Wednesday, September 3, 2008

More on Jefferson's Separation Letter

The Library of Congress gives some insight into Jefferson's thinking process when he was drafting his letter to the Danbury Baptists:

The celebrated phrase, "a wall of separation between church and state," was contained in Thomas Jefferson's letter to the Danbury Baptists. American courts have used the phrase to interpret the Founders' intentions regarding the relationship between government and religion. The words, "wall of separation," appear just above the section of the letter that Jefferson circled for deletion. In the deleted section Jefferson explained why he refused to proclaim national days of fasting and thanksgiving, as his predecessors, George Washington and John Adams, had done. In the left margin, next to the deleted section, Jefferson noted that he excised the section to avoid offending "our republican friends in the eastern states" who cherished days of fasting and thanksgiving.

It is important to remember that Jefferson was NOT against having a day of fasting a prayer; he simply did not think it appropriate for the Federal government to declare one. Jefferson declared a day of fasting and prayer for Virginia when he was governor of Virginia.

Jefferson's letter is below (as found on the Library of Congress Website:

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