I have found myself in debate with many of my more liberal friends regarding the contents of The United States Constitution. It is truly astonishing how many of my friends have no idea of what is actually in the document! In truth, until law school, I was among those with little understanding of the constitution! It is so important that all Americans understand the rights that our founding documents provide for us! Otherwise, we will be led like sheep to the slaughter of a tyrannical, over-reaching government.
Let’s take a look at one of the most misunderstood clauses of the First Amendment. I’m certain that everyone has heard it said, “there shall be a separation of church and State!” In fact, many of my liberal friends believe this is constitutional language. Nothing could be further from the truth! I have dedicated many hours to the study of the Constitution, and to where this myth actually originated. To truly realize where this misunderstanding comes from, we must first analyze where the language itself actually came from.
Keeping in mind that America declared independence on July 4, 1776, many of our founders were either born in England, or were direct descendants of citizens of 17th and 18th Century England. In the “Old World” of Europe and Asia, monarchs conquered other nations based upon religious ideology. Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots put many to death for refusing to convert to Catholicism. This earned her the moniker, “Bloody Mary.” The memory of the of religious zealots and ideologues who ruled in tyranny certainly influenced the language used in drafting the founding documents.
So, where did the “separation of church and state” language actually come from? In 1802, the Danbury Baptist Association wrote to Thomas Jefferson asking why he would not declare a national day of fasting and thanksgiving. In his is letter responding to their question, Thomas Jefferson informed the Danbury Baptist Association that he believed that there must be a “wall of separation between church and state.”
(Note: Thomas Jefferson, being a shrewd politician and statesman, consulted many of his contemporaries to tailor his letter so as not to offend the religious.)
Now that we have analyzed the origin of the “separation” language, we can now look at the actual language found in the Constitution. The clause that many of my liberal friends misconstrue with the aforementioned Jeffersonian doctrine is known as the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. Let’s first look at the First Amendment in its entirety:
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. (U.S. Const. amend. I)
The opening ten words of the First Amendment make up the Establishment Clause. What this means is that the Congress shall not declare that the United States of America has any nationalized, mandated religion; whereas other nations establish and declare themselves to be of a particular religion. There is nothing in the language of the Establishment Clause that says anything about a “wall of separation!” If we go to the next clause, the Free Exercise clause, we see that the founders provided that no American citizen shall be prohibited from the “free exercise” of religion!
Now that we have cleared up the confusion of Jeffersonian “separation doctrine” and the Establishment Clause, please take time to read the entire document! You will find that many of the things you hear from those in academia and the media to be grossly misleading! Information is the power to defeat dangerous ideologues and would be tyrants!
Replica of the Constitution of the United States as Signed by Our Founding Fathers Copyright: Photopa1, Licensed to Patrick Jester by http://www.istockphoto.com