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Famous Presidential Quotes on Freedom of Religion

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Famous Presidential Quotes

George Washington"Every man, conducting himself as a good citizen, and being accountable to God alone for his religious opinions, ought to be protected in worshiping the Deity according to the dictates of his own conscience." George Washington, Letter, United Baptist Chamber of Virginia May 1789

"The Government of the United States is not in any sense founded upon the Christian Religion." 1797 the treaty of Tripoli, signed by President Washington, and approved by the Senate of the United States

Thomas Jefferson" ... I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should `make no law respecting establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between church and state." Thomas Jefferson, Letter, Danbury Baptist Assn. January 1, 1802

"Almighty God hath created the mind free; all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments of burdens, or by civil incapacitations, tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and are a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, who being Lord both of body and mind, yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as was in His almighty power to do." Thomas Jefferson, Acts for Establishing Religious Freedom in Virginia, 1785.

"I consider the government of the United States as interdicted by the Constitution from intermeddling with religious institutions, their doctrines, disciplines or exercises." Jefferson's Letter to Rev. Mr. Millar, Jan. 23,1808 (Words of Thomas Jefferson, Vol 5, pg 236.)

"I am tolerant of all creeds. Yet if any sect suffered itself to be used for political objects I would meet it by political opposition. In my view church and state should be separate, not only in form, but fact. Religion and politics should not be mingled." Millard Fillmore (1809-1865) 13th U.S. President (Millard Fillmore, address during the 1856 presidential election; from Albert Menendez and Edd Doerr, eds., Great Quotations on Religious Freedom, Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books, 2002, p. 70.)

Abraham Lincoln"Our reliance is in the love of liberty which God has planted in us. Our defense is in the spirit which prizes liberty as the heritage of all men, in all lands everywhere. Destroy this spirit and you whave planted the seeds of despotism at your own doors. Familiarize yourself with the chains of bondage, and you prepare your own limbs to wear them. Accustomed to trample on the rights of others, you have lost the genious of your own independence and become the fit subjects of the first cunning tryant who rises among you." Abraham Lincoln, Speech at Edwardsville, IL, 1858.

"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 office." James K. Polk

U.S. Grant"Declare church and state forever separate and distinct; but each free within their proper spheres." Ulysses S. Grant, Seventh annual message, Congress December 7, 1875

"Let us labor for the security of free thought, free speech, pure morals, unfettered religious sentiments, and equal rights and privileges for all men, irrespective of nationality, color, or religion;.... leave the matter of religious teaching to the family altar, the church, and the private school, supported entirely by private contribution. Keep church and state forever separate." Ulysses S. Grant's Speech to G. A. R. Veterans, at Des Moines, IA 1875.

"When religion is good, it will take care of itself. When it is not able to take care of itself, and God does not see fit to take care of it, so that it has to appeal to the civil power for support, it is evidence to my mind that its cause is a bad one." Benjamin Franklin, Statesman, Inventor, Author, Letter to Dr. Price.

"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 county in its complete separation from the political concerns of the General Government." Andrew Jackson, Statement refusing to proclaim a national day of fasting and prayer.

James Madison"there is not a shadow of right on the general goverment to intermeddle with religion. Its least interference with it would be a most flagrant usurpation. I can appeal to my uniform conduct on this subject tha I have warmly supported religious freedom." James Madison - father of the Constitution

"Next in importance to freedom and justice is popular education, without which neither justice nor freedom can be permanently maintained. Its interests are intrusted to the States and the voluntary action of the people. Whatever help the nation can justly afford should be generously given to aid the States in supporting common schools; but it would be unjust to our people and dangerous to our institutions to apply any portion of the revenues of the nation or of the States to the support of sectarian schools. The separation of Church and State in everything relating to taxation should be absolute." James A. Garfield, Letter of Acceptance of Nomination for the Presidency July 12, 1880

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 non-sectarian and no public moneys appropriated for sectarian schools." Theodore Roosevelt, Address, New York, October 12, 1915

"Discrimination against the holder of one faith means retaliatory discrimination against men of other faiths. The inevitable result of entering upon such a practise would be an abandonment of our real freedom of conscience and a reversion to the dreadful conditions of religious dissensions which in so many lands have proved fatal to true liberty, to true religion, and to all advance in civilization."

"To discriminate against a thoroughly upright citizen because he belongs to some particular church, or because, like Abraham Lincoln, he has not avowed his allegiance to any church, is an outrage against the liberty of conscience, which is one of the foundations of American life." - Roosevelt's letter on religious liberty.

"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 -- 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." John F. Kennedy

"As I say, not all of Jefferson's ideas were popular, though most of them were absolutely right.…He was also called an atheist because he didn't believe in a state church, an official church of the government, and in fact made it clear that he didn't much like any church at all, though he did admire many, though not all, of the teachings of religion.…And you'll recall that it was Jefferson, as governor of Virginia, who wrote the Statute of Religious Liberty in 1786, which said that ‘no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship’ but that all people ‘shall be free to profess…their opinion in matters of religion.’ He summed up very bluntly one time his view that no man harmed anyone else in choosing and practicing his own religion, or no religion. ‘It does me no injury,’ he said, ‘for my neighbor to say that there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.’" Harry S. Truman (1884-1972) 33rd U.S. President

