-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger
Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) sees a war on religion being waged by the elitist, secular Left. Paul claims the “separation of church and state” is a phrase taken out of context from Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists. According to Paul, courts have misread and distorted the meaning of the first amendment so that children are banned from praying in school, courthouses are prohibited from displaying the Ten Commandments, and citizens are prevented from praying before football games.
From Paul’s congressional website, he claims that the “separation” doctrine is based upon a phrase taken out of context from a letter written by Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptists on January 1, 1802.” Taking a phrase out of context from a letter containing only five sentences is going to be a tough argument to support. Jefferson wrote:
… I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.
This seems straightforward and self-contained. Jefferson is saying that the establishment and free exercise clauses build a wall of separation. The “taken out of context” argument is not supported. The “taken out of context” argument is simply a dismissive, throw-away line to a devastatingly inconvenient historical fact.
In The War on Religion, Paul writes:
The notion of a rigid separation between church and state has no basis in either the text of the Constitution or the writings of our Founding Fathers.
Besides Jefferson, the writings of other founding fathers have expressed similar sentiments regarding the separation of church and state. In Detached Memoranda, James Madison wrote:
Strongly guarded as is the separation between Religion & Govt in the Constitution of the United States the danger of encroachment by Ecclesiastical Bodies, may be illustrated by precedents already furnished in their short history.
In a letter to Edward Livingston, Madison wrote:
Every new & successful example therefore of a perfect separation between ecclesiastical and civil matters, is of importance. And I have no doubt that every new example, will succeed, as every past one has done, in shewing that religion & Govt. will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together.
In The War on Religion, Paul continues:
Certainly the drafters of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, both replete with references to God, would be aghast at the federal government’s hostility to religion.
The number of references to God in the Constitution: zero. Paul must use a different definition of “replete.” The references to “Nature’s God” and “their Creator” in the Declaration of Independence appeal to Deists, Unitarians, as well as Christians.
In The War on Religion, Paul also writes:
Throughout our nation’s history, churches have done what no government can ever do, namely teach morality and civility.
The moral support of slavery, provided by Southern churches, gives lie to this statement. Churches don’t teach morality, they exist to support their parishioners who, in turn, support the church.
In 1773, Rev. Isaac Backus, a Baptist preacher and leading orator of the American Revolution, advocated for the separation of church and state by saying:
And where these two kinds of government [ecclesiastical and civil], and the weapons which belong to them, are well distinguished. and improved according to the true nature and end of their institution. the effects are happy, and they do not at all interfere with each other: but where they have been confounded together, no tongue nor pen can fully describe the mischiefs that have ensued;
There is a war, but it is not a war on religion, it is a war on the separation of church and state. Those who want to impose religious law, be it sharia or Mosaic, on all citizens must first tear down the wall of separation. They are chipping away bit by bit at our nation’s heritage of separation.
While Glenn Greenwald highlights several admirable Paul policy positions and, while any candidate is a compromise with our own personal policy concepts, the separation of church and state is up near the top of my can’t-compromise list. Religion limits civil liberties for imaginary reasons. The surest way to lose many of our cherished civil liberties is to end the separation of church and state and let religious leaders determine the rules.
H/T: Theocracy Watch.