http://www.loc.gov/loc/lcib/9806/danbury.html ). Read the full article and be sure to click on the links (in blue and underlined) within the article to read the various versions of Thomas Jefferson’s brief letter to the Danbury Baptists. Please note that when this article refers to the “Republican” party this means the Democratic-Republican Party which is not the same as the present-day Republican Party. The Democratic-Republican Party (also known in the 18th & 19th centuries as the “Republican Party”) was founded by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison in 1792 in opposition to the Federalist Party. It was the dominant political party in this country until the 1820s when it divided into various factions, one of which became the present-day Democratic Party. If you have any trouble with the links within the article (in blue and underlined), then you can just click on the copies below of Jefferson letter to the Danbury Baptists (edited and unedited versions).
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Respond to all three question-sets (A – C). PLEASE NOTE: For this module, you do not need to answer every question in a question-set, just be sure to give a substantial response to each question-set as a whole. (Minimum 250 words for original response as a whole.)
A) Based on your reading of Hutson’s article, how would you describe Thomas Jefferson’s thinking/position on the relationship between government and religion? Does Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists have any relevance to contemporary debates regarding the relationship between government and religion?—if so, how? Do you agree or disagree with the perspective of the article’s author, James Hutson? In your assessment, what role did politics play in Jefferson’s way of handling the issue of the relationship between government and religion? What relevance, if any, do Jefferson’s actions—i.e. his handling of the issue of thanksgivings and fasts, his letter to the Danbury Baptists, his attendance at church services in the House, etc.—have for contemporary America?
B) Needleman sees interior freedom, spirituality, and conscience at the heart of America’s democracy—what do you think of his ideas? What do you think of Needleman’s ideas regarding the re-mythologizing of America? Why does Needleman consider Frederick Douglass important to the re-mythologizing of America?
C) Describe some of the ways in which concepts of “freedom of religion,” “freedom from religion,” “free exercise,” and prohibition against “establishment” shaped the new nation of the United States. What were the visions, the realities, and the limitations of the move toward religious liberty? What was gained? What liberties were secured? Who was left out? What, if anything, did you find interesting, surprising, or controversial in the textbook reading? What were the religious perspectives of the founders? What role did Deism and anti-clericalism play in the founders’ viewpoints? What did the founders think about the issues of religious liberty and the relationship between religion and government? How does the history covered in Chapter 6 relate to contemporary debates regarding separation of church and state?