Free Men Can’t Impose Their Will

According to a Dec. 20 Times Record report, Rep. Denny Altes is once again pitching a “Bible class curriculum” in public schools. Presumably, this will be paid for with tax dollars, and presumably, such will comport with Rep. Altes’ peculiar stripe of Christianity. This was tried 200-plus years ago with a bill establishing a provision for teachers of the Christian religion. James Madison and Thomas Jefferson, among others, opposed such in the famous “Memorial and Remonstrance,” which stated, “the free men of America saw all the consequences in the principle, and they avoided the consequences by denying the principle. … Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other Religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other Sects? That the same authority which can force a citizen to contribute three pence only of his property for the support of any one establishment, may force him to conform to any other establishment in all cases whatsoever?” Madison and Jefferson prevailed, and the ill-conceived bill was soundly defeated.

Jefferson noted in his autobiography: “(In) the bill for establishing religious freedom … a singular proposition proved that its protection of opinion was meant to be universal. Where the preamble declares, that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed, by inserting the word ‘Jesus Christ,’ so that it should read ‘a departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion;’ the insertion was rejected by a great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan, the Hindu, and Infidel of every denomination.”

Jefferson and Madison were correct.

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