By Glen E. Thurow
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Extra resources for Abraham Lincoln and American political religion
He regarded his "Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom" in Virginia one of the three most notable works of his life, and rejected most of the traditional theological doctrines of Christianity. 4 Yet in discussing the threat to liberty posed by slavery (in his Notes on the State of Virginia), Jefferson cites its threat to religious belief: And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God?
To declare the program unconstitutional, the Court would have to declare any connection whatever between church and state, even the Court's own opening words at each session ("God save the United States and this Honorable Court"), to be unconstitutional. Not only would this be carrying the notion of separation of church and state to ridiculous extremes, but, he maintained: We are a religious people whose institutions presuppose a Supreme Being. We guarantee the freedom to worship as one chooses.
Furthermore, We find ourselves under the government of a system of political institutions, conducing more essentially to the ends of civil and religious liberty, than any of which the history of former times tells us. Not only is the country's natural inheritance the best, but its political inheritance is the best that there has ever been. " Neither the natural environment nor the political inheritance may be perfect, Lincoln implies, but the one is the best there is and the other the best one could reasonably expect.