Crucifix on Bible and US flag on opposite side

Separation of Church and State

You are going the wrong way!

by Doug Powell

In the classic John Hughes’ film, “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles,” John Candy’s character, Del Griffith, during yet another chaotic, confusing, and tensely hilarious moment of the film, mistakenly drives his rental car up the off-ramp and continues traveling on the wrong side of a snowy and somewhat barren highway in the middle of the night. When a concerned driver notices Griffith’s error, he frantically honks his horn, rolls his window down, and desperately yells from his car on the other side of the median, “Turn around! You are going the wrong way!” Griffith confidently responds with a chuckle, honks back, and then calmly explains to his passenger, Neal Page (played by Steve Martin), “Oh, he’s drunk. How would he know where we’re going?”

That explanation seems to satisfy Page when he sleepily affirms, “Yeah, how would he know?” Both men realize in short order what the other driver was really trying to convey when they are confronted with the blaring headlights and horns of two semi-trucks heading straight for them. Predictably, both men narrowly escape the catastrophic result of Griffith’s innocent mistake. Just prior to this brief and harrowing moment, these lovable characters were blissfully ignorant of any danger and confidently drove down the highway, thinking it was totally safe to do so when the opposite was true. So, what was their almost fatal flaw? Well, they simply got disoriented to such an extent that they actually thought that they were headed in the “right direction.”

The very same thing is happening right now with millions of Americans regarding the issue of “separation of Church and State.”

Even many who consider themselves to be religious have no clue how backwards their understanding of that expression has become. And given our somewhat drowsy and ignorant collective understanding of the Constitution, the radical Left of this country has successfully redirected American citizens up the off-ramp and onto the wrong side of the Constitutional and historical highway. The good news is that is never too late to realize what has happened, find our bearings again, and turn our thinking around 180 degrees. If we do this quickly, it is still possible to narrowly avoid the dangers that are quickly approaching our Republic. So, let us confidently begin our course correction right now.

The following is what you need to know when a fellow American innocently, ignorantly, or maliciously points to the idea of “separation of Church and State” as the logical reason why all our once treasured institutions are devoid of any prayer, the Bible, or reference to God. In some cases, it might even be your well-intentioned pastor explaining why he or she would never “get political” in a sermon. Or, it could be your child’s public school teacher explaining the merits of a godless classroom.

Here are six cardinal points you must be clear and confident about before engaging anyone on the subject:

1. You will never find the words “separation of Church and State” in any founding document.

This includes the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution, or the Bill of Rights. So, when someone brings up this tired and overused phrase, please immediately inquire as to where exactly you can find that phrase. Remember, the burden of proof is on them. John Adams famously declared, “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”

The facts in this case are clear. No such passage exists in our governing documents. You will also not find a hint of those words when the first Congress debated and hashed out the First Amendment and its emphasis on free speech and religious liberty.

2. Many of the ideas which inspired our country’s founding, were first introduced by Christian pastors in sermons delivered from the pulpit.

Famous concepts like “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” were certainly penned by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence, but these were not original concepts. In fact, reverends like John Wise thundered countless sermons decrying government overreach and declaring “the rights of man” many decades before. More often than naught, the Founders who wrote down the principles established in our founding documents were simply transcribing well-known sermons. The founding documents are full of very familiar themes first presented in our Christian churches. Although a concept like self-government was certainly radical for its time, it was not foreign to American churchgoers of the 18th century.

3. The Founders were only trying to avoid the establishment of an official Christian denomination, and never considered removing God from civil government.

Those who fled religious persecution and wound up in America were weary of a king being the head of the state AND the church, and they did not want a repeat performance. That said, our forefathers would have never dreamed of doing away with God or religion in the public square or in our public institutions. Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration and considered the father of public schools stated that the purpose of public education was (in this specific order) to teach students to love: 1) God, 2) their country, and 3) their family. In so doing, the schools would produce moral and honest citizens. This in turn would ensure the candidate pool for civil service to be much more trustworthy. Did you know that in some state constitutions, candidates are only eligible for election if they believe in a “future state of rewards and punishments?” And many of these constitutional requirements are still in tact.

