Today there is much confusion about what the U.S. Constitution actually says about the separation of church and state. In many circles it is generally accepted as fact that "separation of church and state" is in the Constitution. Therefore, it is claimed that society must be cleansed from all public displays of religious values, characteristics, activities and icons.
Is that correct? Is "separation of church and state" in the Constitution, or was it our Founding Fathers intent to separate the two? This is a crucial foundational issue because the President, members of Congress and the Supreme Court all take oaths of office swearing to uphold the Constitution. Therefore, by definition, any action taken outside the intent of the Constitution is unconstitutional. To find the answer, it is necessary to examine two issues: 1) what is actually written in the Constitution; and 2) what our Founding Fathers' intent was in writing it.
First, the Constitution itself. The First Amendment to the Constitution is supposedly where it says there is separation of church and state. It states: "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 of the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." That's it…no mention of any separation. So it is clear the Constitution itself neither endorses nor supports a separation of church and state.
The next step is to determine the intent of the First Amendment. Critics point to the part of the First Amendment that says "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion..." to show that separation of church and state was in fact the intention of the Founding Fathers. However, our Founding Fathers had a very specific intent in making the establishment of a religion an unconstitutional act, and a very specific definition of what that means. Most of them came from England where the government gave preference to and provided money and support for one of the Christian religions (the Anglican Church) and chose it as that country's "official" religion. They did not want the government establishing a national religion here. They wanted the government to stay out of religion, not for religious principles to be eliminated from government. Their desire was for the United States to be a nation with it's values and laws based on Christian principles, but did not want the government choosing one Christian religion (Baptist, Catholic, Methodist, Lutheran, etc.) over another and establish it as it's "official" religion.
The same Founding Fathers who wrote the First Amendment that prohibited the government from establishing a national religion also believed that allowing and encouraging public religious practice was not the same as establishing a religion. Establishing a religion would require a government-sponsored set of beliefs, rules which must be obeyed by everyone, official ministers to teach the selected doctrine and penalties for those who do not conform. Our Founding Fathers were men of faith and wanted Christianity to be included in every aspect of life. The intent of the First Amendment was never to separate Christianity and state. If that had been the intent, it would never have been ratified.
Every country's laws are based on that society's values. The foundation of those values is the morals of that society, and religious beliefs are the basis for those morals. Countries where Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, etc. are the main religion all have laws based on those values. Other countries have laws based on atheism or paganism. For the same reason, it is neither abnormal nor inappropriate for a country's laws and values to be based on Christianity. In fact, it is extremely advantageous since it is those Christian principles that have provided the very foundation that has allowed the U.S. to become the greatest and strongest country ever in the history of the world. More than any other country based on any other values, we have greater freedom of worship, freedom of speech and freedom of press; a better system of justice; greater opportunity for education and economic success; the best medical care; and a higher standard of living. Is it any wonder that people from all over the world want to live here?
The Constitution guarantees everyone freedom OF religion, not freedom FROM religion. Not only is the public and private practice of religion a Constitutional right, it is, as our Founding Fathers believed, absolutely necessary for a successful society. As indicated below, they believed strongly that religion and morality in general, and Christianity in particular: 1) produces the public morality without which government can not long survive; 2) establishes the principles upon which freedom can reign; 3) are essential for national success; and 4) are indispensable supports for good government and political prosperity. Consequently, the promotion of the principles of religion and morality was accepted and expected as sound public policy. For this reason, they neither created nor tolerated acts diminishing Christianity's effect. No government would commit suicide by intentionally destroying its foundation.
The following information clearly shows that the intent of the Founding Fathers was to include the values and principles of Christianity in every aspect of public and private life:
"Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle. Purity of morals is the only sure foundation of public happiness in any country. The federal government…can never be in danger of depredating [plundering]…so long as there shall remain any virtue in the body of people…Religion and morality are the essential pillars of civil society."
"The propitious [favorable] smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained."
"If I could have entertained the slightest apprehension that the Constitution framed in the Convention where I had the honor to preside might possibly endanger the religious rights of any ecclesiastical [religious] society, certainly I would never had placed my signature to it."
On June 12, 1779, to the Delaware Indian Chiefs, Washington declared: "You do well to wish to learn our arts and ways of life, and above all, the religion of Jesus Christ…Congress will do everything they can to assist you in this wise intention."
In his farewell address, he stated: "Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness."
"Suppose a nation in some distant region should take the Bible for their only Law Book, and every member should regulate his conduct by the precepts there exhibited...What a paradise this region be!"
"Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. Its is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."
"Statesman, my dear sir, may plan and speculate for liberty, but it is religion and morality alone, which can establish the principles upon which freedom can surely stand. The only foundation of a free constitution is pure virtue."
