Quotations about   church and state

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I endorse it. I think it was correct. Contrary to what many have said, it sought to outlaw neither prayer nor belief in god. In a pluralistic society such as ours, who is to determine what prayer shall be spoken and by whom? Legally, constitutionally or otherwise, the state certainly has no such right.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) American clergyman, civil rights leader, orator
Playboy interview (Jan 1965)
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On the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to ban school-led prayer.
Added on 5-May-19 | Last updated 5-May-19
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When Christianity asks the aid of government beyond mere impartial protection, it denies itself. Its laws are divine, and not human. Its essential interests lie beyond the reach and range of human governments. United with government, religion never rises above the merest superstition; united with religion, government never rises above the merest despotism; and all history shows us that the more widely and completely they are separated, the better it is for both.

John Welch (1805-1891) American politician, jurist
Board of Education of Cincinnati v. Minor, Ohio Supreme Court (1872)
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Added on 4-Sep-18 | Last updated 4-Sep-18
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It is just that all worship should be considered as one. We look on the same stars, the sky is common, the same world surrounds us. What difference does it make by what pains each seeks the truth? We cannot attain to so great a secret by one road.

[Aequum est quidquid omnes colunt, unum putari. Eadem spectamus astra, commune coelum est, idem nos munus involvit. Quid interest qua quisque prudentia verum requirat? Uno itinere no potest perveniri ad tam grande secretum.]

Quintus Aurelius Symmachus (c. 345-402) Roman statesman, orator, man of letters
“The Memorial of Symmachus, Prefect of the City” [tr. Romestin, Romestin, Duckworth (1896)]
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Petition on behalf of non-Christian Senators to Emperor Valentinian to restore the Altar of Victory to the Roman Senate.

Alt. trans.: "We gaze up at the same stars; the sky covers us all; the same universe encompasses us. Does it matter what practical system we adopt in our search for the Truth? The heart of so great a mystery cannot be reached by following one road only."
Added on 1-Aug-18 | Last updated 1-Aug-18
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The government’s ability to enforce generally applicable prohibitions of socially harmful conduct, like its ability to carry out other aspects of public policy, “cannot depend on measuring the effects of a governmental action on a religious objector’s spiritual development.” To make an individual’s obligation to obey such a law contingent upon the law’s coincidence with his religious beliefs, except where the State’s interest is “compelling” — permitting him, by virtue of his beliefs, “to become a law unto himself” — contradicts both constitutional tradition and common sense.

Antonin Scalia (1936-2016) US Supreme Court justice
Employment Division v. Smith, 494 U.S. 872, majority opinion (1990)
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Opinion holding that the state could prohibit religious-based peyote use.
Added on 31-Jul-18 | Last updated 31-Jul-18
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Every subject’s duty is the king’s; but every subject’s soul is his own.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
Henry V, Act 4, sc. 1 [King Henry] (1599)
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Added on 9-Apr-18 | Last updated 9-Apr-18
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For some reason, the most vocal Christians among us never mention the Beatitudes. But, often with tears in their eyes, they demand that the Ten Commandments be posted in public buildings. And of course, that’s Moses, not Jesus. I haven’t heard one of them demand that the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, be posted anywhere. “Blessed are the merciful” in a courtroom? “Blessed are the peacemakers: in the Pentagon? Give me a break!

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (1922-2007) American novelist, journalist
A Man Without A Country, ch. 9 (2005)
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The Beatitudes (Matthew 5).
Added on 2-Apr-18 | Last updated 2-Apr-18
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There are three possible ways in which the church can act toward the state: in the first place, as has been said, it can ask the state whether its actions are legitimate and in accordance with its character as state, i.e., it can throw the state back on its responsibilities. Secondly, it can aid the victims of state action. The church has an unconditional obligation to the victims of any ordering society, even if they do not belong to the Christian community. “Do good to all men.” In both these course of action, the church serves the free state in its free way, and at times when laws are changed the church may in no way withdraw itself from these two tasks.

