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Author Topic:   Is America a Christian Nation?
Taq
Member
Posts: 8011
Joined: 03-06-2009
Member Rating: 4.5


Message 46 of 206 (547334)
02-18-2010 10:00 AM
Reply to: Message 44 by misha
02-17-2010 5:41 PM


I'm a Christian and my beliefs definitely affect my decisions. However, I'm glad that there is something in place to restrict my decisions from adversely affecting someone else on a purely religious basis.

I am an atheist, and I can wholeheartedly agree with you here. I have absolutely no problem with people basing their own personal decisions on their personal religious beliefs.

As Otto Ellick put it in msg 33:

quote:
Laws must not be based solely on religious doctrine -- each law must have a motivation and purpose that allow it to stand on its own in the face of rational and objective scrutiny, without appeal to supernatural causation or scriptural exegesis.
(I don't know if this is from Otto or was quoted from a different source by Otto)

That hits the nail on the head. IMHO, this is exactly what the Declaration of Independence was speaking of. America wanted to separate itself from Divine Right rule and replace it with a government based on reason. From the DoI preamble:

quote:
When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.


This is speaking to the idea that one can use reason to determine a moral form of government. The reference to "Laws of Nature and of Nature's God" is a direct reference to Deist ideals based on such philosophers as Locke and Paine. It is a sharp departure from rule by Divine Right. No longer was "I am God's annointed" a reason for law. Reason is now the source of law.

At the same time, this does not mean that laws derived from a theological view are wrong. Rather, a law is judged independently of the source.


This message is a reply to:
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Replies to this message:
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New Cat's Eye
Inactive Member


Message 47 of 206 (547338)
02-18-2010 10:18 AM
Reply to: Message 44 by misha
02-17-2010 5:41 PM


Catholic Scientist writes:

Where does that come from?

It originated in 1878 with Reynolds vs US. Supreme Court decided that it was right in restricting religious action but not belief as long as the restriction was on a rational basis. The idea was that if they sided with Reynolds then anyone could do whatever they wanted and claim that their "religion" requires them to do it, resulting in complete lawlessness. Supreme Court decided that although the US could not determine "what" you believe it was capable of restricting your actions pertaining to said beliefs.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reynolds_v._United_States

Since then it is commonly referred to as the Lemon Test based on Lemon vs Kurtzman. Supreme Court made the following guidelines to determine adherence to the First Ammendment Establishment Clause:

-The government's action must have a secular legislative purpose;

-The government's action must not have the primary effect of either advancing or inhibiting religion;

-The government's action must not result in an "excessive government entanglement" with religion.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lemon_v._Kurtzman

Hey thanks. I did not know that.

You replied to Taq... If you would have replied to me sperately, then I would have gotten an email notifying me of the reply. I just happened to stumble across this but I could have missed it.

Just FYI.


This message is a reply to:
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New Cat's Eye
Inactive Member


Message 48 of 206 (547339)
02-18-2010 10:21 AM
Reply to: Message 46 by Taq
02-18-2010 10:00 AM


At the same time, this does not mean that laws derived from a theological view are wrong.

Too often I hear people claiming they are.

Its all those pop-neo-atheists that just despise religion. Like, the 20-somethings that bitch on facebook. You know, like Taz.

And since you don't see the other atheists all up in arms about it, then obviously they condone and support it


This message is a reply to:
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Replies to this message:
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Taz
Member (Idle past 1550 days)
Posts: 5069
From: Zerus
Joined: 07-18-2006


Message 49 of 206 (547386)
02-18-2010 9:25 PM
Reply to: Message 48 by New Cat's Eye
02-18-2010 10:21 AM


1) I don't have facebook or any other online social networking account. The only thing close to any of these are my email and EvC.

2) I don't despise religion. I do, however, think it impedes progress, both social and scientific.

http://technorati.com/...a-anti-bullying-bill-excludes-lgbts

quote:
The recent occurrence has been in the House of Representatives in Iowa. Two Republican house pepresentatives, Jason Schultz and Matt Windschitl, are co-sponsoring a bill which would exclude LGBT students from being protected under the 2007 Safe School Law which is already on the books. The reason for this is to try and reverse the decision of the Iowa Supreme Court to have a reverse on the decision to legalize same-sex marriage.

In other words, these 2 religious nutjobs masquerading as politicians are trying to put the LGBT students in the line of fire over this fiasco.

Again, my opinion is we as a society can do a lot better without religion. People will then have to think for once in their lives why right things are right and wrong things are wrong instead of just blindly following what their pastors tell them what's right and what's wrong.

