The Establishment Clause Jefferson Vs The Religious

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The Establishment Clause Jefferson Vs. The Religious Right Essay, Research Paper To Thomas Jefferson it was self-evident that religious institutions or sects could not establish, constitute, or have authority in the new American government, nor could government establish religion. When arguing his position, Jefferson sometimes used the carefully worded phrase “ingraft into the machine of government” confirming his concern about those artful clerics or religious extremists who would first inject their religious ideology “into the machine of government” providing them a strategic position to later establish their religion or religious ideology as a matter of law. It is here that the establishment clause would erect a definitive barrier to these usurpations. The Framers,

acutely aware of European and Eastern history, especially events such as the Inquisition, understood human nature had since changed little. Throughout the centuries, the institutional fusion of church and state had oftentimes proven a significant factor in the world’s bloodletting. It mattered not from which “direction” the intrusion originated; the corruption would be the same. If government established or unduly influenced religion or religion established or unduly influenced government, tyranny was the eventual result. Of course, this experiential knowledge was a foundational reason for the emigration of many to America, resulting ultimately in the creation of a new nation. This then is the genius of the Establishment clause: it cut both ways, necessarily and rightly,

though not explicitly so. Because it was patently obvious that no religious institution or sect could be the warp and woof of the new nation, Jefferson spoke primarily to prohibiting government establishment of religion, ultimately declaring “a wall of separation between church and state” as essential to America’s survival. Putting this idea in historical context, there were (as always) those politicians, government officials, and influential citizens possessed with what is essentially a “dual intellectual citizenship”; religion informing their life at least equally, oftentimes more, than any political doctrine, just as there were some for whom religion was their political doctrine. Some preached on Sunday and legislated, as it were, on Monday, apparently loath to

distinguish clearly between their ecclesiastic and civil authority. If not checked, they would attempt to establish or at least unduly “engraft into the machine of government,” as Jefferson said, their religious doctrine using their established political-governmental power, or influential access to this power, explicitly when necessary, implicitly whenever possible, using euphemism where clear expression would reveal their hand. This was and is the essence of the issue; the essential problem. As they were either already IN government service or attempting to be, preventing them from corrupting or compromising the political process and undermining the Constitution in this insidious manner was at the heart of the establishment clause. This is a subtle but critical distinction

conveniently overlooked by Christian Fundamentalists in their modern attempt to accomplish the same ends. They argue the establishment clause was meant only to keep the government out of their business, not to keep them from unduly influencing government. This is a convenient half-truth, disingenuous at best, as I believe I have shown. Again, preventing this encroachment was the crux of the debate. Logically considered, why would the state seek to establish or “engraft” religion? Only those within government or those seeking political power with such an agenda could possibly present a threat. It is inconceivable that the agnostic, atheist, religiously apathetic, or religiously tolerant would have any such agenda. Clearly, they are content with a “wall of separation”, and