Louie Gohmert, an idiot unfortunately not abroad

President James Madison, known by his contemporaries as the "Father of the Constitution."

I suppose that as long as the American people keep electing Congressmen as fantastically ignorant as U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, I'll have to keep correcting their fantastically ignorant statements.

So here we go again, dear friends, once more into the breach.

From Gohmert, to wit:

"(Separation of church and state) was to be a one-way wall, where the state would not dictate to the church. But the church would certainly play a role in the state. So, that's a little different idea than a lot of people have about separation of church and state now. Including some of our esteemed Supreme Court, who are not quite as familiar with our history as they probably should be."

:: facepalm ::

Somebody so obviously ignorant of history, the Establishment Clause, and the very clear and often-pointed declarations of the writers of the U.S. Constitution passing judgment on others for their lack of familiarity with history is irony writ large, but I enjoy it.

So, let's turn to President James Madison, known in his own lifetime as the Father of the Constitution, and writer of the Bill of Rights:

"Congress should not establish a religion and enforce the legal observation of it by law, nor compel men to worship God in any manner contary to their conscience, or that one sect might obtain a pre-eminence, or two combined together, and establish a religion to which they would compel others to conform." (Annals of Congress, Sat Aug 15th, 1789 pages 730 - 731)

"Every new and successful example, therefore, of a perfect separation between the ecclesiastical and civil matters, is of importance; and I have no doubt that every new example will succeed, as every past one has done, in showing that religion and Government will both exist in greater purity the less they are mixed together." (Letter to Edward Livingston, July 10, 1822)

---

"The civil Government, though bereft of everything like an associated hierarchy, possesses the requisite stability, and performs its functions with complete success, whilst the number, the industry, and the morality of the priesthood, and the devotion of the people, have been manifestly increased by the total separation of the church from the State." (Letter to Robert Walsh, Mar. 2, 1819)

"The experience of the United States is a happy disproof of the error so long rooted in the unenlightened minds of well-meaning Christians, as well as in the corrupt hearts of persecuting usurpers, that without a legal incorporation of religious and civil polity, neither could be supported. A mutual independence is found most friendly to practical Religion, to social harmony, and to political prosperity." (Letter to F.L. Schaeffer, Dec 3, 1821)

"The settled opinion here is, that religion is essentially distinct from civil Government, and exempt from its cognizance; that a connection between them is injurious to both; that there are causes in the human breast which ensure the perpetuity of religion without the aid of the law; that rival sects, with equal rights, exercise mutual censorships in favor of good morals; that if new sects arise with absurd opinions or over-heated imaginations, the proper remedies lie in time, forbearance, and example; that a legal establishment of religion without a toleration could not be thought of, and with a toleration, is no security for and animosity; and, finally, that these opinions are supported by experience, which has shewn that every relaxation of the alliance between law and religion, from the partial example of Holland to the consummation in Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, &c., has been found as safe in practice as it is sound in theory." (Letter to Edward Everett, Montpellier, March 18, 1823)

Selah.

Since Gohmert decides to reference Jefferson and, indeed, his famous "Wall of Separation" letter, let's take a look at the content of that as well. This was a response Jefferson penned to the Danbury Baptist association after receiving a letter from them. This is the letter where we originally got the Establishment Clause shorthand "separation of church and state."

To Wit:

"Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church & State. [Congress thus inhibited from acts respecting religion, and the Executive authorised only to execute their acts, I have refrained from prescribing even those occasional performances of devotion, practiced indeed by the Executive of another nation as the legal head of its church, but subject here, as religious exercises only to the voluntary regulations and discipline of each respective sect.]"

Jefferson is also the man who penned the 1786 Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, declaring that fact on his own gravestone, and omitting from it his presidency.

In that he wrote:

"Be it enacted by General Assembly that no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief, but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of Religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge or affect their civil capacities."

Mr. Gohmert, I can only venture that perhaps you need no small amount of remedial reading comprehension education.

Find Senior Writer David DeWitt on Facebook and Follow on Twitter @TheRevDeWitt.

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