Ron Paul And The Separation Of Church And State

-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.

102 thoughts on “Ron Paul And The Separation Of Church And State”

  1. Mike, no thank You. I cannot consider that, and mainly because it is highly speculative at best.


    “The media focus on Iowa can be misleading. Four years ago, Mike Huckabee won the caucuses on the back of born again and evangelical voters, then faded in the long slog to the nomination. (The eventual nominee, John McCain, finished in fourth.) In 1988, George H.W. Bush, who would go on to win the GOP nomination, lost Iowa to both Bob Dole and Pat Robertson; in 1980, Mr. Bush edged eventual nominee Ronald Reagan in the caucuses.”

    “Conventional wisdom states that the top three finishers in the Iowa caucuses are all winners, with a chance to win the nomination, especially if they exceed expectations. But jowly former Sen. Fred Thompson came in third in Iowa and dropped out of the campaign. John McCain gained the endorsement of the Des Moines Register in 2008 as well as the nomination, but he didn’t finish in the top three in ’08 or ’00. In fact, since 1980, the only Republican nonincumbent who has won the caucuses and gone on to win the presidency is George W. Bush.”

  3. OS, I do not know what libertarian means to You. I don’t choose to hold a definition of My own.

    In point, the record is what matters, always has, and always will. And Nature tells the Law, this is obvious. Responsible Am I to both(and You also). (Not to be confused that I Am a catholic.LOL)

  4. You’re kinda missing the point. By over-interpreting the separation of church and state concept (which, by the way, is NOT literally in the constitution), people feel they cannot make any religious or spiritual expressions publicly anymore. This is really counter to our Bill of Rights which allows such expressions. But the new Political Correctness mandates that we replace such expressions of faith with generic meaningless express (for example, everyone now says “Happy Holidays” around Christmas time). I believe separation of church and state is an important component of our legal system. However, we should interpret it to mean that secularism, agnosticism or atheism should be forced on people either. For example, look at the French law on secularity and conspicuous religious symbols in schools bans wearing conspicuous religious symbols in French public (i.e. government-operated) primary and secondary schools. I believe such a law is an overreach of the government into people’s fundamental rights of religious expression and such a law should never be enacted in the US. Similarly, if students want to pray in school they should be allowed to but not forced. This, actually, is Ron Paul’s position as well.

    1. “everyone now says “Happy Holidays” around Christmas time”

      I always say Happy and/or Merry Christmas to those I perceive to be non-Jews and I’m Jewish. When it is said to me I say thank you and return the salutation, eve though it is not my holiday. I think some Christians make themselves out to be victims as a means of rallying their troops. Christianity is hardly a victim in this country and many times it is a bully.

      “Mike, no thank You. I cannot consider that, and mainly because it is highly speculative at best.”

      Law DeSchilde,

      Sometime “Da Nile” is a river in Egypt, other times it’s a means of not recognizing the destruction of one’s propositions.

  5. After reading the above, still scratching my head, am I. To be rhetorical questions with a libertarian bent these appear. If something to say or a point to make, the writer has, enlightenment, we await enlightenment.

  6. To all of you: I wonder if you have ever considered this;

    Take dutiful time to think completely about the answers to these questions.

    It is through these questions You will see Your life or death error.

    Did You choose or vote for the constitution to begin with, state or country?

    Did You agree at any specific time, or on any specific note, to social security?

    Did You agree at any specific time, or on any specific note, to your birth certificate registration?

    Were Your Parents given clear documentation of the terms and function of its purpose?

    Does money have any formal value?

    If you answered yes to any of these questions, think again.

    Do You know the details and conditions of any of these instruments?

    If You answered yes to this You are deliberately delusional.

    The law says anyone who enters an agreement without knowing the details is insane.

    To your advantage, the law says one who is insane cannot be held responsible.

