Pastor Roger Anghis
August 8, 2010
Discovering America’s Christian Heritage
Part 7 Faith of the Founders Pt 3
Hosea 4:6 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.
When we hear the phrase “separation of church and state” we understand it to mean something other than what our Founders understood it to be. We understand it to mean a total separation of any religious views or doctrines from all of government. Our Founders saw it as it was meant by Jefferson’s statement in his response to the Danbury Baptist Association in 1801 and that was a total separation of any government control over religion. These two ideas are diametrically opposed to each other. The separation that Jefferson spoke of was an institutional separation, NOT an influential separation. U.S. Congressional (June 7-September25, 1789) records clearly show the intent of the First Amendment. 1.) The federal government was not to allow a single denomination running the nation. They had experienced that while under the rule of England where only one type of Bible was allowed, worship had to be done in a particular manner, and the state decided the doctrines. 2.) The federal government had no authority on religious expression.
Today we see that the federal government has ignored this part of the First Amendment. Teachers can’t even have Bibles in their desks; students are being arrested for reading their Bible during study hall, and there are no prayers at sporting events or graduations. The origins of the phrase “separation of church and state” need to be examined to understand just what it really means.
First, we have to know that the phrase “separation of church and state” is not found in any of our Founding documents, none! This phrase was taken out of a letter that Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1801 to the Danbury Baptist Association in response to their concern over the possible government involvement in religious activities. They believed that the wording of the First Amendment indicated a government granted right as opposed to a God granted right to religion. They were concerned that someday the government might try to regulate religious expression as we see today with court rulings on when and where we can pray, display the 10 Commandments, etc. Jefferson’s response is evident in its declaration of free expression without government interference. Here is a portion of that letter: 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.
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.” Jefferson mentioned “natural rights.” This statement, in his day, meant that it was a right granted by God (natural), and not by man and government. They had no authority to dictate when or where a person could pray, what he could pray or how he could pray. This belief was not challenged for nearly a half a century when in 1853 a group challenged Congress to separate Christian principles from government and to remove chaplains from Congress and the military. Their desire was to not have government protect religious expression in the public square but use government to remove religious expression from the public square. The House Judiciary Committee spent a year studying this and reported on March 27, 1854: “Had the people [Founding Fathers], during the Revolution, a suspicion of any attempt to war against Christianity, that Revolution would have been strangled in its cradle.
At the time of the adoption of the Constitution and its amendments, the universal sentiment was that Christianity should be encouraged, but not any one sect [denomination]. In this age, there is no substitute for Christianity. That was the religion of the Founders of the republic and they expected it to remain the religion of their descendents.” Two months later that same committee issued this statement; “The great vital and conservative element in our system [the thing that holds our system together] is the belief of our people in the pure doctrines and the divine truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” Understand that this is Congress that is refusing to separate Christian principles from government. In 1878 in Reynolds v United States, this case was another attempt to separate Christianity from government; the Supreme Court issued its decision using the greater part of Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptist Association in proving that his letter called for an institutional separation not an influential separation.
Biblically there are examples of separation of church and state. In 2 Chronicles 26:16-21 we see where king Uzziah attempted to make sacrifices in the temple and was warned by the priests but he tried to make the sacrifices anyway. The Lord struck him with leprosy and he eventually died of that disease. God has called the civil government to do one thing and the church to do one thing. When the church picked up the sword in the Middle Ages, atrocities were committed in the name of God. This should never have happened, but the church stepped into an authority that God had not ordained for the church and the results were death and destruction.
The big break from the original intent occurred in 1947 in the case of Everson v Board of Education. The Supreme Court instituted a brand new policy by using only the eight word phrase from Jefferson’s 1801 letter to the Danbury Baptist Association and ignoring the rest of the letter. “The First Amendment has erected ‘a wall of separation between church and state’. That wall must be kept high and impregnable.” For the first time in our history Jefferson’s letter, which was not an official document, would be used to remove religion from the public square instead of protecting religion in the public square. This decision was also made with no precedents giving a foundation to their decision. This was the first time in the Court’s history that they handed down a decision without precedence. This is a 180 degree reversal of what our First Amendment had always stood for. This decision set the ground work for the 1962 case of Engle v Vitale where for the first time in American history we separated Christian principles from education. The ruling made it unconstitutional for a student to engage in voluntary prayer. This ruling also changed, for the first time in American jurisprudence, the meaning of the word church. For 170 years the court defined ‘church’ as being a federally acknowledged denomination. In the 1962 case it redefined the term ‘church’ to mean any religious activity in public.
The activist courts have restructured the First Amendment to mean what they want it to mean. They all have stated that this is what Jefferson wanted when he wrote it. This shows the ignorance of our history by the people who are supposed to uphold what our Founding Fathers wanted. Jefferson was not involved in the writing of the First Amendment. He was overseas at the time and did not see it until it had been ratified. There were 90 men that had input into its wording, but at no time was the phrase “separation of church and state” ever mentioned.
Congressional records show all the conversations that took place during the time it was being drafted, so if that was their intent, why is there no record of it ever being brought up? Fisher Ames was the person who came up with the final wording for the First Amendment. When you study his writings you will find that he believed that the Bible should be the main book used for learning in our public schools, not removed from schools.
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Our Founding Fathers wanted an open government and in the Constitution Article 1, Section 5, paragraph 3 it states that there will be written records of the proceedings of Congress. This ensures an open, accessible, and accountable government. It was also to describe the words and actions of elected officials. Today there are public libraries that refuse to allow any type of meeting by religious groups declaring the “separation of church and state”, yet in the first week of December of 1800 Congress declared that the Capitol building would be used as a church on Sundays. This is verified by many members of Congress that attended the services at the Capitol and wrote about it in their diaries.
Our history has been taken from us and a false history has been put in its place. We must dust off our real history and demand that it be taught.
© 2010 Roger Anghis - All Rights Reserved
Pastor Roger Anghis is the Founder of RestoreFreeSpeech.org, an organization designed to draw attention to the need of returning free speech rights to churches that was restricted in 1954.
President of The Damascus Project, TheDamascusProject.org, which has a stated purpose of teaching pastors and lay people the need of the churches involvement in the political arena and to teach the historical role of Christianity in the politics of the United States. Married-37 years, 3 children, three grandchildren.
Web site: RestoreFreeSpeech.org