Presidential Quotes on the Freedom of Religion

By today’s standards, they are all heretics!

“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

” … 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.)

“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

“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.

“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

“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

Post By Joel Watts (10,074 Posts)

Joel L. Watts holds a Masters of Arts from United Theological Seminary with a focus in literary and rhetorical criticism of the New Testament. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

Website: → Unsettled Christianity

Connect

Leave a Reply, Please!