The third possibility is not just to bandage the victims under the wheel, but to put a spoke in the wheel itself. Such action would be direct political action, and is only possible and required when the church sees the state fail in its function of creating law and order, i.e., when it sees the state unrestrainedly bring about too much or too little law and order.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) German Lutheran pastor, theologian, martyr
“The Church and the Jewish Question” (1933)
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On the need for Christian clergy to actively oppose the Nazi regime's persecution of Jews.
Added on 8-Jan-18 | Last updated 8-Jan-18
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It is a truism that almost any sect, cult, or religion will legislate its creed into law if it acquires the political power to do so, and will follow it by suppressing opposition, subverting all education to seize early the minds of the young, and by killing, locking up, or driving underground all heretics. This is equally true whether the faith is Communism or Holy-Rollerism; indeed it is the bounden duty of the faithful to do so. The custodians of the True Faith cannot logically admit tolerance of heresy to be a virtue.

Robert A. Heinlein (1909-1988) American writer
“Concerning Stories Never Written” (Oct 1952)
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Added on 2-Sep-17 | Last updated 2-Sep-17
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Music is no different from opium. Music affects the human mind in a way that makes people think of nothing but music and sensual matters. […] Music is a treason to the country, a treason to our youth, and we should cut out all this music and replace it with something instructive.

Ruhollah Khomeini (1902-1989) Iranian Shia Muslim religious leader, revolutionary, politician
Ramadan Speech (23 Jul 1979)
Added on 26-Jan-17 | Last updated 26-Jan-17
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It had been boldly predicted by some of the early Christians that the conversion of the world would lead to the establishment of perpetual peace. In looking back, with our present experience, we are driven to the melancholy conclusion that, instead of diminishing the number of wars, ecclesiastical influence as actually and very seriously increased it.

William Lecky (1838-1903) Irish historian
History of European Morals, Vol. 2, ch. 4 (1869)
Added on 18-Jan-17 | Last updated 18-Jan-17
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Every time the Church has gotten into the political game, no matter what the manner of her entry, no matter what her opinion or posing choices in a political situation with regard to an institution, she has been drawn every time into a betrayal, either of revealed truth or of the incarnate love. She has become involved every time in apostasy. … Politics is the Church’s worst problem. It is her constant temptation, the occasion of her greatest disasters, the trap continually set for her by the Prince of this world.

Ellul - politics is the churchs worst problem - wist_info quote

Jacques Ellul (1912-1994) French philosopher, law professor, sociologist, theologian
The Presence of the Kingdom [Présence au monde moderne] (1948) [tr. Wyon (1951)]
Added on 8-Aug-16 | Last updated 8-Aug-16
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You can’t divorce religious belief and public service. I’ve never detected any conflict between God’s will and my political duty. If you violate one, you violate the other.

Jimmy Carter (b. 1924) American politician, US President (1977-1981), Nobel laureate [James Earl Carter, Jr.]
Speech, Southern Baptist Brotherhood Commission (16 Jun 1978)
Added on 14-Jun-16 | Last updated 14-Jun-16
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When you say “radical right” today, I think of these moneymaking ventures by fellows like Pat Robertson and others who are trying to take the Republican Party away from the Republican Party, and make a religious organization out of it. If that ever happens, kiss politics goodbye.

Barry Goldwater (1909-1998) American politician
“Barry Goldwater’s Left Turn,” The Washington Post (28 Jul 1994)
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Added on 14-Jan-16 | Last updated 14-Jan-16
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And I am even more angry as a legislator who must endure the threats of every religious group who thinks it has some God-granted right to control my vote on every roll call in the Senate. I am warning them today: I will fight them every step of the way if they try to dictate their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of “conservatism.”

Barry Goldwater (1909-1998) American politician
Speech, US Senate (16 Sep 1981)
Added on 7-Jan-16 | Last updated 7-Jan-16
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I’m frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in “A,” “B,” “C” and “D.” Just who do they think they are? And from where do they presume to claim the right to dictate their moral beliefs to me?