"Let it be henceforth proclaimed to the world that man's conscience was created free; that he is no longer accountable to his fellow man for his religious opinions, being responsible therefore only to his God." -- John Tyler, Caroline Thomas Harnsberger, Treasury of Presidential Quotations (1964) p. 38, from Albert J. Menendez and Edd Doerr, The Great Quotations on Religious Freedom

Last year I was on Pat Robertson's show, and we discussed our basic Christian faith - for instance, separation of church and state. It's contrary to my beliefs to try to exalt Christianity as having some sort of preferential status in the United States. That violates the Constitution. I'm not in favor of mandatory prayer in school or of using public funds to finance religious education." Jimmy Carter, Christianity Today, March 2, 1998

Other Important Quotes

William Jennings Bryan"If God himself was not willing to use coercion to force man to accept certain religious views, man, uninspired and liable to error, ought not to use the means that Jehovah would not employ." W. J. Bryan, in introduction to "The Writings of Thomas Jefferson."

"Total separation of church and state was considered the best safeguard for the health of each. As [Andrew] Jackson explained, in refusing to name a fast day, he feared to ‘disturb the security which religion now enjoys in this country, in its complete separation from the political concerns of the General Government.’" Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. (Pulitzer Prize Winner) (Arthur M. Schlesinger, The Age of Jackson, Boston: Little Brown & Company, 1945, p. 354. )

"I am ashamed of some christians because they have so much dependence on Parliment and the law of the land. Much good may Parliment ever do to true religion except by mistake! As to getting the law of the land to touch our religion, we earnestly cry, `Hands off! Leave us alone.' Your Sunday bills and all other forms of the act-of-Parliment religion seem to me to be all wrong. Give us a fair field and no favor, and our faith has no cause to fear. Christ wants no help from Caesar." Charles H. Spurgeon, Church in Politics by Charles Longacre.

Condemn no man for not thinking as you think. Let every one enjoy the full and free liberty of thinking for himself. Let every man use his own judgment, since every man must give an account of himself to God. Abhor every approach, in any kind or degree, to the spirit of persecution, if you cannot reason nor persuade a man into the truth, never attempt to force a man into it. If love will not compel him to come, leave him to God, the judge of all." John Wesley, Founder of the Methodist Church Church in Politics by Charles Longacre.

Patrick Henry"Religion, or the duty which we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence; and therefore all men are equally entitled to the free excercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience... unpunished and unrestrained by the magistrate." Tyler's "Patrick Henry," pages 183-184

"There is not a precept in the New Testament to compel, by civil law, any man who is not a Christian to pay any regard to the Lord's day, more than to any other day, and is without the authority of the christian religion. The gospel commands no duty which can be performed without faith in God. `Whatsoever is not of faith is sin' but to compel men destitute of faith to observe any Christian institution, such as the Lord's day, is commanding a duty to be performed without faith in God. Therefore, to command unbelievers, or natural men, to observe in any sense the Lord's day, is antievangelical, or contrary to the gospel." Alexander Campbell, Founder of Disciples of Christ Church Memoirs, Vol 1, pg 528.

Declaration of Independence
In that grand old document which our forefathers set forth as their bill of rights—the Declaration of Independence—they declared:

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

The United Stated Constitution
The Constitution guarantees, in the most explicit terms, the inviolability of conscience.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

“The framers of the Constitution recognized the eternal principle that man’s relation with his God is above human legislation, and his rights of conscience inalienable. . . It is an inborn principle which nothing can eradicate” (Congressional documents {U.S.A.}, serial No. 200, document No. 271).

Not everyone is happy about Freedom of conscience in America
'The absurd and erroneous doctrines or ravings in defense of liberty of conscience, are a most pestilential error--a pest, of all others, most to be dreaded in a State.' Pope Pius IX., in his Encyclical Letter of August 15, 1854

The same pope, in his Encyclical Letter of December 8, 1864, anathematized 'those who assert the liberty of conscience and of religious worship,' also 'all such as maintain that the church may not employ force.'

"The pacific tone of Rome in the United States does not imply a change of heart. She is tolerant where she is helpless. Says Bishop O'Connor: 'Religious liberty is merely endured until the opposite can be carried into effect without peril to the Catholic world.'"

"The archbishop of St. Louis once said: 'Heresy and unbelief are crimes; and in Christian countries, as in Italy and Spain, for instance, where all the people are Catholics, and where the Catholic religion is an essential part of the law of the land, they are punished as other crimes."

"Every cardinal, archbishop, and bishop in the Catholic Church takes an oath of allegiance to the pope, in which occur the following words: 'Heretics, schismatics, and rebels to our said lord the pope, or his aforesaid successors, I will to my utmost persecute and oppose.'"

Please Note: It is true that there are real Christians in the Roman Catholic communion. Thousands in that church are serving God according to the best light they have. They have not been allowed access to his Word, and therefore they do not discern the truth. They have never seen the contrast between a living heart-service and a round of mere forms and ceremonies. God looks with pitying tenderness upon these souls, educated as they are in a faith that is delusive and unsatisfying. He will cause rays of light to penetrate the dense darkness that surrounds them. He will reveal to them the truth, as it is in Jesus, and many will yet take their position with his people.

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"Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD:
And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, and shall not find it." Amos 8:11-12

A word to the wise is sufficient in this matter.

“Congress shall make
no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press;
or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Amendment I - Freedom of Religion, Press, Expression. Ratified 12/15/1791.

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