Separation of Church and State

SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE Constitutional Context: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances” (1st Amend). Executive Branch Context: “We should live our lives as though Christ were coming this afternoon. ” – Jimmy Carter “I was humbled to learn that God sent His Son to die for a sinner like me. ” – George W.
Bush”We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. ” – Thomas Jefferson, Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776 Congressional Context: Public Law 97-280 is a resolution that recognizes the influence of the Bible on the development of our nation. Introduced as Senate Joint Resolution 165, with thirty-three co-sponsors, and as House Joint Resolution 487 with 219 co-sponsors, a request was delivered before Congress to honor the Bible as Holy Scripture.
The resolution suffered no amendments, no exclusions, no demands that it be stricken of religious references. It became law. The 97th Congress of the United States publicly declared 1983 the national “Year of the Bible”. The bipartisan document known as Public Law 97-280, was signed on October 4, 1982 by Speaker of the House Thomas P. O’Neill, President of the Senate – Pro Tempore Strom Thurmond, and President of the United States Ronald Reagan.

It reads as follows: WHEREAS the Bible, the Word of God, has made a unique contribution in shaping the United States as a distinctive and blessed nation and people; WHEREAS deeply held religious convictions springing from the Holy Scriptures led to the early settlement of our Nation; WHEREAS Biblical teachings inspired concepts of civil government that are contained in our Declaration of Independence and Constitution of the United States; WHEREAS many of our great national leaders–among them Presidents Washington, Jackson, Lincoln, and Wilson–paid tribute to the surpassing influence of the Bible in our country’s development, as in the words of President Jackson that the Bible is “the Rock on which our Republic rests”; WHEREAS the history of our Nation clearly illustrates the value of voluntarily applying the teachings of the Scriptures in the ives of individuals, families, and societies; WHEREAS this Nation now faces great challenges that will test this Nation as it has never been tested before; and WHEREAS that renewing our knowledge of and faith in God through Holy Scripture can strengthen us as a nation and a people: NOW, THEREFORE, be it Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the President is authorized and requested to designate 1983 as a national “Year of the Bible” in recognition of both the formative influence the Bible has been for our Nation, and our national need to study and apply the teachings of the Holy Scriptures. Both secularists and Christians in evangelism in America must operate within the context of the controversy of the separation of church and state. The State and Church are in mutual consensus as evidenced in both the law of the land and in the law of God. By resolution of U. S. Congress ratified by President Reagan PL 97-280 our government acknowledges the formative role of the Bible in our State affairs “the history of our Nation clearly illustrates the value of voluntarily applying the teachings of the Scriptures in the lives of individuals, families, and societies. Likewise, scripture speaks to the church on this duty as a citizen: Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.
Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. (Romans 13:1-7 ESV) “The Americans combine the notions of Christianity and of liberty so intimately in their minds, that it is impossible to make them conceive the one without the other. ” Alexis de Tocqueville The tendency of textbook authors has been to deny or denigrate the role of religion in their depictions of the founding of the United States.
Historians like Professor Eric Foner teach their students that the Founding Fathers were able to embrace progressive ideas like freedom and equality because they viewed Christianity and the Bible as “outdated superstitions that should be abandoned in the modern age. ”1Eric Foner, Give Me Liberty, 2005 edition, p. 145 The truth is very different. College history professors, like other left wing extremists, are loath to acknowledge that religion has played a positive role in the development of this nation; yet any honest portrayal of American history would have to acknowledge it. The rights and freedoms enshrined in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were, the Founders thought, quite literally sacred; having been bestowed on the human race by God Himself.
The American people of the late eighteenth century were more generally devout in their Christianity than the citizens of any other nation, and there is a reason for that. In America religion was not imposed on the people by government, it was freely chosen. Sincere religious faith animated the founders and masses of this nation in ways that other nations of the world could not understand. Secular humanists and effete leftists who populate college history faculties, historical revisionists might be uncomfortable with the Biblical basis of America’s principles of freedom and equality, and might even work to keep the information from their students, but the facts remain what they are.
Religious convictions provided the ideological underpinnings of the founding principles of this nation. Effect of Separation of Church and State When the Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville visited the United States in 1831 and 1832, he remarked that there was “no country in the whole world in which the Christian religion retains a greater influence over the souls of men than in America” (Tocqueville, p. 350). Tocqueville made it clear that while religion was an important part of the American character, religious conformity was not. The Americans he met approached God as individuals. Unlike Europe, where citizens passively accepted whatever religious denomination their rulers might mandate, the Americans chose their own churches. The sects which exist in the United States are innumerable,” said Tocqueville, “they all differ in respect to the worship which is due from man to his Creator, but they all agree in respect to the duties which are due from man to man” (p. 350). Tocqueville was observing and describing a new and powerful religious enthusiasm among American Protestants after a wave of religious revivals known as the Great Awakening. Religious rebirth gave some Americans a mooring in a fast changing world; others determined to refashion their society, working through new political parties to shape an agenda for the nation or through reform associations targeting a particular social evil.
Although not all evangelicals agreed about politics or even about what needed reform, religion was the lens through which they viewed events and sought change. The separation of Church and State also had a significant effect. The absence of a state church meant that in America many sects would flourish. And since most churches and religious groups have been interested in maintaining their own orphanages, hospitals, aid societies, and other welfare institutions, these have abounded in America. Furthermore, the long experience of promoting social welfare through these and other voluntary associations may have led Americans to feel that there was unique value in such private operations (Trattner, p. 42).
