The Meaning of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution

–Max is author of the novel, The Empathy Imperative

In 1786, The Virginia Act for Establishing Religious Freedom, written by Thomas Jefferson, was shepherded through congress by James Madison, and signed into law. It was the document from which the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was crafted. Jefferson’s and Madison’s intent was to build a wall of separation between church by denying any officer of the state the right to impose, by any means, his beliefs on the electorate.

There have been many who suggested that Jefferson’s intent was not to establish a wall between church and state and that such a wall does not exist. Yet, that was exactly Jefferson’s intent. His intend is clearly and concisely stated in The Virginia Act for Establishing Religious Freedom, and in his letter to the Danbury Baptists in 1802.

The Virginia Act for establishing Religious Freedom

Thomas Jefferson, 1786

Well aware that Almighty God hath created the mind free; that all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burdens, or by civil incapacitations, tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and are a departure from the plan of the Holy Author of our religion, who being Lord both of body and mind, yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as was in his Almighty power to do; that the impious presumption of legislators and rulers, civil as well as ecclesiastical, who, being themselves but fallible and uninspired men, have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible, and as such endeavoring to impose them on others, hath established and maintained false religions over the greatest part of the world, and through all time; that to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves, is sinful and tyrannical; that even the forcing him to support this or that teacher of his own religious persuasion, is depriving him of the comfortable liberty of giving his contributions to the particular pastor whose morals he would make his pattern, and whose powers he feels most persuasive to righteousness, and is withdrawing from the ministry those temporal rewards, which proceeding from an approbation of their personal conduct, are an additional incitement to earnest and unremitting labors for the instruction of mankind; that our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, more than our opinions in physics or geometry; that, therefore, the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him an incapacity of being called to the offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages to which in common with his fellow citizens he has a natural right; that it tends also to corrupt the principles of that very religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing, with a monopoly of worldly honors and emoluments, those who will externally profess and conform to it; that though indeed these are criminal who do not withstand such temptation, yet neither are those innocent who lay the bait in their way; that to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles, on the supposition of their ill tendency, is a dangerous fallacy, which at once destroys all religious liberty, because he being of course judge of that tendency, will make his opinions the rule of judgment, and approve or condemn the sentiments of others only as they shall square with or differ from his own; that it is time enough for the rightful purposes of civil government, for its officers to interfere when principles break out into overt acts against peace and good order; and finally, that truth is great and will prevail if left to herself, that she is the proper and sufficient antagonist to error, and has nothing to fear from the conflict, unless by human interposition disarmed of her natural weapons, free argument and debate, errors ceasing to be dangerous when it is permitted freely to contradict them.

Be it therefore enacted by the General Assembly, That no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burdened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in nowise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.

And though we well know this Assembly, elected by the people for the ordinary purposes of legislation only, have no powers equal to our own and that therefore to declare this act irrevocable would be of no effect in law, yet we are free to declare, and do declare, that the rights hereby asserted are of the natural rights of mankind, and that if any act shall be hereafter passed to repeal the present or to narrow its operation, such act will be an infringement of natural right. (bold face by author)

Letter to the Danbury Baptists

To messers. Nehemiah Dodge, Ephraim Robbins, & Stephen S. Nelson, a committee of the Danbury Baptist association in the state of Connecticut.

Gentlemen

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, & 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 & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & 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 & 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 & blessing of the common father and creator of man, and tender you for yourselves & your religious association, assurances of my high respect & esteem.

Th Jefferson
Jan. 1. 1802.

(bold face by author)

—————————————————————

These documents were masterful and brilliant works of fairness and empathy for every individual’s right to express his own opinions and to conduct his life as he sees fit, not as others believe. This is the only path to peace and understanding.

It is noteworthy that Jefferson did not say, “all men shall be free to profess . . . their religious opinions,” but “all men shall be free to profess . . . their opinions in matters of religion.” One need not be a Christian to enjoy the right to his own opinions and to conduct his life according to the dictates of his conscience.

Of Homosexuality, Phyllus Worship, and Family Values

On a recent post at SodaHead.com, a contributor opined that “it hurts me to see my country turned into one of those barbaric nations that worship phallus; they have closed down roadside rest areas, beach side bath houses because of homosexual men soliciting young boys for sex; homosexuals having full blown sex in one of those public places; the male prostitution, the pornography, all the foul lewd lascivious behaviors they portray. I don’t want my nation celebrating filth and lasciviousness.”

 

First, it is not his nation, it is our nation. Why would any of us want to dictate to all other citizens how they should live their lives? This is a major difference, I think, between conservatives and liberals: conservatives think in terms of “me,” but liberals and progressives think in terms of “we.” Thus, it isn’t all about me, it is about us.

