One of the best things about history is that it never changes. History remains the same yesterday, today, and forever, and it is always available to teach us if we’ve said or done something wrong.
Recently, Stephen King tweeted about the hypocrisy of the Tea Party.
The Tea Partiers claim to love our Constitution, but seem a bit foggy on the separation of church and state stuff.
— Stephen King (@StephenKing) July 20, 2014
He even admits to not being a constitutional scholar.
No, not a Constitutional scholar, just…watch this closely. Church…here. State…there. Separate. Would a picture help?
— Stephen King (@StephenKing) July 20, 2014
Well, Mr. King. I’d like to teach you a little history lesson.
Once upon a time, there was a man named Thomas Jefferson. Thomas Jefferson was born in Shadwell Virginia in 1743. He served as Secretary of State, Vice President and finally President of the United States. His writings also played an important role in our collective views on religious freedom.
When discussing the idea of religious freedom, we have to understand the purpose behind it. In Europe, people of all faiths were persecuted if they did not share the same beliefs of the ruling monarchy. If the persecution became bad enough, eventually people would escape to other countries.
People were searching for something called freedom. They desired more than what their government could offer, and perhaps they were the first “small government” folks. However, it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows of religious freedom for the colonists. A few states, including Connecticut, established their own state-sanctioned religions. In 1801, the Danbury Baptist Association of Connecticut wrote newly elected Thomas Jefferson a letter expressing their frustration.
What religious privileges we enjoy (as a minor part of the State) we enjoy as favors granted, and not as inalienable rights: and these favors we receive at the expense of such degrading acknowledgments, as are inconsistent with the rights of freemen.
In 1802, Thomas Jefferson replied to the Danbury Baptists sympathizing with them. The letter read as follows:
The affectionate sentiments of esteem and approbation which you are so good as to express towards me, on behalf of the Danbury Baptist association, give me the highest satisfaction. My duties dictate a faithful and zealous pursuit of the interests of my constituents, & in proportion as they are persuaded of my fidelity to those duties, the discharge of them becomes more and more pleasing.
Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, 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, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church & State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.
I reciprocate your kind prayers for the protection & blessing of the common father and creator of man, and tender you for yourselves & your religious association, assurances of my high respect & esteem
Jan. 1. 1802
And thus the phrase “separation of church and state” was born.
The letter must be read in context with his declaration in the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom where he defended the right to worship freely. In his letter to the Baptists, Thomas Jefferson was referring to government intrusion of religion. He had no intention of letting the government restrict, or interfere with religious practices in public. He believed that God, not government, was the source of our unalienable rights. His intent was not to seclude the church and state from each other, but to protect the church from being persecuted. He believed along with the other founding fathers that the first Amendment was established to prevent a national religion run by the federal government.
Separation of church and state is usually bundled with our first amendment rights. However, that phrase is not anywhere in 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.
The first amendment establishes freedom of speech, religion, and the press, as well as prevents community censorship.
In an article titled “God vs. Govt,” The Blaze interviewed Dr. John Eastman, a law professor at Chapman University. Eastman stated the following:
[The Founders] were concerned that with a strong national government there would be a national religion … they wanted to allow the states a free hand to collaborate [with] religion in their important work of fostering a citizenry.
Separation of church and state doesn’t mean Christians shouldn’t have a voice in government matters. Separation of church and state simply means, the government should stay out of religious matters. The “wall of separation” was meant to foster the exercise of free religion. We don’t live in a country where the government can tell you where to worship or who to worship. We live in a country that fosters the growth of all ideas without government intrusion.
Mr. King, we all know you aren’t a constitutional scholar. But, it doesn’t take a scholar to know that the strict separation of church and state isn’t in the Constitution.