Freedom of Religion or Freedom From Religion?

How did we get to this place? How did this countries morals become so corrupted? How did we become so divided? How did our debt become so huge, our politicians so unresponsive, and government so large and powerful? One only needs to read the writings of our founding fathers to see and understand.

We have strayed far from the ideals and foundations upon which this country became great. We have ignored our Christian heritage in the name of tolerance, perverting the intent of our founders. Much has been made of “The wall of separation between church and state,” yet how many of us know where that phrase came from?  It did not come from the constitution, the first amendment 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 the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Nothing is said there of prohibiting public religious displays, prayer in schools or government, or of a religious leaders participation as such in governmental or political issues. To the contrary, it seems to prohibit the government from passing such rules. But, what did our founders have to say? The “wall” quote comes from a letter Jefferson wrote in response to concerns expressed by the Baptist congregation Danbury Ct. in 1802. They were concerned that their faith might be regulated and controlled as it had been in Europe. (In reality, there were likely many who were so concerned, as that was a prime reason many came here in the first place.) In his letter, Jefferson stated:

“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 the 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, of 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 man to all of his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.”

But did Jefferson mean this to be a total ban on expression of and participation in Christian faith in government? What else might he have had to say about this? He also wrote:

“I consider the government of the United States as interdicted by the Constitution from intermeddling with religious institutions, their doctrines, discipline, or exercises. This results not only from the provision that no law shall be made respecting the establishment or free exercise of religion, but from that also which reserves to the states the powers not delegated to the United States. Certainly, no power to prescribe any religious exercise or to assume authority in religious discipline has been delegated to the General Government. It must then rest with the states, as far as it can be in any human authority.” Letter to Samuel Miller, 1808.

But, what about the courts? Was he addressing them as well? Well it turns out Jefferson had something to say there as well:

“To suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency is a dangerous fallacy which at once destroys all religious liberty, because he being of course judge of that tendency will make his opinions the rule of judgment and approve or condemn the sentiments of others only as they shall square with or differ from his own.” Statute for Religious Freedom, 1779

“The rights [to religious freedom] are of the natural rights of mankind, and… if any act shall be… passed to repeal [an act granting those rights] or to narrow its operation, such act will be an infringement of natural right.” Statute for Religious Freedom, 1779

So then we can conclude that his intent at least was to prevent the Federal Government from exercising religious authority or control, that is, the establishment of a state religion. Notice as well that he considered religious freedom to be on of the “Natural Rights” so often referred to in the writings of our founders. One last quote before we move on:

“One of the amendments to the Constitution… expressly declares that ‘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,’ thereby guarding in the same sentence and under the same words, the freedom of religion, of speech, and of the press; insomuch that whatever violates either throws down the sanctuary which covers the others.” Draft Kentucky Resolutions, 1798

Now let’s look at the context of these concerns. Many of our founders came here to escape religious persecution. As you read and study their writings, it is very clear that was foremost upon their minds. Europeans in that day were very familiar with the dangers of a state religion and many had suffered at the hands of such. Most were also religiously devout men with strong Christian beliefs. Of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence, 24 held religious degrees. Some have tried to cast Jefferson as a nonbeliever, but what did he say about His beliefs?

“I am a real Christian – that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus Christ.”

Jefferson, like all of the founders was a believer in God. Some were Christian, and some Jewish, but all shared a common belief in God, and our dependence upon Him. All lived lives predicated by the same Judeo-Christian beliefs. Benjamin Franklin is considered by many to be one of the least religious of our founders. Yet he wrote to Ezra Stiles, President of Yale University on March 9, 1790:

“Here is my Creed. I believe in one God, the Creator of the Universe. That He governs it by His Providence. That He ought to be worshipped. That the most acceptable service we render to him is in doing good to his other children. That the soul of man is immortal, and will be treated with justice in another life respecting its conduct in this. These I take to be the fundamental points in all sound religion, and I regard them as you do in whatever sect I meet with them.”

I could go on and on, quoting Madison, Sam Adams, John Adams, Benjamin Rush, Monroe, Hancock, Washington, Roger Sherman, and many others. All believed in God, all believed in the necessity of Christian beliefs, and in the necessity that those Christian beliefs and character were essential to the continued success of this nation. Nor is this the only place where our values have strayed from the original intents of our founders, but for now, this is enough to ponder.  I will close with a quote from a man who was not a founder, but who nevertheless must be numbered as one of our great leaders:

“We the People are the rightful masters of both Congress and the Courts–not to overthrow the Constitution, but to overthrow the men who pervert the Constitution.” Abraham Lincoln

Am I advocating revolt? Yes, but not one of violence, for that is not the answer. Instead let us revolt in the polls, town meetings, and public venues. Let us take a stand for what is right, not what the media tells us is right, nor what the government tells us is right, or what others may say is right, but for what GOD says is right. Let us take the time to learn our Constitution, what our founders said, and what God says. Then let us take our stand armed with knowledge and the sure leading of the Holy Spirit. It is late; much damage has been done to our nation, its morals, its financial stability, and its strength. Our government is rift with waste, and corruption, but if we stand together and say thus far and no further, we can make a difference and we can return this nation to its true roots.


Kevin 11/14/09


About hisfool

I am a pilgrim on a journey, one which I pray leads to the day when I stand before the throne of God and hear "Well Done!" Along the way I have encountered good times and bad, been wounded and healed, fallen only to rise again. It does not make me any better, but perhaps, it makes me a little wiser and I pray a little more compassionate.
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5 Responses to Freedom of Religion or Freedom From Religion?

