POC Separation of Church and State Newsletter #3
Irrefutable evidence that the 1st Amendment was intended to keep the Federal Government out of religion – Not to prevent the state governments and localities from involving themselves in religious activities:
Congress re-authorized THE NORTHWEST ORDINANCE, July 13, 1787; it served as the ground rules for new states being allowed into the union.
Art. III. States:
Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.
Religion - then - was always the Christian religion. Had the new states done anything repugnant to the Northwest Ordinance they would not have been invited into the Union. Ohio, Mississippi, and other states had similar verbiage about teaching religion in their state constitutions.
The 1st Amendment was introduced in Congress June 8, 1787, and was passed with the other 9 amendments in the Bill of Rights, September 25, 1787; this is during the same time frame Congress was passing the Northwest Ordinance
So, the same Congress that passed the 1st Amendment also told new states they expected them to teach religion and morals in their schools.
It would be ridiculous to believe that Congress expected the 1st Amendment to prevent states from involving them selves with the Christian religion.
As Congress was writing the Bill of Rights some states had already dropped their preferences for a specific denomination so that all Christian denominations would be treated equally. The important thing to remember though is that the states retained the sovereign authority to make these decisions about religious activities, not the federal government.
Noah Webster was considered America’s schoolmaster. He said:
“In my view, the Christian religion is the most important and one of the first things in which all children, under a free government, ought to be instructed . . . No truth s more evident to my mind than that the Christian religion must be the basis of any government intended to secure the rights and privileges of a free people.”
Myth of Separation, Barton, pg. 126
Webster's 1828 Dictionary definition of Education said:
“To give children a good education in manners, arts and science, is important; to give them a religious education is indispensable…”
(Click on the link to Webster’s dictionary, to the right, and type in Education to see the entire definition.)
For those subscribers who would like to see more evidence supporting the claim that the 1st Amendment was intended to prevent the federal or national government from creating a national denomination, the following evidence from the Congressional Record is offered:
Background on 1st Amendment
JUNE 8 . Initial proposals of James Madison. "The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience be in any manner, or on any pretext infringed."
Agust15. House Select Committee. "No religion shall be established by law, nor shall the equal rights of conscience be infringed." Full day of debate with many alterations and additions, with some question, still, whether any such amendment was necessary. Following the suggestion of his own state's ratifying convention, Samuel Livennore of New Hampshire proposed: "Congress shall make no laws touching religion, or infringing the rights of conscience."
AUGUST 20. Fisher Ames of Massachusetts moved that the following language be adopted by the House, and it was agreed: "Congress shall make no law establishing religion, or to prevent the free exercise thereof, or to infringe the rights of conscience."
This last version was sent to the Senate, which began its own work on the wording:
SEPTEMBER 3. Several versions proposed in quick succession.
"Congress shall not make any law infringing the rights of conscience, or establishing any religious sect or society."
"Congress shall make no law establishing any particular denomination of religion in preference to another, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, nor shall the rights of conscience be infringed."
"Congress shall make no law establishing one religious society in preference to others, or to infringe on the rights of conscience."
Passed at the end of the day: "Congress shall make no law establishing religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."
SEPTEMBER 9. "Congress shall make no law establishing; articles of faith or a mode of worship, or prohibiting the free exercise of religion."
This version was sent back to the House where a Conference Committee convened to eliminate the differences in wording. This committee agreed that the final wording should be:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."
It was then returned to the full House and Senate, where it was approved as recommended by the Conference Committee.
As evident from these records, the word "religion" was used interchangeably with "religious sect," "religious society," and "particular denomination." Today we would best understand the actual context of the First Amendment by saying, "Congress shall make no law establishing one Christian denomination as the national denomination."
Today, when the First Amendment is discussed, there seems to be a general consensus that it was something unique and original for the time?]?]a very progressive act by the members of Congress. This was not the case; recall the House records from August 15:
AUGUST 15. Full day of debate with many alterations and additions, with some question, still, whether any such amendment was necessary. Following the suggestion of his own state's ratifying convention, Samuel Livermore of New Hampshire proposed: "Congress shall make no laws touching religion, or infringing the rights of conscience."
The members of Congress relied on the precedent established in the wording of their own state's constitution when composing the First Amendment. The following excerpts from state constitutions not only reveal wording very similar to that proposed and used by Congress, but also the spirit behind the First Amendment: (As an example)
MASSACHUSETTS, 1780. Part I, Article II. It is the right, as well as the duty, of all men in society, publicly, and at stated seasons, to worship the Supreme Being, the Great Creator and Preserver of the Universe. And no subject shall be hurt, molested, or restrained, in his person, liberty, or estate, for worshiping God in the manner and season, most agreeable to the dictates of his own conscience.
Article III. And every denomination of Christians demeaning themselves peaceably, and as good subjects of the common?]wealth, shall be equally under the protection of the law. And no subordination of any one sect or denomination to another, shall ever be established by law. (emphasis added)
Page 27-28, of David Barton’s The Myth Of Separation