Wednesday, December 05, 2007

James Madison on faith based initiatives

"Because the bill vests in said incorporated church an authority to provide for the support of the poor and the education of poor children of the same, an authority which, being altogether superfluous if the provision is to be the result of pious charity, would be a precedent for giving religious societies as such a legal agency in carrying into effect a public and civil duty." - James Madison, explaining his opposition to a bill to sponsor faith based welfare

In other words, Madison believes that such a bill would respect an establishment of religion. You'll remember that today's liars for Jesus like to state that the first amendment's establishment clause - "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion" - should be read as "Congress shall not establish a national religion". Examining Madison's own use of the clause demonstrates their error.

While president, Madison - the father of the first amendment - vetoed the incorporation of the Episcopal Church in D.C. on the grounds that it would be "making a law respecting a religious establishment." He feared that since the corporate contract contained terms regarding the appointement of church figures, if the government became involved in disputes over corporate property it would be potentially entangled in religious matters, which be believed the state should have no cognizance of.

It is clear that Madison is using the clause in the sense that Congress should not be in the business of giving legal recognition to any religion in particular or in general. Of course, that much was clear to anyone who has read his "Memorial and Remonstrance" (1785): "We maintain therefore that in matters of Religion, no man's right is abridged by the institution of Civil Society, and that Religion is wholly exempt from its cognizance. "

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