Separation of Chruch and State?
Elsewhere in this issue of Discovery, you see that our nation’s capitol has many indicators of our country’s religious heritage. Indeed, a host of references to God, Christ, and the Bible cover the monuments and government buildings. The writings of the Founding Fathers are also filled with their belief in what they called “true religion”—referring to Christianity. They believed in the God of the Bible—to the exclusion of all others—and they believed that atheism was foolish thinking.
But if these statements are true—and abundant evidence exists to prove them—why do so many claim that the Founding Fathers and the Constitution require “separation of church and state”? Why do courts, judges, and politicians say that there should be no crosses, or Bibles, or other Christian objects in public schools, government buildings, or public parks? Did the Founders agree with them? Did the Founders believe that public expressions of Christianity should not be allowed?
|George Washington||Thomas Jefferson|
The truth is that the Founders’ idea of religious freedom was actually quite simple and sensible—not at all like what we see happening today. The facts show that most of the Founders, with few exceptions, believed that the Christian worldview and Christian principles must be the foundation of the Republic. For example, during the Revolutionary War, the Continental Congress issued 15 proclamations to all Americans from 1775 to 1783. Those proclamations are filled with religious references—including references to Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. So their view of religious freedom and tolerance just meant that they did not want anyone persecuted or mistreated by the government due to their religious beliefs. Those who practiced no religion or a non-Christian religion could come to America and not be persecuted. Why? For the simple reason that most of the Founders and most Americans lived by Christian principles that forbid persecuting one’s fellowman (Matthew 5:38-47; Luke 6:27-36). They understood Jesus’ teaching to treat others the way they themselves wished to be treated (Matthew 7:12).
Continental Congress Proclamation Issued November 1, 1777
You see, the Founders were mostly British citizens who had felt the sting of persecution in their disagreement with the state religion (the Church of England). They were well familiar with their mother country’s long history of religious oppression, depending on whether a Catholic or a Protestant king or queen was on the throne. The Founders’ “forefathers” were the pilgrims who fled England specifically on account of religious persecution. So the Founders and Framers wanted there to be no religious coercion in the new Republic. They believed that everyone ought to be able to decide for themselves what to believe about religion.
And do you know that this view is in complete harmony with the nature of God Himself? God created humans to be freewill agents who make their own decisions with regard to their eternal destiny. God does not want Christians to force their beliefs on others. But the Founders did have two concerns about tolerating false religions. They did not approve (1) any religious belief that urged a person to harm others, or (2) any religious belief that included an immoral or illegal practice (by Christian standards). So, for instance, if your religion allowed you to have multiple wives, that part of your religion would not be tolerated since, by Christian standards, polygamy is sinful. Or if your religion urged you to kill Christians, your religious belief would not be allowed. Apart from these two exceptions, the Founders believed that people ought to be left free to practice their religion without governmental interference.
However, that does not mean that the Founders wanted all religions to be given equal treatment in public. To the Founders, permitting non-Christian peoples to live in our country without persecution did not mean that they “celebrated diversity” or endorsed what they considered to be false religion. Rather, doing so reflected their desire that all peoples be allowed to pursue happiness without governmental interference.
To summarize, the Founding Fathers believed America’s moral and religious foundation must be the Christian religion in order for the nation to continue.
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