Why should I pay higher taxes to support clergymen when tobacco is scarce? Not as profound and fascinating as the foundational documents in this little book, but informative commentary on the political environment in which the Founders worked.
This month we'll discuss The Separation of Church and State: Writings on a Fundamental Freedom by America's Founders, edited by Forrest Church.
James Madison, urging Virginia against legal establishment of any sect: "During almost 15 centuries has the establishment of Christianity been on trial . . . its fruit? Pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both superstition, bigotry and persecution." Jefferson wrote, "the time for fixing every essential right on a legal basis is while our rulers are honest and ourselves united. From the conclusion of this war we shall be going downhill."
The documents show the progressive analysis of human rights (and abundant energy) that led to our Constitution and the early days of our republic. They go on to George Washington's Farewell Address and the famous Treaty of Tripoli signed after pirates under the control of the Kingdom of Tripoli asserted their own religious obligation to kidnap and sell non-Muslims. Signed by President John Adams in 1796 and ratified by the Senate the following year, it declared, ". . . the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion -- and it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquilty of Musselmen . . " Plus ca change . . .
Come join us even if you haven't finished the reading. The SHSNY Book Club is free and open to all.