Where did the “Separation of Church and State originate?
Much of the research for this article comes from Outrageous Truth by Robert Jeffress
As Revisionists try to reframe history toward their own contemporary theology the true underpinnings of our country’s founding have become murky. This is particularly true within our public school systems. This article attempts to clarify the true Christian principals America was founded on. In doing so we expose the real reason why a wall was erected between the church and the state.
There are numerous examples of how the courts have driven a wedge between our Christian faith and secular society. One of the most notable was in June, 2002 when the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that the Pledge of Allegiance cannot be recited in public schools because the phrase “under God” was a violation of the constitutional separation of church and state.
One only needs to research the website, “Americans United for Separation of Church and State” to see countless other examples of attempts to remove the acknowledgment of God from public life. These range from banning nativity scenes on government property, to prohibiting prayer at high-school football games. All of these efforts to secularize our society have one thing in common: They are all based on the principle of the separation of church and state.
The ACLU and other liberal organizations want us to believe that our forefathers came from diverse religious backgrounds, some were Christians, others were deists, but most were secularists, who believed religion was fine as long as it was confined to the church and home. Supposedly, our nation’s founders were determined to build an unscalable wall that would keep any religious influence from seeping into public life.
That is a myth. The majority of our founders were not religionists, but Christians. They did not embrace many faiths, but they were devout followers of the Christian faith. Though it is politically incorrect to voice such a belief, it is nevertheless true: America was founded as a Christian nation, and her continued success will be determined by her fidelity to her spiritual heritage (Matthew 16:24, John 14:6, 1 Cor 11:1-2).
Foundations of the Constitution
Founding Fathers Influence
Fifty-three out of fifty-six men who attended the Constitutional Convention and formulated our nation’s guiding document “indicated some adherence to orthodox Christianity and personal support of biblical teaching”. In fact, some of these men were responsible for establishing the American Bible Society, the American Tract Society, the Philadelphia Bible Society, and The National Day of Prayer.
To attend the Constitutional Convention, each delegate had to meet certain state-defined qualifications. These criteria were often written by the very people attending the national convention, exemplified by the excerpt below from the state of Delaware.
“Every person who shall be chosen a member of either house, or appointed to any office or place of trust … shall … make and subscribe to the following declaration, to wit: “I … do profess faith in God the Father, and in Jesus Christ His only Son, and in the Holy Ghost, one God, blessed for evermore; and I do acknowledge the holy scriptures to the Old and New Testament to be given by divine inspiration.”
Other states had similar qualifications and these state constitutions that required officeholders to be Christians were written by the same men who were to attend the convention. Those responsible for penning our nation’s founding documents were hardly neutral toward Christianity.
Two professors from the University of Houston, Donald Lutz and Charles Hyneman conducted extensive research trying to determine the factors that most influenced the views of our Founding Fathers during the formation of the Constitution. Studying 15,000 documents, they identified 3,154 quotes made by the Founders of which 34 percent came directly from the Bible.
Examples of Biblical Principles put into Practice
Three branches of government – Isaiah 33:22 is the basis of our 3 separate branches of government. The Founding Fathers reasoned that man’s innate corruption described in Jeremiah 17:9 had to be protected against.
Religious tax exemption – Ezra 7:24 commanded special financial consideration for building the temple resulting in the idea of granting churches and religious organizations tax-exempt status.
Quotes from our Founding Fathers
George Washington – “Let my heart, gracious God, be so affected with Your glory and majesty that I may … discharge those weighty duties which Thou requirest of me.… I have called on Thee for pardon and forgiveness of sins … for the sacrifice of Jesus Christ offered upon the cross for me.… thou gav’st thy Son to die for me; and hast given me assurance of salvation.”
John Adams – “The general principles on which the Fathers achieved independence were … the general Principles of Christianity.… I will avow, that I then believed, and now believe, that those general Principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the Existence and Attributes of God; and that those Principles of Liberty, are as unalterable as human Nature.”
