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January 1, 2024

“The Separation of Church and State” is one of the biggest rallying cries among the left in the US. It’s like the Easter Bunny of Constitutional principles: Everybody’s heard of it, but it doesn’t really exist.

Everything said in the Constitution about religion is contained in the First Amendment, which protects five different fundamental rights in one sentence. Here’s what the Constitution says about religious rights, in its entirety:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

Note that it doesn’t say you can’t bring your Bible to school, or say a prayer on public property or put Christmas decorations in a public park. In fact, all those things would fall under NOT prohibiting the free exercise of religion.

As for banning the establishment of religion, that doesn’t mean banning any expression of faith on government property. Leftists have cited that fallacy to demand that prayers be removed from public meetings, chaplains removed from the military, and even barring Christians from holding federal office. But what that “establishment” clause means is that there can be no official state religion, like the Church of England. It doesn’t mean all religious expression must be banished (or “separated”) from government, it just means the government can’t say, “This is the one true religion” and favor it above others.

Back before they “canceled” him for being a slaveowner, liberals loved to claim that Thomas Jefferson himself coined the phrase “a wall of separation between church and state.” That’s true, but he wasn’t talking about barring people of faith from government or expressions of faith from the public square. That phrase came in his 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptist Association, affirming to them that “religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God,” and the First Amendment’s “wall of separation” barred the government from making any laws establishing a state religion or interfering with the free exercise of religious expression.

This was made clear by the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1853, when it explained that the phrase “establishment of religion” “referred, without doubt, to that establishment which existed in the mother-country…endowment at the public expense, peculiar privileges to its members, or disadvantages or penalties upon those who should reject its doctrines or belong to other communities…They intended, by this amendment, to prohibit an ‘establishment of religion’ such as the English Church presented, or anything like it. But they had no fear or jealousy of religion itself, nor did they wish to see us as an irreligious people.”

Can you even imagine that a people who risked everything to take the dangerous journey to America to seek religious freedom, or their second-generation descendants, would create a government that banned people of faith?

Yet since the 1960s, we’ve seen liberal Supreme Courts ridiculously declare it unconstitutional for a student to pray aloud over his school lunch (that violates both freedom of religion and speech); or to erect a war memorial in the shape of a cross; or to display religious-themed artwork in schools even if it’s classic art; or to ask a kindergarten class whose birthday Christmas celebrates; or for a public cemetery to have a planter in the shape of a cross because if a non-Christian sees it, it might cause “emotional distress” and constitute an “injury-in-fact.”

If you can’t have religious-inspired art or books about religion in public schools, then you’ve just eliminated basic education about vast swaths of the entire history of humankind, as well as one of the most important influences on modern society. Students who attend such schools will come out of them as ignorant of art, history and civilization as anti-religion activists are about the Constitution.

You can buy my book here:  The Three Cs That Made America Great: Christianity, Capitalism and the Constitution - Mike Huckabee

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  • Dennis Feucht

    01/10/2024 07:06 PM

    Separation of church and state can be viewed from different perspectives. In early colonial America, the Bible was the legal authority. For instance, the seven-year statute of limitations on debt reflects the biblical seventh-year rest. But in post-Christian America, law has evolved to reflect the underlying moral relativism of the Constitution itself. It in time has guided lawmaking toward its logical conclusion: human law.

    The Constitution promotes humanism by establishing the final authority for what is right and wrong with “the people”, exercised through a representational process. The Constitution sets forth the process that must be followed to do this, and by this process the people collectively determine for themselves what is moral. In making the will of the people the final authority, the moral principle underlying the Constitution is moral relativism. It leaves the people to decide their own morals. As the majority opinion changes, so do the laws, which instruct society about what the majority says is right and wrong. Over time, the Constitution inculcates a belief that ultimate moral authority comes from the people, not God.

    A major reason why many are still comfortable with the US State as Christians is historical. As a central government, the US was formed from the American colonies. They were among the few instances in history of societies organized under biblical authority. Although they recognized the king of England as having jurisdiction, in the local governance of the colonies, Christ was king. He was recognized as having rightful authority. The Mayflower Compact, signed by the Pilgrims in the Mayflower off Cape Cod shows this quite explicitly.

    The “wall of separation” legal doctrine separating church and state has been discussed much since the late 1940s, when its meaning was inverted by the US Supreme Court. In his letter to the Danbury Baptists, Jefferson referred to “the usurping domination of one sect over another ”, not restraint on the influence of Christianity on government. Today, some significant fraction of organized religion is occupied with the effort to keep Christianity in public places or in government. Nevertheless, Jefferson’s letter hints of relegating religion to private life or to the mind. The seeds of marginalized religion are evident when he wrote to them:

    ... society shall here know that the limit of its rightful power is the enforcement of social conduct; while the right to question the religious principles producing that conduct is beyond their cognisance.

    In other words, society has no authority to tell you what to believe as long as your beliefs result in the behavior society has the right to enforce. Society will enforce its morality and you may accept it on whatever basis you choose.