With the challenges of Obamacare in the courts, especially with Oklahoma owned Hobby Lobby stating that the healthcare law violates their freedom of religion, Oklahomans may wonder what Thomas Jefferson meant by “separation of church and state.” The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution refers to the establishment and practice of religion in the United States. It says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;…” The 14th Amendment has been interpreted as expanding the Bill of Rights to state governments. The last sentence of Amendment 14, Section 1 states, “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the U.S.; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
Nowhere in the Constitution is it stated that there should be a separation of church from the state. It simply states that no national religion can be established and that the government cannot stop people from practicing their religion. The phrase “wall of separation between Church and State” is from a letter that Thomas Jefferson wrote to the Danbury Baptists who were afraid that the government would make their denomination illegal, as had been practice in many colonies before the U.S. declared independence from Britain. Jefferson used the wall analogy to reassure them that the government would have nothing to do with religion because it is a matter of conscience between man and God. He never said that religion shall be removed from government or public life. Prayer and Christian worship services were conducted in the halls of Congress. The Christian religion was taught in public schools. There was even concern about how teaching science outside the context of God could cause students to become atheistic. Mandatory chapel attendance was a fact of life in universities like Harvard and Yale.
Fast forward to what has occurred in the last century, focusing on the last 40 years. Progressives have added interpretation to the 1st and 14th Amendments that are not there and have twisted Jefferson’s words to mean that the “separation” means that religion has no place in the public realm. This belief has led to the elimination of the Christian religion of all denominations from public schools, while the tenets of Islam are being taught openly. Pastors are prohibited from preaching on political issues because of tax laws. Teachers are prohibited from teaching Christianity in public schools which flies in the face of “free exercise” because teachers are not allowed to fulfill the Great Commission given to all Christians by Jesus in the Gospels.
History has shown how eliminating religion from the state actually mutates the state into a religion. Ancient Romans persecuted Christians because they refused to worship the Caesar as a god or any of the other state sponsored gods. Communism in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe and the Nazi Third Reich in Germany are two other glaring examples of how government becomes a national religion. Religion became heavily regulated and persecuted by the State. These governments wanted their citizens to fully rely on them, not a Supreme Being.
In conclusion, laws and court rulings that limit the free practice of religion in the public realm are unconstitutional. Students in government schools are being taught that Christianity had nothing to do with how the Founding Fathers developed the fabric of our government. Christian children in many schools are not allowed to pray openly or wear clothing that reflects their beliefs because what they do may be offensive to religions that may be in a minority or non-existent in the school. Christians have to compete with atheists for the opportunity to display the story of Jesus’ birth during the Christmas season. When governments take religion from young people while telling them to question everything their parents teach them, they can manipulate these children into believing that the government is the source of all that is good, not God.