I ran across this in my browsing; I like the clarity of Jefferson's writing. I just wish he had not thought of African Americans as slaves and women as chattel.
"Because religious belief, or non-belief, is such an important part of every person's life, freedom of religion affects every individual. Religious institutions that use government power in support of themselves and force their views on persons of other faiths, or of no faith, undermine all our civil rights. Moreover, state support of an established religion tends to make the clergy unresponsive to their own people, and leads to corruption within religion itself. Erecting the "wall of separation between church and state," therefore, is absolutely essential in a free society.
"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, to the Virginia Baptists (1808) ME 16:320. This is his second known use of the term "wall of separation," here quoting his own use in the Danbury Baptist letter. This wording of the original was several times upheld by the Supreme Court as an accurate description of the Establishment Clause: Reynolds (98 US at 164, 1879); Everson (330 US at 59, 1947); McCollum (333 US at 232, 1948)"
Joan, I see two necessities:
1) Erecting a wall of separation between church and state, and
2) Recognizing that it is a metaphor.
Recognizing the metaphor may soften its defenders "hard edges" and increase their ability to persuade.
Let me see if I understand what you say,
Erecting a wall of separation between church and state is a metaphor that may soften its defenders (that is us) and increase our ability to persuade the religious.
Joan, aside from your adding the words "the religious" to what I said, you understand it.
You inspired me to do a bit of research, and Wikipedia's article titled Separation of church and state in the United States expanded my understanding of Jefferson's metaphor.
In the Wikipedia article is the following description of the US Supreme Court's view:
In Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602 (1971), the court determined that a Pennsylvania state policy of reimbursing the salaries and related costs of teachers of secular subjects in private religious schools violated the Establishment Clause. The court's decision argued that the separation of church and state could never be absolute: "Our prior holdings do not call for total separation between church and state; total separation is not possible in an absolute sense. Some relationship between government and religious organizations is inevitable," the court wrote. "Judicial caveats against entanglement must recognize that the line of separation, far from being a "wall," is a blurred, indistinct, and variable barrier depending on all the circumstances of a particular relationship."
Get that last sentence,
Several weeks ago a member of my Toastmasters club, an xian who wants to take down the wall, gave a talk in which he supported a public high school's coach who is no longer allowed to lead the football team in prayer.
I've been wanting to explain the law to him and to my fellow Toastmasters and now, instead referring to a wall, I will have to refer to a blurred, indistinct, and variable barrier depending on all the circumstances of a particular relationship.
Happily, my club allows talks to be longer than the standard five to seven minutes.
I'm feeling some nostalgia. My first college term paper (1953) was about separation of church and state.
"Judicial caveats against entanglement must recognize that the line of separation, far from being a "wall," is a blurred, indistinct, and variable barrier depending on all the circumstances of a particular relationship."
is the definition held by courts, how can one argue for stopping prayers or proselytizing in public schools? What about ending the teams' prayers before games of public schools? Or the Ten Commandments kept out of the courtrooms?
Joan, the Wikipedia article includes, near its end, a list of SCOTUS church and state cases.
I'm a fan of life-long learning. If you are too, choose one of the three issues you named above. Read the Wikipedia article pertaining to it and you will have some ideas on how to argue it. Or download the SCOTUS ruling and read it.
You won't persuade many GOP xians. They don't do persuasion; they want a president who will nominate their kind to the courts and a senate who will confirm them.
Since Jefferson was born about two centuries before I was, I can forgive him for a lot. For example, slavery had been a near universal characteristic of societies almost forever; he tried to move the country away from it, but freeing his own slaves unilaterally would have lost him Monticello -- a price he wasn't willing to pay for a principle. Being a complete atheist before the Big Bang theory was difficult; there wasn't much of a logical answer to "Then how did the universe come into being?" without a creator of some sort. He was remarkably clear in seeing the need for removing the church from government (I doubt that he cared as much about getting government out of the church, but maybe). A flawed human being, but who isn't?
Flawed? Yes! Are we not all limited by our flaws? The slavery of 200 years ago has changed to an enslavement of the present. Must we remain silent about slavery and enslavement? Will silence change pain and suffering caused by exploitation?
It seems to me that injustice of the ancients could have ended sooner had a few brave men and women said, "NO!"
Most of the freethinkers of that era were Deists. God was the prime mover in Deism but there is nothing personal and he is not trying to get in touch with you or leave you messages in scriptures. The Deist god was the modern equivalent of the big bang because this was all they had at the time. Without modern science Deism was the freethought of the day.