What would Jefferson (and other Founding Fathers) have to say about Huckabee's appropriateness as a US president?
The clergy, by getting themselves established by law and ingrafted into the machine of government, have been a very formidable engine against the civil and religious rights of man.
Thomas Jefferson, to Jeremiah Moor, 1800
Across the ages, clergy have been interested not in truth but only in wealth and power; when rational people have had difficulty swallowing their impious heresies, then the clergy have, with the help of the state, forced them down their throats.
Thomas Jefferson to William Baldwin, January 19, 1810
In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own.
Thomas Jefferson, letter to Horatio G. Spafford, March 17, 1814
That sanctimonious evil which we eluded two centuries past has revisited us; indeed, it is foist upon us, threatening enlightenment and liberty.
Thomas Jefferson, from the grave, 2008
So how would Jefferson, Madison, Adams, and many of their colleagues have regarded the prospect of a clergyman being elected president? With great alarm. . .
Jefferson is also quoted:
History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes.
Thomas Jefferson to Alexander von Humboldt, Dec. 6, 1813
My opinion is that there would never have been an infidel, if there had never been a priest. The artificial structures they have built on the purest of all moral systems, for the purpose of deriving from it pence and power, revolts those who think for themselves, and who read in that system only what is really there.
Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Mrs. Samuel H. Smith, August, 6, 1816
Priests...dread the advance of science as witches do the approach of daylight and scowl on the fatal harbinger announcing the subversions of the duperies on which they live.
Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Correa de Serra, April 11, 1820
They [the clergy] believe that any portion of power confided to me, will be exerted in opposition to their schemes. And they believe rightly; for I have sworn upon the altar of god, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man. But this is all they have to fear from me: and enough, too, in their opinion.
Thomas Jefferson to Dr. Benjamin Rush, Sept. 23, 1800
And, more generally, about the seperation of church and state:
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 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.
Thomas Jefferson, letter to Danbury Baptist Association, CT., Jan. 1, 1802
James Madison, about the deleterious influence of church on government:
Ecclesiastical establishments tend to great ignorance and corruption, all of which facilitate the execution of mischievous projects.
James Madison, letter to William Bradford, Jr., Jauary 1774
What influence, in fact, have ecclesiastical establishments had on society? In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of the civil authority; on many instances they have been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny; in no instance have they been the guardians of the liberties of the people. Rulers who wish to subvert the public liberty may have found an established clergy convenient auxiliaries. A just government, instituted to secure and perpetuate it, needs them not.
James Madison, A Memorial and Remonstrance, addressed to the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia, 1785
Strongly guarded as is the separation between Religion and Government in the Constitution of the United States, the danger of encroachment by Ecclesiastical Bodies, may be illustrated by precedents already furnished in their short history.
James Madison; Monopolies, Perpetuities, Corporations, Ecclesiastical Endowments
Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprize, every expanded prospect.
James Madison, in a letter to William Bradford, April 1, 1774
The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe in blood for centuries.
James Madison, letter objecting to the use of government land for churches, 1803 - origin questionable
That diabolical, hell-conceived principle of persecution rages among some; and to their eternal infamy, the clergy can furnish their quota of impas for such business...
James Madison, letter to William Bradford, Jr., January 1774
Thomas Paine about the church, religion and law:
Persecution is not an original feature in any religion; but it is always the strongly-marked feature of all law-religions, or religions established by law. Take away the law-establishment, and every religion re-assumes its original benignity.
Thomas Paine, The Rights of Man, 1791-1792
All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish [Muslim], appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.
The most detestable wickedness, the most horrid cruelties, and the greatest miseries that have afflicted the human race have had their origin in this thing called revelation, or revealed religion. It has been the most dishonorable belief against the character of the Divinity, the most destructive to morality and the peace and happiness of man, that ever was propagated since man began to exist.
Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason, 1794-1795
A few more from Adams, Franklin, Allen, Lincoln about the Christian church, its ideological distortions, and its dreadful history:
As I understand the Christian religion, it was, and is, a revelation. But how has it happened that millions of fables, tales, legends, have been blended with both Jewish and Christian revelation that have made them the most bloody religion that ever existed?
John Adams to F.A. Van der Kamp, Dec. 27, 1816
When a religion is good, I conceive it will support itself; and when it does not support itself, and God does not take care to support it so that its professors are obliged to call for help of the civil power, 'tis a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one.
Benjamin Franklin in letter to Richard Price, October 9, 1780
While we are under the tyranny of Priests ... it will ever be their interest, to invalidate the law of nature and reason, in order to establish systems incompatible therewith.
Ethan Allen, Reason: the Only Oracle of Man
My earlier views of the unsoundness of the Christian scheme of salvation and the human origin of the scriptures, have become clearer and stronger with advancing years and I see no reason for thinking I shall ever change them.
Abraham Lincoln to Judge J S Wakefield, 1862
A closing reminder:
The government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion.
1797 Treaty of Tripoli (ratified unanimously by the US Senate)
These are reasons why I believe that evangelical Christianity is incompatible with the fundamental tenents of Democratic government. The so-called "conservativism" of its political methods is a lie, unless it hearkens back to the theocratic dogma which necessitated the American Revolution. I believe Huckabee is, in most respects, a man of intelligence, compassion, and integrity, and I in no way question the appropriateness of his spiritual ideals for himself (or for others who share them). But - what his ideals represent politically is at odds with essential premises of our nation's very foundation. The danger posed by the candidacy of a man like Huckabee (and the approach to governance he represents) to our American way of life should not be underestimated.
Paradoxically, I really want Huckabee to prevail, and to be the Republican candidate for president in 2008. My hope: Huckabee's candidacy will so polarize the electorate that it will split the GOP, alienate the Christian "Right," and reinforce the original intent of this nation's creators in ensuring the separation of church and state.