The Father Of The Constitution

   With the law suit that has been brought against the Sussex County Council of Delaware, by a group known as Americans United for Separation of Church And State, alleging that the council has crossed the line of the so-called separation of church and state, that some believe is held within the constitution, there has been a great deal of discussion about the so-called separation of church and state.

  First let me say that I do not feel that this case is similar to others that have been tried. In most cases of this type, it is often argued that a mere prayer by a private citizen, such as a school child asking for a blessing at lunch at a state-run school, constitutes a breach of the establishment clause, held within the First Amendment. I do not hold such a belief. I feel that a private citizen has every right to pray when and wherever they choose. I feel for a school or any body of government to restrict such exercise of that right is in direct conflict with the free exercise clause within the First amendment.

  However the case being made against the Sussex County Council, is charging that by having the council members leading the prayer themselves after the meeting has been called to order, clearly constitutes an establishment of a state religion. This is because the council is using a faith specific prayer. In my opinion the plaintiffs have a good case.

  As I have said, I feel that as individuals we are guaranteed a right to believe or not believe in a higher power. To pray or not to pray. But I also feel that as a body of government, the Sussex County Council, has no place in leading prayers at official government meetings. Where,  I might add, they are elected to represent all citizens, of all faiths, or of no faith. To have the council supporting, condoning, or promoting any one specific faith, while it may not be technically establishing a religion, is not inclusive of all citizens and is dangerous to all citizens and their rights.

  Now others have made an argument that the First Amendment is the last word on this. That it basically says that government shall have no say in how religion and or faith issues shall be decided for the individual. I would agree with this. That is until these same people attempt to make the case that as a body of government, the Sussex County Council, is afforded the same protection from, well itself, since it is government. As individuals I will defend the members rights to my last breath. But as a council of elected officials, they do not enjoy the same protections that individuals do under The Constitution.

  Many have argued that there is no explicit separation of church and state in The Constitution. Many others have argued that there is an implicit separation of church and state within The Constitution.

 I would argue that there is clearly the intent to keep the state out of the business of the church. That The Constitution was clearly intended to protect the individual from being forced in any way to participate in a government-run religion. The Founders did not want the government mandating to the people which religion or church they must participate in. The Founders did not want the government to have the power to stop the people from choosing for them selves. I also believe from my reading that the Founders did not intend for government officials to be leading the people in prayer. In my view this crosses the necessary line between church and state. In addition I feel  that the intention of the Founders was to keep the church out of government. Not on an individual level, but on an organized level.

  Now I know that this opinion will not sit well with many of my fellow conservatives. But it is my understanding of the original intent of The Constitution.

  So the issue of the law suit against the Sussex County Council comes down to, whether you believe that government’s role involves leading its citizens in prayer or not.

  I have given my opinion on this, but many will say that I am not a Constitutional expert, and they would be correct. I have nothing but my common sense reading of the document.

 So the following are the opinions of “THE” Constitutional expert, also know as the Father of the Constitution, James Madison.  I give these, not as an argument against prayer, but as an echo of a warning at the inception of our nation, from one who was touched by the hand of God with wisdom and strength to give birth to the freest nation this world has ever known.

   “Nothwithstanding the general progress made within the two last centuries in favour of this branch of liberty, & the full establishment of it, in some parts of our Country, there remains in others a strong bias towards the old error, that without some sort of alliance or coalition between Gov’ & Religion neither can be duly supported: Such indeed is the tendency to such a coalition, and such its corrupting influence on both the parties, that the danger cannot be too carefully guarded agst.. And in a Gov’ of opinion, like ours, the only effectual guard must be found in the soundness and stability of the general opinion on the subject. Every new & successful example therefore of a perfect separation between ecclesiastical and civil matters, is of importance. And I have no doubt that every new example, will succeed, as every past one has done, in shewing that religion & Gov will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together; [James Madison, Letter to Edward Livingston, July 10, 1822, The Writings of James Madison, Gaillard Hunt]”

