Danbury Baptist Association to Thomas Jefferson, Separation of Church and State
To the right is an image of the letter from the Danbury Baptist Association of Connecticut to Thomas Jefferson. Below is the text which is much easier to read.
The Association starts their letter with admiration toward the newly inaugurated President. Their letter may be “less courtly and pompous” than others but they express that, “none is more sincere.”
The Association jumps right into the point of why they are writing. They are “uniformly on the side of religious liberty.”
They make some great statements on the limitation of government in regard to religious liberty:
- “Religion is at all times and places a matter between God and individuals”
- “No man ought to suffer in name, person, or effects on account of his religious opinions”
- “The legitimate power of civil government extends no further than to punish the man who works ill to his neighbor”
In Thomas Jefferson’s letter of reply to the Danbury Baptist’s, he affirms these ideas. Jefferson wants “to restore to man all his natural rights.”
The Baptist Association is concerned that the “constitution of government is not specific” in regard to religion. They are happy for the religious liberty they enjoy and the feel this is due to the fact that “Religion is considered as the first object of Legislation”, namely, the First Amendment to the Constitution.
The Association’s worry is that “those who seek after power and gain, under the pretense of government and Religion, should reproach their fellow men.” And that someone in power would “assume the prerogative of Jehovah and make laws to govern the Kingdom of Christ.”
Jefferson’s letter of reply points out that the First Amendment builds a “wall of separation between Church & State.” He reassures the Baptists that the federal government will “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
Read both letters and then leave a comment and let me know your thoughts on Separation of Church and State.
Danbury Baptist Association Letter to Thomas Jefferson
Letter from the Danbury Baptists:
The address of the Danbury Baptist Association in the State of Connecticut, assembled October 7, 1801.
To Thomas Jefferson, Esq., President of the United States of America
Among the many millions in America and Europe who rejoice in your election to office, we embrace the first opportunity which we have enjoyed in our collective capacity, since your inauguration , to express our great satisfaction in your appointment to the Chief Magistracy in the Unite States. And though the mode of expression may be less courtly and pompous than what many others clothe their addresses with, we beg you, sir, to believe, that none is more sincere.
Our sentiments are uniformly on the side of religious liberty: that Religion is at all times and places a matter between God and individuals, that no man ought to suffer in name, person, or effects on account of his religious opinions, [and] that the legitimate power of civil government extends no further than to punish the man who works ill to his neighbor. But sir, our constitution of government is not specific. Our ancient charter, together with the laws made coincident therewith, were adapted as the basis of our government at the time of our revolution. And such has been our laws and usages, and such still are, [so] that Religion is considered as the first object of Legislation, and therefore what religious privileges we enjoy (as a minor part of the State) we enjoy as favors granted, and not as inalienable rights. And these favors we receive at the expense of such degrading acknowledgments, as are inconsistent with the rights of freemen. It is not to be wondered at therefore, if those who seek after power and gain, under the pretense of government and Religion, should reproach their fellow men, [or] should reproach their Chief Magistrate, as an enemy of religion, law, and good order, because he will not, dares not, assume the prerogative of Jehovah and make laws to govern the Kingdom of Christ.
Sir, we are sensible that the President of the United States is not the National Legislator and also sensible that the national government cannot destroy the laws of each State, but our hopes are strong that the sentiment of our beloved President, which have had such genial effect already, like the radiant beams of the sun, will shine and prevail through all these States–and all the world–until hierarchy and tyranny be destroyed from the earth. Sir, when we reflect on your past services, and see a glow of philanthropy and goodwill shining forth in a course of more than thirty years, we have reason to believe that America’s God has raised you up to fill the Chair of State out of that goodwill which he bears to the millions which you preside over. May God strengthen you for the arduous task which providence and the voice of the people have called you–to sustain and support you and your Administration against all the predetermined opposition of those who wish to rise to wealth and importance on the poverty and subjection of the people.
And may the Lord preserve you safe from every evil and bring you at last to his Heavenly Kingdom through Jesus Christ our Glorious Mediator.
Signed in behalf of the Association,
Neh,h Dodge }
Eph’m Robbins } The Committee
Stephen S. Nelson }http://www.wallbuilders.com/LIBissuesArticles.asp?id=65