Saturday, September 02, 2006

Keep your shirt on Dave!

In his recent post Heiress Harris Erras, Spot took Katherine Harris to task for her comment that the separation of church "was a lie." Dave from Baghdad, or its environs, challenged Spot to specify the origin of the concept as it is embodied in the Establishment Clause. Spot is paraphrasing here, but that is basically what Dave asked. That was last evening. Then tonight, Dave berated Spot for not answering the question.

We need to get one thing straight here, Dave. Spot is a dog, not a reference librarian! It's been a while since Spotty has studied this history. Let's see what he remembers.

The Founders counted several Diests among their number, and some pretty unconventional Christians, including Jefferson who, as Spot recalls from the time, rewrote the New Testament (or maybe just the gospels) to remove all the references to the divinity of Christ. They were a bunch of Enlightenment thinkers.

In the time between the end of the Revolution and the adoption of the Constitution, leaders in the various colonies had different ideas about the role of religion in government. Interestingly enough, it was the sturdy pilgrims and puritans in Massachusetts who wanted a state church, a curious position since the had left England in part to escape the Church of England. Most everyone else didn't think a state church was such a hot idea. This was especially true of Catholics and the evangelicals in the southern colonies. (Boy, how times have changed!)

Some of the same Virginians who were so vital to the Revolution were influential in Virginia state government in the time prior to the adoption of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Virginia had a statute keeping religion and government separate that the Establishment Clause was based on. And if Spot remembers correctly, it was during this time that the terminology "separation of church and state" began to be used.

Spot thinks there was a famous letter that Thomas Jefferson sent to a bunch of Baptists telling them that it was okay to just go ahead and be evangelicals, because under the new Constitution the government would stay away from religion, and he used the term "separation of church and state."

Now Dave, Spot knows that the term "wall of separation of church and state" was not used by the Supreme Court until much later. But the concept and use of that term existed from the founding of the Republic. Christian revisionist "historians," or maybe "imagineers" in Disneyspeak, have tried hard to suggest that the United States was founded as a Christian nation through the import of Bibles, etc., but it is plainly not so.

So, let's see how 'ol Spotty did. He going to look for a link or two. Not bad.

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