By Stephen D. Foster Jr. | 4 July 2011
Religion is important in the lives of most Americans. Whether they are Christians, Jews, Catholics, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Agnostics, or Atheists, they are all welcome in this country and are able to practice their religious faiths or lack thereof freely thanks to the first amendment of the Constitution. The Founding Fathers made certain that religious freedom reigned but they also wanted the newly created government to work based on reason and intellect. To achieve this goal, they built a wall between church and state. The First Amendment states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
Separation of church and state has been part of the foundation of this country for over 200 years. Since the dawn of the twentieth century, however, Christian Fundamentalists have literally gone on a crusade to rewrite American history and tear down the wall of separation that has existed since America’s founding. These groups are mostly associated with the Christian Right Wing of the Republican Party. It is their belief that America should be solely a white Christian nation controlled by white Christians and that all minorities and other religions be swept away by any means necessary.
Prior to the Christian Right Wing movement, the government of the United States operated as a neutral body that did not favor any one religion over another. God was not mentioned on our money, nor was God part of the Pledge of Allegiance. There were no national day’s of prayer, and churches were NOT exempt from paying taxes. Even the Founders themselves believed in separation of church and state. For example, in an 1802 letter to the Baptists in Danbury, Connecticut, Thomas Jefferson 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 prohibit the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state.”
James Madison, main author of the Constitution, also made reference to the separation of church and state and stated why its necessary:
“The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe with blood for centuries.”
Still not convinced? The Founders said even more than what I have provided above. Here are even more quotes.
“Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law.” – Thomas Jefferson in an 1814 letter to Dr. Thomas Cooper.
“In no instance have the churches been guardians of the liberties of the people.” – James Madison
“I almost shudder at the thought of alluding to the most fatal example of the abuses of grief which the history of mankind has preserved — the Cross. Consider what calamities that engine of grief has produced!” – John Adams
I am for freedom of religion and against all maneuvers to bring about a legal ascendancy of one sect over another. – Thomas Jefferson, letter to Elbridge Gerry, January 26, 1799.
“The clergy converted the simple teachings of Jesus into an engine for enslaving mankind and adulterated by artificial constructions into a contrivance to filch wealth and power themselves…these clergy, in fact, constitute the real Anti-Crist.”
– Thomas Jefferson
And I have no doubt that every new example will succeed, as every past one has done, in shewing that religion & Govt will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together. – James Madison, letter to Edward Livingston, July 10, 1822
Of all the animosities which have existed among mankind, those which are caused by difference of sentiments in religion appear to be the most inveterate and distressing, and ought most to be deprecated. I was in hopes that the enlightened and liberal policy, which has marked the present age, would at least have reconciled Christians of every denomination so far that we should never again see the religious disputes carried to such a pitch as to endanger the peace of society.
– George Washington, letter to Edward Newenham, October 20, 1792
The above quotes prove that early Americans deemed the mixture of government and religion as a dangerous combination and even though the words “separation of church and state” do not appear anywhere in the Constitution, its clear that the Founders meant for separation to exist. Many on the Christian Right Wing insist that separation of church and state means that government cannot mess with religion but that religion can mess with government. This is false logic, because when religion begins interfering with government, it ends up having a measure of control over it, and begins favoring one religion over another. This violates the Constitution and is precisely why separation of church and state was established and meant to work both ways.
The history of separation of church and state isn’t that complicated and isn’t as ambiguous as the Christian Right Wing would lead you to believe. For instance, the Christian Right claims that this nation was created under a Christian banner. This is not so. Nowhere in the Constitution will you find God, Jesus Christ, or a declaration of a national religion, quite the opposite in fact. The nation was founded on the principle of Freedom of Religion. This means that people can practice any faith or reject religion all together. Even George Washington, the father of our country, rejected Christianity as a founding principle. Washington signed the Treaty of Tripoli which stated that “The Government of the United States is not in any sense founded upon the Christian religion.” That is further concrete evidence of separation of church and state.
Separation of church and state was so important to early Americans that many states prohibited clergymen from serving as representatives and senators. Many of America’s early Presidents were also pressured to declare a national day of prayer but they resisted. Total separation of church and state was considered the best safeguard for the health of each. As President Andrew Jackson explained, in refusing to name a fast day, he feared to “disturb the security which religion now enjoys in this country, in its complete separation from the political concerns of the General Government.” Some Presidents have recommended days of thanks, but it wasn’t until 1952 that Congress passed a National Day of Prayer into law thus interfering in religion directly.
In the 1860s coins that contained the phrase “In God We Trust” began to be circulated. Keep in mind that this was not federally mandated at the time but was a choice of the mint. The phrase was not allowed to be printed on paper currency and the phrase was removed from all currency in the 1880’s. In 1955, Congress passed a law requiring In God We Trust on all currency and adopted the phrase as the National motto in 1956. And since God is a direct reference to the Christian deity, Congress had once again declared a National religion thus violating the Constitution.
