COMPARISON PAPER INSTRUCTIONS
For this assignment, you will read the U.S. Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and Thomas Jefferson’s Letter to the Danbury Baptists in 1802. Once you have read these founding documents and Jefferson’s letter, you will write a 2–3-page paper (double-spaced, 1-inch margins) in current APA format, comparing each of them. When comparing the U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence, pay particular attention to the themes apparent in both documents and comment on which document came first and why that is important.
You must also answer the question, “What do you think the signers of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution thought about the separation of church and state or about the separation of God from government?” (Note: these are not the same thing.)
Be sure to incorporate a biblical worldview in your paper.
Separation Of Church And State
The U.S. Constitution is a fundamental document that outlines the supreme law of the land. In other words, the Constitution forms the basis or foundation of the United States government. The Declaration of Independence is simply a document which contains a statement declaring a total of 13 colonies as free from the British rule or influence. Thomas Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury contain the elements of law involving the state and religion. The letter comprises of Jefferson’s sentiments as to the reason why separation of state and religion occurred. This paper compares the above three founding documents in more detail.
As earlier mentioned, the U.S. Constitution comprise of a set of fundamental laws and is also the foundation of the United States government (Randolph, 2003). The Constitution outlines the basic framework for the U.S. government. The first section highlights issues relating to separation of powers whereby the federal government is structured into three branches: the legislature, the executive, and the judiciary. These provide guidelines on the operations of the federal government. The Constitution enshrines the basic or fundamental rights for every individual in the U.S. The U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence address key political concerns in the United States. These documents lay the foundation for the initial principles of political establishments in the U.S. Both of these documents assert the basic freedoms of the U.S. citizens. For instance, they give individuals the right to life, personal liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
The Declaration of Independence is a statement that declares the thirteen colonies as independent and sovereign states free from British rule. The thirteen colonies merged to become the United States of America. This document enshrined legal and natural rights among the U.S. citizens. The document also asserted to the right of revolution among individuals. The Declaration of Independence asserts that if the government fails to protect the rights of the citizens, then it may be termed as illegitimate. The U.S. Constitution enables the government to safeguard the citizen’s rights. Thomas Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury in 1802 assert the need for separation between state and religion in the U.S. (“Library of Congress,” 1998). The letter is important since it helps to explain clearly the relationship between the state and religion. The U.S. constitution does not in any way prohibit citizens from exercising their religious rights or duties. Additionally, the Constitution does not recognize or identify with any particular religion, making it autonomous. The letter explains the need for the state to gain autonomy from religious influence.
The Declaration of Independence was adopted in 1776 while the U.S. Constitution was signed into law over a decade later in 1787. The Declaration of Independence came first since it was critical that the thirteen colonies became emancipated from the British rule first before they developed the Constitution. The Declaration of Independence gave the colonies the liberty to establish their own policies and laws unlike when they were under the British rule. The Declaration of Independence reduced British influence from the colonies and thus enabled them to establish their own laws without the influence of a third party. These laws reflected the specific needs, cultures, values, and beliefs of the U.S. citizens.
Declaration of Independence: A transcription. Retrieved from http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/declaration_transcript.html
Library of Congress. (1998). Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists. Retrieved from https://www.loc.gov/loc/lcib/9806/danpre.html
Randolph, J. (2003). What is the U.S. Constitution? New York: Rosen Pub. Group.