Monday, April 18, 2005

Dangerous radicals

Here are a few quotes on the topic of church and state from "dangerous radicals" like Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Ben Franklin, Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, JFK. I wonder if any of them appear in today's civics textbooks.

And while we're on the subject, from a recent article in The Nation:

The three accomplishments Jefferson was proudest of – those that he requested be put on his tombstone – were the founding of the University of Virginia and the authorship of the Declaration of Independence and the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. The latter was a truly radical document that would eventually influence the separation of church and state in the US Constitution; when it was passed by the Virginia legislature in 1786, Jefferson rejoiced that there was finally "freedom for the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and the Mohammeden, the Hindu and infidel of every denomination" – note ­­­his respect, still unusual today, for the sensibilities of the "infidel." The University of Virginia was notable among early-American seats of higher education in that it had no religious affiliation whatever. Jefferson even banned the teaching of theology at the school...

Though for public consumption the Founding Fathers identified themselves as Christians, they were, at least by today's standards, remarkably honest about their misgivings when it came to theological doctrine, and religion in general came very low on the list of their concerns and priorities – always excepting, that is, their determination to keep the new nation free from bondage to its rule.

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