The most fraudulently and inaccurately used phrase by anti-Christians and the irreligious, secular left is “separation of church and state.” Not only is it not in the Constitution or any of the Amendments, its usage manifests immense ignorance about the statement from Thomas Jefferson from which the phrase derived.
Far from it’s current usage by the left to proscribe public religious expression, whether in the form of public prayers or nativity scenes, Jefferson’s statement advances the notion that religious freedom is so fundamental to our national heritage that it was listed first among our enumerated rights as citizens, along with the freedoms of speech, press, and peaceable assembly. Employing Jefferson’s statement as an argument against public religious express is disingenuous, dishonest, and an abject misrepresentation of his intent.
The phrase is taken from a letter written as a response in 1802 by newly elected President Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury, Massachusetts Baptist association. The irony of the oft-used phrase by Christian antagonists is that through historical revisionism, the phrase is used in exactly the opposite manner in which Jefferson articulated it! To my knowledge, Jefferson never expressed concern about public religiosity, but he was concerned with government control of religion.
The Danbury Baptists’ letter, signed by three ministers, expressed concerns with the wording of the Constitution and the first Amendment as it related to religion, and sought Jefferson’s clarification of legislative intent behind the wording. The ministers said, “Our sentiments are uniformly on the side of religious liberty–that religion is at all times and places a matter between God and individuals–that no man ought to suffer in name, person, or effects on account of his religious opinions–that the legitimate power of civil government extends no further than to punish the man who works ill to his neighbors…”
Their explicitly stated concern was regarding freedom of religion from the powers of government. In response, President Jefferson attempted to allay their fears by declaring, “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 legislative 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.”
Jefferson’s response was to alleviate the ministers’ fears of government intrusion or attempted control of religion. As articulated, Jefferson’s response reflected his conviction of the limited control of government; that government should not meddle in the affairs of people and their culture, but people and culture can meddle in the affairs of government. Indeed this is the backbone of our republic, people shaping the direction of our government, not the reverse. And the notion that we must strip ourselves of our most ardently and tenaciously held beliefs in order to shape the affairs of state is not only ludicrous, but is unconstitutional and contrary to Jefferson’s and the other Founding Fathers’ intent!
We no longer have a nation that exercises freedom of religion. The power of the government, initially promised to not meddle in the free exercise thereof, is now enforcing a “religion” of the left, a secular humanism on the entire country. What was a bedrock freedom, supported and espoused by the Founding Fathers, is now trampled as the ACLU and other anti-religious entities suppress specifically Christian public displays, nondenominational prayers, and any semblance of religious freedom.
In direct contradistinction with what Jefferson intended, we now have government (primarily the judicial system) forcing itself on the religious community. They repress and coerce and intimidate Christian public displays of religiosity into the underground, exercising the very power over religion that Jefferson denounced and promised would not be exercised! Instead of Jefferson’s promised freedom of religious expression, we have enforced secularism and multiculturalism at the expense of Christian freedom of religion. In short, the government is doing precisely what Jefferson avowed it would not, and the argument in support of such intervention is the dishonest, twisted, and convoluted representation of Jefferson’s own words. What was intended as a limitation on government, is now implemented against individuals and groups of individuals.
So the next time someone tries to use “separation of church and state” as the basis for forcing religious expressions or displays out of the public square, you can correct their perversion of Jefferson’s words. His words, as now used against any public religiosity, are twisted 180 degrees by a small minority intent on repressing freedom of religion.
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