Barry Goldwater (1909-1998) American politician
Speech, US Senate (16 Sep 1981)
Added on 17-Dec-15 | Last updated 7-Jan-16
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On religious issues there can be little or no compromise. There is no position on which people are so immovable as their religious beliefs. There is no more powerful ally one can claim in a debate than Jesus Christ, or God, or Allah, or whatever one calls this supreme being. But like any powerful weapon, the use of God’s name on one’s behalf should be used sparingly. The religious factions that are growing throughout our land are not using their religious clout with wisdom. They are trying to force government leaders into following their position 100 percent. If you disagree with these religious groups on a particular moral issue, they complain, they threaten you with a loss of money or votes or both.

Barry Goldwater (1909-1998) American politician
Speech, US Senate (16 Sep 1981)
Added on 10-Dec-15 | Last updated 7-Jan-16
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The doctor asserted, “Sure religion is a fine influence — got to have it to keep the lower classes in order — fact, it’s the only thing that appeals to a lot of these fellows and makes ’em respect the rights of property. And I guess this theology is O.K.; lot of wise old coots figured it out, and they knew more about it than we do.” He believed in the Christian religion, and never thought about it; he believed in the church, and seldom went near it; he was shocked by Carol’s lack of faith, and wasn’t quite sure what was the nature of the faith that she lacked.

Sinclair Lewis (1885-1951) American novelist, playwright
Main Street (1920)
Added on 29-Sep-15 | Last updated 29-Sep-15
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Christian establishments tend to great ignorance and corruption, all of which facilitate the execution of mischievous projects.

James Madison (1751-1836) American statesman, political theorist, US President (1809-17)
Letter to William Bradford, Jr. (1774)
Added on 21-Jul-15 | Last updated 21-Jul-15
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Nothing is more dreaded than the national government meddling with religion.

John Adams (1735-1826) American lawyer, Founding Father, statesman, US President (1797-1801)
Letter to Benjamin Rush (1812)
Added on 1-Jul-15 | Last updated 24-Jun-15
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Some very worthy persons, who have not had great advantages for information, have objected against that clause in the constitution which provides, that no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States. They have been afraid that this clause is unfavorable to religion. But my countrymen, the sole purpose and effect of it is to exclude persecution, and to secure to you the important right of religious liberty. We are almost the only people in the world, who have a full enjoyment of this important right of human nature. In our country every man has a right to worship God in that way which is most agreeable to his conscience. If he be a good and peaceable person he is liable to no penalties or incapacities on account of his religious sentiments; or in other words, he is not subject to persecution. But in other parts of the world, it has been, and still is, far different. Systems of religious error have been adopted, in times of ignorance. It has been the interest of tyrannical kings, popes, and prelates, to maintain these errors. When the clouds of ignorance began to vanish, and the people grew more enlightened, there was no other way to keep them in error, but to prohibit their altering their religious opinions by severe persecuting laws. In this way persecution became general throughout Europe.

Oliver Ellsworth (1745-1807) American lawyer, politician, Founder, Supreme Court chief justice (1796-1800)
Essay (17 Dec 1787)
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Added on 24-Jun-15 | Last updated 24-Jun-15
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Now who can hear Christ declare that his kingdom is not of this world, and yet believe that this blending of church and state together can be pleasing to him?

Isaac Backus (1724-1806) American clergyman and historian
An Appeal to the Public for Religious Liberty (1773)
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Added on 17-Jun-15 | Last updated 17-Jun-15
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A man of abilities and character, of any sect whatever, may be admitted to any office or public trust under the United States. I am a friend to a variety of sects, because they keep one another in order. How many different sects are we composed of throughout the United States? How many different sects will be in congress? We cannot enumerate the sects that may be in congress. And there are so many now in the United States that they will prevent the establishment of any one sect in prejudice to the rest, and will forever oppose all attempts to infringe religious liberty. If such an attempt be made, will not the alarm be sounded throughout America? If congress be as wicked as we are foretold they will, they would not run the risk of exciting the resentment of all, or most of the religious sects in America.

