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For a documented history of the spiritual warfare in America that started in the colonial period and continues to this day, see The Trail of Blood of the Martyrs of Jesus/Christian Revisionism on Trial.
February 18, 2023
This article challenges Bill Federer’s American Minute publication: “Freedom of Conscience:” Rhode Island founder Roger Williams “Wall of Separation” as understood by Jefferson – American Minute with Bill Federer. In that article, Federer subtly challenges the historical fact that “separation of church and state” as used with reference to the First Amendment and to Bible principle is not meant to keep a church out of civil government, only civil government out of church matters. Keep in mind that the phrase “separation of church and state,” although not found in the federal or state constitutions, is a succinct way of describing the concept of the historical wall of separation between church and state as intended by the First Amendment.
Right off the bat, in the title, Federer begins to mislead the uneducated reader. Roger Williams’ writings and documented history make abundantly clear that he upheld Bible teaching and believed in and practiced both the “two-way wall of separation” as well as “freedom of conscience.” He was banished by Puritan Massachusetts for his disagreements with the established church on matters such as their denial of freedom of conscience through enforcement of all Ten of the Commandments and their “union of church and state,” with church over the colonial Massachusetts government. Instead of waiting to be shipped back to England, Williams and a group of followers left Massachusetts and started the colony of Rhode Island, the first civil government with any lasting influence with both separation of church and state and freedom of conscience (soul liberty). Thomas Jefferson, a deist who believed in a secular state, also believed in a two-way wall of separation as well as freedom of conscience. His beliefs were based upon human reasoning. Of course, Jefferson knew that the states had chosen to allow voluntary establishment of churches and that many churches had chosen to remain separate from the state. I deal with that matter more extensively in other challenges to Federer. See, Roger Williams: Quotes and other selected information from God Betrayed. For a documented history of Roger Williams as well as that of Thomas Jefferson (on the matter or church/state relationship), see God Betrayed/Separation of Church and State: The Biblical Principles and the American Application. (For specifics on Roger Williams, see the index of the book.).
Unlike Federer, Roger Williams did not confuse “freedom of conscience” with the matter of “separation of church and state.” Williams knew that these were two separate matters although inextricably linked when a nation has one established church. Federer constantly refers to freedom of conscious when trying to make the point that church and state should not be separated (that the “wall” is only one way).
In his confusion, Federer mis-defines the true and historical meaning and application of the relationship of church and state in the American colonial and early republic context. He does this, in large part, by selectively choosing from historical quotes, writings, sermons, etc. He misrepresents the beliefs of many, to include those of the Puritans, Roger Williams, Dr. John Clarke, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, the Apostle Paul, and many others. For example, both our Lord Jesus Christ and the apostle Paul were clearly against union of church and state and for freedom of conscience. In fact, the believer has a choice, no matter the laws of civil government or an establishment of church or religion and state: honor God even unto the death of the body or dishonor God and bow down to the church/state establishment. Our Lord said, “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). Jesus said it. Paul laid down his life practicing it.
Since the Danbury letter, Jefferson’s reply, and selected out-of-context quotes are widely misrepresented in “Christian” revisionist writings, as in this article by Federer, I will specifically address it. Federer claims that Jefferson explained who was limited by the “wall” in his letter to Samuel Miller, January 23, 1808, that being the federal government. Of course, that letter does not also explain something else that Jefferson believed, fought for, and wrote on extensively: the “wall” was definitely intended to keep the church (not Christians) out of civil government. As stated above, Jefferson was a deist who believed in a secular state. Furthermore, he did not believe in the trinity or in the miracles of Jesus. He went so far as to write his own Bible. Federer treats Madison and what he believed about the matter in like fashion. For more details see, God Betrayed; see also, Dispensation Theology versus Covenant Theology and Their Importance to the Issue of Church and State Relationship in America and Religious Liberty in America.
