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Separation of Church and State???

Updated on September 15, 2008

The founding of America was surely based on Christian principles - even though it was not founded as a Christian Nation. Archival literature is voluminous and pervasive. Not only did the founders and their heirs make plain their beliefs, but their words have been recorded for us to determine the truth of the matter ourselves. Don't be so quick to believe the onslaught of those who would oppose our heritage and our traditions as if they never happen.

Joseph Story

His father was Dr. Elisha Story (1743-1805), a member of the Sons of Liberty, who took part in the Boston Tea Party in 1773. Joseph Story, Congressman and Professor of Law at Harvard, was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1811 by James Madison, the Father of the U.S. Constitution. He served on the Court for 34 years. Story's great work, Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States, is considered a classic of American jurisprudence. He was instrumental in establishing the illegality of the slave trade. He also convincingly argued that the United States of America was built on the principles of Christianity. In a speech at Harvard, Story stated bluntly:

There never has been a period of history, in which the Common Law did not recognize Christianity as lying at its foundation.

In his work, A Familiar Exposition of the Constitution of the United States, Justice Story, had this to say about the purpose the First Amendment:

We are not to attribute this prohibition of a national religious establishment [in the First Amendment] to an indifference to religion in general, and especially to Christianity (which none could hold in more reverence than the framers of the Constitution)....

Probably, at the time of the adoption of the Constitution, and of the Amendment to it now under consideration, the general, if not the universal, sentiment in America was, that Christianity ought to receive encouragement from the State so far as was not incompatible with the private rights of conscience and the freedom of religious worship.

Any attempt to level all religions, and to make it a matter of state policy to hold all in utter indifference, would have created universal disapprobation, if not universal indignation.

In other words, the purpose of the First Amendment was to protect a religious people from the government -- not to protect the government from a religious people. It is perfectly all right, under the First Amendment, for the Government of the United States to favor Christianity over other faiths -- so long as other faiths are not persecuted by the government, and so long as the national government does not attempt to set up a national church, such as the Anglican Church in England. In his Commentaries on the Constitution, Justice Story stated:

It yet remains a problem to be solved in human affairs, whether any free government can be permanent where the public worship of God, and the support of religion, constitute no part of the policy or duty of the state in any assignable shape.

In fact, in his commentary on the purpose of First Amendment, Justice Story stated:

The real object of the First Amendment was not to countenance much less to advance Mohammedanism, or Judaism, or infidelity, by prostrating Christianity, but to exclude all rivalry among Christian sects [denominations] and to prevent any national ecclesiastical patronage of the national government.


Also, as a Supreme Court Justice - in a decision he said...

1844, Vidal v. Girard's Executors, 43 U.S. 126,132.

Lawyers speaking for the City of Philadelphia, which opposed the establishment of a Deist school by a Frenchman named Stephen Girard, argued:

The plan of education proposed is anti-Christian, and therefore repugnant to the law....The purest principles of morality are to be taught. Where are they found? Whoever searches for them must go to the source from which a Christian man derives his faith -- the Bible...There is an obligation to teach what the Bible alone can teach, viz. a pure system of morality...

Both in the Old and New Testaments [religious instruction's] importance is recognized. In the Old it is said, 'Thou shalt diligently teach them to thy children,' and the New, 'Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not...' No fault can be found with Girard for wishing a marble college to bear his name forever, but it is not valuable unless it has a fragrance of Christianity about it.

The United States Supreme Court agreed, and in a unanimous opinion read by Justice Joseph Story ruled as follows: not to be maliciously and openly reviled and blasphemed against, to the annoyance of believers or the injury of the public...It is unnecessary for us, however, to consider the establishment of a school or college, for the propagation of...Deism, or any other form of infidelity.

Such a case is not to be presumed to exist in a Christian country...Why may not laymen instruct in the general principles of Christianity as well as ecclesiastics...

And we cannot overlook the blessings, which such [lay] men by their conduct, as well as their instructions, may, nay must, impart to their youthful pupils. Why may not the Bible, and especially the New Testament, without note or comment, be read and taught as a divine revelation in the [school] -- its general precepts expounded, its evidences explained and its glorious principles of morality inculcated?...

Where can the purest principles of morality be learned so clearly or so perfectly as from the New Testament?

It is also said, and truly, that the Christian religion is a part of the common law of Pennsylvania...

Source: One Nation Under God, America's Christian Heritage


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    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Perhaps more than any other single man, Thomas Paine is responsible for the formation of the United States and he did not believe in God. I reccomened being a little more educated on the subject before debate. "Before a debate can take place though, all those involved have to be educated and knowledgeable about the topic being debated, and unfortunately neither our public officials nor the media at large are presenting an honest and factual case to the public about the facts that are in question."

    • Bibowen profile image

      William R Bowen Jr 

      9 years ago

      Good information, especially your emphasis that Christiantity should be encouraged by our governments. Thanks for writing it.

    • marisuewrites profile image


      10 years ago from USA

      I understand the country was founded on basic right and wrong deeply rooted in religion.  However, as we've dealt with government and religious issues, it's been widely interpreted to not go beyond certain boundaries, such as telling people to pray, or how to live in their communities with respect to specific religions beliefs.  We have to have basic right and wrong to avoid the harm of individuals.  You can't hit me, I can't hit can't take my property, I can't take yours...based on right and wrong and some many not like it but law has to have some basis and foundation that includes inalienable rights.

      To separate, is not to do away with...but to keep it within certain boundaries, therefore...allowing those who desire to do so...practice religion according to their desire...just not forcing it on others.