Edmund Randolph (1753-1813) American attorney, politician
Speech, Virginia Ratifying Committee (10 Jun 1788)
Added on 10-Jun-15 | Last updated 10-Jun-15
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When a religion is good, I conceive it will support itself; and when it does not support itself, and God does not take care to support it so that its professors are obligated to call for help of the civil power, it’s a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one.

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) American statesman, scientist, philosopher
Letter to Richard Price (9 Oct 1780)
Added on 3-Jun-15 | Last updated 3-Jun-15
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Way down deep the American people are afraid of an entangling relationship between formal religions — or whole bodies of religious belief — and government. Apart from constitutional law and religious doctrine, there is a sense that tells us it’s wrong to presume to speak for God or to claim God’s sanction of our particular legislation and His rejection of all other positions. Most of us are offended when we see religion being trivialized by its appearance in political throw-away pamphlets. The American people need no course in philosophy or political science or church history to know that God should not be made into a celestial party chairman.

Mario Cuomo (1932-2015) American politician
“Religious Belief and Public Morality,” John A. O’Brien Lecture, U. of Notre Dame (13 Sep 1984)
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Added on 1-Jun-15 | Last updated 1-Jun-15
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And I have no doubt that every new example will succeed, as every past one has done, in shewing that religion & Govt will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together.

James Madison (1751-1836) American statesman, political theorist, US President (1809-17)
Letter to Edward Livingston (10 Jul 1822)
Added on 27-May-15 | Last updated 27-May-15
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We have solved, by fair experiment, the great and interesting question whether freedom of religion is compatible with order in government and obedience to the laws. And we have experienced the quiet as well as the comfort which results from leaving every one to profess freely and openly those principles of religion which are the inductions of his own reason and the serious convictions of his own inquiries.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) American political philosopher, polymath, statesman, US President (1801-09)
Speech, Baptist General Meeting, Chesterfield, Virginia (21 Nov 1808)
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Added on 20-May-15 | Last updated 20-May-15
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Ultimately, therefore, the question “whether or not we admit religious values into our public affairs” is too broad to yield a single answer. “Yes,” we create our public morality through consensus and in this country that consensus reflects to some extent religious values of a great majority of Americans. But “no,” all religiously based values don’t have an a priori place in our public morality. The community must decide if what is being proposed would be better left to private discretion than public policy; whether it restricts freedoms, and if so to what end, to whose benefit; whether it will produce a good or bad result; whether overall it will help the community or merely divide it.

Mario Cuomo (1932-2015) American politician
“Religious Belief and Public Morality,” John A. O’Brien Lecture, U. of Notre Dame (13 Sep 1984)
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Added on 18-May-15 | Last updated 18-May-15
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We should begin by setting conscience free. When all men of all religions shall enjoy equal liberty, property, and an equal chance for honors and power we may expect that improvements will be made in the human character and the state of society.

John Adams (1735-1826) American lawyer, Founding Father, statesman, US President (1797-1801)
Letter to Dr. Price (8 Apr 1785)
Added on 13-May-15 | Last updated 13-May-15
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The arguments start when religious values are used to support positions which would impose on other people restrictions they find unacceptable. Some people do object to Catholic demands for an end to abortion, seeing it as a violation of the separation of church and state. And some others, while they have no compunction about invoking the authority of the Catholic bishops in regard to birth control and abortion, might reject out of hand their teaching on war and peace and social policy.

