This principle of freedom is that religion is essential to a government of free people. Most, if not all, of our Founding Fathers believed that religion and morality were essential for good government as well as happiness and that these topics should be taught in the schools. No specific religion was to be taught, but the universal truths, which were acceptable to all religions, were necessary.
W. Cleon Skousen quoted Benjamin Franklin when he summarized basic religious beliefs as "fundamental points in all sounds religion" in a letter to Ezra Stiles, Yale University president: "Here is my creed: I believe in one God, the Creator of the universe. That he governs it by his providence. That he ought to be worshipped. That the most acceptable service we render to him is in doing good to his other children. That the soul of man is immortal, and will be treated with justice in another life respecting its conduct in this. These I take to be the fundamental points in all sound religion." (Smyth, Writings of Benjamin Franklin
Skousen then explained Franklin's statement of the "five points of fundamental religious beliefs. 1) There exists a Creator who made all things and mankind should recognize and worship him. 2) The Creator has revealed a moral code of behavior for happy living which distinguishes between right and wrong. 3) The Creator holds mankind responsible for the way they treat each other.
4) All mankind live beyond this life. 5) In the next life mankind are judged for their conduct in this one" (The Five Thousand Year Leap
, p 61).
Even though the Founders considered these core beliefs to be America's religion, they wanted all religions to have equal protection under the Constitution. They wanted the citizens to have morality, religion, and virtue, but they did not want the federal government favoring any one religion or church. This is what Thomas Jefferson meant when he said that the Constitution created "a wall of separation between Church and State" (Beigh, Writings of Thomas Jefferson,
16:282, as quoted in The Five Thousand Year Leap
, p 69).
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