The Founders knew that the citizenry would be better represented by those who were compelled to pass civil laws, which most closely resembled God’s laws. In addition, the elected officials’ decision making would likely be more just, if he or she knew they were answerable to God’s judgment rather than their own judgment.

4. The “separation of Church and State” guy had zero involvement in debating or developing the Constitution or the First Amendment.

For the record, Thomas Jefferson was the person who came up with the words “a wall of separation between Church and State.” These eight words were extracted from a letter he wrote as the President of the United States to the Danbury Baptists of Connecticut in 1802, in which he assured them that government had no authority to alter or govern their “rights of conscience.” In fact for nearly 150 years, this letter (in its entirety) was used in only 7 federal court cases. And in those rare mentions, it was to actually help clarify and strengthen our inalienable God-given right of “Freedom of Religion”, which was then codified in the First Amendment. As stated above, it is important to note that Jefferson had absolutely nothing to do with the First Amendment or the Constitution, which are the two written documents where many Americans think that dubious phrase exists. If that paradox is not enough, two days after writing his letter to the Danbury Baptists, President Jefferson attended church in…wait for it…the United States Capitol building! A federal building where Congress convenes seems like a very odd place for the chief magistrate to worship God, especially when we are told that he was the person most responsible for a “separation of Church and State.”

5. The Founding Fathers were Christians, or at the very least they knew that religion, morality, and the Bible were the keys to self-government.

Despite a very pervasive and successful marketing campaign to the contrary, the Founding Fathers were not a bunch of atheists, agnostics, and Deists. In fact, 29 or the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence had earned their theological degrees and in many cases were ordained Christian clergy and actively preaching from the pulpit. And when these signers of the Declaration (and years later the framers of the Constitution) gathered to form a nation and government, they almost always started with Bible study and prayer, often for hours at a time before getting down to the “business” of civil affairs. By far, the Bible was the most cited source book in the Founding Fathers own writings and speeches, and was quoted in over 1/3 of their known correspondence. Even luminaries like Benjamin Franklin, who is largely considered one of the least religious of the Founding Fathers, consistently emphasized the importance of prayer and the Bible in the affairs of the State.

6. It was a former Democratic Senator, member of the Ku Klux Klan, and Supreme Court Associate Justice who was responsible for completely mangling the original intent of the Constitution and its religious protections. His name is Hugo Black.

Born in the Jim Crow south and appointed to the high court by Franklin D. Roosevelt, Justice Black wrote the majority opinion in a 1947 landmark decision called Everson v. Board of Education. This became the genesis for the systematic removal of anything religious from public view. Black managed to take eight simple words that had no relevance in our civil government for over 150 years and brought them to sudden prominence to mean the exact opposite of their original intent. Despite his claim that the First Amendment was “beyond the reach of federal power to abridge,” he did just that and almost single-handedly pointed our culture and society in the wrong direction. He took judicial activism to new and unimaginable heights which was something of which the Founders were particularly leery. This warped jurisprudence and “legislating from the bench” marked a 75 year run of removing God and religious expression from the public square, thus effectively moving the American citizenry straight up the off-ramp and onto the complete opposite side of the Constitutional highway. And our culture has been suffering for it ever since.

Six Cardinal Points

Despite most Americans not knowing these six cardinal points, there is real “Hope and Change” happening in regards to our religious liberty. Ironically, much of the recent change of direction has come from the Supreme Court itself. In the past couple of years, the Court has delivered many significant judicial opinions reaffirming our God-given religious protections. This has begun a long-awaited U-turn in our Constitutional Republic, thus reestablishing our deeply held Christian principles and values, all of which has been a bedrock pillar of America since its founding. Let us encourage one other to read, study, and know the Constitution, so we are clear that our Constitutional rights come directly from God, not from government, and then we will never again mistakenly head up an off-ramp again. Provided we Americans know the truth, we can steer this country back in the right direction.

(Doug Powell is an honest seeker of truth, committed to reestablishing the original intent of the American founding, correcting misconceptions of American history and the miseducation of receptive Americans, including himself.)

(The views expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the Nevada Signal.)