The Pledge of Allegiance was written in 1892 by Francis Bellamy, a Baptist minister and Christian socialist. The Pledge was written to represent all Americans of every faith. The words “under God” were only added by Congressional decree in 1954, thus misrepresenting millions of Americans who are not of the Christian faith. The current version basically forces people to declare that the United States is a nation of God even though that is a false notion.
Throughout American history, churches have not paid taxes, and in 1913, churches became exempt from paying income taxes. And that’s really a shame too, considering how rich many churches and preachers have become in recent times. Rev. John Hagee, for instance, reorganized his TV station (Global Evangelism Television) as a church (Grace Church of San Antonio Churches) to shelter those records, after the San Antonio Express-News revealed his income exceeded $1 million in 2001. All of his assets, including an 8,000-or-so acre ranch, are now sheltered in the Cornerstone Church. In the early years of this nation, churches were exempt from taxation because they didn’t make money worth taxing. Even preachers didn’t make much. The business of religion has become a multi-billion dollar industry today which if taxed, would generate billions in revenue to help erase the deficit and pay off the debt. And many preachers today, are rich and hide their assets under the church’s name. In 1971, the amount of real and personal property owned by U.S. churches was approximately $110 billion. In New York City alone, the amount was $750 million in 1969, $1 billion in 1982, and $3 billion in 1989. It is even more today. We should at least tax huge churches. Not even the Founding Fathers thought churches were that special. And the Christian Right Wing believes that it is the obligation of government to provide funds to Christian churches and only to Christian churches, which is once again, a violation of the Constitution. If churches cannot be taxed, why should the government have to give them even a cent? Even Benjamin Franklin, the Founding Father who said that “a firehouse is more useful than a church” disagrees with this. He said, “When a religion is good, I conceive it will support itself; and when it does not support itself, and God does not take care to support it so that its professors are obligated to call for help of the civil power, it’s a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one.”
Prayer days, phrases on currency, and words in a pledge may violate the sanctity of the Constitution but its harmless compared to what the Christian Right Wing wants to do next. Many alleged “men of God” have made many disturbing claims and statements that would not only destroy the foundations of this nation but would also violate their own Biblical text. Christian Fundamentalists have made it their duty to infiltrate Congress, the Supreme Court, and the Presidency, in an effort to declare the United States of America a Christian nation that abides by biblical law instead of Constitutional law.
The first part of their plan is to “re-educate” Americans by rewriting history to favor their cause. That includes creating false quotes attributed to the Founding Fathers. The main perpetrator of this practice, is David Barton, President of his Wallbuilders organization and Glenn Beck pal. Barton has freely admitted to creating quotes and falsely attributing them to Founding Fathers. Here are three made up quotes by Barton.
“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!”
– false quote attributed to Patrick Henry
“It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible.”
– false quote attributed to George Washington
“We have staked the whole future of American civilization, not upon the power of government, far from it. We have staked the future of all of our political institutions upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves … according to the Ten Commandments of God.”
– false quote attributes to James Madison
In addition to these fake quotes, David Barton and other Christian Right Wing organizations have created fake Supreme Court opinions and further false quotes from Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, all in an effort to prove that there is no such thing as separation of church and state. Now, if there is no such thing as separation of church and state, why do these organizations make up quotes? The way I see it, if you’re going to go to the effort of creating false quotations to destroy something that you claim doesn’t exist, that must mean it does in fact exist, and that the Christian Right Wing is just full of bald faced liars.
So let’s imagine for a moment what it would be like if this nation no longer had separation of church and state. Well, one only has to look around at what has happened recently to understand what the future could hold if the Christian Right Wing were to gain power. First of all, they would declare Christianity the official national religion, tearing up the first amendment in the process. But don’t take my word for it, here are theirs…In the words of the Family Research Council, a Right Wing Christian group:
“While it is true that the United States of America was founded on the sacred principle of religious freedom for all, that liberty was never intended to exalt other religions to the level that Christianity holds in our country’s heritage. Our Founders expected that Christianity — and no other religion — would receive support from the government as long as that support did not violate peoples’ consciences and their right to worship. They would have found utterly incredible the idea that all religions, including paganism, be treated with equal deference.”
And then there is this quote from Pastor Randall Terry:
“I want you to just let a wave of intolerance wash over you. I want you to let a wave of hatred wash over you. Yes, hate is good… Our goal is a Christian nation. We have a biblical duty, we are called on by God to conquer this country. We don’t want equal time. We don’t want pluralism.”
Then there is this gem from Christian Reconstructionist, Gary North:
“The long-term goal of Christians in politics should be to gain exclusive control over the franchise. Those who refuse to submit publicly to the eternal sanctions of God by submitting to His Church’s public marks of the covenant — baptism and holy communion — must be denied citizenship, just as they were in ancient Israel.”
Does that scare you yet? What Mr. North is saying is that if you are not a Christian, your citizenship and rights should be revoked. Is that the America you want to live in? The Founders would most certainly not approve of this. They envisioned America as a place where all religions were respected equally.