John Quincy Adams, son of President John Adams, said this about the linkage between Christianity and the founding of our country: “The highest glory of the American Revolution was this; it connected, in one indissoluble bond, the principles of civil government and the principles of Christianity.”
What is being taught to our kids today?
The historical revisionists insist that our country’s forefathers came from a diversity of religious beliefs. This is not true. Some were Methodists, others Presbyterians, and others Congregationalists, however, they were all Christians.
The Basis for “Separation of Church and State”
Where did the need for a separation of church and state originate? It cannot be found in the Constitution or Declaration of Independence.
In 1801, a group of Baptists in Connecticut were alarmed over a rumor that was spreading throughout the Northeast that the Congregational denomination was about to be established as the Church of the United States. This was a very real concern because many had heard horror stories from their parents and grandparents about state-established religion in England. Those who had refused to follow the dictates of the Church of England were subjected to imprisonment and torture. So, they fled England to America, not to be free from religion, but to have freedom of religious expression.
As a result, these Baptists contacted then-president Thomas Jefferson about the rumor. Jefferson allayed their fears in a letter addressed to the Danbury Baptists on January 1, 1802, which stated that government shall “make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Of course, these words were taken from the 1st Amendment of the Constitution, already adopted in 1791 as part of the Bill of Rights. Jefferson went on to say that the intended purpose of this law was to maintain “a wall of separation between Church and State.”
Thomas Jefferson used these words to remind and reassure those Connecticut Baptists that the First Amendment was established not to protect the government from the church, but to protect the church from the government. How do we know Jefferson used the phrase “separation between Church and State” to reassure this group of believers that government would never restrain their religious freedom by mandating a state-sponsored denomination? By his actions later as President.
One year after writing that letter, Jefferson recommended that Congress sign a treaty with the Kaskaskia Indians that included government financial support of missionaries to the Indians and declared certain parcels of land be reserved for “Christian Indians.” On three separate occasions during his administration, Jefferson reaffirmed this arrangement with the Indians.
Jefferson understood the importance of integrating government and Christianity. He said that religion is “deemed in other countries incompatible with good government and yet proved by our experience to be its best support.”
Next, let’s consider what early court rulings said about the relationship between government and Christianity.
During the first 140 years of our nation, the judiciary reaffirmed our Country’s Christian foundation and encouraged government support of the Christian faith.
Runkel v. Winemiller (1799) – “By our form of government, the Christian religion is the established religion; and all sects and denominations of Christians are placed upon the same equal footing, and are equally entitled to protection in their religious liberty.”
The People v. Ruggles (1811) – “We are a Christian people, and the morality of the country is deeply engrafted upon Christianity, and not upon the doctrines of worship of those imposters [other religions].”
Church of the Holy Trinity v. United States (1892) – “No purpose of action against religion can be imputed to any legislation, state or national, because this is a religious people.… This is a Christian nation.”
Our Public Schools
During the first 160 years of our nation’s history, public-school students were encouraged to learn the moral precepts found in the Bible. In 1782, the U.S. Congress said, “The Congress of the United States approves and recommends to the people the Holy Bible for use in the schools.”
For nearly 200 years, The New England Primer was used in schools across the country. That primer contained an acrostic every child had to memorize to graduate from the 3rd grade. Every letter in the acrostic was related to the Bible.
A – “A wise son maketh a glad father, but a foolish son is the heaviness of his mother.”
B – “Better is a little with the fear of the Lord, than great treasure & trouble therewith.”
C – “Come unto Christ all ye that labor and are heavy laden and he will give you rest.”
D – “ ‘Do not do the abominable thing which I hate,’ saith the Lord.”
E – “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
The Judicial Branch
The first time the Supreme Court declared the First Amendment had erected a wall of separation between church and state, and that the duty of the court was to ensure that the “wall be kept high and impregnable”, was in Everson V. Board of Education in 1947 – 150 years after the ratification of the First Amendment.