Lord Bryce student of American affairs in 1888 observed: In the works of active benevolence no country has surpassed, perhaps none has equaled, the United States. Not only are the sums collected for all sorts of philanthropic purposes larger relatively to the wealth of Americans than in any European country, but the amount of personal effort devoted to them seem to a European visitor to exceed what he knows at home (Trattner, p. 42). The Ramifications of the Separation of Church and State on America today Where does the debate begin? Since Jesus arrived in world history, the powers that be were either honored or threatened by his presence, though wise men from the east worshiped him, King Herod sought to have him killed.
Jesus taught his disciples a principle that is compatible to the a separation of church and state: “to render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s ”(Matthew 22:15). The ruling authority of the Jews were at odds with Jesus. The Sanhedrin instigate false charges to commence the greatest trial of all history where Jesus was asked by Pontius Pilate ‘what is truth’ and though innocent he was condemned and executed by Roman crucifixion. A period of martyrdom and persecutions followed but the church continues to multiply until Emperor Constantine sees opportunity to unite his kingdom under the banner of the Cross and declared the Church to be the religion of the Roman Empire. Christendom as political authority is not immune from corruption.
The church splits East (Greek) and West (Latin) followed by the reformation, centuries are characterized by periods of turmoil, civil strife, imperial conquest, witch hunts, wars of religion and persecutions, generated in large part by established churches determined to maintain their absolute political and religious supremacy. “With the power of government supporting them, at various times and places, Catholics had persecuted Protestants, Protestants had persecuted Catholics, Protestant sects had persecuted other Protestant sects, Catholics of one shade of belief had persecuted Catholics of another shade of belief, and all of these had from time to time persecuted Jews” (Everson case).
Protestants and Catholics denounced and persecuted each other as heretics and followers of Satan. Settlers in American Colonies Early settlers came from Europe to the colonies of America to escape the bondage of laws which compelled them to support and attend government-favored churches. In efforts to force loyalty to whatever religious group happened to be on top and in league with the government people could be put in jail for speaking disrespectfully of the views of ministers of government-established churches, non-attendance at those churches, expressions of nonbelief in their doctrines, and failure to pay taxes and tithes to support them, fined, cruelly tortured, and killed. All publications, whether pamphlets or scholarly volumes, were subject to prior censorship by both church and state, often working hand in hand” (Redmond Lecture Two)(Macaulay, 320-22). Any serious student of history particularly Church history, will no doubt come to the conclusion that it is not workable when the state is running the church nor is it workable when the church is running the state. There are churches with traditions and views on both sides of the issue. Confusion about separation of church and state involves, in part, confusion about definitions, unreasonable expectations and unfounded fears. For example there is more clarity when we distinguish between religion and morality in civil terms.
The domain of religion involves duty to God. How could civil law make a ruling on a contract with God as a party? Clearly there is no jurisdiction over the unseen eternal God but rather God does have authority over His creation. Morality involves our duty to one another and is within the jurisdiction of the civil courts. Our lawmakers usurp God’s sovereign authority if they presume to tell people how, when, or if to worship — that would be legislating religion. But lawmakers are obliged to inform people how they should treat one another— that’s legislating morality. There is some overlap as in the great love command God tells us to love him and love one another as we love ourselves.
And likewise in the law of the land, the fact is that contrary to popular opinion, all laws legislate morality in that set out what is morally right and wrong, and every law legally declares a behavior legal/acceptable/right and its opposite illegal/ not acceptable/ wrong. Although there are Christians on both sides of the question of church v. state, the underlying concern is not whether we as a people can elect representatives to legislate morality but rather the underlying concern is: “Whose morality should we legislate? ” Rule of Law Certainly, in a representative democratic constitutional republic, it is impossible to sustain a cohesive rule of law if each individual is permitted to tailor design their own personal preference for what constitutes morality. In the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, the founders perhaps anticipated this dynamic.
It should not be my morality that gets legislated or yours or one that is continually redefined and reinvented, but rather the one that is “self-evident” because it has been endowed on us by our Creator. ” When part of the “Laws of Nature,” we only hurt ourselves and others by suppressing those truths so we can do what we want. Just as there is Social Darwinism there is also a legal Darwinism. Throughout Western history until the second half of the nineteenth century, the idea of a higher moral law dominated European and American law. This mainstream tradition lasted as the main school of legal thought until the rise of evolutionary thinking in the nineteenth century. In particular, the idea that human law must be subject to some objective moral standards tarted to be more deeply challenged when Darwin’s theory of biological evolution was interpreted as implying the non-existence of God and accordingly, of God-given law and rights (http://creation. com/evolutionary-legal-theories). Marriage as an Example of Moral Law For a thousands of years, we have legislated the self-evident truth that men are meant for women. Now suddenly homosexuals—long critical of conservatives for trying to “legislate morality”—are trying to legislate their own morality in the form of same-sex marriage. They want to ignore self-evident truths and impose their own invented morality on the entire country. The Defense of Marriage Act is passed and upheld on appeal but then not honored by the President but rather he profers a different view of marriage.
These conflicts of law are generating a confused moral fabric of cases, law, tradition and belief without any authority adequately endowed with sufficient credibility to serve as the premier lawgiver. For Congress and States the question is this: Should they continue to legislate the inherited morality that nurtures the next generation (natural marriage), or the invented one that entices it to destruction (same-sex marriage)? Some states come down without wavering, some waver. The answer used to be considered to be self-evident. To aid in their analysis the Supreme Court has constructed a legal principle that the Constitution requires a strict separation of church and state.
The concept of separation should not be construed as mutual exclusivity as a first step in a divorce process, not ‘freedom from religion’ but rather in the giving of ample space to thrive as separate but equal partners in ‘freedom of religion’. Churches and the Bible teach that murder, rape, and child abuse are wrong, and no one says laws prohibiting such acts are a violation of the “separation of church and state. ” In fact, if the government could not pass laws consistent with church or biblical teachings, then all criminal laws would have to be overturned because they are all in some way consistent with at least one of the Ten Commandments as standards of ethical values. With respect to this issue of marriage for example, there are churches on both sides of this issue.
