Separation Of Church And State

The courageous founders of our country knew full well the likely result of their bold declaration of independence. Often persons say, “Let’s hang together” to encourage friends to stick together on an issue. This challenge to cohesiveness is said almost flippantly. When first uttered by one of the signers of our Declaration of Independence it referred to being executed for what they were signing and continued: “Let us hang together or we will hang separately.”

They were not lacking in resolve nor naive regarding the result. At great cost they gave us our liberty.

These immortal words by Thomas Jefferson are inscribed in the Jefferson Memorial in our Nation’s Capitol: “God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure if we have removed from the hearts of the people belief that those liberties are the gift of God?”

In our rush to purge our institutions of public reference to deity we have removed from the hearts of many any belief in God from the hearts of many people. A statement intended to insure God a place in our nation’s life has been used to remove Him. It is that infamous banality “separation of church and state.” Few know its origin. Many think it is an extraction from our Constitution.

Many of the colonists came to America from Europe where England had an official religion, the Church of England, Germany had an official state religion, Lutheran, Spain and Italy, Catholicism.

The Baptists in Banbury, Connecticut were fearful a particular denomination would be made the official religion of theirs and other states. At the time the policy was so entrenched that John Adams said, “You might as well expect a change in the solar system as to expect us to give up our established churches.” The Baptists wrote President Thomas Jefferson soliciting his aid in insuring that no one denomination would be made the state church.

Few dare read all of Jefferson’s letter in response dated January 1, 1802. Therein he assures the Baptist Christian and moral teachings as found in the Bible would never be separated from government. In asserting the state could do nothing to restrict religion he assured them there was a “Great wall of separation.” Meaning the principle of the First Amendment prohibited the state from “restricting the free exercise thereof.” The limitation was on the state not the church. Up until 1947 there were many Supreme Court rulings that interpreted the Amendment in that light.

Two days later President Jefferson went to church. The service was held in the House of Representatives with the Speaker’s desk serving as the pulpit. The music was by the Marine Corps Band. Church was also held in the Supreme Court Building and the Treasury Building. That is a clue as to what the First Amendment was intended to mean.

To have a freedom and not use it is little better than not having it. Let’s use our freedom of worship constructively.