On Separation of Church and State

Progressive Myth: Separation of Church and State

I am writing this hub as a response, so to say, to an email sent to a fellow hubber. To make a long story short, this email stated in its text that the courts have always maintained a separation of church and state. This is not at all the case, as I will point out in this hub. There is a wealth of information available about our Constitution. This hub will concentrate on the First Amendment. The main point of this hub is to show that the words “Separation of church and state” do not appear anywhere in the Constitution.

Let’s take a look at the First Amendment. The First Amendment in its entirety states:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The religion section of the First Amendment is broken into two parts; the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause. The Establishment Clause: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion. The Free Exercise Clause: or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

Thomas Jefferson did write of a separation of church and state, but this was in a letter to the Danbury, Connecticut, Baptist Association. The letter was written in 1802, fifteen years after he helped draft the Constitution. Separation of church and state was not written into the Constitution. The first mention of the phrase by the Supreme Court was in 1947 by Justice Hugo Black in the case of Everson v. Board of Education. Until then the Supreme Court had never interpreted an absolute separation from all things religious.

An absolute separation of church and state is almost impossible to achieve and was clearly not the Framer’s intent. Our founding documents; The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution give indications of a government founded and deeply rooted in religion. The Declaration of Independence states:

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.

The last paragraph states:

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

One cannot ignore the importance of religion in our founding documents. The trend of our recent court decisions leans towards an absolute separation. Display of the Ten Commandments, prayer in school, or the display of nativity scenes in no way establishes a state religion, nor do they impede anyone from exercising their religion. Progressive or Activist judges have attempted to establish equality in all religions. This has the same effect as Affirmative Action. When we try to equalize everything it is always at the expense of the majority. Disallowing prayer in school, the display of the Ten Commandments, or the display of Nativity scenes goes against the First Amendment as they are violations of the Free Exercise Clause.

I hope this clears up some myths associated with the First Amendment and “separation of church and state. Our Constitution was written by very wise men, who considered many things when drafting it. Our country has to get back on course and adhere to our Constitution. The blatant disregards for the Constitution must stop and it is up to us, the voting citizens, to put our foot down.

Comments 23 comments

rachellrobinson profile image

rachellrobinson 6 years ago from Southwest Missouri

Uh oh jtcarr, you are starting to sound like one of those Republicans who want to destroy the Constitution and write it in his image (you know the one that the Founders intended) After all the hard work the Liberals have done to write it the correct way.. tsk tsk


jtcarr1164 profile image

jtcarr1164 6 years ago from Tueplo, Mississippi Author

LOL, is that what I was doing? Darn! I have been found out again!


rachellrobinson profile image

rachellrobinson 6 years ago from Southwest Missouri

Liberals have worked long and hard to fix all the mistakes that those uninformed Founders put into our constitution and here us Republicans go, not knowing any better we want to undo all that hard work... we should be ashamed :)


jtcarr1164 profile image

jtcarr1164 6 years ago from Tueplo, Mississippi Author

I am, Rachel, I am. I am truly ashamed. *sniff*


CMerritt profile image

CMerritt 6 years ago from Pendleton, Indiana

Why is it jt, that you and I and other normal thinking Americans, can understand this? It is so very clear and really pretty simple to understand. Yet, liberals just cannot accept this as they way our forefather's meant and intended it to be. It really "ticks" liberals off, to even think about how Godly those guys were. That this Nation, without a doubt, IS a Nation, built upon Christian principals.

I really love this hub, you plain and simply put it all out there.


eovery profile image

eovery 6 years ago from MIddle of the Boondocks of Iowa

They so made Chris O'Donnell look dumb for saying this, but she was correct all of the way. If someone looked at this, like you have, they will know of the truth.

Keep on hubbing!


jtcarr1164 profile image

jtcarr1164 6 years ago from Tueplo, Mississippi Author

Hey CMerrit! The left has often tried to discredit the founders. Glad you like the hub! Thank you for the comment and for coming by.


jtcarr1164 profile image

jtcarr1164 6 years ago from Tueplo, Mississippi Author

Hey Eovery! Yes, the treatment of Christine O'Donnell was very upsetting to me on this subject. The left despised her simply because she was Christian. Thanks for coming by and commenting!


