Part I: American Leaders

17th Century

Roger Williams:

“That cannot be a true religion which needs carnal weapons to uphold it.”

The Founding Fathers (18th and 19th Centuries)

Benjamin Franklin:

“When a religion is good, I conceive it will support itself; and when it does not support itself, and God does not take care to support it so that its professors are obliged to call for help of the civil power, ‘tis a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one.”

“If we look back into history for the character of the present sects in Christianity, we shall find few that have not in their turns been persecutors, and complainers of persecution. The primitive Christians thought persecution extremely wrong in the pagans, but practiced it on one another. The first Protestants of the Church of England blamed persecution in the Romish Church, but practiced it upon the Puritans. These found it wrong in the bishops, but fell into the same practice themselves both here [in England] and in New England.”

Thomas Paine:

“Persecution is not an original feature in any religion; but is always the strongly marked feature of all law-religion, or religions established by law.”

“As to religion, I hold it to be the indispensable duty of all government to protect all conscientious professors thereof, and I know of no other business which government hath to do therewith.”

Alexander Hamilton:

“[I]n politics as in religion, it is equally absurd to aim at making proselytes by fire and sword. Heresies in either can rarely be cured by persecution.”

“The [president] has no particle of spiritual jurisdiction. . . .”

(Historian Craig Nelson:) “When Alexander Hamilton was asked why the U.S. Constitution made no mention of God, he said the country did not require ‘foreign aid’; when his mother insisted on a serious reply, he explained, ‘We forgot.'”

The Constitutional Convention and State Ratifying Conventions:

(Historian Franklin Steiner:) “[W]hen it was proposed to open the Constitutional Convention, over which he [George Washington] presided, with prayer, the motion was lost. Only three or four of the delegates favored it, and it is not recorded that Washington was one of them.”

“The Convention, except for three or four persons, thought prayers unnecessary.” Benjamin Franklin

(Church-State scholar Robert Boston:) “The Constitution fashioned in 1787 is a secular document. There is no mention of God, Jesus Christ, or a supreme being anywhere in the document. A minority faction of delegates pressed for some type of recognition of Christianity in the Constitution, but their views were rejected.”

“[N]o religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” Article VI, Clause 3 of the Constitution

(The object of Article VI, Clause 3 was) “to cut off forever every pretense of any alliance between church and state in the national Government.” U.S. Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story, Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States

“They [the Founders] knew that to put God in the Constitution was to put man out. They knew that the recognition of a Deity would be seized upon by fanatics and zealots as a pretext for destroying the liberty of thought. . . . They intended that all should have the right to worship, or not to worship; that our laws should make no distinction on account of creed.” Robert Ingersoll

The First Congress (1789), with Subsequent Ratification by the States:

(Church-State scholar John Swomley:) “The chief political debate at the time the First Amendment was adopted was not between those who wanted to support religion and those who didn’t. It had already been decided in the Constitutional Convention not to give the federal government any power to deal with religion. The problem faced by the first Congress was one of defining a prohibition so that no future Congress would assume an authority that had not been granted under the Constitution.”

(The solution:) “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. . . .” Religion Clauses of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

President George Washington:

“[N]o one would be more zealous than myself to establish effectual barriers against the horrors of . . . every species of religious persecution. . . .”

“The citizens of the United States . . . have the right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience. . . . [T]he Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.”

“In this enlightened age and in this land of equal liberty it is our boast, that a man’s religious tenets will not forfeit the protection of the laws, nor deprive him of the right of attaining and holding the highest offices that are known in the United States.”

President John Adams:

“Nothing is more dreaded than the national government meddling with religion.”

“The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature. . . . [In] the formation of the American governments . . . it will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of heaven. . . . These governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses.”

President John Adams and the U.S. Senate in 1797:

“[T]he government of the United States of America is not founded in any sense on the Christian religion. . . .” (From “The Treaty with Tripoli,” approved by President Adams and unanimously ratified by the Senate.)

President Thomas Jefferson

“I consider the government of the United States as interdicted by the Constitution from intermeddling with religious institutions. . . . I do not believe it is for the interest of religion to invite the civil magistrate to direct its exercises, its discipline, or its doctrine.”

