15 February 2011


I haven't done this in a long time, but Bruce Gourley, Director of the BAPTIST HISTORY AND HERITAGE SOCIETY, took the time to leave a well thought out comment with a somewhat opposing viewpoint.  His comment on my previous post is lengthy, so I won't repeat it here.  Please read his comment first before reading this post.

First, the issue of schools renting church buildings isn't a separation of church and state issue.  This has been ruled on by the Supreme Court in reverse a long time ago giving churches equal access to school buildings in which to hold services.  If a church were to deny a school access to its facility, but give access to other groups and organizations, that church would be open to a law suit.  This just exposes even more the Americans United for Separation of Church and State's true agenda which is anything but religious freedom.

The First Amendment has been turned upside down for about the past fifty years by groups such as the ACLU, AU, Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) into suppressing the rights of Christians.  With a leftist activist judiciary in place in the U. S. Supreme Court for about the same length of time, these groups have violated the Constitution by bypassing entirely the legislative process which represents the will of the people.  A very glaring example of the anti-Christian agenda was a lawsuit in Louisiana about 2005, in which the ACLU sued an elementary school for displaying a Nativity scene.  What the ACLU failed to mention in their suit and court briefs was that there was also a Kwanzaa display, a display for a Mexican bilingual display, and a Menorah.  The ACLU lost that lawsuit, and should have.  

I believe there are several reasons these groups use lawsuits rather than go through the various State legislatures and Congress to further their agenda.  One is that they know what the First Amendment says: "Congress shall make NO law respecting an establishment of religion . . . "  So, they just bypass Congress.  The next reason is tied in to the first in a way.  Anytime polls are conducted, the overwhelming majority of Americans express a belief in God.  The statistics are anywhere from the mid-eighty percent range to over ninety percent.  Now whether or not they are living the life is another question and another sermon!  If any type of legislation were somehow attempted, these groups and Congress would risk a huge backlash.  Politicians want to keep their jobs, not lose them.  The last reason I believe is speed.  Since Supreme Court rulings have been unconstitutionally given the authority of law (as in "caselaw"), it is much faster to further an agenda through lawsuits and once a ruling is handed down, it is law.  Period.  We The People can't vote on it or have anything to say about it.  Pretty dictatorial, isn't it?  No where in the Constitution or any of its amendments, or anywhere else for that matter will you find Supreme Court rulings becoming law.  This concentration of power without representation is another reason America was founded.

While freedom of religion is an essential part of our heritage and the reason this country was founded, the short quote from Thomas Jefferson's letter to the Baptist Association has been turned around to limit our right to religious expression to certain venues,  specifically out of the public eye totally whether or not government property is involved or not.  All it takes is one person to claim they are offended, and one call to any one of these groups to set the wheels in motion, just as in the case of the Christian flag in King, North Carolina. 

In order to keep Jefferson's position on the role of Christianity in government clear, here are a few historical facts that probably will not be found easily anymore.  

First, Jefferson actually encourage local governments to make land available for Christian purposes in a letter to Bishop Carroll on September 3, 1801.  This letter is in the Library of Congress, #19966.  The Capitol building in Washington, D. C. was also a church building (as voted on by Congress) in which then President Jefferson chose to worship.  He even provided government paid musicians for the services.  He also had Christian services in the War Building and the Treasury Building.  He also closed all of his presidential documents with, "In the year of our Lord Christ, by the President, Thomas Jefferson."   Jefferson proposed the Great Seal of the United States include a depiction of a Bible story and include "God" in its motto (August 20, 1776, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Report on a Seal for the United States, with Related Papers).  Jefferson also endorsed the use of a local courthouse for church services (The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, to Dr. Thomas Cooper, November 2, 1822).  He even promised government business to a Christian religious school (letter to the Order of the Nuns at Saint Ursula at New Orleans, May 15, 1804).

The final clarification of Jefferson's position on the role of Christianity in government.  Jefferson was quoted as saying, "[The] liberty to worship our Creator in the way we think most agreeable to His will, [is] a liberty deemed in other countries incompatible with good government and yet proved by our experience to be its best support." Funny thing, the left now seems to believe that worshipping our Creator is "incompatible with good government."  Continuing on, "No nation has ever existed, or been governed without religion.  Nor can be.  The Christian religion is the best religion that has been given to man and I, as Chief Magistrate of this nation, am bound to give it the sanction of my example."

