Founding fathers were not evangelical

Published 10:40 am Monday, May 14, 2007

After reading Spruce Derden’s letter that appeared in the May 7 edition of The Natchez Democrat, I am compelled to respond to his statement that the separation of church and state is not explicitly spelled out in any clause of the Constitution. Technically, Mr. Derden is correct. Religious activists have long tried to deny the concept of separation between church and State using this argument. But neither does the Constitution explicitly state the phrase “freedom of religion,” yet the First Amendment clearly implies both ideals, which are among the most foundational of our Constitutional guarantees.

Mr. Derden goes on to say that “…the founding fathers all strongly adhered to the idea that government without a direct influence from God through godly individuals would destroy the country.” This is patently false, and represents a distorted rendering of Constitutional history. Few, if any, of the Founding Fathers can be described as possessing deep religious convictions. Washington was a rather casual Anglican who seldom took Communion, and James Madison was a nominal Episcopalian. Thomas Jefferson was a Deist, while John Adams was a Unitarian.

Most of the founding fathers were men of the Enlightenment. They placed their deepest faith in the philosophy of rationalism, and the document they crafted reflected their conviction that the new nation would be best guided by reason and the rule of law, rather than by religious principles. Minimizing the influence of “godly individuals” on the affairs of state is precisely what the framers of the Constitution had in mind when they created a secular republic. The Founding Fathers were not evangelical Christians, and the efforts of those such as Mr. Derden to ascribe to them religious doctrines they did not embrace is misleading and inaccurate.

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Tom Scarborough