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No Separation Of Church And State

November 12, 2010
Al Benson Jr.




Senate nominee Christine O’Donnell from Delaware was debating Democratic nominee Chris Coons and his position that teaching creationism in public schools would violate the First Amendment by promoting “religious doctrine”.

It would seem that Comrade Coons would have no problem with teaching evolution in public schools — which is also religious doctrine — except that we are not supposed to realize that because no one uses the word “religion” in regard to it.  So evolution is closet religious doctrine.

During the debate O’Donnell asked Coons “Where in the Constitution is the separation of church and state.”  You actually audibly heard the crowd gasp.”  How could anyone dare ask such a stupid question?  Everyone knows it’s part of the First Amendment — right?

Actually O’Donnell asked a very good question — one I have been asking for years and have yet to get an answer to.  I’ve read and reread the Constitution several times and, guess what?  The supposed separation of church and state ain’t in there!  People read into the First Amendment what they’ve been taught in our institutions of “higher learning” in past decades and their interpretation is that the First Amendment protects people from religion — at least from Christianity.  We are seeing more and more where it doesn’t protect the public from Islam or Judaism — just Christianity.  The term “separation of church and state” never appears in the Constitution anywhere and to try to separate the government from all religion (Christianity) is a total misreading of the
First Amendment.

All the First Amendment seeks to do is to make sure the United States does not end up with a national church as Great Britain did.  They did not want the federal government to favor one particular denomination to the exclusion of all others.  So the amendment prevents Congress from doing just that.  Actually at the time, many of the states had state churches and nothing is said about that.  It was the business of the individual states whether or not they did that.

So the First Amendment denied Congress the power to establish one particular denomination as preferred over all others.  In their thinking, the word “denomination” was interchangeable with the word “religion”. The writers of the amendment did not want a union of church and state as had many European countries, but they did not desire a separation of Christianity from civil government, which is the way the  amendment is translated today.  The separation of church and state was never intended to separate God from the civil government — yet today this is what we are told.

So Christine O’Donnell asked a very pertinent question when she wanted to know where in the Constitution the separation of church and state was.  It was a good question — and the fact that it drew such an audible gasp from all those legal brains present when she asked it shows that probably most of them have been taught a skewed interpretation of the First Amendment by their teachers and don’t even realize it.  More people should ask that question and keep asking it, because the response of those she spoke to and the tone of the articles I read about this situation shows that they don’t really have a convincing answer to her question.

It’s just not in OUR Constitution.  The Constitution that does contain that line is called “The Fundamental Law of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.”  That it appears in U.S. Supreme Court decisions appears to prove that the Black Robes had been reading the wrong constitution.

The words “separation of church and state” are in the Soviet Constitution of 1977; Article 52.  The last sentence reads: “In the USSR, the church is separated from the state, and the school from the church. Too bad folks don’t actually read the US Constitution instead of dreaming up communistic meanings for it.  The Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment are both restrictions on the Federal Government, not citizens.  One restricts the government from establishing a national religion by the government ; the other restricts the government from interfering with the free exercise of religion by the citizens.

The concept (and words) “. . . a wall of separation between Church and State . . .” comes from a letter Jefferson wrote to the Dabury Baptist associon of Connecicut in response to a query they posed on the subject.  I have copied it below:

To messers. Nehemiah Dodge, Ephraim Robbins, & Stephen S. Nelson, a committee of the Danbury Baptist association in the state of Connecticut. Gentlemen.  The affectionate sentiments of esteem and approbation which you are so good as to express towards me, on behalf of the Danbury Baptist association, give me the highest satisfaction.  My duties dictate a faithful and zealous pursuit of the interests of my constituents, and in proportion as they are persuaded of my fidelity to those duties, the
discharge of them becomes more and more pleasing.  Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, 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. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.  I reciprocate your kind prayers for the protection & blessing of the common father and creator of man, and tender you for yourselves & your religious association, assurances of my high respect & esteem.

— Thomas Jefferson Jan. 1. 1802.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. November 12, 2010 8:09 pm

    ODonnel did ask a fair question about church and state.

