Although the following article was written nearly three years ago, RFFM
feels it it may carry more releavance today in light of the recent tragedy
our nation has suffered. RFFM extends its deepest sympathies to those who
lost loved ones on September 11, 2001.
TRUE VIEW ON RELIGIONíS ROLE IN GOVERNMENT
T. ZANOZA & JULIA MARY ZANOZA
I could have entertained the slightest apprehension that the Constitution
framed by the convention, where I had the honor to preside, might possibly
endanger the religious rights of any ecclesiastical society, I would never
have placed my signature to it." - George Washington
There is an ever-growing debate in America over the relationship between
government and religion. In recent times, Constitutional law, or at least
the modern-day interpretation thereof, has moved from one of accommodation
concerning religion to a position many call hostile to the expression of
personal faith in the public square. From their writings, itís clear the
Founding Fathers had strong views on the subject. And though not
politically correct, they were prolific in writing about God and nation.
After all, 27 out of the 57 men who signed the Declaration of Independence
and U.S. Constitution had the modern day equivalent of seminary degrees
(extensive studies of Greek, Hebrew, and Biblical text). They did not
intend for America to be a theocracy, but they certainly believed the
nationís laws should be tied to natural laws God created. John Adams,
Americaís second President said, "It is religion and morality,
alone, which can establish the principles upon which freedom can securely
stand." The Constitutionís framers used the Judeo-Christian ethic
as a foundation for this new government. In creating America, they were
beginning a unique experiment whereby everyone would be able to practice
their religion freely, privately and publicly. Just as important, they
also meant for Judeo-Christian principles to undergird our laws. In
another speech, Adams said, "Religion and virtue are the only
foundations, not only of Republicanism and of all free government, but all
social felicity under all governments and in all combinations of human
society." Many Americans donít realize how adamant the Framers were
on these points. Current history books in public schools also neglect to
describe how these men thoroughly and diligently studied hundreds of years
of civilizations that had come and gone in order to lay down these solid
of the debate over this issue stems from the misuse of the phrase
"separation of church and state." If asked, most Americans would
attribute these words to the U.S. Constitution. In reality, the term does
not appear in the Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Independence or any
formal United States document. The phrase was extracted from a letter
written by then-President Thomas Jefferson in 1802. He was responding to
correspondence from the Danbury, Connecticut Baptist Association.
quote from the Danbury letter reads, "It is not to be wondered at
therefore, that those who seek after power and gain, under the pretense of
government and Religion, should reproach their fellow man, (or) should
reproach their Chief Magistrate, as an enemy of religion, law, and good
order because he will not, dares not, assume the prerogative of Jehovah
and make laws to govern the Kingdom of Christ".
meant to calm their fears by quoting the First Amendment of the
Constitution. He wrote them back, saying, "Believing with you that
religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God...that the
legislative powers of government...should Ďmake no law respecting an
establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; thus
building a wall of separation between church and state."
himself took this opportunity to borrow from the well-noted Baptist
minister, Roger Williams, who said,"...the hedge or wall of
separation between the garden of the church and the wilderness of the
world, God hath ever broken down the wall." Itís evident the
primary intent of the phrase "wall of separation" was to protect
the garden of the church from invasion by the state.
it must be pointed out that Thomas Jefferson did not sign the
Constitution, was not present at the Constitutional Convention of 1787 and
was out of the country during the discussion over religious freedom within
the First Amendment).
Barton - Founder and Executive Director of Wallbuilders, Inc. and a
Constitutional scholar-says the wall was meant to be one-directional. For
proof he cited early court rulings such as Reynolds v. U.S., 1878. The
case used Jeffersonís letter to prove the one way nature of the wall.
The court ruled government was responsible to enforce civil laws according
to Judeo-Christian principles.
goes on to say separation of church and state pertains to denominational
differences, not basic Christian mores. For example, a group could not
practice human sacrifice claiming Constitutional protection. The court
also ruled Mormons could not engage in bigamy or polygamy. Barton
concluded by saying the wall kept the government from running the church,
but it never separated religious principles from government.
can be learned about the intent of the Constitutional framers by a review
of the Northwest Ordinance. The draft was prepared by Thomas Jefferson. It
was originally approved by Congress July 13, 1787 and re-passed
by the Founding Fathers following the U.S. Constitutionís
ratification. On August 7, 1789, President George Washington signed it
into law-during the same time Congress was laying down the First
Amendment. Article lII of this Ordinance states, "Religion, morality,
and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of
mankind, schools and the means of education shall be forever
April 30, 1802, President Jefferson signed the enabling act for Ohio to
join the union which said this newest state must agree with the Northwest
Ordinance. If Jefferson believed there was a distinct wall of separation
between church and state, he would not have ratified this act just months
after his letter to the Danbury Baptist group.
it is clear that the Supreme Court, which included men who had created and
signed the Constitution, looked upon religious principles as the moral
foundation of this early government. When they spoke of religion, it
appears they were referring to sects or denominations. This notion is
bolstered by the words of Samuel Chase, a signer of the Declaration of
Independence and a Supreme Court Justice, who said "Religion is of
general and public concern and on its proper support depend, in great
measure, the peace and good order of government, the safety and happiness
of the people. By our form of government, the Christian religion is the
established religion; and all sects and denominations of Christians are
placed upon the same equal footing, and are equally entitled to protection
in their religious liberty."