“I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between church and State.”

“The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”

President James Madison (“Father of the Constitution” and principal author of the First Amendment):

“There is not a shadow of right in the general government to inter-meddle with religion. Its least interference with it would be a most flagrant violation.”

“Strongly guarded . . . is the separation between religion and government in the Constitution of the United States. . . .”

“[T]he number, the industry, and the morality of the priesthood and the devotion of the people have been manifestly increased by the total separation of the church from the state.”

“The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe in blood for centuries.”

The Original 13 States:

(Church-State scholar Derek Davis:) “[E]ventually, all of the states, on the model of the national government, took action to make religion independent of governmental influence.”

Postrevolutionary Era:

(Author Susan Jacoby:) “[W]henever and wherever laws guaranteeing equality of religious denominations were passed in the postrevolutionary era, it was clear that the legislators intended not merely to prohibit a state-established church but to bar tax support for all religious sects.”

More from the 19th Century

New States in the 19th Century:

(Historian R. Freeman Butts:) “Virtually every state as it came into the Union in the nineteenth century adopted the principles that the state guaranteed freedom of religious conscience and that the state would not use public funds to aid or support any churches or their schools.”

President Andrew Jackson:

“I could not do otherwise without transcending the limits prescribed by the Constitution for the President and without feeling that I might in some degree disturb the security which religion nowadays enjoys in this country in its complete separation from the political concerns of the General Government.” (Statement declining to proclaim a national day of prayer and fasting.)

American Clerics in the 1830s:

(The French political philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville observed while traveling the U.S. in that decade:) “I found that they all agreed with each other except about details; all thought that the main reason for the quiet sway of religion over their country was the complete separation of church and state. I have no hesitation in stating that throughout my stay in America I met nobody, lay or cleric, who did not agree about that.”

Speaker of the House of Representatives and later Senator Henry Clay:

“All religions united with government are more or less inimical to liberty. All, separated from government, are compatible with liberty.”

President John Tyler:

“The United States has adventured upon a great and noble experiment . . . of total separation of Church and State. . . . The offices of the Government are open alike to all. No tithes are levied to support an established Hierarchy, nor is the fallible judgment of man set up as the sure and infallible creed of faith. . . . Such is the great experiment which we have tried, and . . . our system of free government would be imperfect without it.”

President James Polk:

“Thank God, under our Constitution there was no connection between Church and State, and that in my action as President of the United States I recognized no distinction of creeds in my appointments to office.”

President Ulysses S. Grant:

“Leave the matter of religion to the family altar, the church and the private school supported entirely by private contributions. Keep the church and state forever separate.”

President Rutherford B. Hayes:

“We all agree that neither the Government nor political parties ought to interfere with religious sects. It is equally true that religious sects ought not to interfere with the Government or with political parties. We believe that the cause of good government and the cause of religion suffer by all such interference.”

President James Garfield:

“The divorce between church and state should be absolute.”

“[I]t would be unjust to our people and dangerous to our institutions to apply any portion of revenues of the nation or of the States to the support of sectarian schools.”

20th Century

President Theodore Roosevelt:

“I hold that in this country there must be complete severance of Church and State; that public moneys shall not be used for the purpose of advancing any particular creed; and therefore that the public schools shall be nonsectarian and no public moneys appropriated for sectarian schools.”

“Any political movement directed against any body of our fellow-citizens because of their religious creed is a grave offense against American principles and American institutions. It is a wicked thing either to support or oppose a man because of the creed he possesses. . . . Such a movement directly contravenes the spirit of the Constitution itself.”

Elihu Root (U.S. Secretary of State under Theodore Roosevelt):

“It is not a question of religion, or of creed, or of party; it is a question of declaring and maintaining the great American principle of eternal separation between Church and State.” (Statement opposing use of public funds for sectarian education in New York.)

President William Howard Taft:

“There is nothing so despicable as a secret society that is based upon religious prejudice and that will attempt to defeat a man because of his religion.”