    Let’s be clear, the melding together of church and state has always been horrific. The Southern leaders of the Confederacy were a clear example — Lee said abolitionist were trying to destroy “the American Church” — his words, not mine. Davis said “God delivered the Negro unto us”. South Carolina, it it’s own official declaration of causes, said the North had committed “religious error” by calling slavery “a sin”.

    Lee, Davis, and virtually every Southern leader claimed repeatedly that God ordained slavery, and that even the painful torture of slaves was ordained by God. They based that on biblical references, including on that said you could beat your female slaves TO DEATH if they didn’t please you, as long as the slave did not die the same day as the beating. If the slave woman (or man) lingered for a day or two and then died, well that’s okay.

    That’s how insane it is to base your government on religion. The bible or the Koran will excuse anything — ANYTHING — including the rape of slave women, the torture of slaves, there is NOTHING that men will not do, and swear it’s ordained of God. Lee, Davis, and the South are proof of this.

    Further more, both the President and Vice President of the Confederacy said slavery was ordained by God, and that slavery was the “cornerstone” of their nation. Stephens was particularly clear, claiming the Confederacy was the FIRST nation on earth to do slavery “right” — by basing it on the word of Almighty God.

    Davis said if slavery is wrong, it is not OUR wrong, because they were just doing what God (supposedly) ordained.

    The Taliban is another group of men, who readily want the fusion of church and state. In fact, they see no difference. There are many similiarities between the Confederate leaders, and the Taliban leaders of today, with one big difference — even the Taliban does not promote the rape of slaves, then sell the children that come from those rapes, and get rich on those sales. That is a line only the Confederate leaders crossed, and crossed often and profitably.

    If you want a nation based on religion, go to Afghanistan, nice place for you.

  2. Doug Indeap permalink
    November 12, 2010 3:49 pm

    The phrase “separation of church and state” is but a metaphor to describe the underlying principle of the First Amendment and the no-religious-test clause of the Constitution. That the phrase does not appear in the text of the Constitution assumes much importance, it seems, only to those who may have once labored under the misimpression it was there and, upon learning they were mistaken, reckon they’ve discovered the smoking gun solving a Constitutional mystery. To those familiar with the Constitution, the absence of the metaphor commonly used to describe one of its principles is no more consequential than the absence of other phrases (e.g., Bill of Rights, separation of powers, checks and balances, fair trial, religious liberty) used to describe other undoubted Constitutional principles.

    Some try to pass off the Supreme Court’s decision in Everson v. Board of Education as simply a misreading of Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists–as if that is the only basis of the Court’s decision. Instructive as that letter is, it played but a small part in the Court’s decision. Perhaps even more than Jefferson, James Madison influenced the Court’s view. Madison, who had a central role in drafting the Constitution and the First Amendment, confirmed that he understood them to “[s]trongly guard[] . . . the separation between Religion and Government.” Madison, Detached Memoranda (~1820). He made plain, too, that they guarded against more than just laws creating state sponsored churches or imposing a state religion. Mindful that even as new principles are proclaimed, old habits die hard and citizens and politicians could tend to entangle government and religion (e.g., “the appointment of chaplains to the two houses of Congress” and “for the army and navy” and “[r]eligious proclamations by the Executive recommending thanksgivings and fasts”), he considered the question whether these actions were “consistent with the Constitution, and with the pure principle of religious freedom” and responded: “In strictness the answer on both points must be in the negative. The Constitution of the United States forbids everything like an establishment of a national religion.”

    The First Amendment embodies the simple, just idea that each of us should be free to exercise his or her religious views without expecting that the government will endorse or promote those views and without fearing that the government will endorse or promote the religious views of others. By keeping government and religion separate, the establishment clause serves to protect the freedom of all to exercise their religion. Reasonable people may differ, of course, on how these principles should be applied in particular situations, but the principles are hardly to be doubted. Moreover, they are good, sound principles that should be nurtured and defended, not attacked. Efforts to undercut our secular government by somehow merging or infusing it with religion should be resisted by every patriot.

    Wake Forest University recently published a short, objective Q&A primer on the current law of separation of church and state–as applied by the courts rather than as caricatured in the blogosphere. I commend it to you.

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