By: Amy Lutz
In a letter to the Danbury Baptist Association of Connecticut in 1802, Thomas Jefferson stated: “I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act (The First Amendment) of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between church and state.” With this simple statement, Jefferson coined the phrase “separation of church and state” and started the ball rolling on what has been a tumultuous track of political debate over the church’s role in American life. Jefferson originally intended to imply that the First Amendment was created to protect personal religion from government influence by reining in the powers of the latter. On the flip side, he also was strongly opposed to a theocracy. These sentiments were echoed by Jefferson’s fellow founder James Madison who stated that he believed the First Amendment to mean: “Congress should not establish a religion, and enforce the legal observation of it by law.” According to the Constitution, and in the words of Jefferson, Madison, and their contemporaries, the government is prohibited from creating a national religion and suppressing alternative religious views, including view of those who ascribe to no religion. That’s it. Unfortunately, Jefferson’s now famous phrase has been so twisted the original meaning has been all but lost. Due to an illogical court holding in Everson v. Board of Education and frequent complaints of “intolerance” from petty liberals, “separation of church and state” has drifted away from its intended connotation and instead become drastically more insidious.
In the last century, “separation of church and state” has come to mean banning any mention of prayer in schools and altering anything that could even have a hint of religious influence. For example, “Christmas Break” is now “Winter Break” in many public schools and “Easter Break” is simply “Spring Break” if it’s acknowledged at all. Liberals love to use “separation of church and state” as their weapon of justification as they remove nativity scenes from school campuses and crucifixes from classrooms, all while preaching under the banner of “tolerance.” Let me translate. For those on the left, “tolerance” often means “tolerant of those I agree with.” However, this issue is not just present in our schools. The media and government have done their best to remove not just religion, but God himself from our lives. Recently, during a telecast of the U.S. Open, NBC (no surprise here) omitted “Under God” and “Indivisible” from the Pledge of Allegiance. Then, in Texas, Federal Judge Fred Biery ruled that prayer could not be included in the graduation ceremony for Medina Valley High School in Castroville. I’m not sure of the origins of the town’s name, but “Castro”-ville, really? It seems ironically appropriate for the situation. Biery also banned the words “benediction,” “invocation,” “bow your heads,” “join in prayer,” and “amen” from the ceremony. The 5th circuit court thankfully overturned the decision, but it did not stop Texas Governor and potential GOP Presidential candidate Rick Perry from calling the original ruling “reprehensible.” In another odd story from the usually conservative state of Texas, the Department of Veterans Affairs has been accused of censoring prayers during funeral services at the Houston National Cemetery. Words like “God” and “Jesus” are also banned from the usually hallowed ground. What many on the left are doing to the free practice of religion in this country is nothing short of sickening.
What is perhaps more disgusting is the left’s tactic of using religion as a tool to support their own agendas when it is convenient. At the same time liberals are fighting to keep God out of the public sphere, some of them are also using religion to attack their opponents or manipulatively sway voters. It’s hypocritical, I know, but that’s how the left operates. During an interview on MSNBC (again, no surprise here), Representative James Clyburn stated while speaking of people who support Paul Ryan’s Medicare Plan: “I always find it very interesting that people talk all about their Christianity and all these other religions that teach love. All that teach taking care of the poor. All of which talk about doing for the least of these. Yet, they continue to heap burden upon burden upon people who can stand it the least.” Poor sentence structure aside, Clyburn gave a perfect example of the left’s perversion of Christianity. In this case, the representative used Christianity to fit his political views instead of the other way around. Clyburn used Christianity as a weapon of attack instead of a shield of justice. He demonized Republicans under the guise of religion, painting them as many liberals do, as spiteful politicians who injure the poor and needy every chance they get. Nothing could be further from the truth, but that’s for another time.
Representative Clyburn’s comment was certainly offensive, but it could not even compare to the campaign the ever-classy Huffington Post has recently launched inviting readers to submit their own new “religions.” Apparently to the Huffington Post and its readers who are taking part in this initiative, religion itself is a joke. One suggested faith is called the “9th Order of the Eternal Pringles” in which followers are instructed to worship barbeque flavored Pringles. Really? The prank (as Anthony Weiner might say) seems harmless, but the vindictiveness is not completely disguised. Instead of having respect for the deep-seated beliefs of all those who follow a religious doctrine, the Huffington Post portrayed religion as something frivolous and changeable.
Perhaps my favorite example of liberal hypocrisy in regards to religion revolves around our former speaker of the house, Nancy Pelosi. The Congresswoman has often spoke in support of keeping religion and the state completely separate and was even given a 100% rating for her support of the separation of church and state by the appropriately named Americans United for Separation of Church and State. In a 2008 interview on Meet the Press with Tom Brokow, Pelosi emphasized her support for the separation between the entities in regards to abortion. Brokow commented: “The Catholic Church at the moment feels very strongly that life begins at the point of conception.” The “Catholic” Nancy Pelosi responded: “It shouldn’t have an impact on the woman’s right to choose.” Here, the former speaker masked her pro-choice beliefs behind the shield of separation of church and state. This shield gives her a perfect excuse not to answer to the contradictions in her own beliefs (being a Catholic and pro-choice) Pelosi seems to believe that the distinction between religion and the government is far more important than her own religious views. Or perhaps not…Although Pelosi has spoken very highly of keeping religion and politics separate, she has hypocritically shoved her Christian beliefs into the public discourse anyway. While speaking at the Catholic Community Conference (why she was even invited, I’m not sure), Pelosi asked a group of Catholic bishops and cardinals that she hoped they would speak about immigration reform (aka amnesty) “from the pulpit” because reform “is a manifestation of our living the gospels.” This is exactly what the founders feared when they drafted the First Amendment. The Congresswoman’s statement is a perfect example of the government’s meddling in the affairs of religious communities immorally and perhaps illegally. Catholic officials and leaders from all religious communities should speak from the heart and speak for God, not the government.
It is astonishing that something, namely religion, which is by definition good, can be perverted into such a great tool of evil. This is exactly what the founders feared when they put together the Constitution. I doubt that Thomas Jefferson could have foreseen how his concept of separation of church and state, designed to preserve the freedom of religion, has been twisted to create an increasingly secularized and intolerant society. In fact Jefferson and his other founders’ ideas and statements about religion would perhaps not be “tolerated” based upon the laws of today. Jefferson, although he was often conflicted when it came to religion stated: “I am a real Christian, that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus. I have little doubt that our whole country will soon be rallied to the unity of our Creator and, I hope, to the pure doctrine of Jesus also.” George Washington stated in kind: "Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity religion and morality are indispensable supports." Congress even recommended in 1782 that the Bible be used in all schools. Early Americans, although diverse in their beliefs, agreed that religion was a key piece in the structure of our nation and should be preserved. In the modern day, religion is mocked, degraded, and eradicated every time you turn around. It’s no coincidence that this country started descending downhill once God was taken out of our schools and continues to slide as religion is removed from the public sphere. We must bring true religious tolerance back into this country if we are ever to get back on our feet again. A belief in God used to be something that united us instead of tearing us apart. In a few days, we will be celebrating the 4th of July and the signing of the Declaration of Independence. If we want to once again be a united country under the principles that we were found upon, we must remember the words of our forbearers in that great document: “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.”