“It was the belief of all sects at one time that the establishment of Religion by law, was right & necessary; that the true religion ought to be established in exclusion of every other; and that the only question to be decided was which was the true religion. The example of Holland proved that a toleration of sects, dissenting from the established sect, was safe & even useful. The example of the Colonies, now States, which rejected religious establishments altogether, proved that all Sects might be safely & advantageously put on a footing of equal & entire freedom…. We are teaching the world the great truth that Govts do better without Kings & Nobles than with them. The merit will be doubled by the other lesson that Religion flourishes in greater purity, without than with the aid of Gov. [James Madison, Letter to Edward Livingston, July 10, 1822, The Writings of James Madison, Gaillard Hunt]”

 “[I]t may not be easy, in every possible case, to trace the line of separation between the rights of religion and the Civil authority with such distinctness as to avoid collisions and doubts on unessential points. The tendency to unsurpastion on one side or the other, or to a corrupting coalition or alliance between them, will be best guarded agst. by an entire abstinence of the Gov’t from interfence in any way whatsoever, beyond the necessity of preserving public order, and protecting each sect agst. trespasses on its legal rights by others. [James Madison, in a letter to Rev Jasper Adams spring 1832, from James Madison on Religious Liberty, edited by Robert S. Alley, pp. 237-238]”

 “…Freedom arises from the multiplicity of sects, which prevades America and which is the best and only security for religious liberty in any society. For where there is such a variety of sects, there cannot be a majority of any one sect to oppress and persecute the rest. [James Madison, spoken at the Virginia convention on ratifying the Constitution, June 1778] “


“It was the Universal opinion of the Century preceding the last, that Civil Government could not stand without the prop of a religious establishment; and that the Christian religion itself, would perish if not supported by the legal provision for its clergy. The experience of Virginia conspiciously corroboates the disproof of both opinions. The Civil Government, tho’ bereft of everything like an associated hierarchy, possesses the requisite stability and performs its functions with complete success; whilst the number, the industry, and the morality of the priesthood, and the devotion of the people have been manifestly increased by the TOTAL SEPARATION OF THE CHURCH FROM THE STATE. [James Madison, as quoted in Robert L. Maddox: Separation of Church and State; Guarantor of Religious Freeedom]”


 “Whilst we assert for ourselves a freedom to embrace, to profess and observe the Religion which we believe to be of divine origin, we cannot deny equal freedom to those whose minds have not yet yielded to the evidence which has convinced us. If this freedom be abused, it is an offense against God, not against man:To God, therefore, not to man, must an account of it be rendered. [James Madison, according to Leonard W. Levy, Treason Against God: A History of the Offense of Blasphemy, New York: Schocken Books, 1981, p. xii.] “

“We hold it for a fundamental and undeniable truth that religion, or the duty which we owe our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence. The religion, then, of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man: and that it is the right of every man to exercise it as these may dictate. [James Madison, Memorial and Remonstrance to the Assemby of Virginia]”

 ” To the Baptist Churches on Neal’s Greek on Black Creek, North Carolina I have received, fellow-citizens, your address, approving my objection to the Bill containing a grant of public land to the Baptist Church at Salem Meeting House, Mississippi Territory. Having always regarded the practical distinction between Religion and Civil Government as essential to the purity of both, and as guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States, I could not have otherwise discharged my duty on the occasion which presented itself [James Madison, Letter to Baptist Churches in North Carolina, June 3, 1811]”


 “The experience of the United States is a happy disproof of the error so long rooted in the unenlightened minds of well-meaning Christians, as well as in the corrupt hearts of persecuting usurpers, that without a legal incorporation of religious and civil polity, neither could be supported. A mutual independence is found most friendly to practical Religion, to social harmony, and to political prosperity. [James Madison, Letter to F.L. Schaeffer, Dec 3, 1821]”











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