Mr. Jefferson is right again

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Another example of why there is no religious test in the Constitution.

THOMAS JEFFERSON WROTE, in a letter to the Danbury Baptist Association in 1802: "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 (emphasis added)."

That particular phrase has been the subject of fierce debate ever since. When religion and politics intersect, it's always contentious.

Perhaps that's because religion is personal, all about faith and commitment, while politics is about governing a diverse and opinionated people - many of whom are religious, and many of whom are not.

FAR BE IT FROM US to remotely suggest we have any insight whatsoever into people's free exercise of religious beliefs. Each individual is empowered to make his or her own choices. That's what the U.S. Constitution guarantees in the First Amendment, published at the top of this page as it is every Monday.

We can, however, observe the dispute fuming among some evangelicals over what is or is not appropriate or inappropriate when it comes to President Donald Trump. A magazine founded by the late Rev. Billy Graham - Christianity Today - editorialized that Trump should be removed from office because of public moral and character issues. Then a group of about 100 prominent evangelicals sent a letter attacking the editorial stance and threatening the magazine with loss of subscribers and advertising revenues. The top executive of the magazine responded in a piece backing up the editor's commentary, stating "the alliance of American evangelicalism with this presidency has wrought enormous damage to Christian witness."

Don't expect us to jump in with an opinion about who's right and who's wrong among the flock.

WE WILL SAY the dispute lays bare something that shouldn't be a surprise to anyone in this great free country. The American evangelical community is not monolithic. Neither the 100 leaders nor Christianity Today speak for every person with evangelical beliefs. Freedom means they all get to choose their own place to stand, but they do not get to choose where other people stand.

It also may be noted the terminology itself is complicated. Evangelical is a broad term with a broad following. Polling suggests tremendous Trump support among white evangelicals, while support among minority evangelicals is tepid at best.

So Jefferson's point is, again, well taken. When religion and politics collide sharp differences are inevitable. And there's nothing wrong with that. The Constitution guarantees individual freedom. Be grateful for that as a new year dawns.

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