When you think about this phrase, what comes to your mind? Do you think about the ACLU? The ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) has been an instrumental organization in wiping religion (particularly Christianity) out of the public square. Over the last several decades, they have been successful in removing the Ten Commandments, crosses and other Christian symbols, forbidding prayer in the name of Jesus, fought the teaching of creationism in public schools, and have won many other victories for their side.
Because of these events, some Christians believe that Separation of Church and State is the reason why America is losing its godly heritage. I would like to set the record straight because many folks have been misinformed about it.
1. The Phrase Separation of Church And State Is Not Found In The Constitution
Ask the average person on the street if this phrase is found in the Constitution and they will say yes. It is surprising to many that the answer is no. In fact, it is not found in any of our nation’s founding documents.
The phrase Separation of Church and State is not found in the Constitution, but the principle is found in the First Amendment.
1st Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
Back in Colonial days, many people were persecuted, imprisoned and sometimes sentenced to death because they went against the established religion in their state. To avoid this, the founders decided that the U.S. government would not establish an official denomination. This is the only way the church should stay out of government. For example, a public business that allows a church to meet in its building is not establishing a national religion. Having the phrase “In God We Trust” printed on our money is not establishing a national religion. This is why “prohibiting the free exercise thereof” is there to insure that the government has no right to stop a church service, or someone from reading the Bible, praying, passing out religious literature door-to-door or out on the streets.
2. Separation Of Church And State Did Not Originate With Roger Williams
Roger Williams was a Puritan minister when he came to Boston in 1631. It didn’t take long for Williams to stir up trouble as he argued that the government should have no authority over the religious convictions of its citizens. The General Court pronounced the sentence of banishment from the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Williams, accompanied by some of his loyal followers, migrated to a new area and called it Providence. He made it a place where people of all religions could worship freely.
Where did Roger Williams get the idea of religious freedom? He got it from a Baptist pastor in London named Samuel Howe. Understand that the concept of the Separation of Church and State goes much further back than Roger Williams.
3. Thomas Jefferson Advocated Separation Of Church And State
In response to a letter that Thomas Jefferson had received, he wrote a letter to the Danbury Baptists in 1802 stating: “The First Amendment had erected a wall of separation.”
4. America Is Misinformed About The Separation Of Church And State
In 1853, a group was petitioning Congress to remove chaplains out of the military and remove religious expressions from the public square. Congress reviewed it for a year and than rejected it.
House Judiciary Committee Report in March 27, 1854 said, “Had the people [the 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 it’s amendments, the universal sentiment was that Christianity should be encouraged, but not any one sect [denomination].”
The report continued: “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 descendants.”
Two months later, they said, “The vital and conservative element in our system is the belief of our people in the doctrines and the divine truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
In 1947, in the case between Everson v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court for the first time in American history interrupted the Separation of Church and State wrong.
From that time on, the phrase Separation of Church and State meant the church had no control over the state and the state can place certain limits on the church. It means that if somebody is offended in anyway toward a Christian that prays, preaches, puts up a religious symbol around Christmas or anything done in the name of Christ, that person or organization can be sued and chances are they will probably lose. Many Christians today are confused and are buying into the belief that they shouldn’t be involved in government or should limit their religious beliefs out in public.
Dr. William James, the founder of modern psychology said, “There is nothing so absurd but that if you repeat it often enough people will believe it.”
Dear reader, I want you to consider what the Bible says about the Separation of Church and State.
5. The Bible Teaches Separation Of Church And State
The government and the church are two separate institutions. The former was established in the Old Testament (Gen. 9:6) and the latter was established in the New Testament (Mt. 16:18).
An example of the separation of church and state can be found in the New Testament. Mt. 22:21 says, “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.” Jesus Christ taught there was a difference between Caesar (government) and God (church). A semicolon separates the two institutions.
As a citizen of the United States, I am obligated to follow the laws of my country, but as a Christian, I am to render to God what belongs to him. Therefore I have no right to not pay my taxes, to dishonor my government with a bad attitude even if it is corrupt, to never pray for those in authority and to be insubordinate to its laws unless it breaks the higher laws of God.
When the disciples were being persecuted for proclaiming their faith, they gave a great answer when they said in Acts 5:29, “We ought to obey God rather than men.”
Separation of Church and State is also found in the Old Testament. For example, remember in 2 Chronicles 26 when Uzziah the king went into the temple and attempted to offer a sacrifice? The priests warned him to go back, but he refused to listen and God struck him with leprosy. The reason all of this happened was because the king (one in government) overstepped his boundaries to do the work of the priest (a religious work for God).
In conclusion, let me say that the Separation of Church and State is a biblical idea. It means that the state has no authority over the church; nor does the church have any power over the state.