Let’s get this straight once and for all:
Did our Founders mean for religion to be so shunned by the government (at all levels), and if so, what part of our Constitution mandates it as such?
We’ll begin with a little history.
Many of the Founders were indeed Deists; and several of them really cannot be called “Christian” in the true understanding of the term. There is, however, a great deal of evidence that they at minimum recognized the Judeo-Christian God as the Creator that endowed mankind with “certain inalienable rights.” Regardless of their specific religious leanings (or lack thereof), they were unified in the understanding that freedom of religion must be preserved. Consider one of the reasons for the original colonial migration to the New World. While some colonists did seek fortune and adventure, many also made the treacherous journey to find a world in which their religious practices would be personal, not ordered by the government. The Founders recognized freedom of religion as a fundamental piece of the establishment of our nation.
When religion and the state supposedly mix in today’s world, the “wall of separation” argument immediately surfaces. There is indeed a wall of separation between the church and the state. What many do not recognize is that this wall is meant to prevent the state from interfering in the church; not the other way around. The Founders never meant for religion to be excluded from our nation. Consider the Declaration of Independence ( “Endowed by their Creator”), our currency (“In God We Trust”), our Liberty Bell (Leviticus 25:10 on its face) our Pledge of Allegiance (“One Nation under God”) and the last verse of our National Anthem (“In God is Our Trust” ), to name a few. “Rebellion to Tyrants is Obedience to God” were the words inscribed on Thomas Jefferson’s own personal seal.
Speaking of Thomas Jefferson, it was in fact a letter sent by the Sage of Monticello to the Danbury Baptist Association that the “wall of separation” first surfaced. Jefferson carefully and thoughtfully addressed the Association’s concern that the Constitution was not specific enough in regards to laws at the state level that pertained to religion. They wanted Jefferson to use his influence as President to deal with a state-level dispute over religion. He famously responded with the following:
“‘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.”
The Supreme Court would later misuse this statement by taking it to mean that God be kept out of the state. This precedent has paved the way for the restricting of religion itself rather than ensuring that the federal government be restrained from doing the same.
The word “heaven” on a street sign in New York City, singing Christmas carols in public school, or expressing that we are “One Nation under God” is hardly an official mandate that each American convert to a specific religion. For a fast-track lesson in national regulation of religion, consider countries whose theocracy (where the religion is the state) executes apostates (those who leave the faith) or countries in which certain religions are banned entirely. With this in mind, it would seem that the prohibition of anything in the “public sector” that even remotely smacks of religion, in the “name of religious freedom” does far more to limit said freedom than it does to protect it. One’s time would be far better spent protesting a federal mandate that we all convert to the religion of the government’s choice (God forbid that day ever come), than picketing a Nativity scene outside a city hall. As it has oft been said, we are guaranteed freedom of religion, not a freedom from religion.