Wednesday, March 31, 2010


This week in Davenport, Iowa, the City Administrator, Craig Malin, sent a memo to city employees announcing that the term "Good Friday" would officially be known as "Spring Holiday".   This has ignited a firestorm of criticism that caused the city council (who were not given the opportunity to vote on the change) to overrule the decision and restore Good Friday.

The argument used for this change was, of course, the old liberal favorite - "separation of church and state".

It's time to set the record straight on this once and for all.  The liberals are fond of saying that the term "separation of church and state" is in the Constitution.  It is not.  The only mention of church and state in the Constitution is this:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

What that means is that the State is not allowed to impose a state-run religion on the people. or regulate how, what or where they worship.  The reason they added this language was because in England, the State runs the Church.  The situation with the Church of England has been a bone of contention amongst the British for centuries - one need look no further than  Henry VIII  and his daughter, "Bloody" Mary for proof of that. There are plenty of examples throughout european history as well, such as a little thing called the Spanish Inquisition.   Throughout history, state imposed religion in european countries has caused bloodshed and power struggles time and time again.

Our founders wanted to avoid the rise of one particular religion over the others as well as avoiding having the state control or mandate worship.  But at no point in time did they want no religion whatsoever.  Our founders were almost all practicing christians of some form or another and believed that faith in God was necessary to good governance.  God is all over the founding of our nation, from the four times He was mentioned in our Declaration of Independence to the numerous mentions in our Constitution.  "In God we trust" was emblazoned not just on our money, but also over the Speaker of the House in the US Capitol.  God is in our Pledge of Allegiance.  Throughout our Capitol, there are countless references to God and the Bible on monuments and state buildings - the Supreme Court building has a relief of Moses and the Ten Commandments on the east entrance and throughout the building (no matter how they try to spin it).  One of the first books our new nation printed was a bible, which was sponsored by Congress and was actually printed to be used in schools as a textbook.  Our representatives must swear, on a bible, an oath of office that ends with "So help me God" before taking office.  The Supreme Court, in 1892, gave us the "Trinity Decision" which stated that "this is a Christian nation".  Over and over again, the Judeo-Christian ethic is shown to be a founding principle of this country.

The reason the left is desperate to rid the state of religion is twofold.  First, if God is in our government, it follows that there should be morality, accountability and ethics, too - things that are sorely lacking these days.  Second, the progressives want government to be god.  This desire has become quite evident.  When our Founding Fathers created our government, they understood that rights were things only God could bestow.  Our current government, however, in it's current incarnation as "god" has taken to bequeathing new "rights" on the people (more on "rights" in a minute).  They invoke the Constitution, even as they trample on it, in their arguments against religion; but, as usual, they misinterpret it.  Perhaps they should try reading it sometime.  In fact, it should be a requirement of federal office that a thorough knowledge of the Constitution be proved prior to being sworn in.  Many of our recent officeholders (on both sides of the aisle) find it easy to sidestep our founding document due to their complete ignorance of it.

As to "rights", a right is something inherent - endowed by our Creator, not by man or government.  It is something everyone has without having to deprive someone else of something.  The right to free speech is a God given right, as are the rights to life and liberty.  Owning a home or car, or getting a college education or health insurance are privileges.    Our government is trying to sell us on the idea that those things are rights, because then they can play at being the benevolent 'god' and dole those things out to us as they see fit.  And let's not forget - that which has been given by man can always be taken away.  It is about power and control, ultimately.

So the next time some lefty spouts off about "separation of church and state", set them straight.  Tell them to read the Constitution before they try to invoke it, and not spin it to fit their theories.  Suggest, too, that they research the backgrounds of our Founding Fathers - knowing the men who created our country and the times in which it was created are very important to understanding our founding documents.  Explain that the so-called "separation" was to protect the church from state control, not to protect the state from church control.  It's well past time to set them straight and stop their revision of our history.

In the meantime, is anyone up for a rousing rendition of "God Bless America"?



Doug Indeap April 1, 2010 at 1:34 AM  

The phrase “separation of church and state” is but a metaphor to describe the underlying principle of the First Amendment and the no-religious-test clause of the Constitution. That the phrase does not appear in the text of the Constitution assumes much importance, it seems, only to those who may have once labored under the misimpression it was there and later learned they were mistaken. To those familiar with the Constitution, the absence of the metaphor commonly used to describe one of its principles is no more consequential than the absence of other phrases (e.g., Bill of Rights, separation of powers, checks and balances, fair trial, religious liberty) used to describe other undoubted Constitutional principles.

Some try to pass off the Supreme Court's decision in Everson v. Board of Education as simply a misreading of Jefferson's letter to the Danbury Baptists. Instructive as that letter is, it played but a small part in the Court's decision. Indeed, it was only after reaching its conclusion based on a detailed discussion of the historical events leading to the First Amendment that the Court mentioned the letter. The metaphor "separation of church and state" was but a handy catch phrase to describe the upshot of its conclusion. The Court's reading of the First Amendment in this regard was unanimous; all nine Justices agreed on that much, but split 5-4 on whether the Amendment precludes states from paying for transportation of students to religious schools.

Perhaps even more than Thomas Jefferson, James Madison influenced the Court's view. Madison, who had a central role in drafting the Constitution and the First Amendment, confirmed that he understood them to "[s]trongly guard[] . . . the separation between Religion and Government." Madison, Detached Memoranda (~1820). He made plain, too, that they guarded against more than just laws creating state sponsored churches or imposing a state religion. Mindful that even as new principles are proclaimed, old habits die hard and citizens and politicians could tend to entangle government and religion (e.g., "the appointment of chaplains to the two houses of Congress" and "for the army and navy" and "[r]eligious proclamations by the Executive recommending thanksgivings and fasts"), he considered the question whether these actions were "consistent with the Constitution, and with the pure principle of religious freedom" and responded: "In strictness the answer on both points must be in the negative. The Constitution of the United States forbids everything like an establishment of a national religion."

The First Amendment embodies the simple, just idea that each of us should be free to exercise his or her religious views without expecting that the government will endorse or promote those views and without fearing that the government will endorse or promote the religious views of others. By keeping government and religion separate, the establishment clause serves to protect the freedom of all to exercise their religion. Reasonable people may differ, of course, on how these principles should be applied in particular situations, but the principles are hardly to be doubted. Moreover, they are good, sound principles that should be nurtured and defended, not attacked. Efforts to undercut our secular government by somehow merging or infusing it with religion should be resisted by every patriot.

Wake Forest University recently published a short, objective Q&A primer on the current law of separation of church and state. I commend it to you.

rockingrector April 1, 2010 at 4:38 AM  

Interestingly, here in the UK calls for separation of church and state generally fall on deaf ears, probably because the situation is so complex it would take light-years of unravelling.

And while it's true that there have been many conflicts hung on the banner of "religion", a good number of them haven't been about religion at all - e.g. recent conflict in Northern Ireland. Human beings (especially the young male of the species) perhaps tend to be naturally aggressive, and would fight over something else if the religious banner wasn't handy.

Over here in the UK, we've probably gained as much from having a state religion as we've lost through it. Today, there is huge apathy towards religion, but along with that seems to be a crumbling of our social cohesion.

Janice B. Scott

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