Separation of Church and State

When people think of the First Amendment to The Constitution of the United States of America they often think of words such as, “separation of church and state”, or “Freedom of Speech”, or of the press, or of religion; however one of these phrases doesn't actually show up on the First Amendment, or anywhere else in The Constitution. What it does say is:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
You can only find one other statement regarding religion within The U.S. Constitution, in Article Six, Third Clause:
“ . . . no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”
Does all of this really equate to a “separation of church and state?”

On the one hand, we have a statement basically saying we cannot allow religion to be a qualifier for becoming a public servant. On the other hand, we have a statement saying we have to allow people to exercise their religion freely. They can almost be seen as contradictory to each other, but if we really look at them in context, we find that they are in fact completely unrelated.

The one that was part of the original constitution, in Article Six, is actually only in relation to the election of public officers; which it clearly says in the beginning of the Third clause, saying it relates to:
“. . . Senators and Representatives . . . Members of the several State Legislatures . . . all executive and judicial Officers . . . of the United States and of the several States . . . “
This means this clause has no relation or influence upon what goes on in our public schools, or even local city governments. In fact it is only meant to protect the election of State and Federal officers from exclusion from office due to religious understanding, religious knowledge, or even religious affiliations. It also protects them from having to prove an absence of religious beliefs, and does nothing to bar them from allowing their religious beliefs from influencing the way they deal with their position as a public officer. This is actually were The Bill of Rights comes in.

When it comes to The Bill of Rights, people often like to interpret it by quoting the “founding fathers”; however, this is inappropriate because the Bill of Rights was actually passed many years after the founding fathers had written The U.S. Constitution and established The United States of America. In fact many of the founding fathers were in opposition to the Bill of Rights because they didn’t like how it limited the powers of the federal government. That’s right, some of the founding fathers wanted a stronger federal government with weaker states rights; however the Bill of Rights won out to become a protection for the rights of the States and the people (see Amendment 9 and 10 specifically).

As part of this protection of state and personally freedoms, we were actually guaranteed (or at least we should be) protection from the Federal government from passing any laws that would either favor or discourage any specific religion. It also insures the individual the free exercise of their religious beliefs. Just as important, in this same amendment, you’ll find the insurance of our freedom to speak; including about our religious beliefs, so if someone says they are offended by what you are saying, I suggest telling them you are offended by their lack of respect for your right to speech. After all, your right to speech is protected, and you actually have no constitutional protection from being offended.

In fact your rights to free speech only ends when it starts to endanger the life or livelihood of another, so before you go off and start yelling and screaming threw the streets all kind of profanities in the middle of the night, keep in mind that the ability to speak does not require yelling and screaming or even offensive language. It also doesn’t mean you have a right to disturbed the peace, say things that prevent others from exercising their rights, nor does it give you a free pass to cause panic or tyranny within or towards others.

The real question at this point is were did the words “separation of church and state” come from in the first place, and why it is becoming so easily used today to prevent our kids from having a religious influence on them within our public schools; while at the same time it’s becoming so much harder to keep kids in public schools in line and under control. That phrase has been used to prevent praying in schools, talking about the social and historical significance of many religious influences and texts within our schools, from exploring alternate theories to many scientific ideas, and even to prevent our kids from taking part in reciting a pledge that helps instill a sense of national unity and pride.

So where did it actually come from? It’s not in The Constitution, it’s not in any laws that I’m aware of, and if it were, I would consider it to be an unconstitutional law. The truth is that those words were actually derived from, though not actually a part of, of a United States Supreme Court ruling made in 1947 In the case of Everson v. Board of Education. As part of the ruling, Justice Hugo Black gave his interpretation of the First Amendment, saying:

“The First Amendment has erected a wall between church and state. That wall must be kept high and impregnable. We could not approve the slightest breach.”

Although this statement is very strongly worded, much more so then I can agree with, the actual ruling was only meant to prevent any aid or benefit to a religion from governmental actions, a sentiment that I actually agree with; unless the benefit is equally and easily available to all religions, such as allowing tax exemption for religious establishments based on their non-profit status.

Unfortunately this statement has since been abbreviated into the phrase “Separation of Church and State” and taken to also mean that government cannot get any aid or benefit from any religious actions; which is something I completely disagree with, and for which there is no supporting evidence of within The Constitution. In fact I believe the constitution says just the opposite, as preventing a religious action from taking place within government would actually be preventing the free exercise of religion; something very specifically protected within the First Amendment.

Please note, I said “religious action”, not “religious organization”. While I see no problem with personal religious actions within government, and have shown how those actions are constitutionally protected, there however is no place for any organization, religious or otherwise, to be taking actions within the government. Such actions are the soul responsibility of the officials who were elected by the people they represent, and relinquishing those responsibilities to any organization or unelected persons, I would see as being a treasonous act.

If religion truly was not allowed to be involved in government, then why have so many presidents sworn the oath of office, to protect The Constitution, while laying their hand on a copy of The Bible? Why then does The Constitution actually have references to religious beliefs? The Constitution even acknowledges Sunday as a day of rest in the Article One, Section Seven:

"If any bill shall not be returned by the President within ten days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the same shall be a law . . .”

The Constitution also has a reference to the Lord Jesus Christ as found in Article Seven just prior to the signatures:

“ . . . in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty seven . . ."

The Declaration of Independence is even more obvious in it’s declaration of a God, especially in the first and second paragraphs where it says:

“ . . . to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them. . .”
“ . . . [men] are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights. . .”

[For full text see: http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/charters.html]

Certainly without the declaration of independence there would be no Constitution, and as such it is vitally important to acknowledge The Declaration of Independence as a sort of moral code of The United States of America. It is in fact the very justification for the very existence of The United States of America.

While it is important that we do not allow our government to get involved in our religions, it is important that we acknowledge the roll God should have within our government. It certainly shouldn’t be an overbearing roll, but we are a nation based on Judeo-Christian beliefs, with many laws based on the ten commandments, and the further we get away from those values, the closer we get to a divided and dysfunctional nation.

We do, however, need to be fair in our public dealing with religion. As such I do not believe it is appropriate for any organization, including religious, to be heavily involved in a public school system. On the other hand I certainly wouldn’t turn down any charitable donations meant to help enhance the educational experience, such as a donation of supplies or equipment, but I would probably turn down a truckload of books or manuals that were specific only to religious teachings. I wouldn’t turn down volunteers just because of their religious affiliations, and would allow students to take a regularly designated class period off for religious reasons.

More importantly, however, is that students should be allowed to pray, mediate, or recite their favorite list of beliefs while in school if they choose to do so at appropriate times; such expressions are after all protected by the First Amendments “Freedom of Speech” clause. What I wouldn’t allow is for such practices to interfere with the classroom instruction, but I would like to see public schools teaching theories of Creationism when theories of Evolution are presented; as well as seeing Social Studies and History classes including factual information on all major religions and their roles in society and history.

I would like to see Congress and other governing bodies, offering a prayer before every meeting so that they may lead in ways that will best benefit us the people, allow us to prosper, along with helping other nations to do the same. But most importantly I would like to see the increasing pattern of religious bigotry and hatred stopped. If you are offended by it, then I suggest you try remembering that the Constitution does not protect you from offense, but it does protect your right to talk about it, just as it protects the right of those offensive words to be said.

- Posted By Seth Hollist