Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Distortion of a Metaphor

In a letter written in 1802, founding father and former President Thomas Jefferson generated a phrase that is now extremely controversial. What started out as a literary metaphor is now a misconstrued bamboozlement of the first amendment. Where does the phrase “Separation of Church and State” come from, what was its original meaning, and how has it been warped? The original intent of the First Amendment has been forgotten with more recent rulings, and while the Supreme Court demands their idea of religious liberty, our very own freedoms are being robbed.
In Europe, most national anarchies were intertwined with a state religion; law required that each citizen adhere to that religion or attend the State Church. The consequence of following one’s own conscience was often persecution. Meticulously attempting to avoid that problem in the United States, the founding fathers fabricated the First Amendment, which states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” This means that America will never establish a State religion or church, never impose one belief upon the people, and that each citizen will be free to exercise their beliefs according to their own conscience. The term “Separation of Church and State” is not to be found in our Constitution.
The expression that is now so familiar to us was first birthed in a letter from Jefferson to the Danbury Baptists Association in 1802. He wrote, "...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." Nowhere in our founding documents or in Jefferson’s writings is there the slightest implication that God should be disregarded by the government.
However, in 1947, Justice Hugo Black changed that idea, spurring a new mindset regarding the First Amendment and Jefferson’s metaphor. In the Everson v. Board of Education ruling, Justice Black wrote, "In the words of Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect 'a wall of separation between church and state.'" It is only in recent times that separation has come under attack by judges in the federal court system who oppose separation of church and state." Determined in his deluded understanding of Jefferson’s words, Justice Black ruled in the 1962 Engel v. Vitale case that authority-led prayer in the public school was unconstitutional and a breach of Jefferson’s wall.
That’s exactly where Justice Black went wrong. Since America was founded by godly men who held Christian principles, it is perfectly appropriate for civil authorities, from the President to the school teacher, to publically acknowledge God. In free exercises, such as praying at the start of a school day, the government is not forcing anyone to believe in Christianity or even participate in the acknowledgment of God. No State Church is established. No one’s rights are infringed. The First Amendment is upheld. The problem occurs when law disallows authorities from publically acknowledging God. At that point, they are “prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” It is then that the First Amendment is violated, and the “wall of separation” is breached.
In recent years, more religious freedoms have been threatened. Besides such Supreme Court rulings as excluding prayer in school and forbidding public displays of the Ten Commandments, the display of Christian symbols such as Nativity scenes and Christmas trees are sometimes banned from public property. Allegedly attempting to avoid offending minority religions, the law is often abusing the right of majority faiths. This leads to favoring one religion or set of religions over another. And instead of guarding against the austere enforcement of one religion upon the people, the courts are encouraging it. Whether they realize it or not, they’re establishing a State religion which they require everyone to adhere to. They are imposing Secular Humanism upon America.
“The Separation of Church and State” has become quite a paradox indeed. While endeavoring to uphold this mere figure of speech, the Supreme Court has violated its true intent. America cannot stand by and accept the loss of religious freedom, accept the contravention of the First Amendment, or accept the misinterpretation of our founding fathers’ words. Something must be done to restore their original meaning, and that begins with recognizing the distortion as it transpires.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

You do realize the supreme court is currently overwhelmingly stacked with ultra conservatives right? Jefferson, like most of the founding fathers, was not Christian. He was a Deist. The founding fathers also owned slaves and believed that only white men should have any rights. Since they owned slaves and viewed women with equal disdain, is it therefore perfectly appropriate for people today do the same? If the founding fathers were Godly men and held Christian principles, then slavery and mysogeny must be Christian principles that should be emulated today, right? Jefferson even wrote his own version of the bible where he omitted the question of the deity of Jesus. It's called "The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth". It starts with an account of Jesus’s birth without references to angels, genealogy, or prophecy. Miracles, references to the Trinity and the divinity of Jesus, and Jesus' resurrection are also absent. If you are not practicing Deism then you are deviating from the founding fathers' values.

