Shout It Out

I doubt anyone in this country has never heard the phrase, “Separation of Church and State.” It’s often attributed to the First Amendment of the US Constitution in that no church can interfere with state policy or law. It’s been used to eliminate any religious activities or symbols on public property, including prayers during public events (such as school football games). Some have even gone so far as to tell anyone appointed or elected to public office must leave their religious convictions at the door. Others use the phrase and the First Amendment to mean that we have a freedom from religion instead of freedom of religion. Amazing how one little word can change the entire meaning of something, isn’t it?

Yet anyone who’s ever read the Constitution knows that phrase is not there.

So where did it come from?

When our country was in its infancy, many had questions about what the new government had the power to do or not do. One of those concerns was religious freedom. In England, only one church was recognized by the state, and those who wanted to run for any public office were required to be a member of said church. Some churches, in this case the Danbury Baptists, were understandably concerned how they and their members would be recognized by the US Government—if at all, and if they would continue to enjoy their freedom to worship as well as take part in public/state policy-making.

In 1802, they wrote a letter to Thomas Jefferson looking for those answers.

Jefferson responded in part: “I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ʺmake no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,ʺ thus building a wall of separation between Church & 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.” (Emphasis mine).

Both letters can be found here:

Many Christians (especially conservative Christians) hate the “separation of church and state” phrase, because—for one—it’s wrongly attributed to the First Amendment. The second reason I mentioned above in that it’s used to stifle religious freedom and expression instead of protecting it—especially in the public square to the point some politicians are using it as a religious test for governmental appointments (which is also unconstitutional and goes against what Jefferson said in his letter).

So why do I bring all this up now? Simple. Have you noticed that no one is using it anymore?

I believe it’s because government has—for the most part—finally succeeded in shutting them up and shutting them down. They’ve no more reason to bludgeon us with it.

As such, if we want to keep our churches open and free, we need to quit balking at using that phrase and shout it from the figurative rooftops.

Because that “wall of separation” not only means—as the phrase has been used for at least as long as I’ve been alive—that no church can interfere in government/public activity, it also means the government can’t interfere in any church activities. That includes forcing them to shut down down completely or holding services for only a certain number of people.

It’s not enough to say closing churches is unconstitutional anymore (whether temporarily or permanently). It’s become so cliche that it’s background noise that won’t even invoke an eye roll. Now, if we say it’s a violation of separation of church and state, that might make their ears perk up a bit.

In short, it’s time to play by their rules and use the same words they’ve used against us for so long.

3 thoughts on “Shout It Out

  1. We, as Christians, need to follow Scripture, which includes a directive to follow man’s law that is in accord with Scripture. The answer to the questions, that arise from the laws created by man to fight the coronavirus, are answers, that every man will be judged by God on their judgment day. With the answers that man creates to many questions through legislation and judicial declaration of law often raising questions of what is permissible under Scripture, it can be difficult for a Christain to do what is right by God. Choose wisely, while recognizing God’s love for all and His directives that Christians act to protect the weakest among us and not be selfish in our decision making.

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    1. The point isn’t about a virus, but about the government exceeding its constitutional authority. If a church wants to shut down via the approval of its members, or do anything else they deem appropriate, that’s fine. That’s their right to do so, and I won’t argue about it. But that’s not what’s happening, especially in more populated city/states. Too many aren’t given a choice in the matter, and that is both immoral and unconstitutional.

      We all have to decide when a government is demanding that we violate God’s law and are therefore obligated to disobey. Yours may be different from mine which may be different from someone else, and again that’s fine. God never demanded that we agree on everything, but we do what our conscience demands (such as if one considers eating pork a sin, they shouldn’t eat pork, but if someone doesn’t see eating pork as a sin, they needn’t give up eating pork). You may argue at this point that eating pork doesn’t infect someone else that may damage their health, but again, this isn’t about a virus. It’s about maintaining our liberties and whether or not our government is trampling on them.

      God doesn’t force his will on any of us, so we, too, have no right to force our will on anyone else. We can warn them, give them advice and pray that God’s Spirit convicts them to change their mind, but they should always have the freedom to make their choices and accept the consequences thereof.

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  2. For instance, I don’t expect to change your mind. I just hope you and others who disagree hope to see and understand my point of view, just as I—though I may disagree—understand yours.

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