Early Advocates 2

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First Amendment Advocate, Vol. 3, No. 2, August 2002

The Newsletter of the Oklahoma Chapter of Americans United

Early Advocates for Separation of Church & State (Part 2)

In October 1787, Trenche Cox, a former member of the Continental Congress, recommended the new Constitution saying, “no religious test is ever to be required” for public office.  Those who wrote our Constitution had, “the honor of proposing the first public act, by which any nation” declared that public service is for “any wise or good citizen.”  “Danger from ecclesiastical tyranny, that long standing and still remaining curse of the people can be feared by no man in the United States.”


As quoted in Kramnick, Isaac and Moore, R. Laurence, The Godless Constitution, New York:  Norton & company, 1996, p. 38.


Reverend Samuel Langdon of New Hampshire called the absence of religious tests “one of the great ornaments of the Constitution.”


As quoted in The Godless Constitution, p. 39.


James Iredell of North Carolina, a    future associate justice of the U.S.    Supreme Court, had no problem with the possibility that Americans may choose “representatives who have no religion at all, and that pagans and Mahometans” may be elected.  How, he asked, “is it possible to exclude any set of men” without thus laying “the foundation on which persecution has been raised in every part of the world.”


As quoted in The Godless Constitution, pp. 38-39.


Rev. Daniel Shute, a congregational minister in Massachusetts, argued that religious tests for office deprived citizens of their civil rights.  “Who should be excluded from national trusts?”  he asked.  “Whatever bigotry may suggest, the dictates of candor and equity,   I conceive, will be, none,” even, he added, “those who have no other guide, in the way to virtue and heaven, than the dictates of natural religion.”


As quoted in The Godless Constitution, p. 39.


In 1787, William Van Murray, Esq., wrote an essay in the American Museum and said that the Constitution recognizes that “Christians are not the only people there,” and that religious tests are “A VIOLATION of THE LAW OF NATURE.”  He held that governments are created according to the “laws of nature.  These are unacquainted with

the distinctions of religious opinion; and of the terms Christian, Mohamentan, Jew or Gentile.”


As quoted in The Godless Constitution, p. 40-41.

Help us Identify Early Advocates for  Separation of Church and State


Please send us quotations, references and pictures (if possible) of early advocates for Separation of Church and State from you faith tradition.  We will be publishing such information in future issues of the First Amendment Advocate.


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

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