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Letter; Founders didn't want state religion

In response to Robert Clarke's Jan. 26 letter, "America is only for Christians," I wonder if he might be a Puritan.

They wanted religious freedom for only themselves, so in 1635 they banished Roger Williams, a Baptist minister. Williams considered it "against the testimony of Jesus Christ for the civil state to impose upon the soul of the people a religion." He called for "free and absolute permission of conscience." He established religious freedom in Rhode Island in 1636. He argued church/state alliances were wrong.

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Does Clarke advocate for Christian dominance? Religious minorities in state established congregational and Anglican colonies were frequently flogged, fined, taxed, jailed or killed for religious offenses, non-attendance or preaching their version of the Gospel. Would Clarke delete constitutional religious protection in his all-Christian America?

Many colonists were dissenters escaping persecution. The glorious rise of Christianity glosses over the terror and fear of hell, torture and burning that left a deadly trail from Rome to Europe. Fourteen hundred years of church state collusion had not brought peace. John Calvin's control of Geneva was a nightmare for citizens. He burned Michael Servantes for disagreeing about the trinity.

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Do people understand why our Founders were against a church/state entanglement? Our Constitution and Bill of Rights reflects this view, neither governing document mentions Christianity, God or any deity. Their goal was to save our Union and prevent European sectarian wars. James Madison authored most of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Though Madison was a Christian, he opposed "religion as an engine of civil policy." He also wrote "Who does not see that the same authority, which can establish Christianity in exclusion of all other religions, may establish with the same ease, any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other sects ..."

Were the commissioners elected to be our spiritual leaders? Should our taxes be used to defend a lawsuit about their personal proselyting? Don't they understand coercing religion rarely increases devotion and, instead of looking pious, they appear to be pompous dictators? Isn't the measure of character about deeds not creeds?

John Locke, a theologian, said "Reason must be our last judgment and guide in everything" and "citizens have a right to make up their own mind." The state should not make any religious establishment or require support of beliefs in any system citizens' hearts reject. All prayer is directed to a deity.

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Nan Nelson

Westminster

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