MYTH 7: The First Amendment was intended to keep the state from
interfering with the church, not to bar religious groups from co-
opting the government.
Jefferson and Madison held an expansive view of the First
Amendment, arguing that church-state separation would protect both
religion and government.
Madison specifically feared that a small group of powerful
churches would join together and seek establishment or special
favors from the government. To prevent this from happening, Madison
spoke of the desirability of a "multiplicity of sects" that would
guard against government favoritism.
Jefferson and Madison did not see church-state separation as
an "either or" proposition or argue that one institution needed
greater protection than the other. As historian Garry Wills points
out in his 1990 book Under God, Jefferson believed that no worthy
religion would seek the power of the state to coerce belief. In his
notes he argued that disestablishment would strengthen religion,
holding that it would "oblige its ministers to be industrious [and]
exemplary." The state likewise was degraded by an established
faith, Jefferson asserted, because establishment made it a partner
in a system based on bribery of religion.
Madison also argued that establishment was no friend to
religion or the state. He insisted that civil society would be
hindered by establishment, charging that attempts to enforce
religious belief by law would weaken government. In his 1785
Memorial and Remonstrance, Madison stated flatly that "Religion is
not helped by establishment, but is hurt by it."
Provided by Americans United for Separation of Church and State,
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* Origin: The FROG Pond BBS * Rochester, NY (1:2613/270)