TheManWithNoPants profile image

TheManWithNoPants 6 years ago from Tucson, Az.

Tom,

I wrote a piece that mirrors this. I'm in complete agreement with you on this. It's my birthday, and I just finished that Martini and Corona, so I won't get started, but this subject is a passion of mine. Good work my friend.

Heard from Randy? I haven't. Hope he's okey.

jim


sheila b. profile image

sheila b. 6 years ago

It was always obvious to me that the Constitution meant to protect the churches from the State, but as usual, the regressive progressives have made it seem just the opposite.


jtcarr1164 profile image

jtcarr1164 6 years ago from Tueplo, Mississippi Author

Sheila, so very true! Thank you for coming by and commenting.


luabu 6 years ago

hi all

very interesting subject/i'm from ireland which is a republic /very like the french principles of liberty equality and fraternity

i have always admired the founding fathers

very few people look ahead and try to protect future generations

their energy came from a desire not to replicate the problems of the past

look at what life was like before your constitution re religion /monarchy

An absolute separation of church and state is almost impossible to achieve and was clearly not the Framer’s intent

i definately agree with the start and end of this sentence

this is a neutral starting point for people to move forward together rather than to diverge into polarities


jtcarr1164 profile image

jtcarr1164 6 years ago from Tueplo, Mississippi Author

Hello luabu, Thank you for coming by and thank you for the comment. Welcome to hub pages! Hope you can check out my other hubs and leave wonderful comments like this one!


adagio4639 profile image

adagio4639 6 years ago from Brattleboro Vermont

>"The religion section of the First Amendment is broken into two parts; the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause. The Establishment Clause: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion. The Free Exercise Clause: or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."<

That is correct.

>"Thomas Jefferson did write of a separation of church and state, but this was in a letter to the Danbury, Connecticut, Baptist Association. The letter was written in 1802, fifteen years after he helped draft the Constitution."<

That is partially correct. The metaphore is from the letter to the Danbury Baptists. However Jefferson was serving in France at the time of the drafting and not a part of the constitutional convention. It was Madison that was the chief archetect of the constitution. As Jefferson was very much his mentor, he send Jefferson updates. But since there was no internet at the time, a great amount of time would transpire between the correspondence.

>"An absolute separation of church and state is almost impossible to achieve and was clearly not the Framer’s intent"<

I think that might depend on who you call a "framer". If you consider Madisons role in this, then you're wrong. Madison insisted on complete separation and feared the "enchroachment of Ecclesiastical Bodies".

Madisons Detached Memoranda:

"Strongly guarded as is the separation between Religion & Govt in the Constitution of the United States the danger of encroachment by Ecclesiastical Bodies, may be illustrated by precedents already furnished in their short history."

>"An absolute separation of church and state is almost impossible to achieve and was clearly not the Framer’s intent. Our founding documents; The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution give indications of a government founded and deeply rooted in religion. The Declaration of Independence states:

"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."

There is absolutely NOTHING in that statement that endorses religion or suggests that the government is to be deeply rooted in any religion. In fact the Declaration is only an announcement of our separation from Enland. It's not an official document of how we are to be governed. That would be our constitution. I don't know how you manage to derive that from what was written by a man who was a Deist and would never write something he didn't believe in. A person might in fact have a concept of God or a creator even if they see that as the Big Bang, or Natures God as Jefferson described and be completely non-sectarian, and somehow you bring religion into the picture. You've somehow made a huge leap into an area that isn't even remotely demonstrably true. I have no religion whatsoever, and yet I have a concept of my relationship to this universe completely consistant with Jeffersons wording of Natures God.

>"And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.One cannot ignore the importance of religion in our founding documents."

This has nothing to do with religion. It doesn't even mention the word God. Providence is considered a divine guidence. However any deist would find that in complete accord with his thinking. The Declaration of Independence was authored by a Deist. It is more a deistic document than any religious statement, and there is no church of deism. Deism is extremely broad based. It follows no doctrine or dogma. It simply believes that something started everything and then left it to it's own devices. It's impersonal. That was Jeffersons belief. This is a man that edited the Bible by cutting out with a knife all references to miracles from the 4 Gospels. Without the miracles, there is no Christian faith. No Christian religion. The Jefferson Bible is hardly the work of a man that anybody would call a Christian. He loved the philosophy but rejected the divinity of Jesus. I'm sorry, but your claims to some kind of religious orientation for this country fall flat if you are want to consider the writings of a Deist to support your argument.

