On Jan. 20, Paul Deierlein commented that separation between church and state were a good thing because it would keep “each institution functioning fully independently of one another. …” He quoted John Adams saying that the government of the United States was not “in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.” Where these statements are correct, it would be wise not to conflate a secular government with a secular society.
Adams and the founders had experienced the abuses to society wrought by King George because religion and the state were entwined in England. Our First Amendment was intended to prevent such abuses, with a secular government ruling and guiding a religious people. Thomas Jefferson himself worshiped in the “Hall of Representatives” and in the Supreme Court building.
Establishment of religion, often called “endorsement” today, was forbidden only to Congress through enacted laws. There was never any prohibition against a display of religion in a statesman.
In fact, the same letter mentioning “a wall of separation” has Jefferson admit that he only occasionally presented “performances of devotion, presented indeed legally … but subject here, as religious exercise, only to the voluntary regulations and disciplines of each respective sect “ In other words, he was free to worship subject only to the “disciplines” of his own church.
Adams also said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” John Adams, our second president, also served as chairman of the American Bible Society.
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Categories: Letters to the Editor, Opinion