The framers would have rejected Erhlich's views on public prayer [Letter]

In his zeal to make the case supporting the propriety of public prayer, former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. bases his argument on two falsehoods ("Freedom of, not from, religion," June 1).

First, he says "the framers never used the phrase 'separation of church and state' — except that Thomas Jefferson coined that phrase, approvingly, in his letter to the Danbury Baptist Church.

James Madison used the same language in his letter to Robert Walsh. Since these men are, respectively, the authors of the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights, I believe they do qualify as the "framers."

Second, Mr. Ehrlich says the context of the First Amendment precludes a religious minority from claiming an "alternative right to be free from offensive practices." Madison, however, used exactly that reasoning in his letters to Rev. Jasper Adams and to Edward Livingston. Madison favored no government intrusion into any religious matter so as to shield religious minorities from possible abuse.

Nor did Madison believe religion should be injected into government proceedings, including legislative assembly prayers, which he called "a palpable violation of equal rights, as well as of Constitutional principles."

Mr. Ehrlich can espouse his support for teacher-led prayer in public schools and government-sanctioned prayers at assemblies. But he cannot state that those views are consistent with the framers' beliefs or their Constitutional intent.

John E. Beasley, Baltimore

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