    America has been a nation that functions on bonds; resulting in its inhabitants being put into bondage. Your bond is your word. No one else’s, yet, is this the case with You? If You are honest, You find yourself doing much You don’t choose to do. You endure what is not your burden that has come about by others choices.

    Final question, How is that working for you?

    1. Law DeSchilde,

      Consider this:

      Have we as humans constructed societies, cultures and governments to raise us out of the mire of “might makes right” that was the condition of most of our history and pre-history?

      Are these cultural constructs an advantage to us in allowing many of us to escape lives that are harsh, brutal and short?

      Shall we as humans revert to a status as totally self interested individuals, with no limits or structure to guide us?

      If the answer to the above is yes, then wouldn’t you also believe that all you have to keep me from taking all you’ve got is your brawn and your weaponry?

      Finally, is this the life you want yourself and all of us to lead?

      Based on your above comments, I would think that the logical extension of what you might propose is a society that would make the myths of the “Wild West” tame in comparison. If that is the case then, in the end your life, your families lives and all you possess are subject to the whim of others more powerful who might covet them. Humanity would be ruled by the law of the jungle and unless you have great resources, are a mighty warrior and have excellent weaponry, you become somebody elses’ bitch.

  7. What point is that exactly, martin?

    That you make piss poor rebuttals and commit the fallacies of argumentum ad nauseam and argument from ignorance? Repetition and willful denial of facts backed by evidence is not a sound rebuttal. It’s the equivalent of a child stomping his feet and shouting “Uh uh!”

    That you generally don’t know what you are talking about regarding the law?

    That you are a theocrat bent on inserting your religious agenda into government?

    That you’re too dense and/or willfully ignorant to understand the 1st Amendment and the words of the Founders and Framers that a secular state was their express intent in drafting the Constitution and the 1st Amendment? And that this separation doctrine is backed by a long line of precedent? Evidence that backs the contention you are wrong?

    I say all of the above.

    You have been presented with cites to black letter law, case law and the direct words of the Framers that say you’re wrong. They have a word for that in court. Evidence.

    Your counter argument is no more cogent than Jennifer Keeton’s argument about her beliefs. You have presented no evidence of any sort. Just repeated your belief that the Separation of Church and State doctrine doesn’t exist. Sorry! Just because you believe something doesn’t make it true.

    Everything in the 1st Amendment is directed at you, slick. It’s directed at every citizen. All citizens have a right to a government free from your (or anyone else’s) religion – i.e. you can’t use the mechanisms of state to force your religion on others (the Establishment Clause) – and all citizens have a right to practice their religion (or lack thereof) free from government interference (the Free Exercise Clause).

    Keep your religion out of government, martin.

    I don’t “claim” it’s the law.

    It IS the law. Whether you like it or not or whether you believe it or not. A preponderance of evidence has been presented showing that the Separation of Church and State is the law. A preponderance of evidence means that the greater weight of the evidence required in a civil lawsuit for the trier of fact to decide in favor of one side or the other has been presented, martin. This preponderance is based on the more convincing evidence and its probable truth or accuracy as it is backed by black letter law (the wording of the 1st Amendment), case law (Gitlow, Everson and Cantwell – there even more cases than that addressing it issue, I might add) and even the words of the Jefferson and Madison themselves. The evidence has been presented and to a standard of judgement that any rational person or trier of fact would say is conclusive. The Separation of Church and State is the law in the United States. It has been proven to exist to a level sufficient to win in court.

    Yet you persist in your claim – over and over again – that there is no separation of church and state. That means the burden of proof to disprove my (and others) assertion that there is a separation doctrine rests on you. You provide evidence that we are wrong.

    Prove it. Don’t opine. Don’t regurgitate your belief. Prove it. With cites to black letter law and case law supporting your contention.

    Otherwise, you lose this argument.

    It’s really that simple, martin.

    Put up or shut up. And by shut up, I mean feel free to continue to display your willful ignorance of the law and history. You are free to say what you like. You are not free, however, to be free from being challenged when you are spouting bullshit.