In this landmark case, the Supreme Court forbade the State of New Jersey to spend tax dollars for religious education. The force behind this decision was Justice Hugo Black who cited Jefferson’s “wall of separation” in his majority opinion. Legal experts say that the iron curtain Justice Black erected between Christianity and government had little to do with Thomas Jefferson, but more to do with Justice Black. At this time, American elites feared the Catholic influence and power and, in those days, nearly all parochial schools were Catholic. Justice Black’s Anti-Catholic bias was no doubt due to his former membership in the Ku Klux Klan, which was noted for its bigotry against Catholicism.
Current (Clarence Thomas) and former (Antonin Scalia ) Supreme Court Justices agree and recently argued that the rabid desire to wall off “sectarian” groups from government support was founded upon anti-Catholic bigotry. “This doctrine, born of bigotry, should be buried now,” Justice Thomas wrote in a court opinion.
Up through today, there have been many cases since the Everson case of 1947 that have continued to build the wall.
The Legislative Branch
Ironically, The United States Congress begins every session with prayer, and the prayers automatically become a part of the Congressional Record. Yet, in 1970, the Supreme Court let stand a lower court ruling declaring it unconstitutional for students to read the prayers contained in the Congressional Record to a group of fellow students who voluntarily assembled before school to listen to the reading of those prayers! Further, these “prayers”, such as the one spoken at the opening of the 117th Congressin 2021, are now becoming diluted, ecumenical, and anti-Christian.
Compare our country’s current attitude to Thomas Jefferson, the actual architect of the concept of a wall of separation, when he affirmed that: “I have always said, and always will say, that the studious perusal of the sacred volume (Bible) will make us better citizens.”
Consider today’s attitudes toward the public display of the 10 Commandments, school prayer, and Christmas, to October 3, 1789, when Washington issued a proclamation establishing Thanksgiving as a national holiday to express our gratitude, not to some nameless deity, but to Almighty God:
The results of this artificial separation between Church and State have been devasting to our country. William Bennett, the former Secretary of Education under Reagan, observed in a report titled The Index of Leading Cultural Indicators that from 1960 to1990 the judiciary worked overtime to separate our country from its strong Christian heritage, there was a “560% increase in violent crime, a 419% increase in illegitimate births, a quadrupling in divorce rates, …and a drop of almost 80 points in SAT scores.” The statistics in 2004 from this book are that an estimated 3 million teenagers are problem drinkers, 4,000 children die each year as a result of gun violence, and approximately 250,000 teenage girls have legal abortions each year. What direction do you think these stats have gone since that time?
Hosea 4:6 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.
Psalms 33:12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD,
the people whom he has chosen as his heritage!
Below are the words of an avid liberal, Chief Justice Earl Warren. In 1954, he prophetically said, “I believe no one can read the history of our country without realizing the Good Book and the Spirit of the Savior have, from the beginning, been our guiding geniuses … whether we look to the First Charter of Virginia, or the Charter of New England, or the Charter of Massachusetts Bay, or the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut. The same object is present; a Christian land governed by Christian principles. I believe the entire Bill of Rights came into being because of the knowledge our forefathers had of the Bible, and their belief in it; freedom of belief, of expression, of assembly, of petition, the dignity of the individual, the sanctity of the home, equal justice under the law, and the reservation of powers to the people. I like to believe we are living today in the spirit of the Christian religion. I like also to believe that as long as we do so, no great harm can come to our country.”
More contemporary, Dr. Daniel L. Dreisbach, professor at American University in Washington, D.C. wrote an article in September of 2020, discussing the “Bible’s Forgotten Influence on the American Constitutional Tradition”. Listing numerous examples, Dreisbach summarized his findings by stating: “In an increasingly secular age, the Bible’s place in the nation’s founding is much contested. Whether or not one accepts these statements regarding the Bible’s role in the creation of the new nation, the evidence suggests that the story of the American constitutional experiment cannot be told accurately or adequately without referencing the Bible. If we miss or dismiss the Bible’s contributions to the American constitutional tradition, we distort our understanding of the nation’s bold constitutional experiment in republican self-government and liberty under law.”
Guest Author | Don Connelly