The many writings of the other 250 or so men involved with the founding of America are along the same vein.  Our government was never intended to be run totally devoid of the Christian faith.  The term "separation of church and state" clearly meant the government would not establish an official national religion as had been the case in England to the exclusion of all others.  This concept was never intended to prohibit our elected officials from practicing Christianity in the performance of their jobs, praying to God in public, or local governments not being able to put out Christmas decorations.

If "separation of church and state" was intended to mean what is commonly found in textbooks and history books now, then why don't the ACLU, the AU, the FFRF, and others not file lawsuits when Islamic imams are allowed in our schools for example? Why are there no lawsuits when public schools provide facilities for Islamic students to pray at their appointed times during the day?  Under the current misconception of "separation of church and state", is this not the government "establishing" a specific religion?  Yet, students wearing clothing with Christian symbols to school (or these days, the American flag) are sent home.

No, clearly, Jefferson's concept of "separation or church and state" was not a government devoid of Christianity.  It merely means the government can't decree an official national religion outlawing all others.  Just as clear, it also doesn't mean Christianity is only to be practiced behind closed doors.

The only "fabricated history" here is that of the Progressives, i. e. liberal leftists.  Historical records of the writings of the Founding Fathers, and the liberals' favorite, Thomas Jefferson, totally contradict the revisionist history we see today have seen for the past few decades.  The only mockery of our nation's founding principles are carried out by the leftist groups attempting to prohibit any mention of Christianity in the public arena.  This violates the will of the vast majority of Americans which is clearly unconstitutional, and such lawsuits making the Christian faith illegal except in private is a clear violation of the First Amendment they claim to be upholding.

I am not denying separation of church and state here, just the twisted context in which we find it today.  Comparing Islamic governments to the Christian faith in our government is comparing apples and oranges.  Just ask Jefferson.  Jefferson believed just the opposite. He believed the Christian faith to be our government's best support.

Thank you very much for your thoughts, Mr. Gourley.  I always invite different points of view, and thoroughly enjoy the resulting discussions.  I invite you to stop by regularly, and comment often, whether you agree or not.


Bruce said...

Thanks for the rebuttal, firstly.

Secondly, I agree with you that the founders had no interest in prohibiting religion from being practiced in public. In fact, the ACLU and AU agree with you on this matter too.

But, you are repeating misinformation about Jefferson that was long ago debunked as not true. And you are twisting the original meaning of the First Amendment.

The First Amendment did indeed intend - as Christians, including evangelical Christians, of the late 18th and early 19th centuries understood - to prevent religion (and especially Christianity, because it was the most common faith in the land) from being promoted by taxpayer money or the government in general. (It is true that some Christians at that time did not like this fact; but they realized it was a fact.)

The First Amendment's separation of church and state was, and remains, a liberal and progressive moral ideal. And it is something we all can be proud of. It means that your child cannot be required to repeat a Muslim prayer in your taxpayer funded public school. It means I shouldn't have to go to a mosque, church or temple to vote. It means my Baptist religious views won't be pushed by government, nor should the religious views of Mormons, Hindus, Muslims, etc.

Separation of church and state means that you and I are free to express our religious views in non-government public and private venues alike ... but not taxpayer-funded venues. Your tax dollars should not support my faith, and my tax dollars should not support your faith.

Finally, I do agree with you that our nation does not have a perfect record of fulfilling the original intent of the First Amendment. In no small part this is because religious majorities (read, Christians) often insist that they should be given preferential treatment. But, should by 2070 Muslims become the dominant faith in America, you can bet your bottom dollar that the same Christians today demanding preferential treatment because they are the majority ... will suddenly and completely change their tune, and begin arguing for the original intent of the First Amendment.

Bruce Gourley
Baptist History & Heritage Society

Hugh said...

In 1787 the Constitution was written and passed by congress. The same congress passed the Northwest Ordinance. This “Ordinance” stressed the need for our schools to teach religion and morality.
Note to the intellectually lazy in the Supreme Court and congress.
“Article 3: Religion, morality, and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.”
1798 Jefferson wrote the Kentucky Resolution. Here he states “ It is true, as a general principle,.. That no power over the freedom of religion, freedom of speech, or the freedom of the press being delegated to the United States by the constitution… all lawful powers respecting the same did of right remain, and were reserved to the states, or to the people.” Madison wrote… “ There is not a shadow of right in the general government to intermeddle with religion. Its least interference with it would be a most flagrant usurpation.”