Introduction to History of the First Amendment


A Publication of Separation of Church and State Law Ministry.



Jerald Finney
Copyright © February 22, 2018


Christians, except for a small minority who have ferreted out the truth, and secularists have accepted the brand of historical revisionism presented them by those they trust.[1] Revisionists revise in spite of the fact that he truth is available. This study presents accurate historical facts which are readily available through honest research. See [2] for link to some resources which verify this.   Both Christian revisionists (such as David Barton and Roger Federer) and secular revisionists (such as Leo Pfeffer,[3]) have distorted the true history of the First Amendment; “Christian” revisionism through manipulation of selected facts taken out of context and other dishonest devices and secular revisionism, although much more honest and accurate in reporting historical fact, through their inability to properly analyze because they leave God and the spiritual out of the equation.[4]

Revisionists, both “Christian” and secular, work on the lowest level, at the public level. They disseminate books, articles, videos, and public media interviews. They select facts out of context which support their agenda. Their adherents trust and believe them. Few followers have time to check out what they are being told. Even though legal and historical scholars have published the truth, their works remain obscure; the general public has neither the time nor inclination to examine the truth of what they are being fed. This study is based upon undeniable historic fact. Anyone can discover and verify these facts, if they have the time.

Secular revisionists such as Leo Pferrer have been very instrumental in the development of First Amendment law at the highest level—in the courts. Although Pfeffer’s work, unlike that of Christian revisionists, was for the most part factually accurate, he simply did not get it even though he did mention God. On the other hand, Christian revisionists, usually knowingly, present a factually false view of history. See [5] for link to a book which explains “Christian” revisionism. They have disseminated their history to the general public so successfully that the general Christian population who is interested in history as well as many politicians all the way up to Presidents of the United States have accepted and continued to disseminate the accepted “Christian” view of history. “Christian” revisionism has been published in briefs, memorandums of law, etc. in court cases all the way up to the Supreme Court. To present lies to such studied authorities is discrediting to Christianity in general. Although some “Christian” revisionists have now been exposed before the public in general, blind Christians continue to follow their teachings.[6] After all, most Christians believe that other “Christians” would not lie to them.

Religious freedom without persecution or “heretics” was historically rare, almost non-existent before the founding of the colony or Rhode Island. God’s people have always, regardless of persecution, come together as local churches, preached the Gospel, and helped their fellow man. Paul wrote in the midst of persecution:

  • “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;”[7]
  • “We, having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak.”[8]

In the preceding verse, Paul quoted a portion of Psalm 116.10 which says in its entirety, “”I believed, therefore have I spoken: I was greatly afflicted:” Tied up in the liberty given believers by Christ is speaking (“And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.”[9]), and associating or meeting together (“Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is;”[10]). Furthermore, God gave mankind the Bible, which in certain times past, was banned and burned. The First Amendment was written and ratified with the intent of protecting God’s churches, the exercise of religion by the dissenters in the colonies, the preaching of the Gospel, the coming together to worship God, the dissemination of literature, mainly the dissemination of God’s Word, and the right to petition the civil government for a redress of grievances.

The First Amendment was the culmination of a long spiritual warfare between established churches and dissenters, mainly the Baptists. God’s power moved mightily during that period of conflict. Many believers suffered persecution. The roots of the struggle in America were embedded in New England, spread to the south, to Virginia, and then to the new nation.

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

True historical facts prove that the religion clause of the First Amendment is a legal statement of the principle of religious freedom, or soul liberty, or separation of church and state which conforms to biblical principles. Bible-believing Christians, based upon their spiritual beliefs, fought the fight which resulted in the First Amendment. They made the spiritual Bible-based arguments and practiced their faith despite persecution. Their efforts and arguments gradually convinced others.

Many of the early colonists were Protestants who thought Luther and/or Calvin were correct in their belief that church and state should be united. Others, the Anglicans, brought the state-church concepts of union of church and state of England to the colonies. Dissenters believed in and fought for separation of church and state. The First Amendment was primarily the result of a spiritual warfare between those holding opposing Scriptural interpretations, the established churches versus the dissenters, primarily the Baptists.

