The (No) ‘Establishment’ Clause by Ronald Thomas West
There is little question the American founders were, without exception, ‘believers’ in a supreme deity or that is to say “God.” Their commonality of belief ends with that statement. The (no) ‘Establishment’ clause of the anti-federalist founders (as opposed the ‘Federalist’ founders) enshrined in the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, derived from a consensus there could never be any one religion in supremacy in these United States.
This consensus derived from historical experience showing a ‘state religion’ is inimical to freedom. The one man responsible for a widespread support from the general populace supporting this consensus was Thomas Paine.
John Adams had stated: “Without the pen of Paine, the sword of Washington would have been in vain”
The purpose of the (no) ‘Establishment’ clause derived from our several founders unshakable notion that any church in supremacy results in persecution of freedom. In their time, this notion was based on very real history, pointing particularly to the Church of England and the Church at Rome. Both had initiated policies in collusion with government(s) resulting in exodus of minority religions and political free thinkers, to what eventually became our American republic. The ‘No Establishment’ clause was intended to guard against these persecutions repeating history at future time in the USA.
That John Adams recognized this would be a necessary safeguard, despite his conservative Christian faith, is to be demonstrated in his statement on Paine. Furthermore, Adams had endorsed the language: "The government of the United States is in no sense founded upon the Christian religion" when he signed the ‘Treaty of Tripoli’
Thomas Jefferson wrote: "Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between church and State" – President Thomas Jefferson in a letter to Danbury Baptist Association.
Jefferson even took the idea further. His endorsement of a (no) ‘Establishment’ clause invited non-Christian faiths to stand on a par with any Christian faith in the newly founded United States: “a singular proposition proved that it's protection of opinion was meant to be universal. Where the preamble declares that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed, by inserting the word 'Jesus Christ,' so that it should read 'a departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion,' the insertion was rejected by a great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend,within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan, the Hindoo, and infidel of every denomination" -commenting on proceedings in the Virgina Assembly.
Benjamin Franklin agreed with Jefferson: "If the Mufti of Constantinople were to send an emmissary to preach to us Mohammedism, he would be provided a pulpit”
James Madison goes even farther: "Experience witnesses that ecclesiastical establishments, instead of maintaining the purity and efficacy of religion, have had a contrary operation. During almost 15 centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What has been its fruits? More or less, in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution"
The last word inspiring the (no) ‘Establishment’ clause is given to Thomas Paine, the man Adams had implied motivated the troops to serve under General Washington:
"I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church"
The USA Constitution’s (no) ‘Establishment’ clause: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” ..
.. is routinely violated by the crusaders at our Pentagon.
Cross-posted with the permission of the author: Ronald Thomas West
Earlier version originally posted here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/116110478/The-No-Establishment%E2%80%99-Clause