Separation of Church and State
by Alliance for Life Ministries
Does the First Amendment declare the "Separation of Church and State?" Probably 99% of the people in America today have been brainwashed into saying "yes." But it does not! Reference to Separation of Church and State does not appear in the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Independence, or any of our country's official documents. It does, however, appear in another prominent document, the constitution of the former Soviet Union: "The church in the U.S.S.R. is separated from the state and the school from the church." (Article 52)
The First Amendment states: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof" (emphasis added). What does this say about what the Church can or cannot do? What does it say about what a Christian citizen should or should not do? Absolutely nothing!
The First Amendment forbids the federal government from restricting religion in any manner. A wall inhibits people equally on both sides; the First Amendment inhibits only the Congress. The establishment clause was only intended to stop the formation of a national church; and so it must be seen as merely a further limitation on government from restricting people from freely exercising their faith.
Where, then, did we get this idea of a "wall of separation between Church and State?" It comes not from the First Amendment, but from a private letter written in 1802 by Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptists in Connecticut, thirteen years after the First Amendment was signed. His comments are third-hand, which no court of that day would consider.
Jefferson gave a speech to a Baptist association during his presidency. Because he wanted to establish common ground with them in his message, he borrowed a phrase from one of their theologians to use. The context in which he used the phrase "wall of separation" was to reassure them that the national government would not establish a national government supported church denomination to be superior to all other denominations. The "wall of separation" phrase was meant as an allusion to a wall around a church to keep the government from interfering.
In the first 150 years of the federal court system, Jefferson and his phrase appear less than a dozen times. But in the last 50 years of the federal court system, Thomas Jefferson and his phrase appear in over 6,000 cases .
We didn't use Jefferson in earlier generations for a very real reason. Although Jefferson is credited today as some form of authority regarding the First Amendment, he had absolutely nothing to do with writing it. Jefferson was not a delegate to the 1787 Constitutional Convention, he was not a signer of he Constitution, nor was he a member of Congress in 1789. He did not participate in any amendment debates, nor was he a member of any state legislature or ratifying convention at any time relevant to passage of the First Amendment. In fact, he was not even in this country when the First Amendment was written. He was serving as U.S. Minister to France throughout this time.
Governor Morris spoke on the floor of the Constitutional Convention 173 times – more than any other founder. He is the man who wrote the Constitution of the United States. He is the penman of the Constitution, the one who took all the words and put them together.
In 1790 and 1791 he wrote two commentaries on the Constitution. He said " Religion is the only solid basis of good morals; therefore education should teach the precepts of religion, and the duties of man to God ." Does this sound anything like the public policy we have today?
On the same day, that Congress passed the First Amendment to the Constitution, they also passed the Northwest Ordinance, which established the government for the future states North and West of the Ohio River. Article 3 of the Northwest Ordinance says: "Knowledge, morality, and religion being essential for the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education are to be forever encouraged."
One of the first acts of the first Congress of the United States was an act to establish chaplains for the U.S. House and Senate. That same year, President George Washington spoke to the Committee representing the United Baptist Churches in Virginia, about the need to "establish effectual barriers against the horrors of spiritual tyranny and every species of religious persecution."
Jefferson, as president, signed legislation appropriating sums of Christian missionaries to the Indians and establishing the tax-exempt status of churches. The separation of church and state was so foreign to the roots of America that Congress even approved a special printing of the Bible for use in public schools.
For decades our nation functioned under the interpretation of the First Amendment to the Constitution as permitting the free exercise of religion. But, failing to heed the warning of Jefferson and Madison's warning about "modern interpretations," our courts began to view the Constitution as a "living document," and the result has been serious erosion of religious freedom. The wording of the First Amendment has been twisted to mean that our citizens shall have freedom from religion instead of freedom of religion.
In 1947, the first "modern interpretation" referring to church and state, was utilized in a court ruling as meaning the government should be neutral regarding religion. The question remains: How could such an absurd decision occur? The answer is obvious: these Justices were political judges, not constitutional judges. The Court, at that time, did not have a single judge with any prior judicial experience! Despite the oath the Justices took upon entering office, the Court did not intend to follow the original intent and uphold the constitution. It intended to make the nation's policies reflect its own personal philosophical views.
The founders would have been dumbfounded at the campaign to drive even the most innocuous religious expressions from the public square. Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story appointed by the author of the First Amendment, observed: "The general, if not universal, sentiment in America was that Christianity ought to receive encouragement from the state so far as it was not incompatible with the private rights of conscience and the freedom of religious worship."
It is ludicrous to suppose that the Founding Fathers intended the First Amendment to outlaw prayer and Bible reading in public schools, when on that same day, they passed legislation intended to promote morality and religion in public schools!
The "wall of separation of church and state" is a myth. It was not established by the Founding Fathers, nor was it part of our national heritage.
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