Founding Fathers view on Religious Freedom
Of primary importance to the Founding Fathers was their belief that all religions should be protected by law whether Christian or non-Christian. This is the first time that this premise of religious equality had been protected by law, a legal charter or constitution. The Founding Fathers felt that religious freedom was paramount to the functioning of a moral free society.
Early Americans entwined views of liberty along with religious beliefs that one could not separate from the other. Religion was essential part of everyday life in the newly formed United States. Though the Founding Fathers felt it was important to separate church and state it was essential that religious morals prevailed in all government dealings.
George Washington believed that religion and morality were the pillars of society and provided the greatest possibility for human happiness. The Founders believed, because of man’s disposition and habits, that religion and morality were essential elements of political prosperity.
As important as religion was to the early Americans it was important that no religion infringe on an individual’s beliefs or tenets. Standards were established based on fundamental religious beliefs and these standards were taught in the schools.
The Founding Fathers were adamant that there be a separation of church and state, but not religion and state. Youth as well as government leaders should live by a moral code.
Schools taught recognition of a Creator who had revealed a moral code for happiness which helped men understand right from wrong. Schools also taught that we would be held accountable for the way we treated one another and that in the next life we would be judged according to the decisions we made.
School instruction was limited to the universal fundamentals so as to not have an outside political body instruct religious tenets. The schools were to teach the youth the basic beliefs which united everyone.
Religious Test for Government Service
The Founding Fathers felt that anyone holding a government position should possess the highest qualities of moral character. However, the Founders as avid students of history knew the problems created by requiring religious tests for members of government.
It was felt that religious tests for government service would give the Federal government too much control over who could or could not serve in government. It was essential that members of all religions be eligible to hold a public office in the government.
All Freedom Central to Religious Freedom
The Founding Fathers believed that religious freedom was essential if men were to enjoy any other freedom. This is because our rights come from God. These rights are referred to as unalienable rights in the Declaration of Independence, the right to life, the right to liberty, and the right to pursue a course in life that will bring happiness. If these rights are violated the offender will come under the judgment of God.
The right to religious freedom is also an unalienable right. In fact, the Supreme Court has stated numerous times that freedom of religion is the most precious unalienable rights next to life itself. Religious faith and living by moral values is the best way to protect our freedom and security.