Posts Tagged ‘History’
As Madison argued in a 1788 letter to Jefferson, religious fanaticism was as serious a danger to religious liberty as excessive state authority. In his words, “rights of conscience” were undermined by “overbearing majorities” who were intent on advancing the interests of a particular “religious establishment.” In plain and simple terms, the founders meant to protect individuals against excessive encroachments by church as well as state.
We might all wish to heed Madison’s further warning: “It is a melancholy reflection that liberty should be equally exposed to danger whether the Government has too much or too little power.” Religious liberty required the protection of state authority, in creating a barrier around the individual and guarding against intrusions from religious institutions.
The fact remains that President Obama is no more a French Revolutionary Jacobin than Jefferson or Madison. It appears, in fact, that the president has a very clear understanding of religious liberty, appreciating the boundaries between church and state just as Madison intended. His promptly conceived compromise solution, respecting religion without restricting rights, fits the balanced, reasonable approach our founders prescribed when they fought, state by state, to eliminate state funding and sanctioning (i.e., disestablishment) of privileged sects.