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The Separation of Church and State

Source:  Jeremiah Project

There is an assault going on -- and the liberal social engineers have declared that Christians are the enemy. Amidst their cries of "diversity" and "tolerance" it has become fashionable to bash Christians, discriminate against them, and to deny the Christian roots of American democracy.

They resent how Christians pose constant reminders to them -- and to an American society that is unsure about following them -- that God has absolute standards of right and wrong.

This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. (John 3:19-20)

These anti-Christian liberals want to achieve a new, humanistic America where our children will be protected from outmoded Christian ideas and will enjoy freedom "from" religion - not freedom "of" religion. They do not respect God's definition of the family and are intent on discrediting His wisdom in raising children as they attempt to rewrite His guidelines for morality.

These social liberals believe man has the only answers for himself. They think that perhaps a new, man-made spirituality eventually may be useful in managing the populace -- but frankly would prefer that it not be a moralistic religion with rules or absolute right and wrong. They certainly do not want the new society they are moulding to hang onto any "biased" religion that proclaims Jesus Christ is the Only Way (John 14:6) or that all men and women are called by their Creator to have a warm, personal relationship with Him.

 We Christians irritate these social liberals when we proclaim the truth of God's liberating love. We infuriate them when we remind them of our Lord's true and steadfast faithfulness. For those who know the Bible, this does not surprise us because Jesus told us, "All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved." (Matthew 10:22)

The Leftist Battle Cry
The Leftist social liberals continue to harangue on the "separation of church and state" as justification for eliminating religious issues from public view.

The phrase "Separation of Church and State" has been bandied about for so long that 67% of all Americans believe that it is actually in the Constitution. In fact, those three words appear nowhere in the Constitution. Oblivious to the irrelevance of their arguments, and at the same time refusing to acknowledge that no document of state, let alone the Constitution, has ever proposed such a concept, those on the Left have tried to convince the American people that our founding documents warned of the dangers of mixing politics and religion.

In the absence of Constitutional evidence, the mere opinion of private individuals or groups that there should be absolute separation of church and state hardly creates a 'great American principle'. They have thus misled millions and worked against the public interest by damaging the commitment to ethics and moral values that come only through religious belief.

It must be remembered that neutrality is impossible.

Some authority, whether it be God or man, is used as the reference point for all enacted laws. If a political system rejects one authority, it adopts another. If a biblical moral system is not being legislated, then an immoral system is being legislated. Any moral system that does not put Jesus Christ at its center, denies Christ: "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other..." (Matthew 6:24); and, "He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters" (12:30).

"Our standard of right is that eternal law which God proclaimed from Sinai, and which Jesus expounded on the Mount. We recognize our responsibility to Jesus Christ. He is Head over all things to the Church, and the nation that will not serve Him is doomed to perish" - [James Henley Thornwell, The Collected Writings of James Henley Thomwell, Vol. IV, p. 517f.]

The First Amendment
The assault on America's religious underpinnings is based on a distorted interpretation of the establishment and free-exercise clauses of the First Amendment. "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ..." Only a lawyer could claim not to understand the plain meaning of those words.

The Supreme Court has taken Jefferson's "separation" clause (divorced from Jefferson's own explanation of the phrase) and used it to create a new, and completely arbitrary, interpretation of the First Amendment. In 1947, with the United States Supreme Court's decision in Everson v. Board of Education, Justice Hugo Black construed the First Amendment in a more restrictive fashion, giving an absolute definition of the First Amendment Establishment Clause which went well beyond the original intent of the framers of the United States Constitution and paved the way for future cases that would further restrict religious expression in American public life. This ruling declares that any aid or benefit to religion from governmental actions is unconstitutional. As Justice Black said: "The First Amendment has erected a wall between church and state. That wall must be kept high and impregnable. We could not approve the slightest breach."

Hardly what Thomas Jefferson meant or what the constitution guaranteed!

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof" had always meant that Congress was prohibited from establishing a national religious denomination, that Congress could not require that all Americans become Catholics, Anglicans, or members of any other denomination. This understanding of "separation of church and state" was applied not only during the time of the Founders, but for 170 years afterwards. James Madison (1751-1836) clearly articulated this concept of separation when explaining the First Amendment's protection of religious liberty. He said that the First Amendment to the Constitution was prompted because "The people feared one sect might obtain a pre-eminence, or two combine together, and establish a religion to which they would compel others to conform." The complete and radical disassociation between Christianity and the State that is sometimes advocated now is not what they had in mind. It's clear that they had seen entirely too many religious wars and religious tyrannies in Europe, and thus that they did want to make sure that no specific church or creed had authority over the State.

Recognizing their failure to win their arguments on fact, the lastest tactic among liberals is simply to deny the very documents that contain the facts. Schools and courthouses in eastern Kentucky are removing their displays of historical documents - including the Mayflower Compact, an excerpt from the Declaration of Independence, the national motto, "In God we trust", and the preamble to the state's constitution - to comply with an order from Federal District Judge Jennifer Coffman, who said the displays are a violation of the First Amendment. [Dr. Billy James Hargis, Christian Crusade, June 2000]

When the First Amendment was passed it only had two purposes.

  1. There would be no established, national church for the united thirteen states. To say it another way: there would be no "Church of the United States." The government is prohibited from setting up a state religion, such as Britain has, but no barriers will be erected against the practice of any religion. Thomas Jefferson's famous "wall of separation" between church and state comment was made in a letter to a group of Baptist clergymen January 1, 1802 in Danbury, Connecticut, who feared the Congregationalists Church would become the state-sponsored religion. Jefferson assured the Danbury Baptist Association that the First Amendment guaranteed that there would be no establishment of any one denomination over another. It was never intended for our governing bodies to be "separated" from Christianity and its principles. The "wall" was understood as one directional; its purpose was to protect the church from the state. The world was not to corrupt the church, yet the church was free to teach the people Biblical values. It keeps the government from running the church but makes sure that Christian principles will always stay in government.

  2. The second purpose of the First Amendment was the very opposite from what is being made of it today. It states expressly that government should not impede or interfere with the free practice of religion. The purpose of the separation of church and state in American society is not to exclude the voice of religion from public debate, but to provide a context of religious freedom where the insights of each religious tradition can be set forth and tested. As Justice Douglas wrote for the majority of the Supreme Court in the United States vs. Ballard case in 1944: The First Amendment has a dual aspect. It not only "forestalls compulsion by law of the acceptance of any creed or the practice of any form of worship" but also "safeguards the free exercise of the chosen form of religion." The First Amendment was a safe-guard so that the State can have no jurisdiction over the Church. Its purpose was to protect the Church, not to disestablish it.

In the current debate over the separation of church and state, the choices sometimes lean too extreme on both sides. At one extreme are those who want to use the State as a vehicle to enforce their brand of Christian ideas on everyone. At the other extreme are those who say the Founding Fathers would have wanted a situation where one can't mention God in any publicly sponsored forum, for fear of having the State appear to support religion. Somehow, between alternating volleys of quotations from devout Founding Fathers and anti-clerical quotations from Tom Paine, we've got to find a better approach.