The term “separation of church and state” is bandied about today as if it were a vital part of the U. S. Constitution. Not only is it nowhere to be found in that document, but the phrase has come to mean the exact opposite of its original intent. “Separation of church and state” has been used to systematically dismantle our Constitutional rights granted by the First Amendment.
Joseph Goebbels, Adolph Hitler’s Minister of Enlightenment and Propaganda, said, “If you tell a lie long enough, people will eventually start to believe it.” He also stated, “The essence of propaganda consists in winning people over to an idea so sincerely, so vitally, that in the end they succumb to it utterly and can never escape it.” I’m afraid that has happened in this case.
So what is in the Constitution? The First Amendment states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Therefore, Congress is prohibited from establishing a state-controlled religion or denomination like the one the Pilgrims fled in coming to America. In England the king was head of the church, as well as the government, so he could punish those who violated the religious edicts he imposed. Our founders envisioned a country where Christians could practice their religion freely as long as they respected the rights of others to freely practice theirs.
The phrase “separation of church and state” was penned by Thomas Jefferson in a letter to the Baptists of Danbury, Connecticut. In 1801, the Baptists, concerned that the First Amendment would not go far enough to protect their religious liberty, wrote a letter to President Thomas Jefferson. He replied that the First Amendment “created a wall of separation between the church and state” so the federal government would not be able to infringe on their rights to practice their religious beliefs. View the letters here.
Two days after he wrote the reply, President Jefferson rode his horse down Pennsylvania Avenue to church, as was his usual practice. By the way, the church he attended was held in the United States Capitol Building. Obviously, the framers of this republic saw no problem with Christian worship in a government building.
Although Thomas Jefferson may have been one of the least religious among our founding fathers, he knew the importance of a moral, educated society in the proper functioning of the government he had been instrumental in forming. He knew that Christianity provided the self-control that is necessary in a free society. He had seen God’s Providence in the birthing of this nation, one founded on Christian principles.
I don’t think he would’ve been very happy about the use of his words today.