The View From 1776
The Struggle Dividing Our Nation
Increasingly frequent presidential executive orders and arbitrary bureaucratic regulations make it abundantly clear that liberal-progressives aim to conquer and to impose their will upon the rest of us, making the Constitution all but meaningless.
Your arguments that the constitution is fundamentally a Judeo-Christian - based document appears to be in stark conflict with your citation of the anti-establishment clause which famously begins, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion..." and the fact that there is nothing at all in the constitution proper suggesting that religion should play any role whatsoever in government.
- Mr. Jay, surely you understand the meaning of the First Amendment's prohibition against "establishment of religion." Partly it was a rejection of Great Britain's Test Act, which excluded non-Anglicans from public office, and partly it was Madison's and Jefferson's revulsion at the persecutions in Virginia of non-Anglicans.
The almost universal ethos was Christianity, which was witnessed by Tocqueville during his travels ca. 1833 and recorded in Democracy in America. He wrote:
“On my arrival in the United States, the religious aspect of the country was the first thing that struck my attention; and the longer I stayed there, the more I perceived the great political consequences resulting from this new state of things. In France I had almost always seen the spirit of religion and the spirit of freedom marching in opposite directions. But in America I found they were intimately united and that they reigned in common over the same country.”
“[Christianity] contributed powerfully to the establishment of a republic and a democracy in public affairs; and from the beginning, politics and religion contracted an alliance which has never [as of 1831] been dissolved.”
“The sects that exist in the United States are innumerable. They all differ in respect to the worship which is due to the Creator; but they all agree in respect to the duties which are due from man to man…. all sects preach the same moral law in the name of God.”
“In the United States religion exercises but little influence upon the laws and upon the details of public opinion; but it directs the customs of the community, and, by regulating domestic life, it regulates the state…. Thus, while the law permits the Americans to do what they please, religion prevents them from conceiving, and forbids them to commit, what is rash and unjust. Religion in America takes no direct part in the government of society, but it must be regarded as the first of their political institutions; for if it does not impart a taste for freedom, it facilitates the use of it.”
“When [people in France] attack religious opinions, they obey the dictates of their passions and not of their interests. Despotism may govern without faith, but liberty cannot.”
- Mr. Brewton,
By the same token I am sure you are aware that the colonies of New England (CT, MA, NH) had state supported "official" churches (often Congregational) which were tax-supported up until the middle 1800s (quite a while after the bill of rights was signed). And the church played a large role in the legal framework of the society.
Church laws controlled colonial activity, and the courts enforced those laws. One law, for example ensured that the Sabbath was observed by prohibiting any cooking, shaving, hair cutting, or bed making from Saturday afternoon to sundown on Sunday.
Unfortunately, colonial governments didn’t accommodate the Jewish Sabbath, and other non-Christian faiths. Colonial communities were often intolerant of religious minorities and denied them the freedom to follow their own beliefs or hold their own worship services. And church influence run amok in law is exemplified by the Salem witch trials.
Voting and other political rights were restricted to members of a certain church group. Roman Catholics and Jews were not given a vote in most colonies. Puritans in New England denied citizenship to Quakers and others.
It was not until 1947 (after you were born!) that in Everson v. Board of Ed that the court finally decided that Jefferson was right and that the constitution erected "a wall of separation between church and state."
So, yes, in early days the church had great influence, but since 1947 that sway no longer officially applies.