The Christian Right would then replace the public school system with church run schools so they can indoctrinate students at will. Again, don’t take my word for it, take theirs.
“We are engaged in a social, political, and cultural war. There’s a lot of talk in America about pluralism. But the bottom line is somebody’s values will prevail. And the winner gets the right to teach our children what to believe.”
– Gary Bauer, Family Research Council
“The Christian community has a golden opportunity to train an army of dedicated teachers who can invade the public school classrooms and use them to influence the nation for Christ.”
– American Christian Broadcaster, D. James Kennedy
“So let us be blunt about it: We must use the doctrine of religious liberty to gain independence for Christian schools until we train up a generation of people who know that there is no religious neutrality, no neutral law, no neutral education, and no neutral civil government. Then they will be get busy in constructing a Bible-based social, political and religious order which finally denies the religious liberty of the enemies of God.”
– Gary North
The three quotes above are merely a sample of what the Christian Right wants to do with America’s children. They want to brainwash them and deny them free thought and free will, something given to us by God by the way, and then force them to do that to children in the future. Its truly a scary thought and a very good reason why separation of church and state was put in place. But the Christian Right won’t stop there. After they take over the government and schools, the persecution of women, minorities, other religions, and people who disagree with them in general will begin. Once again, don’t take my word for it, take theirs…
“God Hates Fags!”
– Rev. Fred Phelps
“Rail as they will about ‘discrimination,’ women are simply not endowed by nature with the same measures of single-minded ambition and the will to succeed in the fiercely competitive world of Western capitalism.”
– Pat Buchanan
The Christian Right Wing is very serious about all of this and many have gone so far as to commit murder and terrorism for their religion. Take the assassination of Dr. George Tiller for instance. Dr. Tiller was gunned down in his own church by a Christian Right Wing fanatic who was willing to violate his own religion’s ten commandments to stop abortions. But this isn’t the first time they have attacked abortion clinics. These clinics have been bombed and the doctors targeted specifically. These are acts of terror. And here is what Randall Terry thinks about doctors who perform abortions even in cases of rape or saving the mother’s life…
“When I, or people like me, are running the country, you’d better flee, because we will find you, we will try you, and we’ll execute you. I mean every word of it. I will make it part of my mission to see to it that they are tried and executed.”
The Christian Right Wing even hates the government. The reason for this hatred, is because of separation of church and state. Because the government must treat all people and religions equally, the Christian Right believes that it must take back the government by any means necessary, even through violent coups. Just before the midterm election in 2010, many on the Christian Right were actively threatening to take over the government with violence if Republicans didn’t win the election. One of these people, Stephan Broden, is a pastor in Texas. And then there’s Sarah Palin, who has also incited violence. The Christian Right has made good on these kinds of threats before. In 1993, Timothy McVeigh took out his hatred of the government by blowing up the Federal Building in Oklahoma City.
The problem with the Christian Right Wing is that it is now frighteningly beginning to resemble Nazi Germany. The Nazis also believed in a Christian state and had hatred for minorities and believed women should be subservient to men. They killed homosexuals and persecuted people of different faiths. And this is exactly what the Christian Right Wing is trying to do. They have clear hatred of homosexuals and minorities, and they believe people of other faiths should be persecuted. Sinclair Lewis was right when he said “When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag, carrying a cross.”
Once the Christian Right Wing has control, they will begin legislating our personal lives. They will physically enforce their belief in abstinence and will ban the use of contraceptives. They will define marriage and severely punish anyone who violates their interpretation of the Bible, because that is what they are basing their new legal system on. These people are obsessed with power and will do whatever it takes and destroy whatever it takes to be able to wield it. They will repeal Freedom of Religion and limit Freedom of Speech. If you’re a white Christian who follows all of their rules, you might be safe. But if you’re a minority, a woman, or practice a different faith, your lives will be anything but safe. You will be persecuted, your rights will be stripped away and perhaps your citizenship too. The Christian Right Wing movement is no joke, it’s happening right now and could get worse if people do not stand up to them.
The Founding Fathers instituted separation of church and state in this country for a reason. They feared religious interference into affairs of state because they knew what could happen. No one can say that the Christian Right Wing wouldn’t declare Christianity as the national religion if they had power, which they most certainly would. And no one can say that they wouldn’t declare laws based on biblical text instead of the Constitution because that’s exactly what they want to do. The bible is not American law. The Constitution is.
Thomas Jefferson and the rest of the founders wanted reason and logic and intellect to run the government. Not divinity and Bibles. Government can’t stay out of religion if religion won’t stay out of government. The wall between church and state works both directions. Not just one. Christian extremists fear other religions so much that they are literally racing to pack the government with as many devout Bible thumping officials as possible which is as good as declaring a national religion without issuing the decree. As the preacher and mother of a friend of mine has said: “The most dangerous people are those who judge others and hide behind their bibles to do so.” That is most certainly not what the founders wanted which is exactly why the wall between church and state must be adhered to and built even stronger.
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