The phrase “separation of church and state” is derived from a letter written by President Thomas Jefferson in 1802 to Baptists from Danbury, Conn., and published in a Massachusetts newspaper soon thereafter. In that letter, referencing the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, Jefferson writes:”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 and state.James Madison wrote in 1789, “Practical distinction between Religion and Civil Government is essential to the purity of both, and as guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States.” In a letter to Edward Livingston, Madison further wrote, “We are teaching the world the great truth that Govts. do better without Kings & Nobles than with them. The merit will be doubled by the other lesson that Religion flourishes in greater purity, without than with the aid of Govt.”This is not new and not an opinion. It is the United States Constitution.Laurie RosenbergGlenwood Springs
The 1st Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America reads in part, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The founders of our republic – our representative democracy – were adamant that this statement, which establishes separation of church and state, be included in the Constitution. After all, freedom of religion was one of the advantages they sought in coming to the New World. They didn’t want the government telling them what to believe.This amendment is frequently violated, partly because it is not known or understood by a lot of people. But on a deeper level, too many of us lack the understanding that there are many concepts of a supreme being, brought to us by different cultural influences. Some spiritual communities, composed of upstanding individuals, contain agnostics or atheists. Others consider the “higher being” to be within each of us and don’t even use the word “God” – or have other names for a supreme power, such as Great Spirit, Allah, Yahweh. The Bible isn’t the only book used as a source of wisdom and guidance.I would be the last person to dissuade anyone from holding to beliefs that have guided and comforted them all of their lives, as long as they do not violate my civil rights. But when I attend a meeting where government business is being conducted, I want to feel represented not by religious ritual that implies a certain set of beliefs and is meaningless to me, but by a process that focuses on the issues at hand.A short moment of silence for individual use – centering for me – is acceptable.Pat GirardotGlenwood Springs
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UPDATE 5:27 p.m. — Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon has reopened in both directions Saturday evening after a safety closure due to a flash flood warning. There were no reported mud/debris slides.