      To protect the rights of the individual, interpretation had to occur that limited the Congress or government in telling even how to handle morals.

      Morals rub shoulders with the resonsibility of families and churches, and government has to take a minimal role, with the exception of deciding on great harm to the individual. It's almost inpossible to avoid subjectivity and boundaries are hard lines to define so as to respect freedom.

      I think the founding fathers had an indication how complicated this many wept over their decisions and suffered great persecution, even poverty and worse, death.

      These are not easy issues; you nor I can easily define them or paint them with boundaries.

    • Prophecy Teacher profile imageAUTHOR

      Prophecy Teacher 

      10 years ago from Dallas Texas

      Viralprospector - thanks for the comment and opinion. I have been spending a lot of time studying this subject lately. In the past - I always studied the arguments from both sides. Each uses reason and quotes to further their arguments. Both make sense at a casual level. So I have been going back and reading SOURCE documents, Period letters and diaries to see what GENERAL frame of mind prevailed around the argument in the day.

      I have come to the tentative conclusion that there is clearly a Separation of Church and State - but that the founders never imagined it would be used to increase infidelity and sinfulness in the scales we have seen and live with today. They expected exactly the opposite!

      The separation of Church and State - was based on the stated and implied belief that the best way to increase the General Church of Jesus Christ and it's dogmas - was to separate it from Government. Believing the populous to be in near totality moral - and it was in their day - they could not imagine an immoral State either along the French Model of Atheism, nor total secularism, nor the English Model of Anglicanism, nor the Islamic Model of Mohammedanism, nor the Papist model of Catholicism - or any other incomplete faith that would counter Reformed Protestant Christianity in it's everyday use.

      Madison says those faiths were incomplete as long as the believer's in them - demanded a sovereign King or Prophet that demanded allegiance opposed to the Free state of America. It was ok to believe those dogmas if they renounced their ultimate loyalty to the head as opposed to America. (concerning Islam - the Caliph was in existence then). He believed a Separated Church in it's many varied forms - would ultimately evangelize those faiths - first in America - and then the world - which he saw as America's calling.

      He then argues that the US was at that time in a vibrant Christian experience because the various Christian Sect were actually in competition with each other. That competition is what made the Faith moral and the Clergy more bound to their congregants in righteousness. In essence - they did not want to be seen as immoral in the eyes of the other sects - so they were in fact - more pious.

      Today, we have come to the very thing they never imagined would happen. Their letters clearly show this - but those parts of their letters seem never used in the arguments. Only the parts which pertain to the Separation clauses. A clear example of this half truth way of looking at things - is John Madison's letter in 1785;

      Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments

      I have intentionally used the link from "American's United for Separation of Church and State" because they proudly exhibit it as proof for their argument. Madison brilliantly argues in favor of Separation. But they overlook the numerous refernces to Christianity and it's great and glorious cause in the world and the ultimate end of it - which is to bring the world into submission to it. Madison uses the argument that Separation of Church and State - is in fact - the best way to do that. That without Separation - the Church in one sect form or another - would capture the state and then there would be no free Church to join. The Reformation - and all other forms of it - inlcuding the American Revolution - would in  fact have to be fought all over again.

      Me personally, I think that if we are to win the argument - the original one - we must argue it the way the fathers did. In context. I am leaning this way - because no matter where I read - it seems to have been the counter argument used by Christians for Separation - against Christians arguing in favor of a Church State relationship. I will do a hub in a few weeks that gives more links and arguments.

      But there's a mouthful to ponder on until I get to it.


    • viralprospector profile image


      10 years ago from DFW Texas


      As you know I wrote about separation of church and state for the past several days. It is clear that there is no such thing in the constitution. It is actually a phenomenon of society that is dangerous and has put our country on the verge of ruin.

      I am not taking a religious stance on this either. America was founded on distrust and severe limits of government. Americans have lost the ability to understand what the founding fathers created for us. Ignoring their wise ideals, that have served our country well for over 225 years, is the greatest danger in our country. Internal corruption, which we have in America, is the most dangerous problem of all.

      Separation of church and state is a total misread of the 1st amendment to the constitution. It actually states that religion is free from interference from congress. It restricts religion in absolutely no way. All that anyone needs to do to realize that is read it with an open mind. That is what is wrong with America is that too many people do not have an open mind. Prejudice in America today is comparable to the 60s.

      This was a terrific factual hub from you, as usual. Thanks, neighbor.

    • Prophecy Teacher profile imageAUTHOR

      Prophecy Teacher 

      10 years ago from Dallas Texas

      Mike - I don't mind - but send it to my email first. There is a list of prayers that many Christians attribute to Washington's Diary which in fact are standard prayers - not His own. But I am always open to anything that furthers the awareness of our heritage. Kind regards.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Good Hub PT.

      I have a copy of a prayer that George Washington used to say somewhere around here but I can not seem to find it at this time. It's a real nice prayer too. I used to say it everyday. If I can find it I'll post it here if you don't mind?


    • Prophecy Teacher profile imageAUTHOR

      Prophecy Teacher 

      10 years ago from Dallas Texas


      They are afraid of restraint.

      Liberty is their God and Liscence their drink.

      They somehow have this notion that the greatest generation of wisdom ever produced, just happened to have been surrounded by avid Christians - but they themselves weren't affected by it.

      Go figure.

    • Anna Marie Bowman profile image

      Anna Marie Bowman 

      10 years ago from Florida

      I love your arguments!!! I have always said, The Bill of Rights protects your right to "Freedom of Religion", not "Freedom FROM Religion". I got into an argument with someone just today about it. What are they so afraid of?


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