Religion and our American Founding Fathers by Robert Scott

There has been a lot of talk lately about the prospect of denying Syrian refugees entry to the United States, but only if they are Muslim. Christians would be allowed in, or so some politicians in and out of office have argued. One Presidential candidate recently went so far as to say that, in his opinion, it would not be appropriate for a Muslim American ever to become President. It turns out that these are not new issues in the United States; they have been with us from the beginning. Here are quotes from five of our Founding Fathers on the subject of religion and politics. I hope that not only all our political candidates this year, but also all of us who plan to choose among them at the ballot box, consider the wisdom of our Founding Fathers and the vision they had for America. “We have abundant reason to rejoice that in this Land the light of truth and reason has triumphed over the power of bigotry and superstition…. In this enlightened Age and in this Land of equal liberty it is our boast, that a man’s religious tenets will not forfeit the protection of the Laws, nor deprive him of the right of attaining and holding the highest Offices that are known in the United States.” – George Washington, letter to the members of the New Church in Baltimore, January 27, 1793. “We should begin by setting conscience free. When all men of all religions shall enjoy equal liberty, property, and an equal chance for honors and power we may expect that improvements will be made in the human character and the state of society.” – John Adams, letter to Dr. Price, April 8, 1785. “Because religious belief, or non-belief, is such an important part of every person’s life, freedom of religion affects every individual. Religious institutions that use government power to support themselves and force their views on persons of other faiths undermine all our civil rights…. Erecting the ‘wall of separation between church and state,’ therefore, is absolutely essential in a free society. We have solved … the great and interesting question whether freedom of religion is compatible with order in government and obedience to the laws. And we have experienced the quiet as well as the comfort which results from leaving every one to profess freely and openly those principles of religion which are the inductions of his own reason and the serious convictions of his own inquiries.” – Thomas Jefferson, speech to the Virginia Baptists, 1808. “The American states have gone far in assisting the progress of truth; but they have stopped short of perfection. They ought to have given every honest citizen an equal right to enjoy his religion and an equal title to all civil emoluments, without obliging him to tell his religion. Every interference of the civil power in regulating opinion, is an impious attempt to take the business of the Deity out of his own hands; and every preference given to any religious denomination, is so far slavery and bigotry.” – Noah Webster, Sketches of American Policy, 1785. “The legislature of the United States shall pass no law on the subject of religion.” – South Carolina’s own Charles Pinckney, Constitutional Convention, 1787. by