In other words, some churches actually support same-sex marriage. So if there is a strict separation of church and state, then one position should prevent the converse. If one cannot put male-female marriage forward then one shouldn’t be able to put the pro-same-sex marriage position into law either, right? The revolutionary settlement ultimately promoted the radical idea that the church and state ought to be separated. Prior to 1776, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware had allowed full religious liberty. They had done so because local diversity made any other policy impossible or because of an ideological commitment to religious freedom.
Other colonies followed the more common practice in Europe, with established churches endorsed by the government and supported by public taxes. Although civil authorities grudgingly tolerated “dissenters” such as Methodists and Baptists in those colonies,, their numbers were growing rapidly. On the eve of the Revolution, they noisily pressed their case for full religious liberty. With independence, pressure built for severing all ties between church and state. Isaac Backus, the most outspoken of New England’s Baptists, protested that “many, who are filling the nation with the cry of liberty and against oppressors are at the same time themselves violating that dearest of all rights, liberty or conscience. Such arguments were strengthened by the belief that throughout history, alliances between government and church authorities had brought religious oppression, and that voluntary choice was the only safe basis for religious association. In New England, Congregationalists fought to preserve their long established privileges. To separate church and state, they argued, was to risk infidelity and disorder. Massachusett’s 1780 constitution guaranteed everyone the right to worship God “in the manner and season most agreeable to the dictates of his own conscience. ” But it also empowered the legislature to require towns to tax their residents to support local ministers.
Backus argued that official support should be ended completely “religious toleration,” he insisted, fell far short of true religious freedom. Not until 1833 were laws linking church and state finally repealed in Massachusetts (Nash, 192). In Virginia, Baptists pressed their cause against the Protestant Episcopal Church, successor to the Church of England. The adoption in 1786 of Thomas Jefferson’s Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom, rejecting all connections between church and state and removing all religious tests for public office, decisively settled the issue. Three years later, that statute served as a model for the First Amendment to the new federal Constitution. But even the most ardent supporters of religious freedom were not prepared to extend it universally.
The wartime alliance with Catholic France together with Congressional efforts, to entice Catholic settlers in Quebec to join the resistance against Britain had weakened long- established prejudices. Still, anti-Catholic biases remained strong, especially in New England. The people of Northbridge, Massachusetts, wanted to exclude “Roman Catholics, pagons, or Mahomitents” from public office. The legal separation of church and state did not end religious discrimination , but it implanted the principle of religious freedom firmly in American law. | Originally, the First Amendment applied only to the federal government. A number of the states effectively had established churches when the First Amendment was ratified, with some remaining into the early nineteenth century.
In the United States, the controversial topic of the interrelationship between church and state is set forth in a legal conceptual framework as well as an unwritten tradition of mutual consensus and understanding between the Church and State both on a federal as well as a state and local level. Following the passage of the Thirteenth to Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution at the end of the Civil War, the Supreme Court would hear hundreds of cases involving conflicts over the constitutionality of laws passed by the states. The decisions in these cases were often criticized as resulting more from the biases of the individual Justices than the applicable rule of law or constitutional duty to protect individual rights. In 1947, in the case Everson v.
Board of Education, Supreme Court by Justice Black ruled that the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment erected a, “wall of separation between church and state” which the Court found means that the government cannot participate in the affairs of a religious group, set up a church, aid or prefer one religion over another, or aid or prefer religion over non-religion. That wall must be kept high and impregnable. We could not approve the slightest breach. ” The “separation of church and state” phrase which they invoked, and which has today become so familiar, was taken from an exchange of letters between President Thomas Jefferson and the Baptist Association of Danbury, Connecticut, shortly after Jefferson became President which we will consider further. First we must glean the premier casselaw on topic and Everson v. Board of Education, 330 U. S. 1 (1947) was landmark decision of the United States Supreme Court which applied the Establishment Clause in the country’s Bill of Rights to State law. Prior to this decision the First Amendment words, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion” imposed limits only on the federal government, while many states continued to grant certain religious denominations legislative or effective privileges. This was the first Supreme Court case incorporating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment as binding upon the states through the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The decision in Everson marked a turning point in the interpretation and application of disestablishment law in the modern era.
The case was brought by a New Jersey taxpayer against a tax funded school district that provided reimbursement to parents of both public and private schooled children taking the public transportation system to school. The taxpayer contended that reimbursement given for children attending private religious schools violated the constitutional prohibition against state support of religion, and the taking of taxpayers’ money to do so violated the constitution’s Due Process Clause. The Justices were split over the question whether the New Jersey policy constituted support of religion, with the majority concluding these reimbursements were “separate and so indisputably marked off from the religious function” that they did not violate the constitution.
However, both affirming and dissenting Justices were decisive that the Constitution required a sharp separation between government and religion and their strongly worded opinions paved the way to a series of later court decisions that taken together brought about profound changes in legislation, public education, and other policies involving matters of religion. Both Justice Hugo Black’s majority opinion and Justice Wiley Rutledge’s dissenting opinion defined the First Amendment religious clause in terms of a “wall of separation between church and state”. After repealing a former ban, a New Jersey law authorized payment by local school boards of the costs of transportation to and from schools – including private schools.
