“There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.”
Far too many misunderstand the two religion clauses of the First Amendment and wrongly assume the often-used phrase, “separation of church and state,” is in the U.S. Constitution. The First Amendment was written to protect the church from the state and its citizens from both. In fact, prior to the American experiment, no government had ever existed without symbiotically ruling with a leader of an institutionalized religion.
The Constitution does not prevent a person’s faith from influencing their level of involvement in politics. Rather, the First (and the Fourteenth) Amendment prohibits the federal and state governments from nationalizing any religion, from creating a national church, and from favoring one religion over another.
After leaving a country profoundly affected by civil war over church and crown, an English clergyman and scholar arrived in a new American colony only to be persecuted for his religious and political beliefs. These experiences were embodied in a rallying cry he termed, “Soul Libertie,” suggesting radical changes to upend centuries of long-held assumptions about governance.
His political philosophy sought to delineate individual freedom from governmental authority and to legalize a separation between the church and government. His ideas influenced leaders for centuries. One such leader was Thomas Jefferson, who wrote the Bill of Rights, which became the first ten amendments to the Constitution. Jefferson emphasized the importance of limiting a centralized government’s power to prevent it from interfering in its citizens’ religious or non-religious activities.
When Jefferson wrote, “self-evident truths” and “endowed by our Creator” in the Declaration of Independence, which is part of U.S. Code, his clearly stated intention was not to exclude God from public life. Rather, he asked, “can the liberties of a nation be thought secure if we have lost the only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath?”
Today, religious freedom, civil liberties, definitions of biology, personhood, and religious beliefs are all being legislated by a behemoth centralized government. The challenge lies in whether or not the Constitution is applied to laws that oppose the will of the people.
Psalm 113 The Lord is high above all nations.