"It is of great importance in a republic not only to guard the society against the oppression of its rulers but to guard one part of the society against the injustice of the other part. If a majority be united by a common interest, the rights of the minority will be insecure." - James Madison. Federalist Paper 51

On Feb. 21, 1811, President James Madison vetoed "An act incorporating the Protestant Episcopal Church in the town of Alexandria, in the District of Columbia", which would have officially incorporated an Episcopal Church in the District of Columbia and charged it with caring for the poor.
Here is a message sent with his veto. In it he stated:

Because the bill exceeds the rightful authority to which governments are limited by the essential distinction between civil and religious functions, and violates in particular the article of the Constitution of the United States which declares that "Congress shall make no law respecting a religious establishment."

Because the bill vests in the 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 to religious societies as such a legal agency in carrying into effect a public and civil duty.

As Rob Boston points out
Just to be clear: This bill didn’t give any tax money to the church, and Madison still vetoed it. Any kind of official charge from government to a church, he argued, violated the First Amendment.

Madison knew what he was talking about when it comes to the Bill of Rights. He was a key architect of the First Amendment, after all. Even today, there are those who argue that all Madison intended was for there to be no national church. This veto message makes hash of that argument.

Tags: James Madison, US Consitution

Views: 111

Replies to This Discussion

Thanks for the post. I think I'm going to watch documentary DVDs of all the Presidents, in order. There is so much I don't know.
Further evidence of the Founder's position on the state and religion can be found in Jefferson's letter to the Danbury Baptists in which he supported them in the position that a wall of separation should exist between church and state. Also the Treaty of Tripoli which was ratified, unanimously, by Congress and signed by President Adams which stated within the treaty, Art 11: "As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen (Muslims); and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan (Islamic) nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.
You are absolutely correct. However, regarding Jefferson's letter I've heard two rebuttals - which are both bs.

1. The words "wall of separation between church and state" were as you stated in a letter "not" in the Constitution.
2. Jefferson was ambassador to France during the constitutional congress and therefore was in France and had nothing to do with the creation of the of the U.S. Constitution.

Problem with #1: They had discussed inclusion of religion within the Constitution and was voted down.
PRO 4 Patrick Henry

"It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded not by religionists but by Christians, not on religion but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We shall not fight alone. God presides over the destinies of nations."

CON 4.1

Patrick Henry, made a number of statements suggesting that our nation was founded on belief in God, and that it was important to acknowledge God in civic affairs, but Henry lost the battle to put religion in the Constitution. More to the point, Henry was an anti-federalist, and vigorously opposed the Constitution when Virginia discussed ratification. Quoting Henry to prove things about the constitution is like quoting the chairman of the Republican National Committee to prove things about the platform of the Democratic party.

Problem with #2: Jefferson's The Virginia Act For Establishing Religious Freedom drafted in 1779 definitely influenced the 1st amendment.


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