As to his points, however, I used to be a long haul professional driver, visiting many rest areas and public rest rooms in almost every contiguous state in the nation. I never once saw what he described, but I know some of it goes on. Republican Senator Larry Craig, for example, was caught soliciting another man not long ago. But it wasn’t Craig’s desire to have sex with another man in a public rest room that bothers me and it is not why I condemn him. I condemn him for his hypocrisy. He was a strong anti-gay advocate in Congress and obviously his marriage was only a front.

From http://www.ontheissues.org/se…

LarryCraig’s record:

Rated 0% by the HRC, indicating an anti-gay-rights stance, Amend Constitution to define traditional marriage,

Voted YES on prohibiting same-sex marriage,

Voted NO on prohibiting job discrimination by sexual orientation,

Voted NO on expanding hate crimes to include sexual orientation,

Voted NO on adding sexual orientation to definition of hate crimes,

Voted YES on constitutional ban of same-sex marriage.

If homosexuals such as Craig were not often successful soliciting in some rest areas, then they wouldn’t be doing it. Their success likely implies that there are many more men with a homosexual bent than most of us think. And likely there are far more LBGTs out there than we think.

The driving force behind the covert actions of some homosexuals is the religiously based the hatred a declining but significant portion of society has for them. Republican coverts, in particular, feel that the only way they can be successful in politics is to remain closeted and vote against their own conscience, and they are quite correct. Likely it is the same in many professions, especially “manly” sports like football.

I admire the courage of those who come out. They know they will become a lightning rod for bigotry, but at the same time they are making more folks realize just how common homosexuality truly is. Thus, society is beginning to turn another page on religious dogma.

Homosexuality, in and of itself, is not deviant. Some heterosexuals and homosexuals do deviate from their norm. Family values, however, should include love and understanding. Take a look and listen to this clip:

 

–Max is the author of The Empathy Imperative, an adventurous novel into the meaning of justice, of love, and of benevolence.

Hallmarks of a Good Person: Homosexuality, Reason, and Empathy

 

***Max is author of The Empathy Imperative***

 

I believe two of the greatest hallmarks of a good and (almost) complete person are the attributes of empathy and understanding. By “almost,” I mean that although empathy is a mark of a good person, universal empathy does not exist. That would make a person, “complete.” I don’t think, however, that the attainment universal empathy is quite possible yet, but it should be our goal.

Why can’t an individual have universal empathy? Because of our attributes gained through evolution, such as the impulse to xenophobia and aggression. Therefore, I think universal empathy is something that can be achieved only by a few thousand years more of social evolution based on reason.

Far back on our evolutionary path, xenophobia (fear or suspicion of strangers, foreigners, and people who are “different”) and aggression were survival instincts we had no choice but to follow, but now they are impulses controlled by reason, more or less, in each individual.

Regarding homosexuality. empathy will dictate to a good person of understanding that:

1) No one would choose a lifestyle that a large segment of society hates and taunts, and some want to kill,

2) Homosexuality is far more prevalent than most people think,

3) Intellectual honesty would dictate that, for heterosexuals, their sexual preference is not a choice, therefore, neither is that of homosexuals,

4) Understanding that some babies are born with ambiguous genitalia, it is quite logical that many babies are born with a heterosexual predisposition, some are born with a homosexual predisposition, and there are babies born at every predisposition in between,

5) Homosexuality hurts no one, and even though some homosexuals are promiscuous, so are heterosexuals,

6) Even though some homosexuals are pedophiles, so are some heterosexuals,

7) From a religious standpoint; “Judge not that ye may be judged”),

8) For the establishment of a just society, do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

9) Homosexual marriage does not “redefine” marriage, because marriage is supposed to be the religious and civil bonding of two individuals who love each other, and homosexuals are just as capable of love as any heterosexual,

10) If a heterosexual does not want government intruding into his personal social life dictating whom he may marry and whom he may not, then he should not want the government intruding into the personal lives of anyone else,

11) No one should dictate to others how they may or may not be happy, and no one should strive to deny others the right to seek happiness according to the dictates of their own conscience.

Empathy vs. Racial Bigotry

I have little to say about this. The video speaks for itself. I will say, however, that the children of “interracial” couples are beautiful!

M. Jefferson Hale, professor of evolutionary biology (the lead character in The Empathy Imperative, opined:

A child is born neither Christian, nor Jew, nor Muslim, nor atheist, nor an adherent to any other brand of religious or philosophical order. A child is born a human being with an ability to learn, and from this raw material society builds her walls of nationalism and religious certitude.

This incident made me realize I’d left out the walls of bigotry. I’ll correct that in the next edition.

