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  1. Men are born and remain free and equal in rights. Social distinctions may be founded only upon the general good.
  2. The aim of all political association is the preservation of the natural and imprescriptible rights of man. These rights are liberty, property, security, and resistance to oppression.
  3. The principle of all sovereignty resides essentially in the nation. No body nor individual may exercise any authority which does not proceed directly from the nation.
  4. Liberty consists in the freedom to do everything which injures no one else; hence the exercise of the natural rights of each man has no limits except those which assure to the other members of the society the enjoyment of the same rights. These limits can only be determined by law.
  5. Law can only prohibit such actions as are hurtful to society. Nothing may be prevented which is not forbidden by law, and no one may be forced to do anything not provided for by law.
  6. Law is the expression of the general will. Every citizen has a right to participate personally, or through his representative, in its foundation. It must be the same for all, whether it protects or punishes. All citizens, being equal in the eyes of the law, are equally eligible to all dignities and to all public positions and occupations, according to their abilities, and without distinction except that of their virtues and talents.
  7. No person shall be accused, arrested, or imprisoned except in the cases and according to the forms prescribed by law. Any one soliciting, transmitting, executing, or causing to be executed, any arbitrary order, shall be punished. But any citizen summoned or arrested in virtue of the law shall submit without delay, as resistance constitutes an offense.
  8. The law shall provide for such punishments only as are strictly and obviously necessary, and no one shall suffer punishment except it be legally inflicted in virtue of a law passed and promulgated before the commission of the offense.
  9. As all persons are held innocent until they shall have been declared guilty, if arrest shall be deemed indispensable, all harshness not essential to the securing of the prisoner's person shall be severely repressed by law.
  10. No one shall be disquieted on account of his opinions, including his religious views, provided their manifestation does not disturb the public order established by law.
  11. The free communication of ideas and opinions is one of the most precious of the rights of man. Every citizen may, accordingly, speak, write, and print with freedom, but shall be responsible for such abuses of this freedom as shall be defined by law.
  12. The security of the rights of man and of the citizen requires public military forces. These forces are, therefore, established for the good of all and not for the personal advantage of those to whom they shall be intrusted.
  13. A common contribution is essential for the maintenance of the public forces and for the cost of administration. This should be equitably distributed among all the citizens in proportion to their means.
  14. All the citizens have a right to decide, either personally or by their representatives, as to the necessity of the public contribution; to grant this freely; to know to what uses it is put; and to fix the proportion, the mode of assessment and of collection and the duration of the taxes.
  15. Society has the right to require of every public agent an account of his administration.
  16. A society in which the observance of the law is not assured, nor the separation of powers defined, has no constitution at all.
  17. Since property is an inviolable and sacred right, no one shall be deprived thereof except where public necessity, legally determined, shall clearly demand it, and then only on condition that the owner shall have been previously and equitably indemnified.

The Declaration of the Rights of Man
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The Statue of Liberty has stood as a beacon of liberty on America’s shores since October 28, 1886. Originally designed to commemorate the 100th year celebration of the cooperation between France and America during the American Revolution, it arrived ten years late. Through the years since it was erected, it has symbolized freedom and has represented a haven of safety to the thousands of immigrants who have flocked to America. As a gift from France, it also symbolizes the spirit of its times.

During the late 1700s, the spirit of revolution was no uncommon occurrence. The American Revolution occurred in 1776 as American colonists threw off the British yoke of regnal absolutism and pomposity, justifying their actions through the Declaration of Independence. In France, the French Revolution (1793-1798) marked the removal of the papal yoke from the neck of civil power. The French philosophes conceptualized of ways to ensure civil peace after the bloody wars of religion that had plagued European soil. By appealing to philosophy, they argued that man’s reason alone – apart from the special revelation of the Holy Scriptures – was sufficient for him to properly order society. In fact, one of the highlights of the French Revolution was a parade with the “Goddess of Reason,” portrayed by a woman, seated upon a raised pedestal, to whom all rendered obeisance. The dominant sentiments of the period are best enumerated in the seminal document, the Rights of Man (1789).

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Statue of liberty
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There were three branches of Enlightenment philosophy: the Continental version, the Scottish, and the English. Each was characterized by differing views of the role of religion in society. For the Continental version, the influence of philosophes such as Voltaire, adopted an aversion to religion in general. Such a view did not credit much influence to religion in the ordering of society. In that cultural milieu, “religion” was equated with Roman Catholicism. Due to many of the odious actions of the Papacy, a spirit of anti-clericalism developed, which finally manifested itself with the be-heading of numerous Catholic priests during the French Revolution and the removal of clerical privileges in following years. Continental Enlightenment philosophy is blatantly manifested in modern times by laicite, a term referring to a purely secular state in which religion is suppressed in the public sphere.

The Scottish Enlightenment emphasized more of the philosophical elements and appealed to man’s innate ability to empathize with other humans. Much like the Golden Rule that Christ enunciated of “doing unto others what you would have others do unto you,” this version stressed tolerance toward others because of one’s own desire for toleration.

The English Enlightenment retained a modest respect for religion, recognizing it as a source of morals for society, as well as fulfilling the role of instilling within man a sense of final accountability. The most notable expounder of this version was John Locke. In his view, while religion should be kept apart from the state, it nevertheless should be allowed to flourish in society. He believed so strongly in the beneficial role of religion in society that he did not favor atheists, since he believed that individuals could not be kept honest without a sense of a final accountability before God at the end of one’s life. While Locke highly favored religion’s role in society, he likewise did not believe that man could arrive at an ultimate understanding of the claims of Diety. Thus, as a Latitudinarian, Locke did not believe that government could endorse a particular form of religion, and therefore, he believed that the conscience of each person should be guaranteed liberty of thought. Locke tended to view the role of religion in society as a deistic manifestation, or, that one should interpret the term “God” in a generic sense. This meant that no particular religion should govern society, ruling out any type of religious establishment. Instead, Locke’s deistic form meant that a general view of deity should flourish in society, allowing each person to arrive at his or her own religious convictions, even if different from those of the rest of society.

Deism, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison

Thomas Jefferson was influenced by certain elements of the Continental Enlightenment while staying in France prior to the drafting of the Bill of Rights. For this reason, one may note that the Constitution of the United States of America, Jefferson’s handiwork, is a secular document that only makes reference to religion in Article 6, where it clearly states that religion shall not even be considered a factor for those seeking an office in national government. However, his secular views of government were tempered by James Madison’s views of the benefits of religion, which patterned more after those of Locke.

Madison formulated the religion clauses of what later became the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights. The views of Baptists regarding “soul liberty” and freedom of conscience, as well as the views of Locke regarding toleration in religious matters, produced the guarantee against any religious establishment. The “free exercise” clause, however, reflected more of Jefferson’s influence upon Madison, wherein the former relied upon the French philosophes’ views of liberty of conscience for the individual.

During the multitudinous debates occurring in American society today regarding the role of church and state, or the role of religion in society, it would be well for all sides to consider the rich, intellectual sources, and profound philosophical influences bearing upon the principal architects of the founding documents of our country. Those documents reflect an interwoven combination of ideas and concepts designed to guarantee that no particular ideology can dominate the public square, thus ensuring freedom of conscience for all and the need for vigorous debate. It is no small wonder, then, that the Statue of Liberty, donated by France symbolizes the freedoms we still enjoy in America – “freedom of speech, of the press, of the right to peaceably assemble” and the “freedom of religion”!!!


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Statue of liberty