Separation of Church and State,
Thomas Jefferson and the First Amendment
Today, many Americans think that the First Amendment says "Separation of Church and State." The Courts and the media will often refer to a ruling as being in violation of the "Separation of Church and State." A recent national poll showed that 69% of Americans believe that the First Amendment says "Separation of Church and State." You may be surprised to learn that these words do not appear in the First Amendment or anywhere else in the Constitution!1 Here is what the First Amendment actually does say.
The First Amendment :
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.
As you can see the First Amendment does not contain the words "Separation of Church and State". The First Amendment gives citizens the Freedom to Worship God without Government interference. Assures that the Government will not establish a State Religion. That people are free to speak their minds without the government arresting them. Granting citizens to publish news that may be critical of the government without fear of arrest or fines, and finely the right of citizens to peacefully gather together or march in rallies or parades.
So where did the words "Separation of Church and State." come from? They can be traced back to a letter that Thomas Jefferson wrote back in 1802. In October 1801, the Danbury Baptist Association of Connecticut wrote to President Jefferson, and in their letter they voiced some concerns about Religious Freedom. On January 1, 1802 Jefferson wrote a letter to them in which he added the phrase "Separation of Church and State." When you read the full letter, you will understand that Jefferson was simply underscoring the First Amendment as a guardian of the peoples religious freedom from government interference. Here is an excerpt from Jefferson's letter. ..
"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, prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between church and State."
Jefferson simply quotes the First Amendment then uses a metaphor, the "wall", to separate the government from interfering with religious practice. Notice that the First Amendment puts Restrictions only on the Government, not the People! The Warren Court re-interpreted the First Amendment thus putting the restrictions on the People! Today the government can stop you from Praying in school, reading the Bible in school, showing the Ten Commandments in school, or have religious displays at Christmas. This is quite different from the wall Jefferson envisioned, protecting the people from government interference with Religious practice.
When Thomas Jefferson wrote his letter to the Danbury Baptist Association he never intended the words "Separation of Church and State" to be taken out of context and used as a substitute for the First Amendment, but for all practical purposes is what the courts have done.
If actions speak stronger then words, it is interesting to note that 3 days after Jefferson wrote those words, he attended church in the largest congregation in North America at the time. This church held its weekly worship services on government property, in the House Chambers of the U.S. Capital Building. The wall of separation applies everywhere in the country even on government property , without government interference. This is how it is written in the Constitution, this is how Thomas Jefferson understood it from his letter and actions, and this is how the men who wrote the Constitution practiced it.
"The metaphor of a wall of separation is bad history and worse law. It has made a positive chaos out of court rulings. It should be explicitly abandoned."Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, William Rehnquist</p>
Also notice that there are two parts to the First Amendment that refer to religion: the establishment clause2 and the free exercise clause3. Today much is said about the establishment clause but there is very little mention of the free exercise clause. (Read Below for a description of these two concepts.)
While the words "Separation of Church and State" do not appear in the U.S. Constitution, they do appear in the constitution of the former U.S.S.R. Communist State4.
At the very heart of Jefferson's idea "Wall of Separation", is the notion that the government will not interfere with people's right to worship God. The very fact that the government has ruled to regulate religious practices, indicates that the government has crossed that "Wall of Separation."
While Congress has never passed a Law that Prohibits Prayer in School, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that it is Illegal for children to Pray in School because it violates the "Separation of Church and State" which is not in the Constitution. Their faulty reasoning is that Praying Establishes a State Religion, but in fact, this is really Citizens Freely Practicing their Religious faith in God. The Government would be establishing a State Religion if it forced all the children to pray to a God of one type of Religion or Denomination that they did not believe in. However, Prayer in School was alway voluntary and students were free not to be a part of school prayers. Ruling that students can not Pray in School violates the Constitution of the United States by interfering with the Free Practice of Religion. Thus the Supreme Court rulings on School Prayer and Bible Reading are illegal as they violate the Constitution. Thus when the Supreme Court forbids students from praying before a football game asking God to protect the players in the game, the Court is exercising the very tyranny of the minority that our Forefathers tried to stop. The Highest Court in the land has failed to Safe-Guard the Peoples Right to Worship without Government Interference. We have Justices on the Supreme Court that either do not understand the Constitution and the Bill of Rights or have a very dishonest social agenda that they wish to impose on America. In either case they are not qualified to be Justices of the Supreme Court and should be Impeached by the Congress of the United States.