3) I don't only condone what the Unholy Trinity (Harris, Dawkins, and Hitchens), I agree with them almost 100%. I don't make an effort to hide this.

4) If you haven't been paying attention, there are large numbers of atheists out there criticizing these three everyday. You can find lots of comments on this board from atheists criticizing Dawkins.

I regularly and openly criticize organizations such as greenpeace and PETA. Whenever an atheist and evolution supporter shows up who turns out to be ignorant of the subject you can bet your arse I'm there to shout him down.

5) Laws derived from theological view aren't necessarily wrong, but when they are right they are not right because of some divine reason. Your savior the late President Bush openly supported the criminalization of homosexuality. And indeed, there is little doubt that such laws in the past were theologically based.

Every just law supposedly derived from theological view can be justified using secular logic. This is a point that Dawkins, Hitchens, and Harris have been pointing out for years. Modern society at large don't get its morals from religion. Otherwise, we'd still be stoning adulteresses and people who eat shellfish to death.

6) Is this the best you can do? Try again.


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Buzsaw
Inactive Member


Message 50 of 206 (547707)
02-21-2010 10:26 PM
Reply to: Message 21 by Dr Adequate
02-15-2010 11:45 AM


Re: Representative Leadership
Dr Adequate writes:

I haven't forgotten that. But I also remember that we are a republic with a constitution.

But the Constitution does not call for minority rule. It calls for a representative republic wherein the majority chooses the representatives who determine policy.

Dr Adequate writes:

I'm somewhat surprised that you take the attitude that you do, because you yourself belong to a minority religious group. You're a Seventh Day Adventist, aren't you? Very well then, suppose that the people in your district voted for a law that only Sunday could be kept as the Sabbath. Wouldn't you and I then join our voices in pointing to the First Amendment and talking about freedom of religion? Would you, under those circumstances, be talking so loud about how we're a republic with "representatives who will implement the wishes of the majority".

I'm the member of no church. I regularly attend a 7th Day Baptist church.

They could vote for stores, etc being closed on Sundays or no liquor etc, but they couldn't vote the right to worship away. Apples and oranges.

Dr Adequate writes:

No, in that case you'd agree with me in saying that freedom of conscience must always be defended. Except that I would always say that it must always be defended, whereas you apparently get to pick and choose.

Under the Constitution, no individual picks and chooses policy. That's the duty of the people's reps elected to establish policy.

Edited by Buzsaw, : No reason given.

Edited by Buzsaw, : correct wording


BUZSAW B 4 U 2 C Y BUZ SAW.
The immeasurable present eternally extends the infinite past and infinitely consumes the eternal future.

This message is a reply to:
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Replies to this message:
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Otto Tellick
Member (Idle past 589 days)
Posts: 288
From: PA, USA
Joined: 02-17-2008


Message 51 of 206 (547708)
02-21-2010 10:33 PM
Reply to: Message 35 by New Cat's Eye
02-16-2010 11:41 AM


Hi CS,

(3) Laws must not be based solely on religious doctrine -- each law must have a motivation and purpose that allow it to stand on its own in the face of rational and objective scrutiny, without appeal to supernatural causation or scriptural exegesis.

Where does that come from?

I'm grateful to misha for jumping in with a well-documented answer to your question. (I wish I could make this a reply to two or three people at once -- I appreciate Taq's vote of approval as well, and I should mention that I wasn't quoting from some other source.)

My own response to your question (now that I'm finally getting around to it) is that my point #3 follows from simple logical entailment (and I'm glad to see, thanks to misha, that there's legal precedent to back that up): if Congress were to enact a law whose motivation is based solely on the doctrine of a given religion, it would in effect be legislating belief in that religion (and the executive branch would be obliged to enforce that belief, punishing those who deny/violate it, and/or rewarding those who accept/practice it).

At the risk of derailing the topic, a couple of examples would be legislating that any abortion constitutes murder (even when it saves the life of the mother), and that stem cell research cannot use the embryos discarded by fertility labs. The objections to abortion and embryonic stem cell research are based on a religious doctrine that the individual soul of a new human being is physically present as soon as conception occurs, and should be granted all the rights and protections of a breathing human being. Needless to say, this belief is not shared by all religions, let alone by agnostics and atheists; in any case, it is a belief that each individual (most pertinently, each pregnant woman) must accept or refuse on their own, because rational, objective observation so far has no way to determine when a living organism becomes endowed with a soul. The only way to posit a firm answer to that question is to assert a religious doctrine or a personal belief.

That's not to say that we could never pass laws that limit the availability of abortion or embryonic stem cell research. It's just that doing so requires that there be a rational motivation (other than personal/religious belief), which objective minds would find not only acceptable, but preferable to the reasons for not limiting these things. Doing it just because these are sins against God (in some people's beliefs) would be doing it wrong, and the consequences would be dire.