Mario Cuomo (1932-2015) American politician
“Religious Belief and Public Morality,” John A. O’Brien Lecture, U. of Notre Dame (13 Sep 1984)
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Added on 11-May-15 | Last updated 11-May-15
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The American states have gone far in assisting the progress of truth; but they have stopped short of perfection. They ought to have given every honest citizen an equal right to enjoy his religion and an equal title to all civil emoluments, without obliging him to tell his religion. Every interference of the civil power in regulating opinion, is an impious attempt to take the business of the Deity out of his own hands; and every preference given to any religious denomination, is so far slavery and bigotry.

Noah Webster, Jr. (1758-1843) American lexicographer and author
Sketches of American Policy (1785)
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God has appointed two kinds of government in the world, which are distinct in their nature, and ought never to be confounded together; one of which is called civil, the other ecclesiastical government.

Isaac Backus (1724-1806) American clergyman and historian
An Appeal to the Public for Religious Liberty (1773)
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Our public morality, then — the moral standards we maintain for everyone, not just the ones we insist on in our private lives — depends on a consensus view of right and wrong. The values derived from religious belief will not — and should not — be accepted as part of the public morality unless they are shared by the pluralistic community at large, by consensus. That values happen to be religious values does not deny them acceptability as a part of this consensus. But it does not require their acceptability, either.

Mario Cuomo (1932-2015) American politician
“Religious Belief and Public Morality,” John A. O’Brien Lecture, U. of Notre Dame (13 Sep 1984)
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Added on 4-May-15 | Last updated 4-May-15
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If I could conceive that the general government might ever be so administered as to render the liberty of conscience insecure, I beg you will be persuaded, that no one would be more zealous than myself to establish effectual barriers against the horrors of spiritual tyranny, and every species of religious persecution.

George Washington (1732-1799) American military leader, Founding Father, US President (1789-1797)
Letter to the United Baptist Chamber of Virginia (May 1789)
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Persecution is not an original feature in any religion; but it is always the strongly marked feature of all religions established by law. Take away the law-establishment, and every religion re-assumes its original benignity.

Thomas Paine (1737-1809) American political philosopher and writer
The Rights of Man (1791)
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In addition to all the weaknesses, dilemmas and temptations that impede every pilgrim’s progress, the Catholic who holds political office in a pluralistic democracy — who is elected to serve Jews and Muslims, atheists and Protestants, as well as Catholics — bears special responsibility. He or she undertakes to help create conditions under which all can live with a maximum of dignity and with a reasonable degree of freedom; where everyone who chooses may hold beliefs different from specifically Catholic ones — sometimes contradictory to them; where the laws protect people’s right to divorce, to use birth control and even to choose abortion. In fact, Catholic public officials take an oath to preserve the Constitution that guarantees this freedom. And they do so gladly. Not because they love what others do with their freedom, but because they realize that in guaranteeing freedom for all, they guarantee our right to be Catholics: our right to pray, to use the sacraments, to refuse birth control devices, to reject abortion, not to divorce and remarry if we believe it to be wrong.

Mario Cuomo (1932-2015) American politician
“Religious Belief and Public Morality,” John A. O’Brien Lecture, U. of Notre Dame (13 Sep 1984)
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Added on 20-Apr-15 | Last updated 20-Apr-15
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We have abundant reason to rejoice, that, in this land, the light of truth and reason has triumphed over the power of bigotry and superstition, and that every person may here worship God according to the dictates of his own heart. In this enlightened age, & in this land of equal liberty, it is our boast, that a man’s religious tenets will not forfeit the protection of the laws, nor deprive him of the right of attaining & holding the highest offices that are known in the United States.

George Washington (1732-1799) American military leader, Founding Father, US President (1789-1797)
Letter to the New Church (22 Jan 1793)
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Added on 25-Feb-15 | Last updated 25-Feb-15
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One hundred years ago, our fathers retired the gods from politics. The Declaration of Independence is the grandest, the bravest, and the profoundest political document that was ever signed by the representatives of a people. It is the embodiment of physical and moral courage and of political wisdom.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
“Centennial Oration” (1876)
Added on 22-Oct-14 | Last updated 22-Oct-14
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That is the kind of America in which I believe. And it represents the kind of Presidency in which I believe — a great office that must neither be humbled by making it the instrument of any one religious group nor tarnished by arbitrarily withholding its occupancy from the members of any one religious group. I believe in a President whose religious views are his own private affair, neither imposed by him upon the nation or imposed by the nation upon him as a condition to holding that office.