has led to the modern-day, secular view of the U.S. Constitution? Many
people assert the document is subject to change according to cultural
whim. However, the amendment process was to be the means by which the
Constitution was to undergo this change. Judicial activists have
circumvented this procedure, creating laws instead of interpreting them.
re-interpretation of the religious clauses of the First Amendment can be
traced to a court decision in the 1920ís, but the roots of this new
legal perspective date back to the turn of the century. The humanistic
teachings of Charles Darwin, Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud cannot be
overlooked in the new role of religion in American culture. Subsequently,
the beliefs which a society holds dear are reflected in its laws. But some
say the shift to a non-theistic translation of the Constitution was begun
by a cultural elite that shared little of the values held by the general
with the aid of judicial activism, religion has been deleted from the
public square. Faith-based education was the first victim of this rush to
of the earliest court rulings pertaining to religion within the
establishment clause, in this new Constitutional vision, occurred in the
Supreme Court case, Everson v. Board of Education, 1947. For the first
time, Jeffersonís words were used in a totally unique context. By a 5-4
vote, the nationís highest court ruled, "From the period of the
early settlers, the American people believed that individual religious
liberty could bc best achieved by a government that was stripped of all
power to tax, to support or otherwise to assist any or all
religions." Legal scholars have noted this case used zero precedents,
therefore abandoning the time-tested practice of common law. In contrast,
the aforementioned case of Reynolds v. U.S. used Jeffersonís writings
concerning church and state to prove quite the opposite. Hence, the
foundation was now laid for the assault on the principles held so deeply
by the Founding Fathers.
1958, a Supreme Court Justice demonstrated prophetic insight in giving his
dissenting opinion concerning the case Baer v. Kolmorgen. He warned that
the Court must be careful in its usage of the term "separation of
church and state" because the public would believe those words
appeared within the body of the Constitution. In the future, there might
be some who would falsely attribute the phrase to the document itself.
This judge truly had a vision of what was to come.
the most significant landmark Supreme Court decision on religion and
education was Engel v. Vitale, 1962. The court said that a verbal prayer
in school is unconstitutional even if it is both voluntary and
denominationally neutral The ruling opened the legal floodgates in the
rush to remove religion from public schools. This case had a far-reaching
effect on the culture of an entire nation as well.
1980, the Supreme Court ruled that the Ten Commandments could not be
displayed in a classroom. The court used this rationale: If the
Commandments are present in the classroom, someone might read them. If
someone reads them, they might then act accordingly. And if they act
accordingly, this violates the constitutional wall between state and
and other monumental court decisions were a result of an ever-growing
barrier between church and state which, in turn, changed the way a nation
lived. Rulings on issues such as abortion and pornography became possible
in this atmosphere of moral relativism. Constitutional revisionists
exclude morality from the legal equation. The state itself becomes the
final arbiter between right and wrong.
it is evident the Founding Fathers felt a need to prescribe to a higher
level of virtue. It can be argued that the reason the United States has
thrived stems from the Framersí reverence for something beyond humanity.
false perception of the Constitutional framers as non-religious continues.
This social and legal parallax is reinforced among the nationís youth. A
videotape entitled, "Myths America", shown in some public
schools, described the Founding Fathers as atheists who saw religion
playing little or no role in their vision of a democratic republic. It
also must be noted that prior to World War II, speeches such as George
Washingtonís farewell address, which was heavy in references to God and
government, appeared in most American textbooks. However, from the
í40ís onward, his commentary has been deleted from history texts,
helping to create a radically altered secular perception of the Founders.
is safe to say modern America is no longer looked upon as a Christian
nation by many people. The age-old question of what came first, the
chicken or the egg, is entirely applicable in the discussion of religion
and American government and, to a greater extent, American culture. It can
be reasonably asserted that the purely secular perception of the law has
revamped American society. It can be argued that this non- theistic
culture is a direct result of post-modernismís influence on the United
States judiciary, a perfect example of cause and effect.
the very nature of law prohibits cases from being argued solely by looking
at the intent of the nationís Founders. Some, who hold a constructionist
view of law, admit that in the í60ís, "70ís and early
í80ís, cases were tried poorly by conservative jurists, leading to
many of the rulings handed down by state and federal courts.
American social landscape bears little resemblance to the late l8th
century. The country is no longer a melting pot, instead succumbing to the
philosophy of multiculturalism which divided Americans along racial,
ethnic and other cultural lines. Judicial activism has helped delete the
homogenous nature of society by using the courts to advance this way of
Founding Fathers intent was clear. They saw natural law as a fundamental
component of a democratic republic. For over 150 years, the courts not
only supported this vision, but also made religious liberty an integral
factor in the interpretation of law. But the ever-narrowing approach to
religious rights, guaranteed by the First Amendment, has had profound
results. Legal revisionism has distorted a sacred legacy.
his farewell speech, George Washington stated, "Of all the
dispositions and habits, which lead to political prosperity, Religion and
Morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the
tribute of Patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of
human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of Men and
Citizens." Our first President also stated, "Where is the
security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious
obligation desert the oaths, which are the instruments of
investigation in Courts of Justice? And let us with caution indulge the
supposition, that morality can be maintained without religion.