But the main topic here relates to education, and how the role of Christian religions should be portrayed in U.S. history books. To say that Christian religions were a significant factor in the formation of our form of government is certainly true: both the distaste for "rule by Divine Right" (as mentioned by Taq), and the active conflicts among various Christian sects within the new nation (as mentioned in one of my earlier replies), led the founders and voters to choose a form of government that is purely and scrupulously secular. These things should be understood clearly by all U.S. students.

In light of the historical facts, to say that our government is founded on any form of Christian religion is demonstrably false, and it would be an offense (ethically and legally) for any school board to enforce such a view.


autotelic adj. (of an entity or event) having within itself the purpose of its existence or happening.

This message is a reply to:
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Replies to this message:
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DevilsAdvocate
Member (Idle past 1360 days)
Posts: 1548
Joined: 06-05-2008


Message 52 of 206 (547710)
02-21-2010 10:42 PM
Reply to: Message 50 by Buzsaw
02-21-2010 10:26 PM


Re: Representative Leadership
But the Constitution does not call for minority rule. It calls for a representative republic wherein the majority chooses the representatives who determine policy.

As long as these policies do not infringe on the rights guaranteed by the US Constitution and Bill of Rights. No amount of representation can take these basic, inherent rights (i.e. freedom of religion, speach, press, assembly, trial by jury, due process, right to counsel, cruel and unusual punishment, etc) guaranteed in the US Constitution away.

Edited by DevilsAdvocate, : No reason given.


“One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we've been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We're no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It is simply too painful to acknowledge -- even to ourselves -- that we've been so credulous.” - Carl Sagan, The Fine Art of Baloney Detection

"You can't convince a believer of anything; for their belief is not based on evidence, it's based on a deep seated need to believe." - Carl Sagan

"It is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring." - Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World


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Otto Tellick
Member (Idle past 589 days)
Posts: 288
From: PA, USA
Joined: 02-17-2008


Message 53 of 206 (547712)
02-21-2010 10:55 PM
Reply to: Message 50 by Buzsaw
02-21-2010 10:26 PM


Re: Representative Leadership
Buzsaw writes:

But the Constitution does not call for minority rule. It calls for a representative republic wherein the majority chooses the representatives who determine policy.

Yet the Constitution does call for really important limitations on what sorts of policy those majority-elected representatives can make. If it were true that the majority shared a single, common religious belief, and this was also shared by the representatives that they elect, those representatives would still be forbidden, because of the First Amendment, to pass laws that enforce or endorse that religious belief (i.e. establish it by law), because doing so would violate the inalienable rights of the minority.

You do understand that part, don't you Buz?

Or are you stuck on the opinion that this piddly little minority should just get over whatever their problem is and adopt your beliefs? (Perhaps you'd like to see some government incentives to promote your beliefs?) If that's what you think, you're living in the wrong country. (Good luck finding one that's right for you.)


autotelic adj. (of an entity or event) having within itself the purpose of its existence or happening.

This message is a reply to:
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Dr Adequate
Member
Posts: 16104
Joined: 07-20-2006


(1)
Message 54 of 206 (547713)
02-21-2010 10:57 PM
Reply to: Message 50 by Buzsaw
02-21-2010 10:26 PM


Re: Representative Leadership
But the Constitution does not call for minority rule. It calls for a representative republic wherein the majority chooses the representatives who determine policy.

Up to a point. But that majority is limited in what they can do by the Constitution. They cannot, for example, pass a law enabling "cruel and unusual punishment" even if they really really want to.

Under those circumstances, the majority wouldn't have their way and the minority would have theirs --- and this would not be "minority rule", it would be constitutional government.

I'm the member of no church. I regularly attend a 7th Day Baptist church.

My apologies. My point, as amended to take this information into account, still stands.

They could vote for stores, etc being closed on Sundays or no liquor etc, but they couldn't vote the right to worship away. Apples and oranges.

But the "oranges" in this case are of your own supplying. I never mentioned liquor laws or Sunday closing. I agree with you that elected bodies have the right and capacity to do these things.

But I was talking about religious freedom. What I wrote was: "If a school board can tell you when to pray and who to pray to and what to pray for, then you do not have freedom of religion."

And this is evidently true. If the majority is Catholic, they still can't make the kids say Hail Marys. If the majority is Democrat, they still can't make the kids pray for Democratic success in the next Congressional elections. And if the majority is theist, they still can't make the kids pray at all.

Under the Constitution, no individual picks and chooses policy.

