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The Real Truth About The
"Separation of Church and State"

When searching the United States Constitution and its amendments, you will not find any "separation of church and state" or other similar language. It is a myth and a fabrication, but there is a story behind this fiction.

The first amendment says nothing about a separation of church and state. James Madison’s original draft of the first amendment read:

"The Civil Rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established, nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience be in any manner, nor on any pretext infringed."

The final house version of the first amendment as written by Fisher Ames says:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

So how did we go from a idea that the government shall not make a national religion, to the idea that there is a wall of separation between church and state? The idea goes back to an obscure letter written by Thomas Jefferson to a Baptist Association in Danbury, Connecticut in 1802.

The Baptist Association had written to Jefferson about a rumor that the federal government was going to sponsor a denomination, making it the official church of the United States. Jefferson wrote back and reassured them that this was not the case, saying:

"I contemplate with solemn reverence the act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state."

In 1878 the Supreme Court quoted from Jefferson’s letter, but taking the opposite position to the one being made today. In Reynolds vs United States, the plaintiffs using the establishment clause and this letter argued that polygamy laws were unconstitutional. An argument that fits with the current interpretation of the separation of church and state. The court however looked at the letter in its ruling and used Jefferson’s statement to argue that the government could make no denominational distinctions.

In 1947 the current understanding of the separation of church and state came into being. In the Supreme court case Everton vs Board of Education the court quoting only eight words from Jefferson "...a wall of separation between church and state". By taking these eight words from a letter, not from a government document, but from a letter to a Baptist Association over a minor issue, the supreme court has distorted the meaning of the first amendment, from protecting the church from the government, to protecting the government from the church.

Religion has always been a part of America’s government. The opening words of the Declaration of Independence, written by our founding fore-fathers in 1776, recognizes God as our creator.

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Even our money reminds us that, "In God we Trust", and in 1954, the words "under God" were added to the Pledge of Allegiance. President Eisenhower, said that in doing so we were,

"...reaffirming the transcendence of religious faith in America's heritage and future; in this way we shall constantly strengthen those spiritual weapons which forever will be our country's most powerful resource in peace and war."

With all of this in mind, how does the government get away with banning religious documents (like the Ten Commandments) on state or federal property? The First Amendment contains two clauses referring to religion:

The Establishment Clause (which bans Congress from passing any law dealing with the establishment of religion) and
The Free Exercise Clause (which bans Congress from passing any law that would prohibit the free exercise of religion).

A law allowing the Ten Commandments to be posted in public schools would clearly not prohibit the free exercise of religion. So, as is often the case, the Establishment Clause becomes the problem. Out of concern for consistency in its interpretation of the First Amendment, the Supreme Court has developed a test the Justices apply to any religious practice that might conflict with the Establishment Clause - the "Lemon" tests.

Based on its 1971 decision in the case of Lemon vs Kurtzman, the Supreme Court came up with the three "tests" of any religion-related law. The "Lemon" test is still used by the Court today to determine whether or not the law meets constitutional muster. In order for any law to satisfy the First Amendment, it:

1. must have some secular, or non-religious legal purpose;
2. must neither promote or inhibit the practice of religion; and
3. must not must not foster "an excessive government entanglement with religion."

In its Lemon decision, the Supreme Court concludes, "if a statute violates any of these three principles, it must be struck down under the Establishment Clause."

So why do serious constitutional problems arise when the government displays the Ten Commandments? Aren’t they the grounds for much of our criminal law, and therefore constitute a legal and historical document, not just a religious one? This misguided argument treats the Ten Commandments as though they are an indissoluble whole, and, as most Christian know, they are not.

The first four of the Ten Commandments have no secular, or non-religious legal purpose. Instead, they concern only specific religious duties expected of believers. These four commandments contain directives that no government official in this land of religious liberty may say or endorse on behalf of the government.

1. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
2. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them.
3. Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain.
4. Remember the sabbath day, to kep it holy.

However, commandments 5-10, taken by themselves, make no mention of religion at all. Instead, the principles expressed are all rules of proper conduct by people in society and are thus completely secular in nature, and they can be found in many laws in the United States.

5. Honour thy father and thy mother.
6. Thou shalt not kill.
7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.
8. Thou shalt not steal.
9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.
10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's.

So, when the government displays the Ten Commandments, the unconstitutional endorsement of a particular religion is patently obvious. This is not a hard case, despite the divisions among the courts that have addressed the issue.

The bottom line is that it can not be proven "scientifically" that God exists or does not exist. But it is a fact that all men's bodies will cease to function. According to the Bible, while your body is alive, you make a conscious choice for where you will reside eternally after your body dies. From a risk/reward perspective, it is worth everyone’s full effort to make a well informed and well researched decision. Read Blaise Pascal's treatise, it reads much better than I do. It's not threatening, it's simple research, and you have nothing to loose.

I made my decision a long time ago. "As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD." I have not been disappointed, nor have I missed out on anything that life has to offer. And by living by the guidelines and principles of Christianity, I live a life that is pleasing and serving to those around me. The subjective part from an external perspective is the wonderful intimacy, friendship, conversation and experiences with the Lord.

In closing, I leave you with a quote from President John Quincy Adams:

"The law given from Sinai was a civil and municipal code as well as a moral and religious code. These are laws essential to the existence of men in society and most of which have been enacted by every Nation which ever professed any code of laws. Vain indeed would be the search among the writings of secular history to find so broad, so complete and so solid a basis of morality as the Ten Commandments lay down."

The Disciple

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