Of religion, that is. And not the ads on public transport type – the liberal secularist type.
Somebody passed me this petition calling for state recognition and salary for a female cleric in a far off land of which I know little, to bring her in line with her more conservative counterparts.
She is at a detriment, and because of her sex as well as her religious denomination, but I don’t support this. State funding and state recognition of one religion under-privileges, in a number of different ways, citizens of other religions and – most importantly to me personally – none; it takes their money and subsidises the religious choices of others. As the case of the Church of England over the centuries shows, the power accrued has been significant – for example there remains a rump of 26 Lords Spiritual on the legislature. They actually get to contribute to debates and try to influence the vote. It’s good that things are going in the other direction now – an end to the blasphemy laws, civil and same sex partnerships, but there is still a fair way to go.
So I think we should oppose state funding or special status for any religion, while at the same time defending the freedom of all religions – including, for example, the freedom to conduct public acts of worship. Nor do I think we owe religions respect, only defence – and only insofar as they aren’t themselves illiberal.
To messers. Nehemiah Dodge, Ephraim Robbins, & Stephen S. Nelson, a committee of the Danbury Baptist association in the state of Connecticut.
The affectionate sentiments of esteem and approbation which you are so good as to express towards me, on behalf of the Danbury Baptist association, give me the highest satisfaction. my duties dictate a faithful and zealous pursuit of the interests of my constituents, & in proportion as they are persuaded of my fidelity to those duties, the discharge of them becomes more and more pleasing.
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. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.
I reciprocate your kind prayers for the protection & blessing of the common father and creator of man, and tender you for yourselves & your religious association, assurances of my high respect & esteem.
Jan. 1. 1802.
I want a liberal secularist society of the John Rawls variety – religious communities thriving as private associations under the law without claiming either my respect or my taxes.