Along the way, Federer, again dwelling on freedom of conscience rather than separation of church and state, asks, “Freedom of Conscience”: how did it become enshrined in America’s legal tradition?” His answer is designed to carry the uneducated reader down the yellow brick road to a preconceived conclusion—that the wall of separation was meant to keep the government out of church matters but not the church out of government matters; i.e., that the church was intended by God to run the state and enforce all of God’s law. The Puritans in England and also in the colonies definitely did not believe that the King (the state) should be over the church. They came to America for religious freedom, for themselves only. Their colonial establishments in New England persecuted dissenters to the extent they could get away with. After hanging four Quakers for returning to Massachusetts after being banished by the establishment, England forbade them to execute any other dissenters. However, they continued to concoct every way they could to continue persecutions.
The colonial New England colonies combined church (not God) and civil government, the church being in the driver’s seat. They were Judaizers who believed the impossible—due to their wrong division of the word of God inherited from Augustine and John Calvin with modifications: that the rules for the only true theocracy ever ordained by God, the nation Israel, should be applied by a Gentile government. God was directly over both the civil government and the religion of Israel, and all the law and the Ten Commandments were strictly enforced. The Puritans substituted the Congregational Church for God. Their experiment quickly fell apart.
Federer states, that, throughout the Scriptures, Israel and the Church are referred to as the Lord’s “bride,” etc. and takes quotes out of context to support this matter. A contextual literal examination of Scripture makes clear that Israel was referred to as the bride of God the Father, but the bridegroom of the church is the Lord Jesus Christ. Again, all this is explained in God Betrayed. Scripture also makes clear to one who believes it, but not to one who wrongly divides it, that the relationship of “religion” and state in Gentile nations are not the same as those for God, religion, and state for the theocracy of Israel.
Of course, Federer is right when he states that God desires man to have free will and that man, in exercising that free will, choose to love God. God also gives nations a free will—honor or dishonor God and His Word. Believers in North Korea and other God rejecting nations have free will, but they may give their lives for exercising it, as did all the Apostles except John and untold millions of believers who have been viciously tortured and murdered because of their refusal to bow down to Catholic and Protestant church/state establishments. For example, the government of North Korea has chosen, of its own free will, not to honor God and God’s Word. If ta believer in North Korea is caught saying the name of Jesus in a positive way, handing out a Gospel Tract, possessing a Bible, or witnessing to another, he will be killed, and sometimes on the spot.
Federer states, “A controversy raged among inhabitants of Massachusetts, between ‘a covenant of grace’ versus ‘a covenant of works.’” There was no controversy in the colony of Massachusetts between “a covenant of grace” versus “a covenant of works.” How this inaccurate statement, and much more in the article fits together is beyond me. The spiritual battle in the New England colonies was between those who held a literal dispensational view—i.e., Dispensationalists—and the Puritans who believed a spiritualized, allegorized interpretation—i.e., Covenant Theologians. Covenant theology “represents the whole of history on the basis of two or three covenants called the the Covenant of Works, the Covenant of Grace, and, according to some Covenant Theologians, the Covenant of Redemption.” For explanation of the distinctions between the opposing factions in Massachusetts, between those holding the dispensational view and those holding to covenant theology, see Part I, Section I, Chapter 3 and also Part II Section I of God Betrayed; see also, Dispensation Theology versus Covenant Theology and Their Importance to the Issue of Church and State Relationship in America and Religious Liberty in America.
On the matter of separation of church and state, Federer misrepresents Roger Williams, Dr. John Clarke, statesmen such as Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, John Leland and many pastors, writers, statesmen, judges, etc.. He emphasizes their stand for soul liberty, but leaves out their stand for total separation of church and state and what that means. To get the true and documented history of the spiritual conflict in the colonies and early republic, see the histories in God Betrayed, The Trail of Blood of the Martyrs of Jesus/Christian Revisionism on Trial, and Religious Liberty in America.
