The issue of Separation of Church and State was revived again in Tuesday’s Delaware Senate debate.
Democrat candidate Chris Coons said that the ‘Separation of Church and State’ was found in the First amendment of the Constitution. The Republican nominee, Christine O’Donnell ask her opponent where that was found in the first amendment. This was followed by laughter and unbelief by the audience of Widener University Law School indicating they thought Christine O’Donnell was ignorant of the facts.
But is she?
Here is what the First Amendment of the Constitution says:
“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.”
No where in what you just read is there an establishment of a separation between church and state. This mantra has been repeated so often for so many years that people have believed the lie, like so many other lies liberals and the media have perpetrated on our society. In fact the opposite is true. The first amendment was written to keep government out of religion, not the other way around.
So when did this term become a standard bearer for how we view religion in this country?
In 1802 Thomas Jefferson wrote to the Danbury baptists and in the letter he used the phrase “separation of church and state”. Over the last 70 years our court system has interpreted that to mean religion should be kept out of “public” life (i.e. government and schools). In 1947 Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black wrote that “The First Amendment has erected a wall between church and state. That wall must be kept high and impregnable.” But if you actually read Jefferson’s letter it is obvious this is NOT what he was advocating:
“Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & 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, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” 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.”
We need to keep in mind the context of the times. America was formed by those escaping the State Ordained Church of England. They did not want to repeat the same mistake in America. So what Jefferson is saying is that man should be able to practice his religion and worship as he pleases without government interference or mandate. He did not say that religion should be kept out of public life.
Even if he had, it was his INTERPRETATION of the First Amendment and not in the actual document itself.
Christine O’Donnell was correct.
What about Chris Coons? Is he an expert on the First Amendment? In the same debate, O’Donnell asked Coons to list the five freedoms listed in the First Amendment. He could not. The only one he could remember was separation of church and state, which of course is not there. Instead he complained that the moderator should be the one asking the questions. Just for the record Mr. Coons they are freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom to peacefully assemble, and the freedom for petitioning the government.
The most disturbing thing about this whole event is that these are students at a LAW SCHOOL who laughed at Christine O’Donnell. Amazingly, they are so ignorant and uneducated on the truth of Constitutional law that they actually thought Separation of Church and State was in the First Amendment. This is sad. But no doubt this is what they have been taught. And this is indicative of the failure of our education system on American history. One would think a law school would get it correct.
Dennis Prager has said that the greatest threat our nation faces is that we have not passed on to this generation what it means to be American and the principles that make this country great. This is the challenge we face going forward. We must educate our citizens about the uniqueness of our country.
Abraham Lincoln said that “The philosophy of the classroom today will be the philosophy of government tomorrow.” How right he was.
As for Christine O’Donnell, she was exactly right to raise the question and in her assertion. Her only mistake was assuming that the audience was well educated enough to understand her point.