President Warren G. Harding:

“There is no relationship here between Church and State. Religious liberty has its unalterable place, along with civil and human liberty, in the very foundation of the Republic. I hold it [religious intolerance] to be a menace to the very liberties which we boast and cherish.”

President Calvin Coolidge:

“It is not easy to conceive of anything that would be more unfortunate in a community based upon the ideals of which Americans boast than any considerable development of intolerance as regards religion.”

Governor Alfred E. Smith:

“I believe in the absolute separation of church and state and in the strict enforcement of the Constitution that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

President Franklin D. Roosevelt:

“The traditional Jeffersonian principle of religious freedom was so broadly democratic that it included the right to have no religion at all – it gave to the individual the right to worship any God he chose or no god.”

“The lessons of religious toleration – a toleration which recognizes complete liberty of human thought, liberty of conscience – is one which, by precept and example, must be inculcated in the hearts and minds of all Americans if the institutions of our democracy are to be maintained and perpetuated.”

Eleanor Roosevelt:

“The separation of church and state is extremely important to any of us who holds to the original traditions of our nation. . . . To change these traditions . . . would be harmful to our whole attitude of tolerance in the religious area. If we look at situations which have arisen in the past in Europe and other world areas, I think we will see the reason why it is wise to hold to our early traditions.”

Wendell Willkie:

“I am not interested in the support of anybody who stands for any form of prejudice as to anybody’s race or religion. . . . I have no place in my philosophy for such beliefs.”

President Harry Truman:

“Here we now have the freedom of all religions, and I hope that never again will we have a repetition of religious bigotry, as we have had in certain periods of our own history. There is no room for that kind of foolishness here.”

President John F. Kennedy:

“I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute – where no Catholic prelate would tell the President (should he be Catholic) how to act and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote – where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference – and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him or the people who might elect him.

“I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant, nor Jewish – where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the pope, the National Council of Churches, or any other ecclesiastical source – where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials – and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all. . . .

“Finally, I believe in an America where religious intolerance will someday end – where all men and all churches are treated as equal – where every man has the same right to attend or not attend the church of his choice – where there is no Catholic vote, no anti-Catholic vote, no bloc voting of any kind – and where Catholics, Protestants, and Jews, at both the lay and pastoral level, will refrain from those attitudes of disdain and division which have so often marred their works in the past, and promote instead the American ideal of brotherhood.”

Martin Luther King Jr.:

(The 1962 U.S. Supreme Court decision prohibiting state-supported prayer in public schools was) “sound and good, reaffirming something basic in the Nation’s life: separation of church and state.”

President Lyndon B. Johnson:

“I believe in the American tradition of separation of church and state which is expressed in the First Amendment to the Constitution. By my office – and by personal conviction – I am sworn to uphold that tradition.”

Senator Sam Ervin Jr.:

“I believe in a wall between church and state so high that no one can climb over it.”

President Jimmy Carter:

“I believe in the separation of church and state and would not use my authority to violate this principle in any way.”

Senator Barry Goldwater:

“Can any of us refute the wisdom of Madison and the other framers? Can anyone look at the carnage in Iran, the bloodshed in Northern Ireland or the bombs bursting in Lebanon and yet question the dangers of injecting religious issues into the affairs of state?”

“By maintaining the separation of church and state, the United States has avoided the intolerance which has so divided the rest of the world with religious wars. Throughout our two hundred plus years, public policy debate has focused on political and economic issues, on which there can be compromise. . . .”

President Ronald Reagan:

“We establish no religion in this country. . . . Church and state are, and must remain, separate.”

Governor Lowell Weicker Jr.:

“History makes the point time and time again: No greater mischief can be created than to merge the power of religion with the power of government.”

Governor Jesse Ventura:

“I believe in the separation of church and state. We all have our own religious beliefs. There are people out there who are atheists, who don’t believe at all. . . . They are citizens of Minnesota, and I have to respect that.” (Explaining his refusal to issue a proclamation calling for National Day of Prayer activities in Minnesota.)

21st Century

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger:

“I do not make decisions [as governor] based on what have I learned through my Bible studies, what have I learned in my religious classes in school. I’m a big believer in separation of church and state, and I think that’s what . . . the law is.”