The Price of Insecurity: Opulence and Power vs. Empathy

By M. Jefferson Hale*

A recent article on the internet, “Inside Castel Gandolfo, Pope Benedict’s spectacular temporary retirement home,” written by M. Alex Johnson of NBC News, could not be a better exposé of insecurity on the part of the masses and insensitivity on the part of the Church. In the comments section of the site, one contributor opined, “. . . religion helps more people than any other institutions [sic] in the world.”

Many religious organizations, including the Catholic Church, do indeed help with disaster aid, building and staffing sectarian schools, building hospitals, managing soup kitchens and nursing homes. Nevertheless, at least for wealthy religious institutions, how many schools (in poor neighborhoods, free of tuition, and with well-paid, qualified teachers), hospitals (with free services in poor neighborhoods), and nursing homes (free of fees and open to the poor), could they build and staff with the money that goes into maintaining the opulence surrounding the Church hierarchy? Is this empathy or just good, sound business practice? When the average person visits those monuments of human insecurity such as a grand cathedral or the Sistine Chapel, what does she think? Is she awed with God’s apparent splendor? Does it strengthen her faith? Should the Church spend billions for the psychological effect that bends one’s mind to impotence and piety when those dollars could do much more for the masses in the way of health aid and education?

“But,” one might argue, “many of these institutions do not charge for some of their services.” This is true, but who is it that would not gladly spend a billion dollars of other people’s money to help the less fortunate in return for living a worry-free life of power, splendor, and comfort? The difference between aid given and rewards reaped constitutes a cost-to-benefit ratio that must be the envy of many a Wall Street CEO.

Nevertheless, would it be right to call the benefits offered to the masses, “empathy?” Whoever wrote the Gospel of Matthew attributed to Jesus the words; “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me,” and; “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.”

How many who preach those words actually follow them? It matters not who “owns” the sumptuousness in which one lives so long as one is guaranteed to reap its benefits for life, and pay no taxes. Didn’t the Pope, past and present, take a vow of poverty? Is he living in a state of true poverty?

But this isn’t only about the Catholic church, although they are the wealthiest in the God business. Protestant ministers who preach Jesus’ words of empathy from the pulpits of their grand megachurches and their luxurious television settings promote the concept of “prosperity theology,” to justify their wealth. “God rewards those who give,” they often say. “God will bless you in this life or in heaven if you give this church what you have.”

For all those who preach the empathetic side of the philosophy of Jesus, should not empathy be their primary motivating force instead of a carefree life of luxury and power? Is it empathetic to live worry-free in so much opulence at the expense of those who have little or nothing? Whatever happened to, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”—Matthew 6:19-21

True empathy would never gather and possess “treasures on earth.” True empathy would be about dividing all the wealth they’ve gathered among those in need. The hierarchy of all faiths would don the clothing of ordinary people, leave their cathedrals to be museums of a misguided past, establish a simple headquarters, and then proceed with the business of gathering converts and improving the lives of the least among us. Heck, were they to do so, I might even consider joining them.

* M. Jefferson Hale is the lead character in the novel, The Empathy Imperative, by Max T. Furr

With My Face To The Rising Sun

Diary Of A Mad God Woman

The Free-Thinking Human

Just Another Former Christian on the Internet

Lama Surya Das

Spiritual Masters of Asia

The Charnel-House

From Bauhaus to Beinhaus

Dirty, Naked & Happy

the erratic journals of a happily incorrigible lady-child

tripleclicka

perspective at the moment

Friend the Cat

Everyone Needs A Friend.

Chiefy's Word

All the things your mother told you not to talk about.

Toad's Great Adventure

"I will, then, be a toad." -- Stephen Crane

Notes from the U.K.

Exploring the spidery corners of a culture and the weird stuff that tourist brochures ignore.

BroadBlogs

A broad blogs broadly on women’s & men's psychology: sex, relationships, equality

العاب بنات ماهر

العاب بنات ماهر العاب فلاش ماهر ttt4 العاب سيارات ماهر العاب تلبيس بنات ماهر العاب فلاش ماهر 2015

Wary Wonderlust

Losing Ignorance, Finding Awe

My Holistic Table

The Art & Science of Cooking. Recipes free of gluten, sugar, dairy, yeast

The Arm Chair Pontificator

Satirical & Poetic Musings Of A Self-Proclaimed Nobel Prize Winner

A Narcissist Writes Letters, To Himself

A Hopefully Formerly Depressed Human Vows To Practice Self-Approval

Ben's Bitter Blog

"We make bitter better."

All Romance Reads

Get Your Swoon On

richardmarlowe236

Independence and Freedom Blog

A Holistic Journey

Finding my way back out of motherhood -- while mothering

Ben Garrido's Author Page

Literary Adventures in South Korea

Robert J. Burrowes

If you live your dream, you have lived.

%d bloggers like this: