Friday, July 10, 2009

Religious Freedom Is True Meaning of "Separation"

Perhaps because of confusion created by the Supreme Court's Everson decision in 1947, which clung to words in a letter of Thomas Jefferson's private letter: "wall of separation between church and state." Perhaps we would be less confused if the court had instead focused on the words of the First Amendment: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion; or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

By using the "separation" phrase the media of today and many political activists are able to interpret the First Amendment in a way entire different from the Founders' intentions. The Library of Congress has a good online article discussing the First Amendment and freedom of religion. In that article, the word "separation" is found once. Phrases like "religious freedom" or "freedom of religion" are found 10 times.

Here is what the Library of Congress says describing when Congress first spoke officially about the various states that had some kind of religious freedom act (entire quote is set off by red text):

Freedom of religion is upheld by the First Amendment to the Constitution. Drafted by James Madison and adopted in 1791 with the nine other amendments that make up the Bill of Rights, the First Amendment asserts, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." However, the Continental Congress had formally endorsed the principle even earlier. In 1776, it resolved to honor the

"…wise policy of these states to extend the protection of their laws to all those who should settle among them of whatever nation or religion they might be, and to admit them to a participation of the benefits of civil and religious freedom."

Journals of Congress,
August 14, 1776.

Read more at the Library of Congress site.

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