Part II:  Top 20 Reasons to Support Church-State Separation

(1) Church-State Union Leads to Persecution of Minority Religions:

“Prior to and during [John] Locke’s time, it was difficult to determine where religion or church left off and government or state began. The powers of both were often combined. As a result, churches frequently used the force of the state to promote and enforce their interests and doctrines. This caused horrendous atrocities against Jews and heretics, as well as the European religious wars between Catholics and Protestants of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries that resulted in the deaths of millions of people.” Allen Jayne

“The Bill of Rights decoupled religion from the state, in part because so many religions were steeped in an absolutist frame of mind – each convinced that it alone had a monopoly on the truth and therefore eager for the state to impose this truth on others.” Carl Sagan

“People who govern in the name of God attribute their own personal preferences to God, and therefore recognize no limit in imposing those preferences on other people.” Justice Douglas Johnstone, Alabama Supreme Court

“Conscientious objectors to government policy are willing to suffer greatly rather than violate their conscience; attempts to coerce religious conscience lead inevitably to persecution.” Douglas Laycock

“The established churches of colonial America . . . detained, arrested, tortured, and deported religious dissenters, especially Baptists and other evangelical Christians.” Peter Irons

“[The Drafters of the Constitution] were intent on avoiding more than 100 years of religious intolerance and persecution in American colonial history and an even longer heritage of church-state problems in Europe.” John M. Swomley

“Separation of Church and State is one of America’s greatest contributions to modern religion and politics. The adoption of this as a political principle marks an epoch in the history of mankind. Previously at least half the wars of Europe and half the internal troubles since the founding of Christianity had a religious basis. America put an end to religious wars. . . .” Edward Frank Humphrey

(2) Governmental Attempts to Coerce Religious Conformity Have Been a Failure and Disaster

“Is uniformity attainable? Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth.” Thomas Jefferson

“During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the Clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity, in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution. . . . Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise.” James Madison

“What influence in fact have ecclesiastical establishments had on Civil Society? In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of the Civil authority; in many instances they have been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny; in no instance have they been seen the guardians of the liberties of the people.” James Madison

“The clergy, by getting themselves established by law and ingrafted into the machine of government, have been a very formidable engine against the civil and religious rights of man.” Thomas Jefferson

“Torrents of blood have been spilt in the old world, by vain attempts of the secular arm, to extinguish Religious discord, by proscribing all difference in religious opinion. Time has at length revealed the true remedy. Every relaxation of narrow and rigorous policy, wherever it has been tried, has been found to assuage the disease.” James Madison

“Men differ daily about things which are subject to sense, is it likely then they should agree about things invisible.” Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard’s Maxims

(3) What Goes Around Can Come Around:

“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?” James Madison

“’Separatists’ like the Quakers, Baptists, Methodists, and Mennonites were opposed to establishment of religion on principle, but even those who were believers in a close alliance between church and state (Presbyterian, Congregationalist, Lutheran, Catholic) began to see the values of separation in societies where they were not the dominant church. Thus, the religious heterogeneity of the American colonies helped to undermine the religious establishments. . . .” R. Freeman Butts

“Ironically, those religious fundamentalists who are agitating for national laws formalizing some of their religious beliefs are nourishing a beast that can turn and rend them. Should the major religions combine their strengths to create a divergent state religious orthodoxy, fundamentalists will be placed in the position of a permanent and suppressed minority.” Donald Boles

“The First Amendment protects religious freedom by forbidding religion access to the coercive powers of the state. It’s a simple and elegant contract: We agree not to impose our beliefs on others in order to be free from having others impose their beliefs on us.” David Machacek

“It behooves every man who values liberty of conscience for himself, to resist invasions of it in the case of others.” Thomas Jefferson

(4) Forcing Religion on People Produces Hostility or Apathy:

“The history of governmentally established religion, both in England and in this country, showed that whenever government had allied itself with one particular form of religion, the inevitable result had been that it had incurred the hatred, disrespect and even contempt of those who held contrary beliefs.” Justice Hugo Black, for the majority, Engel v. Vitale (1962)

