Can you be my Bartlett today?
January 18, 2008 9:23 AM   Subscribe

Is there a quote by a Founding Father about how the First Amendment really protects religion from the government, not the other way around? I know about Jefferson's letter to the Danbury Baptists ... but I have this feeling that there's another famous quote. Maybe it's by a more modern judicial person rather than a Founding Father?

Even if you can't remember the whole quote, give me a hint about who/what to look for and I'll keep researching. I just have this feeling that there's a famous quote floating around out there that I can't quite put my finger on.

Any hints at all would be fabulous. Thanks much.
posted by mccxxiii to Law & Government (3 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I'd look at Madison a lot... he seemed to feel that the separation of church and state was necessary for the preservation of both, but saw that having an established religion would be extremely detrimental to religious society. "Every new & successful example therefore of a perfect separation between ecclesiastical and civil matters, is of importance. And I have no doubt that every new example, will succeed, as every past one has done, in shewing that religion & Gov will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together."

I'll try to dust off my old "Religioni and Politics" memory, but that's all that's springing to mind.

If Religion be not within the cognizance of Civil Government how can its legal establishment be necessary to Civil Government? What influence in fact have ecclesiastical establishments had on Civil Society? In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of the Civil authority; in many instances they have been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny: in no instance have they been seen the guardians of the liberties of the people. Rulers who wished to subvert the public liberty, may have found an established Clergy convenient auxiliaries. A just Government instituted to secure & perpetuate it needs them not. Such a Government will be best supported by protecting every Citizen in the enjoyment of his Religion with the same equal hand which protects his person and his property; by neither invading the equal rights of any Sect, nor suffering any Sect to invade those of another.

- Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments, 1785
posted by CAnneDC at 9:45 AM on January 18, 2008

Here's a link that addresses the substance of the quote you're looking for.
posted by bassjump at 9:51 AM on January 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

"Strongly guarded as is the separation between Religion and Government in the Constitution of the United States, the danger of encroachment by Ecclesiastical Bodies may be illustrated by precedents already furnished in their short history."
--James Madison, undated, "Detached Memoranda"
posted by veronitron at 9:54 AM on January 18, 2008

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