Clearing the Air on That Church vs. State Thing

There seems to be an agglomeration of confusion, stupidity, misinformation, falsehoods, and the like, concerning religion and its role in government. Before going any further, let us read the First Amendment to the Constitution:

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.

For some reason, many among us are having trouble understanding that opening line. The phrase “separation of church and state” is uttered far too frequently for my taste and you’ll notice by reading the Constitution, its amendments, and the First Amendment in particular, that such a phrase actually never appears. The phrase finds its origins in an 1802 letter from Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptist Association in Connecticut. It has since been lionized, misrepresented and used as a political tool by liberal academics, activist judges, and the media. The letter reads as follows:


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, & 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 & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & 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 & 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.

Th Jefferson
Jan. 1. 1802.

The “wall of separation between Church & State” quote has been ripped out of this letter and used as political ammunition since the 1947 Everson v. Board of Education case. The quote has been misconstrued as to mean that religion, faith, God, what have you – are not welcome in the public sphere. That there must be this “wall”, so to speak. That faith has no role in government. That religious references and their likenesses are not welcome in public buildings or on public lands. This is not what Jefferson intended to convey, nor would any of our Founders have sympathized with such an assertion.

First Amendment is succinct in its declaration. To paraphrase:

1. No state religion can be adopted. In other words, the federal government does not have the ability to create a national religion or church – such as what the Founders fled in Europe.

2. The state is unable to repress free worship amongst the people. We are all free to worship and practice our religion of choice – granted we’re not inflicting physical harm on anyone else – and the state is unable to hinder us in any way.

As to the confusion over Jefferson’s letter, historian David Barton gives a thorough explanation on his website. Here is just a small excerpt:

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 they [the government] will be constantly encroaching on if submitted to them; that there are also certain fences which experience has proved peculiarly efficacious [effective] 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. [7]

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:

[T]he 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 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.

Men of great faith and virtue founded this country, despite the secular argument to the contrary that is being spewed from the mouths of Democrats, the press, and other statists. Those who seek “fundamental transformation” of the United States are not interested in the original intent of the Founders. The political hacks who populate the media and Washington D.C. are interested in promoting an agenda and nothing more. This “transformation” must be brought to fruition by subverting the truth about our nation’s history and slowly re-writing it. Whether you like it or not, we have been tasked with the preservation of such truths.

Judeo-Christian values and the ideas of our Founding are inseparable. Just read the Constitution, the Declaration and the writings of our Founders. The Left seeks this “wall of separation” for one reason. They seek to undermine our traditions and values. Supplanting such institutions will bring about this longed-for progressive “transformation”. They have no interest in protecting religious freedom. Their interest is the promotion of liberalism and instituting statism as the national religion.

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5 Responses to Clearing the Air on That Church vs. State Thing

  1. Scotto says:

    These days a lot of scientists and other very smart people are athiests. Im wondering if our founding fathers had the same knowledge of how the universe works and science that we have today, would they still have been men of great faith. who knows.

    • I am Sparticus says:

      These days a lot of scientists and other very smart people are fine Christian men and women. I’m wondering if our founding fathers had been athiests, if our country would even been concieved. I don’t believe it would have been. A quark of nature we are?

      • Scotto says:

        …..your right about a lot of scientists and other very smart people being fine christians. Me being an atheist and having just about all the same virtues as most christians do, i’d have to believe the country would have still been concieved. I think most christians have the wrong idea of the kind of people atheists are.

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