“Enforced religion breeds precisely what it most fears: rebellion against religion, cynicism about religion, skepticism about its claims, and, as a consequence, indifference at best or outright antipathy at worst.” Langdon Gilkey

“Religion that is imposed upon its recipients turns out to engender either indifference or resentment. Most American religious leaders have recognized that persuasion is far more powerful than coercion when it comes to promoting one’s religious views. . . . Not surprisingly, then, large numbers of religious leaders have supported the Supreme Court in its prayer decisions.” William F. Schulz

(5) Government Support of Religion Offends and Ostracizes Minority Religions:

“[T]he proposed establishment . . . degrades from the equal rank of Citizens all those whose opinions in Religion do not bend to those of the Legislative authority. Distant as it may be in its present form from the Inquisition, it differs from it only in degree. The one is the first step, the other the last in the career of intolerance.” James Madison

“When the power, prestige, and financial support of government is placed behind a particular religious belief, the indirect coercive pressure upon religious minorities to conform to the prevailing officially approved religion is plain.” Justice Hugo Black, for the majority, Engel v. Vitale (1962)

“When the government puts its imprimatur on a particular religion, it conveys a message of exclusion to all those who do not adhere to the favored beliefs. A government cannot be premised on the belief that all persons are created equal when it asserts that God prefers some.” Justice Harry Blackman, concurring opinion, Lee v. Weisman (1992)

“[G]overnment endorsement . . . of religion . . . sends a message to nonadherents that they are outsiders, not full members of the political community, and an accompanying message to adherents that they are insiders, favored members of the political community.” Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, concurring opinion, Lynch v. Donnelly (1984)

“Demands that city hall or the state capitol display . . . religious symbols are little more than one faith saying to others, ‘Mom likes me better than you.’ . . . These displays are often . . . in-your-face statements to members of minority faiths about who’s really the boss.” Rev. Barry Lynn

“[T]he rights of conscience are . . . of particular delicacy and will little bear the gentlest touch of governmental hand.” Daniel Carroll

(6) Governments Are Weakened by Inciting the Opposition of Minority Religions:

“History teaches us that men and women have fought and died when their religion was repressed or overwhelmed by their government – or if they did not fight, they did not support their government in times of crises. . . . Since its inception, the United States has never had a religious war despite divisive sectarian differences. And in times of crisis, minority religions have supported the government because it has, for the most part, maintained a position of neutrality among its many religions and denominations. This is because the ‘wall’ or religious freedom law causes all religious groups to be seen and treated equally in the eyes of the law. . . .” Allen Jayne

“[H]ow often have kingdoms and states been greatly weakened by religious tests! In the time of the persecution in France not less than 20,000 people fled for the enjoyment of religious liberty.” John Leland

“[The proposed establishment] will have a . . . tendency to banish our Citizens. . . . To superadd a fresh motive to emigration by revoking the liberty which they now enjoy, would be the same species of folly which has dishonoured and depopulated flourishing kingdoms.” James Madison

(7) Requiring Support for Religion Is Unfair to Its Members and Detractors:

“To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical; . . . even the forcing him to support this or that teacher of his own religious persuasion, is depriving him of the comfortable liberty of giving his contributions to the particular pastor whose morals he would make his pattern. . . .” Thomas Jefferson

“By operating independently of government aid, the churches . . . avoid the resentment of those who do not want to be forced to contribute to churches to which they do not belong and of their own members who do not welcome being forced to contribute through government taxation.” John M. Swomley

(8) Government Misuses Religion for Ignoble Purposes:

“The state, frankly, could care less. Historically, the state has been able to use any religious point of view for its own ends. . . . The examples of government misusing religion are endless.” Peter McWilliams

“Over the years, I’ve seen too many politicians extol the virtues of the Ten Commandments while breaking as many of them as possible. Patriotism, it has been said, is the last refuge of a scoundrel. Now it seems to be religion. Indeed, religion is frequently the first.” Rev. Barry Lynn