John F. Kennedy (1917-1963) US President (1961-63)
Speech, Greater Houston Ministerial Association (12 Sep 1960)
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Added on 21-Jul-14 | Last updated 21-Jul-14
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Of course it is quite a different matter if we consider the utility of religion as a prop of thrones; for where these are held “by the grace of God,” throne and altar are intimately associated; and every wise prince who loves his throne and his family will appear at the head of his people as an exemplar of true religion.

Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) German philosopher
“Religion and Other Essays: A Dialogue,” Essays of Arthur Schopenhauer [tr. Saunders (1851)]
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Men will not understand that when they fulfill their duties to men, they fulfill thereby God’s commandments; that they are consequently always in the service of God, as long as their actions are moral, and that it is absolutely impossible to serve God otherwise.

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) German philosopher
(Attributed)
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Quoted in Karl Hillebrand, Lectures on German Thought, Lecture 5 "The Triumvirate of Goethe, Kant, and Schiller (1787-1800)" (1879)
Added on 23-Jan-14 | Last updated 23-Jan-14
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Christ’s religion needs no prop of any kind from any worldly source, and to the degree that it is thus supported is a millstone hanged about its neck.

George W. Truett (1867-1944) American minister, writer, and religious leader
Speech, steps of the US Capitol (1920)
Added on 11-Sep-12 | Last updated 17-Sep-15
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Mr. Forster feels anxious because he dreads Theocracy. Now if he expects to see a Theocracy set up in modern England, I myself believe his expectation to be wholly chimerical. But I wish to make it very clear that, if I thought the thing in the least probable, I should feel about it exactly as he does. I fully embrace the maxim (which he borrows from a Christian) that ‘all power corrupts.’ I would go further. The loftier the pretensions of the power, the more meddlesome, inhuman, and oppressive it will be. Theocracy is the worst of all possible governments. All political power is at best a necessary evil: but it is least evil when its sanctions are most modest and commonplace, when it claims no more than to be useful or convenient and sets itself strictly limited objectives. Anything transcendental or spiritual, or even anything very strongly ethical, in its pretensions is dangerous and encourages it to meddle with our private lives. Let the shoemaker stick to his last. Thus the Renaissance doctrine of Divine Right is for me a corruption of monarchy; Rousseau’s General Will, of democracy; racial mysticisms, of nationality. And Theocracy, I admit and even insist, is the worst corruption of all.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
“Lilies that Fester,” The Twentieth Century (Apr 1955)
Added on 30-Dec-11 | Last updated 31-Mar-14
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Churches are becoming political organizations … It probably will not be long until the churches will divide as sharply upon political, as upon theological questions; and when that day comes, if there are not liberals enough to hold the balance of power, this Government will be destroyed.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
Some Mistakes of Moses, Sec. 3 “The Politicians” (1879)
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True Christianity never shields itself behind majorities. Nero, and the other persecuting Roman emperors, were amply supported by majorities; and yet the pure and peaceable religion of Christ in the end triumphed over them all; and it was only when it attempted itself to enforce religion by the arm of authority, that it began to wane. A form of religion that can not live under equal and impartial laws ought to die, and sooner or later must die.

John Welch (1805-1891) American politician, jurist
Board of Education of Cincinnati v. Minor, Ohio Supreme Court (1872)
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Added on 21-Jun-11 | Last updated 4-Sep-18
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True Christianity asks no aid from the sword of civil authority.  It began without the sword, and wherever it has taken the sword it has perished by the sword. To depend on civil authority for its enforcement is to acknowledge its own weakness, which it can never afford to do.  It is able to fight its own battles.  Its weapons are moral and spiritual, and not carnal. Armed with these, and these alone, it is not afraid or “ashamed” to be compared with other religions, and to withstand them single-handed.