  • “Of the Baptists, at least, it may be truly said that they entered the conflict in the New World with a clear and consistent record on the subject of soul liberty. ‘Freedom of conscience’ had ever been one of their fundamental tenets. John Locke, in his ‘essay on Toleration,’ says: ‘The Baptists were the first and only propounders of absolute liberty, just and true liberty, equal and impartial liberty.’ And the great American historian, Bancroft, says: ‘Freedom of Conscience, unlimited freedom of mind, was from the first a trophy of the Baptists.’ Vol. II., pages 66, 67.
  • “The history of the other denominations shows that, in the Old World, at least, they were not in sympathy with the Baptist doctrine of soul liberty, but in favor of the union of Church and State, and using the civil power to compel conformity to the established church….
  • “The Reformation which began with Martin Luther corrected many errors of faith and practice among those who came out of the corrupt and apostate church, but not all. It was left to the sect once ‘everywhere spoken against’ to teach their Protestant brethren the lesson of soul liberty, and this they did in the school of adversity in the New World.”[11]

At times, persecuting established churches became persecuted churches when they moved to other colonies controlled by another church/state establishment. When that happened, the persecutors generally became dissenters seeking religious tolerance or religious freedom.

Beating of Obadiah Holmes for “heresy” by the Puritans in Massachusetts.

The First Amendment to the Constitution resulted from “a factual relationship that was rapidly solidifying when the Constitution was amended by the Bill of Rights.” The First Amendment was the final product of a long struggle by men who believed strongly in the God of the Bible and who were willing to die rather than bow down to false religion. Their spirit was fused into the ordering of the affairs of the United States. “A wall of separation which would bar that spirit from making itself felt in secular concerns can never be built, because it would have to bisect the human heart.”[12] William H. Marnell correctly observed that:

  • “[t]he First Amendment was not the product of indifference toward religion. It was not the product of the deism which prevailed in the Enlightenment, however much the spirit of deism may have been present in certain of the Founding Fathers. Above, all, it was not the product of secularism, and to translate the spirit of twentieth-century secularism back to eighteenth-century America is an outrage to history. The First Amendment was rather a logical outcome of the Reformation and its ensuing developments. It was so far removed from secularism as to be the product of its exact opposite, the deep-seated concern of a people whose religious faith had taken many forms, all of them active, all of them sincerely held. It was so far removed from indifference toward religion [specifically Christianity] as to be the result of its antithesis, the American determination that the diversity of churches might survive the fact of political action.”[13]
Puritans hung 4 Quakers for returning to Massachusetts after being banished for their religious beliefs.

The dissidents in the colonies, chiefly the Baptists, were able to gain a foothold, and they played it for all it was worth. The Baptist theology of the founding era, initially under the leadership of Roger Williams and John Clarke, successfully challenged the doctrines of the established churches concerning the relationship of church and state. Among the results were the establishment of the first civil government in history of any lasting significance with religious liberty, the government of the colony of Rhode Island, and later the First Amendment to the United States Constitution which required religious freedom for churches and freedom of conscience for individuals. The First Amendment allowed churches to operate under God without persecution. The First Amendment did not apply to the states.

Primarily due to the efforts of our Baptist forefathers, a time came, as Baptist pastor and historian John Callender said in 1838, when

  • “[e]xperience has dearly convinced the world, that unanimity in judgment and affection cannot be secured by penal laws….
  • “Indulgence to tender consciences, might be a reproach to the Colony [of Rhode Island], an hundred years ago, [that is in 1738, one hundred years before Callender wrote this], but a better way of thinking prevails in the Protestant part of the Christian church at present. It is now a glory to the Colony, to have avowed such sentiments so long ago, while blindness in this article happened in other places, and to have led the way as an example to others, and to have first put the theory into practice.
  • “Liberty of conscience is more fully established and enjoyed now, in the other New-English Colonies; and our mother Kingdom grants a legal toleration to all peaceable and conscientious dissenters from the parliamentary establishment. Greater light breaking into the world and the church, and especially all parties by turns experiencing and complaining aloud of the hardships of constraint, they are come to allow as reasonable to all others, what they want and challenge for themselves. And there is no other bottom but this to rest upon, to leave others the liberty we should desire ourselves, the liberty wherewith Christ hath made them free. This is doing as we would be done by, the grand rule of justice and equity; this is leaving the government of the church to Jesus Christ, the King and head over all things, and suffering his subjects to obey and serve him.”[14]

By the time the First Amendment was added to the United States Constitution, only New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Connecticut had established churches. In 1833 Massachusetts became the last state to disestablish.

