FIRST AMENDMENT WAS NEVER INTENDED TO BAN CHRISTIANITY IN PUBLIC
- Bill Connor
- (Official) From The Desk of Bill Connor
Most of my articles on the website have been attempts to explain the law in a way that can be understood and used by non-lawyers facing legal questions or issues. This article is not intended to define the current state of jurisprudence over church/state issues, as I believe the Courts have veered so far from the original meaning of the First Amendment. I sincerely think it will take all Americans, and not just lawyers to help set the courts straight on this issue and overturn much of the precedence setting in the post World War II Court. I hope to provide both a historic and legal argument for why our courts should not be enforcing a secularized public square, which itself is discrimination in favor of the secular worldview.
It's important to note that at the time of the Constitution Convention, the United States was overwhelmingly Christian, though with a multitude of denominations in the various states. Most Americans, particularly after the influence of the first great awakening before the Revolution, were devout and passionate Christians. At the same time, Americans generally opposed the restrictions and perceived unfairness of the monopoly of the Church of England over religious worship. They did not want a Church of America and insisted on the prevention of a National Church with special powers and privileges over the other denominations. This was the primary justification behind the First Amendment's establishment clause: “Government will make no law respecting the establishment of religion or preventing the free exercise thereof.” The issue was not public recognition of God, but state Church.
Few Americans in modern times are aware that “Wall of Separation between church and state” is not Constitutional language, but pulled from Thomas Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists written in 1802. This letter was pulled out of context and improperly used by the post World War II Supreme Court to expand the reach of the establishment clause. It was used to begin the faulty precedence to end of Bible Reading, School prayer, and recognition of God in the public square. In fact, Jefferson was writing to the Baptist ministers to allay their fears of government intervention into the Baptist denomination and not the other way around. To help lend context to the letter, a year after writing it Jefferson lobbied Congress for money to send missionaries and evangelistic resources to Native Americans. His many references to God, Prayers, and Actions clearly establish that Jefferson did not believe God should be stricken from American public life. As a practical argument against using the letter for Constitutional interpretation, Thomas Jefferson was in France during the Constitutional Convention.
As clear evidence of the original intent of the First Amendment "establishment clause": the day after passing the First Amendment Congress passed a resolution calling for a day of prayer and thanksgiving to God for the freedoms bestowed. No, Congress did not require an Atheist, Agnostic, or polytheistic resolution. You just won't find that kind of thing until the last few decades of American history. Those same men who were responsible for the drafting and passing of the First Amendment were also those who stood behind Jefferson's words in the preamble to the Declaration of Independence: “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.
America's Christian character and open recognition of God in public life, at least up until the middle of the 20th century, went unquestioned on the grounds of an alleged wall of separation demanded by the First Amendment. Famed Harvard professor Samuel Huntington put it best, when surveying American history: “To deny God is to challenge the fundamental principle underlying American society.” Recognition of God is a major part of who we are as Americans and has helped keep us both free and strong. As John Adams told us after his major part of the drafting of the Constitution: "This Constitution was made for a moral and religious people, it is wholly unsuited to the governance of any other."
The Constitution allows and the Declaration demands we recognize and thank the divine author of our rights and freedoms. Wisdom tells us we should never allow the prayer and/or worship of that which opposes that which bestows our rights and freedoms. Let us ponder another quote from Alexis de Tocqueville which we ignore only if we desire the end of American greatness: "America is great, because America is good, if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great." It is time Americans demanded the Courts reverse course on banning God from the public square and allow the system our founders intended.