base all your argument of what the “founders” wanted based on the opinions of two of them. This is a very select group. What does Patrick Henry, George Washington, John Adam and others have to say? Not to mention what do the people at large think? Are our founding farthers only those at the top (the generals, congressman, statesmen) or do they also include the minuteman [and women], the common person who was willing to fight and sacrifice for liberty? That can be measured through local and state constitutions and laws.

    2- I think you take both Jefferson and Madison to extremes that they themselves wouldn’t go.

    I also don’t know Madison’s personal views on prayer, but there is no documented evidence that he thought prayer in congress was unconstitutional (and lets not forget that Madison was [until his presidency] such a strict constuctionist that he didn’t believe the constitution gave the goverment power to build roads).

    I suppose if I had a third critique it’s that you fail to examine how the second great awakeining fundamentally changed the church and state sythesis in our country (by the way, I did read your first post, I commented after having read all three posts so I got the big picture idea of what you were trying to say). But where most of your argument stems from a founders intent argument I felt it was more relevant to focus on that instead.

    To me a founders system is to establish absolute nuetrality on the federal level (especially in regards to public funds. I’m no fan of faith based initiatives) and give local governments more flexibility. Although I consider the seperation of church from the individual states to be a huge step forward for our country, I also think letting states and cities make their own rules is the best policy.

    Trying a one size fits all policy from a national level usually just gets people mad and entreches groups who feel attacked from a far off distant power that doesn’t care for “democratic rule” (which isn’t always compatible liberal values. If you’re ever interested I also read an excellent book on the history of the tension between democracy and individual rights that I found quite insightful. Though the name escapes me).

    In short, I don’t mind that some towns might have a ten commandments in their public parks becuase for all we both know no one is offended. In communities where people do become offended, it’s much easier to educate friends and neighbors. When these “religious emblems” are removed by a city council it has more authority to the local community, and there aren’t complaints about their so-called religious rights being infringed. By doing that you get groups across the country upset, who then vote into office people who will represent them and then next thing you know you get faith based iniatives because of the “assauly on values”. Although not as exciting, I think federalism presents the best solution. (Although I do think you have a point on more national issues like currency and federal funds going to churches, even in the case of aiding the poor.)

    Anyway, this issue has been debated since the founding of our country, I highly doubt my young mind will settle it. By the way, I hope you know I post as a sign of respect. When I read blog posts that I consider “just downright dumb” I save my time and effort from formulating an argument. Although I disagree with you, your posts on this issue are much more well researched and thoughtout than many others. I hope my comments are taken as a token of respect and not ridcule.

  26. Derek Staffanson Says:

    Thanks for your comments, Jason. Actually, Madison and Jefferson were both rather opposed to the intermingling of Church and State on a state level. Madison, originally intended for the Bill of Rights–which he wanted to include a more rigorous protection of freedom of conscience–to be applied to states as well as the federal government. And Jefferson felt his passing of Virginia’s religious freedom statute was one of his three accomplishments worthy of noting on his tombstone. Both at times conceded the need to compromise in order to move forward, but both strenuously opposed any such mingling because of the ill effects. You are correct that I’m not simply mimicking their exact positions, but taking their underlying belief in the separation to their logical conclusion. That may be farther than they went at the time, given that they lived in an era in which it was much more difficult to fully separate church and state, but I have little doubt that in our modern climate, where such beliefs are more acceptable, they would have taken a stronger stand than they did in their own era. I don’t claim that my position universally represents that of the Founders; you will recall that in the first post of the series, I very specifically point out that the opinions held by “The Founders” was much more varied than those with political agendas pretend, and that I focused on Madison and Jefferson because they are the two Founders most intimately connected with our founding documents and with the intellectual underpinnings of the early Republicanism which conservatives claim to support.

  27. BHodges Says:

    I’m a little late to the party but just found this excellent series. Thanks for taking the time to put it together. I think Jason makes a good pragmatic point about ten commandment statues and God on money. It seems to me these things are fine to have,

    I recently finished reading “The Intellectual Origins of the Establishment Clause” by Noah Feldman. It’s a nice complimentary piece for your series. Feldman traces the notion of “freedom of conscience” back from Aquinas, through Calvin, through Locke, on to the founders. I found the paper online but the page appears to be down currently.

    • BHodges Says:

      *fine to have, the bigger danger is the reaction of such measures where people would campaign to be elected on such issues, causing problems in other areas.

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