Let the national legislature once perform an act which involves the decision of a religious controversy, and it will have passed its legitimate bounds The precedent will then be established, and the foundation laid, for that usurpation of the divine prerogative in this country which has been the desolating scourge to the fairest portions of the Old World. Our Constitution recognizes no other power than that of persuasion, for enforcing religious observances. Let the professors of Christianity recommend their religion by deeds of benevolence, by Christian meekness, by lives of temperance and holiness. Let them combine their efforts to instruct the ignorant, to relieve the widow and the orphan, to promulgate to the world the gospel of their Saviour, recommending its precepts by their habitual example; government will find its legitimate object in protecting them. It cannot oppose them, and they will not need its aid. Their moral influence will then do infinitely more to advance the true interests of religion than any measures they may call on Congress to enact.

Richard Mentor Johnson (1781-1850) US politician, Vice-President (1837-1841)
Report on the Transportation of Mail on Sundays, 20th Congress, 2nd Session (19 Jan 1829)

Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 8-Sep-12
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