Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof …
Readers who are following this series on religion and politics may be thinking, “I should have stayed awake in civics class.”
Liberals, in their assault on Christianity, will always cite this principle — the separation of church and state. Where do we see this written in the First Amendment? It’s not.
What the left seeks to do when citing this clause is to remove Christianity from the public square, but this is the wrong application of what Thomas Jefferson implied in his famous letter to the Danbury Baptist church.
Danbury was located in Connecticut where the dominant brand of Christianity was Congregationalist. The original 13 colonies were, in one sense, defined by their church affiliation, or denomination. For example, Quakers were concentrated in the northern colonies, Methodists in the middle colonies and Baptists for the most part settled in the south.
If you were a Baptist in Connecticut you could face discrimination and persecution. At the Constitutional convention the issue of religious liberty, in the context of Christianity, was hotly debated. The colonies wanted to retain their unique religious identity. In the end, Federalists won the debate with the insertion of the First Amendment guaranteeing freedom of religion.
Meaning? The Federal government would not declare, as the colonies had done, that any particular denomination be chartered as the official state church. In other words, there would be no Church of England in the United States.
In theory, a Quaker could live and worship freely in Pennsylvania or Virginia. In practice, the state constitutions reflected colonial sentiment so that by the 19th century religious discrimination still existed. This was the catalyst for the Danbury Baptist Association to send a letter of complaint to the newly elected president Thomas Jefferson.
Dated October 7, 1801 the letter made five specific points:
1. Religion is a matter between God and man.
2. The legitimate power of civil government extends no further than to punish the man who does wrong.
3. Religious freedom is an inalienable right, not granted favor.
4. Those who seek power under the pretense of government and religion are a reproach to their fellow-man.
5. It is not the prerogative of government to make laws that govern the kingdom of Christ.
Jefferson, a citizen of Virginia (where Baptist was the dominant affiliation), sent this letter to the Danbury church:
Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and 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 and State.
The principle of separation is not found in the First Amendment, but in a letter written by President Jefferson to a church in Connecticut.
Meaning? That the government of man be separated from the institution of religion — not that the church be removed from the public square; and that it be permitted to exercise its inalienable rights without fear of persecution or discrimination.
This separation is a legal barrier that the state cannot cross. Yet the Democrat Party, and their liberal judges, throw out the Ten Commandments, deny the sanctity of life, redefine marriage, open bathrooms to any pedophile, and find people of faith contemptuous for standing up.
Understanding the historical directive that government stay out of religion we see, today, an inverted application of that principle. The state is very much involved in silencing the church. Consider Senate Bill 1146 in California. Introduced by Ricardo Lara, it specifically targets Christian colleges. For example, under the legislation a faith-based college could not require its students to sign a statement of faith, or attend chapel services. Further, students would not be required to take Bible-based courses; and restroom access would have to be made compliant with the needs of LGBTQ students. An even more prohibitive version of the legislation was passed by the Senate, but there was such an outcry of protest that Lara removed the bill from consideration — though he said that he might re-introduce it at a later date.
Lee Wilhite, vice president of university communications at Biola University, said:
It functionally eliminates the religious liberty of all California faith-based universities. It really does infringe on how we carry out our mission. We would no longer be able to require a profession of faith for students. That’s something Biola requires of all incoming students. The danger for Biola University is that it prevents us from carrying out our mission the way we have for 108 years. It would eliminate our ability to continue our mission.
Senator Lara is the first openly gay person of color elected to the California State Senate. His legislation would have permitted a gay student to sue a Christian college if it taught the Biblical definition of marriage. Minority students, who would have been denied student loans (Cal Grant), were among the most vocal opponents of Lara’s bill.
Pastor John MacArthur (Grace to You) was asked at this week’s service for his opinion on election politics. He cited all the Scriptures that affirm our citizenship is in heaven — that we are called to preach the Gospel … not engage in politics (which is a worldly concern). And though the choice is often between two evils, as a citizen, MacArthur said he has the obligation to vote for the person who will do less harm.
Listen, I grew up in a day when no one had a cell phone, and everyone knew that marriage was between a man and a woman. If just one-third of the electorate got wise we could make history, but Christians have to get off the sidelines, stop voting for a party that holds them in contempt … and pray.
1. Democrats, LGBT Activists’ Sinister Plan to Crack Down on Christian Schools, Todd Starnes, Fox News Opinion.
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