To be certain we have wanted to address so much more of the 1st Amendment than we, in many articles exhaustively have done. However, on every act of either the executive, legislative, or judicial branch of government there will always be that proverbial “next expert” that seems to chime in on whatever the issue may be. To this end we have tried to be as objective as possible – to include identifying farces, idiosyncrasies, misinterpretations, as well as our own learning. Therefore without further adieu we implore you to read and give feedback on the following article.
In recent years the Supreme Court has placed the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise of Religion Clauses in significant mutual tension, but it was not so for the Framers. None of the Framers believed that a governmental connection to religion was an evil in itself. Rather, many (though not all) opposed an established church because they believed that it was a threat to the free exercise of religion. Their primary goal was to protect free exercise.
The free exercise of religion was of course the main thrust of James Madison’s famous Memorial and Remonstrance (1785) in which he argues that the state of Virginia ought not to pay the salaries of the Anglican clergy because that practice was an impediment to a person’s free connection to whatever religion his conscience directed him.
Conscience or the sense of right and wrong including obedience, as well as having a shared viewpoint through the shared concern for moral issues developed at a cultural level thus becoming the social conscience standard of America as the Framers worked on the free exercise of religion aspect of the two clauses.
This same notion of impeding the free exercise of religion was also deeply entrenched within the original thirteen colonies however the opposite did exist and was thought to vilify various institutions such as political committees, special interest groups, immigrant service organizations, the local carpetbagger, and the churches themselves.
Basically in order for the churches (different denominations) to survive it became a must for them to assist in the campaign financing for politicians, or in order to have a flourishing and wealthy congregation many individuals with low moral fortitude and ostensibly lower consciences used the churches as a way to develop various community service organizations. In other words it was not uncommon to find the “gangs of New York” or other factions within society demanding payment from churches for newly arriving immigrants or for those who needed legal assistance.
Nor did the majority of the Founding generation believe that government ought to be “unattained” by religion, or ought not to take an interest in furthering the people’s connection to religion.
An excellent example of this of course is The Northwest Ordinance (1787), which the First Congress reenacted, stated: “Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.”
Therefore what does any of this have to do with what is currently going on today? Principally it is a short primer to the way in which religion was being established in the new world, which being the “Colonies of Great Britain” and the ways that the original Founders and Framers sought to outline in a system of government.
We will continue to write on the development of the 1st Amendment as a short series.