Of the private schools that benefited from this policy, 96% were parochial Catholic schools. Arch R. Everson, a taxpayer in Ewing Township, filed a lawsuit alleging that this indirect aid to religion through the mechanism of reimbursing parents and students for costs incurred as a result of attending religious schools violated both the New Jersey state constitution and the First Amendment. After a loss in the New Jersey Court of Errors and Appeals, then the state’s highest court, Everson appealed to the U. S. Supreme Court on purely federal constitutional grounds. Arguments were heard on November 20, 1946. The 5-4 decision was handed down on February 10, 1947.
The Court, through Justice Hugo Black, ruled that the state bill was constitutionally permissible because the reimbursements were offered to all students regardless of religion and because the payments were made to parents and not any religious institution. Perhaps as important as the actual outcome, though, was the interpretation given by the entire Court to the Establishment Clause. It reflected a broad interpretation of the Clause that was to guide the Court’s decisions for decades to come. It was not until the twentieth century that the Supreme Court began to interpret the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses in such a manner as to restrict the promotion of religion by the states. In the Board of Education of Kiryas Joel Village School District v.
Grumet (1994), Justice David Souter, writing for the majority, concluded that “government should not prefer one religion to another, or religion to irreligion. ” Documents consistently cited by the Supreme Court Justices were the Memorial and Remonstrance by James Madison and an Act Establishing Religious Freedom by Thomas Jefferson. The case of Cantwell v. Connecticut (1940) for the first time in the nation’s history determined that the Amendment’s religion clauses apply to state and local laws. Cantwell employed what has come to be labeled the incorporation doctrine. Using this doctrine, the justices in Cantwell found in favor of extending free exercise protection to members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Connecticut.
Justice Roberts wrote, “The Fourteenth Amendment has rendered the legislatures of the states as incompetent as Congress to enact such laws. ” A few months later in Minersville v. Gobitis, the court determined that even with the incorporation doctrine Jehovah’s Witnesses were not protected from disciplinary action when they abstained from pledging allegiance to the flag in public school ceremonies. Then, three years later with two new justices appointed by President Franklin Roosevelt the court reversed itself in its decision in West Virginia v. Barnette. This was the first in a long line of cases in which the court so fashioned the free exercise clause of the First Amendment. Justice Robert Jackson writing for he majority concluded “If there is any star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein. If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not now occur to us. ” In 1948 Justice Hugo Black in the case of McCollum v. Board of Education, drawing upon the historical reasoning in Everson v. Board of Education, the Court acted to apply the establishment clause to declare unconstitutional an Illinois State law that permitted religious groups to use public school classrooms during school hours to teach religion. These two watershed decisions have proven remarkably resilient as guideposts for cases that have followed.
In the building of case precedents the judges have relied heavily upon the actions and words of two of the nation’s founders, James Madison and Thomas Jefferson. The focus has been upon Madison’s role in wording the Virginia Declaration of Rights of 1776 concerning “free exercise,” his critical involvement in the passage of Jefferson’s Bill of Establishing Religious Freedom in Virginia in 1785-86, and his leadership in pressing for adoption of the religion clauses in the First Amendment to the Constitution. The Court has consistently offered opinions which have been tied to Jefferson’s 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptist Association in which he affirmed that the religion clauses built “ a wall of separation between church and state. “The ‘establishment of religion’ clause of the First Amendment means at least this: Neither a state nor the Federal Government can set up a church. Neither can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions or prefer one religion over another. Neither can force nor influence a person to go to or to remain away from church against his will or force him to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion. No person can be punished for entertaining or professing religious beliefs or disbeliefs, for church attendance or non-attendance. No tax in any amount, large or small, can be levied to support any religious activities or institutions, whatever they may be called, or whatever form they may adopt to teach or practice religion.
Neither a state nor the Federal Government can, openly or secretly, participate in the affairs of any religious organizations or groups and vice versa. In the words of Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect ‘a wall of separation between Church and State. ‘” (330 U. S. 1, 15-16). Justice Wiley Rutledge argued that: ” When the funds used were raised by taxation, the Court does not dispute nor could it that their use does in fact give aid and encouragement to religious instruction. It only concludes that this aid is not ‘support’ in law. But Madison and Jefferson were concerned with aid and support in fact not as a legal conclusion ‘entangled in precedents. In this case, parents pay money to send their children to parochial schools and funds raised by taxation are used to reimburse them. This not only helps the children to get to school and the parents to send them. It aids them in a substantial way to get the very thing which they are sent to the particular school to secure, namely, religious training and teaching. ” (330 U. S. 1, 45). Having invoked Thomas Jefferson’s metaphor of the wall of separation in the Everson decision, the lawmakers and courts have struggled how to balance governments’ dual duty to satisfy both the non-establishment clause and the free exercise clause contained in the language of the amendment.
The majority and dissenting Justices in Everson split over this very question, with Rutledge in the minority by insisting that the Constitution forbids “every form of public aid or support for religion”. Principle and Rule of Law frequently applied in Court precedent is found in the case of Kedroff v. St. Nicholas Cathedral, 344 U. S. 94 – (1952) Its ruling is summed up in these words: ‘In this country the full and free right to entertain any religious belief, to practice any religious principle, and to teach any religious doctrine which does not violate the laws of morality and property, and which does not infringe personal rights, is conceded to all. The law knows no heresy, and is committed to the support of no dogma, the establishment of no sect.
The right to organize voluntary religious associations to assist in the expression and dissemination of any religious doctrine, and to create tribunals for the decision of controverted questions of faith within the association, and for the ecclesiastical government of all the individual members, congregations, and officers within the general association, is unquestioned. All who unite themselves to such a body do so with an implied consent to this government, and are bound to submit to it. But it would be a vain consent and would lead to the total subversion of such religious bodies, if any one aggrieved by one of their decisions could appeal to the secular courts and have them reversed.