“A tyrant must put on the appearance of uncommon devotion to religion. Subjects are less apprehensive of illegal treatment from a ruler whom they consider god-fearing and pious. On the other hand, they do less easily move against him, believing that he has the gods on his side.” Aristotle

“The garb of religion is the best cloak for power.” William Hazlitt

“The various modes of worship which prevailed in the Roman world were all considered by the people as equally true; by the philosopher as equally false; and by the magistrate as equally useful.” Edward Gibbon

“How can you have order in a state without religion? For, when one man is dying of hunger near another who is ill of surfeit, he cannot resign himself to this difference unless there is an authority which declares ‘God wills it thus.’ Religion is excellent stuff for keeping common people quiet.” Napoleon Bonaparte

“There is no social evil, no form of injustice, whether of the feudal or capitalist order, which has not been sanctified in some way or another by religious sentiment and thereby rendered more impervious to change.” Reinhold Niebuhr

“As students of human behavior, and human history, Madison and Jefferson understood that, in general, politicians, if allowed, could not withstand the temptation to use religion as a means to their own political ends.” U.S. Rep. Chet Edwards

“President George W. Bush is a politician and is ultimately no different from any other politician, content to use religion for electoral gain more than for good works.” David Kuo, former senior official in Bush’s Office of Faith-Based Initiatives

“The Establishment Clause . . . stands as an expression of principle on the part of the Founders . . . that religion is too personal, too sacred, too holy, to permit its ‘unhallowed perversion’ by a civil magistrate.” Justice Hugo Black, for the majority, Engel v. Vitale (1962)

(9) Church-State Union Implicates Religion with Government Corruption:

“[R]eligion cannot share the material strength of the rulers without being burdened with some of the animosity roused against them.” Alexis de Tocqueville

“European Christianity has allowed itself to be intimately united with the powers of this world. Now that these powers are falling, it is as if it were buried under their ruins.” Alexis de Tocqueville

“The Reformed Church was identified with the old all-white government of South Africa and its apartheid policy. The Roman Catholic Church was closely identified with the Franco and Salazar dictatorships in Spain and Portugal. . . . More recently, . . . the Serbian Orthodox Church has come to be identified with the policies of Serbia (Yugoslavia).” Edd Doerr, Albert J. Menendez and John M. Swomley

“[As a young man] I came to the conclusion that the church was just a bunch of fascists that supported Franco. I stopped going on Sunday mornings and watched the birds with my father instead.” Dr. James Watson

“It is the wall of separation between church and state . . . that is largely responsible for religion thriving in this country, as compared to those European countries in which church and state have been united, resulting in opposition to the church by those who disapprove of the government.” Alan Dershowitz

(10) Church-State Union Enables Government to Dominate Religion:

“One of the primary questions in a state-church arrangement is, ‘which controls which?’ . . . In Norway, for example, the liberal labor government has regularly angered Church officials by making controversial ministerial appointments against the wishes of the clergy. . . . These and other actions have strained the church-state relationship almost to the breaking point. As a result, some of the bishops have advocated disestablishment.” Dan Barker

“In the Middle Ages the Church, including the monasteries, had [for a while] fallen into dependence on secular monarchs and nobles, who controlled ecclesiastical appointments at all levels.” Norman Cohn

“Christianity’s alliance with governments, from ancient Rome down through the Middle Ages . . . led gradually to state control of the clergy. . . . What begins as a partnership soon becomes domination and a co-opted church.” Rev. Barry Lynn

“What government supports, government controls. This is an ancient axiom repeatedly ratified by experience. . . . Indeed, as is well known, acceptance of tax aid has led to the secularization of many church-related colleges and universities.” Edd Doerr and Albert J. Menendez

“Separation prevents the government from determining church policy, whether directly or indirectly.” John M. Swomley

(11) Religions Are Disrespected if They Need Government to Uphold Them:

“[W]henever men fly to the law or sword to protect their system of religion and force it upon others, it is evident that they have something in their system that will not bear the light and stand upon the basis of truth.” John Leland

“[H]istory showed that many people had lost their respect for any religion that had relied upon the support of government to spread its faith.” Justice Hugo Black, for the majority, Engel v. Vitale (1962)

