A Reader Writes On The Founders And Religious Freedom
March 27, 2011, 05:00 AM
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From: Robert McCarthy [Email him]

I believe the Founders' intentions on religious freedom are fairly clear. In their eyes, the secular state came first, and one could be free to engage in any religious practices up to, and not including, the point at which they would interfere with one's duties as a citizen and adherence to the law. So you could be a practicing Roman Catholic without being molested, but not if you thought St Bartholomew's Day Massacres were part of your religious duties.

Benjamin Franklin quite rightly questioned the right of Quakers to religious freedom, pointing out that they enjoyed the military protection of the state while refusing on principle to contribute to that protection.

Likewise, there could be nothing wrong with public displays of religious belief or allegiance that did not compromise one's duties to the secular authority. Banning the celebration of Christmas, for instance, would be meaningless.