It is of the essence of these religious unions, and of their right to establish tribunals for the decision of questions arising among themselves, that those decisions should be binding in all cases of ecclesiastical cognizance, subject only to such appeals as the organism itself provides for. ‘ (13 Wall. at pages 728 729, 20 L. Ed. 666). The election of Jefferson – America’s first Anti-Federalist President – elated many Baptists since that denomination, by-and-large, was also strongly Anti-Federalist. This political disposition of the Baptists was understandable, for from the early settlement of Rhode Island in the 1630s to the time of the federal Constitution in the 1780s, the Baptists had often found themselves suffering from the centralization of power.
Consequently, now having a President who not only had championed the rights of Baptists in Virginia but who also had advocated clear limits on the centralization of government powers, the Danbury Baptists wrote Jefferson a letter of praise on October 7, 1801, telling him: Among the many millions in America and Europe who rejoice in your election to office, we embrace the first opportunity . . . to express our great satisfaction in your appointment to the Chief Magistracy in the United States. . . . We have reason to believe that America’s God has raised you up to fill the Chair of State out of that goodwill which He bears to the millions which you preside over. May God strengthen you for the arduous task which providence and the voice of the people have called you. . . And may the Lord preserve you safe from every evil and bring you at last to his Heavenly Kingdom through Jesus Christ our Glorious Mediator. However, in that same letter of congratulations, the Baptists also expressed to Jefferson their grave concern over the entire concept of the First Amendment, including of its guarantee for “the free exercise of religion”: Our sentiments are uniformly on the side of religious liberty: that religion is at all times and places a matter between God and individuals, that no man ought to suffer in name, person, or effects on account of his religious opinions, and that the legitimate power of civil government extends no further than to punish the man who works ill to his neighbor. But sir, our constitution of government is not specific. . . Therefore what religious privileges we enjoy (as a minor part of the State) we enjoy as favors granted, and not as inalienable rights. In short, the inclusion of protection for the “free exercise of religion” in the constitution suggested to the Danbury Baptists that the right of religious expression was government-given (thus alienable) rather than God-given (hence inalienable), and that therefore the government might someday attempt to regulate religious expression. This was a possibility to which they strenuously objected-unless, as they had explained, someone’s religious practice caused him to “work ill to his neighbor. ” Jefferson understood their concern; it was also his own.
In fact, he made numerous declarations about the constitutional inability of the federal government to regulate, restrict, or interfere with religious expression. For example: No power over the freedom of religion . . . is delegated to the United States by the Constitution. Kentucky Resolution, 1798 (Foley, p. 179). Wesley does not endorse the “separation of church and state,” understood in the Jeffersonian sense. He expects the churches and the government to cooperate with one another. This follows from his firm faith in “particular providence” and from his conception of the state. All of creation, including the realm of politics, is governed by Divine Providence.
God rules the nations according to that “higher law” which expresses his very nature. He causes the righteous nations to flourish and the disobedient ones to decline and decay. Victory, peace, and bountiful provisions are signs that a nation’s conduct is pleasing to God. Adversity, such as defeat in battle or drought and famine, is a mark of his indignation. Disaster is also a warning and a call to repentance. The wicked nation which heeds the call and turns from its sinful ways will live. The obdurate will continue to suffer. In matters of religion, I have considered that its free exercise is placed by the Constitution independent of the powers of the general federal government.
Second Inaugural Address, 18054. Annals of the Congress of the United States published by Authority of Congress, 1899, Vol. I, p. 379, March 4, 1805. Our excellent Constitution . . . has not placed our religious rights under the power of any public functionary. Letter to the Methodist Episcopal Church, 1808 (Thomas Jefferson, Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Albert Ellery Bergh, editor (Washington D. C. : The Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association, 1904), Vol. I, p. 379, March 4, 1805. I consider the government of the United States as interdicted (prohibited) by the Constitution from intermeddling with religious institutions . . . or exercises. Letter to Samuel Millar, 1808.
Thomas Jefferson, Memoir, Correspondence, and Miscellanies, From the Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Jefferson Randolph, editor (Boston: Gray and Bowen, 1830), Vol. IV, pp. 103-104, to the Rev. Samuel Millar on January 23, 1808. Thomas Jefferson, Memoir, Correspondence, and Miscellanies, From the Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Jefferson Randolph, editor (Boston: Gray and Bowen, 1830), Vol. IV, pp. 103-104, to the Rev. Samuel Millar on January 23, 1808. Jefferson believed that the government was to be powerless to interfere with religious expressions for a very simple reason: he had long witnessed the unhealthy tendency of government to encroach upon the free exercise of religion.
As he explained to Noah Webster: It had become an universal and almost uncontroverted position in the several States that the purposes of society do not require a surrender of all our rights to our ordinary governors . . . and which experience has nevertheless proved the government will be constantly encroaching on if submitted to them; that there are also certain fences which experience has proved peculiarly efficacious against wrong and rarely obstructive of right, which yet the governing powers have ever shown a disposition to weaken and remove. Of the first kind, for instance, is freedom of religion. (Jefferson, Writings, Vol. VIII, p. 112-113, to Noah Webster on December 4, 1790). Thomas Jefferson had no intention of allowing the government to limit, restrict, regulate, or interfere with public religious practices.
He believed, along with the other Founders, that the First Amendment had been enacted only to prevent the federal establishment of a national denomination – a fact he made clear in a letter to fellow-signer of the Declaration of Independence Benjamin Rush: The clause of the Constitution which, while it secured the freedom of the press, covered also the freedom of religion, had given to the clergy a very favorite hope of obtaining an establishment of a particular form of Christianity through the United States; and as every sect believes its own form the true one, every one perhaps hoped for his own, but especially the Episcopalians and Congregationalists.