However, you do get to pick and choose which policies you support. And apparently you are for religious freedom ... some of the time. When it suits you.


This message is a reply to:
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Replies to this message:
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Buzsaw
Inactive Member


Message 55 of 206 (547714)
02-21-2010 11:07 PM
Reply to: Message 33 by Otto Tellick
02-16-2010 1:40 AM


Establishment & Practice Not Same
Otto Tellick writes:

Buzsaw writes:


What they established primarily was the freedom to practice religion anywhere, be it in school, government or private sector, uninhibited. ... Thus no fuss was raised about praying and Bible reading in schools or anything like that.

This is missing the point {AbE: actually, it's just wrong} in a couple of big ways. To start with, what they established primarily was that government would have no direct involvement, and take no specific position, whether positive or negative, with respect to any particular religion, where "particular" entails not just "Christian Sect X" as opposed to "Christian Sect Y", but also "Any Christian Sect" (i.e. Christianity in general) as opposed to any non-Christian religion.

You've got that wrong, Otto.

The free exercise clause forbids the government from denying the practice of religion. That applies to any place, including government facilities. Thus the practice of church in Congress sanctioned by the founders. Government can limit some rituals and/or actions by civil and federal laws, however. That's where the representives elected by the people set policy.

Though the government can't pass laws establishing a religious sect, government cannot, according to the 1st Amendment restrict the practice of religion in or out of government facilities as the founders did indeed practice to the extent that the elected reps determined. Establishing and practicing are not one and the same.


BUZSAW B 4 U 2 C Y BUZ SAW.
The immeasurable present eternally extends the infinite past and infinitely consumes the eternal future.

This message is a reply to:
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Replies to this message:
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Taz
Member (Idle past 1550 days)
Posts: 5069
From: Zerus
Joined: 07-18-2006


Message 56 of 206 (547715)
02-21-2010 11:08 PM
Reply to: Message 46 by Taq
02-18-2010 10:00 AM


Taq writes:

I am an atheist, and I can wholeheartedly agree with you here. I have absolutely no problem with people basing their own personal decisions on their personal religious beliefs.


I wholeheartedly disagree with this.

People need to grow up and realize the difference between personal things and non-personal things.

There shouldn't even be laws restricting people's personal decisions from affecting others just like there shouldn't even be laws restricting people from stealing or murdering. These things should be common sense.

Let me give you an example. I personally believe that all rapists should be hacked to death. I really do. I also personally believe that we as a society should eliminate religion. Before you say to yourself that I don't really believe this, I can assure you that I really do believe this on a personal level.

The thing is I recognize that these are my personal beliefs and that since we are a diverse society these personal beliefs of mine will do more harm than good to society. Therefore, I have a separate set of beliefs I call non-personal beliefs. In other words, this separate set of beliefs include putting rapists away so (1) they stop harming others and (2) they can be rehabilitated and protecting people's right to personal religious beliefs. Why? Because I am mature enough to realize that MY personal beliefs aren't necessarily what's best for this country.

Let's look at the alternative. If we embrace people's personal beliefs into our social policies, then the lactose intolerant people could potentially one day ban all dairy products from our market. Hell, it's potentially possible for the Amish to one day ban all video games from our stores.

And let me repeat myself again. I think religion is evil. I sincerely hope that we as a race will one day grow out of this very childish and evil thing. But in the mean time, I will fight to the death for people's right to worship that imaginary god(s) of theirs.

That hits the nail on the head. IMHO, this is exactly what the Declaration of Independence was speaking of. America wanted to separate itself from Divine Right rule and replace it with a government based on reason. From the DoI preamble:

No offense, but I think this is an over-simplistic view of history. It is more accurate to describe it as a group of intellectuals who saw this new land as a place to experiment with new politics. The alternative was the Old World, which already had deep seated roots of the old regimes.

If they really did want to separate themselves from divine right rule, they would not have allowed the institution of slavery to persist, which was a form of divine right rule itself. They also would not have had laws in place to treat women like property because there was nothing reasonable about that.


This message is a reply to:
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Dr Adequate
Member
Posts: 16104
Joined: 07-20-2006


Message 57 of 206 (547716)
02-21-2010 11:16 PM
Reply to: Message 51 by Otto Tellick
02-21-2010 10:33 PM


At the risk of derailing the topic, a couple of examples would be legislating that any abortion constitutes murder (even when it saves the life of the mother), and that stem cell research cannot use the embryos discarded by fertility labs. The objections to abortion and embryonic stem cell research are based on a religious doctrine that the individual soul of a new human being is physically present as soon as conception occurs, and should be granted all the rights and protections of a breathing human being.

