He begins with two posts on the fallacies, the non-sequitor arguments, that both liberals and conservatives employ. The Liberal Fallacy: The Founding Fathers were mostly diests or secular. The non-sequitor argument goes, the Founders believed in a strict seperation of church and state, and therefore must have been irreligious or not ardent adherents. The Conservative Fallacy: The Founding Fathers were serious Christians. This non-sequitor arguement states that the Founding Fathers were very religious, established a Christian nation, and therefore were opposed to a strict seperation of church and state. Both of these arguments are wrong, and Waldman highlights quotes and research to prove these points. Waldman argues that these fallacious arguments are born out of the culture wars:
I did start off with two provocative fallacies without shedding all that much light on why this has anything to do with the birth of religious freedom. The main reason I did that (besides hoping to get your attention) was this: the culture wars have distorted the birth of religious freedom and also the Founders’ beliefs.Waldman believes that the Big 5 Founders (Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, and Franklin) probably could best be characterized as militant Unitarians.
So what did the Founders believe about Church and State? First, they disagreed with each other about the mingling of church and state - there was no consensus opinion - and secondly, although it is important to discuss their beliefs, their beliefs do not, alone, determine the law of seperation of church and state. For example, Waldman shows that Madison's beliefs were different than what the First Amendment means, and it is also important to remember that the First Amendment, whether we would like to admit it or not, contains many gray areas, unresolving the serious questions of religious establishment for later days. The effective arguement that eventually prevailed, in a coalition of enlightenment rationalists and evanglicals, was that a seperation of church and state would create a more vibrant religion.
In his last post, Waldman provides a truncated version of the development of religious liberty in America, too detailed to summarize here. Waldman argues that most of the Founders would agree with these three principles, while disagreeing on others:
* Government – certainly not the federal government, and probably not the state government -- should never establish an official religion.
* Freedom of conscience was an inalienable right – not a privilege generously offered by those in power.
* Religious diversity and pluralism was one of the most important guarantors of religious freedom.
And, today, while we do debate over the gray areas - important and legitimate disagreements - we should be proud of the great successes of our American religious freedom.