>"Display of the Ten Commandments, prayer in school, or the display of nativity scenes in no way establishes a state religion, nor do they impede anyone from exercising their religion."<

In fact they do. The Ten Commandments sitting in a courtroom are a clear endorsement of a particular religion by a civil authority. It violates the 1st amendments establishment clause. Prayer in school conducted by a teacher that is paid by taxpayers is a violation of the 1st Amendment. You want a prayer in school? Would you consider a muslim prayer being forced on your kid? Is that what you are paying taxes for? If not, then on what basis do you consider forcing a christian prayer on a muslim a jew, a hindu, a buddhist, or any kind of prayer on an atheist??

As for displaying a nativity scene...an overlooked aspect of the free exercise clause is that it looks back to the establishment clause for its definition of "religion;" the establishment clause says that Congress may make no law respecting the establishment of "religion," while the free exercise clause says that Congress cannot prohibit the free exercise "thereof." Logically, the word "thereof" must have the same content as the object to which it refers. Accordingly, what counts as "religion" for one clause must count as "religion" for the other.

Critically, the free exercise clause makes no sense unless the word "religion" is read to encompass more than a church, denomination, or sect. On the contrary, it is common ground that the state abridges free exercise when it interferes with only small parts of an individual's religious practice. The state, for example, abridges free exercise when it tells student they cannot pray during school, even if it allows them complete freedom to practice all other aspects of their faith. Similarly, the state cannot tell a church it can't erect a nativity scene on its front lawn even if the church is otherwise left free to use its property as it wishes. Private prayer and nativity scenes are protected by the free exercise clause despite the fact that neither of these practices constitute religions in and of themselves.

If prayer and nativity scenes count as "religion" for the purposes of the free exercise clause, they must also count as "religion" for the purposes of the establishment clause. Just as the state abridges religion when it tells a student she cannot pray, so to does it establish religion when it requires prayer to be said in the schools. Just as the state abridges religion when it tells a church it can't set up a nativity scene, so to does it establish religion when it sets up a nativity scene on government land at public expense. The state does not cross the line to establishment only when it goes to the trouble and expense of setting up a state church; it crosses that line when it sets up any religious practice that constitutes "religion" for the purposes of free exercise. To the extent that accomodationists want to read the "thereof" in the free exercise clause broadly, they must also accept a broad reading of "religion" in the establishment clause. In short, you can't have your cake and eat it too.


jtcarr1164 profile image

jtcarr1164 6 years ago from Tueplo, Mississippi Author

adagio,

Madison may have been the architect of the Constitution, doing the majority of the writing, but he had to draft the ideas from all in the Continental Congress. The Constitution is not drafted strictly from his views. The "Framers" were the members of the Continental Congress.

Of course the Declaration was carefully worded in order to not favor a particular religion. But the concept of inalienable rights endowed by their creator is a religious idea, not the idea of "A" religion. This line is to show that our rights come from God (whichever God you believe in) and not from man; man can not take those rights away from you.

Divine Providence is another phrase for God. Mentioning God, does suggest religion, but again, not "A" religion. At the time the Declaration and the Constitution were written, Deist were not necessarily secular as modern Deist are. The notion that that the Declaration of Independence is not a founding document is preposterous. The Declaration of Independence was signed by the First Continental Congress. The Constitution was written and signed by the Third Continental Congress. The Declaration is the first step in the creation of our nation and gives credibility and justification to the Constitution.

At the time of the Constitutions writing a few of the colonies had established "state religions". The establishment clause was written for that purpose. That and the fact that England had established the Church of England (as we know it today the Anglican Church).

Prayer in school does not have to be forced or led by someone. No one in favor of school prayer is suggesting that anyone force anyone to pray in that manner. The moment of silence has also been struck down in lieu of prayer. School prayer has been gone for a long time now, so what basis have you to suggest that Christian prayer would be forced on anyone?