The returning good sense of our country threatens abortion to their hopes and they believe that any portion of power confided to me will be exerted in opposition to their schemes. And they believe rightly. (Jefferson, Writings, Vol. III, p. 441, to Benjamin Rush on September 23, 1800). President Jefferson was committed to preventing the establishment of a particular form of Christianity whether Episcopalians or Congregationalists or any other as is evidenced in his reply to the Danbury Baptists on January 1, 1802 with assurance that they did not need to be afraid because their free exercise of religion would never be interfered with by the federal government.
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. . . . 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 legislative 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 and blessing of the common Father and Creator of man, and tender you for yourselves and your religious association assurances of my high respect and esteem. [9] 9. Jefferson, Writings, Vol. XVI, pp. 281-282, to the Danbury Baptist Association on January 1, 1802. Jefferson’s reference to “natural rights” invoked an important legal phrase which was part of the rhetoric of that day and which reaffirmed his belief that religious liberties were inalienable rights. While the phrase “natural rights” communicated much to people then, to most citizens today those words mean little.
By definition, “natural rights” included “that which the Books of the Law and the Gospel do contain. ” [10] That is, “natural rights” incorporated what God Himself had guaranteed to man in the Scriptures. Thus, when Jefferson assured the Baptists that by following their “natural rights” they would violate no social duty, he was affirming to them that the free exercise of religion was their inalienable God-given right and therefore was protected from federal regulation or interference. So clearly did Jefferson understand the Source of America’s inalienable rights that he even doubted whether America could survive if we ever lost that knowledge.
He queried: And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure if we have lost the only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Jefferson believed that God, not government, was the Author and Source of our rights and that the government, therefore, was to be prevented from interference with those rights. Very simply, the “fence” of the Webster letter and the “wall” of the Danbury letter were not to limit religious activities in public; rather they were to limit the power of the government to prohibit or interfere with those expressions. Earlier courts long understood Jefferson’s intent. In fact, when Jefferson’s letter was invoked by the Supreme Court (only twice prior to the 1947 Everson case – the Reynolds v.
United States case in 1878), unlike today’s Courts which publish only his eight-word separation phrase, that earlier Court published Jefferson’s entire letter and then concluded: Coming as this does from an acknowledged leader of the advocates of the measure, it [Jefferson’s letter] may be accepted almost as an authoritative declaration of the scope and effect of the Amendment thus secured. Congress was deprived of all legislative power over mere [religious] opinion, but was left free to reach actions which were in violation of social duties or subversive of good order. (Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia (Philadelphia: Matthew Carey, 1794), Query XVIII, p. 237).
That Court then succinctly summarized Jefferson’s intent for “separation of church and state”: The rightful purposes of civil government are for its officers to interfere when principles break out into overt acts against peace and good order. In this . . . is found the true distinction between what properly belongs to the church and what to the State. With this even the Baptists had agreed; for while wanting to see the government prohibited from interfering with or limiting religious activities, they also had declared it a legitimate function of government “to punish the man who works ill to his neighbor. ” That Court, therefore, and others (for example, Commonwealth v. Nesbit and Lindenmuller v. The People), identified actions into which – if perpetrated in the name of religion – the government did have legitimate reason to intrude.
Those activities included human sacrifice, polygamy, bigamy, concubinage, incest, infanticide, parricide, advocation and promotion of immorality, etc. Such acts, even if perpetrated in the name of religion, would be stopped by the government since, as the Court had explained, they were “subversive of good order” and were “overt acts against peace. ” However, the government was never to interfere with traditional religious practices outlined in “the Books of the Law and the Gospel” – whether public prayer, the use of the Scriptures, public acknowledgements of God, etc. Therefore, if Jefferson’s letter is to be used today, let its context be clearly given – as in previous years.
Furthermore, earlier Courts had always viewed Jefferson’s Danbury letter for just what it was: a personal, private letter to a specific group. There is probably no other instance in America’s history where words spoken by a single individual in a private letter – words clearly divorced from their context – have become the sole authorization for a national policy. Finally, Jefferson’s Danbury letter should never be invoked as a stand-alone document. A proper analysis of Jefferson’s views must include his numerous other statements on the First Amendment. Jefferson also declared that the “power to prescribe any religious exercise. . . . must rest with the States”.
Nevertheless, the federal courts ignore this succinct declaration and choose rather to misuse his separation phrase to strike down scores of State laws which encourage or facilitate public religious expressions. Such rulings against State laws are a direct violation of the words and intent of the very one from whom the courts claim to derive their policy. One further note should be made about the now infamous “separation” dogma. The Congressional Records from June 7 to September 25, 1789, record the months of discussions and debates of the ninety Founding Fathers who framed the First Amendment. Significantly, not only was Thomas Jefferson not one of those ninety who framed the First Amendment, but also, during those debates not one of those ninety Framers ever mentioned the phrase “separation of church and state. It seems logical that if this had been the intent for the First Amendment – as is so frequently asserted-then at least one of those ninety who framed the Amendment would have mentioned that phrase; none did. In summary, the “separation” phrase so frequently invoked today was rarely mentioned by any of the Founders; and even Jefferson’s explanation of his phrase is diametrically opposed to the manner in which courts apply it today. In its first hundred years then of the United States, the Supreme Court interpreted the Constitution’s Bill of Rights as a limit on federal government and considered the states bound only by those rights granted to its citizens by their own state constitutions.
Because the federal laws during this period were remote influences at most on the personal affairs of its citizens, minimal attention was paid by the Court to how those provisions in the federal Bill of Rights were to be interpreted. Separation of church and state currently means almost exactly the opposite of what it originally meant. The First Amendment affords freedom of religion, not freedom from religion. “The U. S. Senate opens its sessions with prayer by an official chaplain. While that may be good in the eyes of most religious people in the United States, it does little to change the fundamentally secular process by which Congress works. At no point may a member’s beliefs intrude into the deliberations in an overt way—even if they happen to represent the religious sentiments of the majority of a legislator’s constituents.