Baptists wanted religious freedom. Some probably could foresee the ideal of a church under God, a civil government under God, with neither church nor state over the other. But few knew how to have a civil government under God without establishing a church. Why? Fifteen hundred years of history had witnessed “Christian” establishments made up of church-state or state-church unions. Therefore, one should not be too hard on those early Protestants in America who continued those unions, since, according to Isaac Backus:

  • “[many things] prove that those fathers [the leaders of the Puritans in Massachusetts] were earnestly concerned to frame their constitution both in church and state by divine rule; and as all allow that nothing teaches like experience, surely they who are enabled well to improve the experience of past ages, must find it easier now to discover the mistakes of that day, than it was for them to do it then. Even in 1637, when a number of puritan ministers in England, and the famous Mr. Dod among them, wrote to the ministers here, that it was reported that they had embraced certain new opinions, such as ‘that a stinted form of prayer and set liturgy is unlawful; that the children of godly and approved Christians are not to be baptized, until their parents be set members of some particular congregation; that the parents themselves, though of approved piety, are not to be received to the Lord’s Supper until they be admitted set members,’ &c., Mr. Hooker expressed his fears of troublesome work about answering of them, though they may appear easy to the present generation.”[15]

This chapter will succinctly summarize the true history of religious liberty in America, initially pointing out some of the misleading teachings of secular and Christian revisionists. Ultimately, Christians can accomplish nothing with lies.[16]


Endnotes

[1] Influential Christian revisionists include non-scholars such as David Barton and Roger Federer. Secular revisionsts include scholars such as Leo Pfeffer. Pfeffer’s book Church, State and Freedom, was called a “masterpiece” and the ultimate sourcebook for the history of the evolution of the all-American principle of  separation of church and state. Pfeffer was an American Jewish lawyer, constitutional scholar, and humanist who was active in movement for religious freedom in the United States, and was one of leading legal proponents of the separation of church and state.

[2] List of Scholarly Resources which Explain and Comprehensively Document the True Histor of Religious Freedom in America.

[3] Leo Pfeffer, Church, State, and Freedom (Boston: The Beacon Press, 1953), pp. 81-93.

[4] Influential constitutional “scholars” such as Leo Pfeffer, since they have no concept of God or His sovereignty, have removed the most important aspect of debate from the equation—the spiritual aspect. Pfeffer, misrepresents spiritual matters because he does not understand them. He relegates the spiritual to the merely “ideological.” He attributes Madison’s positions on the issue of separation of church and state to his reliance on John Locke, and quotes Locke; then, even though Locke, in the quotes cited by Pfeffer, talks of government interference with the care and salvation of souls which belongs to God, Pfeffer never mentions God in his discussion but rather emphasizes Locke’s “social contract theory.” He overemphasizes the influence of rationalism and deism in gaining the First Amendment. He falsely proclaims that the “first four presidents of the United States were either Deists or Unitarians.” He asserts that the Great Awakening “emphasized an emotional, personal religion” which appealed directly to the individual, stressing the rights and duties of the individual conscience and its answerability exclusively to God.[4] He, like all secular scholars, simply did not get it even though he did mention God. He had no choice but to mention God, since a controversy over what God taught in the Bible was at the center of the controversy. He simply did not and could not examine that controversy. Lost men and saved men who were spiritually ignorant have led the way in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

[5] The Trail of Blood of the Martyrs of Jesus/Christian Revisionists on Trial….

[6] See Exposing Catholic/Calvinist/Reformed Historic Revisionism.

[7] 2 Co. 4.8-9.

[8] 2 Co. 4.13.

[9] Mk. 16.15.

[10] He. 10.25a.

[11] Charles F. James, Documentary History of the Struggle for Religious Liberty in Virginia (Harrisonburg, VA.: Sprinkle Publications, 2007; First Published Lynchburg, VA.: J. P. Bell Company, 1900), pp. 14-15.

[12] William H. Marnell, The First Amendment: Religious Freedom in America from Colonial Days to the School Prayer Controversy (Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1964), pp.  xii-xiii.

[13] Ibid.

[14] John Callender, The Civil and Religious Affairs of the Colony of Rhode-Island (Providence: Knowles, Vose & Company, 1838), pp. 108-109.

[15] Isaac Backus, A History of New England With Particular Reference to the Denomination of Christians called Baptists, Volume 1 (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock Publishers, Previously published by Backus Historical Society, 1871), pp. 37-38.

[16] Read James R. Beller, The Coming Destruction of the Baptist People: The Baptist History of America (St. Louis, Missouri: Prairie Fire Press, 2005) and James R. Beller, America in Crimson Red: The Baptist History of America (Arnold, Missouri: Prairie Fire Press, 2004) for a thorough discussion of the theology behind the lies of the Christian nationalists, whom Beller calls catholic Reformed, and a discussion of Christian nationalists other than Peter Marshall and David Manuel.

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