  1. Argus says:

    I think it better to very vigorously separate Church and State.
    States can (and do) make war, and wars aren’t nice. Objective states will go to war for objective reasons, religious states will go to war to force their franchise on the ‘heathen’. Hence crusades and jihads.
    As a New Zealander I’m frankly terrified of the prospect of the nuclear arsenal of the USA being in the hands of fundamental Christians …

    • hisfool says:

      Argus, the fact that you fear fundamental Christians shows that you do not have an understanding of what a TRUE Christian is. By definition, a Christian is a follower of Christ. The crusades were not the result of Christian people but of religious people. I know, it sounds like the same thing, but it is not. A true Christian will walk according to the teachings of Christ. What did He teach? Well when asked what the greatest law was he said:

      “…You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ’You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

      You see, there is a Law of Love that rules the lives of a true believer. Does that mean we just roll over and play dead because we love everyone. No, hopefully you are mature enough to realize that sometimes true love is saying “No,” or drawing a line and saying thus far and no further, declaring evil for what it is, and taking a stand for what is right. It is also worth noting that our entire system of laws (and I suspect in New Zealand as well) is built upon a Judeo-Christian foundation.

      Likewise, Jihad is the product of a religious people who have no love or respect for others. We see this in their callous disregard for innocent women and children even among their own people. I would no more connect jihadists to the average Muslim believer than I would those who do violence in the name of Christ to the true Christian believer.

      The other question here is one of constitutionality. As a New Zealander, I do not expect you to be familiar with our constitution, any more than I would be with yours. Likewise I do not expect you to be familiar with our history. Under our constitution, all powers not specifically allocated to the Federal government are reserved to the individual states. Now that has been corrupted over the years and a strong case can be made the the Federal has overstepped it’s bounds. In the case of this “separation of church and state,” the constitution only says that Congress shall pass no law, therefore restricting such things to the states. In Jefferson’s own words:

      “No power to proscribe any religious exercise or to assume authority in religious discipline has been delegated to the Federal Government. It must, then, rest with the States.”

      (Interestingly enough most states I have looked at have a similar clause in their constitution or charter.) That is because of the persecution that drove so many from Europe to the Americas in that era.

      As I stated in the article, the founders of this country were all of a Judeo-Christian background, and universally believed in God and that the Bible was an essential part of a proper education. Noah Webster (Yes the guy who wrote the dictionary) served in the Connecticut Militia during our Revolutionary War. He said:

      “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.”

      I could go on and on, the hard part is not finding the references that support what I am saying, but in deciding which ones to use. I will finish with one final quote from Patrick Henry, a founding father, one of the most famous orators of that day, and instrumental in the Bill of Rights upon which this discussion hinges.

      “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.”


  2. Argus says:

    My nervousness of fundamentalists is based on observation and thus objective, founded in reality rather than wish.

    You cite some great names and my respect for the birth of your once exemplary nation is immense — but that nation has long since been hijacked; a pity but that’s human nature for you. Your founders anticipated such and set safeguards but didn’t go far enough.

    Christian principles are unarguably good. Some of them.
    But in the Gooid Book one can find justification for almost anything (I love the British movie “Keeping Mum” in which the too devoted country vicar (Rowan Atkinson) is surprised to learn that the Bible is actually rich in sex and quite raunchy in places), contradictions abound.

    But the Prince of Peace came bearing a sword, let’s not forget that; and when fundamentalists can use the POP’s words as justification for endless slaughters of the innocents I feel unwell.
    I commute a lot and sometimes for amusement tune in to the local Bible-pump, but after just a few miles of the Old Testament have to tune out before I scream. I can stomach only so much endless murder, slaughter, and unjustifiable God-ordained bloody violence. But you are advocating it as a guide to being a good neighbour?

    As for Webster’s quote, yes, all children should be instructed —about, not in — Christianity and ALL the major religions of the world. Perhaps then they might make an informed choice instead of coming up saturated with only the franchise held by their geographical location.

    (Oops, I might have to post on this one myself, it’s too big to be a mere comment.) (I’ll advise when done, if you wish, but it will be soon.)

    Peace be with you, and yours …

    • hisfool says:

      My point is that the founders NEVER intended the 1st amendment to be used as it has been. It clearly was their desire to protect against the establishment of a state religion, not to remove religion, or religious beliefs and morals from government, let alone society. The quotes I have cited are not obscure, but readily found. (Most of the Jefferson quotes are direct from the Jefferson collection at the University of Virginia and are available on line.)

      By definition these men of whom I speak were fundamentalists, that is, they emphasized the literally interpreted Bible as fundamental to Christian life and teaching. I am not sure what you have been observing, but I can tell you that if your observations are accurate, they are most assuredly NOT Christians even if they claim to be. The US has lead the world in charitable donations and volunteerism for many years, accounting for something like 30% of the world wide total. It also leads the world in giving as a percentage of GNP. The vast majority of those donating describe themselves as be of Christian faith.

      Obviously your knowledge of the Bible is less than complete. Yes, there are violent accounts in there, but there is far, far more. While I have read it cover to cover more than once, I tend to focus more on the New Testament. In fact, I tell people that if they really want to understand God, they need to start with the gospel of John, go on to his epistles, and then on to the Pauline epistles. I want to emphasize and focus on grace and God’s love. If you really grasp those two things, the Law (think Old Testament) becomes easy. If you walk in the light of those truths, you do well.

      I am not sure how you arrived at the conclusion that the Prince of Peace came bearing a sword. The Bible (and historical accounts) tell us that He came about 2000 years ago, not as a Warrior, although He is, nor as a King, though He is the King of Kings, but as a child and a servant. Jesus came that we might be reconciled to God. Romans 5:9-11

      “Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.”

      The Word states that all have sinned, and as that sin came into the world by one man (Adam) so the penalty was paid by one man (Jesus).

      “For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love,in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:9-14)

      Shalom and Blessings

  3. Argus says:

    I’m sure you’re right … good luck, and peace be with you and yours.

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