Privatization of religion goes far beyond the so-called separation of church and state, which is also a manifestation of secularity. In almost every sphere of public policy-making, from the highest echelons of government down to the local neighborhood arts council, it is considered inappropriate to raise the issue of God seriously” (Spickard, p. 344). In the modern Western world most people’s lives are much more this worldly in the sense that the solutions to life’s problems, both large and small, are sought in technology and psychology. Even many Christians see the world as a godless place in the sense that God is relegated to heaven and a few sacred places, such as the church.
The world goes on, and life can be lived quite successfully, with or without God. The seeds of this secularity were sown in the unbelievably destructive religious conflict of the 17th century known as the Thirty Years War. This war was partly a result of the Reformation, and it turned Europe into a slaughterhouse. Some scholars estimate that one-half the population of the continent was killed, starved, or sent into exile during the war. As a result, many of the educated elite of Europe became disillusioned with revealed religion and dogmatic theology. They concluded that the religious conflicts of the Reformation gave rise to the chaos and destruction.
Enlightenment thinkers believed that if society was to avoid such wars in the future and recover unity, it must base its common life and public institutions on purely nonsectarian, rational philosophies. Critics of traditional Christianity, such as Francois Marie de Voltaire (1694-1778), heaped literary scorn on the kind of dogmatic arguments and sectarian power- struggles that led to the religious wars of the 17th century. Volaire promoted a kind of generic religion based on universal religious truths and moral ideas he called theism. This natural religion, based entirely on reason, came also to be known as deism – belief in a god stripped of all supernaturally revealed doctrines and elaborate trappings of the formal church.
Many men of letters and leaders of European and American culture adopted this secularized religion during the 18th century and attempted to make it part of the basis for a new order in Western society (Spickard). John Wesley was of the opinion that the paramount duty of any government is to hold in check the wild and rebellious human beings who live under its rule. God has authorized the use of force to preserve the peace and punish the disobedient. But Wesley knew that force has its limits, especially since coercion injures the body but leaves the mind unchanged. If the nation is to be truly righteous, the citizens must acquire the habits of deference and compliance, and learn to control their appetites and feelings.
Governments depend upon other social institutions, including the churches, to form these habits and impart these lessons. The state, in turn, protects the churches and supports their efforts, for example, by granting them tax relief. Wesley to which the Church of the Nazarene agrees taught the Methodists to be loyal citizens and to obey the laws of the land. The commission of a crime would cost a man his membership in a Methodist society, it is on an individual case basis in the Church of the Nazarene. The Continental Congress, followed by the First Federal Congress, said that “religion, morality, and knowledge” are “necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind. Wesley would endorse this statement wholeheartedly. Because caselaw depends upon prior legal cases that bind the next court in a similar fact pattern to the extent a reasonable person would expect to be fair and equal from court to court, provided the cases are from a higher court or within the same jurisdiction, then caselaw tends to erode over time fragmenting into different exceptions in a kind in a way that is more consistent with Darwinian influences of the rational mind of the human animal as if in some long term legal experiment with a hypothesis being tested and retested each time further restricting the freedom at hand in this case religious liberty. Another factor to consider is that many secular humanists are so anxious to erase Christianity altogether that they disregard the wall.
The wall is supposed to work to protect religious express not to reduce it further and further until there is no public evidence of any faith expression. The constitutional clause is just as much that the government will not interfere and most early cases were from this side of the wall. Recently the caselaw has been from the other side that interprets every visible sign as ‘promoting’ religion whether a cross on the roadway, 1O Commandments on a classroom wall, a public nativity display, prayer in school, carrying a Bible, etc. When the moral majority and other Christian legal activism on social issues of abortion for example were fought so passionately, often the Christian activist forgot to be compassionate and let the cause get ahead of the Gospel.
Legal activism has its appropriate arena. That arena is not carrying placards in front of an abortion clinic but rather offering options in an alternate social solution. That is not to say that the wall should not also at times be invisible in that sometimes a church ought to be available for a poll booth just as a courthouse should be open for a religious ceremony when the occasion warrants. In rendering to our government Caesar the things that are Caesars and to our God the things that are Gods’ –we have two allegiances that need not be conflicting, so that one can be both a patriotic American and entirely sanctified Christian devoted to God and country.
This is the constitutional paradigm around which the walls of separation inform and lend moral ethical standards over time to caselaw so that it does not take that slippery downward Darwinian style erosion for lack of any absolute moral code. Separation of Church and State empowers both the Church and the State when properly so applied, it is not intended to be freedom from religion but freedom of religion just as one does not step into a church free from the country as if stepping into an embassy of a foreign territory. 25% of all quotes in documents of the founding fathers were from the Bible, they had no fear of the Bible or of the Church.
The presence of a paid Chaplain is evidence as well that there was respect of the presence of God who could bless the work. At the present time the wall of separation still exists but it is being reassembled into a sledgehammer to hit away at the church. Christians need to love people but hold fast to the faith and stand resolved on the Word of God as authoritative law as much as the Constitution or any regulation of the State. ADDENDUM 1: Preconstituional Letters of Legal Reference establishing legislative history from which intent may be inferred: Letter of October 7, 1801, from Danbury (CT) Baptist Association to Thomas Jefferson, from the Thomas Jefferson Papers Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D. C. The Jeffersonian Cyclopedia, John P.
