#369: separation of church and state

[F.U.C.K. is an e-zine that I started on January 24, 1993 and ended on January 24, 2000. One concept is that articles should be timeless if possible, so they were not released with dates. As such, the date on this blog is not exact but I will try to use a date as close as possible.]

If you have read past files of mine, you probably have a good idea of my religious beliefs (or lack there of). I don’t want to turn this file into any form of religious debate, but turn more to how the American government originally felt religion should be handled and how it has fallen short of its original planning.

For over two hundred years now, politicians have babbled about the concept of this separation. They follow the trend of the politicians before them in saying that the founding fathers created this separation and that it was a firm part of our system. By ranting on about there not being a national religion, they have fooled a large part of the mass into believing their lies. While the masses ate this up, they kept their own religious beliefs in the system.

The following two instances are the only places the Constitution mentions ‘religion’. As you can see, there was never a mention of the separation of church and state. The phrase we like to quote actually comes from the letter (partially quoted) after the segments from the Constitution.

Article VI Section (3)

“The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the members of the several State legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States. [emphasis added] “

Amendment I

“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 the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

    Letter to the Danbury Baptists
    Thomas Jefferson, 1802

    "Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely
    between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for
    his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government
    reach actions only, and 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 and state. Adhering to
    this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of 
    the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the
    progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his
    natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to
    his social duties."

After consideration of the above, consider the following examples that show a clear lack of separation. Some of these may seem extremely trivial, but consider them in the bigger picture.

    * For the past few years there has been a series of 'black'
      churches that have been burnt to the ground in the south.
      Since it is happening in the south, and is directed toward
      'black' churches, it is pretty apparent that racism is a
      major factor here. After several pleas for help from black
      community leaders, the government has offered 10 million
      dollars to help rebuild the destroyed churches.

    * In Denver, Colorado, there is a street (University) that
      is typically a four lane road with heavy traffic during
      most of the day. On Sunday mornings the state allows
      parking in front of one of the churches (but not several
      others of different beliefs). This parking accommodates
      seven or eight cars to park there. During the course of
      Sunday morning mass, several hundred cars pass by forcing
      traffic to three lanes. Because of the unexpected parked
      cars, there are frequently 'close call collisions'.

    * In several military bases, there are offices and meeting
      places for chaplains and religious gatherings. In the last
      base I was at, there was a separate office for the chaplain
      and his assistant(s). Beyond that are full blown churches
      built with citizen tax dollars.

    * In almost every city or town you go through, you will
      find dozens of streets with religiously derived names.
      The last one I passed was "Baptist Street".

    * I know in recent years the court system has changed their
      procedures to satisfy everyone, but for hundreds of years
      you were forced to swear on a bible. Beyond that, you can
      still find various plaques and symbols in courts that
      contain religious references or symbols.

    * Despite past debate, there are still religious references
      on US Currency. Currency used by every American citizen,
      paid for by tax dollars.

    * Post offices around the country sell stamps with religious
      figures, references, or symbols. These are also funded by
      our tax dollars, and are continually given to anyone asking
      to purchase stamps, regardless of their religious beliefs.

    * New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani recently said "Mother
      Teresa does not get tickets." He agreed to grant Mother
      Teresa special dispensation after she requested ticket-free
      parking permits for her fellow nuns who have found ministering
      and parking in the city too difficult.

    * Recently, a lightning strike hit the steeple of a church here
      in Denver. Since then (over three weeks ago), they have had
      some portion of Colfax Avenue (the longest continous city street
      in America) closed. At the beginning, it was both lanes
      blocked off. Now, it is still west bound traffic. While the
      road is closed, it is impacting thousands of people a day,
      and hindering other businesses across the street.

Once again, it may sound somewhat mean spirited that I would complain about some of these things, especially the last, but as with many things, you must set a standard and live with it. This means taking the good with the bad. I find it more amazing that people I know would argue with me that there is currently a complete separation. Surely they have run into some of the above listed items. I think it is a matter of overlooking these events and dismissing them as part of daily life, while not considering part of the foundation of our government.

There is little that can be done to remedy the problem, and I am sure there are a lot of people that don’t even see this as a problem, but it does go against the Constitution. If nothing else, let this file serve as a reminder to everyone that many people out there find this sort of oversight an insult to the American Government. The Constitution says there is supposed to be a separation of church and state… but it appears this is another area society and its leaders have failed to keep the ‘faith’.

If I haven’t pursuaded you of this fact, then maybe some quotes from bigger names will help you.

    Benjamin Franklin at the Constitutional Convention June 28, 1787:

    "I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more
    convincing proof I see of the truth - that God governs in the
    affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without
    His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid?
    We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings, that 'except the
    Lord build the House, they labor in vain that build it.' I firmly
    believe this; and I also believe that without this concurring aid
    we shall succeed in this political building no better, than the
    Builders of Babel: We shall be divided by our partial local
    interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall
    become a reproach and bye word down to future ages. And what is
    worse, mankind may hereafter from this unfortunate instance, despair
    of establishing Government by human wisdom and leave it to chance, 
    war and conquest. I therefore beg leave to move - that henceforth
    prayers imploring the audience of Heaven, and its blessings on our
    deliberations, be held in this assembly every morning before we
    proceed to business, and that one or more of the clergy of this
    city be requested to officiate in that service."

    Thomas Jefferson:

    "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 of 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."

