One thing I am grateful for this Thanksgiving is that of religious liberty, particularly that we enjoy a lack of a state-sponsored religion.
As for myself, having always lived in the United States of America, I tend to take the advantages of secular government for granted. My recent visit to Spain was a good reminder of this. Until his death in 1975, Francisco Franco was dictator of Spain and made the Roman Catholic Church the only recognized religion in that country. No other, for instance, could own property or print literature.
Probably the most common phrase we hear on this subject is from Thomas Jefferson, “thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.” It seems that this quote is often used to point out that religion has no place in government, perhaps even suggesting that religious views should be removed from public discourse. But reading in context, this letter to the Danbury Baptists was intended to reassure them that the new federal government would not be empowered to infringe on the small religious minority.
James Madison wrote a letter to Edward Livingston summarizing his views: “And I have no doubt that every new example, will succeed, as every past one has done, in shewing that religion & Government will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together.”
He also said in writing to Edward Livingston: “I observe with particular pleasure the view you have taken of the immunity of Religion from Civil Jurisdiction, in every case where it does not trespass on private rights or the public peace. This has always been a favorite point with me.”
There is no hostility or “I’ll tolerate this because I have to” attitude in this. It is a mutual respect that the secular government and religious organizations will mostly stay out of each other’s affairs while providing an environment that is beneficial to both, for the moral foundation that religion can provide is a great support to just laws. Madison of course recognizes that religious liberty has limits in so far as it cannot trespass on the rights of others, a truth that could apply to all forms of belief or thought.
I hope we will spare a thankful thought for our freedoms and allow the free expression of all belief and thought, including religion.
The Juneau Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 10585 Glacier Highway near Auke Lake, is hosting a Nativity Walk from 6-8:30 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 7. It includes nativities from around the world, children’s craft and cookies.
• Brian Crapo is a member of the Juneau Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He is active in the community, family, outdoors, church and business. “Living Growing” is a weekly column written by different authors and submitted by local clergy and spiritual leaders.