The Constitution specifically allowed the States to have established religions -- "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion" and for the first forty years of the Republic some states had religions "by law established" which meant mostly tax paid clergy and public prayer at public events. Virginia had disestablished the Church of England before the Constitution was adopted, but seven of the thirteen States had Established Churches, and Congress had no power whatever to disestablish them (nor or course could it establish a Federal religion). There is on the Harvard campus what Russell Seitz is pleased to call "the established Federalist Church" and I believe it still stands and functions.Too often, we take our inferences ("separation of church and state", for example) to be fundamental facts. Here, our venerable wall of separation is seen to dissolve into its one simple element: Congress shall make no law...
One wonders if it might not be better to do as the Framers intended, and leave religion to the States. I doubt any would establish a church, but certainly they have a right to do that.
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Congress shall make no law
Jerry Pournelle made an interesting point today that clarifies a bit in our federal constitution: