Sunday, April 22, 2012

America Is Not A Christian State -- Madison's Detached Memoranda

If the Father of the Constitution were alive today
he would be verbally assaulted by the likes of
Bill O'Reilly

I was on Reason Being the other day and a commentator stated how the Founding Fathers of the Republic were Christians and thusly made the American state a Christian organization. Having recently read Arguably, the Christopher Hitchens compilation of essays, I learned about the James Madison document Detached Memoranda, and referenced the document to the commentor. One could simply read the paper and see that the Father of the Constitution stood firmly on the idea that our government was a secular one.

I am currently sitting in my favorite coffee shop after being at work for 40 hours (working with people who have disabilities offers low pay, but fringe benefits like sleeping during the over night as well as a lot of over time) and preparing for a day dedicated to the combined birthday party of my children. I took some time out and took a second look at Detached Memoranda and thought I'd share parts of it.


Is the appointment of Chaplains to the two Houses of Congress consistent with the Constitution, and with the pure principle of religious freedom?
In strictness the answer on both points must be in the negative. The Constitution of the U. S. forbids everything like an establishment of a national religion. The law appointing Chaplains establishes a religious worship for the national representatives, to be performed by Ministers of religion, elected by a majority of them; and these are to be paid out of the national taxes. Does not this involve the principle of a national establishment, applicable to a provision for a religious worship for the Constituent as well as of the representative Body, approved by the majority, and conducted by Ministers of religion paid by the entire nation.
The establishment of the chaplainship to Congs is a palpable violation of equal rights, as well as of Constitutional principles: The tenets of the chaplains elected [by the majority] shut the door of worship agst the members whose creeds & consciences forbid a participation in that of the majority. To say nothing of other sects, this is the case with that of Roman Catholics & Quakers who have always had members in one or both of the Legislative branches. Could a Catholic clergyman ever hope to be appointed a Chaplain? To say that his religious principles are obnoxious or that his sect is small, is to lift the evil at once and exhibit in its naked deformity the doctrine that religious truth is to be tested by numbers. or that the major sects have a right to govern the minor.
Elsewhere in the document Madison wrote what he thought of the government proclaiming religious holidays.

Religious proclamations by the Executive recommending thanksgivings & fasts are shoots from the same root with the legislative acts reviewed.

Altho' recommendations only, they imply a religious agency, making no part of the trust delegated to political rulers.
The objections to them are 1. that Govts ought not to interpose in relation to those subject to their authority but in cases where they can do it with effect. An advisory Govt is a contradiction in terms. 2. The members of a Govt as such can in no sense, be regarded as possessing an advisory trust from their Constituents in their religious capacities. They cannot form an ecclesiastical Assembly, Convocation, Council, or Synod, and as such issue decrees or injunctions addressed to the faith or the Consciences of the people. In their individual capacities, as distinct from their official station, they might unite in recommendations of any sort whatever, in the same manner as any other individuals might do. But then their recommendations ought to express the true character from which they emanate. 3. They seem to imply and certainly nourish the erronious idea of a national religion. The idea just as it related to the Jewish nation under a theocracy, having been improperly adopted by so many nations which have embraced Xnity, is too apt to lurk in the bosoms even of Americans, who in general are aware of the distinction between religious & political societies. The idea also of a union of all to form one nation under one Govt in acts of devotion to the God of all is an imposing idea.
America is not a Christian country.

Religion has no place in our state, and yet it is plastered on our money and our Pledge is adulterated by that barbaric superstition.

This is Purgatory.


  1. The founding fathers were more likely than not secularists. They had to be, they'd seen the damage that happened in Europe when you allowed the church to intervene in government affairs.

    They also saw despotism which is why the 1st and 2nd Amendments were included. Kind of significant that the first few establish our core rights.

  2. Thanks for mentioning my blog Andy. I agree with you completely on the secular nature of our founders and founding. It seems to me that Christians will continue to try and twist this the other way at every chance they get. It is up to people like us to speak out against it. I had not read the Detached Memoranda. What a great piece to read and pass on. Thanks for posting it.


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