If school or government sponsored prayer mentioned Allah or Joseph Smith, would you be for those prayers? Would you feel the government was forcing Islam or Mormonism on you and feel offended and demand these prayers cease? Along with Christian symbols sometimes banned from public property, are not Jewish or Islamic symbols also? Secular Humanism isn't a religion. It's a philosophy. Is the government demanding people disavow God or religion? All I've heard about the USA since its founding and esp the last several years is that the US doing anything, esp going to war, is "God's will". Doesn't sound like the government is disavoing God. It publicly acknowledges God, Jesus and Christianity whenever it suits them to justify their purposes.

Liberty said...

I know that Jefferson was a Deist. Nothing was said in this paper about his spiritual views, and I definitely do not condone them. The reason for bringing him up was to point out the origin of the term "Separation of Church and State," not to praise his religious values.
As far as the founding fathers owning slaves - that's not exactly a completely accurate statement. Not all of them did. And for many years before the Civil War ever started, several founding fathers fought against slavery. I've actually been doing extensive reading on the early 1800's, the horrors of slavery, and the influence of women in America. Unfortunately, the majority of Americans in that era did look down upon blacks. But to say that they viewed women with equal disdain is inaccurate. I have stated in the past my opinion on America's history with slavery and women's rights. I don't think I need to re-explain myself.
Remember, while Thomas Jefferson was a Deist, most founding fathers weren't. They practiced multiple religions between them. The majority were (TRUE) Bible-believing Christians.
Never have I said, and never will I say, that I promise to uphold every value of the founding fathers.
1) They all had different values.
2) The times were different. While I agree with many (probably most) of their values, they still practiced things that are now outdated and/or known to be wrong (slavery, no women voting, etc.)
3) I do not endeavor to completely emulate the personal beliefs of the founding fathers. That'd almost be like worshipping them. I am more concerned with upholding the CONSTITUTION and the values found therein. There are myriads of people in history that set good examples in certain areas of their lives. The founding fathers are no different.

Liberty said...

To tell the truth, I would be bothered if a GOVERNMENT-SPONSORED prayer mentioned Allah or Joseph Smith. (Public schools are government organizations.) Why? Because we are a Christian nation. That's what we have been from the very beginning. That doesn't mean that everyone is forced to adhere to Christianity. It means that our government abides by Christian principles. So there is nothing wrong with government-sponsored Christian prayers or proclaimations, as long as they don't force anyone else to become a Christian.
If a private institution/citizen wants to offer a public prayer or display public symols of their religion, that's fine. They have the freedom to do that! As long as it isn't associated with the government, I'm fine with it. I may not agree with them, but that's their business.
We are a Christian nation. I've explained what that means. It is what it is. If someone doesn't like it, they can leave. We welcome all kinds of people with all kinds of belief. But we can't worry about offending every single person.

Anonymous said...

Is the USA a Christian nation when it starts wars of conquest to take over other countries that results in the deaths of hundreds of thousands if not millions of people? When it starts campaigns of xenophobic hatred against people of other countries just because they are from another country? Again, at the very beginning of the founding of the USA, blacks and women were viewed as inferior. And a campaign of genocide against Native Americans was waged. How can any of that be considered something that Christ would advocate? Those aren't Christian principles are they? If not then you must admit that the USA was not a Christian nation from the beginning. That the US government merely paid lip service to Christianity, claiming to be Christian and doing God's will, using the Christian religion as a shield and justification for their evil deeds. Hiding behind God and Jesus. The USA claimed/claims to be a Christian nation but then turns around and does the exact opposite of Christ's teachings. In my view it's a bad thing for the USA claiming to be Christian, meanwhile doing unChristian things. It makes Christ look bad and drags his name through the mud. People begin associating the evil deeds of the US government with the name of Christ.

Again thanks for responding. I am glad to hear that you do not view the founding fathers, or anyone else, as demigods and that you have a discering mind. I would like to continue this conversation.