In President Thomas Jefferson’s famous Letter to the Danbury Baptists on January 1, 1802, he advocates “building a wall of separation between Church and State…”
NO one can read the actual documents in full context and believe for a second that Jefferson meant that church should be removed from public square. The First Amendment was SPECIFIC that there was NOT to be an “established church” to head government as was the king of england as papist head of the anglican church to deny all others.
How could Jefferson pushed for a removal of God from the government, but simultaneously increase government devotions to God as in prayers, monuments, and celebrations?
After all, he concludes his famous separation of church and state letter, written in his official capacity as President, with a prayer.
Jefferson viewed the “wall” as limiting the federal government from “inter-meddling” in church government.
He even EXPLAINED his previous letter in his letter to Samuel Miller, January 23, 1808:
“I consider the government of the United States as interdicted (prohibited) by the Constitution from inter-meddling with religious institutions, their doctrines, discipline, or exercises.”
But liberals like to ignore this letter.
On JANUARY 1, 1802, the people of Cheshire, Massachusetts, sent a giant block of cheese to President Thomas Jefferson, being presented by the famous Baptist preacher, John Leland.
John Leland was then invited to preach to the President and Congress in the U.S. Capitol. The subject of his talk was “separation of church and state.”
Baptists had been particularly persecuted in colonial Virginia, as Francis L. Hawks wrote in Ecclesiastical History (1836):
“No dissenters in Virginia experienced for a time harsher treatment than the Baptists…
They were beaten and imprisoned…
Cruelty taxed ingenuity to devise new modes of punishment and annoyance.”
So many Baptist ministers were harassed, jailed, and their church services disrupted, that James Madison introduced legislation in Virginia’s Legislature on October 31, 1785, titled ” A Bill for Punishing Disturbers of Religious Worship,” which passed in 1789.
Why were they persecuted?
Colonial Virginia had an “establishment” of the Church of England, or ” Anglican Church” from 1606 until the First Amendment was ratified.
-Mandatory taxes to support it; and
-No one could hold public office unless they were a member.
John Leland, who considered running for Congress, wanted an Amendment to the new United States Constitution which would protect religious liberty.
Leland reportedly met with James Madison near Orange, Virginia about the Amendment.
James Madison promised to introduce what would become the First Amendment. Leland and the Baptists supported him.
John Leland wrote in Rights of Conscience Inalienable, 1791, that they wanted toleration, and even equality:
” Every man must give account of himself to God, and therefore every man ought to be at liberty to serve God in a way that he can best reconcile to his conscience.
If government can answer for individuals at the day of judgment, let men be controlled by it in religious matters; otherwise, let men be free.”
John Leland was following in the tradition of the Baptist founder of Rhode Island, Roger Williams, who wrote in his Plea for Religious Liberty, 1644:
“The doctrine of persecution for cause of conscience is most contrary to the doctrine of Christ Jesus the Prince of Peace…
God requireth not a uniformity of religion to be enacted and enforced in any civil state; which enforced uniformity (sooner or later) is the greatest occasion of civil war, ravishing of conscience, persecution of Christ Jesus in his servants, and of the hypocrisy and destruction of millions of souls.”
Quaker founder of Pennsylvania William Penn wrote in England’s Present Interest Considered, 1675:
“Force makes hypocrites, ’tis persuasion only that makes converts.”
The First Amendment, allowing the free exercise of religion, was ratified in 1791 but the persecution continued.
So Baptists in Connecticut formed the Danbury Baptist Association which sent a letter to President Jefferson, October 7, 1801:
“Sir… Our Sentiments are uniformly on the side of Religious Liberty-
That Religion is at all times and places a Matter between God and Individuals-
That no man ought to suffer in Name, person or effects on account of his religious Opinions-
That the legitimate Power of civil Government extends no further than to punish the man who works ill to his neighbor:
But Sir… our ancient charter (in Connecticut), together with the Laws made coincident therewith…are; that… what religious privileges we enjoy (as Baptists)… we enjoy as favors granted, and not as inalienable rights…
Sir, we are sensible that the President of the united States is not the national Legislator & also sensible that the national government cannot destroy the Laws of each State;
but our hopes are strong that the sentiments of our beloved President, which have had such genial Effect already, like the radiant beams of the Sun, will shine & prevail through all these States and all the world till Hierarchy and Tyranny be destroyed from the Earth…”
The Danbury Baptist letter to Jefferson continued:
“Sir… we have reason to believe that America’s God has raised you up to fill the chair of State… May God strengthen you for the arduous task which Providence & the voice of the people have called you…
And may the Lord preserve you safe from every evil and bring you at last to his Heavenly Kingdom through Jesus Christ our Glorious Mediator.”
Jefferson replied with his famous letter, January 1, 1802, agreeing with the Danbury’s Baptists:
“Gentlemen… Believing with you
that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God,
that he owes account to none other for faith or his worship,
that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions,
I contemplate with solemn 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 and 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 man to all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.
I reciprocate your kind prayers for the protection and blessing of the common Father and Creator of man.”
Baptists were familiar with Jefferson’s metaphor “wall of separation,” as the Baptist founder of Rhode Island, Roger Williams, used it in his Bloody Tenet of Persecution for Conscience Sake, 1644.
Jefferson viewed the “wall” as limiting the federal government from “inter-meddling” in church government, as explained in his letter to Samuel Miller, January 23, 1808:
“I consider the government of the United States as interdicted (prohibited) by the Constitution from inter-meddling with religious institutions, their doctrines, discipline, or exercises.
This results not only from the provision that no law shall be made respecting the establishment or free exercise of religion, but from that also which reserves to the states the powers not delegated to the United States (10th Amendment)…”
“Certainly no power to prescribe any religious exercise, or to assume authority in religious discipline, has been delegated to the General (Federal) government…
Every religious society has a right to determine for itself the times for these exercises, and the objects proper for them, according to their own particular tenets.”
The federal government was not limited from spreading religion in western territories, as on April 26, 1802, Jefferson’s administration extended a 1787 act of Congress where lands were designated:
“For the sole use of Christian Indians and the Moravian Brethren missionaries for civilizing the Indians and promoting Christianity.”
And again, December 3, 1803, during Jefferson’s administration, Congress ratified a treaty with the Kaskaskia Indians:
“Whereas the greater part of the said tribe have been baptized and received into the Catholic Church…the United States will give annually, for seven years, one hundred dollars toward the support of a priest of that religion, who will engage to perform for said tribe the duties of his office, and also to instruct as many of their children as possible…
And the United States will further give the sum of three hundred dollars, to assist the said tribe in the erection of a church.”
Over time, brilliant legal minds have twisted Jefferson’s words to prohibit Jefferson’s own beliefs.
Jefferson wrote in the Declaration:
“All men are endowed by their Creator…”
yet in 2005, U.S. District Judge John E. Jones, in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, ruled students could not be taught of a Creator: “to preserve the separation of church and state.”
Groups used Jefferson’s phrase “separation of church and state” to remove national acknowledgments of God, despite Jefferson’s warning against that very thing.
Inscribed on the Jefferson Memorial, Washington, DC is:
“God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?”
President Calvin Coolidge stated at the 150th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1926:
” This preaching reached the neighborhood of Thomas Jefferson, who acknowledged that his ‘best ideas of democracy’ had been secured at church meetings.”