Foley, editor (New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1900), p. 977; see also Documents of American History, Henry S. Cummager, editor (NY: Appleton-Century-Crofts, Inc. , 1948), p. 179. Annals of the Congress of the United States (Washington: Gales and Seaton, 1852, Eighth Congress, Second Session, p. 78, March 4, 1805; see also James D. Richardson, A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents, 1789-1897 (Published by Authority of Congress, 1899), Vol. I, p. 379, March 4, 1805. Jefferson, Thomas. Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Albert Ellery Bergh, editor (Washington D. C. : The Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association, 1904), Vol. I, p. 379, March 4, 1805. Jefferson, Thomas.
Memoir, Correspondence, and Miscellanies, From the Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Jefferson Randolph, editor (Boston: Gray and Bowen, 1830), Vol. IV, pp. 103-104, to the Rev. Samuel Millar on January 23, 1808. Jefferson, Writings, Vol. VIII, p. 112-113, to Noah Webster on December 4, 1790. Jefferson, Writings, Vol. III, p. 441, to Benjamin Rush on September 23, 1800. Jefferson, Writings, Vol. XVI, pp. 281-282, to the Danbury Baptist Association on January 1, 1802. Jefferson, Thomas. Notes on the State of Virginia (Philadelphia: Matthew Carey, 1794), Query XVIII, p. 237. ADDENDUM 2 United States First Amendment Caselaw Establishment Clause
Public funding Everson v. Board of Education 330 U. S. 1 (1947) McCollum v. Board of Education 333 U. S. 203 (1948) in this case the Supreme Court ruled that Illinois public school practice of allowing Protestant, R. C. and Jewish faith groups to give religious instruction to students during school at the same time allowing others to opt out, was found to violate the First Amendment. Walz v. Tax Commission 397 US 664 (1970) The Court held that grants of tax exemption to religious organizations was far less of an involvement than would be created by taxation of churches, and the effect of the exemptions was thus not an excessive government entanglement with religion.
The grant of a tax exemption was not sponsorship of the organizations because the government did not transfer part of its revenue to churches but simply abstained from demanding that the churches support the state. Lemon v. Kurtzman 403 US 602 (1971) The Court ruled that a Pennsylvania School Law to reimburse nonpublic mostly Catholic schools for the salaries of teachers who taught secular curriculum violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The Court’s decision in this case established the “Lemon test” consisting of three prongs: (1) the government’s action must have a secular legislative purpose; (2) the government’s action must not have the primary effect of either advancing or inhibiting religion; (3) the government’s action must not result in an “excessive government entanglement” with religion.
If any of these 3 prongs are violated, the government’s action is deemed unconstitutional under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Marsh v. Chambers 463 US 783 (1983) held government funding for chaplains was constitutional because of the “unique history” of the United States as demonstrated by the fact that three days before the ratification of the 1st Amendment, containing the Establishment clause, the federal legislature authorized hiring a chaplain for opening sessions with prayer. Board of Education of Kiryas Joel Village School District v. Grumet (1994) The court held that the creation of a school district designed to coincide with the neighborhood boundaries of a religious group constitutes an unconstitutional aid to religion. Agostini v.
Felton 521 US 203 (1997) In this case, the Court overruled a previous decision now finding that it was not a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment for a state-sponsored education initiative to allow public school teachers to instruct at religious schools, so long as the material was secular and neutral in nature and no “excessive entanglement” between government and religion was apparent. This case is noteworthy in a broader sense as a sign of evolving judicial standards surrounding the First Amendment, and the changes that have occurred in modern Establishment Clause jurisprudence. Mitchell v. Helms 530 US 793 (2000) The Court ruled that it was permissible for loans to be made to religious schools under Chapter 2 of the Education Consolidation and Improvement Act of 1981. The government may now provide aid to religious groups as long as such aid advances some legitimate non-religious purpose and is granted in the same manner to non-religious groups. Zelman v.
Simmons-Harris 536 US 639 (2002) upheld school vouchers of Ohio under the Private Choice Test developed by the court, for a voucher program to be constitutional it must meet all of the following criteria: the program must have a valid secular purpose, aid must go to parents and not to the schools, a broad class of beneficiaries must be covered, the program must be neutral with respect to religion, and there must be adequate nonreligious options. Locke v. Davey 540 US 712 (2004) upheld the constitutionality of a Washington publicly funded scholarship program which excluded students pursuing a degree in theology. Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization v.
Winn (2011) A group of Arizona taxpayers challenged a state law that provides tax credits to people who donate to school tuition organizations that in turn provide scholarships to students who want to attend private or religious schools. The Supreme Court found that any damages or harm claimed by the taxpayers by virtue of simply being a taxpayer would be pure speculation because the issue at hand was a tax credit and not a government expenditure. Public displays: Lynch v. Donnelly (1984) County of Allegheny v. ACLU (1989) McCreary County v. ACLU of Kentucky (2005) Van Orden v. Perry (2005) School prayer:Zorach v. Clauson (1952) Engel v. Vitale (1962) Abington School District v. Schempp (1963) Stone v. Graham (1980) Wallace v. Jaffree (1985) Lee v.
Weisman (1992) Santa Fe Independent School Dist. v. Doe (2000) Elk Grove Unified School District v. Newdow (2004) Creationism: Epperson v. Arkansas (1968) 393 U. S. 97 (1968), invalidated an Arkansas statute that prohibited the teaching of human evolution in the public schools. Edwards v. Aguillard (1987) Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District (M. D. Pa. 2005). Works Cited Barton, David. The Separation of Church and State. 1st ed. Wallbuilders Press. 2007. Beail, Linda. Wesleyan or Fundamentalist? Political and Theological Stances of Nazarene Pastors. Association of Nazarene Sociologists and Researchers. Web.

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