    Alexis de Tocqueville:

    "Religion in America ... must nevertheless be regarded as the
    foremost of the political instituions of that country ... I do not
    know whether all the Americans have a sincere faith in their
    religion, for who can search the human heart? But I am certain that
    they hold it to be indispensable to the maintenance of republican
    institutions. This position is not peculiar to a class of citizens
    or to a party, but it belongs to the whole nation, and to every rank
    of society ... Christianity, therefore, reigns without any obstacle,
    by universal consent."

    US Supreme Court - Church of the Holy Trinity vs US 1892:

    "This is a religious people. This is historically true. From the
    discovery of this continent to the present hour, there is a single
    voice making this affirmation ..... These are not individual sayings,
    declarations of private persons: they are organic utterances, they
    speak the voice of the entire people .... These, and many other
    matters which might be noticed, add a volume of unofficial
    declarations to the mass of organic utterances that this is a
    Christian nation."

    North Carolina Constitution 1876

    "No person who shall deny the being of God, or the truth of the
    Protestant religion, or the divine authority of the Old or New
    Testaments, or who shall hold religious principles incompatible
    with the freedom and safety of the State, shall be capable of
    holding any office or place of trust in the civil department
    within this State."

    John Jay - First Chief Justice US Supreme Court:

    "Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers,
    and it is the duty as well as the privilege of our Christian
    nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers."

    George Washington - Inaugural Speech to Congress April 30, 1789:

    "No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the the Invisible
    Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than those of the United
    States. Every step by which they have advanced to the character of
    an independent nation seems to have been distinguished by some token
    of providential agency ... We ought to be no less persuaded that the
    propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a Nation that
    disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself
    has ordained."

    John Adams:

    "We have no government armed with power capable of contending with
    human passions unbridled by morality and religion ... Our
    constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is
    wholly inadequate to the government of any other."

    Judge Joseph Story - 19th Century Supreme Court Justice:

    "The real object of the First Ammendment was not to countenance,
    much less to advance, Mohammedanism, or Judaism, or infidelity, by
    prostrating Christianity, but to exclude all rivalry among Christian
    sects, and to prevent any national ecclesiastical establishment
    which would give to an hierarchy the exclusive patronage of the
    national government."

    "We are not to attribute this prohibition of a national religious
    establishment [in the First Ammendment] to an indifference to
    religion in general, and especially to Christianity, which none
    could hold in more reverence than the framers of the Constitution
    .... Probably, at the time of the adoption of the Constitution,
    and of the Ammendments to it ... the general, if not the universal,
    sentiment in America was, that Christianity ought to receive
    encouragement from the State."

    House Judiciary Report in 1854:

    "Chistianity must be considered as the foundation upon which the
    whole structure rests. Laws will not have not permanence or power
    without the sanction of religious sentitment, without a firm belief
    that there is a Power above us that will reward our virtues and
    punish our vices. In this age there will be no substitute for
    Christianity: that, in its general principles, is the great
    conservative element on which we must rely for the purity and
    permanence of free institutions. That was the religion of the 
    founders of the Republic, and they expected it to remain the
    religion of their descendants. There is a great and very prevalent
    error on this subject in the opinion that those who organized this
    Government did not legislate on religion."

    "The great vital and conservative element in our system is the
    belief of our people in the pure doctrines and divine truths of
    the gospel of Jesus Christ."

    Patrick Henry:

    "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
    people of other faiths have been afforded asylums, prosperitity and
    freedom of worship here."

    Supreme Court of Pennsylvania - Updegraph vs The Commonwealth 1824:

    "No free government now exists in the world unless where Christianity
    is acknowledged and is the religion of the country ... Its foundations
    are broad and strong, and deep .... It is the purest system of
    morality, the firmest auxialry, and the only stable support of all
    human laws."

    "Christianity, general Christianity, is and always has been a part of
    the common law ... Thus this wise legislature framed this great body
    of laws, for a Christian country and Christian people ... No society
    can tolerate a willful and despiteful attempt to subvert its religion,
    no more than it would to break down it laws - a general, malicious
    and deliberate attempt to overthrow Christianity, general

    Calvin Coolidge:

    "The foundations of our society and our government rest so much on
    the teachings of the Bible that it would be difficult to support
    them if the faith in their teachings would cease to be practically
    universal in our country."

    Continental Congress - May 16, 1776:

    "The Congress ... desirous ... to have people of all ranks and
    degrees duly impressed with a solemn sense of God's superintending
    providence, and of their duty, devoutly to rely ... on His aid and
    direction ... Do earnestly recommend ... a day of humiliation,
    fasting and prayer; that we may, with united hearts, confess and
    bewail our manifold sins and transgressions, and, by a sincere
    repentance and ammendment of life ... and through the merits and
    mediation of Jesus Christ, obtain His pardon and forgiveness."

    Noah Webster:

    "When you become entitled to exercise the right of voting for public
    officers' let it be impressed upon your mind that God commands you
    to choose for rulers just men who will rule in the fear of God. The
    preservation of a republican government depends upon the faithful
    discharge of this duty; if the citizens neglect their duty and place
    unprincipled men in office, the government will soon be corrupted ...
    If a republican government fails ... it must be because the citizens
    neglect the divine commands, and elect bad men to make and administer
    the laws."

    Charles Finney - 19th Century Minister and Lawyer:

    "The Church must take right ground in regard to politics ... The time
    has come that Christians must vote for honest men, and take consistent
    ground in politics or the Lord will curse them ... God cannot sustain
    this free and blessed country, which we love and pray for, unless the
    Church will take the right ground. Politics are a part of religion, in
    such a country as this, and Christians must do their duty to their
    country as a part of their duty to God."

[Information for this file was collected over the past few years. I apologize if I have missed any credit that should have been given.]

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