Friday, October 8, 2010

Jefferson's Letter to the Danbury Baptist Association

Thomas Jefferson wrote a letter to the Danbury Baptist Association in 1802 to answer a letter from them, asking why he would not proclaim national days of fasting and thanksgiving, as had been done by Washington and Adams before him. The letter contains the phrase "wall of separation between church and state," which lead to the short-hand for the Establishment Clause that we use today: "Separation of church and state."

The letter was the subject of intense scrutiny by Jefferson, and he consulted a couple of New England politicians to assure that his words would not offend while still conveying his message: it was not the place of the Congress or the Executive to do anything that might be misconstrued as the establishment of religion.

This is part of my Founding Documents series. The highlighted portions are of my doing.
Mr. President

To messers Nehemiah Dodge, Ephraim Robbins, & Stephen S. Nelson, a committee of the Danbury Baptist association in the state of Connecticut.


The affectionate sentiments of esteem and approbation which you are so good as to express towards me, on behalf of the Danbury Baptist association, give me the highest satisfaction. my duties dictate a faithful and zealous pursuit of the interests of my constituents, & in proportion as they are persuaded of my fidelity to those duties, the discharge of them becomes more and more pleasing.

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & 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 & State.  Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.

I reciprocate your kind prayers for the protection & blessing of the common father and creator of man, and tender you for yourselves & your religious association assurances of my high respect & esteem.

(signed) Thomas Jefferson

Never once did President Jefferson promote the removal of G-d, the Creator or the Supreme Being from the United States Government.  Instead he was promoting the idea that government has no place in  what tenets or beliefs each church, each faith can promote.

In other words:  The Government cannot tell the Church how to worship, not the other way around.  Something the Supreme Court, ACLU, and the left should remember.

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