Displaying the Ten Commandments is in no way establishing a state religion. Which religion are you suggesting that it establishes? It is not a Christian document. It is simply a testament to the Juedeo-Christian laws in which ours are patterned by. There is no denying the root of our legal system, or the basis of our Founding Documents, no matter how progressives want to slice it.


luabu 6 years ago

Excellent exchange of ideas here

governance of a people by the people is not and exact science and is fraught with danger

The constitution needs to be both malleable and steadfast at the same time to deal with the unforseen difficulties of changing times

the teaching of religion in homes and schools is probably the most difficult issue to deal with of all

keep chipping away at this stuff/i'll be back


jtcarr1164 profile image

jtcarr1164 6 years ago from Tueplo, Mississippi Author

Hello again luabu!

Glad that you are keeping track on this hub. I feel that this is a relevant and important debate. It is amazing to me how I can receive a boat load of comments on some ridiculous subjects and people shy away from this one.

Thank you again for coming by and leaving comment.


Mike Dale profile image

Mike Dale 5 years ago from Far northern California

What a great discussion. Some great points have been made so I will not rehash those. I think the ultimate expression of our founding documents is, perhaps overly simplified, "live and let live".

Choice in all things, as long as it causes no harm to others life, liberty, happiness and property is the way to go.

I'm not offended by religious displays. I think it's around 80% of Americans belong to some denomination of Christianity, so we're bound to run across those displays every once in a while. Go figure heh.

On top of that, many American ideals are parallel to morals taught in many religions. This common theme seems to suggest that there are basic ways of living well with others, not that a particular religion is the basis for the American ideal per se.

Keep up the good topics brother. I love a good discussion, especially anything to do with freedom.

I just hope that doesn't become a concept only found in the history books.


d.william profile image

d.william 5 years ago from Somewhere in the south

Religion has always been a subject that i avoided like the plague. Until recently. When i see the proliferation of the new "Christian" movement in this country, it appalls me to the very core. These crazies would have this country run by barbaric christian values and mandate morality to suit their own narrow views of life. I am for total separation of church and state for that very reason. I do not believe that religion has done anything in this world except harbor ill will toward anything and everyone that is not part of that little brainwashed society. I have no objections to anyone wanting to live their lives believing in those old biblical fairy tales, just don't try to push it down my throat. I certainly do not want any religious entity making laws that affect me in any way, shape or form.


jtcarr1164 profile image

jtcarr1164 5 years ago from Tueplo, Mississippi Author

Mike and d.william, Thanks for droppinb by and leaving comment. Sorry, I was out of pocket for a while.


nailinthehead profile image

nailinthehead 5 years ago from Poland

As I'm living in one of the most Catholic country in the world I know a lot about the subject. Religion lies deep in the very foundation of my country and I'd never want it to be erased from there. It was Christianity which helped us survive for thousand of years, there always was a cross next to our national symbols. But as much as I appreciate the role of religion I just can't stand when the church is trying to be a state within a state and to impose it's own political view on people. I see the separation of state and church as keeping the church from interfering with politics. The state should look after your pocket while church - look after your soul. When priests openly support some politician or political fraction they just exceed their competences. On the other side - banning religious symbols in the public are is stupid. For atheists or even Non-Christians those symbols have no meaning, in the end the cross is just a sculpture so I don't get it why it is so disturbing for some. Displaying religious symbols is nothing wrong, but praying in schools is at least questionable as schools are for learning, not for praying.


jtcarr1164 profile image

jtcarr1164 5 years ago from Tueplo, Mississippi Author

nailitinthehead, thank you for coming by and leaving comment. Thank you for your perspective in another country.


wba108@yahoo.com profile image

wba108@yahoo.com 5 years ago from upstate, NY

Sometimes its good to actually just read the Constitution and believe what it says. This takes care of alot of problems! There is a big difference between non-establishment of religion and separation of church and state. Its also important to know that most of the Constitution restricted only the federal government. Most State governments had their chosen established religious denominations. Non-establishment of religion only applied to Congress(the federal government). Separation of church and state is only an institutional separation, which certainly doesn't prevent religion (specifically Christianity) from influencing the government.

The type of separation of church and state that the liberals want is only found in the Soviet Constitution not ours!

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