“The framers [of the Constitution] sought to divorce religion from government. . . . . [T]o make religion dependent upon government was to depreciate true religion; to rely upon government to throw its weight behind religion was to declare God impotent to further his purposes through voluntary means.” Derek Davis

“If Jehovah cannot support his religion without going into partnership with a State Legislature, I think he ought to give it up.” Robert Ingersoll

(12) Religions Become Sluggish by Living on Government Handouts:

“Masterly inactivity on the part of the State, in the sense of leaving the maintenance, propagation and administration of the Christian religion entirely to the voluntary principle, is just the position to call forth the intensest activity on the part of the Church.” Samuel T. Spear, Episcopal priest

“[Disestablishment was] the best thing that ever happened to the state of Connecticut. It cut the churches loose from dependence on state support. It threw them wholly on their own resources and on God.” Rev. Lyman Beecher, Congregationalist clergyman

“Churches are healthier and stronger if they assume responsibility both for financing their own programs and for stimulating their members to accept that responsibility.” John M. Swomley

(13) Religions That Accept Government’s Aid Are Reluctant to Criticize Its Wrongdoing:

“Since separation precludes financial support or special privilege from government, the churches are free to engage in prophetic criticism of the government and to work for social justice.” John M. Swomley

“Adolf Hitler (building on a model developed by Benito Mussolini just a few years earlier) channeled massive state funding to Germany’s Lutheran and Catholic churches. By doing so Hitler ensured that those powerful institutions would remain largely silent as Hitler’s Nazi Party took power, tumbling Germany into genocidal madness and making a charnel house of Europe and much of the rest of the world.” Tom Flynn

“There could be no more powerful argument against mixing religion and government than the success of independent African American churches in placing racial segregation and discrimination on a reluctant nation’s social agenda. Would black churches have been able to take the lead in the struggle had they been dependent on funds doled out for ‘faith-based initiatives’ . . . ?” Susan Jacoby

“Historically, religious groups have been most effective when they have stood apart from government and critiqued the performance of government in light of their ethical traditions. When churches become cozy with the state, they lose the capacity and the will to criticize unjust policies.” Edd Doerr and Albert J. Menendez

(14) Competing for Government Funds Causes Strife Among Religions:

“The idea of America’s religious groups fighting over the limited public money to be made available takes us down the road towards the kind of sectarian competition that has torn so many nations apart, and which our separation of church and state has spared us.” Rabbi David Saperstein, director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism

“The best way I know of to destroy religion is to have all the churches fighting over a big pot of money.” Rev. J. Brent Walker, general counsel, Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs

(15) Exempting Church Property from Taxation Is Unfair:

“The divorce between Church and State . . . ought to be so absolute that no Church property anywhere, in any State, or in the nation, should be exempt from equal taxation; for if you exempt the property of any Church organization, to that extent you impose a tax upon the whole community.” President James Garfield

“So vast a sum, receiving all the protection and benefits of the government, without bearing its proportion of the burdens and expenses of the same, will not be looked upon acquiescently by those who have to pay the taxes. . . . I would suggest the taxation of all property equally.” President Ulysses S. Grant

“If the property belongs to God he is able to pay the tax.” Robert Ingersoll

(16) Government Officials Have Proved to Be Incompetent Judges of Religious Claims:

“The impious presumption of legislators and rulers, civil as well as ecclesiastical, who, being themselves but fallible and uninspired men, have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible, and as such endeavoring to impose them on others, hath established and maintained false religions over the greatest part of the world and through all time.” Thomas Jefferson

(The idea that the civil magistrate is a competent judge of religious truths) “is an arrogant pretension falsified by the contradictory opinions of Rulers in all ages. . . .” James Madison

“Systems of religious error have been adopted in times of ignorance. It has been the interest of tyrannical kings, popes, and prelates to maintain these errors. When the clouds of ignorance began to vanish and the people grew more enlightened, there was no other way to keep them in error but to prohibit their altering their religious opinions by severe persecuting laws. In this way persecution became general throughout Europe.” Oliver Ellsworth, 3rd Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court