John Welch (1805-1891) American politician, jurist
Board of Education of Cincinnati v. Minor, Ohio Supreme Court (1872)
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The settled opinion here is, that religion is essentially distinct from Civil Govt., and exempt from its cognizance; that a connexion 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 public quiet & harmony, but rather a source 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, New Jersey, &c., has been found as safe in practice as it is sound in theory.

James Madison (1751-1836) American statesman, political theorist, US President (1809-17)
Letter to Edward Everett (18 Mar 1823)
Added on 3-Aug-10 | Last updated 30-May-17
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The notion of a Christian commonwealth should be exploded forever. … Government should protect every man in thinking and speaking freely, and see that one does not abuse another. The liberty I contend for is more than toleration. The very idea of toleration is despicable; it supposes that some have a pre-eminence above the rest to grant indulgence, whereas all should be equally free, Jews, Turks, Pagans and Christians.

John Leland (1754-1841) American Baptist minister, civil libertarian
A Chronicle of His Time in Virginia (1845)
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If a man really believes that God once upheld slavery; that he commanded soldiers to kill women and babes; that he believed in polygamy; that he persecuted for opinion’s sake; that he will punish forever, and that he hates an unbeliever, the effect in my judgment will be bad. It always has been bad. This belief built the dungeons of the Inquisition. This belief made the Puritan murder the Quaker.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
Interview, The Sunday Union, New Haven, Conn. (10 Apr 1881)
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No orthodox church ever had power that it did not endeavor to make people think its way by force and flame.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
Trial of C.B. Reynolds for blasphemy (May 1887)
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How has the church in every age, when in authority, defended itself? Always by a statute against blasphemy, against argument, against free speech. And there never was such a statute that did not stain the book that it was in and that did not certify to the savagery of the men who passed it.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
Trial of C.B. Reynolds for blasphemy (May 1887)
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Give any orthodox church the power, and to-day they would punish heresy with whip, and chain, and fire. As long as a church deems a certain belief essential to salvation, just so long it will kill and burn if it has the power.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
“Heretics and Heresies” (1874)
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An infinite God ought to be able to protect himself, without going in partnership with State Legislatures. Certainly he ought not so to act that laws become necessary to keep him from being laughed at.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
Some Mistakes of Moses, Sec. 3 “The Politicians” (1879)
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Whatever issue may come before me as President — on birth control, divorce, censorship, gambling or any other subject — I will make my decision in accordance with these views, in accordance with what my conscience tells me to be the national interest, and without regard to outside religious pressures or dictates. And no power or threat of punishment could cause me to decide otherwise. But if the time should ever come — and I do not concede any conflict to be even remotely possible — when my office would require me to either violate my conscience or violate the national interest, then I would resign the office; and I hope any conscientious public servant would do the same.

John F. Kennedy (1917-1963) US President (1961-63)
Speech, Greater Houston Ministerial Association (12 Sep 1960)
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Finally, I believe in an America where religious intolerance will someday end — where all men and all churches are treated as equal — where every man has the same right to attend or not attend the church of his choice — where there is no Catholic vote, no anti-Catholic vote, no bloc voting of any kind — and where Catholics, Protestants and Jews, at both the lay and pastoral level, will refrain from those attitudes of disdain and division which have so often marred their works in the past, and promote instead the American ideal of brotherhood.

John F. Kennedy (1917-1963) US President (1961-63)
Speech, Greater Houston Ministerial Association (12 Sep 1960)
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I do not speak for my church on public matters — and the church does not speak for me.

John F. Kennedy (1917-1963) US President (1961-63)
Speech, Greater Houston Ministerial Association (12 Sep 1960)
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Added on 13-Dec-07 | Last updated 2-Jan-14
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