But these would not be Establishment Clause cases as such --- Lemon v. Kurtzman would not apply. In general, a law may be as religiously motivated as you please: it's when it's a law about religion that the Lemon Test kicks in.


This message is a reply to:
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Replies to this message:
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Buzsaw
Inactive Member


Message 58 of 206 (547717)
02-21-2010 11:26 PM
Reply to: Message 54 by Dr Adequate
02-21-2010 10:57 PM


Re: Representative Leadership
I pretty much agree with most of what you posted, Dr Adequate. This is why a lot of what was practiced in the early days when Protestant Christianity was quite dominant, nobody in most situations objected to what was practiced in the public facilities.

Now that we have a more diverse population, elected reps and the courts have established different policy and that's the way a republic should work, so long as policy remains within the perameters of the Constitution. That's were it gets sticky and controversial, i.e. interpreting the Constitution's intent. Then we go full circle back to the intent of people who's constituency were predominantly Christian. Of course, their intent would be more Christian oriented than the intent of many of our interpreting judges today.

Bottom line: As we the people of the Republic (majority) become more secular, the intent of our Christian oriented founders becomes less relevant.


BUZSAW B 4 U 2 C Y BUZ SAW.
The immeasurable present eternally extends the infinite past and infinitely consumes the eternal future.

This message is a reply to:
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Replies to this message:
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Otto Tellick
Member (Idle past 589 days)
Posts: 288
From: PA, USA
Joined: 02-17-2008


Message 59 of 206 (547720)
02-22-2010 12:00 AM
Reply to: Message 48 by New Cat's Eye
02-18-2010 10:21 AM


Hi again, CS. I just wanted to add something on this point:

CS writes:

Taq writes:

At the same time, this does not mean that laws derived from a theological view are wrong.

Too often I hear people claiming they are.

Its all those pop-neo-atheists that just despise religion...

I understand what you mean, and it is a regrettable situation. It's also regrettable that the same applies in the other direction: "{yadda yadda...} does not mean that laws derived from a scientific/secular view are wrong. Too often I hear people claiming they are. It's all those fundamentalist-literalist-Christians that just despise science..."

And since you don't see the other atheists {other Christians} all up in arms about it, then obviously they condone and support it.

You see how it is?

Obviously, most (all?) religions encompass most of what we atheists would consider mankind's core ethical/moral foundation. That is what the various religions have in common, and that (we are bound to conclude) is what they all have right. When we fail to acknowledge this, we are in error. But then, it's also an error when any one religion claims to be the sole proponent or source for this or that virtue (or all virtues generally).

We should expect a lot of overlap between views derived from religion and those derived objectively. But as we often see here at EvC, there's a tendency for atheists to dwell on those religious views -- including scriptural passages -- that defy any sort of objective sensibility, and even run counter to what we now hold as our ethical foundation. And of course, the whole reason for EvC's existence is the compulsion of some Christians to refute science when it defies their religious sensibilities.


autotelic adj. (of an entity or event) having within itself the purpose of its existence or happening.

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Dr Adequate
Member
Posts: 16104
Joined: 07-20-2006


(1)
Message 60 of 206 (547721)
02-22-2010 12:03 AM
Reply to: Message 55 by Buzsaw
02-21-2010 11:07 PM


Re: Establishment & Practice Not Same
The free exercise clause forbids the government from denying the practice of religion. That applies to any place, including government facilities. Thus the practice of church in Congress sanctioned by the founders.

"By the founders"? Well, not by all of them. James Madison, who, you will recall, wrote the First Amendment, and must have had some idea what he meant by it, had this to say about it:

Is the appointment of Chaplains to the two Houses of Congress consistent with the Constitution, and with the pure principle of religious freedom? In strictness the answer on both points must be in the negative. The Constitution of the U. S. forbids everything like an establishment of a national religion. The law appointing Chaplains establishes a religious worship for the national representatives, to be performed by Ministers of religion, elected by a majority of them; and these are to be paid out of the national taxes. Does not this involve the principle of a national establishment, applicable to a provision for a religious worship for the Constituent as well as of the representative Body, approved by the majority, and conducted by Ministers of religion paid by the entire nation.

The establishment of the Chaplainship to Congress is a palpable violation of equal rights, as well as of Constitutional principles: The tenets of the chaplains elected shut the door of worship against the members whose creeds & consciences forbid a participation in that of the majority.

[...]

Better also to disarm in the same way, the precedent of Chaplainships for the army and navy, than erect them into a political authority in matters of religion. --- James Madison, "Detached Memoranda".

Edited by Dr Adequate, : No reason given.


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