“The religious persecution of the ages has been done under what was claimed to be the command of God. I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do to their fellows, because it always coincides with their own desires.” Susan B. Anthony

“Among all the religious persecutions with which almost every page of modern history is stained, no victim ever suffered but for violation of what Government denominated the law of God. To prevent a similar train of evils in this country, the Constitution has wisely withheld from our Government the power of defining the divine law.” U.S. Sen. Richard M. Johnson (Kentucky), 1829

“It is not the legitimate province of the Legislature to determine which religion is true, or what false. Our government is a civil, and not a religious institution.” U.S. Sen. Richard M. Johnson

(17) Government Support Waters-Down and Secularizes Religion:

“Government sponsorship of religious activity, including prayer services, sacred symbols, religious festivals, and the like, tends to secularize the religious activity rather than make government more ethical or religious.” John M. Swomley

“Nonbelievers rightly point out that even generic forms of religion exclude them. Many very devout people feel that a ‘one-size-fits-all’ faith is bland and offensive.” Robert Boston

(18) Church-State Separation Is Good for Families:

“Thanks to the separation of church and state, you are in complete control of the religious upbringing of your children. Government institutions, including the public school system, are not permitted to coerce your children to adopt new and different religions.” Americans United for Separation of Church and State (

“The men and women who teach and administer public schools may not agree with my view of religion or Christianity. Furthermore, they are not trained in theology. Why on earth would I entrust them with any oversight of the religious life of my children?” Rev. Barry Lynn

(19) Small Violations of Church-State Separation Lead to Large Ones:

“[I]t is no defense to urge that the religious practices here may be relatively minor encroachments on the First Amendment. The breach of neutrality that is today a trickling stream may all too soon become a raging torrent and, in the words of Madison, ‘it is proper to take alarm at the first experiment on our liberties.’” Justice Tom Clark, for the majority, Abington Township School District v. Schempp (1963)

“Who does not see 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?” James Madison

“Power is of an encroaching nature.” James Madison

“The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground.” Thomas Jefferson

“If today you can take a thing like evolution and make it a crime to teach it in the public school. . . . After a while, Your Honor, it is the setting of man against man and creed against creed until, with flying banners and beating drums, we are marching backward to the glorious ages of the 16th century when bigots lighted fagots to burn the men who dared to bring any intelligence and enlightenment and culture to the human mind.” Clarence Darrow, from his speech before the court in the Scopes “Monkey Trial”

“[I]n constitutional adjudication some steps, which when taken were thought to approach ‘the verge,’ have become the platform for yet further steps. A certain momentum develops in constitutional theory and it can be a ‘downhill thrust’ easily set in motion but difficult to retard or stop.” Chief Justice Warren Burger, for the majority, Lemon v. Kurtzman (1971)

“[A]id programs of any kind tend to become entrenched, to escalate in cost, and to generate their own aggressive constituencies.” Justice Lewis Powell, for the majority, Committee for Public Education and Religious Liberty v. Nyquist (1973)

“The first exception [to the First Amendment] will not be the last.” Ira Glasser

“Do the people of this land . . . desire to preserve those [liberties] so carefully protected by the First Amendment. . . . If so, let them withstand all beginnings of encroachment. For the saddest epitaph which can be carved in memory of a vanished liberty is that it was lost because its possessors failed to stretch forth a saving hand while yet there was time.” George Sutherland

(20) The Golden Rule:

“Attempts to unite church and state are opposed to the interests of each, subversive of human rights and potentially persecuting in character; to oppose union, lawfully and honorably, is not only the citizen’s duty but the essence of the Golden Rule – to treat others as one wishes to be treated.” From “Statement of Principles,” Liberty magazine, a publication of the Seventh-day Adventist Church

[For additional information on church-state separation, please see the articles titled “Secular Foundation of the U.S. Government, “The Meaning of ‘Establishment of Religion’ in the First Amendment,” “Pledge of Allegiance Should Not Be to a Nation ‘Under God,'” “School Prayer Has Always Been Divisive,” “Posting the Ten Commandments on Public Buildings,” and “Bush’s Faith-Based Initiatives Violate Religious Freedom.”]