Freedom of Religion or Freedom from Religion?

Is it okay to say “One Nation under God” during the Pledge of Allegiance? Is a local school system in trouble if they open graduation ceremonies with prayer, have Christian clubs, or allow Bible reading in class? What about a city having a war memorial with a cross in its design or a courthouse displaying a copy of the Ten Commandments on its lawn? Are such things really unconstitutional in the United States of America? Those who believe that they d make the argument that any display of “religion” violates the First Amendment’s “Separation of Church and State.” This doctrine of a “wall of separation” is attributed to Thomas Jefferson. Yet, while acting as our third President, Jefferson asked that both the Bible and the Isaac Watts Hymnal be used as reading curriculum in public schools. Jefferson said, “I have always said, and always will say, that the studious perusal of the sacred volume will make us better citizens.” So, which is it—did Thomas Jefferson believe in freedom of religion or freedom from religion?

The Wall’s Beginning

The phrase “wall of separation between church and state” actually started as a reassurance to the Danbury Baptists Association of Danbury, Connecticut, that the U.S. Government was not going to start a State-recognized religion similar to the Church of England. Jefferson wrote this phrase to show that the wall was a one-sided one, which would disallow the government any jurisdiction over a person’s religious freedom. The following is where this statement is found:

“I contemplate with solemn 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.”

Thomas Jefferson letter to Danbury Baptists Association of Danbury, Connecticut

This was written on January 1, 1802, by Thomas Jefferson—the very man that some today credit with penning the doctrine of separation of Church and State. It is important to note that this promised separation is not found in the First Amendment, but was instead written by Jefferson in a letter to a church association.

Today, some argue that Jefferson’s letter was considered part of the First Amendment and should thus be used to govern how a Church can operate within its community. If this were true, surely Jefferson or a historical document from that time would have left some indication how this separation of church and state was used during the formulation of our country’s laws, but there is no such record from either. As a matter of fact, during his Second Inaugural Address in 1805, Jefferson said the following:

“In matters of religion I have considered that its free exercise is placed by the Constitution independent of the powers of the General [federal] Government.”

Thomas Jefferson, Second Inaugural Address

And in his Kentucky resolutions of 1798, he said:

“No power over the freedom of religion…[is] delegated to the United States by the Constitution.”

Thomas Jefferson

Furthermore, Jefferson’s letter couldn’t have influenced the First Amendment’s meaning since it was passed in 1789 and Jefferson’s “wall of separation” letter was written 13 years after in 1802.

The phrase “Separation of Church and State” never appears in the U.S. Constitution or its Amendments. However, it is interesting to note that this phrase does appear in the Constitution of the Soviet Union, Article 124, which says:

“In order to ensure to citizens freedom of conscience, the church in the USSR is separated from the State and the schools from the church.”

Constitution of the Soviet Union, Article 124

Under this rule, Communist Russia suppressed religious freedoms in schools and in government. But since the falling of the Berlin Wall, Russia has become more open to such freedom. At the same time, the United States has shifted from being the stalwart of such freedom to now being its suppressor. Now that one of its two main political parties has gone into far-left socialism, these rights are guaranteed to be even more suppressed than before.

The Reason Behind Today’s Separation

The fact is, the First Amendment has not changed, so its wording remains the same today as it was the day it was ratified. Instead, it is the interpretation of the First Amendment that has been altered so dramatically by some who want to change its original intent.

William James is considered the father of modern psychology. He was also a pioneer of the claim that Jefferson wanted freedom from religion. Another thing James is noted for is making the following statement:

“There is nothing so absurd, but if you repeat it often enough, people will believe it.”

William James

So, an expert in psychology gave us a formula whereby an untruth can be made into a truth. Are you starting to see where I am going with this? By using James’ formula, Jefferson’s wall to keep the Government out of religious freedom, if repeated enough times, can eventually be altered to make people believe Jefferson’s wall of separation was to keep religion out of the Government. The sad truth is, it doesn’t matter if what’s said is true—it only matters that enough people believe it is. So, a perversion of Jefferson’s letter became a powerful decision-making tool that is now used as a basis to limit religious freedoms in America.

Karl Marx is the father of the Communist ideologies. He said, “Take away a people’s heritage, then they are easily persuaded.” Marx’s statement takes an extra chilly turn when you consider that many of the religious freedoms America has enjoyed since her founding are being attacked by its own elected officials and Courts today. Our nation was founded on the hope of pursuing religious freedom. John Adams said, “Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” Some oppose this idea and want to replace the Constitution’s original intent with a view more aligned with humanism. In this pursuit, anti-religion forces have turned their attention to the courts. Concerning the reason for this, Judge Robert H. Bork said:

“When the ultra-liberals lose elections, they fight all the more desperately for control of our third branch of government, the courts. Why? Because the courts control the Constitution and the Constitution is the ‘trump card’ in politics. That’s why this war is crucial. Now, there are really only two sides in this struggle. Either the Constitution controls the judges, or the judges rewrite the Constitution.”

Robert H. Bork

From their court seats, ultra-liberal judges can—and are—reinterpreting long-established laws so they now oppose religious freedom. Jefferson warned against courts misrepresenting our country’s laws when he stated:

“On every question, carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates, instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text, or invented against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed.”

Thomas Jefferson

This is the courts’ duty if they are to uphold the Constitutionality of a law.

A Final Word

Americans are a people with a heritage guaranteeing them the right to pray and to worship without governmental restraints. They also have the right to have their voices heard on the street and in voting booths and legal halls. If Americans ignore these rights, their voices may one day be silenced by governmental decree. Former President Ronald Reagan warned about this when he said:

“Without God there is not virtue because there is no prompting of the conscience…without God there is a coarsening of the society: without God democracy will not and cannot long endure…If we ever forget that we are one nation under God, then we will be a nation gone under.”

President Ronald Reagan

Please, do not misunderstand me. I know the real hope for America isn’t found in its elected leaders or its appointed judges. Instead, real hope is found in a genuine, Jesus’ name move of God. The responsibility to see such a move of God falls to those in the Church. To see this come to pass, the people of God must pray for God’s divine intervention in our great country. The Founding Fathers of the United States knew that religious freedom was an important part in creating and keeping a strong country. This is why they left a written guarantee for its freedom. The wall of separation Thomas Jefferson spoke of was a promise that the government would stay out of the church, not that the church would stay out of the government. History confirms this since it records the American churches being actively involved in all aspects of the government. My prayer today is that Americans never forget they are promised freedom of religion in the Constitution, for if the United States of America is to be “one nation under God” it must allow God access into all its affairs.

Copyright © 2019 TK Burk. All Rights Reserved.
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