With special thanks to Constituting America and Heritage College, we will be taking part in their project:The U.S. Constitution: A Reader. It is a 90 day challenge to learn and dive deeper into understanding the Constitution.
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Thomas Jefferson’s Letter to the Danbury Baptist Association
We’ve discussed before the work done by Thomas Jefferson on religious freedoms. But, that work was done before being elected President. Able to do the work at the request of the people, before being president he worked tirelessly on declaring religious freedoms as Natural Rights. As President, he was now more constrained by the confines of the Constitution.
Where he could once work at state levels, as president he was over the entire population of the people. What was good for one state, in his view, was not always good for the whole. Those restrictions were left to the state governments to govern over. If a small group felt that their liberties were being threatened, it was, and is, up to the state to regulate through their state constitutions. The government was not able to set rule at state level. The Constitution clearly states that. Jefferson knew and understood this.
And, upon receiving a letter from the Danbury Baptist Association, it was imperative that he express this. So in his response, he stated that there were clear lines upon the action of the national government and state governments. Which brought welcome the phrase “separation between church and state.”
Jefferson had an understanding that one’s religious beliefs were between himself and his God, he knew that the government could not interfere with these Natural Rights. Which brings us to there being a separation between church and state. The state could not favor one side only. They could only adhere to the fact the Natural Rights were bestowed upon each and every person. Nobody could come between that.
Whether this satisfied the request of the Danbury Baptist Association or not, Jefferson’s response would set the precedence for years to come. And, while the Bill of Rights had already been ratified and applied to the Constitution, his expression and explanation on one’s religious rights is satisfying. His adherence to the confines of the Constitution is exemplary.
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