Editor’s Note: Today’s blog is a re-publication of an item that originally appeared on Presidents’ Day 2012.
Today is Presidents’ Day. Celebrate by reading some great presidential classics of religious liberty!
Start with George Washington’s letter to Touro Synagogue, one of the most succinct statements ever issued about religious freedom.
Of course, Thomas Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists, which contains the famous “wall of separation between church and state” metaphor, is always worth your time.
Spend some time perusing James Madison’s “Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments,” one of the most powerful collections of arguments against religion taxes ever amassed.
Finish up with a more recent document – John F. Kennedy’s 1960 speech to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association in which he called for “absolute” separation of church and state. It’s hard to beat.
A president didn’t have to be one of the greats to make an impact on church-state relations. Even the caretakers occasionally reeled off memorable lines. Here’s Rutherford B. Hayes: “We all agree that neither the Government nor political parties ought to interfere with religious sects. It is equally true that religious sects ought not to interfere with the Government or with political parties. We believe that the cause of good government and the cause of religion both suffer by all such interference.”
You tell them, Rutherford!
Happy Presidents’ Day.
P.S. Want to read more presidential statements on church-state separation? Check out this article.