Thomas Jefferson's letter was amiable, but short and to the point. But it is here that we
see the phrase "seperation of church and state" first appear.
The affectionate sentiments of esteem and approbation which you are so
good as to express towards me, on behalf of the Danbury Baptist
Association, give me the highest satisfaction. My duties dictate a faithful
and zealous pursuit of the interests of my constituents, and in proportion
as they are persuaded of my fidelity to those duties, the discharge of them
becomes more and more pleasing.
Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man
and his God, that he owes account to none other for is faith or his
worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and
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 and 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.
I reciprocate your kind prayers for the protection and blessing of the
common Father and Creator of man, and tender you for yourselves and
your religious association, assurances of my high respect and esteem.
signed, Thomas Jefferson"
So within these documents we see clearly that the origin and intent was
nothing other that the Danbury Baptist's reasonable fear, after hearing of a
rumor the the Congregational Church was going to be made the state
religion...that religious liberty would be abridged in the same manner as it
had been in Europe. Indeed, congress went through many gyrations
deciding which religion ought to be the state religion before settling on the
idea that NO religion ought to be so established as to march over the free
conscience of others. It was, in fact, the Baptists who so instructed
congress through the elegant and powerful arguments of Patrick Henry on
their behalf. You see at one point it was the Baptists themselves who
were to be made the state religion AGAINST their protests. Congress
happened upon this idea due to the fact that the Baptists were the only
people RESISTING such establishment even to their benefit, so it was
believed they were the only people trustworthy enough to wield such
power. The Baptists however had an older history than that of other
denominations and KNEW the dangers of ANY such establishment. More
information on this point can be had on my Baptist History page on this
"It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation
was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religion, but on
the gospel of Jesus Christ! For this very reason peoples of faiths have
been afforded asylum, and freedom of worship here." -Patrick Henry
Suffice it to say that moral conscience, and national morality are
permanently linked to religious sentiment...as noted by our first president
in his closing inaugeral address.
"Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity,
religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man
claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great
pillars of human happiness - these firmest props of the duties of men and
citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect
and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with
private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked, Where is the security for
property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert
the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice?
And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be
maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of
refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience
both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of
religious principle." -George Washington
"Of all the conspiracies most likely to usurpe power from a free people
history has taught us that the divorcement of religious thought, and free
moral conscience from the administration and participation of and in their
own government is the most devastating and complete imaginable."
(of The Knights of True North)