  8. I think a better image than a wall would be a handcuff.
    The first clause of the first amendment cuffs the right hand of the government and the left hand as well.

  9. Gene, you say
    “Keep your religion out of government and we’ll keep the government out of your religion. Why? Because it’s the law, martin.”

    The first part of your statement is Keep your religion out of government, which is the imperative mood. The implied subject in the imperative mood is “you”. By “you”, you mean “me”. And you claim that “it’s the law.”

    But nothing in the first amendment is directed at “me”.
    You have demonstrated my point.

  10. By the way, David, I would be remiss if I didn’t say that I think this is your finest column to date. A job well done, sir.

  11. Superb, Nal!

    Because the establishment in question is not necessary for the support of Civil Government. If it be urged as necessary for the support of Civil Government only as it is a means of supporting Religion, and it be not necessary for the latter purpose, it cannot be necessary for the former. If Religion be not within the cognizance of Civil Government how can its legal establishment be necessary to Civil Government? What influence in fact have ecclesiastical establishments had on Civil Society? In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of the Civil authority; in many instances they have been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny: in no instance have they been seen the guardians of the liberties of the people. Rulers who wished to subvert the public liberty, may have found an established Clergy convenient auxiliaries. A just Government instituted to secure & perpetuate it needs them not. Such a Government will be best supported by protecting every Citizen in the enjoyment of his Religion with the same equal hand which protects his person and his property; by neither invading the equal rights of any Sect, nor suffering any Sect to invade those of another.


    Because it will destroy that moderation and harmony which the forbearance of our laws to intermeddle with Religion has produced among its several sects. Torrents of blood have been split in the old world, by vain attempts of the secular arm, to extinguish Religious disscord, by proscribing all difference in Religious opinion. Time has at length revealed the true remedy. Every relaxation of narrow and rigorous policy, wherever it has been tried, has been found to assauge the disease. The American Theatre has exhibited proofs that equal and compleat liberty, if it does not wholly eradicate it, sufficiently destroys its malignant influence on the health and prosperity of the State. If with the salutary effects of this system under our own eyes, we begin to contract the bounds of Religious freedom, we know no name that will too severely reproach our folly. At least let warning be taken at the first fruits of the threatened innovation. The very appearance of the Bill has transformed “that Christian forbearance, love and chairty,” which of late mutually prevailed, into animosities and jeolousies, which may not soon be appeased. What mischiefs may not be dreaded, should this enemy to the public quiet be armed with the force of a law?

    ~James Madison, Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments (1785)

    Nope, no other Founder ever suggested erecting that Wall of Mr. Jeferson’s invention.

  12. raff, the hits just keep coming. If I were a fiction writer, I would dismiss the entire Republican field of candidates as not good material. Good fiction requires believable characters and a coherent storyline. Good luck on making either of those happen with this bunch.

    I particularly liked the piece on Ron Paul snagging the much coveted David Duke endorsement. That reminds me of the fellow who could not wait for the elevator doors to open.

  13. I had missed this interview. Probably because I don’t watch much teevee and second, I don’t watch Fox when I do. But this interview with Chris Wallace yesterday is worth noting.

    Seems that Ron Paul believes it is the responsibility of a person being sexually harassed to quit their job rather than making harassment illegal. The part relevant to this comment starts at about the 5:35 mark.

    Blogger Vyan analyzes Ron Paul’s statements.,-and-Ron-Paul-opposes-Sexual-Harrasment-Laws-too?detail=hide

    Way to go Doc. Your daughter is harassed by a thug at work. Solution is simple. Willie the thug keeps his job but your daughter must quit her job at a time there are anywhere from nine to a hundred applicants for every job. Heaven forbid that a government agency might make Willie’s actions illegal. Respondeat infirmior at work in Ron Paul’s libertarian utopia.

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