Quotes from James Madison, Father of the Constitution.

From veto message, February 21, 1811. “Because the bill vests in the said incorporated church an authority to provide for the support of the poor and the education of poor children of the same, an authority which, being altogether superfluous if the provision is to be the result of pious charity, would be a precedent for giving to societies as such a legal agency in carrying into effect a public and civil duty.”

Madison vetoed a bill to fund “pious charity” organized by the Episcopal Church in Alexandria, Virginia, and the District of Columbia, saying that a project (comparable to the modern “Charitible Choice” scheme of the George W Bush administration) gives religious societies legal agency in performing a public and civil duty

Madison vetoed a bill granting public lands to a Baptist Church in Mississippi Territory.

From veto message, February 28, 1811.  “Because the bill in reserving a certain parcel of in the for the use of said Baptist Church comprises a principle and a precedent for the appropriation of funds of the United States for the use and support of religious societies, contrary to the article of the Constitution which declares that Congress shall make no respecting a religious establishment.

From A Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments, addressed to the Virginia General Assembly, June 20, 1785  “We hold it for a fundamental and undeniable truth that religion, or the duty which we owe our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction,”  “Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity in exclusion of all other religions may establish, with the same ease, any particular sect of Christians in exclusion of all other sects?”  “What influence, in fact, have ecclesiastical establishments had on ? In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of the civil authority; in many instances they have been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny; in no instance have they been the guardians of the liberties of the people.”  “Experience witnesseth that eccelsiastical establishments, instead of maintaining the purity and efficacy of Religion, have had a contrary operation. During fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the Clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity, in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution.”

From a letter to Reverend Adams, in Robert L Maddox, Separation of Church and State: Guarantor of Religious Freedom (1987) p. 39  “It may not be easy, in every possible case, to trace the line of separation between the rights of religion and the Civil authority with such distinctness as to avoid collisions and doubts on unessential points. The tendency of a usurpation on one side or the other, or to a corrupting coalition or alliance between them, will be best guarded by an entire abstinence of the Government from interference in any way whatever, beyond the necessity of preserving public order, and protecting each sect against trespass on its legal rights by others.”

From letter to William Bradford, Jr., April 1, 1774, quoted from Edwin S Gaustad, Faith of Our Fathers: Religion and the New Nation (1987) p. 37  “Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprize, every expanded prospect.”

From the “Detached Memoranda,” Elizabeth Fleet, “Madison’s Detached Memoranda.” William and Mary Quarterly (1946): 554-62.  “Essay on Monopolies”  “Is the appointment of Chaplains to the two Houses of Congress consistent with the Constitution, and with the pure principle of religious freedom? In strictness the answer on both points must be in the negative. The Constitution of the U S forbids everything like an establishment of a national religion. The law appointing Chaplains establishes a religious worship for the national representatives, to be performed by Ministers of religion, elected by a majority of them, and these are to be paid out of the national taxes. Does this not involve the principle of a national establishment…?”  “The establishment of the chaplainship in Congress is a palpable violation of equal rights as well as of Constitutional principles.  It would have been a much better proof to their constituents of their pious feeling if the members had contributed for the purpose a pittance from their own pockets.”

From letter to , October 17, 1788  “Wherever the real power in a Government lies, there is the danger of oppression. In our Governments, the real power lies in the majority of the Community, and the invasion of private rights is chiefly to be apprehended, not from the acts of Government contrary to the sense of its constituents, but from acts in which the Government is the mere instrument of the major number of the constituents.”

From letter to M M Noah, May 15, 1818 “I have received your letter of the 6th, with the eloquent discourse delivered at the consecration of the Jewish Synagogue. Having ever regarded the freedom of religious opinions and worship as belonging to every sect, and the secure enjoyment of it as the best human provision for bringing all either into the same way of thinking, or into that mutual charity which is the only substitute, I observe with pleasure the view you give of the spirit in which your sect partake of the blessings offered by our Government and laws.”

Madison explaining why he recommended that those who are predisposed to pray should pray during the crisis of the war (1822)  “Whilst I was honored with the Executive I found it necessary on more than one occasion to follow the example of predecessors. But I was always careful to make the Proclamations absolutely indiscriminate, and merely recommendatory; or rather mere designations of a day, on which all who thought proper might unite in consecrating it to religious purposes according to their own faith & forms…. Notwithstanding the general progress made within the two last centuries … in some parts of our Country, there remains in others a strong bias towards the old error, that without some sort of alliance or coalition between Gov[ernment] & Religion neither can be duly supported…. Every new & successful example therefore of a perfect separation between ecclesiastical and civil matters, is of importance.”

From letter to Edward Everett, March 19, 1823  “The settled opinion here is that religion is essentially distinct from Civil Govt. and exempt from its cognizance; that a connection between them is injurous to both; that there are causes in the human breast, which insure the perpetuity of religion without the aid of law; that rival sects, with equal rights, exercise mutual censorships in favor of good morals; that if new sects arise with absurd opinions or overheated 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 without a toleration, is no security for public quiet & harmony, but rather a source itself of discord & animosity; and finally that these opinions are supported by experience, which has shewn that every relaxation of the alliance between Law & religion, from the partial example of Holland, to its consummation in Pennsylvania Delaware NJ, &c, has been found as safe in practice as it is sound in theory. Prior to the Revolution, the Episcopal Church was established by law in this State. On the Declaration of independence it was left with all other sects, to a self-support. And no doubt exists that there is much more of religion among now than there ever was before the change; and particularly in the Sect which enjoyed the legal patronage. This proves rather more than, that the law is not necessary to the support of religion.”