Today is the anniversary of President James Madison 1811 veto of "An act incorporating the Protestant Episcopal Church in the town of Alexandria, in the District of Columbia."
Rob Boston reminds us of Madison's words:
“[T]he bill,” he wrote, “exceeds the rightful authority to which governments are limited by the essential distinction between civil and religious functions, and violates in particular the article of the Constitution of the United States which declares that ‘Congress shall make no law respecting a religious establishment.’”
. . .
“[T]he bill vests in the said incorporated church an authority to provide for the support of the poor and the education of poor children of the same, an authority which, being altogether superfluous if the provision is to be the result of pious charity, would be a precedent for giving to religious societies as such a legal agency in carrying into effect a public and civil duty.”
The Anti-Defamation League is similarly concerned.
Mark Silk writes, "The [ADL] letter goes beyond the hiring issue to make it clear that additional safeguards are needed, including separation of religious and secular functions, oversight, and the assurance of secular alternatives to faith-based service provision."
Right on target, and this is the right day to remember it.