So, I saw one of those Facebook meme pictures that compared this bizarre quote from Delaware Republican Glen Urquhart –
Do you know, where does this phrase separation of Church and State come from? Does anybody know? ... Actually, that's exactly, it was not in Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists. He was reassuring that the federal government wouldn’t trample on their religion. The exact phrase “separation of Church and State” came out of Adolph Hitler’s mouth, that’s where it comes from. Next time your liberal friends talk about the separation of Church and State ask them why they’re Nazis.
To this passage from Thomas Jefferson’s 1802 Letter to the Danbury Baptists –
Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.
Meaning, of course, that whatever Hilter may have said, Thomas Jefferson did, in fact, use the phrase “separation between Church & State,” and he used it in the context of explaining the First Amendment’s religion clauses. And when the Supreme Court adopted the phrase in Reynolds v. United States, 98 U.S. 145, (1878), it came straight from Jefferson’s letter:
Mr. Jefferson afterwards, in reply to an address to him by a committee of the Danbury Baptist Association …, took occasion to say: ‘Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God; that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship; that the legislative powers of the government reach actions only, and not opinions,-I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between church and State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore man to all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.’ Coming as this does from an acknowledged leader of the advocates of the measure [i.e., the religion clauses of the First Amendment], it may be accepted almost as an authoritative declaration of the scope and effect of the amendment thus secured.
98 U.S. at 164 (emphasis supplied). Which makes sense, since Adolf Hitler was born in 1889, eleven years after the Supreme Court’s decision in Reynolds.
But here’s the thing. Let’s assume Hitler did say something similar to Jefferson’s famous “wall of separation” comment. You know what I say to that? I say: Fuck a bunch of Adolf Hitler.
I mean, really. What if Hitler did quote Thomas Jefferson? Or what if he said something – for whatever bizarre reason he may have had, the miserable fuck – that made some sense? Are we supposed to reject an idea that’s obviously good and right just because Hitler may have uttered something similar to it at some point in his life? Let’s say Hitler said “I believe in freedom of speech.” Obviously he didn’t believe in it; but if he had said that, should we then reject the concept of freedom of speech? Of course not.
Hitler was a genocidal maniac who launched a war that claimed the lives of roughly 63 million people. We’re supposed to let him steal our best ideas, too? Oh, Hitler said something like that once, so fuck it. We can’t use that any more.
Bull shit. We’re smart enough to distinguish Hitler’s hateful, awful, disgusting, bigoted, xenophobic, anti-Semitic, racist, megalomaniacal, war-mongering terrible fucking ideas from anything else he may have said, good, bad or indifferent.
And with regard to Glen Urquhart’s bizarre assertion about Hitler and Jefferson, we’re not talking about some random thought that Thomas Jefferson had over a pint at a tavern. We’re talking about one our country’s founding principles. We’re gonna let Adolf Hitler trump Thomas Jefferson – on the First Amendment, no less? Fuck no.
Now I’m not saying Adolf Hitler actually said anything about separation of church and state. I’m saying, Fuck a whole bunch of Adolf Hitler.