"The Christian religion is, above all the religions that ever prevailed or existed in ancient or modern times, the religion of wisdom, virtue, equity, and humanity."
The day after Congress approved the Declaration of Independence, Adams wrote about the importance of that special July day in 1776: "I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty." There is no doubt that John Adams firmly believed Christianity to be the foundation for both politics and public affairs.
With his intimate knowledge of the Constitution, he surely would have known if there was an intent to separate Christianity from the Constitution or from government. Yet he declared: "We have staked the whole future of American civilization, not upon the power of government, far from it. We have staked the whole future of all our political institutions upon the capacity of mankind for self-government; upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God." Madison believed that the future of America rested not on the Constitution, but on the ability of every individual to conduct himself according to the Ten Commandments! So how can it be unconstitutional to display the Ten Commandments anywhere in public?
When discussing the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Adams declared, "We have this day restored the Sovereign to whom all men ought to be obedient. He reigns in heaven, and from the rising to the setting of the sun, let His kingdom come."
Regarding his personal beliefs: "Principally and first of all…relying upon the merits of Jesus Christ for a pardon of all my sins."
He also believed that that religion and morality were inseparable from good government: "Religion and good morals are the only solid foundations of public liberty and happiness. Neither the wisest constitution nor the wisest laws will secure the liberty and happiness of a people whose manners are universally corrupt."
"It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians, not on religions but on the gospel of Jesus Christ! For this very reason peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity and freedom of worship here."
"The great pillars of all government and of social life...[are] virtue, morality and religion. This is the armor, my friend, and this alone, that renders us invincible."
"This is all the inheritance I give to my dear family. The religion of Christ will give them one which will make them rich indeed."
"I have a tender reliance on the mercy of the Almighty; through the merits of the the Lord Jesus Christ. I am a sinner. I look to Him for mercy."
In discussing the importance of the relationship between Christianity and Constitutional freedom: "Let an association be formed to be denominated "The Christian Constitutional Society." Its object to be first: The support of the Christian religion; and second: The support of the United States."
"The religion which has introduced civil liberty is the religion of Christ and His apostles, which enjoins humility, piety, and benevolence; which acknowledges in every person, a brother or a sister, and a citizen with equal rights. This is genuine Christianity, and to this we owe our free constitutions of government."
"The moral principle and precepts contained in the Scriptures ought to form the basis of all our civil constitutions and laws…All the miseries and evils which men suffer from: vice, crime, ambition, injustice, oppression, slavery, and war proceed from their despising or neglecting the precepts contained in the Bible."
Having helped establish our constitutional government, Webster recognized the principles which had given birth to the nation must be transmitted to future generations to ensure continued national success. He has been titled "America’s Schoolmaster" for his extensive efforts in establishing sound education in America. He knew that sound education was the guardian of true republican principles. In other words, the quality of our government would depend upon the quality of our education. Webster believed that Christian principles must be inseparable from any sound educational system and should be taught in schools: "In my view, the Christian religion is the most important and one of the first things in which all children, under a free government, ought to be instructed…No truth is more evident to my mind than that the Christian religion must be the basis of any government intended to secure the rights and privileges of a free people."
While President, he became the first president of the Washington D.C. school board, which used the Bible and Watt's Hymnal as reading tests in the classroom. Jefferson felt the Bible was essential in any successful plan of education: "I have always said, and always will say, that the studious perusal of the sacred volume will make us better citizens."
Jefferson understood the important relationship between government and religion. He stated that religion is "deemed in other countries incompatible with good government and yet proved by our experience to be its best support."
He also declared: "God who gave us life gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their 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? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever."
"The Bible is the best of all books, for it is the word of God and teaches us the way to be happy in this world and in the next. Continue therefore to read it and to regulate your life by its precepts."
"We are not to attribute this prohibition of a national religious establishment to an indifference to religion in general, and especially to Christianity (which none could hold in more reverence than the framers of the Constitution)…" "It yet remains a problem to be solved in human affairs whether any free government can be permanent where the public worship of God and the support of religion constitute no part of the policy or duty of the state in any assignable shape."
"One of the beautiful boasts of our municipal jurisprudence is that Christianity is part of the Common Law...There has never been a period in which the Common Law did not recognize Christianity as lying at its foundations...I verily believe Christianity necessary to the support of civil society."
It is clear that our Founding Fathers openly promoted, encouraged and advanced public religious expression. Therefore, if the separation of church and state is "in the Constitution" as critics contend, the only conclusion that can be drawn is that either our Founding Fathers did not understand the Constitution, which they wrote, or they intentionally violated it! Both are clearly absurd conclusions.
No other conclusion except that our nation was founded on Christian principles and that separation of church and state is unconstitutional is possible after a thorough and honest examination of America’s history.
For more information about the Biblical foundation of our nation, visit Wallbuilders.