State Constitutional provisions protect soul liberty (freedom of conscience) and forced establishment of churches. Soul liberty is the freedom to choose and follow God, a god, or no god without persecution by civil government. Religious establishment is the combining of church and state. The religion clause of the First Amendment states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The First Amendment and corresponding state constitutional provisions separate church and state, absolutely on the federal level and by choice on the state level. Federal mandatory separation has never been forced upon the states, so churches in all the states still have the choice of either pleasing God (not combining with the state through man’s law) or grieving God (combining with the state as an established church though statutory contract—incorporation or charitable trust law).
When a church chooses to combine with a state, she gives up much of her First Amendment and state constitutional protections or religious liberty and becomes a legal person under the Fourteenth Amendment for many purposes. See, Short Answers to Some Important Questions.
Separation of church and state means exactly what it says. The highest federal and state laws were meant in their historical context to separate church and state, with the caveat explained in the last paragraph. Allowing state into church matters or church into state matters does not separate church and state.
Neither the First Amendment nor corresponding state constitutional provisions were meant to separate God and state which is something entirely different from separating church and state. See, Biblical Teaching of Self-Government, the online version of Part I, Section I, Chapter 3 of God Betrayed, for a basic understanding of the relationship of God (not the church) and state. From a more comprehensive understanding, especially in the American context, read the whole book.
Church establishment is always a product of man’s law. The first established church was the Roman Catholic church. Protestant churches which came out of Catholicism combined with the state when the opportunity presented itself. The Puritans in the New England colonies established the Congregational Church and the church was over the state. The Anglicans established the Church of England in the Southern colonies and the King was the head of the church. In all those colonies, as with prior unions of church and state, the colonial establishment legislated all ten of the commandments. Penalties for going against the establishment were severe and violation of any of the commandments were subject to extreme punishment.
Federer starts his article with quotes and comments to show that mankind has always believed in God. A better authority for that conclusion is the Word of God, and especially Romans 1:18-32 which states, in part: “
- “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse” (Romans 1:18-20).
The following stood for a two-way wall of separation between church and state:
- Roger Williams. Federer notes that this (Rhode Island) was “the first place where the church was not controlled by the state.” That is inaccurate. “The state of Teprice in Armenia, in the ninth century, gave absolute freedom of opinion and conscience for one hundred and fifty years before being overcome. All around them were persecutions for conscience sake – they themselves had lost one hundred thousand members by persecutions in the reign of Theodora – yet here was a shelter offered to every creed and unbeliever alike. The Baptists have always set up religious liberty when they had the opportunity” (John T. Christian, A History of the Baptists, (Texarkana, Arkansas-Texas: Bogard Press), pp. 38-41, 51-52). The Catholic establisment in the Old World controlled the civil governments of many nations. In the Puritan colonies of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Connecticut, the church controlled the state. The correct statement is, “Rhode Island was second civil government–the first with any lasting influence–in history to honor separation of church and state and soul liberty.”
- Dr. John Clarke.
- Thomas Jefferson.
- James Madison.
- John Leland
- Many other men (and women) who were instrumental in the colonial warfare which led to the First Amendment.
The following were for union of church and state
- The Puritans (The church in the New England colonies ran the state (church over state).
- The Anglicans (the King was head over the church).
- Many other Protestants, although, for the most part none of them achieved the status of the established church of a colony. After the advent of multiple establishments, many different churches chose to contract with the state for establishment. Under multiple establishment in America, the state is given much control over the church, but the church is given no control over the state.
Honest Biblical and historical scholarship disproves the Christian Historical Revisionism which predominates the “Christian” landscape on America. Christians, and especially Christian political activists in America, blindly continue to follow a refuge of lies even though educated secularists, who themselves revise to support their satanic goals, have extensively exposed the lies and the ignorance of the Christian community in general thereby causing millions to view Christians as uneducated ignoramuses and to blaspheme the name of God. God wants his children and churches to proceed with knowledge, wisdom, and understanding. The methods of spiritual warfare matter to God; he has not and will not honor such efforts. This is a principle that runs throughout Scripture from Genesis to Revelation.
“Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet: and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding place. And your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with hell shall not stand; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, then ye shall be trodden down by it” (Isaiah 28:17-18).