Separation Between Church and State

FIRST: I would like to emphasize that the VERY FIRST occurrence in the English language of the phrase “HUMAN RIGHTS” occurs in Henry David Thoreau’s essay “On Civil Disobedience.” Thoreau was something of a misfit in the eyes of normative society; a recluse. The notion of “human rights” did not come from any church or government or academic institution.

SECOND: I wish this language appeared in the Constitution, but unfortunately it was only in one letter that Jefferson wrote in 1802 to the Danbury Baptists which made it clear that the purpose of the First Amendment was to establish a “wall of separation” between Church and State in order to protect individuals’ right of conscience:

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & 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 & State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.

This entire link is a most worthwhile read:

http://rationalrevolution.net/articles/history_of_the_separation_of_chu.htm

Make special note of Thomas Paine’s Introduction to The Age of Reason:

TO MY FELLOW-CITIZENS OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA:

I PUT the following work under your protection. It contains my opinions upon Religion. You will do me the justice to remember, that I have always strenuously supported the Right of every Man to his own opinion, however different that opinion might be to mine. He who denies to another this right, makes a slave of himself to his present opinion, because he precludes himself the right of changing it.

The most formidable weapon against errors of every kind is Reason. I have never used any other, and I trust I never shall.

January 27, O. S. 1794.

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